It’s actually not all about me – lessons in trying to be less selfish

So. It’s been a while. My not-really-well-thought-out gun-ho foray into blog writing started with an enthusiasm that probably could never have been sustained, and then petered into a whimper of rather dull topics and absolute avoidance.

But, crisis of confidence drives me back to hiding behind the written word – in an attempt to save my teeth, if not my sanity.

So, there I was, minding my own business in life, when I get an email. From a documentary producer. Out of the blue. The nub of which is “we’re making a documentary – and we’d love you to take part”.

So curiosity gets the better of me, mixed in with a rather British politeness, and off I go to meet with lovely sounding people for a rather nice breakfast meeting in Hollywood. My (slightly hungover) intentions were to find out a little more, be indulged in what sounded like a rather nice brunch and say ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Now I’m aware I live in the film making capital of the entire universe – okay – that might not strictly be true these days given the rather dull subject of tax breaks (or lack of) for film makers which means they’d be better off thumbing a lift to Michigan. But still – I reckon that quite a lot of people here probably wouldn’t say no to a bit of screen time. Especially when you don’t even need to learn any lines – and just get to waffle on about stuff.

And these producers were as lovely in the flesh as they sounded on email. In fact, what was going to be a short meeting, turned into a three hour long festival of words. The producers were engaging and charming, they clearly cared deeply for their subject matter, and were supportive about what my participation would involve. So I changed my mind – and said ‘probably’.

Now doing this would mean a lot to subject of the documentary, and the producers feel I could contribute a unique perspective. All very nice. But the whole thing has sent me into a nervous tailspin. I have avoided confirming arrangements about filming to the point where I can’t avoid it anymore. In fact, being asked to be involved has opened a whole can of worms I didn’t even know was a can of worms. And anxiety has kicked in to the point when I’m sleeping badly, grinding my teeth and have a nagging sense of doom hanging over me.

I’m sure appearing in a movie isn’t supposed to feel like this. Not that I would know – I think I am the only one in this town who hasn’t been on film. Although – that’s not strictly true – but appearing on the local news for quirky soundbites is one thing. This is whole new ballgame. This is the big league. And I am thoroughly unprepared for stepping up to this plate.

But – oh my god – what on earth do I talk about? I’ve done speeches for huge audiences – but that’s easy when you know that you know more than anyone else in the room and have a specific topic to stick too.

So (and this really is totally sad), I came up with a list of questions, sat down on my own, asked them to myself and tried to answer them as if I was being filmed. I sincerely hope that no-one overheard me. I sounded like a fool. I tried to be witty which just came across as insincere and juvenile. I tried to be serious – that just came across as pious and depressing. I tried to be boring. That one worked well.

As that wasn’t working, and was actually having the reverse affect on my confidence than I was intending, I decided to compile a list of anecdotes that maybe got across what I should be saying. I think that was even worse. Especially as I had to ease in to that bit with a glass of wine or two thinking that would lighten things up a bit. My increasing panic, mixed with a cheeky glass of rose, just meant I just started to ramble to myself, pretty much to the point of incoherence. Every anecdote seemed inappropriate. I came across as insincere and vacuous, and looked like a charmless silly fool.

So. I’d figured out that if I couldn’t actually speak and say anything of interest, maybe I could at least work out where I should be filmed, and what I should look like – perhaps once I felt confident about that, I would calm down a little and then be able to relax into talking slightly more coherently.

But vanity is a total bitch. The prospect of being on film has coincided with an intolerance to sugar, mixed-in with a newly found sweet tooth from trying to give up alcohol and cigarettes. So, think 15 year old pubescent boy’s acned skin with some added middle-aged lines. I have no idea how to really wear make-up and my hair never quite recovered from the whole catching-fire-at-2am saga. Most of my clothes seem totally inappropriate. I know because I have tried most of them on. And they now lay in a huge guilt-inducing pile on my floor.

So – to cut a very long story short. I will look and sound silly. And it will be captured for all eternity on film.

I’ve over-thought this to the point where I don’t even think I can do this now. And I have turned into the uncommunicative interviewee from hell.

