Thursday, 23 September 2010

Last week I was on LBC talking to Jeni Barnett about growing awareness over the unfairness (and possible illegality) of unpaid internships.

Thank you to Jeni for bringing light to the situation, and for dedicating a whole show to the topic; the general consensus was there need to be more regulations in place to stop interns being taken advantage of, a sentiment which has been echoed frequently by intern rights campaigners over the past year.

Anyone wishing to hear the show can download it here:
(although you have to pay to sign up, and I'm sure no-one is that eager to hear me wittering on...)

And yes, the podcast is entitled
This audio requires a subscription"Charlotte Church talks about her new single 15th Sept"
Me and Charlotte. On the same show. Best buds.

Looks like I'm moving up in the world. 

Monday, 13 September 2010

Things That Ruin My Day 2: Phone Numbers

I have spent a very large part of my day - and indeed a larger part of last week - inputting business card details into my boss's email contacts.

I know - I live a riveting life.

But it has come to my conclusion that there seems to be some kind of general disagreement here about the correct way to write down a simple phone number.

Let's take the humble London office number as a starting point:
Eleven digits. I.e. 02071234567
n.b. I don't know if this is an actual phone number. If you're feeling particularly frisky, give it a ring and report back.

Come on, it's eleven digits - we're not talking Pi here - so why is it that there is such a vast disagreement on how the digits should be separated?

is it 020 7123 4567?
is it 0207 123 4567?
0207 1234567?

and don't get me started on the +44, 0044 or +44 (0).

No one is consistent and it makes me very, very upset.

Especially as I suspect I have discalculia.

All I desire is a bit of peace and harmony in the world. That we all band together and agree on one united form of telephone notation, so that humble, numerically challenged interns like myself aren't endlessly plagued with this problem, alongside other tough challenges like how to get jammed paper out of the photocopier, and what to do when you've hole-punched something on the wrong side.

Is that asking so much?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Things That Ruin My Day 1

Apologies for the lack of recent posts - I have been away, recuperating before yet another cycle of internships (as there undoubtedly will be...).
But as welcome back hello, I would like to present to you a new feature of this blog, which I would like to entitle, "Things That Ruin My Day."


1. Buffering

As a Highly Important Intern, I have the Highly Important Task of watching Highly Important Trailers.
This task, in itself a definite Perk of The Job (and believe me, when the rest of the job involves inputting data and making tea, this is high up on the list), is made instantly odious by the spinning wheel of death inscribed with the words


A trailer lasts, what, 2 minutes? 3 at the most? 

Well then, tell me, why is it that technology is not yet advanced enough to cope with playing the whole thing, without stalling half way through, right at the crucial plot detail?

The annoying thing is that it inevitably looks like it's my fault:
"Intern, have you watched that trailer yet?"
[me, cursing at the screen as the percentage buffering sign increases millisecond by minuscule millisecond] "Trying to..." [cursing at the computer, pressing pause to allow to catch up with the rest of the world here in real time, considering whether hitting the computer will make it run faster]
They don't know this, obviously. They can't see this mounting frustration. All they see is that they need a job done and intern's holding them up.

But then it's always our fault.

Of course, perhaps it's my computer - you know, the dodgy one they were going to chuck out before the intern programme started up, and then thought, "well, there's no point in wasting a piece of equipment that at least turns on..."

I am only an intern after all, what would I need with a computer that works...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Sing When You're Winning

Places Where it is Acceptable to Sing Out Loud

1. Church
Or anywhere you happen to be holding a hymn book (see weddings, bar mitzvahs and school assemblies). If the spirit moves you...

2. In Your Car
Doubly so because it allows you the freedom to mumble the words you don't know without people (and, ahem, boyfriends) raising their eyebrows at you if you suddenly can't remember a line. Plus, if you're stuck in a traffic jam and some sees you emoting to Kelly Clarkson, you can just pretend to be having a particularly heated discussion on a hands-free.

3. The Shower
Think of it as your own private Wembley Arena. One in which the sound of running water drowns out the actual noise emitted.

4. A Concert
Especially if whilst singing you are brandishing an oversized poster made at home using 6 sheets of A4 and a packet of glitter glue. Especially if said poster bears the words, "Ronin, Father My Son," as I  still remember from Boyzone concert nearly 10 years ago. If the person who made that is reading this blog: genius.

Places Where it is Not Acceptable to Sing Out Loud

1. The Theatre
Ok, good for you, person third row down from me at Dirty Dancing (guilty pleasure, don't judge). I'm really pleased that this was your favourite movie when you were a kid, and that you, like, totally had a thing for Patrick Swayzee (RIP). That does not give you permission to catarwhaul along. That's what the actors are for.

2. On the Pavement, Swinging the Arm of a Friend Whilst Skipping Simultaneously
Come on girls, you know you're guilty of this. It's not cute. You're in my way.

3. On The Tube
I already have the distinct displeasure of having to stand with my head wedged into your armpit for the next 20 minutes, let's not make things worse.

4. In The Office
There is someone in my office who has taken it upon themselves to sing at various intervals of the day. There is no radio in the office, so perhaps this person thinks that they are doing some sort of charitable deed: perhaps they thinks that we are all musically undernourished, and that they and they alone are responsible for our lyrical salvation.

We're not talking about under-breath, lost-in-thought singing - we're talking full-on renditions of Mama Mia, Queen, and even, on one ghastly occasion, Les Miserables.


Singing whilst they're walking to the photocopier. Singing as they types at their desk. Singing when they add milk to their coffee. I have been spared the opportunity to be in the loo with them, but I am convinced that there, too, the slow trickle of their urine will be accompanied by some form of Beatles medley.

Nowhere is safe.

I don't know what this person expects us to do about their singing. Should we applaud them? Cry for an encore? Join in?

As a lowly intern, I am not in a position to react as I would ideally like: namely to shout, loudly and clearly, "WILL YOU KINDLY SHUT THE FUCK UP?" before re-acquanting them with the occasions it is and isn't acceptable to sing out loud.

So instead I have stilled my irritation by sharing it with you.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Starbucks: The Sequel

It's official ladies and gentlemen: I'm a Starbucks VIP.

How do I know this?

I was queue-jumped. Twice.

Hell. Yeah.

That's right people - envisage a hefty line of tourists, snaking their way along the register (always in the wrong direction - why, oh why, can't they obey the simple rules of our country?) and little old me is right at the back, with the important mission of garnering the boss' caffeine fix.

But not for long - oh no, I am far too special to waste my time in a petty queue. My friendly barrister spots me, and with a gentle wave of his arm, reminiscent of the soft swaying of corn in summer's breeze (Or something. Hey, I'm a city girl, I tried my best) beckons me over to the front of the queue, assuring me that I have neither the time nor the patience to wait in line with mere mortals.

He's wrong - I have ample amounts of both - but do you think I'm going to stop him?.

I may not have a job, but at least, in Starbucks, I'm a Somebody.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Isn't It Ironic?

Rule Number One about getting a job:

Don't write a blog about your potential employers.

Now, if only some had told me that before...

In a world full of ironies, this has to take the biscuit: I had a job interview last week for a place I've interned  - and vaccuumed at - before, and in a cruel twist of fate this blog was found, scuppering all chances of actually getting said job.


