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.

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Don’t count your chickens…

So.

I’m in my pajama pants. My hair hasn’t been washed in four days. My fridge is bereft of cheese, eggs and milk. And a reluctant look at my bank account yesterday provoked a pathetic flurry of tears.

I still don’t have a job. It’s STILL freezing cold (c’mon London, it’s nearly APRIL already!). It’s getting pretty hard to make rent. And now, I can’t even make cheese on toast.

But there’s no need for pity. No need to feel sad.

Because we’re just one day away from the BEST WEEKEND OF THE YEAR.

Easter!

A shelf of happiness. And that bunny? AUSTRALIAN.

A shelf of happiness. And that bunny? AUSTRALIAN.

And while I may not have any REAL eggs, I have a bucketload of chocolate ones. Easter egg chocolate, in my opinion, is the absolute best, most delicious chocolate of the year. While everyone else complains when the Easter eggs start arriving in the shops on December 26, I celebrate. That’s THREE WHOLE MONTHS you can eat the best chocolate in the world!

And being the contrary, nationalistic thing I am, English chocolate WILL NOT DO. I don’t care if the UK is the home of Cadbury – I swear to you, they do it better in Australia. Something to do with a chemical to stop the chocolate melting so easily, apparently. Well, BRING ON THAT MYSTERY CHEMICAL, I say! It tastes delicious!

So I’m counting down the hours until the Easter binge, jealously guarding my stash of Aussie chocolate from dodgy Londoners who don’t appreciate it for the magic that it is.

And who knows, when I bite into my breakfast turkish delight egg on Sunday, things might just fall into perspective. I’ll realise that my turning point is just within reach. Have an epiphany about new life, rebirth, and all that stuff.

Or just get an awesome sugar rush.

Either way. My hair might be dirty, my fridge might be empty, and my ego might be battered. But come Sunday, I WILL EAT CHOCOLATE.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Feathers ruffled, but still kinda fabulous. This chick in actual chick form.

Feathers ruffled, but still kinda fabulous. This chick in actual chick form.

Forward, backward

So, things aren’t really going to plan in this chick lit life right now.

A fortnight ago, things were barreling ahead. The warmth from home was still in my bones. I was optimistic, excited, refreshed. And I finally, FINALLY had some work.

When I started this chick lit adventure, getting a job was the least of my concerns. I just imagined it would fall in to place. I’d wear fabulous outfits, write some press releases, make fun, interesting friends, and head out for post-work drinks every Friday night. The job would be the background to my new, exciting London life. Just like in the books.

But getting a job has been harder than I ever imagined. I’ve spent six months applying for jobs that I can do with my eyes shut, jobs that pay half of what I made at home, and NOT EVEN GETTING A REPLY. It’s been a massive dent to my ego. And without a job, it’s been hard to settle in. It’s been hard to meet new people. And it’s been REALLY hard to afford to buy wine.

But a fortnight ago, it all started to happen. I went back to work in a newsroom. I got to pull out my favourite frilly pink work heels. I was carrying a notepad and pen again. I got to wear a lanyard around my neck, and say smug things like, “Sorry, got to get to bed, I have WORK TOMORROW”. And for two, glorious weeks. I EARNED SOME MONEY. It was awesome. Suddenly, I was thinking about shopping for new clothes. I started planning my next mini-break. And I started to make some new friends.

BUT.

After two weeks as a freelancer, turns out the company I was working for doesn’t want to hire freelancers any more. It was a total, unexpected kick in the guts. And now, I find myself back to square one. Jobless. Job-hunting. Filling out endless applications forms. And watching my savings dwindle away.

Of course, just as unemployment has hit again, I’ve been struck by my latest London cold. I swear, sometimes I think I’m actually allergic to this city. So I’ve been lying in bed. Wallowing. Feeling totally, pathetically, sorry for myself.

“WHAT HAVE I DONE?” I wailed to myself yesterday. “Don’t I deserve to be happy?”

And then, I had an epiphany.

