Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Idiot of Baker Street

Life has funny ways of testing us. Practically from birth, we're subjected to a series of lengthy examinations that determine whether or not we're up to the incredibly strenuous job of living: doctors exams, school exams, driving tests. But one of them grabs the title of being the most repulsive of all - the job interview.

I've been through more than my fair share of the dreaded interviews. Incredibly smug people grinning at you, doing their best to put on the correct airs and graces, offering you a glass of water and promising you that it will be an easy half an hour. Except, nothing ever goes to plan. I can remember in painstaking detail the most awful interview I've ever been through.

I had not long finished my final year of school when I decided I wanted to try working in the hotel industry. I took the necessary steps, enrolling on a hospitality course at college, attending front office training courses, and going through as many tedious practice interviews as I could tolerate. After seven painful months, I finally got the interview I'd been waiting for.

A prestigious five-star hotel in Mayfair had decided that my CV was good enough to merit an interview with them. I spent a good hour getting ready, going over the facts I knew about the hotel and convinced that I knew enough to at least warrant a polite rejection letter, if not, the holy grail of second interviews: the call back.

I arrived in Picadilly Circus and began walking down to the hotel when my brain suddenly decided to start paying attention to the busy West End life. I started looking at tourists for the first time in my life, taking in the sights for myself. It was then that I found myself planning my journey home: I would get on the 22 I had just seen to Baker Street, and make my way home from there via the underground.

I wish I had never looked at that bus, for it forced me to commit the stupidest moment in my life.

Bearing in mind, I was only seventeen, and still a complete Disney kid at heart, I walked in to the interview, gracefully shook hands with the manager who would be interviewing me, and proceeded to do pretty well in the interview. I knew the names for all the software equipment, I knew my way around London, and I was prepared to work twelve hour shifts.

The question of "what do you know about this hotel" came about quickly and I was delighted. I had spent hours researching the place ever since I received my interview invitation. I took a deep breath, recited a few facts, and then thought I'd pop in the most interesting fact I knew: that the first few Poirot books were written in the hotel. Except, I didn't say Poirot.

I said Sherlock Holmes. Why? Because of that damn 22 bus. It's destination was Baker Street. Baker Street in my head automatically equals "Basil of Baker Street" from Basil The Great Mouse Detective. Basil lived underneath the floorboards of Sherlock Holmes' house. And Sherlock Holmes became responsible for me messing up the greatest interview of my life.

I'm able to look back and laugh at the absurdity of the day now - I've since worked in some great, and some not so great, hotels, and feel confident enough in my ability to know that I would perform well in an interview should I ever decide to return to the hotel industry. But it was devastating to me then. It was the job of a lifetime for me then and I ruined it all because I couldn't get that stupid little mouse out of my head.

I found myself on Baker Street again last week and couldn't help but laugh as I overheard a young child excitedly asking their father if they could go and see where Basil lived. I can only hope that Disney mouse doesn't cost that little boy a job one day.

Twitter: @AmyWhitear

Monday, 21 May 2012

Young, Dumb, and Making a Bomb

As a writer who is struggling to figure out ways to gain attention, I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with the current influx of "writers" hired by national newspapers and magazines. It appears that if you are not young, blonde, ditzy, or the star of a woeful reality television show, you do not stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting published.

The ongoing Samantha Brick saga inspired me to delve further into my theory. Here is a reasonably attractive middle-aged woman (who totally lives in France, by the way) who is seemingly making a fortune by writing about how beautiful she is and how tough life is for the beautiful, comfortable, blonde expat in France. Her archive on the Daily Mail website reads like a teenage psychology student's wet dream: chubby as a child, haunted by her weight problems throughout life, until she settles down with a Frenchman and moves to France where she can revel in her beauty.Except she's not revelling in her beauty because, apparently, the world hates beautiful women. My friend was quick to rubbish the whole "I'm so beautiful" article by describing Samantha Brick as "looking like a dog's arsehole", and there precisely is the problem.

Ms Brick is not a stunningly beautiful woman. Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson will be losing no sleep over her beautiful threat. Tulisa can remain calm: her dubious title of World's Sexiest Woman is safe. What Ms Brick is, however, is a somewhat average yet still attractive woman who is so arrogant and conceited that one wonders whether it is those very factors that conjure up feelings of hatred in her fellow women, rather than her blonde hair and doe eyes. The Daily Mail - and I'm sure Ms Brick herself (who lives in France) - are raking in the revenue from her many articles, so I fear we have not seen the end of her, or her dog arsehole looking face.

But I can handle the dreadful articles by Oh So Beautiful Samantha. A girl needs a giggle when she's stuck with either insomnia or writer's block. What I am finding harder to deal with is a current column running in London's Evening Standard newspaper. Every week, we are treated to the delightful offerings of Caggie Dunlop, 'star' of Made in Chelsea. Her column - the imaginatively titled Laid in Chelsea - is hilariously labelled as a sex advice column, in which the incredibly wise 23-year-old socialite imparts her vast knowledge with the no doubt exhausted readers of the Evening Standard.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all rely on Daddy's money to build a television show around ourselves, and then use that as a launch pad to deliver our humdrum writing? I could strangle my parents for having the audacity to give birth to and raise me South of the River, with Chelsea as my background scene. Think of how different my life would be if I'd have been raised a ten minute walk away - people might actually read the dross I publish on this blog!