Archive for June, 2010

Internships for the young only available to those with rich daddies

June 15, 2010

Yesterday a columnist in the Business section of The Times said that so many people in the UK are exploited when they do internships at various organisations. There’s an acceptance that they are asked to work in return for little, if any pay, with a slim hope that it might further their career prospects down the track. I have to agree with this view.

When I first arrived in the UK I was shocked to see how willing people were to give up months of their lives for no money, with the dim hope that the company might employ them eventually. This was especially true with those working in the journalism and fashion industries.

With competitive careers it seemed that the only way to get into the industry was by relying on the chance to prove yourself – for free. In Australia it is certain that those with more work experience than others are more likely to get ahead, but as a general rule you don’t really work for longer than two weeks in a placemen, or one month at a push.

When I got over here it was expected of me that I get some UK work experience to get my foot in the door. The freelancing for free was okay and I’m still doing it because I enjoy it. However, I also worked at another media ‘workshop’ where I just retyped media releases all day and that was bloody tedious. I eventually gave it up because I thought that it was pointless – I was already experienced and there was no promise of a job there in the middle of the recession (not that I would’ve wanted to work for that company anyway).

Thankfully, I had my boyfriend who was willing to support me for two days a week, while I slogged my ass off for free. Others are not so lucky.

I think it is unreasonable for so many workplaces to demand that we have a CV full of UK internships when we go for job interviews. From the age of 18, many of us have to fend for ourselves, and those that are still privileged enough to live at home and have a part time job to fund their social life should count themselves lucky.

For the rest of us, starting out in the big bad world can be hard enough. If you moved out of home at a young age you’re often forced to pay the rent on crappy first jobs. Many do not have the option of working for free for an extended period of time, in order to get a job at the end of it.

If you’re unlucky enough not to have a rich mummy or daddy to help you along the way, it seems as though internships are only really targeted towards those coming from middle and upper-class backgrounds. I am forced to admit, I fall under this category, as I was able to live at home during my university degree.

Recently at Tatler magazine, a bidding war resulted in a rich daddy paying £50,000 for his daughter to work an internship at the publication. Are these the kind of ‘hard-working’ people we want in the working world? Someone who can’t even get a work placement off their own back?

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A magnificent trip to Spain

June 4, 2010

Day One

We had to get up super early (3am) to go and catch our flight. We planned to sleep on the plane but this didn’t come to fruition when we had some kids behind us who had obviously been fed red cordial for breakfast. They kept kicking on the back of our chairs, so much so that at one point I put my hand back there and removed one child’s foot from the middle of my lower back.

“Mummy, that lady just moved my foot!” the brat yelled. I pretended to be asleep. At the end of the flight my boyfriend confessed to me that he had fantasies about throwing the two monsters out of the door of the plane. Indeed, putting up with them for a few hours was the best contraception I’ll ever need.

We arrived in Barcelona blurry-eyed and took two buses to get to the north of the city where we hired our Wicked Campers van. He was called ‘mushies’ and had psychedelic mushrooms painted onto the side of him. In case people didn’t think we were gypsy like enough, I’m sure our hippy-looking van would assure them.

'Mushies'

We set off, heading north, driving along the beautiful coastline that curved up the mountains. It was sweltering hot so we stopped off for a swim and we dozed on the beach for awhile. It was so nice to hear waves crashing again after nearly two years. (When we went to the Greek islands there weren’t any waves on the beach).

Waking up, we were faced with a man and woman in their sixties strolling butt naked along the beach. No matter what the beach, it seems nudity is commonplace in Spain! Took me some getting used to but it made me realise that in Australia and America we’re quite prudish! Swimming naked is the best feeling after all…not that I was brave enough to do it (only got down to bikini top off!)

On the beach again for the first time in a long time

Climbing back into our van we drove until we came to Tossa de Mar in the Costa Brava which dates back to 4th century BC. We couldn’t find a place to camp though, so we pressed on.

The sea fell below under ragged cliffs and it was simply stunning. Driving around a bend we saw a camp ground spread out beneath us in the valley. We headed down. There was no one at reception but the gate was open so we drove in and vowed to pay in the morning. We set up camp underneath the trees and went for a stroll. The end of the camping grounds had a private cove which had forest coming down the valley to meet the sea. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

We cracked open some beers and drank some good quality Cava champagne. I was in the sun, back on the booze, relaxed and life was good!

