Thursday, 27 September 2012

Of hot pink scooters & teal blue hair

So here's a fun fact. I've been to England three times in my life. In that time, I managed to visit the Accident and Emergency department before Saint Paul's Cathedral. That has to be some kind of record. Albeit, not one I deserve any sort of kudos for.

So I moved to London three weeks ago. No big surprise there. Back in Australia, I used to injure myself a lot. Maybe a small part of me had hoped that this was something about air pressure, my relative position in correlation to the sea level or my distance from the equator. Or maybe just the amount of football I played. Apparently it's not. It's just me.

Week one of my new life in London found me with a double barrel shotgun in my hands for the very first time. This would give people who knew me cause to seek cover or flatten themselves in an attempt to preserve life and limb. But you see, I'm not uncoordinated, just unfortunate. Only I came off injured from my first ever attempt at clay pigeon shooting. That means the target is not only small, but moving through the air at a very fast rate. I shot 11 of my 12 targets before retiring with recoil injury. The trainers were stunned into shock and awe, I'm not exaggerating. My military trained brother only shot five from 12 so, you know, I think I can say I am a natural with a shotgun - as long as I don't have to shoot it any more than eight times or I am in severe pain for days.

Week two started on a positive note! I got a job at a lovely pub! I was so full of energy I went home and washed the dishes from last night's dinner - and promptly sliced my pinkie finger open across the knuckle on broken glass. My brother was very ill and I like to think he would have taken me to get stitches if he wasn't a mere shadow of a corpse. Instead, he cleaned the wound and patched me up while I put on my brave face (read: cried & curled up on the couch in the foetal position).

I did not let a minor flesh wound dampen my spirits however and sought a mode of transport. I took this task very seriously. After all, I am 27 years old. I am a published author. I have new employment in a prestigious pub on top of the second highest hill in London. So how did I choose to get to work?

On this.

Don't worry, it's made for adults. Or kids that weigh up to 100kg. Whatever, I fit on it, ok?!

And this was fine for my first few shifts. It was better than fine, it was fun. It was a conversation starter with my new coworkers and the patrons at the pub. Oh, and the feeling of flying down the second highest hill in London, daring myself to hold off on the brakes, feeling the wind in my (now blonde, purple and blue) hair was simply breath-taking.

Going home on Friday night / Saturday morning at around 2am and realising as I neared terminal velocity that I had no brakes thanks to a light dampness on the ground was breath-taking in a completely different way. In a split second, maybe even less, I had to decide whether to chance it with actually reaching terminal velocity before careering out on to the busy road this hill intersects with and hoping I could control the corner at full speed (if I made it over the speed bump alive, that is) and that no cars, trucks or buses would be wearing their usual path down that main road - or abandon all faith in a safe passage and simply abort the mission there and then.

Well I made my decision and I stand by it.

Ok, so I didn't stand for long.

My feet couldn't keep up as I tried to run at the speed my body mass was travelling at. Basic physics. Or gravity. Whatever, I stumbled and hit the bitumen. Hard. I ripped open my new shoes, tore three holes in my woollen tights (and the skin underneath on my knee and my ass cheek), grazed the heels of my palms and the pièce de résistance, smashed my entire shoulder into the ground as the lower half of my body collapsed. My skin was saved by my work shirt and Edgar Allan Poe hoodie.

Aptly, my iPod played "Goodbye yellow brick road" and Sarah Blasko mourned her own sad story about a painful road through my headphones. I sat in the gutter and cried. My hot pink scooter lay abandoned and skewif in the middle of the road. My hair, once free and windswept, started to matt to my face in a mixture of tears, sweat and light misty rain. Finally, with all the dignity I could muster, I picked myself and my scooter up and limped back to work.

My coworkers haven't known me long but even without my expressive face, it's not hard to tell when a girl hobbles in, mascara streaked down her face, hair a mess, holes in the uniform that minutes ago was pristine and dinosaur backpack hanging askew, something went wrong. As Wayne, the head chef put it to my boss, "Evel Knievel here didn't make her jump."

No Wayne, she did not.

I haven't been back on the scooter yet, but I will. It's too much fun. I will however, be purchasing a helmet. My mind boggles at the lack of laws here that allowed me to ride legally without a helmet. I also marvel at my own stupidity that I thought I was too cool or too invincible to wear one.

