ARRIVING IN LONDON
On the morning of Saturday the 29th November 2014, I lugged my heavy suitcase downstairs, and with my backpack and handbag on as well, I set off for Hull Interchange to board my train to London.
I had been planning it for weeks. I had my accommodation set up, my Oyster card with £10 on it, and my train tickets in my handbag. I was going to London to do my work placement with Libby London.
My suitcase was so heavy that my hands were going red where the handle touched them (and it’s on wheels). I was in such an obvious struggle with it that throughout the day three kind gentlemen helped me by carrying it downstairs for me. Obviously, some Londoners have manners even in stations. 🙂
So far so good, until I arrived in London, ended up at the correct tube station and then went in the wrong direction at the corner near Goldhawk Rd. I spent the next hour or so going in every direction but the correct one.
Eventually I noticed the map on the wall at Stamfood Brook (on my third visit that hour), photographed it, and used that to find my way. I found the correct house and met my landlady. She helped my carry my case upstairs and showed me my room, w/c and bathroom. I gave her the cheque and she gave me the keys and a map of useful things on Chiswick High Street.
After unpacking I went to the shops (Tesco’s Express and Sainsbury’s Local) to get some essentials like food and milk. After dinner (which was a single serving Chicken pie and chips), there wasn’t much to do so I got ready for bed. When snugly inside my featherbed (never had one before — they are heavy!) I watched Dad’s Army on iPlayer and FaceBooked my friends who had asked me to keep them up to date. I also booked a Brompton Bike and emailed Mum. 🙂
THE WEEKEND (memory is sketchy)
On Saturday, I got up early as I wanted to get my bike and explore. In a way that happened, but mainly because having got my bike and figured out how to fold/unfold it, I got off at the wrong stop on the overground and got lost. I eventually found my way back by following a bus (traffic is so slow that even I could do that) and then street signs when another bus blocked my view. In the afternoon I set off again on the Brompton to try to find where I now work. I took the scenic route and got lost again. I went to places in so many different directions that I don’t really know where they are, except that they are somewhere near the Thames (there are so many bridges!).
On Sunday, while trying to find Ingate Place, I did happen upon a MacDonald’s and had a Happy Meal (don’t laugh — they’re good value for money) and gave the toy to a child who was there with her Mum. The MacDonald’s food is so much better in London! You can get a plain burger without all that sauce and the gherkin, and it’s hot! Actually hot! Not just warmish! But I digress.
On Sunday I was so lost that I ended up near Harrod’s. I had to ask a policeman for directions. He asked his colleague, who consulted his smartphone. Even Londoners get lost in London. It’s not so bad that I did then, is it? Anyway, they gave me rough directions (with help from a cabbie who was picking up a fare) and I went towards the large Tesco’s.
Eventually I gave up walking my Brompton (I was tired and it’s geared very hard) and took the train back when I found a station. I got “home” quite late, had a bath, and got ready for the next day, exhausted.
I set off on the bike again. Not knowing the way and with new, but no more helpful directions, I got lost again. To add salt to the wound the Brompton decided to keep dropping its chain off. Three times I put it on! I gave up and walked. I phoned my boss and explained that I would be late because the chain kept falling off my bike, and she told me not to rush because she would be late too (the flu). (She is such a great boss!)
By 11am I gave up trying to find my way and went into the nearest Premiere Inn to ask them to book me a cab, which they very kindly did (and gained Brownie points with me). I got in the cab and called Libby (my boss) to get her postcode for the taxi driver and we got there by 20 past eleven. Amazingly, London cabs don’t take banking cards! I had to go right through my coin purse. It was £16 from Putney Bridge.
When I found the right room (which is quite small) in the maze that is the industrial area where the studio is located in SW London, I met Libby. She is a very nice person to work for. She showed me what we were to do today: pack some parcels neatly. I also sewed up a dropped hem and a size label that wasn’t attached to a dress. In the afternoon she had to go to a meeting, the post office, and to a warehouse. She would have taken me to the warehouse, but as it was on one trip and she couldn’t take me to the meeting, she went on her own.
She had given me some things to do though. I was to source some buttons for samples, take messages on the phone, take some deliveries that she had arranged, and make a flared skirt pattern to match a photograph she had. I did all this, and was just finishing the skirt’s lining pattern when she got back several hours later.
By then it was about time to go home. She kindly found me the way on her smartphone (I have since bought a Vodafone Smart Turbo with 4G), and I took the tube and train. Libby also clarified for me that the number that flashes on the oyster card scanner is the balance on your card, not the cost of the trip (that’s a relief).
The bike is no good as the chain won’t stay on the front sprocket. I will return it to a dock on Saturday and complain to Brompton. I want to see if I can get my membership fee back. I’m so glad I didn’t buy a Brompton folding bike! I’m going to take public transport. I can’t be spending 3 hours getting more and more lost when I could spend 40 minutes on the train and tube (without having to carry a Brompton with me) and getting to work on time! And I have so many bruises on my legs from how I have to carry the “lightweight” bike that I look like I’m part giraffe!
When I got back to Chiswick I bought some frozen pizzas and honey at Tesco Express. I wanted to get pizza because a place I passed repeatedly this morning had the aroma wafting out of it. It wasn’t even a pizza place! All in all, not a bad day!
I arrived nearly on time. Today we did stock-taking and organising. This meant that when we knew what we had, I would fold up the garments that we didn’t need out and put them in individual bags on the shelf. We also posted some orders, and I got logged into the company’s online accounts.