Yes, yes, yes, I know what you're going to say: "be careful what you write on the internet, it'll come back to haunt you": we had full-on lectures about it at Uni, warning us that perhaps our naked and drunken profile pictures weren't the best impression for when potential employers decide to do a bit of digging.

But what can I say? I was young, I was naive, I thought I had it covered: a private facebook profile, a strictly "no names" policy on the blog, the World [Wide Web] was my intern oyster.

But fate had other ideas.

What do I feel? Stupid. Slightly embarrassed - especially as the person who found it was a genuinely nice guy who I would never have wanted to hurt.

Mother Dear, in classic Mellow Dramatic Jewish Mother style, has been having hysterics - "Take the site down NOW, you've ruined your whole career now, they'll send it to all the film companies in the world and you'll be blacklisted forever."

Elder Brother, the Voice of Wisdom, has gone for the more succinct, "Fuck It."

And I think I will plum for somewhere in between.

Vaccuum-cleaning Assistant: if you are reading this, I am truly sorry for offending you. My experiences this year have taken me from the highs and lows of internships, but I am sorry to say that unfortunately, whether it was just my bad luck or not, this experience was not one of the highs, but you were not part of the problem.

But never fear, in the world of internships, I am sure that another will come along which will blow this one out of the water - an experience so wretched that I would rather spend my time cleaning up sick with a straw and a sieve.

I wait this day with bated breath...if not perhaps with my tail between my legs...

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Bully Two Shoes

"Intern...I think I'm an office bully."

These words were said to me by a friend of mine who actually has a job...and look what has happened to them...

Now, this person is my friend, so I can vouch for the fact that they generally wouldn't hurt a fly, but their confession does raise awareness of one of the more unpleasant sides of interning: The Office Bully. 

The Boy, in one of his rare moments of wisdom, has pointed out that it is usually only those lower down in the office pecking order who deign to bully. Or as he scathingly refers to them as, "The Middle Management."

Bosses (generally) don't have time for the pettiness of bullying. If they have a problem, they resort to the quicker and more effective form of yelling at you. Fine. I accept that. Straight, to the point - if you have fucked up, you sort it out and move on.

But what I can't abide by, and what I've witnessed more than once as an intern - particularly, it must be said, in my non-film placements - is the Bully Assistant.

Think about it. These people are on hallowed ground. They have fought through the slog and actually managed to catch hold of the golden apple which is A Job. Many of the people on this first rung considered themselves to be especially intelligent for having been born far enough in advance to avoid graduating during the credit crunch. So they definitely don't want some scrappy little upstart (that's you, interns) coming along and doing a better job than them, in case they are routinely replaced and find themselves out with the rest of the garbage, begging for the scraps of whatever jobs are left.

And so, in order to maintain that primitive awareness - "ME ASSISTANT - YOU INTERN" - they feel the necessity to put you in your place, ensuring that you lose any feelings of self-worth which may make you confident enough to steal their job. 

At Online Fashion Magazine [cue shudders], this took the form of school-girl cattiness, resorting most of the women back to a time and place they feel most at home. You know the sort - hair flicking, giggling, the occasional rolled eyes - and all because you ask where to find something on the shared drive, or attempt to join in the conversation - "Yes, I saw X Factor last night too - I really like...". 

This particular incident, which actually happened to me, plundered me right back to being a ten year old, realising that I had my pinafore tucked in to my knickers. In the workplace jungle, joining in with the conversation is the equivalent of sniffing another cheetah's ass. It says, "hey, look at me, I'm part of your species - Befriend Me!" But when those fellow cheetahs simultaneously look at you, roll their eyes and giggle, you realise you are left out in the cold, and will probably have to hunker down in a separate part of the jungle for the night.

This, like most office bullying, is a wonderful example of passive aggression. They never come right out and say "Fuck Off, get back to the photocopier, you Intern you." No, that would break the unspoken rule of "protocol". Instead, it is giggly-girly batting eyelids, all the while reassuring the victim that underneath that butter-wouldn't-melt smile are a pair of sharply gnashing incisors. 

Now let me get something straight: I am not your "hun". I am certainly no-one's "babe". If you want to put me in my place by telling me to make you a cup of tea, Do Not preface your request with any of these terms of endearment. 

So what does the lowly intern do, when faced with such sickly-sweet but obviously cutting remarks? 
Fight fire with fire my friend. You flutter those eyelids. You smile that smile. They want you to react, and I have it on good authority that if their tried and tested playground efforts are defunct, their heads may just explode.

And then you can steal their job.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Do you think TV producers play Consequences to create new shows?

You remember, that game where you write a sentence at the top of a piece of paper, then fold it over and pass it on to someone else, so that at the end you have a funny story?

A friend of mine once got into serious trouble on a school trip when she wrote one about a teacher (I think the crux of which was "shagging up a tree"...oop, naughty) and accidently left it on the coach.

But I digress.

Do you think that TV producers have been so jaded / lacking in creative juices that they have resorted to this game in order to provide the public with entertainment that is about as stimulating as a dead kipper.

Picture the scene:

It's Friday afternoon. Barry, Head of Production at Dead Kipper Productions is frustrated. It's been a long week and they've thought of nothing new all week, plus the combination cappucino maker / vacuum cleaner is broken. By which I mean it's the intern's day off. He is slightly damp under the arms in his cumbersome suit. But everything is going to be fine...Barry has a plan...

He seats himself next to Frank, Head of Entertainment (36, lanky) and rips a cool, crisp sheet of paper from a pad. Trembling slightly he bears down on the paper with the tip of a ball point pen, salivating as he watches the glutinous black ink flow. Satisfied, he folds over the paper, concealing his creativity, and hands the paper to Frank.

Frank takes it, as carefully as if he is caressing a baby squirrel, and has his turn, a low chortle of satisfaction emanating from his lips, so pleased is he with his choice.

And finally the paper passes to Max (40, token Jew), Head of Factual Entertainment, who puts the final flourish to the paper, reaching a hand up to loosen his tie as the pressure starts to affect the tightness at his neck.

The paper is passed back to Barry. The room is so silent you could hear a pin drop. Slowly and cautiously he unravels the sheet, and there, in bold black writing, are the three words they know will make a hit:




Barry can't contain himself. He weeps. Tears of joy. Stinging the corners of his eyes. And he's not even ashamed. Frank and Max clasp hands like school girls. This it the break they have all been waiting for.

What has this got to do with interning? Not a lot. But think about it: My. Monkey. Baby.

And these are the people who actually have a job...

NB: My Monkey Baby is an actual TV show. No kidding. Channel 4 if you please

No Monkey Babies were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

It's The Small Things

When you're an intern, surviving the daily grind of photocopying and phone-answering, there are few things in life to get excited about.

Which is why I like to look at the small things to brighten my day.

And today, that small thing is the Starbucks in Soho Sqaure.

