Monday, 12 December 2011

Moving On

As I may have mentioned, back in the misty dawns of time, I had the Shepherd's Bush house only until 10th December. As that date has now gone, the clever sparks among you may notice that that means I have moved house.

So here I am, technically in my third London address since September. I'm in Islington, which is just where I wanted to be, which makes me happy. The flat is great, the room bigger and the area lovely. Overall I'm really pleased to have moved, but I think it would be unfair to not mention the things I will miss about White City:
  • I will miss living near Uxbridge Road, the BBC and Westfield shopping centre.
  • I will miss my funny little room, and having a space for everything.
  • I will miss the Central line and White City tube station, and knowing exactly where on the platform to board the train so as to be right next to the exit when getting off at the other end.
  • I will miss the local shops, pool and cafes.
  • I will miss my favourite walk from home to work via Hyde Park.

The Ladykillers is going really well. I have been on bar a lot so far, and it's been busy. On Wednesday, we had our press night. For someone who is supposed to be just 'bar cover', somehow I was serving drinks on both the closing night of Yes Prime Minister AND the press night of Ladykillers. Not going to lie, the shift was pretty hellish. I was on the foyer bar, so had the onslaught from the moment we opened. However, the atmosphere (other than my stress) was pretty fun: we had security guards on the door as there were barriers outside, lots of people, lots of excitement and us lot looking out for any celebrities that may come in!! There weren't as many as I'd hoped, although I did see Rob Brydon and Matt Berry. I chatted for a while to the producer and saw Graham Linehan again.

The best part of the evening, however, was the after party! We were all invited walked over the the Spice Market (a swanky Indian restaurant within a hotel on Leicester Square) after the shift. The place was packed with the cast, crew, members of the press - most of whom were relaxing after their evening, some of whom were still working by interviewing the cast members. There was a free bar and free Indian canopes being brought round (which were DIVINE, although a little too thin on the ground! At one point, someone in our group worked out the route the waiters were using and moved us all over so that we could intercept them early!)

Perhaps even better was, once I'd come back to consciousness the next day (with a headache and inexplicable pain in my thumb), reading the fantastic reviews the show had got! Here's a summary of a few of them: I'm so happy for them all!

And so we have continued since! On Saturday night, customers spent £8000 on drinks, ice creams and programmes. It's so great to be working on such a popular show! The celebs have been trickling in since too - I have seen Katherine Parkinson, Heston Blumenthal, Reece Shearsmith, and, somewhat unusually, Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury! I sold Reece S an ice cream this evening. I feel we have a bond now.

Finally, happily, my Joana is finally here and I had a great evening on Sunday with her, her two friends and Jella for lots of catching up and laughter. Cupcakes were also sought predicted. Great to see her and show her London, 2 weeks before Christmas!!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dear Lord...

...Thank you for my fabulous week...

Saturday 19th November

Thank you for my survival of the last crazy day of the show. Thank you for the bar shift being not as bad as it was on the previous Friday night. Thank you for the lovely lunch with my work mates between shows with the table in the corner and the candles and the huge amazing pizza. Thank you for getting us to the end of the night and the show in one piece. Thank you for the little mince pie I got from the cast as they celebrated on the stage before the show started that evening. Thank you for the amusement of seeing the body guards of the Colombian president checking out his seat and the whole rest of the theatre before it started. Thank you for the free glass of Veuve Clicquot I got to drink at the end of the show after he left a whole bottle behind! Seriously, cheers thanks a lot for that. Thank you for the amazingly fun night we had at the Phoenix theatre bar afterwards with nearly the whole gang. Thanks for the amusement created by Doctor 'Matt Smith' Who being there and for his patience with certain overexcited people ;) Thank you for the nice cab driver who got us back to Shepherd's Bush at 4am and for the Cornish pasty seller not killing my drunk friend.

Sunday 20th November

Thank you for getting me on a train to Kent reasonably early despite only having had about 2 hours sleep. Thank you for the pleasure of home comforts, good food, and getting to see my brilliant family. Thanks for  all the little things that being there bring - a cosy night in, cuddles with the cats and fresh country air. Thank you for me being able to call that and them 'home'.

Monday 21st November

Thank you for the chance to see Katy and her beautiful little boy and my godson-to-be. Thanks for keeping them both so healthy and happy. It's so great to see him grow; he's now able to smile and lift his head and interact with objects and people and his surroundings a little more. I can't wait to be his godmother on 15th January!

Thank you for my evening in the audience at the Graham Norton show! It was so much fun and such an experience. Thank you for it being no problem to find as I explored the area last week (and walked past Jonathan Ross!) Thank you to the lovely Justyna who gave me her free ticket and was so nice. Thank you for the random collide of fate which gave her priority tickets that very week she was in London, and the very week that the exquisite Jennifer Saunders was on. Thank you for the brilliance of being on the front row but not ever in shot!! Thank you for the screaming JLS fans outside afterwards who led us to where the celebrities came out afterwards!

