Wednesday, 11 April 2012

That's Deja-Vu to You...

After a long run of silence I am finally updating my bloggity blog-very fittingly from the place where my last entry was written. That’s right my friends, I am back at reception in Vauxhall getting my babysitting on. Well, just getting my sitting is more the case at the moment. To my defense, I do think that I have earned my right to sit after a brain-crunching week working (very ill) at the Bar Council during the busiest time of their year. But I will come back to all that office-y goodness after I have caught you all up on the (mis)adventures of one Miss B abroad.

My current location at 80-84 Bondway, where it all happens. Blogging, that is. 

The first thing that comes to mind and which must be noted is the lack of customer service in England (more accurate translation: this customer is inconveniencing me in a big way). If you do happen to get it, it makes your entire week. Someone who actually looks at you, speaks coherent words to you, or makes an effort to turn the corners of their mouth up into a face-cracking half smile have somehow won you over and you find
yourself looking for their ‘expert’ services the next time you frequent their place of employment. These people are the ones that go above (above being a minimal yet distinguishable amount) their job roles and are much better to deal with than the robots that make up the rest of the working population, thus making these special ones
(and I do mean ‘special’) stand out.

I can’t believe that I am actually already starting to say that someone that looks me in the eye while giving me change is giving me good customer service. The long lost days of positive social interactions are behind the citizens of the Motherland, and have now moved into a period I feel should be referred to as Ugh: We
Just Can’t be Arsed. At least then everyone would know what kind of service they will be getting instead of the kind of shock service people like me (re: friendly Canadians where most (note, I did say MOST) employees do everything but walk your dog to make you happy) get when I am served at a shop and leave thinking, ‘did that just happen?’ and ‘are they even allowed to speak to me that way?!’ After a while, I did get used to it-enough so that I now think the same thoughts when someone is polite and smiles as I go through their till.

Following years of work-bots causing the annihilation of anything that could even be remotely considered as customer service, there is an obvious difficulty re-mobilizing employees to put customers not even first, but more like number 88 on their list of priorities (it seems like checking out the tops of my carefully-selected Primark shoes or counting tiles on the floor, or best yet, seeing if they can look through me is more of a priority than choking out a hello). Due to these unfortunate circumstances, employers who are rediscovering the very wide and available niche market of superior customer service and attempting to exploit it are having some difficulties passing the torch on to their checked-out staff.

Although they may be well intended, the ones that do make attempts at friendly service are awkward at best, and oddly have me wishing for the days I was ignored and the only words spoken were grunted in
irritation. The finest example of said type of service came when Ben was wanting to buy a laptop from PC World, one of the largest retailers of electronics in London (think Best Buy/Future Shop), looking to drop some cash money on one of their fine electronic specimens. In Canada, most employees, especially ones working on commission would have descended upon him like fresh meat, looking to extract cash out of him in every way possible, with the hard-core techies boring him with technical specs until he bought something just to make them stop the stream of letters and numbers being fired out at lightening pace.

We had done all of the comparison shopping we needed to do, got the facts and figures and Mr. Man had decided on the one he wanted. There was a moment pre-purchase where the heavens opened and we were offered customer service, but more looking was to be had and we politely declined (much to our dismay said associate was busy making sales when we were ready to buy-lesson learned when you are offered help, take it!).  Consequently, while the brotha was busy making sales as he seemed to be the only one keen to do so, we were left loitering around the computers hoping to entice someone out of their retail coma to come and literally bring a box from the back containing a laptop. 


We tried to employ a bait and switch approach and slowly wandered over to the Macbook Air display to touch the laptops interestingly as if we could afford to pay cash no questions asked and to see if anyone could be tempted by a more expensive opportunity.We would then casually walk back to the more affordable section with an associate in tow.


Finally Ben employed the 'I am just going to full out lean on the laptop I want until I get it' approach which happened to mysteriously catch the attentions of an associate passing by. After he had completed the strenuous task of locating and delivering Ben's laptop into his hands he proceeded to half-heartily and misinformedly (I don't care if its not a word, it pretty much sums up this guy's wealth of information ie.not much) give his 'expert' opinion as to which software he should get and what warranties are available. I will forever consider myself smarter than this man who tried to sell Ben a full MS Office software package when most good laptops will come with at least a starter version of some of the applications. I was told I was wrong about the software after informing buddy that HE was wrong. In the end I basically told the associate what the computer comes with and what should and should not be needed at the time of purchase (may be slightly biased in my version, but I was still right). Ben got things moving by standing up, which usually gets things moving (I still crack up at peoples faces after they see him stand when they aren't expecting something his height to come out of a small chair), and speed paying for his purchase. 

