Thursday, 27 March 2014

Why I am leaving Australia

I am leaving Australia for a number of reasons, and I figured it made sense to explain my thought process.

If you've read any of my entries you'll know that I don't like my house or my job. I live with people either twice or three times my age who don't have any interest in my life and aren't very good at hiding that fact. (Landlady has asked me three separate times if Rachael is also moving back to the UK. I have explained each time that she is not. I don't know why the answer just doesn't register. Perhaps she thinks Rachael might change her mind because she loves me so much.) I worked with people who had no real interest in me and thought I was vastly incompetent. This is obviously absolutely nothing to do with Australia - it's just bad luck.

So I wondered about moving. I could either move somewhere else in Sydney, or move to a different city altogether. Either option would have been equally expensive: Sydney is pricey, but I'd have to pay out the arse to travel to a cheaper city. Either option would have cleared out my bank balance entirely. I used the last of my savings to come to Australia and ended up in a situation that was a bit balls; I wasn't sure I wanted to take another gamble to move to another city that might have been equally balls and then be unable to afford to leave the country at all.

"But you should make the most of being in the country!" you're thinking. You're thinking it's stupid to go all the way to the other side of the world, work a shitty job for a while, living in a house with people you hate, and then come back. And I'm well aware that it is pretty stupid. If I had stayed here, it would have been primarily because of that feeling of obligation. But that's not a good enough reason to stay somewhere. Coming here wasn't really my dream. I came here on a whim because I thought it might be fun to hang out with Rachael, and some awesome opportunities would arise, and maybe it'd be great!

But to get a decent job on the working holiday visa means a certain level of openness on your part to being sponsored (i.e. staying in Australia for ages so's a company can get you the right to work for them longer than the six months the visa will allow you to do). I realised pretty quickly that I didn't want to stay here for very long, meaning that I would be limited to jobs that lasted less than six months... Or I could just lie to an employer about how long you want to stay. I actually did the latter, and immediately realised when I was offered a second job that I really, really didn't want it.

I entertained the idea of festivals because there are a shittonne in Australia, and it would be a means of travelling around the country, but had no luck with any of the many I got in touch with. And there's also the issue of affording to travel around and stay in these places. In my situation, I was covering rent and living on cereal. If I did anything else, I'd be losing money and would have to go home before I haemorrhaged too much money anyway.

I started thinking about going home when I realised it was stupid to stay here solely because I felt like I should and wasn't actually happy here. As soon as I thought about it seriously I couldn't shake the idea from my head. I don't want to be here. I could work a few jobs and earn the money to travel for a couple of weeks, and I could just go and pick fruit on a farm for a while and earn the money to travel for a few months. I could take the risk of spending every dollar I had to move to another flat, even another city, and try again, forging a life I enjoyed more, with people I liked working with and spending time around.

But as soon as I realised I was totally capable of that I realised there was no point in being here. A large reason I came here was to see what it would be like setting up a life for myself on the other side of the world; whether I could do it at all. I can. My attempt turned out to be a bit of a flop, but I did it. And as soon as I did it I realised I didn't love the country and that I'd rather be somewhere else. I might come back here when I have time and money to see what there is to see in Australia. I don't need a year-long visa to do that, but I do need money - and I have it the wrong way round right now.

 I like Sydney and I like Australia, but I'm done. And that's fine! That's fine.

No wukkas!

The last supper, v.2

A new person has moved in to our house.

That's right! Now I live with Landlady, Alcoholic Flatmate, and Pastry Lady. Pastry Lady is from North Carolina, speaks in a monotone drawl, and works in a local bakery. The day after she moved in I heard her singing Locked Out Of Heaven by Bruno Mars loudly with her door open. She is in her fifties.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have become very good at avoiding the rest of the house. I know that makes me sound like a terrible flatmate, and in all honesty I probably am. I imagine it comes off as rude and antisocial. So it was to my surprise that one day last week after I got back from work, Landlady knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to join the three of them for a meal. The three of them had planned to do it and there was no way I could really come up with an excuse not to, seeing as I would be in the house and my room is the closest to the kitchen. Maybe it would be fun!