Tuesday 22nd November

Thank you for the chance to finally appreciate a night off in London! Thank you for a lovely evening of food, drink and gossip with my gorgeous friend Sophie. Even though we couldn't get into Gordon's wine bar, we had a great meal and plenty of wine which went down very nicely!

Thank you for London being just such a great place to be.

Wednesday 23rd November

Thank you for the find of my new flat!! Thank you for aligning the stars so that the guy who happened to post the advert, which I happened to reply to happens to know someone I know and for that being a good opening into friendship and trust! Thanks that the flat is in my desired location, and is really lovely and that my new flatmate is cool and laidback and friendly and easy to chat to... thanks also that he's such an interesting, spiritual kind of person who keeps stuffed dead animals in his living room. Thanks for me not being arachnophobic and therefore not put off by the huge stuffed spider he has mounted on the wall of his toilet!

Thank you for yet another great chance to spend an evening out in London. Thank you for the cheap and great seats I picked up at the last minute to see Joanna Lumley and Robert Lindsay in 'The Lion in Winter' at the Theatre Royal. Thanks again that Sophie could join me at the last minute. Thanks for 2-4-1 pizzas at Pizza Express with Orange Wednesdays. Thanks for free dough balls and garlic bread. Thanks for the loveliness of a freezing cold Trafalgar Square as a venue for making phone calls and waiting. Thanks for the brilliance of the play: its cast, hilarious script, beautiful scenery, costumes and lighting and sprinkling of Christmas spirit.

Thursday 24th November

Thanks for a chance to browse around Camden market. Thanks for making the weather still mild enough that I could buy lunch from a stall and eat it outside. Thanks for the little pang of emotion I felt when walking into a shop there and hearing Amy Winehouse's 'Rehab' playing. Thanks for my giggly hairdresser Raymond who was desperate to cut my hair really short as he reckoned I would really suit a very short bob. Thanks for making it not too painful handing out lots of cash to secure the room in Islington. Thanks for the London Overground system which I discovered for the first time as there's a station right near my new flat.

Friday 25th November

Thank you for my lovely work mates, who made the return to work for training almost a pleasure, despite the dullness of the 4 hour session! Thank you for the amusing moments such as the role plays. Thanks for the little sneak peeks we took of the stage as they were rehearsing and for how amazing it all looked and sounded. Thank you for the chance to meet and chat to one of the cast members (Stephen Wight) outside stage door afterwards who seemed very nice and friendly. Thanks for the fact that I accidently got lost when I went for a wander after work as I discovered a very cute Christmas market outside of St James' church on Piccadilly and gorgeous little shopping arcades of the type they have in Cardiff, which I've missed so much.

Saturday 26th November

Thank you, thank you for this long, exhausting, amazingly fun day! Thank you for getting me up and into London with plenty of time to spare in the morning (I was due to meet Sophie and 9.45). Thank you for me getting there so early I had time to drop my bag at work, and therefore get to sneak backstage to see the back of the new set. Also it was interesting seeing Soho in the morning! Very odd - almost unrecognisable! Thank you for the simply fabulous morning we had at the Dress for Success event. It was a pretty unique experience; a charity fashion event in the House of St Barnabus, Soho Square: a big old Georgian property, with lot of rooms all full of rails of clothes, raffles, cosmetics and all other things girly. Thank you for the free champagne and cupcake included with the ticket - it really was a morning that could have been designed for me! To add to this, the event was advertised as being hosted by Jennifer Saunders and Betty Jackson (I know, I know - I've been a tad stalkerish this week but I can't help it!) and we would have the chance to 'hear them in conversation' (they're patrons of the charity). They eventually turned up - fashionably late, of course! - and there she was again! <3 Thank you for keeping me upright. Thank you for her gracious, down-to-earth personality which ensured that she was happy to mingle amongst everyone there for over an hour, chatting, drinking champagne, posing for pictures and doing a little shoppin'. Thank you for the 3 separate conversations I got to have with her and for having another picture taken with her. Thank you for the amusement caused when we noticed her daughter was working collecting empty glasses; thank you for it being our pleasure to make her pleased by being recognised! Thank you for the opportunity to dress up a bit and wear my beautiful Dune heels. Thank you for the giggles created by us realising that there was no official 'in conversation' and the idea that the advert could have meant hearing them in conversation by eavesdropping! Thank you for a great chilled out lunch in Soho afterwards with Sophie. Thank you for olives and Whittard's iced tea.

Thank you for getting us through another long and dull training session at work that afternoon ahead of opening night. Thank you for making the managers listen to my plea and not putting me on bar this week! Thank you for the fact that I enjoyed going back to work even after such a fantastic week off. Thank you for the excitement of seeing for the first time our 'House Full' sign! Thank you that our new co-workers seem nice.  Thank you for the buzz and excitement - and stress! - of such a busy opening night. Sadly I haven't got to see any of the play yet but it looks and sounds amazing and the audience at the end seemed really positive about it. Thanks for the chance to meet the brilliant Graham Linehan during the interval. Thanks also for us all getting to meet the wonderful Marcia Warren at the end of the show as she appeared in the foyer looking lost on the way to the after party! Thank you for the prospect of a busy and fun few weeks/months ahead!