For the last four days I've been throwing up and at times, fighting in and out of consciousness. I've been in a lot of pain. I had to go A&E to get X-Rays. Thankfully and miraculously, nothing is broken. I have done severe muscle damage to my shoulder, will still be in a sling at the end of the week and have only today (Wednesday) managed the admirable feat of typing with two hands. Obviously, I haven't been able to work, thus haven't been able to get paid. I've relied on the generosity of my brother and future sister-in-law to keep me fed and looked after - including fetching my spew bucket and washing my dinosaur PJs for me when the fevers have rendered them unwearable.

In conclusion:



And I'm going to Saint Paul's Cathedral before I kill myself!

Miss SAMawdsley xx

  • What's the worst accident you've been in?
  • Do you remember the slow and painful process in a blow by blow, second by second account?
  • Have you ever been sick or injured in a foreign country?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Adventures in red tape

In case you haven't heard, I moved from Brisbane, Australia to London, England last week. Bit of a change if I'm honest. I quit my comfortable, safety-net job and landed in London with a plan to live with my brother and his fiancee and hope that... well, hope that everything turned out ok.

The most daunting part of this whole expedition (other than the flying part, of course) was getting a job. Europe has made no secret of its tough economy and from what I read in the media, jobs are few and far between. So my plan has always been to get a bar job and study to attain my referee's certificate and start refereeing football.

I signed up for my referee's course before I left Australia so I had already outlaid £130 in the hopes it would lead to steady work (and, in all honesty, career advancement to say, refereeing the women's world cup!?)

So you can imagine my surprise when I found a pub that I fell in love with, cheekily asked if there were any jobs going, was asked to drop off my resume and attended a job interview where I actually answered the question "So how long have you been in England for?" with "well what day is it? Tuesday? Then one week and one day!" I got the job.

Turns out that was the easy part. I am a British citizen thanks to my lineage so I am entitled to work here. I am also entitled to not work here and claim benefits. But I've never claimed benefits in Australia and so I don't plan to do that in England either. Upon being offered a job, it became apparent that I needed a bank account for being paid and a national insurance number (NIN). Back in Australia, this is like a tax file number, I guess.

Making the call to get the NIN was horrible. The woman on the other end of the line sounded a special breed of mind-numbingly bored of her job and very suspicious of my motives.
"And why do you want a NIN, miss?"
"Because I want to work. I've been offered a job and I'd like to take it."
"And why don't you already have a NIN, miss?"
"Because I've only just got to England."
"So when did you get to England, miss?"
"A week ago. September 3."
"A week ago? And you say you already have a job, miss?"

Not the best response, apparently. So I have an appointment with them on October 1. Might have been earlier without the attitude, I suppose. But today I got my letter explaining when my appointment would be and how I needed to bring proof of identity and proof of address.

I got excited about this letter coming today because I planned to go into town to open a bank account. This letter, sent to me at my address from a government agency would be great proof of address to get my bank account. Or so you would think. I chose Barclays because they sponsor the English Premier League and I've always wanted a Barclays account. They turned me down because my letter from a government agency was not sufficient proof of address. I needed something more - you know, like a bank statement. The lovely Barclays' guy, who saw the obvious redundancy of the situation since I was sitting with my brother, who I live with and who has all the proof of address they needed, had a minor coughing fit that sounded something like "Go to Lloyds of London. They'll probably give you a bank account but do it today before this bank account application denial goes on your record and nobody will give you a bank account." I hope he feels better soon.

So on a hunch, Seamus and I went to Lloyds. Barclays guy was right. They didn't care that all I had was a letter of confirmation of an appointment with the NIN people as my proof of address. Not at all. But they were not taking my word for it that I had a job lined up. No sir. They wanted a letter from my future employer stating they would be letting me work behind their bar. Seriously. To open a freaking bank account. Not a credit card, I didn't want their money, just an account for my own money to sit in and the bank to earn interest on. But of course, I didn't have this letter of employment yet because I needed to provide my future employer with some bank account details for them to complete my employment. Oh yes. Bureaucracy gone mad!

So I had to traipse up the hill to my pub to get my future manager to write a letter saying "Yes, Samantha will be working for minimum wage pouring beers for the good people of London. Please, for the love of Batman, give her a damn bank account so our patrons can get beer!" Or something to that effect.

I returned, letter in hand (with a With Compliments slip stapled to it, for that official touch) to finally get a bank account with Lloyds of London. Now I can start work at The Castle tomorrow.

On the way home, I nearly died of laughter when I realised something.

The NIN people mailed me a letter demanding my proof of address.
I opened a bank account using the NIN people's letter demanding I get proof of address.
I will get a bank statement with this same address on it.
I will take this bank statement, obtained using the letter of demand to get proof of address, to my appointment with the NIN people and use this statement as my proof of address.

