Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Big Interview

I hasn't even made it home when my Blackberry buzzed - an Email from the Howard League to say that I had scraped through the first hurdle and made it through to the final round. My first reaction was, bugger, how can I afford the return trip in less than 48 hours?! My second was - get in!

My family having yet again bailed me out, I set off for London. This time, I was deeply nervous, probably more so than when I faced my last Parole Panel. This was all new and I couldn't but wonder if I could accept the position if it was offered - and whether I could do the job. It would mean staying in London 4 nights a week - and persuading my Probation officer to agree to that. Hmmm!

The journey was so much simpler by train, to Tube, to bus, to feet.... Navigating the transport system of London doesn't seem to faze me overly much, given this was only my second attempt to conquer the city by myself. My usual strategy of "if you don't know, ask someone who does" seems to be paying dividends when travelling.

I was so successful that I found myself near the Howard League building with a full hour in hand, and bone dry to boot. Still extremely nervous I parked myself in a small neighbourhood cafe and sank a few cups of coffee, resisting the fleeting thought of diving into the pub across the road for a pint to settle my nerves.

Thirty minutes in hand I wandered down the road and up to the top floor. Causing a brief consternation with my electric fag, I settled in to plot on the opposition for the job. There were two, or three...we were staggered in time and so I am no wiser. Settling into a soft, if uncomfortable, chair I briefly chatted to one of the other candidates. An impossibly pretty Bright Young Thing who seemed to provide a steady source for the Howard, I had serious doubts as to my situation - did I belong here?

The interview was split into two parts, the first being a written exercise. While all around me others had their fingers flying with frightening competence across their keyboards, I hacked in my usual fashion with two fingers. Still, I completed my task with five minutes in hand...and was called in to the interview itself.

Decorum suggests that I draw a veil over what was a private meeting, save to say that Francis herself chaired proceedings and took me by surprise in her stance on a particular issue - it was more radical than my own! As with my first interview, the talking bit was where I felt more at ease, settling into the discussion. All too soon, it was over and I took a long meandering wander in the general direction of homeward bound.

Fortunately I had the opportunity to meet friends for supper. Unfortunately, this meant negotiating the Tube during rush hour.... Despite the heaving masses, I found myself in very good company and being presented with my first proper steak. It did not survive the encounter. This being London, the meal was served on wooden squares and I had to fight the urge to ask if they needed a few quid to buy proper china?

Devoured, drank and talked, then into the night to return to Paddington. It is a constant source of amusement to the Editor that I assume that everywhere in London is but a few minutes walk away, and I am continually reminded that the city is the size of a county. And, I learned, I had transversed the lot of it, meaning a long trip beneath the surface to reach the train home.

Along the way I felt the urge for caffeine and nicotine - my main forms of sustenance - and popped to the surface at Canada Waters. It was dark, crisp, the station seemed to me to be a temple to the capabilities of modern engineering, a marvel. Alas, one that failed to incorporate a coffee dispensing service... I wandered onto the streets, my pleas for coffee being met by strangers with vague gestures pointing to distant parts...across bridges, alongside water and ducks, the vista sparsely populated. Parts of cities look so much more ethereal by night.

Still bereft of coffee I continued along to Paddington, to be met by a shambolic information screen that ordered me to "ask information" - with the Information Desks unmanned. Grrrrr. Having missed one train, my last possible transport began at 11.30 pm. And then They decided it would grind to a halt halfway home and turn into a bus service. Frantic calls to the Editor, who booked a taxi to meet me at the nearest station at my ETA - 1.30 am, yawn.

Which is where I duly presented myself, in the cold drizzle, the whole town seemingly abandoned. To be called by the taxi company, "sorry, we can't come, the driver decided to go home..." Hope he slept well, the git! More phonecalls and another taxi was found. I rolled into bed at 2.30 am.

I would have slept in but was awaiting The Call. This time, I didn't get the job. Boo! But the whole experience was fascinating and I appreciate that my many talents do not extend to having extensive experience of office life. Another "thing" is in the offing, though....

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