Monday, 14 November 2011

And in other news...

OK OK, I won't just leave it at that. I will expand and give a full update of events of the last couple of weeks.

Firstly, I just about managed to avoid the screaming Belieberites in Westfield. I was in there just before though, and wondered what he was there to do, as I couldn't really see any Christmas lights... there were some on the outside of the building, but the people inside would not have been able to see them. And there were some Christmas trees outside with fairy lights on, but I couldn't picture him scrabbling underneath the lower branches to plug them in... although that might have been more entertaining! I shall have to pay a visit sometime to see if it's anymore obvious without the thousands of sobbing teenage girls in the way.

All the lights in central London are now on. Here's some pictures:

Battle of the department stores:

Selfridges window displays:

Cool Carnaby Street:

Although autumn has nearly been usurped altogether by winter, there still are some beautiful colours around. Here's another of Hyde Park when I was walking though last week:

It's all very pretty but it's certainly getting cold!

Had a wonderful Sunday yesterday with Sophie. We went to Kenwood House, which is an English Heritage property in Hampstead Heath. It was a gorgeous autumn day so it was lovely strolling around. Inside the house itself they have lots of portraits, including Rembrandts and Constables, plus the most beautiful library I've ever seen! Afterwards, we walked up the road for Sunday roast at a pub called the Spaniards. It is one of London's oldest pubs and features in Dickens' The Pickwick Papers; Keats is said to have written poetry there, and legend also has it that highwayman Dick Turpin was born there. I don't know about all that, but can confirm it was very busy, they had a lovely log fire burning in the corner and we spent quite a few hours eating good food, drinking good drinks and having a great catch up :) The pub itself coupled with the dog walkers coming in from leafy Highgate made it feel just like being in a country pub. Perfect!

One more week left of the show! I had bar training and did my first shift on bar tonight. I think I'll prefer doing front of house, but it'll be nice to do something different from time to time. Plus there's tips to be had on bar (sshh!) and you get to leave earlier, which is nice. Missed working with my normal lovelies though.

Celeb spots have picked up again in frequency! Out and about too - not just in the theatre. I have spotted Ronni Ancona and Paloma Faith in my travels, plus someone who looked a LOT like Bill Nighy - can't be sure it was him but I really hope it was! Plus Angus Deayton came into see the show and Richard Curtis. Which brings us back to the nuts.

It was on Wednesday night. After the latecomers had been taken in, the people on front doors came into the foyer to tell us that Richard Curtis was in! How exciting! I resolved to make sure I saw him before the end of the evening. About three or four of us were left in the foyer to sort through the ticket stubs. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and a young woman was outside. Tony went to let her in, and she was followed by a guy with a large frizzy afro haircut. The interesting thing was that the girl was dressed in a kangaroo costume. They blathered on and on for 5 minutes about why they were late, the tube delays, how they were worried they'd miss the show, how they were so pleased we could take them in, etc etc. But not once did she offer an explanation as to why she was dressed as a marsupial. Hm. Tony took them into the stalls, ensuring everyone inside the auditorium could get a good look at her. As soon as they'd left, the rest of us died laughing.
During the interval, I was posted at the back of the stalls. I soon spotted kangaroo girl, but there was no sign of Richard Curtis. Then, suddenly, he appeared, clutching an ice cream! Oh joy! He was on the same row as kangaroo girl! I got to witness RC climbing over the girl dressed as a kangaroo to get to his seat. One of the great perks of my job hahahahaha! Oh - and for the record, I stole his half empty box of unwanted nuts after he'd finished them, not for some crazy cloning experiment or because I'm a freakish fan or because I plan to put them on ebay - it's just so I can use the sentence 'I stole Richard Curtis' nuts'. Honest!

So, week off next week. It'll be a busy one, but lots of fun and exciting stuff planned! More details to come.

Have done an infintessimal amount of Christmas shopping and should probably do more soon. Met up with the lovely Jess and Alan last weekend for lunch as they were in London for the weekend. Ollie has gone to Singapore and we managed to Skype on Saturday which was lovely :) I'm hoping to get out there for a visit in the new year. I am promised lots of a) heat and b) noodles.

Apple crumble cupcake is good.

A sentence not everyone can say...

I stole Richard Curtis' nuts!!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Christmas Lights

The good news is, Oxford Street Christmas lights are ON!

(excuse phone camera quality pictures)

The bad news is, I've just learnt that the Westfield shopping centre lights will be switched on next week by Justin Bieber.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Walk in the West and Other Musings

A couple of times now I have walked all the way into work from home. It's a journey of about 6 miles, and it's really quite interesting and varied, so I thought I'd talk you through some of the highlights.