But a bit of personal humiliation versus doing something that will mean so much to the subject means that I need to get over myself and just do it. And maybe hope that it all just ends up on the cutting room floor. So what if I look and sound ridiculous, it’s not about me – and I’ve turned it into all about me. How selfish am I?

I’m terrified. And I’m a wimp. And I’m selfish. And this is my way of making myself do it. Which I hope is going to be slightly more successful than walking around my apartment talking to myself.

Dammit – if I can jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet, I can damn well sit in front of a camera and talk. And if I can do this, and face more fears than I could ever possibly list, then I reckon that I could probably do anything. I used to be fearless. I want my fearlessness back, and maybe, just maybe, doing this is the first step I need to take.

Wish me luck… I am seriously going to need it.

So. Please vote for me (part 1)

 

I’m feeling all nostalgic about voting. The US election is dominating every media outlet here and I can’t vote.

Even sadder, I love voting, and I’ve worked out, if I could vote, exactly who or what I’d be voting for this coming Tuesday. I’ve even read these helpful publications from cover to cover.

Yes, I’m a voting geek! And I’m proud of it.

As I’m not a US citizen, I can’t vote, despite this being my home and will be affected by the outcome. Of course, I kind of  understand why I can’t vote as a non-citizen, but deep down, I’m frustrated. And a little bit sad.

I want to vote and I know of so many people who don’t want to or can’t be bothered (can’t I have one of their ballot papers?), and, dammit, I’ve had to sit through months of political adverts on TV. I’ve watched all the presidential debates. That alone makes me feel that I have earned the right to walk into that ballot station and put a cross in a box about something.

I remember the first time I voted. I was just 18 and I was so very excited about being able to vote and have a say about how my country would be run. It was the first time that I felt empowered – this was my own decision, based on my own opinions and my vote was known only to me, and the ballot box.

I took it so seriously too. I dressed up in sensible clothes, tried to look older and wiser, attempted to have a serious and contemplative expression, and look worthy of such a huge responsibility. I looked about 12 at that age – I must have looked really rather silly.

But I still remember the delightful sense of responsibility when I took that ballot paper from the polling officer, picked out one of those stubby pencils, walked into the battered and forlorn looking booth and closed the dank grey curtain. I placed the neatest-ever cross in the box, careful not to go over the lines, folded it neatly, and placed it, carefully, into the black metal ballot box. I walked outside, and in my precocious teenage angst, thanked those who had fought, and died, for the right for people like me to vote.

But it was the start with a love affair of politics, although an affair that has waned and surged throughout the years.

 

We’ll gloss over the sadness I felt that my vote didn’t, in fact, change the result.

These were the Tory Thatcher years, and my little vote for Labour was lost in a swathe of Thatcher enthusiasm – after all, she was the woman that led us into a war no-one cared about, for an island that few could locate on a world map, but dammit – she had beaten the Argentinians in their own backyard. She was the woman who allowed council house tenants to buy their own properties at knock down prices allowing a new generation of home owning voters to express their thanks in the ballot box. And she was yet to be on the receiving end of the Poll Tax backlash.

Thatcher was the working class face in a party of elite upper class men. And she was a woman who had fought her way to the top despite sex and class prejudice. Neil Kinnock, her opposing party leader, was the man who had tripped over his own feet on the beach at Blackpool and landed in the water. Live on TV. And he was ginger. And from Wales. There was only ever going to be one winner of this election.

So my first election was also my introduction to feeling disenfranchised. My vote didn’t change a thing.

I have voted in every single election since. And voting hasn’t changed much since my first time – it’s still a stubby pencil and a paper ballot, put into a black metal (or sometimes, these days, its plastic – that’s progress for you) ballot box. Although you can also vote by mail now too.

I have felt the highs of excitement that the party I voted for has won, and I have felt the sense of sorrow when my chosen party has lost. I have varyingly voted Labour, Green and for independent candidates. I have spoilt my ballot paper to show that I had no candidate to vote for. But I have never voted Conservative. Nor have I ever voted Liberal (or any of their various incarnations over the years). I am a solid left wing voter.