You know those chain emails you used to get? Those ones that talked about how important friends are, blah, blah, blah, and then warned that if you didn’t forward to seven, eleven, whatever number of people, you would be CURSED FOR LIFE?

Well, I never forwarded them. The over-confident, cocky 20-something that I was, I thought that I was immune to computer curses. I didn’t think that a bullshit email could really have any impact on my life.

HOW WRONG I WAS.

You know what, I never ‘like’ those cause pages on Facebook either. Heartless person that I am, I never click to show that I hate cancer, or love the armed services, or support gay marriage, or want someone to name their child ‘iPod’. What a fool I’ve been!

Well, the lesson has been learned. Maybe, just maybe, if I start being a better online citizen, some good luck will come my way. I’m gonna click everything, forward everything, like everything. And when stuff starts to go right, I’ll know who to thank.

‘Like’ this, just in case. You can never be too careful.

Girl talk

Another week goes by, and Facebook informs me that ANOTHER friend is engaged. ANOTHER friend is pregnant.

Me? I’m still single. I’m still working on the job thing. I DID eat some pretty life-changing gelato last week… but still, it feels like I might be falling behind.

Fortunately, one of my new London friends has diagnosed my problem:

Apparently, I’m too girly.

Now, for those who don’t know me, here’s a brief rundown: I wear a dress every day. I wear pink shoes every day. My tights are covered in love hearts. I sleep under a floral doona. And the following items in my life are pink: my toothbrush, my hairbrush, my mobile phone, my iPad, my hair straightener, my drinking cup, my cutlery and my handbag.

Now I don’t want to brag, but having a signature colour is actually a GENIUS idea. People just buy you things all the time! In my life, I have been gifted countless pink things just because someone saw them and thought of me: bottles of pink nail polish, cute pink bags, pink measuring cups, a pink computer keyboard, a pink bin… my ex-boyfriend even gave me a pink car cleaning kit!

I know. I really should have dumped him.

ANYWAY, I’m a girly girl. And there shouldn’t be a problem with that, right? Doesn’t every man want a woman who will bake him a cake, while wearing a full circle skirt and pretty pink shoes? A woman who will keep the house full of pink flowers and her glass full of pink champagne? A woman who dresses, well, like a woman?

So the last time I went out with this new London friend, I dressed as I normally do. Vintage floral dress, patterned tights, pink lipstick, bag and sparkly pink shoes.

Thing is, Londoners aren’t so into dressing up.

For London girls out on a Friday night, it’s Casual City. They wear jeans. And flat shoes. And minimal makeup. They’re effortlessly cool.

In comparison, I look like some sort of Drag Queen Butterfly.

Or, according to my new friend, whispered in scandalous tones:

“You’re confusing the men. You look like you’re trying way too hard to prove you’re a girl. They all think you’re a LESBIAN.”

Ah. You win some, you lose some. Any ladies out there looking for a woman who can bake?

Animal instincts

OK. I’m going to admit something. And a lot of you are not going to like it.

I don’t like pets.

No. I REALLY don’t like pets.

I’m not a dog person, I’m not a cat person. I am a, “Oh God, get that thing away from me!” person. The kind of person who crosses to the other side of the street if they see a dog walker approaching. The kind of person who leans away awkwardly when someone asks them to pat their cat. The kind of person who gets disproportionately annoyed when people post pictures of their pets on Facebook. I don’t like the way pets smell. I don’t like their fur. I don’t like the fact that they hang around all the time, but don’t talk. What’s the fun in that?

I blame my parents. Growing up, we never had a pet (apart from a brief dalliance with crazy crabs foisted on us as a birthday present. We didn’t feed them. They died). My Dad, when he was a kid, conducted experiments on his pet cat, in an attempt to disprove they theory that they always land on their feet (he grew up to be a doctor, not a serial killer, by the way). My brother was allergic to dogs. As a family, we didn’t look fondly on pets. And with three siblings to play with, I never saw the need for a four-legged friend.

