Redundant in London: in search of my transferable skills
In this redundant wasteland, I have developed some very bad habits. One of them is to refresh my emails all the time in the hope I would receive one that will magically transform my life somehow. You would think I would stop this pointless exercise, particularly as the bulk of the emails are from supermarkets telling me about wine deals (which I can’t afford), fake banks requesting my details (and even they wouldn’t want to know) and from someone called Tad who wants to tell me all about his ‘titantic f*ckstick’ (hmm).
As Tad wasn’t doing a thing to prevent the ravenous wolves clawing at my door, I thought I had better find my transferable skills and fast.
One day, I just happened to meet a rather dapper looking man with Ronald McDonald-shaped hair at a party. He was a newsreader by day, so in a very plumy voice, he told me he was looking for a partner to start up a media training company. He had developed a “fantastically successful media training formula” for “captains of industry” who found themselves in the spotlight.
Having interviewed lots of people over the years, I thought perhaps I may well have found the answer to my problems. In my time as a producer, I have had to assure some seriously nervous people from housewives to CEOs that being interviewed by me wouldn’t hurt a bit.
An even better argument for giving it a go was the alarming credit card bill which came that week. Apparently, my unconscious mind was as stressed out about money as my waking self, so much so that I had started to grind my teeth. This resulted in spending £700 on two crowns which, of course, made me even more anxious. My dentist’s threats to make me wear a bright blue mouth guard at night prompted me to ring the newsreader and make a date to meet up for lunch at a seafood restaurant off Regent Street.
Unfortunately, he tended to spit when he spoke, a trait I hadn’t noticed at the party. After a couple of missiles, I kept my serviette — or rather, napkin, as the posh English prefer to call it — at the ready as I nodded like a dashboard dog at everything he said. If I spoke about myself at all, he glazed and adeptly changed the subject back to him.
“You’ve dropped your serviette, I mean napkin,” I said after a long monologue about his house in the south of France.
A pinched expression came over his face. I had seen that rather pained look many times before in a past life where I used to mingle with Lord This and Lady That, but then that’s another story.
It was a fatal faux pas as nothing says ‘colonies’ more than the words ‘serviette’ and ‘toilet’. Word snobbery has led me to be called ‘refreshing’ one too many times over here. As my partner, the Englishman says, “you can take the girl out of Australia, but you can’t take the Australia out of the girl” and nor should you want to, of course.
After an awkward pause in the conversation, the newsreader recovered his English sensibilities and continued.
“I don’t have time for details. I am a creative, a big picture man, you hear what I am saying?” he said leaning forward so a bit of his ‘ethically-sourced’, monkfish hit me on the cheek.
As I surreptitiously wiped my face, I wondered what his Kerry O’Brien-type interview method would be like in action. But the prospect of setting up a company from scratch and struggling to understand VAT, let alone sourcing and doing deals with cameramen and studios, filled my financially inept head with dread. More production manager than media trainer, I would also only be getting paid when I had found a client prepared to pay hundreds of pounds to be interrogated for a day. But hey, as they say over here, ‘needs must’.
He paid the bill and put on his trench coat.
“I don’t want to make millions you know. I have lots of irons in lots of fires, so have a think about it and ring me,” he said.
He gave me a wet, theatrical kiss goodbye and left. Having no irons let alone fires, I decided that I really had little choice but join forces with the newsreader and his formula.
I left him some carefully-spaced, very enthusiastic phone messages, but I didn’t hear from him again. I kept wondering if it was the napkin ‘incident’ that had killed my chances. This first tenuous dip into the transferrable skills pond was to be one of many that were to promise much, but deliver very little or nothing at all.
Amanda Austen is a television and website producer who also writes articles for newspapers and magazines and is currently writing a book. Check out her website here and read her past Back in a Bit columns here.