Alcoholic Flatmate roasted a leg of lamb for the meal. Landlady and Pastry Lady roasted some vegetables. That was it. It wasn't the feast I had half-expected from a landlady who used to run a restaurant, but I wasn't put out. I had come to expect that Landlady operates on a plane separate from anyone else.

The lamb was not cooked through. I'm not sure why, but it cooked on one side and not the other. Landlady carved what she could of the cooked meat, except she said she had never carved meat before and so it all fell off in these odd little slivers. She then couldn't get through one bit and said it must have been bone, even though it couldn't physiologically have been bone in that bit of the leg - it transpired the next day that it was just tough fat. (Again, this woman used to run her own restaurant.)

Alcoholic Flatmate seemed reluctant to eat any of the lamb, and I had assumed initially it was because it hadn't been cooked through properly - although the bits we were served were fine. I was incorrect. It transpired that when he came back from Indonesia a couple of months ago, he had planned to be vegetarian. "But I've eaten lamb now!" he muttered irritably. The lamb that he had cooked for a house meal.

Landlady said that Alcoholic Flatmate liked meat but didn't like vegetables. This was a bizarre thing to say because he was eating the vegetables and not the meat. Indeed, Alcoholic Flatmate said "no, I like vegetables". Landlady said "you should eat more vegetables. And drink water. Isn't that right, CHRIS?" before pointedly staring at me with a grin on her face.

This was a pointed attack from Landlady on Alcoholic Flatmate because of that whole alcoholism thing he's got going on. Landlady doesn't drink at all - still dizzy the morning after if she has one glass, apparently, which I imagine is a bare-faced lie - and has confronted Alcoholic Flatmate about his alcohol problems. I only know that because she has told me she's done it, though. This is the first time I've been treated to a confrontation in person.

And I'm infuriated because she has dragged me into it. She has made it obvious that she has spoken to me about her problems with Alcoholic Flatmate, and expects me to back her up - despite the fact that we are having this meal in part because Alcoholic Flatmate barely even knows me. We can count the number of times we've seen each other on one hand. For me to be brought into that serious an issue which is really nothing to do with me is completely out of line. To laugh about it is cruel, and weird.

Alcoholic Flatmate didn't really like Landlady's tone. He tried to change the subject. We spoke about spiders, and how he had been bitten by a huntsman when he was younger because he was playing with it, and how he's been bitten by redbacks but he's never died so they can't be that dangerous and people have nothing to fear. Pastry Lady - who, yes, is there, having had to sit through Landlady pressing mine and Alcoholic Flatmate's buttons, not saying a word - told a story of when she saw a blue-ringed octopus at a friend's. (They are octopuses that are - obviously - incredibly dangerous because they are found in Australia.) "I don't know what possessed me to do it but I poked it with a stick," she said. "It did this wriggly thing and I saw its blue rings. Scary, but so cool!"

This didn't tickle Alcoholic Flatmate. "It only did that because you provoked it," he muttered. "I know," said Pastry Lady. "You shouldn't do that," he said.


I turned to Pastry Lady. We spoke about the US and how humid it is and how I've been to North Carolina and alligators and and and. Maybe Landlady was jealous that she wasn't involved, because she interjected with "DO YOU LIKE BUTTER?"

"Yeah, I like butter," said Pastry Lady. "I'm a pastry chef."
"Do you put butter on sandwiches?" asked Landlady.
Pastry Lady explained that at her bakery, they don't put butter on sandwiches if they have mayo or relish.
"I tried a sandwich with peanut butter and jam on it," Landlady explained. "Peanut butter and jam sandwiches, they call them."
I stifled a laugh. Alcoholic Flatmate said "Yes. They are common. I had them as a kid."


"So where is the bottle of wine we were going to have with this meal?" Alcoholic Flatmate asked.
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? I scream internally. Then it occurs to me that a functioning alcoholic doesn't necessarily remember everything that's happened in a conversation he is currently having. Maybe I should point out that Alcoholic Flatmate smells strongly of spirits and I can see his arm shaking whenever he reaches for something.
"No. You drink water," Landlady says.
"Alright, MUM," Alcoholic Flatmate retorts.