The best part of that day which I have saved for last is the random associate in the HP section that had me biting the inside of my cheeks and giving Ben a 'did-that-awkwardness-just-happen' look as we made our getaway. Being quite self-sufficient and now expecting not more than a bored glance our way we were making our way through the HP laptops when an eager female associate spotted us and attempted to initiate contact. I could see her out of the corner of my eye making a very slow and deliberate approach eyes trained on us and the laptop although she made no greeting. Approaching. Approaching. Approachingggggg. She then joined us. And leaned over the laptop investigating it closer. Still. Hasn't. Said. A. Word. Finally she leans towards us and mumbles something which I can't remember as I am about to explode with laughter in this poor woman's face. Ben manages to get out that we are fine, thank you, and we ran like we stole something out of there. I can't even tell you how unbelievably TANGIBLE that awkwardness was, I honestly don't think I have ever experienced anything like it before, and may never again.

If this is what re-mobilization of the workforce is going to be like I am going to have to practice my Blue-Steel face so as to not completely crease up when failures of epic proportions like this happen right in front of my face.

your diva abroad x

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Babysitters Club (o solo mia)

I am writing this post from the reception desk at CLS Holdings in Vauxhall, with a very important job. I am babysitting the desk. Literally. Let us rewind and I will describe to you the events that led up to this monumental blogging moment.

After I finished yesterday's post, I forcefully pried myself out of bed (as divas usually do before 10am) and proceeded to get ready in the ohemgee-I-have-no-time-to-look-even-remotely-good fashion, which is to say, very quickly. After speaking with my agent and an email containing job details, planned my journey (just over an hour on the tube) and was out the door in 45 minutes. People who know me will agree, it's a job well done. I didn't know much about the job except that I was going to be office relief until Friday working 8:30am(ugh)-5pm (which means I finish work earlier than Ben, a fact I feel a bit smug about (sorry babe x), although I think his paycheck compared to mine gives him the upper hand in a big way). I found the office easily in a not so inspiring part of Vauxhall and introduce myself to the secretary thinking I could possibly be working with her seeing as its a bustling building with a lot to do.

Au contraire mes amis.

She gives me a couple of sheets of paper stapled together containing duties and instructions and promptly sends me next door to the way less flashy building and tells me to get settled in and acquainted with my duties and if I have any questions I can call her. Right. I head next door and am barely in the office for 5 minutes when people are filing in asking for keys to rooms and other questions I have no idea how to answer. Im sorry, but my vague list of duties did not include anything you people are wanting, therefore I cannot help you. To be honest, this is one of the worst situations to be in as I absolutely despise looking silly and as if I'm struggling with the simplest of concepts and tasks, which is exactly what is happening to me.

The job is not a difficult one, I mostly let people in and out of the building and the car park, assign visitors passes, occasionally answer the phone, and deliver and prepare the post- it's just that doing it with limited information is a wee bit more of a challenge. It's a good thing that I am quite accomplished in the art of winging it and looking as if I know what I'm talking about when I really haven't a clue. I was just saying to Ben last night over dinner that if short term temp workers like me weren't versatile they would never succeed in their placements-it's as if you are constantly living in your first 2 weeks of employment, which we all know, is the very worst place to be.

After settling and winging it, apologising all the while that I am just the relief and I don't have all the answers, I discovered something very important. There is very little to do and a lot of time to do it in. As for most jobs, there are things that are appropriate to do while working, and some that are not. These things were not noted on my list of duties, and not wanting to do something against policy on my first day I spent most of it sat in silence studying my list of duties as if I was trying to remember it word for word (and by now, I almost have).

The day progressed at a snails pace when eventually the lady I am relieving stopped by to chat and change the CCTV tapes. I managed to extract important information from her, and found out that yes, I can take an hour break and go next door for some (free) food, yes I can listen to the radio, yes I can use the computer, yes I can read and keep myself otherwise occupied. Well that is much more helpful, thank you, and would have been well appreciated yesterday when I sat here in silence watching the clock trying to look busy when in fact my brain cells were experiencing half-life in epic proportions.