Now, call me a materialist, call me a coffee whore, but I'm going to come right out and say it: I like Starbucks. I like the reassurance; the feeling that no matter where I am in the world, whereever there is a Starbucks, I can feel at home. I remember on a trip to Madrid the Boy and I got so sick of eating Spanish food that on our last day we positively fled to Starbucks, basking in the familiar green and the welcoming aroma of generic, Capitalist coffee. I like frappucinos, even if they are a bastardy of Italian in a manner that no Paulo or Graziella worth their cafe solo would be proud of. I like the fact that my coffee can come with vanilla or hazelnut syrup, in sugar or sugar-free varieties. Hell yeah, I'm not afraid, I'll say it again: I like Starbucks.

And I like it even more because, despite their obvious commercialism and cut-and-paste sites, if you go in there enough times the staff start to treat you like on of the family.

Case in point: My current boss is very particular. He likes the same thing, at the same time, every single day. This includes a particularly complicated coffee order which contains at least five words which took me at least five days to remember without having to write it down.

Starbucks doesn't really have that many staff members, so it's likely that if you're in there at the same time, every day, ordering the same thing, they'll eventually remember you. It starts off with an awkward "of all the coffee shops in all the world..." type smile. Then you move on to the "ah, we meet again" type hello. That hello makes you feel special. That hello says, "hey, you're not just an ordinary customer, you're a regular."

But today - oh, today - I hit my personal best. The barrista sees me comes in, points a finger at me and recites my order without even blinking. I'm remembered. I'm somebody.

And that is what has made my day. A barrista in Starbucks remembering an order that isn't even for me.

Wow, I really need to get a job. 

Monday, 24 May 2010

To Lunch, or Not to Lunch

Ok, I'm not going to lie: I like my lunch break.

I like being able to have that hour in the middle of the day where I can contemplate life and my surroundings and really assess the state of humanity, and what I am doing on the humble Planet Earth.

I also like meeting up with Daisy and hypothesising what our friend's weddings will be like. 

We do this on a surprisingly regular basis.

But there is also that internal struggle over whether or not I should be frolicking in the streets of London when my "colleagues" are hunched over their desks, eating a sandwich using mouth only, whilst both hands are tied to their computer keyboard.

At the vacuuming - sorry, production - internship, the choice was made for me. I was not there to eat lunch. I was there to fetch lunch for others. It would have been unthinkable to leave the building unless I was returning with 5 bags of M&S food and a packet of Urgent Cigarettes. And no, that's not a brand name.

At the - ehem - online fashion magazine - which I have spoken most delightfully about in the past, most of them seemed to bring food from home. This was helped along by the fact that the office was set in the middle of a concrete desert, so there really was nowhere to go even if I wanted to. In fact, there was nothing said about lunch break until nearly my last day, when they had obviously decided that they want to have a "talk" about me and Other Intern Girl without us hearing. This was because we had dared to speak to one another. We were politely "informed" that lunch break was taken daily between the hours of 12pm and 2pm. It was now 1:30. Hint: leave now so we can talk about you.

But I digress.

On the whole, it seems that those who actually Get Paid are expected to use their payroll hours productively, which largely means grabbing food on the go.

But where does the lowly intern fit in to that picture?

One intern-supervisor positively encouraged me to take a full hour every day. The words "we're not paying you, so the least we can give you is an hour's lunch break" seemed remarkable sentient of her, and I have to say I appreciate her point of view.

If you're slogging it out for the same amount of hours as people with actual jobs, but not being paid for it, what harm is there in taking an hour in which to collect your thoughts and psyche yourself up for the next batch of errands?

But at the same time, should you be attempting to ape a Real Job as much as possible, in the hope that one day they might forget that you're an intern and accidently put you on the payroll?

It's all about appearing inconspicuous, right?

I don't really know where I'm going with this - what do other interns think? To lunch, or not to lunch?

I shall ponder this on my walk to Pret. It's 1 o'clock after all, and I'm starving...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Reader, I Did His Expenses

Once in a while there comes along an internship that makes my heart sing, that makes me realise that there are some people in this world who actually realise what an internship is for, and more importantly that an intern is actually a person, rather than just than chameleon-like being who changes appearences every month and is there to clean the kitchen.

As you may be able to tell, I started a new internship today, and the result is just...ah!

Words do not suffice.

Never fear, faithless followers, this does not mean that Ms. Intern will be giving up her anarchic tone for a world of sweetness and light.

After all, she loves nothing more than seeing the irrelevant replies clogging up her blog about exactly how much money she has in her bank account.

I am sure that I will find plenty to gripe about in the coming months, and if not...I have a wealth of injustices stored up from past experience.

But in the meantime, I feel that all is right in the world.

Perhaps it is because, for once, I am interning in exactly the department of exactly the industry I want to be in: namely Film Development.

I am greeted each morning by the twinkling chatter of box office ratings and potential castings.

I sigh contentedly as I caress scripts, still warm from the printer, and frolic to the supplies cupboard to achieve roladex cards and spare binders.

If this were a Disney movie, it would be a part where the little blue birds come out and start making me a dress out of scrap paper and treasury tags.

But mainly, I think it is because the people working there have actual been brought up with good grace, and the common sense that, really, treating people like crap does nothing for anyone.

I don't think I've ever been in an environment where I've heard the words "please" and "thank you" so much.

It's like being back in primary school.

And when one of the bosses asked me to pop to Starbucks for him, he even asked me if I wanted one too.

It took me a while to actually work out what he was saying, "I'm sorry, what now? Me, have a coffee? That's not how it works. I'm all confused. Where's the special cappucino maker, and the variety pack of tea?"

Of course, there is still the amount of admin, intern level stuff to be done - don't get me wrong, I'm not the one hiring and firing yet. But what this has made me realise is that it is not necessarily a question of WHAT you are asked to do, but HOW you are asked to do it.

I honestly don't mind filing receipts, doing photocopying, making coffee etc - hell I'll even get their weightwatchers supplements - if the person asking is gracious enough to understand that they are asking you to do something as a favour to them, rather than just commanding you to do their bidding.

In contrast, one incident at the vaccuum-cleaning-hell-hole that sticks out for me is being asked to fetch a salad for someone from M&S. They didn't have the salad, so I rang the office and asked his assistant what I should get instead. I returned and brought up the salad to the guy. When I was clearing up after, I saw that the salad was barely touched. The guy, seeing me pick it up, came over and said, "Did you bring me this salad? Intern, listen, what do I look like? I'm mediterranean! Bring me ham, or parmesan, or rocket. Not this."

Um...maybe you could try...I don't know...getting your own  lunch, if you must be so picky?

Many, many light years away from the Debretts Etiquette of New Internship.

And so, for the moment, I am happily toiling away in film-geekdome, still unpaid but less despairing to be so.

For the moment, that is.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

So Long, Farewell...

I am in a nostalgic mood today.

Yesterday was my last day at yet another internship, and I found myself leaving it with a strange mix of pleasure and disquiet.

It is always a good feeling to know that I am finally free from doing people's dirty work, getting up early and returning home late to the tune of £50 a week. Until the next one of course.

At the end of my more depressing internships, I tended to shoot out of the building with cries of "I'm free! I'm free!" as soon as I was out of earshot.

But even in places that have just been so-so, there is an odd feeling of sadness. Maybe it's just because I am particularly resistent to change. I get used to going to the same place every day, and seeing the same people. I am comfortable in a routine.