But despite the failings of the first-past-the-post electoral system we have in the UK, I still believe with a passion that it’s important to vote. And I always used to say that I didn’t care who you voted for, it was just important to exercise your right to have a say. Although, I obviously prefer it if you voted the way I did.

Elections in the UK seem so simple now in comparison with elections here in the US.

Until last year or so, we only got to vote for three people – the local councillor, the local MP , and the European MEP (the person sent to Brussels and Strasbourg to represent the region at the European Parliament). Some people lived in areas that meant they could voted for candidates on smaller parish councils – but generally speaking that was all our elections were… No voting for mayors, police commissioners, public officials or even presidents. No voting for propositions and measures either.

Fairly simple, huh? Generally, there was always a choice of a candidate from the three main parties. And if you were lucky you got a choice of some ‘fringe’ parties such as Green and (unfortunately) parties like the BNP. And if you were really, really lucky, you might get a random assortment of independent candidates who ranged from impassioned local campaigners to the local publicity hungry crazies.

And that, until a year or so ago, was it. Recently some places have been able to vote for a directly-elected mayor. And new for 2012, there will be elections for police commissioners.

And campaigning for votes is really rather different too.

No political adverts are allowed on TV or radio, expect for officially sanctioned (and hugely dull) party political broadcasts that are aired by the main political parties. They last five very long minutes each and are heavily regulated, and parties get only a few each in the run up to an election.

We used to get leaflets posted through are door, but even that seems to have died off in recent years as billboard and newspaper advertising take prominence. The leaflets were always a source of entertainment, badly produced by local candidates littered with spelling mistakes, bad clipart, and always featured a candidate standing frowning over a pothole (we take potholes very seriously), or shaking the hand of a local bobby. And we would have candidates knocking on our doors asking for our votes.

So – imagine the contrast now I am in the US. British elections now seem all rather genteel and quaint in comparison.

In California – when you register to vote, you get a 144 page book and a 40 page pamphlet outlining all the things you can vote on. I have never voted in the US, so I can only imagine what a ballot paper looks like when these all the things that are up for election this year.

So, to start, you get a choice to vote for some people…

  • President and Vice-President (choice of 6 options, including Roseanne Barr, yes – that Roseanne)
  • Senator (a choice between a Democrat and a Republican)
  • Representative (a choice between a Democrat and an independent)
  • State Assembly (a choice, strangely between two Democrats)
  • District Attorney (deciding between 2 lawyers, basically)

Then, in California… you get to vote for 11 state measures, including Proposition 34 (proposal to end the death penalty), Proposition 33 (something not that exciting about car insurance premiums) and Proposition 37 (should we have labelling on foods that says if ingredients are GM).

Then… (and take a deep breath) you get to vote for 3 Los Angeles county measures, which includes Proposition A (something about changing the county assessor to an appointed position rather than an elected one) and, now this one is rather exciting, Proposition B (all adult film performers to have to wear condoms).

And if the ballot paper seems long, just imagine how many TV and radio adverts have bombarded our screens in the past few months. Not only are there adverts for all the people candidates, there are for and against adverts for 14 different California and county propositions.

Nothing seems to make much sense – according to the adverts every teacher seems for, and yet at the same time against, Proposition 30 (temporary taxes on earnings over $250,000 to fund schools), and family farmers seem to be unified both for and against Proposition 37 (food labelling).

And it seems you can blatantly lie in these adverts and just keep showing them repetitively (Mitt Romney claiming Jeep are moving manufacturing from the US to China is still airing despite Jeep claiming that is totally untrue),  a national Republican advert claiming Billy’s BBQ in Richmond, VA, closed because of Obama’s policies (ahem, think the multiple health code violations may have contributed at all?).

And there definitely seems to be a law that says all adverts must have either schmaltzy music – or something not out of place in a post-apocalyptic disaster movie. And look all like they cost about $20 to make by an underpaid and overworked college intern.

Now I love politics. I even have a politics degree. And I’m a voting geek. Even I am now at the stage of screaming at the TV for it to all be over.

But, I’m asking… please vote for me. Because I can’t.

Me. And my camera.