The Costa Brava coastline

Our campsite with its own private cove

Farmer's fields where we stopped for a picnic

Day Two

We hit the road for the north coast of Spain. It was to be a long day of driving. At lunchtime we stopped on the side of the road for a picnic in some farmer’s fields. There were poppies everywhere and birds chirping in the trees. We were heading for San Sebastian but after six hours of driving we were fed up and decided to stop in Pamplona instead.

Pamplona is well known for its ‘running of the bulls’ event in July when crazy locals and tourists get together and are chased through the streets of the town, risking being gorged to death by some angry bulls. Bull running isn’t really my style so I don’t mind that we missed those festivities.

Pamplona itself was very cute, full of cobbled streets and quaint apartment buildings. We had a drink in a bar where hams hung from the ceiling, before moving onto another bar where we ordered tasty tapas.

Town square in Pamplona

Pamplona

The field where we spent the night

That night we didn’t know where to camp so we drove out of the town into a farmer’s field in the woods. It was a bit eerie and my boyfriend joked that he didn’t want to stay there for fear of serial killers. It did seem like something out of a horror film. In the morning we woke up to cows mooing and could see that we were in a lovely spot with views of the mountains. No murderers in sight!

Day Three

Leaving early but without a shower because of our remote camping site, we travelled a couple of hours to San Sebastian where we found a campsite to spend the night. After showering we headed for the town.

San Sebastian is in the Basque country, where the best food in Spain is reported to come from. The town is nestled around a long, white sandy bay that looks over the Atlantic. The town sloped up a hill on one side and we headed for the old area where churches built hundreds of years ago stood. We found a tapas bar and ordered seafood tapas, which were divine! I accidently ordered four glasses of wine after we’d already drunk two, so we kind of stumbled to the beach after that. I quickly fell asleep in the sun.

San Sebastian

Church in San Sebastian

San Sebastian hill

Day four

The weather was miserable after our day of sunshine, so we decided to head for Biarritz in France for lunch. I wanted to go there because I’d heard how popular it was with celebrities, so I thought it’d be good enough for us if it suited them!

Perhaps it was the weather, but the Biarritz coastline wasn’t as pretty as I had imagined. I think I preferred San Sebastian. We ate moules et frites (mussels and fries) and crepes in a typical French restaurant, and washed it down with a bottle of Riesling. Yum! It was good to speak French again, especially after not being understood by the Spaniards!

We went for a long walk through the town, past all the cake and chocolate shops that sold as many macroons as you could ever need. We walked back to the car along the cliffs that looked desolate, jutting out into the middle of the ocean.

The cliffs in Biarittz

Tapas in Zarautz

After an hour and a half walk we jumped back in the van and drove back through San Sebastian and on to Zarautz. This took the rest of the day, so we decided to look for dinner when we arrived. (How much of our holiday revolved around food and drink? Um, all of it practically!)

After scoping out all of the restaurants in the town, we opted for Rjoca and starter tapas at a restaurant on the beach, followed by a three course meal of paella and other Spanish food at another place. Greedy? Probably.

We rolled back to our car and drove to a campsite but had the ingenious idea to camp next to the site and then use the facilities in the morning, without having to pay for the night.

This went wrong when we were woken up by an angry farmer at 2am demanding we get off his land. Opps. We drove on and spent the night in a restaurant car park where I hardly got any sleep because I was anxious we’d be moved on again!

Day five

We drove back to Barcelona. It took about seven hours and we arrived at our campsite near where we had to return the van at about 6pm.

Along the way we saw diverse scenery from in the clouds in the mountains to sandy plains that resembled the wheatbelt in Australia. I was surprise to see many wind farms and solar panel set ups on our journey. Why doesn’t Australia have this? Surely we have enough wind and sunshine? It seems as though we’re certainly behind Spain when it comes to tackling global warming.

Wind farms are scattered throughout Spain

Dinner in Barcelona

After showering at the camp we took the train into Barcelona and walked down to the port. A seafood restaurant caught our eye and we had our best meal yet. Fois gras with mango salad, grilled octopus in spices, seafood and meat paella… yum!

Walking along the jetty after dinner, we headed to La Rambla, the most famous street in Spain. It wasn’t as nice as I remembered. It seemed vulgar, with too many tourists crowding the street. I definitely don’t think the locals hung out there! Perhaps I enjoyed it more last time because I was 18 and not as well-travelled?

We took the night bus back at 2am and crashed.

Day six

Our last day and we were sad to be leaving. We were determinded to have one last swim before we returned our van so we braved the cold early morning Med water and splashed about for a total of five minutes.