So today I came armed with a crossword and a book and have switched on the radio as well as the computer to let the Internet guide me blissfully through the next few days. (Ooh the post is here, something to do for 10 minutes!) Okay post sorted, that's my job done for the day, back to bloggity blogging. I have to say I cant believe I am making £8.00/hr (almost $13.00/hr, an amount that makes my eyes pop thinking what I had to do at home to make that much money) to sit here and update my blog, listen to the radio and generally do what I would be doing at home. Work may be hard to find, but when it is had, you really cant believe how good of a score it really is.

This is how divas roll.

So far most people have been lovely, patient, and friendly as people usually are with someone new, but then there are the ones that look at me as if there couldn't be a worse replacement for their beloved receptionist (I can see why, she is a warm and friendly grandmotherly type lady). They show me not-quite-covert impatience and indifference, wondering why I haven't automatically absorbed the conveniently left out bits of my babysitting details. I have had deliverymen whinge about having to walk up a single flight of stairs to deliver a package as I was instructed not to sign for anything other than the Royal Mail. I have been forced to wander around an office looking for the person I am supposed to pick up the evening post from, extracting stares from the associates seated around me. I have given poor directions to a contractor for the Men's toilets as they aren't even located on the same floor as the Ladies (I thought it was safe to assume that they were...I already had to go on the hunt down to find the Ladies on my own).
Best of all, though, I have seen a midget walk past the office window with more swagger than the UK's finest street crew Diversity.

So this is day 2 an hour and a half from being finished (not until I complete the second and last duty of the day-collecting the post to be sent out) and I can't say that I am not enjoying (having earned the right, mind you) sitting down letting the day roll by and the sterling collect in my pocket. I just hope that I will gain enough experience from job-hopping around to secure something similar without the dying brain cells bit. 

Those, I would like to keep.

your diva abroad x

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Thievery Corporation

The week following family week has now become damage control week. beginning with my Blackberry having been nicked from the fitting rooms in the h&m at Covent Garden. It all began with my need to once again put on some toits and sweat it out to some classical piano accompaniment...not having any cash on me I left with just enough time to stop at the cash point by the station before getting to class on time (the studio is still the only place I'm never late getting to). Apparentlyt it didnt like either of my cards (seeing as my HSBC card was yet to arrive a month later-after asking after it, it turns out that the bank application said I didnt want one. Who doesnt want access to their money?!)

I was consequently left cashless, and so, running out of time I went on a mad sprint around the blocks surrounding the studio to see if I could find one. By the time I did find one, inside M&S, a supermarket of all places and one I had walked past at least a half dozen times, class had already started. Ballet etiquette says that arriving late to class is unprofessional, and I would have been more than 10 minutes late (which is my minimum standard anyways) I decided to catch the next class a couple of hours later and treat myself to a bit of cheap of shopping to hold me over until I start properly making money. Arms only half full (due to massive sizing issues-they dont make clothes for skinny people here!) I set myself up in a fitting room and proceeded to go through the usual motions of picky Shan shopping. I eventually found a top that I liked and as previous employees of retail shops do, tidied up after myself and hung everything back on its hangers, noticing that my phone was still sitting on the mini stool they put in fitting rooms (more to see how people manouever around it than anything else) and kept reminding myself, dont forget your phone, dont forget your phone. Well, I forgot my phone (as most people know, I have the worlds WORST memory!).

 I left the fitting room, and hadn't made it 10 steps past the door when I realized yep, I have forgotten something very important. In the 30 seconds it took for me to leave and come back to check, my BB had already made its way into someones grubby theiving hand and was now on its way to who knows where to be sold as parts on the black(berry) market or maybe traded for some obscurely addctive drug that costs over $400 a hit-conveniently the price tag on my poor little mobile.  Hoping I would have earned some kind of a reprieve for having given back dozens of mobiles to my own customers who had forgotten them ( I could have had the best collection of iphones ever by now) I attempted to enlist the reluctant employees in the fitting room to help me find the only thing keeping me in the loop of life at the moment.

They begrudgingly dragged themselves into a room or two claiming to not have seen it (have you checked your own pockets? mmmhm) and busying themselves with other tasks. Knowing it was a lost cause as someone that worked there was guaranteed to have it (no one came in or out of the fitting room after me and no one had used the room in 30 seconds derrr, Im not stoopid!) I left for home a very unhappy bunny, out of pocket for the tube, blackberry less and in too much of a stroppy mood to think that dancing at that point in time would have made me do anything less than burst into tears at the first mention of fouettes and overstretching.