1. Uxbridge Road
To begin, I leave my little area and head east up Uxbridge Road towards Shepherd's Bush. It's a busy throughfare, carrying a constant stream of people, cars, buses, bikes and taxis in and out of Central London. Follow it far enough west, and you can join up with the main roads which take you out of the capital towards the M25 and other main routes. East, and you're heading right into the heart of the city. It's a very multi-cultural area, with people of all races and religions to be found here. The shops match: a mix of halal kebab and fried chicken shops, cloths and materials, fruit and veg shops, newsagents, cafes and hardware stores. The further east you go, the more mainstream it becomes, so that by the time you've passed Shepherd's Bush market, you reach more westernised shops, such as Sainsburys, McDonalds and Starbucks.

2. Shepherd's Bush
This is taken to the extreme at the far end, by Shepherd's Bush station. Next to it is the huge commercial Westfield shopping centre, with its high street chain strores such as TopShop, Debenhams, H&M etc, as well as its high end 'Village' section, containing designer shops such as Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffanys and Versace. Plus, in the true spirit of Western consumerism, more restaurants and cafes than can possibly ever be visited, selling everything from what they call "Vietnamese Street food" to crepes to burgers.

3. Holland Park
After crossing a busy road, the route heads up Holland Park Avenue. Instantly, things are quieter and leafier, and you pass extremely rich side roads such as the Royal Crescent. A few shops are scattered at intervals along here, all with the same sense of exclusivity: restaurants, bohemian looking cafes and expensive hair dressers.

4. Notting Hill
On the first time I did the walk, I took a detour through Portobello Road (on the cupcake trail again, as it happened). Notting Hill has a reputation for being cool, artsy and hip, for pretty good reason. There is a lot of junk in stalls on Portobello Road Market, but there are a lot of interesting and unique shops there too, which (so long as you avoid going on a Saturday) are easy to waste time browsing in. My favourite bit of Portobello Road though is the pretty line of pastel-coloured houses which line the street before the market itself. The main road through Notting Hill is far less interesting: busy and packed with standard shops such as WHSmiths.

5. Hyde Park
Although not the most direct route, strolling through the Park is far nicer than carrying on along the traffic-clogged Bayswater Road. I love escaping into Hyde Park; I instantly feel much calmer and more peaceful once away from the fumes and noise. Even though hundreds of people do the same, the park is vast enough so that you can cut off down little paths and actually be alone. It's a varied space, with the lake taking up much of the centre (although the surrounding green is huge enough so that it is possible to walk from end to end and not actually see the Serpentine), trees providing welcome shade in the summer and a beautiful backdrop of orange in the autumn and open areas of grass. It is popular with dogwalkers and horse riders (I even found a manege the other day!)
^Hyde Park all autumny.

6. Mayfair
By exiting the Park at its eastern edge, you cross Park Lane and enter Mayfair. Well, what can I say? We're in the dark blue area of the Monopoly board here! Now the edges of the streets are lined with brand new, extremely posh sports cars and Chelsea tractors. It is quiet and residential at first, and then the shops start to appear. It puts Westfield's 'The Village' to shame! We are in the region now of Savile Row, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, Claridges Hotel and Sotheby's auction house. I think one sight which best summarises this area is as follows: outside one tall townhouse between Park Lane and Grovesnor Square, someone had put out their recycling to be collected in a Selfridge's Food Hall bag. Ha! Enough said.

7 Regent Street
Dividing Mayfair and Soho is Regent Street. Beautifully designed, it really is a gorgeous road, and now everything is much busier again. Although it gives off the appearance of being upmarket and exclusive - and does contain some such shops - it is very much on the tourist trail and so the chainstores reappear here.

It is also possible to exit Hyde Park through a more northerly route, by Marble Arch and walk down Oxford Street, which is similar in many ways to Regent Street. My main observation of both of these streets lately is how Christmassy they are already looking. The lights are up (but thankfully not on yet), but the department stores have already gone majorly festive. The window displays in Selfridges are absolutely stunning; John Lewis has bordered itself with blue lights and Liberty has decked its halls!

8. Soho
So, cross Regent Street, walk past Liberty and you are in Soho. Soho has, a little surprisingly, really grown on me. I know it quite well now and love its eclectic mix of eccentric shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. It has a reputation as being quite sleazy, and to be fair the area just behind my theatre IS full of 'adult' shops and I know for a fact there is more than one brothel around. But, that aside, it's a great area. It has such character, always has such a buzz about it and is the best place to find independent shops and cafes. There are several record shops, a large vintage clothing shop, a coffee shop which gives a 10% discount for those who work in theatre(!) and lots of quirky little cafes (many of which do amazing cakes, of course!!). There is little traffic in Soho as there are so many tiny roads, alleyways and dead ends, so it is only taxi drivers and other interprid motorists which make it around there. The outdoor market on Berwick Street produces amazing smells and adds a splash of colour. The mix of people is extraordinary and there is always something different to see (plus I spotted Mackenzie Crook again the other day, coming out of the stage door at the Apollo!). I still find it bizarre how the glitzy theatres of Shaftesbury Avenue back directly onto this neon-signed, dark-alleywayed, intriguing, pulsing area. But I like it.