Pastry Lady and I start talking about Vegemite because this is Australia and we are foreigners.
"Where is the broom? I need to sweep up the bowl I broke earlier," Alcoholic Flatmate asks.
Landlady won't let him sweep it up and says she'll do it in the morning. This is something she does to me too - not letting me do something myself because she can do it. She likes to baby people. It's frustrating enough for me, never mind a fifty-year-old man.
Pastry Lady and I are talking about Uluru by this point. Alcoholic Flatmate has a story about Uluru!

"Yeah, when I was younger, me and a few mates went there. Had a few beers. One mate had a helicopter. So we were having beers, pilot included, yeah, and we flew up, yeah, landed on Ayers Rock, saw some people climbing up, we were just like, hey mate!" he laughed.
I contorted my mouth not into a smile, but at least into a shape it wasn't before, so he knew I had reacted. I objected pretty strongly to a) the drunk flying of a helicopter and b) landing it on something I knew was sacred to Aborigines and laughing about getting pissed there.

Silence! Ha ha ha.

"Does anyone want to play Bananagrams?" asked Pastry Lady.
"I'll play it after we go to the pub. Let's go to the pub!" said Alcoholic Flatmate.
Thankfully, Pastry Lady shot it down. "I have to get up early tomorrow," she explained. I did too.

We chatted about early mornings until Landlady cut us off with "THIS WAS A NICE MEAL".

Silence! Woops. Ha ha.

I slipped out of the room when Alcoholic Flatmate started arguing with Landlady about how she shouldn't insist on doing all the dishes.

I'm leaving Australia tomorrow!

Job report card

I got to the point where I actually did like everyone I worked with, bar my boss.

Lovely Chef was easily my favourite. She started just after I did and so didn't patronise me to fuck, and isn't as crass and self-assured as some of the others. She gave me sweets sometimes and was always apologetic when she ended up in my way, even though she only ever was when she had to be. It's genuinely a shame that I won't ever get the chance to actually get to know her properly.
Grade: A+, will go far.

Mrs Waitress got married just after I started and so I didn't see a lot of her. When we did work together, we often tried to outdo each other on politeness, immediately thanking the other as soon as they thanked us.
Grade: B+, very conscientious.

Rockin' Robin Waitress got on my nerves to begin with, primarily because she explained to me that Rockin' Robin was about a dancing bird. Apps were her "thing", but that sat weirdly as a thing because it's not like she was particularly up to date with any of them. She only just discovered Instagram and Tinder within the past couple of weeks, and hasn't yet sussed out Snapchat. She tended to make more of an effort to hold a conversation with me than the others to begin with, though, and I appreciated her utter nonsense ("I think I was born Irish. I've got the witty banter! But I'm not Irish any more. But I've got the banter!")
Grade: C+, needs to apply herself.

Nose Piercing Chef was someone I worked with almost every shift but it took forever to get to know her. By the time I actually started getting on with her, learning that two of her life loves were Green Wing and Mario Kart meaning she was essentially my kindred spirit, I was in my last week of work. She made all the work playlists and often filled them with a heady concoction of Spandau Ballet, Phil Collins and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Sometimes she'd add slabs of halloumi to my lunches and she was very good at poking fun at me without annoying me ("Ooh, wow! That's eh... that's pretty special, Chris!") She was the one I had to get on with in order to get nice treats at the end of the day, and she is also the only one that can get away with ripping our boss. She is a tough nut and a good egg, although I did grow paranoid that whenever she got me to prepare the pulled pork she was making wank jokes that I didn't register until it was too late because I'm an innocent flower.
Grade: A, but must work on communication skills ("you prepare parsley too angrily"?)

Bearded Barista looked to me like he was in a band and was only working in a cafe because he needed to pay the bills. Turned out that's exactly what he was doing. Once I saw him when he'd trimmed his hair and his beard and he looked so different that I started talking to him and then immediately panicked that I was talking to someone I didn't know, stumbling over my words before eventually stopping mid-sentence. From then on the only exchange we really bothered having was "coffee?"; "yes please".
Grade: C, should have warned me about beard edit.