So storming about with a black cloud over my head was on the agenda for the rest of the day as I dealt with the aftermath of that unfortunate incident. (I still have not received my replacement SIM card as I was supposed to by the end of last week, hence my conclusion that Great Britain operates on island time-how and when people feel things should be done, not how they should be done. I constantly have to follow up with people, making sure they are doing their jobs properly!) Once I sorted out a new sim card and had my phone barred I put myself and my foul mood to bed early as I had work early the next day.

Yes. I worked. On Wednesday. Which happened to be my first, and last day of work. I have been registering with agencies to help me find work as finding employment is proving to be quite difficiuly. Its not really a question of experience as much as a lack of jobs and employers fears of hiring foreigners (in my opinion at least). So off I went to the Royal College of Surgeons to work a day as a Mail Out Assistant (translation: envelope stuffer) for BAPRAS, which is the British Association of Plastic, Reproductive, and Aesthetic Surgeons. I loled to myself at the acronym as here baps is slang for breasts, and of course implants are one of the things that they do, both cosmetically and reconstructively.

The Royal College of Surgeons, London

Once I arrived I was collected by a small, awkward German woman who didn't really know what to say other than hello, and so I was left to walk down the corridors in silence towering over her and watching her wring her hands in discomfort. I felt rather important getting to work be a lackey in a rather important building which I will never be educated or skilled enough with surgical tools to be able to step into ever again (except for the museum bit where I can walk around with an air of importance pretending to know the relevance of the archives). And I got a guest pass to wear to make me look tres official. I was quickly introduced to the other 3 ladies that worked there, and then I was shown my task for the day.

There were boxes of booklets . Envelopes. Address labels. Approximately 800 of them, which needed to all be put together in 7.5 hours. After a debriefing (these labels go to the UK, 2nd class Royal Mail, these ones go to Europe, First Class Royal Mail and stamp EEC, these ones go Overseas, First Class Royal Mail, stamp Airmail) I was let loose on the mountain of boxes and envelopes deposited in front of my desk sweat shop. The process wasn't a difficult one, just time consuming, and I eventually found a good rythm where I could switch off and watch my hands work seperately from my brain.

I made small talk with the other ladies and found out that one of them was from Ontario and hat moved to England on an ancestry visa to be with her boyfriend (just what is it exactly about these Englishmen that make us Canadian women pack up our lives and move across the world?! It must be something innately attracting us back to the Motherland) and was planning on applying for citizenship (where you take a test about England where only approximately 12% of English people even know the answers). But she absolutely hated it here and couldn't wait to have her baby so she could move somewheres else, and began listing off all of the things she particularily disliked about London. Not something I necessarily wanted to hear after having only been here for a month and having a particularily rough go at it as well. We got on well though, being fellow Canadians, and we chatted throughout the day.

After having a lunch of shepards pie, potatoes, and carrots in the canteen in the basement (a bit eerie and old) I went back to work keeping my eye on the time and hoping I would be finished on time, and that the lamb I just ingested would maaaaa-ke me move a bit quicker (haha). I would have worked through my break, seeing as sitting and working is a huge change from being on my feet for up to 9 hours at a time, but in the typical English way, they are quite fussy about breaks, and I was actually forced to take one. (Just a side note for the NF girlies-did you know that cashiers actually get to SIT while working?! And they make you pack your own bags! AND they are the slowest creatures on the face of this earth...I almost died when I saw that! I have to go to the self checkouts because every time I stand in line I want to jump over the counter and do their job, its ridiculously painful to watch).

Near the end of the day, as I sweated away in a musicless office, in strolls an older man, probably a professor with a string of students behind him chatting away about medical blah blah and opening drawers in a file cabinety looking thing picking up various surgical tools. Hold the phone. Im working beside a medical archive? So now Iv got one eye on my work and one eye on the bits and bobs he is holding up and both ears on what he is saying. I have now seen tools used in WW2 where they could come apart with a spanner so they could be cleaned. I have seen old needles used to stitch people up and know that the thread used to be made of silk. I have also seen the best thing of all-a PIP breast implant. I dont know how aware everyone is about them but basically they aren't made of medical grade silicon and have been creating big problems for women as they leak and burst etc. Here the women are trying to make the NHS responsible for replacing them, even though private agencies put them in. Anyways its a big scandal...I watch this man fondle an implant, replace it in the drawer, and frown disapprovingly at his hands now completely covered in leaky PIP silicon. How women can sleep at night with these things in is beyond me.