It is almost easy to fool yourself into thinking you actually work there, as you become familiar with the building, know where the loo is, start leaving pens and empty water bottles at your desk each night.

It's rather like that point in a relationship when it's ok to start leaving your Nivea face wipes in the bathroom.

And then suddenly, that's it. It's over. You are ousted from your seat and thrown out with the recycled paper.

And no matter how much you convince yourself that "this one was special," "this time it was different," in reality come Monday morning some other tart will be sitting in your desk and using your Nivea face wipes.

Or something.

Then there are the relationships you form with people. It seems like it's always in that last week of an internship that you really feel like you know the people there.

You think you have it made - "hey, these guys are my friends! We like each other! We have a Connection!"

But in actual fact you end the internship and really, what have you got?
Of course there are the cheerful promises to Keep In Touch. "Do write and let us know what you're doing!"

But come, isn't it just a bit weird to be sending bi-monthly updates?

[Cue overly-keen voice]

"Hey guys. How's it going? Watcha up to?"

The thing is, unlike a regular employee who has been there for a veritable length of time and is on the same level as them, the truth is you are not really friends with these people. You are just one link in a long chain of people who make up the job title known as Intern.

But still.
They gave me a card.
A card.
I've never been given a card from an internship before...
I shall clutch it to my breast, and remember the good times...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

An Open Letter To Employers

Dear Various Employers Who Have Recently Contacted Me,

No, thank you very much, I would not like to come in for interview for an internship.

If you recall, in my previous email, I quite clearly and legibly stated that I am looking for graduate and/or entry level positions.

Do you see the word "internship" anywhere in that phrase?

No, neither do I.

Now, maybe there has been a misunderstanding.

Maybe in these recent times, the word "graduate" immediately suggests to you "desperate young person willing to work for no pay."

Perhaps you (wrongly) assume that graduate positions and internships have somehow become conflated, and that it is no longer possible to get a job until you have been interning long enough to require a zimmer frame.

But no, this does not mean I am eternally grateful to you for fobbing off my request for a job with the offer of unpaid slavery.

It is rather like opening a box of Laduree macaroons to find that they have been replaced with KFC popcorn chicken.

Greasy, and smelling slightly of cheap labour.

Find someone else to make your tea.


Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I've been asked to take place in a case study about graduates and the impossibility of finding permanent jobs.

I'm being paid £50's worth of vouchers and a bottle of champagne.

Being paid to talk about not being paid?

What a funny old world we live in...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Ooh, It's Temp-ting

Did I mention that I'm an intern?

Oh right, you got that.
Well, as an intern, it is par for the course that you make roughly enough to take a zone 1 tube and buy half a sandwich each day.

It is also likely that, like a resting actor, you will find yourself with the odd week or two inbetween internships with nothing to do.

The first few times this occured, I found loads to do. By which I mean I spent more time than necessary watching Loose Women in my pajamas, and realised that I was slowly morphing into a forty-year old housewife.

When it got to the stage where I was actually starting to take on the shape of the sofa, I realised that it was time to move on.

And I started a new, healthy relationship: Temping.

Temping, I have discovered, is a Purgatory-esque land in between a permanent job and an internship.

The obviously benefit is that, shock horror, you're actually being paid. My, was I proud the first time I received the payment receipt - "you mean...I do work, and people give me money? What is this promised land?"

But, as with an internship, you are on that strange periphery where you go in to work every day and yet aren't really relevant to the company. That slightly first-day-of-school feeling when you try to remember all the names of the people you've been introduced to? A common practice in temping. And even worse is when people just assume that you should know everyone off the bat.

"Intern (or, sorry, 'Temp'), could you pass this on to James please?"

"SURE!" [Bright smile.] "And he would be...?"

And even worse is finding your way around. As an intern, it is accepted you are new, and thus you get the perfunctory Office Tour (apart from at the dreaded online mag I interned at, where it took them most of the week before they showed me where the loo was). But, as a Temp, you are suddenly catapulted into a busy environment where no one has the time to hold your hand. Probably because they're too busy requesting cappucinos from the interns...

The best example of this was my recent experience of temping on a reception desk at an advertising agency. I was having a great time doing pretty much what I do interning, i.e. greeting the visitors, answering the phones and playing on the internet. I had been there for nearly a week when the other receptionist had the day off, and I was asked to help with a meeting-room setup.

Sure, great, I can handle this - plonk some biscuits here, chuck some tea bags in there, and voila! I'm a temping mastermind.

Only one problem...I had no idea where the meeting room was. In fact, having been basically confined to the reception desk for most of the week, I barely had any idea where the rest of the office was. Tricky when trying to negotiate a large service trolley and a small office.  Never one to back down easily (unless I'm asked to carry a TV), I set on my own merry way.

It's all about the process of elimination, right?

There were three meeting rooms.

Thank heavens for the Office Manager, who gently steered both me and the trolley in the right direction, or else I probably would have ended up setting the tea pot up in the bathroom.

Ah well, one small blip in a role where I learnt about as much as did in any of my other internships. And in return: the sweet smell of money.

Seriously, try it. It's temp-ting.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Intern: A Definition

in·tern also in·terne (in'tûrn)
Today I was pleasantly surprised to discover that amongst the dictionary definitions for "intern," there is one which reads, "To confine, especially in wartime."
The thing is, there seems to be rather a lot of confusion about what an internship actually is.
Some companies have been led to believe that an intern is some moron brought in to do the dirty work no one else wants to do.
Others seem to think an intern is a rare breed of cleaner who is happy to vaccuum their floors and wipe their arses without being paid for the privilege.
In my experience, an internship entails making one's own life harder in order to make everyone else's lives easier.
And of course, this means getting that tricky, hard-get-item that they can't live without.

Case Study: Coffee and Tea
Oh, the amount of time I have spent talking about hot drinks on this blog. But the fact is, it seems that once you reach a certain level of employment, your brain simply cannot function unless you have *exactly* the hot drink you desire.

In my carpet-vaccuming internship, they had 5 (FIVE!) different types of black tea alone. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm terrible confused, I thought I was working at a production company, not a tea palace in the middle of Rajasthan.

And seriously, hands up anyone who can tell the difference between Lady Grey and Earl Grey. Unless you're one of their descendents, there is no need to have both.

This was bad enough, but they also had an actual cappucino maker for the One Person in the office who required a cappucino. Funnily enough, this was the same guy who needed his carpet vaccuumed. Now, maybe I haven't been in a high-pressured enough job, but I just can't understand how it can be so vital to have a fancy coffee made in the office - I would have been better off getting a job at Costa, at least they would have paid me.

Don't get me wrong, I like a fancy coffee as much as the next person. I feel a certain relish going in to Starbucks and conjuring the words "I'll have a Tall, Skinny Latte with Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup to have in but in a Take Away Cup." But the world won't end without it. So stop being so damn picky. Asshole.