After returning the van we headed into Barcelona again for a day of sightseeing. We walked through the old town and had lunch in a Mexican cafe where we ate burritos and drank Sangria. My boyfriend had never had Sangria but I think he’s now a definite fan of the scrumptious drink.

I stumbled across a bead shop where I bought a bag of different beads that I’ve never seen before – can’t wait to make some beautiful jewellery with them all.

We crossed La Rambla and came to a market that was full of fresh fruit, fish and meat, not to mention sweets upon sweets. It was nearly as good as the markets in Istanbul!

Gaudi building

Sagrada Familia

 
Walking on, we went to all the Gaudi buildings, but decided not to go in because it cost 20 euros per person – a bit steep! Anyway, we didn’t have too much time on our hands. I do love Gaudi architecture though, it’s so unique and his designs still look remarkably modern, considering it was built 100 years ago. It looks like something out of a fairytale.

We went to Sagrada Familia, a Roman Catholic church that was Gaudi’s last project before he died. He never got to finish it and 100 years later it’s still not complete! It has just as much scaffolding as when I went there five years ago. It’s predicted to be finished in 2026! It must be the longest construction in history! It is stunning though and unlike anything else.

Hopping on the tube, we headed to Gaudi’s famous park, Park Guell, where he lived until he died.  It’s full of mosaics, grottos and warped-shaped pillars and artwork. The entrance features a Hansel and Gretel style house on each side. It was as inspiring as I remembered from last time and offered great views over the city.

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Sadly, we then headed for the airport, and after paying seven euros for a baguette (!) jumped on the plane and headed back to London. The rain was falling and it was a miserable 11 degrees when we arrived. Sigh. Back to reality!

Murder? Or suicide?

June 3, 2010

I don’t really know what is going on at the moment. Our landlord’s girlfriend told our housemates that in fact our landlord had killed himself. She said that he gassed himself in his car.

But then I researched him online (trusty Google) and found and article saying that he was discovered dead in a man-hole on Friday. The police are stating that his death is ‘unexplained’.

It’s a bit of a worry, obviously we don’t want it to be murder. His ex-wife is apparently after the house we’re living in and our landlord’s girlfriend is worried about her safety. She seems to have changed the locks for her flat above us, which is a concern.

Our landlord’s girlfriend has said that we can stay until the end of the month, so hopefully we can find a nice place by then. (It should be possible).

My housemate is pretty stressed out. She said she can’t sleep properly because she’s worried someone is going to break into the house. I think that’s a little melodramatic but then my housemate does love drama. I just feel sorry for my landlord’s girlfriend.

She seems to be handling everything very well but she said she is having trouble grieving my landlord. I guess she is in shock.

Who knows what is going to happen?!

A shocking week.

June 2, 2010

Wow, what a week it has been. Highs and lows and a lot of crazy times in between.

First of all, this time last week we were told that our landlords were selling our flat and we had a week to get out. Panic ensued, because we were leaving for Spain for six days the following day and there was no way we’d have time to find a new place.

The good thing about our house is that the rent is super cheap and all bills are included. The bad thing is that we don’t have a contract, we pay the money under our landlord’s door and our landlord is obviously not paying tax for the rental of our place.

Anyway, we managed to negotiate two weeks by pleading with them. The next day we left for Spain, which I will write about later with all the images included. We were having an amazing time away, cruising the northern coast in our rented campervan when we got a text from our housemate…

Our landlord had died! Dropped dead on a Friday night. Not sure what happened, but I think it was a heart attack. So sad, he was only in his early 40s. He was also a really nice guy who fixed anything that broke in our house ASAP.

We were seriously shocked and felt very bad for his girlfriend who he left behind. So tragic. 😦

Now we’re not sure if we have to move out after all. We’re not sure whether the house is being sold because I assume there’s a will to be sorted?

We got back from Spain really late last night and I’m absolutely knackered at work this morning. We’re having a meeting with our landlord’s girlfriend tonight, so time will tell whether we’ll be homeless (or not) this time next week.

Life is crazy and sometimes it throws odd balls at you. Travelling around in Spain and enjoying the sunshine made me realise just how important it is to live every day to the fullest and do everything you want to do, as soon as you can. Who knows, you may not be here tomorrow.

You have to ask yourself, ‘If I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy with all I’ve done?’ I can safely say that yes, I’m very pleased with the life I’ve lived. I do hope my landlord felt the same.