Racist Barista is a lovely guy in all but the racism. He made more effort to get to know me than anyone else, asking me about actual thoughts and opinions I had, and showing me photos of things he'd seen that he thought I'd appreciate (although one of those was a Rolf Harris record he'd found which led to a Yewtree conversation that I wasn't really ready to have at work). The racism led to occasional uncomfortable moments, such as when I thought one of his friends had yellow fever and it turned out it was just slang for a white man who has a thing for Asian women; and when he made reference to "towelheads", unsure if it was offensive.
Grade: D, really needs to stop the racism lark.

Psycho Twat Boss is infuriating. Even when I knew how to do everything and she stopped micromanaging every task I did, she was consistently unpleasant. This wasn't specific to me. She made fun of Lovely Chef for making muffins that were too small, slagged Mrs Waitress behind her back for not "appreciating" her job when it was clear that she wanted to leave but couldn't afford to, screeched at Rockin' Robin Waitress for missing her train (once!) and being twenty minutes late for her shift, had an argument with Nose Piercing Chef about what they had cooked in the past (shooting Chef down saying they had never cooked a certain meal in the kitchen, despite the fact that she was arguing with chef who cooks the meals), and had frequent gos at Bearded Barista for not having done minor things that it was never in his remit to do. Everyone recognises and has said to Psycho Twat Boss that Racist Barista is clearly her favourite, which I think is the case - although I don't know what he did to avoid her wrath.

I still never managed to hold a decent conversation with Psycho Twat Boss, though, whereas the rest of them did. I think she thought I was an idiot, but she'd never tell me why. Once I had to go and get some coffee from her car, but I took a while because I thought it was in the boot and the boot wouldn't open. So I tried to open the boot, until I realised that the coffee was sitting on the back seat. When I came back with it, she said "why did you spend so much time looking at my car?". I explained, and joked that "I wasn't just admiring it!". She said "I didn't think you were admiring it". I asked "What did you think I was doing?" and she stared at me, shook her head, and walked away.

Grade: F, needs to get a better grasp of common decency.

While you might look at my 100% accurate grade thinking that what I say to my boss might have been inappropriate, what with the whole "boss/employee" relationship thing, I should point out that Psycho Twat Boss has spoken to us all about how she likes pineapple because it makes cum taste nice, and that she was chatting to customers about "labial stretching". She gave Rockin' Robin Waitress her old iPhone but not before "checking there are no pictures of boobs on it". "Gotta clear your fanny off it first!" Nose Piercing Chef cheerfully interjected. The boss/employee relationship was quite flexible in that regard.

Unless you are me. I just couldn't crack the code to getting on with her. And when I left, she asked me what I was going to do. I lied about having another job to go to. And then I left, Nose Piercing Chef saying that it was really nice working with me and thanking me for everything I'd done, with Imagine by John Lennon playing in the background. It is my least favourite song in the world. I actively hate Imagine by John Lennon.

Conclusion: I didn't even get a treat on my last day. D.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Liebster Award

The reason I haven't posted much recently is because I haven't really had the opportunity to do much. If I have any stories, they're generally about work, and I never wanted this to be a blog where I complain about my job in every entry, because that has nothing to do with the blog's namesake. (That said, I got pretty annoyed at work this week because my boss took me aside and said I needed to just started saying "yes" to stuff because my tendency to argue with her when I feel hard done by made her feel "patronised and angry". I handed in my notice yesterday.)

I also don't want the blog to turn into various rants about Landlady. Not that it could, really, because I don't see her much - I am now a master hider. I heard her talking to Alcoholic Flatmate about me the other day (right outside my bedroom door, bizarrely - they are not pros like me). Alcoholic Flatmate said something about where "the Scottish boy" was all the time. Landlady said "I know he works sometimes".* The last time I actually saw Landlady properly we had a conversation in which she said I "should have gotten a good job before [I] came here". If you suspect that it is insights like this that have led me to avoid her for the past week then yes, you'd be right. A+.