Little bit of browsing in Harrods and Harvey Nics the other day was all kinds of nice, although I still cannot get over the fact that there are actually people in there who actually buy stuff. I watched, fascinated for a while, as a woman (and her husband, who was clutching his credit card) tried on £700 worth of Vivienne Westwood coat, and another girl not even flinch when told that the Jimmy Choos she was trying on were £600. Wow. I satisfied myself with a free sample of gorgeous cheese in Harrods and gorgeous chocolate in Harvey Nicholls.

So, 3 weeks left of this show, a week off and then the new one begins. We've been pretty busy lately as the show's being to come to its end. The actors - I think - are getting better! And I feel quite friendly with Simon Williams as he always waves to me when he's warming up and I'm checking the seats. Last week, the actors came into the audience at the end of every show to do a collection for charity, so it was our job to stand by them and take the buckets off them at the end. SW nearly got me in trouble by suggesting I gave one man a free programme when he donated generously to the pot. I couldn't. Tsk. It's funny watching people react to the actors - they really did show off with how much they were putting in the buckets. I'm sure if it had been us ushers holding them, we wouldn't have raised anywhere near as much. By the end of the week, our theatre alone raised £3700. And this was happening across the West End.

One more highlight to tell you of, and that was working at 'Mamma Mia!' on Tuesday! We were asked last week if we were interested in working a shift there, as they were putting on an extra matinee for half term week and needed more staff. Obviously I jumped at the chance. Absolutely loved it! Their staff area is backstage so the ushers' dressing room is right along the corridor from the actors'. I got to see most of the show and it was just amazing! It was so cool, getting paid to watch it, when I'd have happily paid to watch it! It's such a feel-good show: I came out with a huge smile on my face. And haven't stopped singing Abba in my head since. It was also lovely getting to work with a different type of audience - there were lots of families there, including young children, and the little girls had all dressed up in their party frocks to go to the theatre - so cute! I showed one very excitable pair of girls up to one of the boxes with their parents (who were almost as excited! ;) ) and sold 40 ice creams in the interval. 40! Lots of fun all round; I hope to do it again some time! Or perhaps somewhere else? What else haven't I seen? Les Mis?!?!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Random Recent Observations

1. One of the lights in the BBC Television Centre has broken so it now reads 'BBC Televiion Centre'.

2. I saw a very posh silver car driving out of the above mentioned place with the number plate 'W12 BBC'. Director General?! Or just a very proud worker?

3. Press night at next door theatre last night. Red carpet and a queue round the corner and up the road. Our next press night will be mental!

4. Boss said that if we up our programme sales to 20% of the audience, she'll get us all an ice cream. If you're good, I'll buy you an ice cream OK?!

5. 18 people left during the interval yesterday with one group complaining so much they wanted their money back. Apparently they were shocked and offended. By the play's plot, not our ice cream/programme selling, I hasten to add.

6. Spotted Mark Rylance again. He's cool.

7. It's cold now. Definitely. This means new coat (yay!) and scarf and boots and tights and all things nice.

8. I went swimming the other day. Yes, me! Leisure centre just up the road. I did 55 lengths and for the last 5 minutes was the only person in the pool. I got out partly so the lifeguard could go on his break.

9. The Comic Strip Presents: The Hunt for Tony Blair. Nuff said.

10. And for the essential cupcake update. I sent Viv and Jo a picture a while back of a display of cupcakes in a shop window. Finally got round to going in and trying one. OMG - so so gorgeous! Great range of choices, plus they had some very cute Halloween ones in. The disadvantage was that there was hardly any seating in the cafe so I got a takeaway. The advantage of this was it came in a cute box.

It was more expensive than the secret cupcake but probably slightly nicer even. There are more than one of these bakeries in London so I'm going to do some further scouting to see if any of the other branches have more seating. I shall of course keep you posted! ;)

Friday, 14 October 2011

Home again, home again.

OK so I won't dwell on the holiday as this is a blog about London. Suffice to say that Dubrovnik was beautiful, weather lovely at first, and we had a great time until the 2nd day when I got violently ill, spent the rest of the time in bed and am still no longer able to look at garlic. Moving on...

I got back to London on Monday having landed in Derby on Sunday. Still a bit wobbly and washed out, I took the night off work sick Monday night, which was a good move as by Tuesday I felt better. Think the initial novelty of living here must be starting to wear off, as I actually allowed myself a day at home without getting itchy feet thinking I should be off out exploring somewhere.

Work this week has been fine - quite quiet with only the mild drama of some works going on outside causing the stalls bar to flood, leaving us with a very squelchy carpet and a lot of customers having to traipse upstairs to get their interval fuel elsewhere.

Bit of a weird moment yesterday in the interval. A American man walked back into the theatre having taken some air outside and I said "Enjoy the second half". He paused and looked at me and said, matter-of-factly: "You have a funny accent." I told him, in a surprised tone, that I was from Kent, near London. He once again informed me "It's funny," and just walked off! Slightly offended.

The other change this week is that big boss is back and has told us we have to start actively selling the programmes and other merchandise. So I had to stand on the front doors last night as everyone was leaving yelling 'Programmes! Merchandise!" and feeling like a complete tit. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work. Only did it because she was watching - I don't expect I'll put myself out quite so much when she's not around!

