Tag: Work

Dire Straits

 Okay, this post is about my less-than-fortunate living situation here, but I am fully aware that I am in a position of  privilege as a white middle-class person with a British passport and a good university degree. Please, as you read it, play the song below, a song which is not by the band, Dire Straits, but by a different band called Pulp, Common People, to keep my words in perspective.

Once again, I am homeless and extremely jobless, which is actually the most authentic way to experience Berlin so that’s good, isn’t it?

Basically, in Germany you need to register with the municipal council (Buergeramt) in order to get an official address, a tax number, and get a proper contracted job. I’ve not been able to do that because I’ve been subletting all this time, because I’m too poor to get a proper place, so I’ve also had to get jobs that are cash in hand or based in the UK, which means I stay poor, so I can’t get a flat … etc. It’s frustrating, and not uncommon, and going from place to place has made this year very bizarre.

There was my friend Rafael’s place, a charming flat near Treptower Park with classic hipster pallet-shelves. I electrocuted myself in this flat! Definitely my favourite of the year.
Then there was the flat I sublet from a friend I met on Tinder. His apartment was a 2.5 room place where most of the kitchen was a shower. (Gross, but very good if you want to eat a hot lunch immediately after washing.) The flat also had many digital canvas prints, apparently of early 2000s Windows desktop backgrounds.
Then, there was the place I shared with up to 200 DJs. (Only one on the lease but he kept loaning his room out to other strange young men I wouldn’t even know were there until I bumped into them in the kitchen at 1am.) I was going to stay there till spring but then the boiler broke and the toilet broke and the gas was shut off because the stove broke and then I was told to the best way to get the landlord to fix everything was to move out immediately. That was just before my trip to Edinburgh, so I’ve now found a floor to sublet for this month while I try and scrape some money together and get somewhere permanent.

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I’m now quite used to scraping money together by whatever means I can. Over the last seven months, I have scrubbed floors and toilets, proofread dissertations, and took a background role in a porn film. (Me and a friend had to walk past a couple on the stairs and *react*. We’re both English so basically we just giggled nervously at the floor.) Most of my income has come from a couple of freelance jobs I picked up as a tour manager for youth choirs, amounting to about €1,200. A lot of the time it’s been very difficult, I’ve struggled, and I really didn’t know what the phrase “living hand to mouth” meant until this year. (But in fairness, it is a bit of a weird phrase.)
When I came back from Scotland to find myself back to square one, realised that I wouldn’t even be able to host my own brother and sister-in-law, who’ve been planning to come and stay with me since May, honestly – I felt truly ashamed.

[Feel free to start playing Common People again at this point.]

But I am, let’s not forget, incredibly incredibly lucky! This year has been really really tough at times, but it’s also been brilliant – when I appealed to my friends, looking for somewhere for Ben and Sasha to stay, so many people got in touch to offer beds, both for them and for me if I needed one. People offered to cook for me. People offered me airbeds even if they have some foot-blood stains on them. Although I am homeless, this city is really starting to feel like home, with the ace network of people I have here.

This year, somehow(!!!) I’ve even made money as a stand-up comedian, something I’d never have expected. The original motivation behind founding SAUCE, my own open mic night, was just to make ends meet and truly it’s one of the best things I have ever done. (Please don’t mistake this as an endorsement of the dangerous + hackneyed old idea that “you gotta be poor to make art! You gotta be hungry!”. It is rare to be able to make literally any money from stand-up this early in the game – I just live in Berlin where the scene is still small and pretty cheap. Being poor does not help me make art, it makes me sad and it makes me tired.) Making money from what I do, from what I love, is such a joy, such a boost to my confidence, a real f***-you to my imposter syndrome: I need the money to live, but it also reminds me that my voice, my creative output, has value. It’s crucial. If there’s something you love that you get for free, think about if there’s some way of sponsoring or supporting it – if it’s an artist, see if they have a Patreon or a PayPal or some way of contributing, it is so essential.

I guess what I’m saying is, pay artists always, and life is very very strange. I didn’t expect to be living like this at 26, or even this late into this year, because I sort of figured it would have worked itself out by now. But I also didn’t expect myself to move to Germany, start doing stand-up, and start my own show, so really, I shouldn’t underestimate myself, and anything is possible, and uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh reach for the stars I guess



I’m a receptionist now. I get to sit and answer phones and eat lunch at a desk!

It’s not all fun and games, though. It’s a surprisingly difficult job for a woman to do. For one thing: everyone is frustrated that they cannot have sex with you, so you have to act a bit like they could do, if they weren’t so awful. Because the art of femininity doesn’t come that naturally to me, I have to really put the effort in and it’s stressful. I’ll be sitting at my desk (see above), brain full of thoughts and feelings and plans to secretly eat all the office snacks over the kitchen sink when no one is looking, when – suddenly! – I have to transform into “Lady Receptionist”. This sounds like a terribly ineffective superhero name, which is fitting, as I am a terribly ineffective receptionist. Possible reasons for this include that I am afraid to lie for people, I don’t like looking after people I don’t already like, and since I stopped drinking milk I make awful, awful tea. On the plus side: at least you know that when I seem to be a complete mess, I really am a complete mess. I do what it says on the tin.

But after six months, I’ve learned a thing or two. So, for anyone who is looking to step down their receptionist game, look no further! Here are some tips.

Lady Receptionist Pro-Tips

  1. Nails. Either get enormous fake nails put on so that you look like a Classic Lady Receptionist, alongside some cat eye glasses, so that you can’t actually use the keys, or perform any of the other myriad physical tasks clumsily lumped in with your job description. “Please change these lightbulbs/clear out this office/wrap this gift for me.” Sorry, no can do, I have mauve talons now. Alternatively: entirely remove nails altogether, and just go with raw gummy flesh there instead. It’s a bold look but might save you time ripping them out by accident later on.
  2. Smile. But not too much, so you don’t look like you’re laughing at them. Not all the time, so you look like a genuine, down-to-earth receptionist – you’re not like all those other receptionists. I prefer to alternate between a scowl and furrowed brow that says “I’m too busy for you!” and a wild-eyed, maniacal grin when you offer them tea and coffee knowing full well that you have run out of both.
  3. Cool, calm and collected. All of these are overrated. It is best that everyone knows that everything is a disaster, all the time. Otherwise, how will anyone know what a passable job you are doing, holding it all together?
  4. Professionalism at all times. Once a week, wear a really big ugly collared shirt and cartoonishly oversized suit trousers, so that you look like a baby businessman. After that, note the looks of relief on everyone’s faces when you go back to your shitty ordinary broken clothes.
  5. Take things with a pinch of salt. Also consider: sugar, trans fats, a big ol’ glass of wine. All useful remedies. I, personally, have started to branch out to include revenge, in a subtle, receptionist way, whereby I deliberately give you a smaller and less nice plain white IKEA mug. Ha, ha.
  6. Try to brighten people’s days. Maybe try to tell people jokes as you carefully bring them drinks, but make sure to mutter them quietly into your chest so that they have to ask you what you said, and then refuse to repeat it. They will *love* how mysterious you are!
  7. Be diligentIf you find yourself getting anxious, just remember that you need to do everything 100% perfectly, 100% of the time. No one will notice if you do, but boy, they sure will if you don’t!
  8. Be friendly and gregarious. “Hey, I love your shirt!” “Oh, uh, I just got it from H&M like five years ago.” “Okay, I will stop liking it then! Thanks!”
  9. And when all else fails… remember that that receptionist slug from Monster’s Inc. was also a receptionist, and everyone loves her, now.