The PR lady, called Emily, was in today. She is electrically enthusiastic! She is working with various magazines (like GRAZIA and BRIDES) to increase the awareness of our brand. I think she’s also working with the Guardian. We want to get into the business section so that we can connect with our target audience: intelligent business women who want to look nice as well as professional.
Today we measured the sample garments to check their resemblance to the patterns. This showed that some of the garments had stretched, some had shrunk, and some were correct. We had to drop one design because the fabric was a nightmare for the factory to sew.
We also finalised a dress design for SS15, which meant that I held the pin cushion and agreed while Libby draped some fabric to resemble the design she had and decide which fabric should go where, and which side out (double-faced fabric).
After that we went to two factories. At the first one we arranged for samples to be made, and at the other we collected some garments and buttons. The first factory also makes for Christopher Kane. 🙂 The bosses were quite convivial — one gave me a hug! I was to say the least surprised by their informality.
Libby seemed stressed this morning so I made us a cup of tea each to cheer her up.
Today I sketched some designs for the SS15 collection (I know it’s late, but the company has been making changes and we’re thus behind). When the designer comes we will discuss them.
In the afternoon we went for a fitting at No.1 London Bridge for some uniforms for the lobby girls at Howard Kennedy. The dresses were too big on top so we checked the measurements when we got back. It fits the fit model correctly, and the mannequin. We think the problem was probably with us those three girls, though it is a coincidence. They are cowl neck dresses and they seemed to start hanging off the shoulders. We’re sending the dresses to the factory to be altered.
On the way to the fitting I dropped off a parcel. We listened to music in the car (Libby has quite varied tastes and I was glad to see that she listens to Magic too).
When we got back we had another cup of tea and some biscuits before I went “home”. On the way home I got on the wrong Waterloo train and ended up in Westminster, where I caught the train/tube back to Stamford Brook. My smartphone’s data isn’t working yet; I can’t register my account at Vodafone because they’re having technical difficulties. I can’t be the only one with trouble either because on Friday the 5th December I rang the customer services number and was on hold for so long that I gave up. It cost me nearly £5!
I arrived 10 minutes early (celebration smile!).
Today I made some boxes for sending orders in and folded the tissue paper neatly for them. I also improved a dress that someone has ordered, so that the v-shaped darts look nice instead of like a deflated bust. It took me most of the day to get it just right, but it’s important to have high quality work.
Libby went to pick up some jackets for a uniforms order, and we had to use the loading bay lift to get them upstairs. Once we had put the labels with the girls’ names on onto the jackets, she went to a fitting. They will need a few alterations, but she thinks that we can do those without sending them to the factory.
While she was out a dress came back from Woman & Home magazine because the lady had selected the wrong size. We will send her the right size.
Libby’s mum went to collect some dresses from our factory and had navigational problems, but got there in the end.
I lost my umbrella so I had to buy a new one when I got home. I was going to buy one at Victoria Station but to give you some idea of the price hike in stations a packet of chocolate digestives was £2.60 at their WHSmiths, while at Tesco Express (which is a convenience store and may be still overpriced) they are £1. I’m not paying that sort of inflation rate!
Stayed in bed for an extra hour this morning (first time in a fortnight!). Took Brompton bike back to dock at Ealing Broadway. I’m actually glad to be rid of it. For all they’re meant to be convenient, I found it a burden. They are heavy (to me), geared hard (so no fun to ride), the wheels are too small for my liking (you can feel the difference), and you have to fold them up and take them into every shop you go to. I much prefer to lock a bike up outside hand instead of having to push, pull or carry it around with me. It’s almost like having a huge metal baby with no pushchair. I’ll be glad to get back on my own dear bike at home.
Anyway, while I was in Ealing I went round the shops. You would be amazed how difficult it is to find tights in London! I did find some (on sale!) at Boots so I bought three packs. They should have been about £8 for 3 pairs, but today it was £6, and buy-2-get-third-free. So I have saved £12!
I wandered into a shopping centre where they have — you’ll never guess — Santa’s taxi! I’ve never seen one before. When I was a child it was Santa’s Grotto. Don’t they have those any more?
I had a Happy Meal for lunch (it was so nice and hot!) and went “home”.
Since coming to London I have spent £78.60 on food, drink (counting MacDonald’s), and other essentials like bathroom things. I suppose for London that’s not bad for one person, especially considering I’ve been eating more (working has increased my appetite, and yet I’ve lost weight!).
Of course I’ve spent quite a lot on transport, owing somewhat to my apparent tendency to get lost. On transport (counting train fare back to Hull) I’ve spent:£117.05 (including what I still have on my Oyster card).
On “other” (my smartphone, top-up, phone case, and umbrella): £91.50.
My rent, including a £1000 deposit which I get back when I leave, is £2450.
There were other expenses for coming to do my work placement in London too, like my fares to get here (£38.75 + £2.05 bus fare), the purchase of a suitcase (£45 on sale — which I’ll need for Paris anyway), and the Brompton Bike Hire (😒) at £20, but they credited £20 to my Brompton account when I complained. I had it a week, so that’s £17.50. Total for this paragraph: £103.50.
Total expenses so far: £2840.45, less deposit, =£1840.45. Bear in mind that that will not be my weekly expenditure. The rent is for the full four weeks at £350 pw. So my weekly expenses will be about £545.65 — gosh! How do people afford to live in London (answer: they have jobs and cheaper accommodation).
I will update you next week. 🙂