After work last night we all went out for a birthday. About 20 of us descended on La Tasca at about 10.45pm which I'm sure they loved (it's alright - they were warned in advance). Had a great night though and a good meal. Afterwards, the plan was to go to a salsa club for dancing, but the place was closed! Instead, those among us in the know took us to a theatre bar - ie a 'club' exclusively for people who work in theatre. I have become a lovvie. Apparently it used to be a place where theatre crews and the stars working on the West End came to escape for a quiet drink where they knew they wouldn't be disturbed by autograph hunters. Not quite like that any more - it's a little cheesy and self-important - but still quiet enough to be able to get a seat and have a they played lots of cheesy show tunes which was a hit with our lot!

Weather truly autumnal enough now (finally) to be able to get out the boots and scarf and tights and coat. Hurrah! Went for a wander before work yesterday and sat in Berkely Square feeling satisyingly chilly. Noticed too that some of the Christmas lights have been erected on Oxford Street in preparation... eek!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Secret Cupcakes

Major update on the cupcake search. A friend at work yesterday told me about a secret cafe hidden above a ***** in ***** (I think if I tell you, they have to kill me, so I shall keep schtum because I want to be allowed back!)

OK, I'm exaggerating. You do have to know it's there to notice it, but it's also advertised outside the PUB which is in SOHO ;)

So I went along. Oh. Em. Gee. It's beautiful. It's all done in 1940s style, with little chairs and tables laid with floral tablecloths and cakestands. When I arrived noone else was there, but shortly after me two other parties turned up. In the corner there was a proper old record player playing typical songs from the '40s.

I sat at a table near the open window (weather finally broken - ish - it was cloudy today and breezy, but still not cold) and browsed the menu. Oh heavens. So much amazing looking choice. When the waitress (wearing a little white pinny) came to take my order I chose a tea and asked about cupcakes. I was given a choice of four flavours and chose the lemon curd. The tea came first, and I was provided with a set of china crockery, a tea strainer (excellent sign as I was so disappointed that the cafes I've tried so far served tea in teabags!) and a little egg timer. She told me that the tea would be brewed and ready when the sand ran out. Exciting!

The cupcake was beautiful, light and crumbly with a gorgeous and generous swirl of lemony icing on top, which was not too sickly; there was also lemon curd in the centre of the cake. The tea was also very nice. It wasn't cheap, but not too expensive either - my bill came to around £5. Worth it I think for the escape into such a quaint little place, free from the crowds of tourists.

Shall I become a food critic? I could so do this full time...

Last night at work this evening for a while - I'm off to Croatia on Thursday morning! Via Derby tomorrow. So this will be my last update for a little while. Have a good week, lovely readers :)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Autumn Daze?

A welcome breeze today, but still completely gorgeous. Managed to chill out a bit at home this morning and didn't head out til after lunch. I got the tube to Belsize Park and wandered in the sunshine down the hill through Chalk Farm and to Primrose Hill. There I found a little cafe where I could sit outside to have tea and cake. The cake was still warm - delicious! Oh so terribly civilised.

From there I walked into the park itself and lolled about in the sun looking down over London.

It was great as it was quite quiet being as it was a Monday. Yesterday I spent part of the afternoon in the park in Holland Park. It was incredibly beautiful but every available space was packed with people. Mostly incredible posh people too, seeing as it's such an affluent area (the houses are unbeLIEVable). I settled in a spot next to a mother and grandmother who had taken 2 children to the park for a picnic. The little boy was called Dylan and as soon as he ran off more than two metres in any direction there were cries of "Careful, Diddy! Oh Dilly, come back to mummy now! Watch him, darling!" Hahahahahaha. The grandmother also looked the utter stereotype of aristocracy - all coiffed and elegant with her blonde hair pulled back in a headband and chin raised to the heavens.

So anyway. Primrose Hill was much less civilised, happily. I decided I may as well go the whole hog and walk to work from there as I really didn't fancy getting on a tube when it was so beautiful outside. So I continued down the hill, past London Zoo and through Regent's Park. I can't remember the last time I felt so peaceful and happy and content. There was a little buzz of people about, just sauntering through the park without the normal sense of London rush. The sun was warm still but beginning to get low in the sky, and so gave everything a slightly yellowish glow. The air smelt of the fallen autumn leaves which covered the pathway: one of my favourite smells, I think.

At the bottom of the park I found Portland Place which took me past BBC Broadcasting House (such a cool building! More BBC employees, hm) and to Oxford Street!  Quite a walk in the end, but still ended up in Soho at just after 5, so grabbed a curry in the sushi place opposite work before going into work.

Another quiet night at the theatre in all. It's all getting so natural now. At the end of the night my boss annouced they were holding a competition this week with a prize for whoever sells the most programmes. Typical I'm only here for 2 days! And wasn't on programme selling duty tonight, so unless I can sell a truckload tomorrow I think I shall concede defeat on that one. Bah.