So why was I running around the roof tops of car parks at LAX at 2am this morning? Why was I spinning around like a whirling dervish, making myself dizzy and laughing like a hyena…?

Last year, I signed up to do some pre-degree photography classes.Which I absolutely loved and hated in equal measure. Which is kind of appropriate given that I have a total love-hate relationship with my camera in the first place.

I loved my classes because I learnt so much and could see the difference in my images. And my classmates were great, the classes were fun, and the course leader was great.

I hated them because I got so frustrated that I still couldn’t take the shots that I could see in my head. Which, on occasion resulted in tears. On one occasion, it resulted in floods of tears on Santa Monica Pier with me literally stamping my feet in a toddler-style temper tantrum, wailing “I can’t do this”. A particularly unedifying moment of my life. The resultant cheering-up beer just made the tears flow more, expanding the geographical range of my public humiliation.

I drove my photography professor to distraction, although he got his revenge by calling me “ManU” for six months, a team I don’t even support, so I think we’re quits. The poor guy would show my photos at class and talk through why they were good –  I would then sit and dissect them with everything I thought that was wrong with them or why I didn’t like them. The more he praised – the more I pushed back with “but…”.

So eventually, I stopped going. The constantly repetitive cycle during each photo assignment (stress over what to take, over think every shot, take hundreds of pictures, agonize over which to submit, get praised, reject praise, get upset) seemed to be wearing both of us out. And even I had enough self awareness to realize that, just maybe, I was looking to solve bigger issues in my life by going back to school and picking up my camera; after all picking up a camera should never reduce someone to tears and it shouldn’t be stressful. Unless you’re a war reportage photographer. Which, I am obviously not. And so I slowly realized photography school wasn’t going to be the answer, because that hadn’t been the question.

So a little back-step as to why I enrolled. I was a year into living in the US, and slowly realizing that I wasn’t quite so employable after all. So my confidence was taking a bit of a dive. So, I reached out for something I really enjoyed doing, thought I was kind of good at, and finally had the luxury of time and resources to indulge in. Which is why, whilst trying to sort my head out, I decided to pick up my camera and go back to school, in the hope that the creative stimulation would kick-start me into taking some action and would help re-awaken my brain.

But it didn’t really work out like that. At all.  All it did was made me question whether I had any talent at anything. Which was the opposite affect I had, obviously, been hoping for. And even I realized that my camera wasn’t the answer to some mid-life crisis, emigration confusion, lack of any focus or direction, and general malaise. I was driving everyone crazy, particularly me, so I dropped out. Despite my professor nagging me to do the degree.

And then I didn’t even pick up my camera for the best part of a year. I even travelled to Hawaii in September and left it behind (me traveling without my camera equipment is fairly unheard of), choosing only to take a few basic holiday shots with my iPhone instead.  Basically, it was just a lot of pretty sunsets. Oh, and a few images of me before and after jumping out of a plane at 14,500 feet.

Roll forward to October, and I discover my friend, Ms I, has, in fact, enrolled onto the very degree that my professor wanted me to do. With the very same professor.  She has a whole list of assignments to do, many of which I have already done in the past. So tentatively, I have been picking up my camera again and going with her on her assignment shoots. Which is how I ended up at 2am last night running around the rooftops of car parks at LAX airport taking shots of strange lighting effects, having spent a few hours taking shots of boats at the marina at midnight. And I loved it. And even better, when I downloaded my shots at 4am this morning and realized I only had a couple I actually liked, I didn’t get upset that lots didn’t work out how I wanted. Rather, I was happy that I actually had a couple I was actually proud of. Even if some of them really were just plain strange. And I have a desperate urge to go back again tonight to play with the locations and retake some of the ones that were nearly-but-not-quite.

So far I have either been shooting alongside Miss I on her assignments, or starring in them. I’ve spun around like a whirling dervish on the roof of a car park at night to create ghostly motion images, and I’ve run up and down Miss I’s street whilst she captures motion and panning images, with the lovely Ms P on her bike for added movement effects (which probably entertained and confused her neighbours in equal measure). And I’ve not had so much damn fun with my camera for a long time.

