Gis’ a job

February 29, 2012 at 11:34 am | Posted in Career, work, Youth | 4 Comments
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In this week’s Grazia, four Warwick University graduates discuss their battles to find any work, let alone a graduate position.

I can relate well to their struggle, and it is a struggle particularly close to my heart, as I am a Warwick alumna. In 2006, I graduated with a 2:1 in English and German: my graduation photo shows me sporting red lipstick and a slightly tipsy smile (the German Department enjoy a drink, apparently). What you may not realise, when looking at this photo of me, is that I had absolutely no idea what to do with my life.

I spent the summer pretty depressed about leaving Warwick. Not because I wanted to be a student forever, you understand, but rather because I didn’t know what else to do forever. I went back to Berlin and Amsterdam with a couple of friends, and spent the holiday trying to disguise how depressed I was. At one point, I went to a blind restaurant in Berlin and sat there in the dark, crying. Not a highlight of my first adult summer.

On returning from my holidays, I worked in a residential home and then started a journalism course that September. This course failed to inspire me; I know how precious that will sound, but learning shorthand and the ins and outs of local government was not how I wanted to spend my days. One Monday, instead of getting the train to Farringdon, I stayed in Croydon to job search. A girl came up to me and asked if I would read her the letter from the DSA in her hand. It was then that I determined to do something with my life, and never to end up in similar circumstances.

And so I left the course, and spent the rest of the year interpreting and translating in an insurance office in Canterbury by day, and working in a pub by night. The interpreting was fascinating; one day, a man phoned from Germany to tell me that his colleague had lost a foot in an accident. I had to then snap out of my shock to ask my boss from the compensation was likely to be.

From January to March 2007, I booked ferry tickets for German speaking customers in P & O’s Dover call centre. The job itself was tedious, but paid reasonably, and I enjoyed speaking to Germans again, particularly those in Berlin.

However, I left P & O, as I had decided to become a teacher, and after spending yet another summer at the residential home, I took up the position of Graduate Teacher Trainee at St Edmund’s R. C. School in Dover. Fittingly, the words, ‘baptism’ and ‘fire’ spring to mind when I think of the five months I spent teaching. I sank into depression again, regularly falling asleep as early as 630pm. Teaching children The Tempest when they cannot even construct a paragraph is utterly pointless.

As I was pretty rubbish at it, I was forced out of teaching, and I’ve never been so glad about anything in my life. I was not a natural: I lacked that essential patience you need to communicate alien concepts to teenagers, and I certainly lacked empathy.

So I spent six months unemployed and out of my mind. I applied for nigh on 50 jobs, which I realise is far fewer than some people apply for before they are offered a position, and even had to chase some of the firms to find out the outcome of my interview. Eventually, a very nice man called Neil offered me the role of bookseller at Waterstones Thanet, and I can say quite honestly that I have never been happier in a job. Most days, I wake up thrilled to be going to work, and I can’t wait to become assistant manager at Waterstones Tenterden.

So I would like to tell those Warwick graduates not to give up, and to take any job they can. In the six years since graduating, I’ve been a cleaner, residential home carer, market researcher, call centre worker, translator/interpreter, barmaid, teacher and bookseller. I am still nowhere near earning a graduate salary, but I have found a job I love. And after all, what’s more important?

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Always Crashing in the Same Car

February 27, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Posted in depression | Leave a comment
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I’m feeling down again. It always creeps up slowly, then I gradually realise how empty I feel. It actually manifests itself physically: I can feel a void in my stomach, and I don’t know what the hell to do about it.

As a pragmatic, problem-solving person, I always try to rationalise why I’m feeling this way, and I always come to the same conclusion: I have neither a right nor a reason to feel like this.

But this week, I don’t have to search hard for reasons. I am leaving my lovely shop, for example, and I may never work there again. I may never spend a morning in the windowless cash office, nor serve the lady who collects the Olympic 50ps. I may never again encounter the freezing wind tunnel by Next en route to the car park. I may never again have a cigarette in the service yard, watching the ambulances speeding by and thinking of Philip Larkin.

I am also sad, because I thought that my son would be waiting for me at home. Instead, he is at his other home, with his other grandmother, even though they are about to spend two whole weeks together.

