Mission: To complete an unpaid Internship in London.
As we all know and hear constantly, if you want to work in the Arts, get yourself to big L-town where dreams are made of, in high-rise, shiny buildings. I have a passion for the Arts but I was born and my family reside, in Somerset, where dreams are not so much shiny, but muddy and with wellies.
One day, I went on a job and internship applying rampage, without thinking of the consequences. Sometimes rejection has this ability to make you feel that you can do anything, regardless of what is “practical”, a word that is said to me a lot as a Drama Studies Graduate, living in a rural and remote part of the West Country. I opened up my email a few days later and received an interview for a national youth theatre company; yes – my efforts were not wasted… except I quickly discovered it was unpaid (bar expenses), for a minimum of three months and in that shiny L-town of dreams.
Something had happened to me the same year that put fight in me. I took off my mud trodden wellies and threw practical out of my vocabulary; I begged friends and family living in London for their homes and beds. Of course, it definitely helps to know kind people. (After Uni rule no 1: make time for friends and family, you never know when they can help you.)
This is my bed-hopping tale.
Bed One: the Spare.
Duration of Stay: Over a month.
With: Zara and Ian*.
The couple who allowed me my very first experience of London living, were owners of a lovely, modern apartment; with my very own bathroom, I started my London challenge in luxury, extremely grateful.
I rekindled my old Vegetarian ways and learnt again how to live without meat; I had practiced for ten years, realising at a young age that sheep in a cattle lorry were not being transported for a holiday. I enjoyed cooking for the couple and repaying their generosity through cuisine.
Friday nights were lovely, drinking wine, standing out on the balcony, looking out on a large 9-hole golf course and soaking up the unusual London quiet which came from being hidden away from the main street. However, it just didn’t feel right invading the couples personal space for so long, so I left early.
Bed/beds two: the Makeshifts.
Duration of stay: One month.
With: Laura and Joe*.
The original bed, a rather hard Airbed which took two hours to blow up, got demoted into a bean bag, after one night waking up and discovering it had deflated.
These ‘beds’ were in the ‘junk room’ of my cousin’s home; my cousin, is an obsessive compulsive hoarder, she collects all manner of things. A number of clocks telling different times decorated every room and each wall; Crocs in every colour and duplicates in her favourite shades, suffocated in a ‘shoe’ closet/hid in shame; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups packed the kitchen cupboards; Harry Potter Lego creations stood on the floor, waiting to be completed by its Harry Potter Lego crazed owners, three house cats, Molly, Freddy and George (two ginger brothers named after this obsession) rubbed and purred along an assault course of collections.
As a result of the ‘junk’ covering radiators (though I couldn’t be sure they existed), I was literally freezing going to sleep. Nintendo games, toys and boxes cocooned me, but not in warmth. I remember the cold now and questioning whether I could ever survive an igloo.
One morning, I woke up with little pin-prick rashes all over my body and a few days of it proceeding to get progressively worse, I spent two hours in a walk-in doctors in Clapham to be told that I was allergic to “something”, though it was difficult to eliminate what this was. I continued my evening routine of cuddling Molly for warmth and love, but with antihistamines as protection.
On my final night, having worked fourteen hours with only a lunch break, feeling comatosed, I fought with the key in the lock but the door would just not open. I rang my cousin who looked out the window, in the next block of flats.
Bed three: my Work Colleague.
Stay: One night.
This was the result of a works Christmas party, but did not result in nudity as one would expect. I wrapped myself in a sheet in the early hours of the morning, quivering in the spare room, horribly drunk.
Stephen was my best intern friend. He saved me from walking intoxicated, past the ominously dark path, heading away from the main road and lined with suspicious smelling high-rise flats, which were home to bed number two. He came back to the latter with me, accompanying me on my ‘walk of shame’ the next morning and waited with my cousins junk, accompanied by Molly, Freddie and George, whilst I got changed. Stephen proved to be the perfect gentleman I had waited so long to meet. I walked into work with him, carefree and in love; Stephen was also my gay best friend.
‘Bed’ four: the Floor.
Duration of stay: Over a week
With: Ruby and Min*
I never thought that I could sleep on a floor, unless camping or drunk. Ruby and Min’s floor was surprisingly welcoming and I could have stayed longer.
A small first floor, modest flat, with pairs of shoes lined up outside the door. An assortment of Chinese and Korean food (the origins of the home’s occupants) was made for me and it was, in Somerset terms, “gert lush”.
There was nothing that the couple did not do for me, not that I was giving orders!
One night Ruby was out with work friends, so I had the sole pleasure of Mins company for the evening. I tried to ‘culture’ him on English television and he sat through Eastenders and Celebrity Big Brother. I am so sorry I failed you Min.
Bed five: the Pop Up.
Duration of stay: A couple days.
A bizarre sleeping situation – my friend’s friend Auntie’s house.
The friend of the friend had gone away and she was residing in the house (with permission of course!).
A short walk to work from this house, it was the perfect location. However as Adriana only had one key I left for work with her; Adriana started at 8.30am and left the house at 7.30am, I started at 10.am. Two and a half hours wait before work outweighed a fifteen minute walk and I wheeled my suitcase back onto London streets…
Bed Six: My Friend’s Brother’s.
Stay: Over a month.
Sharing with: The ‘R’ Family*
My friends brother – Wait! – had kindly swapped beds with my friend, his double, in exchange for her single pink bed.
My friend and I got to spoon again, after months of sharing a bed to make sure each other awoke through the hard times of Uni, year three. What with me being so tall and my friend small, we fitted together like yin and yang; or rather, my friend gave my long legs and bottom, room to fit.
The family, became my family; my Indian family.
This was definitely a family home. The house was always warm and inviting and the food was incredible and of ample quantity, to share and to pick up, sociably, with hands and chapattis. I rekindled my Vegetarianism yet again and can honestly say, I did not miss meat. I stood in awe of my new Indian ‘Mummy’, as she taught me new cooking skills and educated me on new, wondrous foods and ways to add meat substitutes other than Quorn.
My experience at a national theatre company had come to an end and I left London, having consumed my weight in chapattis. My internship had given me plumbing skills, an immunity to Junk and a tale of bed-hopping survival, not to mention a heavily bloated stomach.
Bed Seven: ?
Sharing with: ?
Please, future Employers, let the next bed be mine.
*Names are made up to protect identity and stop potential lodgers.