Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Being a real life person (and the reasons why I have avoided being one for so long)

I wouldn't class myself as 'unemployed.' I'm not. Really I'm not. I definitely don't have a real job either though. Unless you class playing endless penalty shoot outs with a small boy and forever telling him to 'stop throwing couscous everywhere'/'get into bed, no YOUR bed... are you a big baby? Do any of your school friends still sleep in their mummy's beds?!'/'stop tugging at the fringe on my leather jacket, they don't make these anymore! You really will break it!' as a real job. (If you do then you probably do even less work for your money than me.)
As well as my glorified nanny role, I also started 'interning' at a film company recently. That's fun. Some of the tasks have been shit I actually like doing as well, like translating and editing, and a particular highlight was when they asked if J.G. would tweak the Liverpool dialect in a football themed script (ignoring the fact that one week later they called me back in demanding that I explain what 'that's boss' means and asking whether they could take all the 'lad's and 'our kid's out, replacing them with highly Americanised and unconvincing alternatives, such as 'pal.' I don't think I've ever heard a scouser say 'pal' in anything other than a jokey way, but I digress...)
However. In my 'internship' I'm also assigned menial tasks such as running the length and breadth of Paris looking for polystyrene chips and picking up lampshades from storage (which may or may not have been simply for use at one of my employers' homes and not actually for any of the films...)
I'm yet to be paid a penny, but I get a free lunch now and then and I don't have to make anyone coffee, so I take what I can get.
It's not long term though. Obviously. I got a terrifying statement from the student loans company last week informing me of exactly how much I owe, and I can confirm that ignorance was indeed bliss when it came to not knowing the exact total of my debt... I had a rough idea, and it turns out that my guess was only 10 grand off... (No biggie!)
So I've made the executive decision to move back home and look for a real person job. As much as I'm not arsed about money, the people you owe it to DO tend to care. Who knew.
This is by no means the first time I've come to this drastic decision (one that almost everyone else my age made at least 2 years ago.) Last summer I spent 3 months job hunting, and it took it out of me. Not that I even got a job by the end of it. I opted instead to simply have another self prescribed year abroad. (Queen Procrastinator needed another year of lie ins and smoggy, beautiful Paris air.)
The job search period always starts out optimistically. You think positive, confident thoughts such as, 'I'm young! I have a degree! I speak three languages! I'm hip! I'm desirable! I can string a sentence together! They should be lining up the block for me!' Things like that.
It seems almost impossible that you don't already have a string of high flying jobs. You shake your head in disbelief that you weren't snapped up the very day you graduated.
So you put all of your energy into writing a CV that lists all of your endless qualities in a quietly confident tone (with strictly no boasting), in a way that says, 'hey, I'm dripping with potential, but I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes,' but that also says, 'I'll work hard. Within reason. I'll work late OCCASIONALLY, but I need quite a few holidays,' avoiding all obvious adjectives such as, 'hardworking', 'reliable', and 'punctual.' It's not often that you'll achieve a perfect CV that incorporates all of these elements, but you'll settle for something which makes you sound relatively hardworking, relatively reliable, and relatively punctual anyway.
Then, high off the success of your CV tweaking, you'll join around 26 job sites, getting into the swing of things and ticking nearly all of the boxes in the 'jobs by category' sections.
'Management?' Sure, why not!
'Media?' YEAH.
'Teaching?' Shouldn't rule it out!
'IT?' Sometimes I cry if my computer doesn't do what I tell it to, but fuck it! Lets give it a go!
'Engineering?' Yeah...?
'Environmental?' Not 100% sure what it involves, but worth a shot!
'Sales?' No. Definitely not.
Then you'll sit back and wait for the calls to pour in.
They don't.
You wait.
On day 3 you'll get a missed call from a withheld number. YES! This is it!!
You stare at your phone, willing it to ring again. My god, that was definitely a potential future employer. Definitely.
One hour passes and you can't concentrate on anything else. Two hours. Oh my god, why aren't they calling back??
And then they do. You sit up straight, put your shoulders back, clear your throat, pat your hair down (you know they can't see you, but it somehow feels like something you should do) and you answer the phone.
You don't use your normal voice. You find yourself speaking in someone else's. My go-to phone interview voice is very soft, sugary sweet, but somehow has strength at its core, whilst also being a bit of a song. (Yours could be different, but I can guarantee it won't be your every day one.)
'Hell-oh-oh?' I'll say.
'Sweetie? It's me. I'm calling off the work phone. Just wondering if you'll be in for lunch?'
'Mum?! Did you call me before?!!'
'Oh yes, a couple of hours ago to check you were up.'
'So are you in for lunch then?'
'Yes!! I don't have a job!!! Where else would I be?!'
Or... something like that.
Your spirits will inevitably get low on day 6, so on day 7 you'll contemplate the possibility of applying for a couple of jobs. In most cases, the reality of it isn't as terrifying as the idea of it. You'll spend a whole evening really s e a r c h i n g. Typing into Google every single name of every single company that has ever had any kind of success in your desired field of work, sending hopeful emails to little independent companies, hoping to appeal to their sense of compassion... You'll then trawl all of the 26 job sites under the job categories that you actually like and want to work in. You'll make shortlists and organise the applications into chronological order depending on their deadline dates. You'll really make an event out of it- putting your phone on silent, getting into bed, setting up a snacks table... And then the lists start.
I usually write quite a few, just to make sure everything is covered.
Headings can range from:
Things that are non-negotiable in a future job
Jobs which will not make me want to kill myself
and everything in between.
By the time you've finished all this planning you'll more often than not feel truly fulfilled, like you've really accomplished something (even though you're yet to apply for a single job.) You'll resolve that 'that's enough work for one night!' and roll over and watch HBO shows until your eyes blur.
You'll wake up the next morning full of confidence and excitement for the opportunities that this new day might bring, and when your only new emails are from ASOS and Graze you'll feel cheated and crestfallen (even though, I repeat, you're yet to apply for a single job.)
Don't fret though, you can feel it in your bones that today is the day. You set aside a couple of hours for that one job that's really caught your eye. You work on a quirky, yet serious, cover letter, a letter that manages to say, 'hey, look at me! Over here! Hey! I'm the kinda cheerful little scamp you want in your office! I'm better than all those other boring, playing-it-safe candidates!' and that also says, 'I'm just as good (and not in any way a little scamp) as all those candidates who sent in well thought out and researched applications, no different, so just maybe pick me, if you think I sound nice and you fancy having me around.'
Once that's done, you'll have a leisurely lunch break, and then after having double checked both your CV and cover letter, you'll send it all off with a polite little note in the body of the email and feel like you've done a whole day's work. (I mean, you're usually unemployed if you're going through this whole charade, so you more or less will have done a whole day's work...)   
Hoping for a quick response, you'll call it a day and tell all your friends that you're sick of all this bloody job searching.