Same goes for the ridiculous woman in my first ever work experience placement who would insist on getting her coffee from Flat White. Now, it was the workie's job to go on a coffee run about twice a day. Fine, she says through gritted teeth. Everyone would ask for a coffee from Pret, conveniently located next door, apart from Bitchy McBitch Face (as I shall christen her), who would demand that the intern would schlep into the middle of Soho to get a solitary cup of coffee, which, by the time it was brought back to the office, would probably be cold anyway. Fair enough, get one yourself in your own time, but don't abuse your position by being a massive fuss pot, or next time I shall replace the coffee beans with dirt. Ha.

Case Study 2: Lunches
Ok, obviously people have a right to have what they want for lunch. When they're getting it themselves. It is distinctly Not Ok to request a specific lunch from a specific place, when you know that the itern is already going in a completely different direction to get someone else's lunch. I once spent an hour picking up a can of tuna in one direction, and a panini from the other. Seriously, hasn't anyone ever heard of a Ham and Cheese sandwich?

On this subject, I would like to end this post's rant with a little story about the ridiculous needs of exec producers.

Again, this was at the vaccuum-cappucino hell hole. I was about to go on the first lunch run of the day. I was waiting for another producer to get off a phone call so I could take her lunch order. As I was waiting, the Exec Producer's frantic Assistant ran down the stairs. He was out of breath, his eyes darted wildly about. He reached out his shaking hand and proffered me money.

"Can you get [Insert Exec Name] a bar of chocolate, a chicken salad from M&S and a packet of cigarettes?"

I dutifully accepted the money, and went on my way to M&S with all the lunch orders. 10 minutes later, half way to M&S, I received a call on my mobile,

"Where are you??"

It was the assistant.

"I'm on my way to M&S, why?"

"What about the cigarettes??"

"I was getting them on the lunch run."

"No, no, the cigarettes are urgent. She needs them now. Never mind, I'll get them myself." Dial tone.

Really? Cigarettes? Urgent? Obviously not urgent enough that she would consider, oh, I don't know, going out and buying them herself?

Perish the thought.

I wouldn't be surprised if arse-wiping soon became a regular requirement of internships.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

THAT side is for WALKING

You know when you’re an Official London Workie when thoughts of the Tube begin to fill your waking moments.

You know you’ve truly made it when you use the “walking” side of the escalators.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the cultural divide of the tube escalators. On the “resting” side are:

1. Tourists, with their rucksacks placed inconveniently between their feet – or even worse, on a separate step – so that the straps spill out and potentially trip those of us with better places to go.

2. The leisurely shoppers, perhaps with a coat casually strung over their arm, nonchalantly dreaming of what they’re going to have for lunch

3. The old, infirm and young. Read: nuisances.

On the “Other” side; the “Proper” side; are the rest of us. Those of us who are determined to step on other's toes to secure their space on the tube platform. And woe-betide anyone who tries to blur the boundaries.

I’ve started conducting an internal dialogue in my head with the IDIOTS who decide to stand in the walking aisle, which goes roughly something like this:

“THAT side is for WALKING, you moron. Do you realise that you have created a stampede of traffic behind you, and that you, yes YOU, are personally responsible for London-wide delays on the Underground, and more importantly me being late for the next episode of Glee. Move it, lumpy.”

I once actually saw a pair of Japanese tourists taking pictures of one another at the foot of the escalators. Reeeally? In rush hour? Are trying to incure my wrath? (Note: my wrath is a powerful and much feared force. Just ask the last warden who tried to give me a parking ticket.)
Minor satisfaction is to be had when said unaware moron is yanked into position by a friend standing on the correct side. If they are a moron and a loner, only an inside-lane-overtake will suffice. But make sure you get a slight elbow barge in there to prove your point. Go on, you show them who's boss.

Once you’ve bypassed the escalator-loungers, two factors really prove your Tube-worth:

Platform Position and Exit Point.

Platform Position is only really applicable to split-branches such as the Northern Line or District/Central/Hammersmith overlaps, but when it is, It. Is. Gold.

The casual tube-goer mooches along the platform, and if a train for the wrong branch comes along first, they merely hang back in submission. Fools.

But not me. Oh-ho. Not me. I am a stallion.

Ladies and gentlemen, you want to get a tube seat in rush hour? Then I'm you're girl.
Join the back of the queue for people cramming themselves onto Morden via Bank, even if it's the wrong branch. Stop in front of the doors, ignoring the looks of befuddlement from people inside the carriage. You are now in perfect position for where the doors line up when the correct train comes along. The train always (or at least to my knowledge) stops in the same place.

Aha! See, a Cambridge degree is worth something...

Now you merely wait and give a smug smile to all those standing in the wrong place. (“You think that’s where the doors’ll open, do you? Aw, that's sweet, isn't it? New to London…?”).

The only glitch in this process is that my mother has ingrained in me an irrational fear that there are psychos residing on the tube platform who are going to push me into the path of an oncoming train, so I have to stand backwards, bringing down the cool factor somewhat.

Exit Point (or E.P, as it is known in Army Training Facilities) is more of a matter of knowing which exit applies to which area of the world, and is definite proof of the amount of time you have spent working in London.

The number of occasions I have got off at a multi-exit station and seen “Exit (North),” “Exit (East).”

I'm sorry, what? I barely know my left from my right, let alone which way North is. And darn it, just on the day I left my pocket compass in the barn, along with my tracker bars and emergency flares...

And so I feel that victory is truly mine when I realise that I have successfully worked out which exit correlates to which part of the street, and, after a few day’s unsuccessful trials, manage to get out at exactly the place I need to be.

If only someone where actually paying me to go out of these exits, everything would be just hunky-dory…

Monday, 12 April 2010

This Is Just To Say

I have spat
in the tea
which you asked me
to make

and which
you were probably
by now

Forgive me
it was delightful
so hot
and so tempting

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I have spent rather a long time on the Guardian Jobs website. And when I say "rather a long time," I mean time enough to move down the list of career choice until I realise I've started seriously considering roles which involve clincal trials and dog walking.

But what I have noticed, and what, all the more, has rather baffled me, is that above all other positions, what comes up again and again are adverts for recruiters.

Now what I don't get is

What are they recruiting for?

How do we need that many recruiters?
Do they know there are no jobs?

Or is the world slowly being taken over by recruitment agencies? Will we suddenly be over run by recruiters recruiting recruiters recruiting recruiters and so forth until eternity?

Or is it actually a communist plot to rid the world of all forms of employment, so that we all just end up recruiting one another, until there's no one left?
Take today's Graduate section, for example. There are 336 jobs listed, of which 202 mentioned the word "recruitment." No joke, I actually did a word search.

I'm sorry, but that is just ridonculous.

I have these visions of a recruitment office slowly become more and more crowded with employees until they start bursting out of the windows.

Imagine Lemmings, but replace the sea with an office. You get the picture.
And do you think they just sit there twiddling their thumbs on a monday morning going, "well now what?" "Um, hire more recruiters?"

It's really nice that they have such a "more the merry" attitude, but perhaps they aught to start broadening their horizons, non?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cover Letters (Part 2)

Ah, cover letters. The necessary accoutrement to your CV which proves you are the best possible person for the job, and that the recipient may possibly be smote by God if they don’t hire you.
Or a mindless wad of cack in which you employ stock phrases such as “transferable skills” and “time management” and then press the “send-to-all” button.
There seems to be a sliding scale of cover letters, ranging from the standardised “dear-employers-I’m-sending-this-to-everyone-but-please-give-me-a-job-anyway” to the so gushing “I just love this company and I’ve wanted to work here since I was three so please oh please give me a job I’ll do anything.”
FACT: The former makes you look sterile and devoid of personality. The latter just makes you look mental.