I have no pressure to actually submit the assignments, so I just get to play. And we’ve laughed, a lot, at some of the randomly weird places and things we’ve taken shots of. Some of my images are just plain awful, some show promise, and some I actually like. Some are technically well taken but boring, some are interesting but technically quite poor. Some are just lucky accidents that ended up being quite good.

But, whatever, having the chance to run around with my camera, banter about f-stops and exposure settings, compare ideas, wrestle with my tripods, and have a partner in crime that enjoys taking surreal images at random times of the day or night has been priceless.

So, maybe, my journey with my camera continues after all. I have over 14,000 images on my hard-drive from the past 5 years of traveling with my camera. And I say “cheers to the next 14,000″.

Oh, and this wasn’t the best photo of the night, but I just love this UFO-esque structure at LAX (which is about the only thing to actually love about LAX).  The photograph is an achievement in itself given that my camera was balanced on a tripod which was balanced on a wall on the top floor of a car park and I couldn’t really see what I was doing. But for everything that this photograph stands for, and for my journey to the point last night where I shot this – I love it.

So. What’s this all about?

Damn. I’m at that difficult second album phase…

So, yesterday, in my fresh faced enthusiasm about all things blog-world, I mentioned to a couple of people I know in the bar where I work, that I had taken up blogging. “That’s nice” they said – “what do you blog about?”

Now, you would have thought that this would be a reletaively simple question to answer. After all, I had put time in to thinking up a name, learnt about how to use WordPress, and had even gone through the whole saga of picking a photograph for the ‘about me’ section. You would have thought that I would have worked out what I would actually write about once I got here. That would seem to be a logical conclusion to have reached.

But no – this is me we are talking about. These days, if anyone can do anything backwards then I’m your woman.

So my answer was…… “Errr, it’s about me”. Followed up by the startlingly incisive statement of “Well, kind of…. in a way… it’s kind of a bit about everything… and me”.

Now, I’ve worked in marketing. I used to be a marketing manager, Hell, I was once a senior manager in charge of a multi-million pound budget, many, many years ago. I did used to actually plan ahead, I’ve worked in branding, I’ve lectured on how important it is to have a vision, and bored people relentlessly about having a clear concept and putting together a plan to reach concrete objectives. Oh, how being SMART became my religion. Was I thinking SMART when I started this? Well, I think it’s clear what the answer is…

But that’s not to say I didn’t do a little research about this blogging business. Have a clear mission (I read), target your audience (it continued), write about what you know and love, and make sure to repeat key phrases and themes to keep those search engines optimized (okay, I might have got that a little wonky, but it was a long chapter and my focus was waning a little). So had I decided about what I wanted to write about before I started this? Well, not really. Okay, not really at all.

So, I’ve been giving this some thought. Belatedly. And a few people have chipped in with a few ideas. How about writing film reviews…? After all, I live in LA, which is practically Hollywood (a quick jaunt up the i405 and jog a right on Santa Monica Boulevard and I’m in the heart of Hollywood). Or what about restaurant reviews…? someone said. Apparently my Facebook page is full of images of food and alcohol and  update statuses of well, food and alcohol, and I clearly like both. Or what about reviews about gadgets…? I’m known for my love of gadgets. Travel, someone said, you’ve been a few places, and been around the block a few times,  write about that. Cycling, I thought, that might work, after all, I cycle every day and have a love of cool bikes.

But I’ve never written a film review. I don’t see anywhere enough films to justify trying to have a website dedicated to writing about something that a legion of other people are far more qualified to talk about and can, therefore, be far more prolific writers. I either enjoy a film. Or I don’t. I can make some fairly basic assessments as to why I liked it. But even I wouldn’t trust my judgement, so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to. And I live in LA, everyone I ever meet is far more qualified in the world of film. Everyone here seems to work in the business. So I’m not convinced that’s a goer. Though the occasional foray into commenting on a recent film going experience might be do-able, I suppose.