I can assure you that that first application will be the best one you'll ever do. For the first job I ever applied to (at a publishing house), my cover letter included facts and figures about the previous year's releases, quotes from some of the more obscure books they'd published, a few personal (relevant) anecdotes, and quite frankly a whole load of other great stuff that made me sound like an undiscovered genius.
For the next 53 applications I mostly used that first cover letter, changed the name of the company, and (at a push) mentioned a couple of their bestsellers.
And then wondered why nobody called me.
That fateful summer of 2013 wasn't all doom and gloom though. I had a few interviews. I even had one lot of follow up interviews. They weren't great though. One interviewer asked me very personal questions about my family, their income, and my relationship with my parents, and then stared me out for around 20 seconds when he didn't like one of my responses. 20 whole seconds of complete silence. In a job interview. Yeah.
Another job, which I thought I had in the b a g, sent me an email addressed to another candidate, informing me that said candidate hadn't got the job. When I informed them of their mistake, they promptly emailed back to tell me that I hadn't got the job either.
I guess the moral of the story is... you'll probably get a job if you try hard enough? And sometimes you might even like it? (And if you don't, there's always Paris..)
But anyway, here's to another fruitful summer of writing very, very similar cover letters to endless publishing houses. And lets hope that just one of them will read what I have to say and think to themselves, 'hey! This is just the kinda cheerful little scamp we want in our office!'

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Like mother, like daughter...

My mother, the worrier. Ever since I can remember she's mollycoddled me to within an inch of my life, and no solo outing could ever commence until she'd listed all of the possible dangers that I had to watch out for. Now this didn't apply just for holidays or nights out. She's always had words of warning for even a simple trip into town, and don't get me started on any time I would step foot into a car... (those bloody death traps!)
I'll give you a sample of a conversation we've had a million times as I'm trying to leave the house:
'Bye sweetie. Remember, hold onto your things.'
'Yes mum.'
'Look after each other.'
'We will.'
'Be careful.'
'Watch your drinks. They do all kinds of things these days...'
'We always do.'
'Make sure you're careful on those heels!'
'I will.'
By this point I'll be halfway out the door, but she will have only just got started...
'Yes mum?'
'Have you got a coat?!' (Said at any time of year, and always presented as a dire emergency.)
'Okay, be good!'
'Bye mum.'
'Wait a minute, have you got a key?!'
'Yes. As always...' (I will inevitably be losing my patience at this point.)
'Sweetie!' (As I'm turning away for the eighteenth time...)
'Will you send me a text when you arrive?'
'Who's driving?'(Also of utmost importance, even though she's yet to have a different reaction to any name that I ever offer up.)
'Tell her to drive slow, won't you?'
'Yep.' (I will have optimistically made my way to the end of the drive by now.)
'Darling, be safe!'
'Can you leave me Sophie's number just in case?'
'MUM!!!!!' (And regretfully, this marks the regression to my pathetic teenage self.) 'God! I'm not going to let anyone rob me or spike my drink, I'll make sure all my friends have both eyes on me at all times, I won't talk to any strangers and I won't eat any berries without checking if they're poisonous first. HONESTLY!'
Her face will then fall, and I'll feel like a monster. But it does get tiresome. I mean, her go-to phrase is, 'Have fun! Within reason!' Really.
When I was younger it used to really piss me off, and I ended up lying about pointless stuff just to keep her quiet.
I'd be going to see my little high school boyfriend and tell her I was going to the gym. I would even go as far as regularly leaving the house in gym clothes and getting changed in the alley next to my house. Yep.
Nights out with my friends would be a 'sleepover at Rach's.' It got to the point where between us girls all of our rowdier outings would be nicknamed 'pizza and DVD nights.'