Still loving the randomness of the theatre world. Tonight 2 of my work mates were arguing about how nice the girl who plays Tracy Beaker is. ('She's lovely!' 'No, she's so stuck up!' 'Well I know someone who lived with her for two years who says she's nice and every time I've met she's been nice.' 'Well to be fair, every time I've seen her she's been drunk.'... etc etc) One of them has a call-back to audition as her love interest in a spin off show apparently. Hope he gets it, that would be too cool. Although it is the one who doesn't like her, which could be awkward.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sunshine and Celeb Spotting

I write from my bed next to the open window. Outside the sun is still blazing down, as it has been all week, and the air smells of barbeques. All this at the beginning of October. It's a strange sensation, walking about in a sundress in 29 degree heat, crunching through autumn leaves and fallen conkers. Am certainly not complaining though!

Had a fantastic time with Ellen. She arrived in the blistering heat and so we began by having a little picnic in a park near the river. Ruby's show was excellent. Truly brilliant: at times very funny and then immediately shocking or poignant, mixed with beautiful music sung by the very talented Judith Owen. Really glad we went before it closes.

The rest of our time was really marked by a variety of celebrity spots (just as I was complaining they'd all gone into hiding!) On the way to work we nearly got run over by Helen Lederer, hurrah! :D Then I met up with some workmates and we saw Mackenzie Crook buried under a baseball cap in McDonalds and Mark Rylance eating sushi in the window of the restaurant opposite the theatre. Friend Mark, who is a massive fan, spontaneously grinned and waved at him and Mark R returned the favour.

Wee bit of drama at work as when we arrived there was no power backstage so there was some doubt as to whether the show could go ahead. As we were standing at the stage door talking about it, Chris Larkin, who acts in the show turned up on his bike, signed an autograph and stood around chatting for a while.

Anyway, they (unfortuntely) fixed the power and we did the show. Afterwards, there was a bit of a work night out happening, so after finding Ellen again we hit Soho with everyone else. It really is another world, this theatreland: so many people casually chatting about their 'friend' who acts in such and such a show, or what Matt Lucas was like backstage when in Les Miserables (apparently joking around to the point of driving the crew crazy!) Visited a slightly dubious yet cheap club after which Ellen and I departed for the bus (whereon we met a very interesting tea selling guy, to whom Ellen informed she preferred drinking coffee), home and flop.

The following day we breakfasted in Patisserie Valerie because we could. We then paid a swift visit to the National Portrait Gallery (no sign of French painters) before heading back west to the BBC. Last time I did a BBC tour it was a Saturday and thus very quiet. Quite the opposite on a Friday! To start with, we had to walk past the huge line of people queuing to get into the Strictly Come Dancing audience (this was at 2pm; the show didn't start til 9). Whilst we were waiting in the lobby, Ellen spotted Fiona Bruce coming into work. In the doughnut there were some of the Strictly dancers practising (showing off) and we were taken to a viewing gallery of a studio where Chris Moyles was practising hitting somebody over the head repeatedly with a frying pan ('Bottom' tribute? Not sure - it also seemed to involve a live bird of prey which was flying around the studio; bit odd). I was busy puzzling why I hadn't done a tour on the previous Friday...

Took Ellen back to Euston then headed off for work. My feet were killing me (again) and it was a manically busy shift - the busiest since open night and over 50 people came in late and had to be dealt with (by which I meant organised to be taken in at the scene change, not punished...). Saturday's shifts were mainly defined by the unbearable heat. Between shifts we picknicked in Soho Square which was lovely, but returning to the stuffy theatre was mildy painful. The managers did bring in edible treats for us though as a 'well done' for making it 2 weeks and for how well we 'dealt with' the late comers the night before. I met Ollie after the show, who had decided to come down again. We went for a wander so I could show him around and then bussed it back home. Today we went for a stroll through Hyde Park, had coffee by the Serpentine and continued to walk through Green Park before he went home. I'm off up there on Wednesday in preparation for us jetting off to Croatia! Exciting!!!! And, happily, the weather here is meant to have turned by then, so hopefully we'll be chasing the sunshine.

Busy Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday night:

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Been a while! A reflection on the continuing busyness of life. Here's what's been going on:

Saturday was busy with two shows and then I went out in the evening to meet my boyfriend who had unexpectedly come down for the day to see friends. Felt like a true Londoner when he was impressed by the fact I found him outside the pub he was at which was miles away from where I was working but the nearest tube station was closed. In fact, I knew the way to walk from the next nearest tube stop as I'd done it before. In my memory, it was a short hop of no more than a few minutes' walk.... but I'd been rather drunk on that occasion. Without a drop of alcohol in the system the road seemed to go on forever, and I felt rather impressed with my previously inebriated self for making it that far. Anyway. Ended up staying at the friends' flat as I realised I hadn't yet figured out the night buses and so couldn't get home. That was fine though!

No work on Sunday compensated very nicely for the previous day's craziness. I finally met my first housemate that morning, who was lovely but explained he's hardly ever in, which explained his absence to date. I met up with my friend and ex-roomie for lunch - oddly almost exactly where I'd been the night before: same walk again- and then later headed back down to Kent. Was very well fed and watered by mummy. The following day (Monday) I came back with the rest of my stuff with the help of my brother.