So, while I try and construct an entry that has some substance, I will tide you over with this: my friend Hillevi (author of Superbitca in Space) nominated me for this Liebster Award thing a while ago, which seems to be a means of telling your readers about bloggers whom you like. Basically you get nominated, answer the nominator's questions, and then nominate more people and ask them your own questions. This means that I should really come up with questions and get other bloggers to answer them, but I don't really read many and I don't know what I'd ask them. (In fact, to echo Hillevi, "I don’t really follow a lot of blogs where I feel comfortable just randomly asking some weird questions".) So I'm not going to. Fuck you.

In order to make this blog-relevant, every answer will have a subtle Australian twist.

1. Who would play you in the film about your life?
I imagine there would be multiple actors playing me, portraying me at different ages, so's the audience can get a feel for the real me. As a child, I would be played by child-sized Australian Kylie Minogue. (She was in Doctor Who once and I'm pretty sure she did something in Moulin Rouge, so she's a seasoned acting pro.) My teenage years would be best realised by Elle MacPherson, as my hair was long and luscious. My progression into manhood could be played by Hugh Jackman and/or Russell Crowe, Australia's Two Actors. And the OST would be performed by The Wiggles. And Jason Donovan.

2. If you’ve had a bad day, what meal will bring comfort to your soul?
An Aussie burger. To all intents and purposes this is exactly the same as any other beefburger you've come across. The only difference is that Australians put beetroot on their burgers. I'm not sure you'd define it as soul-enriching but it's definitely comforting, and you might be lucky enough to have some weird-looking wee afterwards.

3. What is your favourite television moment?
Australian TV is shit so this is pretty tough. Maybe when, in Neighbours, Harold came back (after being swept out to sea, as I recall) as a total dick because he'd forgotten who he was.

4. What do you want the tag line for the movie about your life to be?
Probably this immortal line from Sabrina Down Under: "He so as mad as a gumtree full of galahs." It's so authentic.

5. What song do you choose for your battle anthem? (What kind of battle you ask? Any at all – be it with swords or word, the choice is yours)
 Jason Donovan could surely quell any warrior's spirit.

6. What talent do you wish you had that you currently don’t? Would you be willing to give up a present talent in exchange for this one?
I didn't think the stereotype of everyone surfing here would be so true. It would be cool to surf confidently enough so that if you were swept away by a fast current or confronted by a box jellyfish then you'd know what to do - and I'd have something to talk to Australians about. (Even if they don't surf, they paddleboard: stand on a big surfboard and paddle around with oars, I think.) I'd like to be able to surf if it meant not having to learn how to surf (i.e. go through the horror of having to be in the water as a complete incompetent. But as and when I leave Australia it would be something I'd probably never do again so no, I'll keep a hold on my existing skills.

7. Favourite city in the world? Why?
Sydney! Because it is the only Australian city I have been to and therefore I cannot say any other city for fear of breaking my own arbitrary rules.

8. What would be your survival plan for the zombie apocalypse?
A zombie apocalypse would be bad enough in the UK. Australia is deadly enough as it is. I would have no survival plan. Immediate suicide as soon as I heard the news.

9. Who would win in a fight between cavemen and astronauts?
Cavemen. Astronauts would be all shrivelled because space makes your muscles disintegrate. And after years of eating that freeze-dried ice cream they'd probably welcome death's warm grasp. And to make this answer more Australian: HUNTSMEN SPIDERS AM I RIGHT

10. If you could enter and live in a fictional reality/world, which one would it be? Would you do it if it meant you’d never come back to this reality?
AUSTRALIA!!! HAHAHA, nah, turns out this place is real. Who knew. I'm all over returning to the reality of the UK, though.

*If you need help in creating an air of mystery, I'd be happy to help.

Friday, 28 February 2014

February 28th, the last day of summer

The last entry I wrote here was almost exclusively about how annoying my job was. At risk of sounding like a broken record, my job is dead annoying.