And now that I'm 23 years of age? Now that I live in a different country to her? Now that I've lived on my own for five years, and have been financially independent for almost as long? 
Not all that much has changed, mes amis. I tell her more, but she worries just as much.
Ever since I moved out she still calls me at least twice a day (yep, twice a day), and for her peace of mind she still wants me to email her when I get home after a night out. (I soon learned that the best thing to do with that was to just send her an email around 1am saying, 'home! great night!' or similar...) I know what you might be thinking. 'Leave her to worry! Stop indulging her! She'll be fine!' Well. That's where you're gravely mistaken, guyz. There's no chance of leaving her to worry, as I learned one fateful morning at university when I didn't answer my phone (I was sleeping off a hangover and was blissfully unaware of any contact being made.) I woke up to twenty missed calls and frantic knocking on my door. My panicked mum had driven all the way to Nottingham, and had worked herself up into such a state that as soon as she saw that I was alive and safe, she burst into tears, hugged me, turned right back round and drove all the way home again.

Other things that my tiny mum really, really, really worries about:
-Me eating sushi
-Me getting the metro late at night alone (kinda understandable)
-Me not carrying thief-proof enough bags
-My fridge exploding
-Me using chemical products to clean my bathroom
-Me dying my hair
-Me driving her car (or any car come to mention it...)

My mum, the worrier.
I wouldn't have her any other way. 

Anyway, you need to know something else...
It's not actually her fault.
She comes from a family of worrying women.
Her sisters worry, her mum worries, her aunties worry... the whole gang work themselves into wild frenzies of their own making.
My cousin had a secret boyfriend for ten years because her mum was so worried about him not being right for her.
And my nonna is the original and best Queen Worrier.
She still calls all five of her (adult) children daily.
She still requests that when any member of her extended family flies anywhere they call her when they land. She makes her own little calculations about when she expects us to have arrived and won't sit still until she knows that the plane is safely at its destination in one piece.
When we're driving anywhere and Nonna's in the back she develops a nervous sniff, and if we're driving anywhere and she's not in the car she'll watch us drive off from the balcony, shouting advice as we back out (even more infuriating being as she's never once driven a car herself...)
Tonight my mum and my nonna were talking about an upcoming visit my mum's making to Paris to see me:
Nonna: So we won't talk that whole week then?
Ma: No mamma! I'll be with Silvia.
Nonna: No phone calls at all? 
Ma: No... I'll message the others and they can tell you what I've said.
Nonna: Why don't you message me?
Ma: Because you don't know how to read them!!
Nonna: Well, as long as you're safe...
And so on, ad nauseam...

And as I find myself asking my loved ones things like, 'no, tell me exactly what time you land!', it's slowly beginning to dawn on me that maybe, just maybe, I'll end up being exactly the same...
A little worrier like my mum, and her mum, and her mum before her.     