FACT NUMBER TWO: The elephant in the room is that everyone *knows* that you’ve written to a thousand other companies. You're initiated the first part of the game in which everyone makes believe that they are the number one company you are applying to, and that you can't even contemplate working anywhere else.

I was at an interview yesterday and mentioned that I was interning at another company. They asked how I’d managed to get it.

“Um, because I spent about 5 consecutive hours on Tuesday working through a list of companies, of which you were one?”

Of course I didn’t say that, I laughed nonchalantly and waved away the question with “Oh, I just emailed them and they happened to have a last minute opening…” Breezy. I'm being breezy.

So, how do you tread the fine line between facelessness and wack-job when writing a cover letter? Your friendly Intern is here to tell you now.

DISCLAIMER: Long periods of cover letter writing may result in the following: the shakes, mild schizophrenia, periods of doubt or depression, typing fingers (similar to tennis elbow), bleeding eyes from scaring at the computer screen, increased thirst, mood swings, the voice in your head starting to talk like a cover letter (i.e. like it has been tattoed with inverted commas)...

Or may that’s just me…


Idiot. Not a great start when writing a letter pertaining to your interest in the company. You can’t be that interested, now can you? There’s no silent g in Price Waterhouse Cooper.

2. Make sure that the right cover letter is sent to the right company.

No joke. I have actually accidentally copy and pasted a cover letter to two companies and forgotten to change the names. Shit. “Ah ha ha, of course, when I sent a message to “Red Communications” addressed to “Dear Blue Communications,” it was because I was thinking of how much better Red is than Blue. Ah ha ha ha. Mmm…job?”

3. Don't forget to ATTACH YOUR CV
Again, an mistake. You get all excited about the cover. You finish with the flourish of "please find my CV attached." You press the send button. Hm, something seemed to be missing...Oh CRAP.
Don't. Do. it.
4. No-one wants to hear your life story.

Succinctness is the key. They don’t give a shit about where you went on your Gap Year, or what you ate for breakfast. They just want to see that you’re not a moron, and gather a basic understanding of why your email address has inconveniently turned up in their inbox and wasted valuable time when they could be checking Facebook. Short, sharp and snappy, please.

5. But at the same time, make it personal.

Ok, so I know I vetoed your life story, but you want to give a cursory few lines in reference to the particular company you’re emailing, even if you’ve just read the website and seen something vaguely interesting. Flattery gets you places, as long as you’re not over-saccharine. Think Grace Kelly, not Shirley Temple. And for God’s sake, DON’T PUT KISSES. These people aren't your friends. And they never will be now.

And finally:

6. Create a template

The fact is, it takes a fucking long time to write thousands of cover letters. It is incredibly boring and time consuming to write a brand new cover letter for each and every company you email. Create a Word document with the basic boring information you can’t be bothered to type out: “I graduated from the Monkey School of Communication in 1920 with a BA in Pig Latin. Since graduating, I have been de-worming orphans in Somalia, working in a sweat shop and eating cheese. I am scared of people and better working alone in the cupboard in my room, hate computers and speak conversational binary code.” You get the gist. See previous post. Now you can simply copy and paste these bits and add the personal shit they want to hear, which should cut down your time by, oh, at least an hour.

Only four more to go!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Cover Letters (Part 1)

Delete As Applicable

Dear Insert Casual First Name Here  of Person I Badgered On Phone For Email Address / Human Resources Person at The Company I Google Searched

I graduated recently / far longer ago than I would like from Impressive High Tier University / (that I’m inserting here so that you’ll at least read the rest of my email) and am interested in hearing about your graduate opportunities and work placements / still don’t have a job but hope that I’ll get a reply if I at least mention working unpaid.

Since graduating, I have been gaining experience in the film, theatre and advertising industries / making tea throughout London, and now feel ready to take up the challenges of a more permanent position / can’t look my un-employed self in the face any longer.

My work experience has taught me invaluable time management skills / how to use my alarm, and I have built up a wealth of administration abilities / spent the last six months welded to the photocopier; skills which I feel would be beneficial to a position within your company / any idiot could do. I am comfortable using Word and Excel / not a retard, and have excellent written and oral communication skills / can spell and string a sentence together.

I feel I would be suited to a position within your company because I really value the ethos you uphold / you’re the last one on my list. I admired your work on (insert name of project) / Found the name of something I had vaguely heard of on your website and feel I could talk about it in an interview, and would value the opportunity to work for such a successful company / am running out of companies to email.

Please find my CV attached / don’t delete this email, and I look forward to hearing from you soon / will be checking my email / blackberry / Itouch every 5 minutes for the next 7 days.

All the best,


Extra! Extra!

What job involves sitting on your tuchus most of the day apart from the occasional walk back-and-forth, includes free meals and pays you 90 quid to boot?

That’s right people, I’ve become an Extra.

And when you read the specs you think, “Hey, why don’t I do this everyday?”

10 hours of doing nothing seems waaaay longer than that:

5:30 am: Wake up. Put clothes on inside out. Correct.

5:40 am: One word: Coffee.

6:30 am: Arrive on set. Shudder at smell of fried breakfast. Coffee.

7:30 am: Find inner peace. Get bored. Remember to take up knitting.

8:30 am: Get driven to “location” conveniently next to a MacDonald’s, which shall be our holding bay.

8:45 am: Extras are given a stash of money to do with what they wish. Porridge anyone?

9:00 am: Begin talking to other extras, including a batty old polish lady sporting a leopard print hat.

9:15 am: Conversation wanes. Coffee.

10:30 am: Strike up conversation with Australian runner. Gives me his hand-warmer. Score.

11:00 am:

12:00 pm: First requirement of the job: Walk across the street.

12:05 pm: Reset.

12:10 pm: Walk across the street.

12:15 – 1:00 pm: Lather, rinse, repeat.

1:00 pm: Return to set for lunch.

1:30 pm: Lunch technically finished. No requirements. Mmm...sleep?

2:00 pm: Now where was that book...

3:00 pm: Sigh. Find phone. Check for wireless signal. Hmph.

4:00 pm: Get driven to a different location. Stand by roadside waiting for cue.

4:45 pm: False alarm. Return to set.

5:00 pm: Tea time.

5:30 pm: A mention we may be done for the day. Sit eagerly waiting by window.

6:30 pm: Free at last! And with overtime to prove it. Now, if only the extras agency didn’t take £70 out of your first fee...

Ah yes, so not exactly 90 quid this time round, but at least this time it was tea-drinking, rather than tea-making, that was at the forefront of my agenda.

Sigh...I’m practically a lady of leisure...
Ladies and gentlemen,

Please excuse the recent hiatus of blog posts - I have been in San Diego, where The Boy has been doing research for his dissertation.

Things I have learned from my trip:

1. There is nothing to do in San Diego
2. You can definitely eat too much Mexican food
3. Sun burn is a bitch.

New post soon!