"When it's busy, help put stuff away, because the waitresses are busy serving, you know? Because it's busy."
Wait, what? Can you run that by me again? It's busy, so... I need to... Wait, why would I need to put stuff away? Why can't she? Oh, right! Because it's busy! So she doesn't have as much time to put stuff away... Hold on, surely if it's busy then I don't have as much time eith-

"I know you're a glove fiend, but look, you're using too many pairs of gloves. You need to reuse them."
What? They're disposable gloves. When you take them off they go inside out. They are designed specifically not to be put back on again. And I'M wasteful? You just throw all the glass bottles in the general wast- 

"Don't put this on a wet surface. I don't want it getting wet."
I didn't! That wasn't me! That wa-
"I don't like a dibby dobber."
"Someone who tells tales on someone else."
But I didn't do anything wrong and you're telling me off! This is just as infuriating as it was when I was in primary sch- 

"Go and get the newspapers."
Hey, so you didn't actually give me enough money to buy the- 

"Don't chop the tomatoes like that. You're squashing them."
I really don't know what that even mea- 

"Don't peel the eggs over the bin. Get a bowl. That way if you drop them then they're not lost."
Ok, that makes sense. 

"Why are you peeling the carrots over a bowl? Peel them over the bin."
 Oh, right, ok, someone just told me not to do that with eggs so I thought I would do the same thing with the ca- 

"You're not laying the bacon out on the trays properly. Here, let me do it."
You know, you could just tell me what I did wrong so I'd know for next time rather than wrench all control out of my hands as if I'm completely incompe- oh, well, what do I know. Fuck it.

There is one important lesson that I have learned from both this job and the one I had working for a faceless corporation whose name rhymes with "Schlamazon". It is that if you treat your employees like idiots or drones - basically as people who are completely expendable, who have no choice but to submit to your your broken and/or arbitrary way of doing things, then they are not going to put any effort into the job. They will do the bare minimum, "living for the weekend" because they have immediately clicked that their efforts aren't appreciated. The job is a bit shit and the higher ups seemingly think that by occasionally providing you with free food, you might not notice. (Schlamazon had a bizarre day where they treated us to lots of circular things - Hula Hoops, Polos, cans of Coke - to mark the launch of a new button.)

You might have clicked that the extent to which I'm being patronised at work has led me to stop trying reasonably quickly. Considering I'm currently living on the breadline I was going to ask if I could get more shifts each week, but whenever I'm there I get so frustrated with the way I'm being treated that I tell myself "You know what? No. You can get by without having to grovel to these guys." Trying to convince myself that my poverty is a result of my own self-respect makes me feel slightly better about myself, but reinforces the fact that I'm kind of a dick and I probably need to suck it up and get another job.

In fairness, I was signed up to do a class at the University of Sydney for a couple of months - but then it was cancelled because the teacher was ill. (I told Landlady this, and she said "Well, you know, sometimes they cancel classes because they don't have enough students." I reiterated that that was not the reason, that "medical reasons" were cited, and in fact the class had been fully booked. She looked at me blankly and didn't say anything.) And, in even more fairness, I am potentially going to get some work as a research assistant in the near future. I just don't know how near, because of the time it takes to submit and approve projects. In all honesty I'm just kind of looking forward to the day I can tell the cafe staff I'm unavailable for a shift because I have to go to my other job at the university: my own dickish way of saying I AM NOT A MORON.

Until then, though, I am probably going to continue sitting in my room listening to the same songs on repeat like an autistic child, eating cereal and wondering how many cockroaches there are hiding underneath my bed.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Mo money, mo problems

I got the job in the cafe. It's one of those places that does genuinely nice coffee and plays stuff like Franz Ferdinand, The Smiths and, of course, Wham! on the stereo. This is my third job washing dishes and as such I thought I had it down, but there's always something to remind me that I am the newbie who doesn't know how things work yet.

On my first trial shift my boss gave me the lowdown on the sink, the detergent and the sponges (sorry for all the jargon). I seemed to have picked everything up fine, but then she threw a curveball later when she asked where the water around the sink had come from. I gave it a moment's thought, and said half-jokingly "it was probably me?". She looked at me and said "was it you?" and I was stuck. Yes? The water on the floor by the sink was probably the result of me washing dishes with water at the sink. She nodded and said "ok". Hold on, what? Did I just admit to doing something wrong?