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Laundry day

The worst day of them all - worse than a Monday, worse than Wednesday (my longest working day), worse than Boxing Day - can only be one, and it can be one only: laundry day.
I fucking hate it.
This hatred that I feel may well be completely unreasonable and wholly irrational, and I'm relatively sure that it's both of those very similar adjectives, but the heart feels what the heart feels. And when laundry day comes around, mine sinks.
Now, what you need to bear in mind is that I put it off for as long as humanly possible (this is made easier by the fact that I have around 100 pairs of pants, and innumerable t-shirts - and everything else, honestly, can wait), but it unavoidably rears its ugly head now and then. I generally admit defeat when all I have left in my drawer is the real fancy pants (the ones you don't want to waste on everyday shit) and my 'grundies', as J.G. so eloquently calls underwear which is on its last legs.
What you also need to bear in mind is that the experience of washing clothes is only this stressful because I have no washing machine to speak of...
Back in the days when I still lived in Nottingham, I never fully appreciated how blissful it was to be able to leisurely put on a half empty wash, or fling in your whites and, after a joyful interlude of living your life, vaguely remember them a few hours later, when you'd find them exactly where you left them. Those were the days.
Now? Not so much. 
What I'm talking about here is the experience of doing your laundry at the l a u n d e r e t t e.
This is not a halfhearted activity to be taken lightly. Far from it. This is half a day shit. I set my alarm for laundry day. On a good day (which is rare) it takes 2 hours. One hour and a half for washing, half an hour for drying. But there are few good laundry days.
Lets take yesterday for example. I set my alarm, packed all my clothes in a suitcase (yeah, what?), grabbed my colour catchers and washing detergent, and headed for the launderette, head held high. I manoeuvred my case around all the carefree Parisians breakfasting al fresco, and was relieved to find my launderette of choice half empty. This is generally my first issue: I don't like the idea of quite literally airing your dirty laundry in public. I think this stems back to one horrifying day when I was loading a machine in the South of France. I was fully concentrated on what I was doing, when I turned around to grab another handful of clothes, only to find that there was a very suspect elderly man touching one of my garments (an intimate one, lets say.) When he caught me looking at him, far from apologising or running away, pants in hand, he simply said, 'this is nice.'
Against my better judgement, I merely retaliated with an uncomfortable smile, and carried on with the task in hand. Since then, I've made sure to always pick the most isolated machine. When someone chooses the one next to mine, I'm thinking, 'fuck off, this is my turf!! Don't look at my Snoopy underwear!!' And other such thoughts.
So there's that.
But then something always goes fucking wrong anyway. I ruin at least two items of clothing per wash.
Yesterday was the turn of my black jeans. For whatever reason, they came out more grey than black, and I know for a fact that they'll never be the same again. Their glory days are over. I'm heartbroken.
The time before that my duvet cover ripped unrecognisably. Now my duvet hangs out the end, unprotected, and every time I see it it's a cruel reminder of my failure.
T-shirts shrink (lets just thank god that I'm partial to a crop top or two), socks disappear, and white items invariably come out with a distinct tinge of another colour.
I can't do laundry.
Amongst other problems, yesterday I opened the machine before it had completely finished wringing the water out, and I had to spend about €10 on the dryer. After I'd grumpily loaded the sopping wet clothes and towels into said thieving dryer, I turned to see that a homeless man had taken my seat and was using it as his lunch spot, where he was devouring an incredibly pungent hot dog. What's more, the man in question had no teeth. His jaw was mechanically working away at his meal, and I hadn't the stomach to linger around him for long. So I waited for half an hour on the step outside.
Don't even get me started on having to have the right fucking change... (Which I never do.) I've found a new age launderette these days, so I can go with whatever currency I fancy, and simply deal with a machine. But before I discovered this twenty-first century washing establishment I was tied to one where you had to pile coins into the actual washing machines. This was no mean feat. How often do you have €15 in change? (Yep, that's how much a regular laundry day sets me back. Now can you see why I put it off?) Jamais. I'm only paid in 50s (not very many.)
So I used to have to venture out to try and get change before the whole charade could even begin.
On one such day, I tried to get change by buying a takeaway coffee.
'Great idea, Silv!' I hear you thinking.
'Not so fast!' I think back.
I ordered my drink, took my drink off the side, and handed the man behind the till a 50, almost apologetically. He looked incredulous. He called his colleague over, and they both began gesticulating wildly. In an agitated state, they seemed to be complaining to one another about my thoughtless actions in a language I didn't understand. Which was rude in itself. But then the colleague took it upon himself to tell me exactly what he thought of me in a language I did understand.
He said, in no uncertain terms, that I should have told them beforehand that I was going to pay with a 50, and through tuts and sighs, told me that it wasn't right.
He 'tu'ed me, which is fucking rude anyway, and then threw his arms up in the air in complete disdain.
I ended up paying on card, after telling him to watch how he spoke to me, and I emerged onto the street with no change and a coffee I didn't even want.
I eventually got change by going into a supermarket, but once I got to the launderette, pockets jangling with coins, a man inside told me off for leaving the door open behind me. It all seemed too much at that point.
I fled from the scene and burst into hot, bitter tears on the street. Admittedly, not only did I overreact, but I was also a bit homesick that day, (and possibly slightly premenstrual - sorry to bend to the usually unfair stereotype) but either way, I took my dirty laundry back home and decided to tackle the mountainous challenge another day.

And that's all I have to say about laundry day.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


'Kids and their microscopic bugs are gross as shit.' - L.T.

Is there anything more stomach turning than the thought of a head full of almost invisible insects feasting on your blood à la Edward Cullen? I think not. Even just writing this now is causing me to fidget nervously and my skin to crawl. I barely allow there to be room for a headband on my head, never mind a whole colony of creepy crawlies. I'm afraid there's simply no room at the inn. Take your business elsewhere.
I think as an adult you can more or less avoid them completely (unless you're a parent or a teacher.) But a six-year-old boy? Not so much. Children like nothing better than being all up in each other's shit. And unfortunately, this more often than not involves rugby scrums, Chinese whispers, cuddles, and all manner of other activities where heads touching heads is essential. All it takes is for one tot to catch headlice from a cousin, then before you know it he's passed them on to half of his class, and within a week it's an epidemic.
I'd had two weeks off for half term, so I was excited to see E.V.P. after school on Monday. When he ran out to meet me he was unusually reserved and his face was covered in chocolate. I hugged him anyway. We went back to his house where I gave him a snack of yet more chocolate (don't tell!), and then we settled down to build a Lego empire. About half an hour later, Viola, the other nanny (don't ask why one child would ever need two nannies at a time...), came in. We exchanged pleasantries, and then she dropped the bombshell.
"Have you heard?"
"No, what?"
"He had them."
"Had what...?"
She didn't answer straightaway. Instead, she scratched theatrically at her head, grimaced, and then dissolved into a fit of giggles. My heart began to pound, my blood ran cold, and I immediately stepped back two steps from him.