So, I thought about food and drink. I’m not sure constant reviews about the merits of Allagash and Blue Moon is enough to sustain a blog. And, having tried writing a blog post whilst a little tipsy – but I’m not sure typing like a dyslexic illiterate in the throes of a stroke would have any benefit to society. The downfall of tipsy-typing was learnt the hard way;  there I was for hours banging out what I thought was terrifically stunning and amusing copy, only to look back and realize not a word made any sense. Thank you WordPress for automatically deleting that shocker; I’m guessing this software has a well hidden and automated random-rubbish detector.

So what about gadgets? Okay, I love them. But I’m not exactly an early adopter. I’d be writing reviews about products years after they were in the public domain. And there’s only so much you can write about an iPhone 4s a year after it’s launch. I still can’t programme my DVD player to record anything, and, six months in, I’ve only just discovered the whole world that is Time Warner Cable’s on-demand service (I always wondered what that button was for). I’ve just realized that my love of gadgets seems to revolve around going “oooh, that’s clever” or “isn’t that pretty” these days. So I think that idea might also be a dead-end.

The same could be said about writing about cars, cycling, travel, fashion or current affairs. I seem to be little more than an interested by-stander. I’m sure I’d have something to say for a bit about every one of these for a post or two, and then it would just peter out.

So really, I’m just left with ‘me’. Which is about the only subject that I know a lot about. And even then, some people would question the validity of that statement.

But ‘me’ isn’t all that interesting really. Which is why, presumably, I am going through that difficult second album phase. I keep getting excited about all the things I could write about – only to start off in one direction, delete that, only to start passionately about something else. But none of it really goes anywhere, so that too gets trashed.

But, I love words.

I know that sounds a really dumb thing to say, but I really do. I really really love words and how you can play with them so much. I’m a nightmare at traffic lights as I’ll sit there and read billboards, marveling over clever ad-copy (or more likely wincing as the English language gets publicly butchered again) and don’t screech away as soon as the lights go green. Unless there’s no billboards, in which case I am that person who dives off the lights at the mere hint of green, such is the closet girl-racer that I am. I can be a nightmare in restaurants, because I’ll sit there and proof read their menus and have to resist asking for the manager to declare that I am appalled that language could be disrespected so much (over flowery language to describe dishes is one thing – poor grammar, spelling and nonsense causes indegestion before I’ve even ordered is quite another). You can see that I am a really fun dining companion. And don’t get me started on this Weird American Fixation to randomly insert Capital Letters Everywhere.

So really, I started this blog because I just wanted to write again. Because I miss it. And because it made me feel good.

A few years ago, I used to work on a magazine. I used to love doing the final proofing before it went to print (although I could get a bit grumpy about proofing articles at 2am before an early morning print deadline, but usually a glass of wine helped), and I would love writing articles about random subjects I knew nothing about (I became a five-minute expert on so many random subjects), and occasionally I would do interviews. I didn’t quite realize how lucky I was to spend my time playing with words, until I arrived here and found I had no reason to write anymore. I’m not even a prolific emailer or letter writer to my family – and I think I fell out of love with writing.

So, I guess I am no nearer now to finding a theme to my blog than I was when I started. I might write about my car every now and again (I love my car, but I don’t wash it anywhere near enough, so I’m sure it doesn’t feel loved), I might even write a bit about my jewelry (on my cycle yesterday I heard “there goes the bracelet lady”), or maybe reminisce about crazy travels across Cuba in a car that was welded together from two different cars, broke down and had to be towed by a horse.

Who knows. This is as much of a journey for me, as it is for anyone else. I guess it will end up being as random as I am. Which is fairly appropriate, I guess.

I had an English teacher who once told me “You’ll be a writer one day. You just have to find something you should write about” (Thanks Mr Brown, though I am sure you never really liked me much). I never did find that thing to write about. But maybe, just maybe, doing this takes me one small step closer to finding it. Whatever that may be.

So. What’s this all about? I guess it’s all about me. Even I’m alarmed at that prospect.

So. This is how it is

Two year and a bit years ago, when I hauled myself, and 90 boxes of possessions, across the big blue sea that is the Atlantic, I had high hopes of carrying on my career and living the high life in the Californian sun. 

“You’ll have no problem scoring a great job”, they said “just look at your resume, it’s great”, they enthused. “And you’re English” they added – everyone loves the English and their cute accents, right?