With only 10 minutes to go until home time, I become the office hero and finish all the envelopes, having stuck, stuffed, sealed, counted, and organized all 800 or so, ready to be mailed out the next day. (Whether or not they are going to the right places with the right postage remains to be seen, I was flying through them so fast I dont know if my brain actually kept up with my hands). All of the ladies in the office were shocked, apparently no one else they had gotten to do the job had ever finished it all in one day and they had been left to finish it themselves, which is exactly what I was trying to avoid-the point in being given a task is to complete it. So I left the office having well earned my 7.50 an hour and ready for a pint with my man. Nothing but good reviews from the BAPRAS ladies which also makes me wonder what kind of envelope stuffers they had employed previously...

Oh, gotta go, have just been called for work, and I only have a couple of hours to get ready and get there, I will have another post up soon!

your diva abroad x

Thursday, 16 February 2012

English bacteria, pineapples and Leicester Square lessons

It has been a massively busy week for me, although unfortunately I am not able to say that my busyness has contributed in any way whatsoever to my (un)employment situation. That's a negative, 10-4, Roger that. I was busy being ill with the nastiest Canuck butt kicking form of English bacteria that just couldn't wait to kick this diva down. Almost a week later, I am still dealing with the aftermath of the germinator army that marched into my immune system and swiftly kicked it in the knees while ignoring the white flag of surrender my white cells were waving furiously in defeat. Immunity initiation-just another welcome gift I have received from this country.

This week has officially been named 'Family Week' as Ben and I will have seen almost all of both of our immediate families by the weeks end. In the midst of my battle for good health (or, what 'good health' is to me, as I am notoriously broken) Ben and I spent 3 hours on Saturday under London on the tube travelling to and from Heathrow to meet my parents as they had a brief stop over on their way to France for the month. Fabulously amazing parents that they are, they brought me thing that I simply can't live without-supplements, hair dryer, and money. You Divas really appreciate having their things after having left them behind (only 2 weeks, but who's counting?!) Thanks M&D!! So after a very brief catch up, we saw them off and decided to eat at the airport since we had travelled all that way, and conveniently, the rugby was on so we watched England faff their way through the match v Italy (where it was snowing!). By the time I had finished dinner I had sunk into a cold coma and could barely endure the journey back home. For those of you who think I was being a lightweight, let me illustrate the distance of travel:

See the red line at the top right?
See the blue line at the bottom left?
Connect those 2, with a change in the middle, 38 stations to stop at, done twice over, feeling pretty poorly.
Now you know.
On Wednesday ('Family Day 2-Valentine's Edition') during the day I decided that I had enough days lacking in tutus and pointe shoes and I would take a class at Pineapple Studios-England's version of Harbour Dance Centre. Cool fact- it was actually an old pineapple warehouse, hence the name. Getting there was easy, quick tube journey and a short walk later and I arrived in a really eclectic, artsy part of Covent Garden and went in to take an Elementary Ballet class. The building is really old and has about 12 studios over 4 floors. I was of course in studio 11 so trekked up the narrow stairs to the studio and took a very fast paced, sweaty class on shaky legs. I realised the next day that it had been WAY too long since I had last danced as I did feel a bit like I had been run over multiple times with tendus and pirouettes.

Here is the studio-sorry I know its a stock photo but I was in a bit of a hurry to have time to take a proper picture!

After class I wobbled gingerly on ballerina legs (ones that apparently took a much-too-long holiday!) down to the basement to get changed quickly to meet Ben, his sister, his dad and his wife, and their friends for dinner at a mysterious pub (literally, it was down a small lane of rowhouses!) in West London. On my way walking to Tottenham Court station to meet Ben from the studio I finally managed to do it-I got lost and began wandering around the streets in and around Leicester Square trying to get my bearings.

It was very difficult as there are seas of people walking every which way causing you walk more involuntarily than anything else as empty standing spots are at a premium on those busy streets, and breaking from the crowd to stand in one requires a fair bit of effort. Being pressed for time, I attempted to recalibrate on the move, in the dark, map barely visible which was a very.bad.idea. I can find most places with pre-planning, but my poor sense of direction plummeted once on the move and I ended up walking around knowing where I should be, but not entirely sure why the streets I'm seeing and the streets on the map aren't exactly corresponding. I came across a few places where at least 5 streets intersect which pretty much blew the fuses on my navigation system and I decided that stopping would be a good idea. It was. I found my location and headed back where I came from (isn't that always the case?!) having originally been going in the right direction in the first place before doubting myself.