Not nits, please not nits...
But unfortunately for everyone involved, (excluding his father, who's bald) nits was exactly what Viola was hinting at.
Even though what had been insinuated was that he no longer had head lice, my first reaction was to reflect on the hour I'd spent with him and ensure that I couldn't recall having been too close to his little head at any point. That hug. I'd been standing up, he'd put his arms half-heartedly around my waist. Okay, I think we're safe there... The walk home. Short. Uneventful. No contact at all, apart from him holding my hand to cross the road. And they can't be passed on like that, surely?! Snack time. I'd handed him the chocolate from a height. His hair had been a good few feet below me. Right, good. Lego building. Now this was riskier territory. We'd both been kneeling next to each other on the floor up until a few moments prior. Dangerously close. Recklessly close, I now realise. How far can those little fuckers jump?! E.V.P. has long, flowing locks, so long, in fact, that taxi drivers that don't know any better call him 'miss' (much to E.V.P.'s horror.) And my fringe, swinging around everywhere, is just asking for trouble. As soon as the word 'nits' had entered my head I'd started scratching like a woman possessed, and it wasn't just limited to my scalp- my legs were itching, my shoulders were itching, my soul was essentially itching. 
I wanted to believe that it was simply psychological, especially because he was meant to have been in recovery, but I'd got it into my head that I'd played with fire (or in this case, with lice) and I'd inevitably been burned (or in this case, become infested.) It didn't help that when I was a six-year-old monkey myself I'd had more than my fair share of traumatic experiences with head lice. They really seemed to like my hair, for one (I had them at least three times in my time.) But far more memorable than the smell of the industrial shampoo and the feel of the nit comb doing its thing, was the day I walked into my classroom, after a particularly trying evening of louse removal, to find that my Year 3 teacher had written on the blackboard in big chalk letters, 'Stay away from Silvia today. She has nits.' And that really happened. Exactly as I've described it. How do you ever get past something like that? You don't, that's the answer to that. And I haven't. Obviously nobody likes nits, but I am truly disgusted even by the thought of them. I don't want to be melodramatic (although I fear that I am being exactly that), but I just don't know what I'd do if I ever got them now, as an adult. Unthinkable.
And yet here I was, thinking about that very possibility. Unfortunately (if I'd miraculously managed to steer clear until this point) I still had a good few hours to get through. So I began my evening of avoidance. Not that E.V.P. makes it easy...
That night, of all nights, he seemed to want to have his head as close to mine as I'd let him (which was not very close at all.)
"Silvia! Give me a piggyback!" he shouted, excitedly.
"Oooh, not today, chou chou, I've got back ache," I improvised.

"Silvvv, can I snuggle with you?" he asked, pulling his cutest face. (This one was the hardest to refuse...)
"Nope! Let's have a race instead!" I desperately suggested, running frantically across the room.
"Silv, I've got a secret to tell you..."
"E! It's rude to whisper!"
"Pick me up?"
"You're not a baby anymore, E!"
"Silvy, want to try on my new hat?"
"No, sharing is bad!" (As you can see, as I grew more desperate, my excuses lost all truthfulness, and would probably take me weeks to undo, but I just didn't care about anything other than the barrenness of my scalp remaining that way.)
When the ordeal was over and his mother came home I ran out of there faster than you can say, 'itchy scalp.'

She text me later to say, 'Sorry I didn't mention the lice, but we got rid of them all.'
However. When I showed up to pick him up from school earlier today I noticed something which made me acutely nervous. E.V.P.'s tiny paw was rooting around in his hair... He was scratching. He was really scratching.
And is there anything quite as disconcerting as a child scratching their head? No. No, there's not.
So my plight continues, and there will be no hugging around here for the foreseeable future...