Now bear in mind that I live in Los Angeles. People talk a lot here. This is definitely a talkers town. So I thought – great, make the most of the holiday lifestyle, the phone is going to be ringing off the hook with fantastic opportunities soon enough.

So, as I settled into my new life abroad, I figured… “okay, no rush on the job hunting front”, and counted my lucky stars that i had the money and resources to take a career break. It was easy to justify an extended time of holiday-style down time. I’ve worked or studied since I was 14 years old (damn that paper round – the thought of delivering newspapers at 5am still gives me shivers).  After all, I had to wait for my Green Card anyway.

And get used to driving on the wrong side of the road.

And spend time making friends.

Plus get used to the cultural differences (divided by a common language? – yep – I still feel like I should come with sub-titles sometimes). 

And plan a wedding. 

And, and and… there are so many ways to justify why it’s not quite the right time to start job hunting. And I was rather enjoying being self-indulgantly lazy. No more getting up in the dark and driving to work in the rain day after day. I did some serious bonding with my lazy-gene. 

“How great” I thought, this was an opportunity to maybe figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. Maybe I could re-train. Go back to college to study something that would help the world. Or I would find my creative mojo and be able to set up as a photographer – and get paid for it. 

So weeks turned into months. I discovered that emigrating could be exciting, and it could be lonely. You can embrace the world of new opportunities, and then be struck down by insecurities and fears. And sometimes you can feel all of those emotions in the space of a few minutes. So my plans for employment soared and dipped as my moods dictated. But no great plan emerged. Not that it mattered. I had lunch with friends to distract me…  

And then the Green Card finally arrived (after some delays that seemed to involve some FBI computers that crashed, or something akin to that, given that I couldn’t really understand my immigration officer’s thick accent and poor command of English. He was sweet though, and as “yes, you’re in” were they only words I cared about and understood, we got along just fine). 

So Green Card in hand, I somewhat reluctantly thought okay, the holiday is over, you’ve had a great run of being a lady-who-lunches, lolls on the beach, and entertains friends and family from chillier climates. Time to get a job. And of course, given my impressive (and expensively professionally Americanized) resume – this will be a doddle.  

Oh. 

You can guarantee, that if I can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I will. My whole life has been plagued by bad timing…

Spend my high school years during an extended teachers strike that meant no out of school activities for years – yep, I was there. Graduate university into one of the biggest recessions (that would be the 90’s one) – yep, me again. Sell my house so I can emigrate at a huge knock-down price because we’re in the worst recession in anyone’s memory… okay, I don’t need to go on. You get the drift. So, I start job hunting.. and discover, to my horror… “what jobs?”…

So, I start applying. And applying. And applying. For the few that are out there and relevant.

One interview for an event manager job, starts with the interviewer saying she is only seeing me because I sounded intriguing and interesting but that the job had already been filled. Another interview goes so well, I actually get the job. Only I struggle to get them to contact me again to sort out the details, and discover online that they fired the director I would be working for and disbanded the team. I even get interviewed for a job I have absolutely no qualifications for, much to the confusion of both me and the interviewer (I’d decided by that point to just randomly submit applications to companies). 

I learnt that on-line application systems can’t cope with non-American applicant information – which has led to some entertaining confusion. And I learnt that most recruitment consultants hate candidates that don’t have a simple education and work history. Actually, I think most recruitment consultants just hate candidates full stop. 

So amongst all that hopes-raised / hopes-dashed… I continued living a lovely life of sun filled days. Jobs got fewer, requirements for even junior jobs got higher. And months drifted into more months. Till I kind of ground to a halt. Which, quite stunningly, happened just as I hit a bout of somewhat chronic homesickness. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love living here. I really really do. And I adore most of the people I’ve met, and am lucky enough to have some amazing friends. So this isn’t a rant about woe is me. But I guess this leads to why I have the job that I do have…

In January, my somewhat frustrated husband started to become anxious about my lack of income, desire for a career, and my lack of focus. Personally, I was having a great time. A tad hedonistic at times, maybe, but, you know, emigrating can be stressful…

So we popped into a chi-chi bar and restaurant we often frequented. Two glasses of wine in, I find myself tipsily filling in an application form to work there. 24 hours later, I’m employed. Somewhat thanks to (for once) good timing, but mainly thanks to some kind heartedness of friends. We’ll gloss over the fact that I am still convinced I was a little hi-jacked into applying…

So here I am, 9 months later. Still employed. 