So I found Mr. Man and we proceeded to have a lovely evening of conversation, wine, pub food (which won me over from the start-I have been introduced to the beautiful world of sausages and mash-Canadians are so missing out!!) and meeting new friends and family in a very unconventional and un-Hallmark V-Day eve. Next up is Brighton and some B-Day celebrations, and I think that's us finished for a while! I'm keeping this entry a bit short today as I have more job applications to do, including finishing one for a job at the Queen's House! Ill leave you with a few images from my travels around London (I do apologise for the lack of tourist shots-not much time to be touristy lately!)

On my way to Pineapple Studios, didn't notice the red telephone box before! Sorry for the quality-I took these on my Blackberry!

Do you know the Muffin Man? He lives here...

More postings soon, along with healthier days I hope!
your diva abroad x

Thursday, 9 February 2012

maybe I was not meant for these duties...

Job searching duties, errand running duties, totally skint duties. Maybe its time for me to get a better duty! Being a diva on a beach pina colada in hand sporting a tan duty! Those are the kind of duties I fancy at the moment. Can I just say: I have ran the good race, I have won, and folks, it feels GOOD. I have managed to survive the process of renting a flat and am now sat in bed in my favourite purple leopard print satin pjs on slippy sheets floating along a lazy afternoon decompressing from the famous English runaround. I am happy to announce that aside from finding a job (the last 'biggie' on my list) I am essentially settled into London life (well, that's a bit of a grey area as although I am too poor to live in London proper, I have the distinct advantage of looking at it from the outside). Here is the rundown of the last few days insanity to bring you up to today's cosy posting...I have to say that despite the fact that the lovely estate agency I have been dealing with to get the flat has been more than accommodating, there have been a few bumps on the road to single person dwelling. I saw them more than I saw my own reflection in the mirror, yet every day there seemed to be an extra item added to the list of 'we-forgot-to-tell-yous' and 'have-you-done-yets' which did nothing to ease my frustrations of jumping through every imaginable hoop in flat-letting world. I managed to secure a guarantor (bless her) at the last minute, mere days before I was supposed to move into the flat, and was then left with the task of coordinating her schedule with mine and line up a chain of faxes that would have lit the lines on fire back in the days of its creation. I was set to go on Monday all documents prepared and faxed, they pushed to Tuesday due to missing documents and general we are really behind-ness, Tuesday came around, still no documents-no documents, means no flat. By this time I am so ready to leave suitcase living behind, I put on my lets-just-get-this-done-now game face and found out that apparently the fax containing the key to my letting freedom lay somewhere in the awkward silence between the fax machine in Brighton and the one in Chingford. Sigh. So out come the convoluted plans (because apparently asking a fax machine to do its job is like asking a diva to work-I do get it) to fax it to the computer shop down the road, but there is a catch-they have to switch the lines to be able to receive the fax so my guarantor had to let me know when she was ready to fax (mind she is at work missing her break to do this for the third time) then I have to contact the shop and tell them that the fax is coming then I had to go and collect it and bring it to the agency. Well, I didn't have to have to, but by that time I was intent on making it happen without further delay, because if there was anything else added to the list I think I would have popped right there. Oh I failed to mention signing each page of the 40 page photo-detailed inventory of a STUDIO flat no larger than most peoples main living areas (think of how exciting that guys job is). Keys in hand finally, I lit a fire and booked it out of there to start the moving process like, yesterday, grabbed my stuff, headed for the bus, and the sanctuary of Shan-space behind that happy little lime green door on High Road. Two bus trips later all bags safely delivered with the exception of the big one with all my clothes which was personally delivered in due time by Mr. Salt himself, I set off on in a mad rush to get the necessary essentials to see me through the night. I even managed to purchase mint and basil plants from the local supermarket (not a necessity really but they look good in the kitchen 'kitchen'! (You know those times where you look at a word and the more you look at it, the more it looks completely and utterly wrong? That just happened). A quick trip to Primark, the even cheaper English version of Zellers, saw me spend the quickest £66 of my life-having only remained in the store for a maximum of 15 minutes and then had the task of bringing  two massive bags on the tube where typically the handles of the bag broke during rush hour which managed to extract expletives from passersby. I'm sorry, not my fault, unlike the lifeless cashier that packed these bags, I know how to properly pack a bag so things like this don't happen! In a fussy flurry I set up what I purchased; bath towels, hangers, pillows, tea towels, some cleaning things, and the duvet set I am currently sliding around on at the moment. I needed a duvet set, and although being desperate for time and things I remained true to my picky self and chose the one that was most aesthetically pleasing even though its a satin (re: polyester) sheet and duvet, which, when in combination with my jimjams, causes me to slink down the bed, which consequently causes the cover to slink off me. This. Is. A. Problem. All the hassle aside I managed to settle in quickly, and despite a few hmms and huhs over the points I wasn't expecting-no hot water or operational electric hob (need to sort that today so I can eat!), traffic noise and draftiness, (I now see why they call these buildings character, you get a good idea of everyone elses with such thin walls and windows!) and a resident pigeon (his days are so numbered, I'm off to get cayenne later today and put it on the balcony and see if I cant solve that first off-there is only so much cooo cooo COOOO you can tolerate!) It has most definitely been the English experience and a grand adventure figuring things out like if you want to get on the bus you have to flag it down or else it will drive by, switching on light sockets to use the electricity,how excited you can get when your flat has something as simple as heat and a vaccuum, how living on a High Street means walking home from eating out takes about 2 minutes, and how creative you can get finding ways to store things in places with no storage (lucky I have an overabundance of things shifting abilities). Now that I have you wondering just what kind of place I live in, I will say, its absolutely lovely, and hopefully the following pics will show you why! Your tour has officially begun...
View from the bathroom door, door to the stairs on the left