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Pitfalls of Parisian Shopping

The shop assistant’s eyes were on me. They’d been on me for the last five minutes. I tried to ignore her bored gaze and come to my own conclusions about the dress I was trying on. She didn’t look like she, personally, liked how I looked in it. Twirling around in the mirror for the hundredth time, I wasn’t sure that I did either. Regardless of how very clearly she couldn’t care less about whether I bought the dress or not, it didn’t stop her from telling me that, ‘it’s made for you, honey,’ and, ‘you look like a model.’ I doubted her sincerity. The fact that there was no mirror inside the changing room made the decision making process all the more difficult, and I was beginning to sweat. Working out how you feel about a potential new addition to your wardrobe is quite a private task, as I’m sure you’ll agree. You need to have the freedom to stare at yourself in it, uninterrupted, for a good few minutes, then see what it looks like from the back for a similar amount of time, then move around in it to see how it feels (a lunge or two is always quite useful for this.) Once you’re sure that the piece of clothing in question has passed these initial tests you can then move on to trying your own jacket over the top of it, tying your hair up, or taking your hair down, depending on how you had it in the first place, and possibly taking a few pictures to send to your American friend (who has very similar tastes to you) for a second opinion, which will only come through once she wakes up, which is very often a few hours too late, but is always welcome nevertheless. Not only did my lack of privacy mean that I couldn’t subject the dress to all these essential trials, there was the added trouble that I’d already been in this shop twice this week to look at the same dress, and now I felt as though I really should commit in some way. If not to this particular garment, then at least to a garment. I couldn’t possibly leave empty handed again; it just wouldn’t be right. I’m not sure who dictates how many times it’s ‘right’ to go into a shop and not purchase anything, and in fact, I’m pretty sure that you could go into a shop 365 times in a row and nobody would be able to ask you to leave simply for browsing, but if we didn’t follow unwritten protocol then we’d all be cavemen, clubbing each other over the heads, with no real need to find the perfect dress anyway. My indecision rising to almost tangible levels, I tried to get the scowling assistant back on my side by shooting her a friendly look that said, ‘what am I like, ey?’ She chose to ignore it, and me, and moved over to another customer who seemed like they had some intention of actually spending their money. I smoothed the silky material (probably polyester moonlighting as silk) down over my hips, and got onto my tiptoes to get a look over my shoulder. It looked alright. It was in no way a head turner, it was in no way the Parisian LBD that I’d promised I’d find myself, and it was in no way worth the €95 price tag. But living in Paris since October, I've long since lost all concept of an item’s real worth.
I went back into the comfort of my changing room and drew the curtain, just to buy some time. I slowly got undressed, and hung the dress back on the hanger so I could get another look at it. I couldn’t stay in there for long, so I made a snap decision. It was definitely nothing special. I could find something better, I was sure of it. I wasn’t buying it. I instantly felt a sense of relief at having found the sensible solution. I climbed back into my jeans and jumper, and feeling like a frumpy fraud, made my way back into the shop, dress in hand. Heading towards the rail to replace the dress, I caught the shop assistant’s almost imperceptible I-knew-it look. Her stupid, smug face made me feel ashamed and vindictive in equal measures, which is a dangerous combination by anyone’s standards. Before I knew what I was doing I’d made a sharp 360 turn and was placing the unwanted dress on the till. I could always bring it back when there was a different assistant working.
‘We have a no returns, no refunds policy, madame,’ the assistant said, in perfect English, as she made her way over to the till. (I hate it when French people assume - quite rightly - that I’m English.)
‘Pas de problème,’ I replied, my heart sinking now that I knew I was stuck with this dress that I almost definitely didn’t even want.
‘That will be €125 please.’ (I hate it even more when you speak French to a French person and they reply in English. I’m trying; humour me!)
‘Errr... N'est-il pas à prix réduit? Je croyais que toutes les robes étaient à €95...
‘Sorry madame, this dress is new season, it’s €125.’ (There she went again, answering me in English.)
‘Okay, great, I’ll take it.’ (And there I went again, giving in and answering in English, and spending money - that I didn’t really have going spare - just to save face.)
I can’t wait to wear my new dress (and by ‘wear’ I mean ‘put in the back of my wardrobe, and look at resentfully every now and then.’)
On my way home, the carrier bag containing my boring dress banged annoyingly against my shin, and I spotted the most beautiful black dress in the window of Zara. Against my better judgement, I  stopped to look at the price. It was €45.
Hurrah for my polyester delusion dress.  