Red tape. Not half as sexy as it looks.
Miss SAMawdsley xx

  • Have you ever been the victim of bureaucracy gone mad?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Where I belong...

I was bullied in high school. I was a social outcast. It hurt, it destroyed my confidence and in a way, it crushed my spirit. While I know the initial bullying was for something stupid and outside of my control (my family & I did a milk run... I know, right?), my overly-enthusiastic, somewhat offbeat & eternally optimistic personality seemed to bait my bullies into damaging my self-esteem as much as possible. Even teachers recognised I was a little bit odd. In the last English lesson of high school, my teacher gave out a literary quote, hand picked for each student to reflect her feelings for us as individuals. Mine?
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." 
---Henry David Thoreau---
And that's what I have always done. I'm still overly-enthusiastic. I'm still somewhat offbeat. And I'm still eternally optimistic. But I'm also still very insecure that all these qualities I possess combine to make one really irritating human being who "deserves" all the bullying she got.

Until I joined a football team in 2011.

My cousin suggested I join & promised me that all the girls were a great & it was a very supportive team. I trusted her & honestly, it was the best decision I ever made. I was terrified going to the first training session. Dad, who just plain loves football, came with me. I was convinced that everyone would hate me, that I would just be "the new girl" and that I would not fit in.

I could not have been more wrong. Dad was straight away asked to be the assistant coach and the girls welcomed me as one of them. Not a single one treated me like I was anything but a friend and much appreciated teammate - and I mean for my personality, not for my (questionable) football prowess.

I was going through one of the worst periods of my life when I joined the team. I was actually suicidal and being part of a team that felt like they needed me helped save my life. I couldn't let them down when, by signing up to the team, I had made a promise. And I keep promises. Some of the girls knew about my troubles. They happily let me be number 7 to appease my OCD and it has been "my number" ever since. I "missed" one training session but what the girls don't know is I was actually there, in the parking lot, sobbing my heart out begging my dad to just let me kill myself. I tried so hard to be at training but I couldn't do it that night. But even despite it all, I knew, and I know now, that they would never judge me for all this.

Of course I signed on again this season. After our coach declined to continue, Dad was asked to be coach and he loves it - he genuinely loves all the girls and brags to his football team about what a great group of girls he has. Dad and I actually sold our house (after 20 years there) and moved closer to my teammates. Prior to this, we had lived 45 mins from my home ground. That's how much of a difference being part of this team has made to my life. Our biggest life decision in 20 years was made with the consideration of where my football team plays.

This season I tried to come off my Zoloft (which I am on for my OCD) and I became irritable and actually nearly got sent off in a few games. But my team understands me. They accept or dismiss my apologies as unnecessary and they love me anyway. It may be even because of my honesty. I don't know. All that matters to me is that they love and accept me.

I missed the last game of the season this year because my flight to England was 35 minutes before kick off. At my last game, most of the team agreed to come out to dinner with me to celebrate. I was only missing one game (and hope to be back in Australia in time for the next season) but they did the most amazing thing for me. After hearing of my Will Blog For Music campaign, the girls raised $100 to contribute and signed a huge card for me.

I cried. In many ways, I still feel like that bullied, outcast little girl, so to feel so accepted and loved by an entire group for exactly who I am, flaws and all, means more to me than any of the girls could possibly understand.

Today I spoke to Dad and he told me about the last game of the season that I missed to catch my flight to London. The girls, the amazing group of girls that I am so honoured to call my friends, wore yellow tape on their arms (the way other sporting teams were black arm bands as a mark of respect after a death) to show that I was there with them in spirit. I wear yellow tape on my football socks, that's the link there, but when Dad told me that, I cried. They didn't do it "for me", as in to tell me to make me happy, they did it "for me" in that they genuinely care about me and wanted to feel me there in spirit with them.

My team! See their yellow arm bands for me?
Since it was father's day, they also signed a father's day card for Dad and gave him a box of chocolates. Seriously. That's the group of girls I am talking about. That is my group of girls.

Even this post doesn't capture how I feel about my football team. How do you explain the way you feel for people who made you feel like a worthy human being, who welcomed you entirely for the first time ever and who, in essence, saved your life? I'm known for being quite verbose but in this case, I simply have five words.

Thank you. I love you.

Miss SAMawdsley xx

  • Who do you owe thanks to?
  • Where do you feel the most comfortable?
  • What's been your experience with team sports?