Friday, 12 March 2010

TV Drama: The intern revolts

"We need you to pick up a tv and carry it back to the office."

"I'm sorry, a what now?"

"A television. We need one. To furnish a flat. For the actors."

"Er...would that be a big one?"

[Hands motioning]

"Um, I'm not being funny, but that's bigger than I am."


"So that's a 'no' then?"

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Can I Have The Receipt, Please?

Last week I was getting lunch in Leon’s when I saw a familiar sight.

A boy was standing at the counter, slightly out of breath, frantically rustling through different pieces of paper and calling out a long and complicated order, punctuated with that tell-tell phrase:

“Can I have the receipt please?”

My ‘tern-dar was instantly on alert: he was definitely one of us.

Asking for the receipt is an all-too-familiar request for interns. Hey, don’t mock it: compared to vacuuming floors and getting lunches, it’s one of the most taxing jobs you’ll do.

Receipts are, after all, an integral part of the work place: they make sure that the company is billed for all the little luxuries that employees are unwilling to pay for themselves (lunch at the Ivy: expense it! ; Packet of Marlboros: work stress, expense it!), and specifically in a film company ensure that the right project is made to fork out for the right exec.

Also, it proves that the intern hasn’t been embezzling the sandwich fund to pay their rent.

You’ll soon notice the familiar chant when sent on your merry way to Tesco’s: “Don’t forget the receipt”, either simply barked at your retreating back by one of the ‘high-ups,’ or murmured by an assistant, trembling slightly at the memory of when they, too, were and intern and had mixed up Mr Producer’s M&S receipt for their own one for Vagisil.

Now, I have to admit that I am not great at keeping my own receipts in order, let alone having to deal with ones for a whole company. I am also notoriously bad at maths, to the point of which the Boyf has labelled me ‘numerically dyslexic.’

Imagine my perturbation, dear readers, when the battle cry goes out. My palms start to sweat, my heart races, I can’t tell my right from my left: whose receipt is who? Is that my five pence or theirs? I forgot the biscuits!

Thus, I have come up with this simple solution, and you will be pleased to learn that all you need is an envelope and sharpie: easy enough to come by in any humble stationery cupboard.

1. Take Sharpie.

2. Write on hand: DO NOT FORGET THE RECEIPT.

3. Take Envelope.

4. Place petty cash in envelope.

5. Go to shop. Collect mango/tea bags/the account director’s itch cream.

6. Hand over petty cash.

7. Glance at hand with cash in – WAIT A MINUTE –

8. See writing on hand - “Can I have the receipt with that please?”

9. Deposit the winning ticket and change into envelope, specially secured to hold all cash separate from own wallet along with correct receipt.

10. Return to office, delicately sweating and safe in the knowledge that cash and receipt are snug in their envelope.

11. Make tea.

See? Simple. Any unpaid idiot could do it.

Oh wait...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

It's a Jungle Out There

Well, it's official. I'm not alone. As the article in today's Daily Mail demonstrates, the (often) poor and unregulated conditions of interships are affecting graduates up and down the country.

I was fascinated to discover Interns Anonymous from this article: a website created by two graduates which is hoping to bring to light graduates' stories of the internship market.

As the Daily Mail article points out, the moment an intern is asked to do any sort of "work" they should officially be paid minumum wage. The problem is, "internships" seem to fall into this no-man's land where it's somehow ok to expect intelligent, hard working graduates to swallow their pride and spend 8 hours a day photocopying and making tea, and all for no pay.

I called a company I worked for as an undergraduate to ask if they had any work. The guy I spoke to told me that he had had to fire his assistant, so he was relying on his intern, i.e. the intern was doing the same duties as his assistant, but without being paid.

As I have said in past posts, employers are in a very jammy position: slap the euphemistic term "internship" onto a job, and suddenly they get a host of applicants who are willing/forced to take up the post as a way into the industry, without having to pay them.

And with another wave of graduates who are going to be seeking employment in just a few months, the government really needs to step up and sort this out. It's a jungle out there.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Bloomin' Boomerangs: A New Generation of Kidults

Did you know that there is actually a phrase for adult children living at home?

“Boomerang Kids”

I like, how it suggests something that you try to chuck away which inevitably pings back at you. And sometimes hits you in the face.


The fact is that, out of all the friends of mine who are in London since graduating, the only two who live away from home are the ones who aren’t from London, and therefore didn’t have a family fold to return to.

The rest of us have swallowed our pride and attempted to cram pots, pans, beanbags and other paraphernalia accumulated at university back into our childhood rooms, and are once again back in a routine of dinner times and making the bed.

The result is a network of commiseration amongst said “Boomerangs” which usually revolves around a familiar pattern:

You will meet up with a group of friends amongst whom there will be a number of Boomerangers. You will perform the usual round of “what are you up to,” “how’s the boyfriend / lover / sex life”, and then one will turn to the other and say,

“How’s living at home?”

Cue world-weary sigh from the friend and understanding looks of condolence from the speaker.

“Fiiine.” The head will loll to one side, the shoulders will hunch. “You...?”


And then the story will erupt. Parents cross that their adult-child-Australian-throwing-device aren’t home for dinner. Boomerangs waxing lyrical about the long-lost freedom they had at university. Eventually more drinks will be ordered and the conversation will subside, but the thought still dwells under the surface that your living situation is less than ideal.

I would like to add a disclaimer here that I am far from ungrateful. I am incredible fortunate to be in a position where I can come back home: I have returned to my beautiful childhood home, I have no bills to pay (I kindly am exempt from paying rent), and as The Father (or My Mother’s Ex Husband, as she prefers him to be known) has decided to leave the familial home in favour of a fat American woman with five children (“living the dream,” evidently), it is just me and the Madre. Who is...most of the time... a delight. Although watch this space to read about the OCD tendencies which are leading me to a slow and painful death.

But this still doesn’t negate the fact that there is a certain amount of compromise which has to be met, and I do long for the days when I could go into the kitchen and chop an onion without being watched like a hawk for mess, or being offered marigolds and a knife and fork to do the deed (read: OCD tendencies).

In fact, I fear that I am regressing back to my teenage years:

Madre: Are you in tonight?

Me: [Grunt] dunno. Might be going out with Daisy.

Madre: But are you in for dinner?

Me: [sigh] I don’t know. We don’t know what we’re doing yet.

Madre: Well what will you have for dinner if not?

Me: I don’t care. I’ll make something. Cereal. Lemmealone.

Hours later, shouting from the top of the stairs.

Me: Muuuuuuuum. What’s for dinner?

Not exactly the sophisticated urbanite I like to picture myself as. Oh well, maybe when I get a job...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

All in the Name of Research

Being an unemployed English graduate begs the question of how to put your skills to good use.

I could be a journalist, but I care very little about politics. I consider myself a lax conservative, but this, like which football team I support, is more due to the sway of parental pressure rather than a profound knowledge of inheritance tax or ID cards.

I could be an English teacher but I dislike school children. And teaching.

One day in November the idea came to me: I shall write a book.