Friday, 7 February 2014

Allergic to money

Fresh graduates aren't usually rolling in money. Au pairs aren't usually rolling in money either. I am a fresh graduate. I am also an au pair. Funnily enough, I am not rolling in money.
The people I work for on the other hand... Let's just say that I once witnessed a (small) €36 cheese being consumed chez E.V.P.'s mum. Not for any grand occasion. Not even particularly as a big blow out or a luxurious treat. Just on a school night. Just on a very ordinary school night during a very ordinary meal. (And not that this enhances the story in any way, but I genuinely prefer the €2 brie from my local Franprix.)
Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is this: my employers are hardly strapped for cash.
And yet... I act as though they are in the exact same boat as me - and in that boat we count coins and scrimp at every turn. And for this (entirely fabricated) reason, I can never bring myself to ask them for money. I'm not talking monetary gifts, I don't mean an outrageous pay rise, I'm simply referring to money that they owe me.
It's a disease really.
Before I arrived in Paris there had been vague talk of a contract of some sort, but what with one thing and another, and moving into P.P.(E.V.P.'s daddy)'s spare room, I just never bothered insisting. Silly, silly, silly, spineless Silv. A.V. (E.V.P.'s mummy) once told me, quote, 'we have a very organic attitude towards these things.' So.
Organic or not, it initially took me 5 weeks to muster up the courage to nervously remind A.V. that she had yet to pay me my first month's wage.
'Why was I having to remind her?!' I hear you ask.
'Because she is the most scatterbrained professional business woman I have ever encountered. She loses her house keys twice a week, never pays with cash, and doesn't believe in carrying a bag,(not sure that this is an appropriate place for atheism, but...)' I answer you.
Now, for some wildly inexplicable reason I was wracked with guilt when I had to ask her to pay me this money (money that she was late in giving me, let's just remember.) I asked her once, and she assured me that it was on its way. Another few days passed and it seemed to gave gotten lost on said way. The second time I had to ask her for these basic wages I was almost apologetic. Yet she wasn't. She'd merely forgotten, and would give them to me the next day. But then the next day she unexpectedly went to Mexico to shoot a film, (yeah, bitches be cray) and I had to more or less insist via email that I genuinely couldn't afford to live in this city for one more day unless she found a way to give me 'some' money (I'd long since abandoned the idea of her paying me the lot. Desperate times...)
She found a way eventually, (P.P. handed me a stuffed envelope on her behalf) and I relaxed for the next couple of weeks.`
But then another pay packet was due, and the whole charade started again.
The thing is, I don't blame her. She has a lot on her plate or whatever, and I understand why she would be in no rush to pay me unless reminded. Which is where I come in. Or at least, should come in. But I often don't. Because of this aversion to talk about money. C'est ma faute, but I don't know what to do about it.
I've only been here since October, so I've only had to beg to be paid three times up until now (the last time being two days ago.) 
But luckily for this blog post, the fun doesn't end there.
My tiny tot has grown accustomed to certain luxuries during his short, privileged life. To mention but a few, he expects a snack to be waiting in the paw of whoever meets him from school (which is me, 9 times out of 10), and he often can't be fucked walking when he can take a taxi. So. These things cost money. And it's me who pays for these things. A few weeks of daily pain au sucres and rides to his house around the corner soon add up. A.V. once told me that I should tell her how much I spend on these little things so that she can pay me back. She hasn't mentioned it since. Neither have I.
There's ways around that though. I soon learned that. Now I simply run E.V.P. home to the fridge before he has a chance to notice that I'm empty handed and that we're using our feet to get to our desired destination.
But the plot thickens further.
My working hours are as follows:
Mondays- 4.30-bedtime (his)
Tuesdays- 3.00-bedtime (his)
Wednesdays- 11.30-bedtime (his)
Thursdays- 4.30-bedtime (his)
Fridays- 3.00-bedtime (his)
And a few late nights when his parents fancy having a laugh.
So I have quite a bit of free time, not to mention that I'm not exactly enhancing my CV with my current 'career path', (if we can call it that) being as I have absolutely no intention of working with children (or even hanging out with any for any extended period of time until I have my own.) So, I help P.P. and A.V. out with fun shit that needs doing for their work - editing, transcripts, translating, letter writing and the like. It's alright, actually. Oh, apart from the fact that I am so far doing it all completely FOR FREE.
A.V. has a sneaky way of calling me into her office and making it seem like we're hanging out as gal pals rather than me doing her a favour. So I've just made an internal decision to never mention the money that I was promised. Just because... I'm really not willing to bring it up. So I guess I'll just carry on working for free until further notice.
With P.P. it's not so easy to avoid the subject. This is because he is painfully professional, and when he asks me to do stuff for him, it'll be full projects- shit that takes a good few days to finish. He suggested that I make a note of how many hours I spend doing whatever it is that he's given me, and then to let him know. So I did. (Well, I made a note of my hours. The letting him know part was another story...)
I painstakingly kept a little tally of the time I'd spent doing research for this new film he's doing, and it came out at a neat 15 hours. I emailed him all of my findings and various book summaries, and he was happy.
However, the next time I saw him in person, we had to have that conversation that I so dread, that conversation that makes my blood run cold and makes my eyeballs sweat. The Money Conversation.
It started out kinda okay.
'Silvia, I need to pay you for the project you just did.'
'Oh ha, yeah... erm... ha ha, well, I mean, yeah, I just... ha!'
At this point I backed away and started to put my coat on.
He followed me and said, 'we really do need to sort it. How do you want to do this?'
'I don't know... erm...' And I backed away more.
After lots of stuttering and avoidance I said that I'd made a note of how many hours I'd done, so maybe we could do it hourly. He was on board (as I knew he would be.)
'How many hours did you do then?' he politely asked.
Well that you can answer at least, Silv! We all know I did 15, because I worked it out and wrote it down that I did 15. Remember? I did that little tally. There was no mistaking how long I'd spent working on his project.
But shit that should be straightforward is never straightforward with me. Instead of just uttering the two easy syllables, 'fif-teen', what did I do? I lied. Just completely lied. Made it up.
'Ten and a half,' I said. WHAT. What the fuck is wrong with me?! Not only did I lie, but I lied to my detriment. I give up. I don't even deserve to be paid.
The poor man even insisted, 'we need to be professional. How much do you charge per hour?'
EUGH!! I don't charge anything, I have no idea about anything, I'll pay you if you want!
He's asked me a number of times 'how much I charge.' And every time I blush and mumble something unintelligible and then scurry off with my tail between my legs. I always try and turn it around by saying things like, 'well, how much do you pay?' When that fails (which it obviously always does), I then desperately say, 'whatever you think is fair!', and hope that he doesn't think €1 an hour is fair.
Last time I left with promises of researching how much others charge. I've looked. But I don't feel right asking him for the pay that I've seen EVERYONE SINGLE OTHER PERSON WHO DOES THE EXACT SAME JOB AS I'VE JUST DONE asks for.
The thing is, as much as I would be mortified if I accidentally asked for too much, I'd be equally mortified if I short changed myself. And yet, at this rate, I'm going to get nothing.
In conclusion, I will never be rich, because I am utterly incapable of even saying the word 'money.'
My future looks bright.