I don’t want a pity party: honestly. So here are some photos of, to quote my best friend’s sister’s tattoo, the reasons to ‘celebrate’ my life.

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I don’t half love ’em

February 26, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Posted in Childhood, family, love | Leave a comment
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I read a very interesting article in today’s YOU magazine about the rise of the half sibling in Britain. I have written about being a quasi only child before, and have also defended my right only to have one child in a 2010 post. But I have not yet written about my siblings Christopher, Kelly and Jools.

They are half-siblings, of course; though the fact that I only share my mother with Chris and Jools and my father with Kelly has never bothered me. The fact that they are all half-siblings makes it less of an issue, perhaps.

That’s not to say there haven’t been issues. My sister Kelly and my mum had, shall we say, a fraught relationship until a few years ago, and all three of my siblings would probably agree that they envy the stable childhood I experienced. But, until the age of 10 or so, I don’t have many memories of my siblings. In fact, I’m closer in age to my my nephews Michael and Tom than any of them, making them seem more like brothers and Chris, Kelly and Jools more like extra parents, or older friends, depending on where I’m at in my life. Jools and Kelly have certainly always offered great advice, particularly when it comes to parenthood and property, having tackled both of those milestones oh so many years before I did.

So for me, it really doesn’t matter that my siblings are ‘only’ half (please don’t call them step – then you will upset me!). I know plenty of people who are ‘full’ siblings and don’t even talk to each other. Perhaps sharing only one parent helps: being that little bit separate biologically has meant that we get on much better than we might have done.

Lunch at the Goods Shed, Canterbury

February 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Posted in Restaurant review | Leave a comment
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Today, I had lunch at the Goods Shed in Canterbury with my good friend Jenna. I hadn’t visited this lovely place for some time, so was feeling very excited at the prospect of another delicious meal there.

I was so hungry once I got there, that I thought I was going to be sick: clearly, breakfasting on endless coffees, Marlboro Lights and an almond macaroon was not the way forward. Oddly, however, a starter of chicken liver parfait, red onion chutney and melba toast was the perfect antidote to my nausea.

Next on the menu was pork, red cabbage and apple purée for Jenna and chicken breast, chorizo and leeks for me. The saltiness of the chorizo was the perfect foil to the freshness of the leeks; my only quibble would be that the roast potatoes could have been crunchier.

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Full as I was, I can rarely resist pudding, for which I chose blood orange posset served with thyme shortbread. I’ve only ever had lemon posset before, so was intrigued by the use of blood orange. I loved the shortbread more than I thought I would, and the blood orange jelly topping the posset was heavenly, but the posset itself lacked that distinct citrus which I was craving.

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All in all, it was a tasty, reasonably priced meal which reminded me why I love the Goods Shed. If you’re bored of chain restaurants and want to try something interesting for a change, take a trip to this restaurant.

Are you goin’ to Tenterden Book Fair?

February 25, 2012 at 8:04 am | Posted in books, Literature | Leave a comment
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I have very fond memories of Tenterden Book Fair, although my memory is undecided as to when I first went there – some time during university? Before then? Anyway, like parties, I was always going for more than the Book Fair itself. I was going for Waitrose; I was going for the magnificent journey through the Kent countryside, which takes in an isolated house surrounded by poplar trees; I was going for the independent gift shops. I was going to feel posh, basically.

And the meatloaf. Oh, the meatloaf. After browsing round the stalls, it would be time for a cup of tea served from a Brown Betty pot, and a slice of meatloaf smothered in gravy and accompanied by mash and greens. It was as if I’d stumbled into an HE Bates novel.

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My favourite purchase is a signed Iris Murdoch, which is in storage at the moment, but I also found this beauty at the Book Fair one day:

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Women are entitled to whatever title they choose

February 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Names, women | 1 Comment
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I was thrilled to discover, on reading this article in the Guardian yesterday, that French official forms will no longer require a woman to state whether she is a Mademoiselle or a Madame.