Now, something that I try and hide, and something I’m not proud of, is my little English-snob gene. It stays well hidden usually but lurks about and rears it’s head at random moments.

Did I tell anyone I had a job? Nope. Did I feel shell shocked that after all my grand career plans that I now worked in a restaurant – and earnt less money in a week that I did working a night shift at Pizza Express when I was 17? Absolutely. Did I think, “what the hell happened, I have two degrees, a post grad diploma and a Blue Peter Badge, why am I here”? Yes to that too. 

Am I now appalled at my snobbiness – totally.

I’m now very proud of my job. It isn’t easy and it’s tiring. But I have met some totally great people at work. I work with some hugely talented people from all walks of life and of many different nationalities.  And I love my new friends. And I am very proud to be part of their team. 

So, what do I do at this nice place – with these wonderful co-workers? I’m a hostess and Maitre ‘d. I’m that person whose job it is to check you in and walk you to a table. In fact, it’s also my job to decide which table I am going to walk you to. 

The majority of my customers are lovely, sweet and polite. A handful are rude. The occasional one has wandering hands. And pretty much every bloody one of them wants to sit in one of our corner booths. And, strangely, a lot of people seem to want to hug me. I’m English, I’m usually reserved, that to me seemed just plain strange at first. But now it’s kind of nice. Though not with the ones with the wandering hands. 

Even better – I worked my way up to working evenings and nights. So I get my days to myself and drive to work (all 7 minutes away) when everyone else is coming home from work. I get to indulge in my night-owl lifestyle once again as I get to go out for post work drinks at 11pm. 

Do I earn enough money? Of course not. When is enough ever enough? But if you ask me if I have a great lifestyle – then, yes. And a great tan to match. 

I could write a book on all the good, the bad and the ugly I’ve seen and heard over the past 9 months (witnessing dates gone bad, dates gone so good I’ve had to fish people out of a toilet cubicle, hearing “don’t you know who I am”, and watching the cougars trawl).

But if I could leave on one note – it’s this… tip the bloody Maitre d’. We love you when you do, and it really does mean you won’t be sitting by the toilets all night. 

So. This is how it is. And I like it. 

So. Here I am

So, I made it. The epic saga from finally deciding to do this – to actually doing this has happened. I have finally arrived in the world of blogging.

“Hurrah” says I.

“Oh, blimey” says everyone else.

But when you’re as verbose as I am, 140 characters or less just isn’t enough. And, size matters. Now I have a whole CMS to play with and a whole blog to fill with rambling observations about being (in)elegantly English in the city of Angels. And I usually have a lot to say. To not enough people. So now I can just write, write, write and pretend that people are reading this and, well, everyone wins.

So, now I’m here, what to write? I think I’ve gone a bit brain numb after the drama of writing the ‘about me’ bit. I’m feeling just a little bit overwhelmed.  I had so many plans of what my witty first post should be about and, now I’m here, it’s like “ummm, okay…where do I start?” Should I go with an intellectual assessment of last night’s Presidential debate , or should I offer up some amusing anecdote about my crazy (but completely brilliant) shoe repair man who laughed at me for ten minutes when I asked him to repair these…

…and called me a “crazy Russian girl”. I’m not Russian, by the way. But I can see why a melding of a Manchester and London accent could be confusing.

Or perhaps a poetic ode to how wonderful it is to live steps from the beach?

An assessment of language differences between American-English and English-English?

Maybe an analysis of what I had for lunch? [a packet of Starburst, a big mug of Earl Grey tea and Manchego cheese and fig jam on a bagel]

Or try and justify my fear of pigeons?

Or perhaps I should just stop here. It’s too late to come up with a well crafted, meaningful and interesting first post, full of wisdom and insight. It’s just this.

So welcome to my world. Here I am.