It wasn’t until I reached adulthood, that I realised that not liking pets was something of a social faux pas. You are meant to tell people their dogs are cute, even if they’re slobbery, barking, dirty, pooing, well, DOGS. You are meant to pat them. And not rush to wash your hands immediately afterwards. You are meant to find a story of a cat bringing home a dead bird amusing, rather than HORRIFYING (the only thing worse, for me, than the thought of an animal, is the thought of an animal with another dead animal in its mouth).

And when you meet a potential partner, you should do the same. Act interested when they tell you about their pet. Pat said pet when introduced. Go along with talks about the future, which involve a house and a dog. Try not to recoil in horror at the thought of a house with dog hair all over it. A future where you have to get home early, to feed the cat. A future that involves shovelling dog poo. For some men, the pet question is more important than the baby question. A future, with a pet, is non-negotiable.

So, I’ve been pondering this point a lot lately. Wondering if I should tone down my pet hate. Seem a bit more flexible about my future, be more polite about other people’s animals. Bury the fear and disgust, and just chill out.

Because this new me should be able to do it, right? Think about all the brave things I’ve done this year, the acceptances I’ve made, the maturity I’ve shown! Being cool around animals is just another self-improvement I can make!

Well yesterday, the universe decided to test me.

I was sitting inside, working on a job application, when A CAT JUMPED THROUGH THE WINDOW. INTO MY HOUSE.

And what did the new, chilled out, pet-accepting Claire do?

Screamed. Shouted, “Go AWAY! Go AWAY! I don’t LIKE YOU!” Decided I could probably touch the cat with the bottom of my shoe, without getting cat rabies. Tried to push it tentatively towards a door. Shouted some more. “Go AWAY! Get out of MY HOUSE! I really don’t LIKE YOU!”

After five traumatic minutes, the amused cat decided to take pity on the crazed blogger and wandered outside. I collapsed on a couch, heart pounding, vowing to never open a window, EVER AGAIN.

Yep, cool as a cucumber.

Dateless, jobless

I don’t have a job. I need one.

The funny thing is, unemployment is pretty fab. I worked bloody hard at home, and never thought I’d last this long (three weeks and counting) in the land of unemployment without going insane. But it’s great! I suddenly have time for all the little things that used to fall by the wayside. Teeth flossing – check! And not just a guilty once-a-month rush job, either. I’ve been doing it every day! Leisurely strolls – check! I am slowly but surely figuring out the confusion that is the streets of London, and getting a little bit less lost every day. Lunchtime wine-drinking – check, check check! I’m blogging under the influence right now – just one mind you – but enough to get the creative juices flowing!

But that’s the rub, isn’t it? The wine fund will eventually run out. And that’s where the need for a job comes back in.

Job hunting is a pretty miserable task. Everything that looks good, you don’t meet the selection criteria. Seriously, some of these agencies want you to speak three languages, have ten years’ experience in origami and be able to whip up a croquembouche in half an hour – all to work as a PA for some shitty company at five bucks an hour.

As I write more and more applications, squeezing in as many buzz-words as I can, the urge is growing to be completely, devastatingly honest. To sell what I can REALLY do as opposed to what they want me to say. What do you reckon they’d make of this?

To whom it may concern,

Just throw those other applications away. I am the girl for the job!

My skills are set out as follows:

I have an excellent memory. I can tell you the name of every celebrity baby born between 1996 and today, including the obscure ones like Louis Bardo and Carys Zeta.

I have a great attention to detail. I can tell you EVERYTHING that annoyed me about the girl I used to work with, including how many times she wore that jacket that I bitched about, but secretly wanted.

I always complete the task at hand. I also always complete the bag of lollies IN my hand, even when it tries to scare me off by claiming it’s ‘family sized’. I am committed!

I am a hard worker. Unless you tell me to run. I really hate running.

I promise to turn up to work, on time, every day, and limit my Facebooking to just once an hour – that’s good right? I will probably bitch about my job to my friends, but let’s be honest  – everyone does.

Just give me an interview. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Cheers,

Claire