Oh yeah, I should probably take this opportunity to urge you to contact me if you have any odd jobs that need doing. I charge very competitive rates. (And by 'very competitive rates' I mean that I'll work for free. And thank you for it.)

Friday, 24 January 2014


I've done this before (with me in England, B.F. in Paris.) J.G. makes it my second time (this time with me in Paris, him in England.)
The first attempt admittedly went entirely titz up and everyone came out of it feeling bitter and shortchanged and disappointed and neglected. I can't cope with this time going down a similar path (said path involved a drastic decrease in communication taking place as soon as I moved out the country- texting at most every two days, skyping just the once in order to break up, and seeing each other... never.) Which is why I'm trying everything in my power to ensure that me and J.G. stay well connected and as close as our 810km of distance allows.
There's no need for me to detail all of the things that are fucking shit about being in a Long Distance Relationship. But I'm actually going to do exactly that:

Things That are Fucking Shit About Being in a Long Distance Relationship
1. I am nowhere near my boyfriend. The people around us don't even speak the same language or use the same currency. For an hour a day we don't even share the same date. There's no way I'm bumping into him unexpectedly in the street.
2. Every single bit of time spent together has to be planned. And I hate planning.
3. I really miss him. I think he misses me too.
4. I find it absolutely impossible to open jars by myself. And he's really good at it. It's a waste really.
5. If I happen to see a sickly, cuddly, vomit-inducing, loved up couple I could simultaneously burst into tears and punch them in their smug little faces... I can't even contemplate just being happy for them. I take it as a personal insult if anything. Why do they have to rub their togetherness in my face?
One time when we were saying a particularly difficult goodbye at the train station J.G. lost the plot and started shouting at couples going past, 'TREASURE HER!'
People don't know how good they've got it. Seriously.
6. I'm forced to spend an ungodly amount of time glued to my phone.
'Wait a minute while I send J this picture message of a tree we once walked past together/audio clip of a song his dad likes that's just come on/link to the new lipstick I'm thinking of buying/text message containing nothing but a line of kisses (obviously I've never done that, but just to give you an idea of the severity of my case...)
It's just not sociable.
7. Something else that is far from sociable is that, being as I see him so rarely, all of our time together is fucking precious, and it means that I can sometimes feel a little bit reluctant to share him by seeing other people. Pathetic, right?
8. Being away from him makes me really whiney. I can often be heard saying things to him in an absolutely ridiculous pitch- 'come hereeeeeeeeeeeee,' 'I miss youuuuuuuuuuu,' or even the basic, 'what have you doooooooooooone today?'
I seem to have forgotten how to speak to him in my normal voice.
9. Being away from him also makes me weepy. I cry at least once every time we're together. I think I just get overwhelmed or some shit. It's like when a child has too much fun and gets overexcited and then can't cope with all of the emotion of it all and breaks down. That's me.
10. There's a whole section of Rue de R that I just can't walk along anymore. It's the journey from my house to the metro station where I have to take him when he leaves. On leaving days I go there with him and come back without him. So now I can't help my heart from sinking every time I'm there. It's kinda inconvenient because I often need to use that metro...
11. Bizarrely, sometimes I forget that he really exists. I mean, I know that he does, but when I haven't seen him for weeks and weeks I begin to just think of him as a voice or an online persona. It's always something of a shock when I eventually see him standing there in flesh and bone. Which means that...
12. ...The first few hours of being back together are always slightly unnatural. Meeting me at Liverpool Lime Street after an absence of a week or two (back when we first got together), a somewhat ill at ease J.G. literally looked at me utterly perplexed, and asked, 'Silv, what do I usually do with my arms...?'

But then, of course, there are the perks of being apart. There are plenty of things that are really good about being in a Long Distance Relationship.

Things That are Really Good About Being in a Long Distance Relationship
1. You don't have to shave your legs all that often.

Oh. That appears to be it.