And no, this blog is not a shameless attempt to get published (although if there's anyone out there who wants to do so, sweet) - the subject of said book is entirely unrelated to the subject of my blog. My book is about the 1920's.
Barberight (b): this is my own drawing anyone who steals in will get a punch in the face.

I have always had a fascination with the 1920's. The carefree spirit, the wild parties and, of course, the spangly outfits all suit my sensibilities perfectly. So I thought, if I love something so much, why not write about it?

I am in an intense period of research at the moment: I have Waugh coming out of my ears (although am steering clear of Vile Bodies to stop it influencing me), Mitford lingo peppering my speech (Hons and Debs, daahling) and a dash of the Fitzgeralds (Anyone who hasn't read Zelda Fitzgerald's Save Me The Waltz must put it on their reading list now) to shake things up again.

But the best possibile opportunity for research came last night, at the Prohibition Party. This event was so fabulous, so decadent, so utterly thrilling that I simple have to write about it, without of course, disclosing too much information as the event was "strictly hush-hush, what what."

Having convinced three of my nearest and dearest girlfriends that this was an unmissable event, we spent a good four hours primping and preening, finally arriving at the location, which was only revealed two weeks before the night.

And boy, am I glad we put in the leg-work. The place was a seething mass of feather boas and sequins, and even the "chaps" seemed to be good sports - decking themselves out in braces and spats. The atmosphere was sublime: a pop up bar, casino tables (for which we were given "money" on entry) and the glorious pleasure of a live band, donning fez hats and crooning twenties tunes like nobody's business. The highlightof these was a rendition of "Oobedo, I wanna be like you-o-o" (think Jungle Book) which got the whole crowd moving.

The best part of it was that everyone was totally in to it. There was not a single person in "civvies" and it was certainly the friendliest bunch of people I've ever met.

That said, there was one moment of "beef" in which I thought I was going to have to get out the old guns.
You know the scenario: a crowded space, groups of girls dancing in a circle, one bumps into another and a subtle game of elbowing ensues. A charming young lady behind us decided to initiate this game by repeatedly elbowing my friend in the back. Unfortunately for her, she picked the wrong person to deal with. Ellie doesn't take shit. She's Northern.

Thus, Ellie began to do the "backward back nudge," an age-old retaliation manouvere which involves shimmying one's upper body into said opponent's general vicinity. Always one for a fight, I decided to join in, but the funny thing was, my interchange seemed to occur only with the opponent's friend, in a sort of non-related version of a "Yo Mamma" slinging match. Sample:

Moi: Eh, could you kindly ask your friend to stop elbowing mine? Thanks
Opponent's Friend: Hey, tell your friend it's nice to dance, but not into someone.
Moi: Maybe you should tell your friend that
O's F: Maybe your friend should back off
Moi: Your friend clearly has an attitude problem


Ok, so it didn't get that far, and things calmed down before there was any physical violence, which I'm quite glad about, because I have a height complex where I believe that I'm actually the world's tallest women, until I look in a mirror and realise I'm roughly the size of a ten-year and could probably be stepped on fairly easily.

Hardly in the spirit of night, but it's all in the name of research, right?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Intern Eats Free: Guerilla Burgers

Ok, so technically my blog should be work-experience-related, but as I am an undeniable foodie, and as I have had an experience interesting enough to blog, I thought, "What the hey." It's my blog, so I get to make up the rules.

Working for no pay, I clearly have no money. Neither did most of the friends who came with me last night to the launch of Guerilla Burgers in Marylebone, who included 1 law student, 1 MA student and 1 Mphil student. Hence, the free tit bits offered to us were like manna from Heaven.

And the place wasn't too bad either.

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of burgers. I don't eat red meat. Just the thought of McDonalds brings me out in hives. I don't do fries.

But, in the interest of all things new and shiny, I decided to give Guerilla Burgers a go. And reader, I'm glad I did.

Having spoken to the lovely Vikki via Twitter, I secured a place for my nearest and dearest at 8pm. I know, I know, what has the world come to when we meet people online before face-to-face (indeed, this was how my father ended up having an affair, but that's another story for another time).

As soon as we opened the doors to Guerilla Burgers, we were hit with a blast of atmosphere. The red, white and blue graffiti-d decor was fun and so new you could smell the paint, and the 'choons were so loud you could barely hear yourself think. In a good way. In true burger-shack style, much of the seating was booth style, and the tables were set with cute condiment-filled buckets. I felt like I'd been transported to some beach-side dive in Southern California, and kept expecting to see surfers coming in covered in sand, which is an indication of how good the "theme" was, as I was in the middle of London and it was pissing it down outside.

Indeed, our waiter seemed like he'd swallowed a good few mouthfulls of seawater in his life time - an ageing hippie type with a top knot and bushy ginger beard. And of course the requisite surfer dude accent (I'm hoping this wasn't just put on to fulfil my fantasy). We were immediately offered drinks - a fair choice of beers, cider, wine and soft drinks which I was more than happy with, having expected it just to be beer, and I still can't get over the fact that beer tastes like wee.

On to what I'm sure the bit you're all waiting for: The Food. I had been prepared not to be able to eat anything due to my fries and red meat aversion, so was pleasently surprised to be offered a turkey burger alternative, as well as the choice of both sweet potato and crinkly fries.

For the meat eaters at the table, a plate of "skaters" arrived: mini burgers with a choice of spicy tomato or tarragon dressing. I personally think skaters are a fab idea and a unique selling point: they go with the fun, laid back attitude of Guerilla Burgers, as well making the experience very interactive. The crinkly fries arrived, fat and piping hot, and I was assured by all that both they and the burgers were "eeexcellent" (said in Bill and Ted voice).

Obviously, I can't vouch for these, but what I can tell you about is the turkey burgers and sweet potato fries. Served in a little metal dish, the burger meat was juicy and tender, and I loved the seeded-ness of the bun (I'm sure that makes it healthier, right?). But oh my goodness, the sweet potato fries! I think they were on our table for about 5 seconds before the table devoured the entire bowl and begged Surfer-Waiter for seconds. They were un-greasy, well salted and thick, with just the right amount of crunchiness to them. Just thinking about them is making me hungry, which is surprising, as I've just had breakfast. The salad that came with the burgers didn't go down as well as the others, possibly due to the conncotion of ingredients: beetroot, tangerine, apple and walnuts seemed an odd combo. If we were paying, I probably would have sent it back, but then I probably wouldn't have ordered it in the first place, so no harm no foul.

The whole experience was fun: we definitely outstayed our welcome and were in danger of eating them out of house and kitchen, as we kept ordering more food until we were gently and politely told by Mr Surfer that it wouldn't be fair to the other customers if they gave us more than anyone else.

The best thing about Guerilla Burgers, aside from the food, is its strong brand identity, which is full-on without becoming gimmicky. Everything fits from the menu to the decor to the music, which is so important in a market so saturated with mundanity. The one comment I would say is that not all of us were big fans of the "House Rules":

Obviously just a bit of fun, but one friend pointed out that it's not great to have negatives like this on a menu.

Having said that, we left feeling sated and happy, with the definite promise to come again to try their whole menu, and this, I can safely say, makes Guerilla Burgers a success in my books. Maybe now I'll be a burger convert...

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