Sometimes the craziest choices, turn out the ‘Best’..
Let me be clear about one thing, staying in a hostel is a bad idea unless you are backpacking or there to get trashed. Coming to London on work experience is NOT the time to take this cheapskate option, no matter how broke or desperate you are. The hostel has 800 beds. The bar blasts out deafening music. The smell of piss in the bathroom is a bit of a downer, and my room smells very strongly of men’s feet. For fifteen quid a night I wasn’t expecting the Ritz Carlton or the Radisson, but the smells are hard to bear. I decide to drink by myself in the bar on the night to calm my nerves about tomorrow.
There is something strange about drinking by myself for the first time. I decide to send texts so I don’t look like a complete loser with no friends. I sit in between a group of French people – Vive la France, and resisted the urge to hock French verbs at them like my French teacher used to do. Mon, ma, mes, ton, ta, tes etc.. I’m sharing a room with among others– Hannibal Lector. The man came in and started to move things around, breathing like a diver being chased by a crazed shark. Here’s another tip, if you are a girl travelling alone, book an all girls dorm. Don’t be naïve like me and think ‘why should I have to bow to societies paranoia.’ Societies paranoia is there for a very good reason – to protect you from the Hannibal Lectors of this world. An exquisite looking French man is there too – he tells me his name is Dav-eed. I observe that he is very attractive 24 year old version of Freddie prince junior but I find after a while of conversation that having to explain jokes at length means they lose their funny. I go to bed early on night one. Sweet dreams and to sounds of Hannibal Lector snoring.
DAY ONE – Step 175, don’t wear high shoes… On day one I awoke to the sound of my alarm, feeling not too shabby at all. The first night in my hostel bed was delicious. I went to sleep at midnight which is the earliest I’ve been to sleep since I was about 12 years old, so I feel refreshed and non-tired. I get up and fumble around in the dark for about ten minutes trying to gather all my female essentials. There are about 50,000 female essentials making this experience of being in a hostel very cumbersome. When I have stayed in hostels before, I have never had this bother as I have not had the pressure of going to a fancy office. I am swearing in the dark and waking everyone up. Eventually I just turn on the light. There are male groans but I no longer care. When I have everything I spend another ten minutes looking for my key so I can leave the room. I turn everything upside down looking for it, and then I find it in the most obvious place – my wallet. The bathroom stinks of piss so strongly I note again. The hostel is nice, but seems to have very many weird and wonderful smells everywhere. The shower is a tiny bit warm and then after a minute just plain cold. It is too high up so I can’t really wash properly. Back at the room I plug in my straighteners, and attempt to do my make up. Frenchie decides to get up and mooch around, staring at me while I do my eye make up, asking me about my day ahead. I don’t feel in the mood to explain anything as I currently look very rough. Finally, an hour and a half after waking up I am ready to leave, minus the tights or ‘sans tights’ as they say in France. I get to the tube station and spend a good twenty minutes trying to figure out how to get the best deal on a ticket. I can’t come to terms with paying 8 quid for a return ticket to go three stops. Eventually I realise to need to buy an oyster card.
There are two signs when I go through. One says lift the other says stairs. I decide to take the stairs. Oh how naïve! They go on, and on, and on.. it’s like the house that jack built. It’s like the twirly stairs of doom. By the end I am thinking that if there were a hell it would be climbing down those many stairs in heels from here to eternity. When I get to Piccadilly circus, I get off. I have to get numerous escalators. The escalators are very high and seem to stretch on forever and ever. Finally I am above ground again. I stand there for a moment. There is traffic everywhere and thousands of people.
I make it to the place one minute late. ‘Hi I’m here on work experience’ I say when I get into the office of the magazine I am working on. Blank stares. ‘Oh.. ok’ they say. ‘The woman who sits there fell down some stairs’ says one of the features staff pointing to an empty desk (the stairs I had to come down today perhaps?) ‘so you can sit there’ I am allowed to sit in her seat. The features editor is not around, and noone seems to know who I am or expect me. Nevertheless, they give me the enjoyable task of picking out the best letters for the letter page. I enjoy this as people are very forward and honest in letters more then in real life, having a good old rant.. I offer to make the tea and coffee before being asked, after all I am the work experience girl. I walk through the Reveal magazine part of the office to get to the kitchen where there is a proper machine that makes the coffee for you. Company magazine is downstairs.
At lunch I wander around Soho taking in the sights.
I have lunch in a vegan buffet restaurant. Everything is completely vegan except me, but the food is absolutely delicious. I wander around the shops then. I am working in Natmags offices 33 Broadwick street where the weekly magazines are made, and one or two monthlys. Its a grand building (see above) with fancy swirly doors and a fancy lift. The other Natmags building on the same street 72 Broadwisk street has most of the monthlys like Cosmopolitan ie. the bible, and Country Living where I am doing work experience this summer. I look in lustily, hoping to be noticed, like a child at a sweet shop window – what I want what is in there.
My day of work experience turns out to be amazing, and I fit right in as they are short staffed – answering phones and doing bits of writing. At the end of the day I leave feeling really good about my day. Arriving back to the tube station I came from, I notice a sign beside the stairwell of this morning ‘175 steps, do not unless in case of an emergency’ it reads. Being back at the neon hostel is like crashing back down to earth..
Reception is amassed with Italians. I think this place would be maybe cool to stay in if you were going to just have fun but I will never come back here. Not least because the smoking area is a square of traffic cones 100 yards from the door where shivering foreigners stand like lepers. I only smoke like one cigarette a day, but I do not appreciate this tarnish on my personality. I go to my room, not able to wait for the peace and quiet it will afford me. I am dreaming about lying on my bed and taking off my sore shoes, then losing myself in a book and getting my hour of shorthand practice out of the way. How naïve once again. The Frenchie has beat me to it. ‘How was your day, what did you do, who did you see, what are you doing now, we are going to zee pacha nightcloob, do you wont to come? have you had zee dinner yet?’
I try and make it obvious I am tired and need space. I just have to do this. I say sitting on my bunk and taking out my notebook for shorthand. ‘What eez zis?’ he says. I tell him its shorthand, for journalists. He asks me if I can’t just do it on a computer. I explain again, that that defeats the point, its pen to paper action required. He asks me why don’t we use computers instead. I give up and say if he leaves me alone I’ll come join him for a drink in an hour. My day has been long, but I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Day Two – I got to write my own feature!!
Day Three – I suffered with a hangover and a not so good day.. zee Frenchie got me out on the town..
Day Four – New work experience girl came and we were allowed over to the other Natmags building.. place of the bible.. we took the lift up to the floor Cosmo was on, just to look at the sign. I nearly wet myself with exitement.
Day Five – Conference with the editor, ate dodgy sushi and was sick in loos, but conference went well. Had a good final day in Best and went home with hundreds of freebies and glowing with a week I never wanted to end… apart from to get out of the damn hostel and get a good nights sleep. A girl needs her beauty sleep after all.. Zee End.