I came to thinking recently about some of the worst/best jobs I’ve ever had. I’m not talking about my professional career. I’m talking about the ones that get you through college and uni. That keep you in plastic jewellery and gig tickets.
Starting off at 14 with a paper round it wasn’t long before I had advanced to washing dishes at the local (prestigious) boarding school. Placed in the middle of a wood and by a ‘cursed’ pathway called Nuns Walk I would deliver the food to the Priests room passing statues of the Virgin Mary as I went. I would then return half an hour later to collect what would be the empty plates. No matter how hard I tried I never bumped into the priests I was serving the food to…but the plates were always empty.
When my family moved to a small town called Rugby it was here that I varied my career path. At the ripe age of 16 I got myself a job in the local old peoples home. My task was to get the ‘older’ people out of bed, dress them and get their rooms cleaned.
On a measly wage of £2 an hour I would set about emptying commodes and begging hungover old people to get out of bed. There was one old man that stuck out called Mr Bodycoat (name changed). He had no family that visited him and walked around trying to hit people with his walking stick. I cracked one day when he went walking around purposefully taking number two’s on the floor. After I had scrubbed the final mess up gagging as I wiped trying desperately to miss his walking stick I decided £2 an hour was not enough for scrubbing excrement off the floor. The only thing I regret is making that decision after I’d cleaned up the poo.
So I got myself a temp job on the warehouse estate instead. My job would be to serve up food for the lorry drivers when they came in after their deliveries.. how hard could that be? My boss was a middle aged podgy man who used to sit in the office looking at porn. The lorry drivers would sympathetically ask me if I was ok as I served them up raw carrots with their roast dinners. I’m getting better at cooking.
At the tender age of 17 I was huge on animal rights and had been a vegetarian for several years. When McDonalds offered me a job I was in two minds. I remember thinking.. I’ve done the worst thing ever.. I might as well just eat a burger now. I lasted three days. I remember sitting on my bed one Sunday flicking from channel to channel slightly irritated because someone had seemingly messed with my TV as the news was on every single station. My little brother had come running upstairs ‘Rebecca the prince is dead the prince is dead!!.. “ he yelled...”oh and McDonalds called they said cos the prince has died you have to start at 2pm and work til close”.. “WHAT!?” I retaliated. It seemed Princess Diana had passed (god bless her soul) and McDonalds were opening up later out of respect. This meant that I would have to do the god damn NIGHT shift instead which is the worst job ever.. (cleaning down and trying to remove all grease from every surface).
At close we all congregated at the chicken nugget counter.. the shop had shut and we were munching away on whatever was left when one girl said “Better than sex these are’”.. “Mmmmm yeeeah better than sex” another girl retaliated. Catching my reflection in the mirror I realised that if I stayed too long in this role I might be in trouble.
There is no such experience as life experience… going from job to job selling, washing, serving, cleaning, scrubbing, wiping, talking, smiling. Whilst I wouldn’t want to do it again I am grateful for the range of skills I picked up. So I shall leave this post with a quote..
“Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting” (Katharine Hepburn).
Blog I wrote for BBC6 Music Sept 2011
‘Get busy living or get busy dying’ Shawshank Redemption.
I returned to the UK from a short stint teaching English in South Korea in January this year. My inspiration levels were flat lining. I was down to my last ten pounds and desperate for work. I thus found myself in a terrible temp job that only just covered the rent. As I was cold calling away my mothers shrill voice would echo through my mind ‘I told you you should have…’
My head was spinning and I was in a creative black hole. But I wasn’t going to admit defeat. No way. I needed to do something. Fast. A few years ago I had embarked on a project to blag it into twenty festivals – get backstage and interview some famous musicians, editing and uploading the videos swiftly overnight on a Sunday ready for a Monday morning where I would then go to my day job. From that I was lucky enough to win some online competitions that resulted in two things; a video camera from Vodafone and a laptop from Pepsi. This got me thinking.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” — Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
Life needed to be re-evaluated. I needed to get inspired…motivated…to take some steps to reach some goals. I had lost my way. And… I desperately needed a haircut. The hairdresser I had visited in Korea had not understood my hand gestures and I was sporting an awful ginger mess which made me want to cry every time I looked in the mirror. Life was not where I wanted it to be.
Fittingly Aloe Blacc came on the radio ‘I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need’.. this got me to thinking. About wants vs needs.. living vs surviving.
‘The best way to think about reality, I had decided, was to get as far away from it as possible’ (Haruki Murakami)
I decided to embark on a personal creative project. I would call it ‘The Inspiration Series’. It would be a journey of self discovery. I would follow in the footsteps of Brian Topp from Spaced and drive myself artistically using the attributes: anger, pain, fear and aggression to get myself into a more marketable position. I would explore the question ‘how far can you get with a little help from the right places’.
“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life.” Paulo Coelho (Eleven Minutes)
Surrounded by rising unemployment levels – I had to think creatively how I could possibly work around my situation.
