Friday, August 31, 2012

Life Lessons in Manchester

The move to Manchester was a decision made long ago during a discussion Pip and I had one mould infested damp day, in our shoe box London shed. The idea was to get out and see more of the UK, to live more of English life (geezers, red bricks, pessimism and all that).

After our European adventure we took a bus to Manchester with our lives locked away in a number of barely closed (due to tetris style cram-packing) suitcases. We took the bus as £25 between us was better than £170 each for a last minute train, a lesson well learned.

The first month and a half here was a chapter which, had it been a novel, would have required a steep character arc. When we set down our bags in the Premier Inn that first night, we had no idea of the financial challenges and brick wall head banging that lay before us. In fact the misreading of the map and coming to a building site instead of our hotel seemed like enough of an adventure for us at that point. Manchester had better ideas for us, ideas where it treated us like unloved orphans or new blood to a street gang where we had to earn our chops.

Well it wasn't quite that bad. Sure the property management company did a crap job forcing us to spend a weekend in a dive of a hotel with a helpful but creepy employee who gave me a free bedsheet to take home, in exchange for promising to stop and shoot the breeze with him each time I passed the hotel (which has soo many windows so that every time I walk past he emerges from a different room leaning from three floors up yelling at me and keeping our flurishing friendship alive.)

Manchester at first made me feel uncomfortable. Walking to the hotel from the bus station we were heckled by all sorts of drunks, the place felt empty, abandoned and ugly. The morning I went for a look around I saw nothing but closed shops and shattered dreams. As it turns out I had completely missed the central area which is actually really nice. Manchester is small but has a great vibe, the people are nice and we both really like it. Once we settled into our apartment, work for Pip quickly became annoying because working from home can be very demotivating and a bit alienating. She was also under pressure to fund both of our survivals as I spent all my cash getting this apartment and could not seem to land a job.

Before I get to the whole job search bit, we were fortunate enough to get a decent apartment, albeit on the bottom floor overlooking a car park. We moved in when the place was supposedly 'clean' but found it had been left virtually as it would have been when the last occupier left without so much as picking up a wet cloth. The house has three rooms and a hall. On paper it sounds the same as London but this one has a nice bathroom which is bigger than it really needs to be, and has a bath which keeps Pip happy. The bedroom is decent sized and although the carpet bore years of unvacuumed dirt, it is now looking nice after we finally bought a small hoover. The hall is a nice entrance which we certainly didn't have in London, a place for shoes, umbrellas, coats and illusions of domestic bliss. At the end of the 'grand hall' is an open plan lounge, kitchen and dining room. This is all nice although with our lack of nick knacks to place around, beyond Pip's Morrissey picture, the place feels a little cold but will improve when I get a job.

Oh yes, a job? One of those things which you need to provide a means to live off. Well on our first morning here in London I left the hotel after telling Pip that "I'm just popping out to get a job, do we need milk or anything?" I got an interview at a cafe. After the interview a few days later I'm super confident and don't bother to apply for other jobs, but when the day they are supposed to call comes, they don't. Annoyed at myself for wasting a whole week, I re-start my job hunt - this takes a touch over a month. My daily routine consisted of searching through my hundreds of job emails to make a hit list, heading to the library and using the free internet and computers to apply for jobs.

I easily applied for over 50 jobs over the month and while I did get one job, I had to quit after just one day. After applying and running all over Manchester city I started applying for jobs which I felt would be a wee bit easier to get. The first one I landed was for a company called AES Advertising (barely Googleable), once I shopped for a suit and fooled the guy into hiring me I went through a days training with them and found out I would be selling/ giving away free solar panels and loft insulation. Sounds easy enough until you realize that there are several other (ungoogleable) company names being thrown about (who do I actually work for?). The next day we were to go out and sell, I had decided to wait until they had given us all of our ID's and material to take with us to give them the benefit of the doubt. Cue ID badges with handwritten names with my poorly cut out photo glued to the front along with a laminated piece of paper explaining what we were doing (vaguely) with pixilated images and crossed out phone numbers. So following an afternoon selling these (I sold three), and talking to all the residents of Romiley I became very uncomfortable with the whole lack of credibility. I jumped on the train and came home after a long conversation with Pip and told my boss I wasn't coming back.

So with more time wasted I hit all the cafe's again and after two more weeks I finally got some phone calls. In the mean time I had picked up a part time job as a 'Mystery shopper' which turned out to be a scam and I was caught by the bank and had to give details to the police. So I ended up with a few coffee interviews. Starbucks, Caffe Nero, a new cafe La Vazza, A music university cafe and another door to door sales role. Now this may sound great but I had to juggle the interviews at the same time and be careful that I didn't end up with the worst job or no job at all because I was too picky. I actually did a whole day's training at the door to door fundraising job, got the position and then got a call from Caffee Nero to offer me their job which accepted.

The Caffee Nero job was the one I wanted and I had an interview that very morning where I was told that I would find out that afternoon whether or not I had the job. Baring in mind that I had to officially start door to door knocking again in a few days, I needed one of these jobs to pull through before then. I had a Starbucks trial shift the next day but it was only part time, it had just gone 5:15pm and I was literally talking to Pip about how I was gutted but would now focus on the Starbucks job when the phone rang. I don't know how I sounded on the phone but I struggled to contain my excitement and when I hung up I ended up on the kitchen floor with Pip as my excitement boiled over. It was such an amazing feeling going from that low to such a high in an instant. We went out to celebrate at Jamie's Italian which was delicious. As I'm writing this I have to have a week at home before my start date on September 5th, so am trying to entertain myself and cannot wait to start, how it goes with the job we will soon find out.

Pip also had an exciting time that day. She had applied for a job doing PR for the Comic Relief charity which works with celebrities and is based at the BBC up here in Manchester. Her interview was the same day as my Nero one but she wasn't holding out hope as they were doing the interviews in a few different countries for the role. They had told her that they would be doing second interviews this week unless there was an outstanding candidate so it was a nice big surprise when they phoned up a couple of days ago to offer Pip the position. She was stunned to say the least as she was not expecting it. Pip was also understandably nervous about resigning from her current job after just starting her new role and what they had done for her but we talked about it and she decided it was best to accept the position. I'm sure the excitement will kick in when she begins and I know it will do her good to be out mingling with real people all day instead of sitting in our dining room staring out at the backs of cars looking for inspiration.

So as I write this, Pip has just over a month before she starts work at Media City UK and I have about four days left until I am finally earning some money. I will be more than happy to leave this chapter behind because it has been very stressful for both of us. We have done a couple of fun things up here too. Juliana came to visit and we had a great weekend entertaining her. We also have a space for guests to sleep which we didn't have in London so that makes me happy as I love entertaining guests. Holly, Laura and Holly's Mum and Dad also came up for a weekend and we showed them around. Oh and one thing which I must mention is that we went and saw Morrissey at the M.E.N Arena which was great as we (especially Pip) are big fans of his and he didn't disappoint.