View directly in front of bathroom door

View from kitchen to the street, doors on left and right to very wee balconies

T.V. and radiator oooh

My 'kitchen'

Note the herbs! And lack of storage, that's ok though, theres a massive cupboard in the bathroom lol

My cupboard with a surprising amount of storage space although minimal space for diva clothes!

The bathroom view from the door

Bathroom sink with shower on the right

I know it doesn't look like much, but it I love it to be honest, although it does make me a bit sad knowing that for the same amount I could get a 2br apartment in Van, but thats okay, because I'm in Engerland baby!! Well, I suppose its time to slink out of bed (well maybe after a few Corrie episodes...) and start my day,but before I do, I will leave my address for anyone who wants to send me love letters, money, or birthday address is Flat 1,193-195 High Road Loughton, Essex, IG10 4LF. Next up I hope to update you all soon with working duties!
your diva abroad x

Friday, 3 February 2012

something you can bank on...

The last few days I have been a busy little diva, persistently persisting at completing the lengthy list of things to be done and have finally been successful in escaping England's finest bureaucratic loops-I have opened a bank account! I never imagined it would be so difficult to enlist an institution to take my money (although I do recognize one slight issue- I have no money to put in said bank account at the moment lol). I was so excited I almost jumped across the desk and gave this lovely HSBC woman a Canuckified hug to show my complete and utter gratitude of having finally found the loophole in the system (I now recognize it as one that goes like this...we would LOVE for you to come to the England, but make things just beyond your reach, just to prove you really WANT to be here. I call that trial by fire!) So after that got sorted, I skipped out of the bank and walked the blustery 2 miles back to the train station to go pick up my phone from the unlocking phone guy in the dodgiest part of Walthamstow. The guy was brilliant though, and unlocked my phone for £12 and a £1 SIM (one thing about England I love, mobile things are so cheap!) His shop was one of those shops that you werent really sure what they were actually used for as it was filled with everything imaginable including computers which operated as a kind of 'internet cafe'. It looked a bit like it was under construction as the carpet was made of cardboard boxes, but seeing as there were no tools around or visible improvements for that matter, I safely assumed it was just that-carpet. The best part was under the glass of his countertops where 3 dated glamour shots of the shop owner where carefully and prominently placed right under customers noses. It was a very Napoleon Dynamite-esque move and I wondered what exactly they were supposed to accomplish other than make me wonder just where exactly can you get those done?! So after having quite the successful day I was happy to have gotten so much accomplished in my first week in London! In case anyone feels the need to send me well wishes, gossip, and general Canadian tidbits you can now send them to me on + 011 44 7864 204 038. Yay! In other news, I am thisclose to moving into my new flat, am ridiculously excited, but again, I must really want it as the lengths I have had to go to prove my trustworthiness makes me feel like I should be buying a house! Not to mention the letdown I felt after having opened a bank account only to find out that I have to go to my home branch (RBC Canada that is) to wire transfer £2600 into my HSBC account to pay for my first 4 months rent for my new flat. (For those of you who aren't familiar with the rates, its about $5000, a price that will leave me eating rice and potatoes until I get some good old sterling in my bank account!) The solution? Withdrawing £500 a day from the cash point and stashing it in my sock drawer, ahem, suitcase, until I walk in with a huge wad of cash looking more like a dealer than a renter and dropping it off on the agents desk hoping I'll get a small living space in exchange. For my troubles, I figured although it was an extra expense, I deserved to keep the t.v./broadband package as a slight consolation for having been homeless for so long, plus its a hockey-watching bonus for Ben. I am hoping that this week will be full of promising job leads and interviews and now that I am so close to having my own place I will be able to focus more on money making things than living things. I did meet with a recruitment agency yesterday