I’ve written on this topic before, and my views haven’t changed. A customer came in once, and when I asked her if she was ‘Miss, Mrs or Ms’, she replied, ‘My name is _______’. Well, good for her, I say. It’s about time (say, fifty years too late?) that a European country took a stand on the sexist requirements of bureaucrats.

You can just call me Amy Pirt, but Madame will do just fine also.

Alls Well That Amends Well

February 23, 2012 at 10:00 am | Posted in Journalism | Leave a comment
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So, The Guardian have responded to my incessant requests to put a correction on my Good to Meet You column. This is good, as I like injustice to be resolved (yes, I realise there are far more unjust things happening in the world, but in my own world, I like to have the record straight: I don’t like people thinking I’ve said something when I haven’t).

I’m glad that corrections have been made, both online and and in today’s print edition, mostly because the stickler in me likes things to be right, but mostly because it has renewed my faith in my favourite newspaper. Had corrections not been made, I might have defected to this newspaper.

Oh na na, what’s my name?

February 21, 2012 at 6:57 am | Posted in Names | Leave a comment
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Recently, I received this in the post:

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Yes, on this occasion, it was quite an apt, amusing misnomer, as when the man at 3 kept calling me ‘Miss Pritt’, confusing me with a certain well-known brand of adhesive stick.

But get my name wrong when you really should be getting it right, and I won’t be happy. Example: I phoned 3 the other day to try to negotiate a discount, as I have had no signal whatsoever in my house for the past two weeks, and mostly no signal in the whole of Deal. Anyway, the first time I corrected the man when he called me ‘Miss Smith’, and told him I’d told a colleague of his already that I was ‘Miss Pirt’ now. The second time he called me ‘Miss Smith’, however, made me think that perhaps he wasn’t actually listening to me at all, and therefore could not only not get my name right, but he also couldn’t get me any discount. Trust me: get on the wrong side of the customer in the service industry, and neither you nor they will be happy.

To be honest…I’d rather you weren’t honest

February 20, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Children, Jewellery, Names | 2 Comments
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In general, I’d rather people were honest with me. If I’m doing a bad job, or am being unfair in some way, yes, I’d rather you told me. Honesty is certainly the best policy in the workplace, particularly in retail, where bad decisions can mean bad sales.

But how should you react when a friend/customer/random tells you their new baby is called Limerick/Crocus/Whoopie Pie? Pull a shocked face? Vomit? Express concern for the child’s future? No, reader. The only sensible reaction is to smile and say, ‘Oh, ok’ in a friendly but non-committal manner. Because people who name their children unusually will be suspicious if you pretend to be excited at the prospect of a baby Poppy Honey Lana Del Ray.

Similarly, when I showed someone my new cameo ring today, I neither a) asked for an opinion; nor b) welcomed their honesty when she said she thought it was ‘horrible’. But then, it’s a mark of intelligence and class if you know when to be honest, and when to be polite, don’t you think?

You can misquote me on that

February 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Journalism, Literature | Leave a comment
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Fellow Twitterers, family and friends will know that I appeared in Good to Meet You in the Guardian on Saturday. I was thrilled to appear in this column; it’s one of my favourite parts of the Saturday Guardian.

I wasn’t so thrilled, however, to discover, when my insomnia nudged me awake at 3am Saturday morning, that my photo had been posted sideways on the Guardian website. Yes, I admit to being vain, but reader, I resembled, and do still, as they’ve failed to align it correctly yet, one of those feature-distorting fairground mirrors. Luckily, I look reasonably sane in the print edition.

What’s more, not only did they make out that I’d said that my father had stopped buying the Times (I didn’t; I said only that he subscribes to the Guardian now), they also quoted me as saying that J. B Priestley came from Deal. I never said that: I mentioned only that he had lived here.

Now, I’m not a journalist, and apart from having an aptitude for writing, I know nothing about how to produce a newspaper. (I did start a journalism course, but I quit it because learning shorthand bored me.). However, I do know that media content, whether it is online or printed, should be as professional and accurate as possible. Is it too much to ask that the Guardian responds to my request to align my photo correctly? Apparently so, as I still look as though the photo was taken sideways about an inch away from my face.

I love the Guardian, but I’m not very happy with it at the moment. And you can quote me on that.

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