A year in sensible shoes

I can’t believe it. I’ve been in London A WHOLE YEAR.

Well, aside from the month back home. And all the little travel adventures. But much like an anniversary in a relationship, you pick a date AND STICK WITH IT. And for me, it was a year ago this week that I stepped off that plane at Heathrow, my body clock in limbo and my emotions high. I had no job, no clue, and a very inappropriate selection of shoes. In fact, at that point, the only thing I was sure of was that I needed a taxi, STAT – the Spice Girls were due on stage at the Olympic Closing Ceremony – and I NEEDED to be in front of a telly.

And for a girl whose entire life-plan at that point was based around watching five girls look slightly awkward on double-decker buses, the year that’s passed doesn’t seem that surprising.

It’s taken me A YEAR just to be gainfully employed. I live in a laughably tiny cupboard-above-the-stairs. I walk an obscene distance to the tube every day. London has given me a weird rash. I spend a lot of my working day covered in mayonnaise (which you THINK might help the rash, but no). And I STILL haven’t met Mr Right.

In the books, they all live in fab apartments in Notting Hill and Stoke Newington. They have glam jobs in fashion and marketing (which, for the record, DO NOT PAY ENOUGH FOR SAID APARTMENTS). They stumble across the good-looking, aloof Darcy-type in a supermarket, or at a trendy party, or (SHOCKER!) he was there for her the whole time. They all have enviable hair. And no contact with mayonnaise of any kind.

Yep. So far, life is not quite the chick lit dream I envisioned.

BUT.

Stuff is happening.

Just this week, I got another new job. Yes! Finally, I have that job fannying about with press releases I always dreamed of. Just like those chick lit girls!

(Don’t worry, I’m keeping the hot dog job too. I would never want to deprive you of hot dog stories, and all my condiment-related gags. Prepare for more SAUCY material!)

My social diary is looking impressive. Yes, I know that in the books, when our heroine arrives in a new town, she is quickly adopted by a host of zany characters. But in real life, where people are busy, and have no money, and have to spend half an hour on the tube to get anywhere, making real, new friends takes AGES. Lame, but true.

I’ve been shopping. After a year of scrimping and saving (oh, OK – spending my money on wine), I decided, finally to treat myself. I bought The Prettiest Dress In The World. And as pathetic and stereotypically female as it may be, buying a new dress really DOES make life better. I’ve been sleeping with the shopping bag beside my bed for a fortnight.

And while a job, some friends, and a dress doesn’t seem like a whole lot of achievements for a year (in the book she would have done this by page four) – in real life, in a brand new city, it’s something to be bloody proud of. Life moves a little slower in the third dimension.

To summarise my year, á la Bridget Jones:

Weight gained considerable (mainly cake and wine), weight lost considerable (walking an obscene distance to the tube), countries visited 6 (v.g), trips to the gym 0 (but surely the walking counts?), blog entries 39 (not bad),dresses bought 1 (v.g), hangovers 15+ (ugh), haircuts 3 (too poor), jobs 3, boyfriends 0, breakdowns 2, shoes bought 3 pairs (but all very practical).

Not the dream shoes, but the ones that've got me through.

Not the dream shoes, but the ones that’ve got me through.

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Full of regret. Also, hot dogs.

Guys, I am SO SORRY.

This whole ‘job thing’ is totally getting in the way of my blog time.

It’s a strange thing. Brain-wise, the job is super simple. But standing on my feet all day, being super nice to everyone, trying to figure out how many of the cute young boys are gay – IT’S COMPLETELY EXHAUSTING.

Two nights ago, I only had the energy to half-remove my bra before falling asleep. And then wondered why all my dreams were about my arms being trapped.

Just now, I tried to use my Oyster Card to unlock the front door.

I am tired. But I have STUFF TO TELL YOU.

Stay tuned, my friends. A regular post will be with you in a couple of days.

Keen as mustard. And other relishes.

Three days in a full-time job. I am a wreck.

I write to you in my comfiest pink track pants, nursing an emergency wine and full of my last, hidden Easter egg. I plan to be asleep by nine. I am absolutely shattered.

But stoked.

Finally, this chick has a job!

And with it, our story has a new setting. A totally cool, totally trendy new restaurant. One with a charming, enthusiastic chef, a sweet, shy manager, and an army of beautiful waiters in designer sneakers.

And how do I fit in?

Firstly, I am OLD. Some of these kids were born in 1994. 1994! Guys, I remember 1994 like it was yesterday! I bought ‘The Sign’ by Ace of Base! I went and saw ‘The Lion King’ and cried about Mufasa! And some of my coworkers WEREN’T EVEN ALIVE! It’s terrifying stuff.

And, I don’t know if it’s because I’m old or what, but it turns out I am keen. SUPER keen. Embarrassingly, enthusiastically, but unstoppably keen.