and went in dressed smartly (despite the temperatures hovering around zero-all I really wanted to to was wear pjs and drink tea!) yet relitavely unprepared for the little test they give you at the beginning of the meeting. The agency recruits administrative workers and despite my business education it seems I have fallen out of the loop as it were. Surprisingly, I did relitavely well on the typing bit (thanks MSN messenger training!) at 58wpm spelling I managed a 98% (I was the most annoyed at that I think, I was sure I had it aced haha) and MS word, which I butchered my way through as I selected the wrong year and was trapped using the 'new and improved' version, not the fossil I was trained on back when Y2K was still fresh in everyone's minds. So having done all that I was offered to be put on for temp work should it arise. So thats one angle covered-short contracts, gain experience, move ahead. Today is blog update (obv!) and CV updating, and employment attack time!  Oh, I almost forgot, I managed to be a good little navigator, having taken the train and the tube to Holburn, walked to the British Museum (where, yes, there is free entry...another reason I love it here!), then took the tube, during rush hour (you have no idea until you have been in it-you are basically moved along by a sea of people), back to Liverpool St. and walked to Ben's office to meet him and after he finished work. The pictures I am posting are of some of the things I saw while at the British Museum yesterday and thought I would pass them along! Next up, a job-hunting I will go...
your diva abroad x

your diva abroad x

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

all by meself! (a blog entry written in transit)

So today I have been left to my own devices to find things on my own (or get epically lost, whichever comes first). Typically I have quite a poor sense of direction, so the probability of getting on the tube and coordinating my underground location with my overground destination is going to be rather difficult. For me, getting really lost is the only way to eventually get found! I have already warned Ben that he may be embarking on a rescue the diva mission after he leaves work this evening. So far I think I'll be okay, I have managed to sort some things in town, thanks to England's High Streets being one road with everything on, and am now sat on the train hoping it goes where I think Ben said it goes or I'm going to have to do some recalibrating on the move (which, lets be honest, consists of just more getting-lost-inducing wandering about). The whole point of this journey is to open a bank account at the HSBC at Liverpool Street and I have left a good 3 hour window until they close. Hopefully it will be a successful trip-if I have time I may try to make my way to the Queen's House but might be a bit too daring for my first day using the rail system! Yesterday I went into London (tour guide in tow obviously!) and had some tube training-most of which I probably should have written down as it just sounded a bit like 'if your going here take this line and change here, or go this way, but if you go that way then change here, unless its at this time in which case take these lines and change here, here, and here'. Excellent. Thanks. No worries, if I get lost at least I know how to do so looking important and as if I'm in a massive hurry so no one notices how amazingly turned around I have gotten! I was soo excited to have discovered that there are a few Whole Foods shops in London and so we went down to Kensington High Street to get some Shan friendly food things. I have to say I almost died when I saw how absolutely mahoosive it was!!! Two amazingly huge floors of organic goodness including a liquor store, butcher type place with fish etc, a cheese market, a deli area, and every other food and veg and beauty and misc item you could imagine. In about 45 minutes I had done some serious damage (as I do) and was a happy girlie once again eating my dried mango, raw food bars and quinoa! Woo! I was even provided a small bit of entertainment watching Ben trying to navigate the aisles full of I-have-no-idea-what-these-are type items. All in all a very good day!

Edit-although unsuccessful in securing a bank account and thus consequently being trapped in a viscious cycle of needing one thing to get another and needing those things to get a third thing (something has got to give!) I managed to navigate the train and the city with ease thanks to my little map book and some preplanning! Next up is project London Underground...
your diva abroad x