She took me by surprise again yesterday during my second real shift (because somehow, despite my faux pas with the splashing, they hired me anyway) when I was wiping a mark off a mug after it had come out of the dishwasher. It is worth pointing out that the dishwasher isn't really a dishwasher - it's one of those glass washers which rinses everything with scalding hot water, so you have to wash stuff first and then put it through. Indeed, "wash it before it goes through", she said. "Not after." What did she think I was doing? Did she really just suggest I'd been rinsing stuff and then washing it?

I wouldn't say it came across as patronising because usually I have no idea why the question is being asked. When I feel patronised, it's because I'm being told to do something as if I'm an idiot. With these questions, I'm always bewildered, because I don't understand the motivation behind asking it. But then she ruins that sense of mystery and confusion by telling me how to wipe down a surface and I wonder if maybe I do just come across as an idiot. After all, I did manage to cut my thumb when I was shelling an egg. (That came back to bite me when I had to juice half a litre's worth of lemons by hand, because - oh yeah! - lemon juice in a little cut stings.)*

The positive about working in a cafe like the one I do is that I get free things. I invariably get a coffee at the beginning of my shift (one of those ones that's so strong you have to space out the sips) and a free sandwich for lunch (with fancy things like walnuts or falafel or poached chicken in them) and usually a leftover "treat" at the end. Yesterday I got a muffin, but one of the baristas got two slices of chocolate orange tart that looked amazing. I was, naturally, excessively jealous to the point of vitriolic hatred, but I guess I just have to make them all love me so that I get the best treats one day.

As it stands, then, I will continue in my part-time, minimum wage job, in a bid to wangle really good treats from my colleagues. Unfortunately it puts me in a position where I don't really have the money to do much other than live. I'm trying to put money aside each week so I can travel with good buddy Jenny when she comes to Oz in August, so after saving and the whole "paying my rent" thing, there isn't much money left - but equally I don't know what I would do with any money I did have because I still don't really know anyone. My boss has asked a few times if I've been to any of the local pubs yet, so if any of you want to take bets on how long it takes me to crack and go drinking by myself, do feel free.

Still, extensive use of The Internet suggests to me that I'm not the first graduate who left university and went through a series of minimum wage jobs that were far below his skill set. If all else fails I'll surely make it as one of those Tortured Artist Bloggers On The Internet.

*I asked the chef if she had any tips on how to juice the lemons most efficiently. "Squeeze 'em," she said.

Monday, 10 February 2014

My landlady, the bint

If you're a friend of mine on Facebook then I imagine the most you could possibly have picked up about my landlady is that she's got a photo of herself below a hologram of Jesus in the living room, and has a fridge magnet of a scantily clad lady in Amsterdam's red light district next to a picture of Jesus with the caption "JESUS, I trust you!":

She isn't one of those rabidly devout religious folk you sometimes meet who talk about Jesus and try to convert you. The only time she talked about religion with me wasn't actually really about religion at all. In fact, I didn't really understand the story, but it went something like this:

Landlady was in France. One of her nephews lives in Italy. I don't know why Landlady was in France rather than Itality, but she had a flight from an airport in France to Rome. Landlady was meant to meet a friend of a friend who was going to take her to the airport, but she didn't. (I don't know why.) Landlady was therefore in France with no way of getting to the airport. Landlady doesn't speak French. Landlady eventually got to the airport after confusing taxi drivers and various locals and shopkeeps, but the flight was cancelled, with the next one only available two days later.

There was then a bit of the story that I glazed over at, or perhaps it just didn't really make sense: Landlady was at the airport, or a train station, or a bus stop. (I'm reasonably sure it was one of the three.) Landlady approached a well-dressed man and asked him if he spoke English. He said he spoke a little bit. At some point Landlady found out that he was a priest from the Vatican. He might have told her this, and no, I don't know how he would have proved it, but this is what she told me.