‘Be like water making its way through cracks’ (Bruce Lee)
With a lot of perseverance and hard work I went about filming/editing and presenting a series of short video blogs getting help from friends who wanted some experience. Using brand interaction and taking opportunities as soon as they landed my way… my summer… went a bit like this:
‘My mind has been dull since the days of my youth’
Last night was my first ever trip to the opera house…no no no.. you’ve got it wrong.. I’m not talking about The Opera House in Bournemouth – I’m talking about the Opera House.. oh sorry wrote that wrong I meant to say ‘The *Royal Opera House’ you know – the one full of prestige – the one that started up in good ole 1728… you know that’s probably about five of your grandparent eras ago I reckon…
So anyway – I was very very excited to get a press pass to one of the hottest events in town. And I mean THE HOTTEST. As I enter the slick walls of the royal building I look worryingly around for the press desk.. on my way there.. I was cornered… ‘she looks different’ ‘yes her!’ someone shouts…. They wanted to take a photo of me. A photographer for a documentary on ‘art’ to be shown within the very same building it seems. So I stood there trying to look arty and sophisticated and that I go to the royal opera house nearly every Wednesday don’t you know… whilst they took photos of me for their exhibition ‘Wayne McGregor’s Deloitte Ignite 08’ – apparently of the different sorts of people that go to operas. As I said I go every week.
So I’m sitting.. waiting for the lights to go out.. at the front of the opera house.. when Phil Daniels asks me to stand up so he can get to his seat. Then Dave Rowntree enters and sits to the left. And I have a flashback to 1994. Of the billions of posters on my wall of Blur. ‘Are you reviewing?’ the lady on my right asks interrupting my thoughts on how although Dave Rowntree looks older he still looks pretty much exactly the same except for his glasses and maybe being a little bit chubbier. She is the classical reviewer for the guardian.. and I think fuck.. I bet she’s the dogs bollox when it comes to operas. I bet she could operaeat her way right through my blog and …as I’m mumbling some crap about blag blogs back at her.. thinking ‘why oh why didn’t I just say I was working for a nice respectful paper’.. she turns to me.. mid sentence …and looks me in the eye – ‘the most important thing in reviewing is to be confident with your opinions’.. she states… So BOOMshackalack… here we go..
It was shit. No only joking. I’m just trying to hold your attention here for more than a second. The performance started with an animation. The animation led into a great performance. Ok I’m stuck.. what do people say in these review things? I look over the guardian ladies shoulder to see.. nope. Its too dark. Damnit. Its like being at school again – why wont’ the *opera house let people take photos.. tsk.. writing is so..personable… so here we go – my review..
The Monkey starts of quite irritating in the beginning.. he is a show off and wreaks havoc around him. He is set aside by the Buddha for five hundred years however and is finally released to redeem himself on a mission to look after Tripitaka to India to bring the holy scriptures to China. And the basic story is – they meet people along the way. No not a tin man .. a pig.. no not a scarecrow.. a horse.. (see where I’m going with this) the tale does have a similarity to The Wizard of Oz but of course Monkey: Journey to the West is actually a 400 year old fable still read today in China… wikipedia however (good ole trusty wiki) does cite that –
“The Wizard of Oz has been translated into well over 40 different languages. In some cases, the story proved so popular in other countries that it was adapted to suit the local culture. For instance, in some countries where the Hindu religion is practiced, abridged versions of the book were published in which, for religious reasons, the Tin Woodman was replaced with a snake.”
So it could be questionable as to whether either of these have ever had any influence on each other. I would predict the wizard of oz would have been influenced by Monkey: journey to the west.. what do you reckon? Anyone still reading this?
So as the story commences – you really do fall in love with monkey’s characters as he begins his pilgrimage. The little guys got balls. Well he is a guy yes – but he has extreme cheek and charisma. He really is hilarious at the Volcano City – where he abruptly stops the romantic singing bringing the audience back to life like a bolt, as the storyline mocks the occasional slowness of the plot. Chen Shi Zheng – the Director and sidekicks – Albarn, Hewlett and Dalian– have done an amazing job of bringing this story to the West.. the martial art is truly amazing and the set design is beautiful. The only shame is that the subtitles are at the top of the stage. This makes it really hard to read them and watch the performance. To be honest I kept missing most of the storyline as I was far too enchanted with what was happening on stage. But this wasn’t much of a problem as I still got the story. Honestly. I did.
The performance ended with a standing ovation. (Did I cut that description too short? Sorry but I really do think you should just go see the show.. honestly.. I really cannot describe it as well as it will be visually pleasing to your eyeball).
As I leave the *opera house I see Paul Simonon standing with a group of people. My mind flits back to the story he told me of him blagging it into an art gallery in Paris (Latitude 2007 video diary).. and 50% of me wants to tap him on the shoulder and tell him about my first ever ROYAL opera house experience wondering if he’d appreciate the story. But instead… I put on my headphones.. and laugh to myself about how truly random life can be. About how important it is to be an irrepressible Monkey. And how lucky I am to be going again with my friends on Saturday…