It seems like this chick is always the one with her hand up to answer a question. Offering facts that no one asked for. Jumping up to lend a hand. And yes, leading the role play with an overly enthusiastic and pretty awesome Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonation, if I do say so myself.

Yep. I am a total dork.

But I’m happy.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to be super busy. I’m going to make money for the wine fund. I’m going to flirt shamelessly with young, gorgeous boys.

And I’m going to eat a criminal amount of free hot dogs.

It’s all pretty delicious.

Work it.

The daffodils are blooming. There are buds of green on the trees. And while everyone in London is STILL bundled up like an Eskimo, you can tell a change is just around the corner. Spring might not have sprung just yet, but it’s tantalisingly close.

And with the change of season, there’s a sense of anticipation in the air. Of barbecues, fairy lights, picnics and sandals. Of sunlight, flower baskets, outdoor movies and street drinking. Of wearing just one pair of socks. Of saving some money on the gas bill. Of NOT WEARING THE SAME FRIGGIN’ COAT EVERY DAY.

Spring. It’s going to be great.

But for my London spring to reach its true potential, this chick needs some cash. Yep, that old job thing. Seriously, in the last couple of weeks I’ve started to worry that I may not be the heroine in a chick lit novel after all, but instead a sobering case study in an academic article on the UK’s difficult job market.

Which is why I decided to drop the last remnants of my ego, and start applying for EVERYTHING. Cleaning? Yes! Handing out fliers? Sure! So what if I once interviewed political leaders, artists and authors – that was the old Claire! This is an adventure. I can do anything! This is my chick lit life!

Which is how I found myself being interviewed for a restaurant job.

First thing – I have NEVER worked in a restaurant. I am a 29-year-old with no hospitality experience. Not really someone a restaurant would want to hire, right? If I had any chance of getting this job, I would need to rely on my smiley face and sparkly personality to get me through. Of course, according to the laws of the chick lit universe, come the day of the interview, the world was against me. Not only was I deathly ill, but I’d also, through some miraculous feat of uncoordination, managed to stab myself in the face with my own fingernails. So I walked in with no voice, no energy and concealer smeared all over my bloody face. Perfect start.

Second thing – Upon arrival, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the job. Until they gave me a free hot dog. From that moment on, I WANTED IT. Also, maybe, another hot dog.

Third thing – Despite having a somewhat impressive career behind me, I’m not really very experienced when it comes to job interviews. In fact, this would be the second-ever official job interview of my life.

SO. Hipster Waiter calls me in. And hits me straight off with the classic.

“What is your worst characteristic?”

“Ummmm,” I mumble… while my head runs through the options.

I’m pretty bad at navigation. Should I tell them that? No, they’ll probably think I won’t be able to find my way to work. OK… worst characteristic, worst characteristic. I’m bad at times tables? No, not that. Shit, what else? Oh God, think of something! SAY SOMETHING.

“Well, I don’t want to sound like a wanker but,”

Shit, did I just say wanker?

“I’m a total perfectionist.”

Oh Claire. Wankiest answer ever. I HATE ME. Now Hipster Waiter knows you’re a wanker, AND you’re a little OCD. Cover with a laugh maybe? Yeah, good one. Laugh again!

“Oh, and I have an opinion on everything.”

Oh God, why did you give him ANOTHER answer? Idiot. Hipster Waiter doesn’t need a list of everything that’s wrong with you. Are you going to tell him about your fear of animals next?

Hipster Waiter smiles cautiously, and hits me with the next one.

“How would your friends describe you?”

Oh man. These are textbook questions. WHY DIDN’T I PRACTISE THESE? How would my friends describe me? Would they say, ‘crazy bitch’? NO CLAIRE, don’t say that.

“Well, they’d say I’m a good person.”

Yeah! Good one! Now don’t say anything else.

“They’d say I talk A LOT. ”

Stop talking, Claire.

“And they’d say I’m always bothering them. I always just want to DO STUFF, you know?”

No, he doesn’t know Claire. Nor does he want to. Shut up.

“They’d say I’m very energetic.”

Yeah, HE CAN SEE THAT. Slow down!

“Oh, and they’d say I’m a clean freak. I just can’t stop cleaning things!”

Yep. You just described yourself as a freak. Laugh again. Good. Maybe laugh some more? No, too crazy. OK. Calm down. Take a sip of your water. Good. Cool. Take another sip. Smile at Hipster Waiter. Cool. Wait? Are you FLIRTING WITH HIM? STOP IT.

After another ten minutes of wild ranting, talking WAY too much about how good the hot dog was, some more shameful flirting, and yes, I’ll admit it – a little bit of singing, I left in a haze of adrenalin and confusion. The sickness fog had cleared. So, sadly, had some of the concealer.

But you know what?

I GOT THE JOB.