The priest helped Landlady get to Rome. I really don't know what the sequence of events was. I don't think she could possibly have flown if there was no scheduled flight, but equally I don't remember her saying she got a train. Let's just assume it was some kind of Vatican Voodoo. Regardless, she was in Rome. And the next bit of the story I remember is "and then I saw the Pope!"

This is part of my broader problem with Landlady: she doesn't talk to you, she talks at you, and that means that you don't engage with anything she says, making it really hard to keep track of a conversation. But she doesn't engage with anything I say either. A few days ago, I asked her how to turn the oven on because it was turned off at the mains and I couldn't work out where that was.* She asked me what it was I wanted to cook; it was just a frozen pizza. She decided I should use her pizza maker, and then took the pizza and did it herself. But this was a pizza maker, and I didn't want to make a pizza. I had one. She had taken it from me. The pizza maker is basically a hot plate, so the dough got hot and the top was still frozen. Cue the uncomfortable conversation of "I think your pizza's done!"; "It isn't - it's still frozen on top..."; "oh... are you sure?"

How could I not be sure about that?

So I put it in for longer and sat and listened to something or other she was talking about - most of her stories about her recent trip to Europe were about the different hotels she stayed in - and when it was eventually ready and I was actually eating, she started asking me questions. For fuck's sake, Landlady, now? 

I still don't know how to turn the oven on.

I am generally pretty annoyed with Landlady because I feel like she mislead me when we spoke before I moved in. I asked if you got a lot of spiders and creepy-crawlies here, to which she said no, not here. A few days after I moved in she says the suburb attracts cockroaches. She said before I moved in that she kept herself to herself and spent most of her time upstairs. My experience is that if I'm in the kitchen she will stop watching TV and come and talk at me for the entire time I'm there.

"Are you having soup?"
"It smells nice."
"Yeah, it's goo-"
"Is it from a tin?"
"Oh well. It still smells nice! It smells nice. Sit in the other seat!"
"I'm okay here, it-"
"The cricket's on, you can watch the cricket!"
"I've never watched crick-"
"Don't you like cricket? You can see the cricket."
"I wouldn't understand it."
"You don't like cricket?"
"I don't like cricket."
[Landlady sits and watches me eat soup (which smells nice, even though it's from a tin) while explaining cricket]


Her latest trick is hiding all the cutlery. I genuinely have no idea where she's put it. What was formerly the cutlery drawer has nothing in it. The cynic in me wonders if it's a ploy to make me talk to her, because I'll have to ask where it all is eventually.

The thing that is most infuriating about living with Landlady is her complete lack of understanding of jobs. Landlady ran her own restaurant here for a number of decades, so I don't imagine her experience of getting a job is much like mine. I have been spending every day sending out applications for jobs that employers don't even bother replying to, such is the disinterest in hiring people on my visa. Landlady suggests I become a bank teller. That is a terrible suggestion. "You should look at working in a bank. Who knows, you might be able to get work as a teller or something. You should sign up to an agency. They might be able to get you work in a bank."

My visa doesn't let me work for one employer for more than six months. Why would a bank ever hire me? Why would they want to train tellers when they know they'd get nothing out of their investment? Of course, I don't say that to Landlady. I say, "maybe... I'm just looking for anything I can get at the moment."

"You should go to restaurants around here. You should get a job, earn some pocket money while you're here." This is infuriating, because I genuinely don't know what else she thinks I would be doing. Of course I need a job. I have told her that I am trying to find work. It's all I do. And it's not for "pocket money" - it's to cover all my costs of living, you know, like employed people have to.

In fact, I had a trial shift today working in a kitchen of a small cafe. They were the only people to respond to me out of the billion** applications I sent out, and while I didn't aspire to get paid for washing dishes for a third time in my life, it's work. It is a massive twenty minute bus ride away though, so Landlady's response was "oh - you should try and get a job locally - it would save you the costs of travel. Why don't you work in a café here?"

Why DON'T I work in a café a minute's walk away? It seems so obvious now! I should have just gotten a job there. My mistake.

I hate Landlady.
*I'm pretty sure you wouldn't know either - the light switch for the kitchen isn't even in the kitchen. What stupid kind of house is this?
**approximate figure