We have swapped round positions at work this week so I've tried my hand at nearly everything now. Have also had the chance to sit in on most of the show. Can't say I'm overwhelmed by it, but to be fair am yet to actually see the first 40 minutes, which could explain a lot. Disappointing lack of celebrities this week, although I did get tipped yesterday! A whole extra pound makes quite a difference with my wages, believe me!

Met my other housemate finally yesterday too. He's a fine Irish fella' by the name of Cormac. Very nice. Had a good chat with him when I got in tonight too. He explained the difference between Magners and Bulmers ciders to me. 'Oh, interesting!' I said. 'No it's not,' he replied.

Am loving my workmates so much! It's so nice to be working with people my own age, if I haven't said that already, and they are all genuinely so lovely and fun to be with, every last one of them. We've got into a nice routine of going out together between shows on matinee days for food which is fun. Plus there's a big work night out planned after the show tomorrow. The guys are so funny - most of them are actors so tend to be quite entertaining! Unfortunately one of them has started flirting with me a bit though. I'm wondering if saying 'Don't get funny' is an appropriate put down. Ah well, he's harmless enough.

We've had understudies in for the last few days, but the 'real' guy was back today. He's a proper actor, supposedly quite famous although I don't know him. I was working in the stalls tonight and before the house opened I had to check the seats. When I walked in he was on stage doing his warm up. Well, at first I thought he was praying. Then I wondered if there was something wrong with him. Then when I realised, I just had to try not to laugh. His warm up consisted of him contorting into weird positions/lying on his back and making a series of weird humming, squealing, clicking and whooping noises. Strangest thing I've ever seen. You really can't be self-conscious as an actor.

Progress is slow on the cupcake front, although I have been trying. Yesterday I went for a long walk by getting off the tube early at Hyde Park and wandering through to the West End. Hyde Park was simply gorgeous. It was a warm, sunny day and the leaves in the trees were just slightly yellowed. The water in the Serpentine was a beautiful blue and everyone seemed so happy and relaxed. I walked right the way through up Piccadilly and stopped at a place near work for a bite to eat. Then I headed up to a potential cupcake spot at Seven Dials but couldn't find it (I'd been directed there by someone with cupcake knowhow). Ended up in Foyles bookshop (which is MASSIVE) and had a tea in their cafe before work. Their cakes looked good but there were no cupcakes, sadly.

Today was boiling hot! Had to dig out the skirt I hadn't worn since May (the last time we had sun, basically). Didn't have much spare time to enjoy it, sadly, as it was a matinee day. Instead I had some errands to run which involved going to Westfield. When I got there, everyone was standing outside - there had clearly been a fire drill. Bet the staff loved the opportunity to stand outside in the sunshine for a while! I also wanted to book tickets with the BBC to do a tour. I went in there but couldn't was told I couldn't book tickets directly with them - instead had to phone their office in Scotland. Madness.

Between shifts today we managed to make the most of the weather by having dinner in a little park nearby. It was lovely :) Experimented with the buses on the way home tonight to avoid the tubes, which lately have been roughly around the temperature of the sun's core.

Ellen's coming tomorrow! We're going to see 'Losing It' and then she's staying over. Can't wait!

Off to Croatia in a week, bizarrely! It's come round so quickly. We booked it thinking it would be nice to get some sunshine in before the winter. The forecast for England this week suggests that wasn't necessary - but of course I'm so excited about going away. We're staying in Dubrovnik and it all sounds amazing.

I'm leaking money left right and centre but it's all worth it!

Beautiful, sunny Hyde Park:

Cute bundle of ducklings!:

Friday, 23 September 2011

Garden Mole

So, have been in the new place for a day now and am settling in, having spent my first night and half a day here. Still haven't met new housemates though which is weird. Although one of them obviously felt comfortable enough with me to use my toothpaste this morning. Hm. I wouldn't mind too much, although being as I haven't met him yet I felt this a little cheeky. As long as it doesn't scale up to stealing food, I'll let him off.

As I'm adjusting to living in Shepherd's Bush, I am beginning to consider the pros and cons of living in the BBC's back yard. Let's start with the negatives:

I applied for a job at the BBC earlier this year. It was a long, tough process, consisting of 5 rounds in all to get through. I made it through 3 before finally getting the rejection. As the rounds went by I got more and more into it, so when I was ultimately turned down it was, although I guess fairly inevitable, still disappointing. I then applied for a week's unpaid work experience and didn't get that either. I just don't think they like me! Especially post- all the AbFab random draw blah blah malarky. The problem now is, every time I want to go to the tube or Westfield or just about anywhere really I have to go onto Wood Lane. Not a problem in itself, except for the fact that every other person I pass is a BBC employee. How can I tell? Well, they all wear their BBC lanyards around their neck as if they are surgically attached. Can't say I blame them; I would too. Doesn't help the jealous resentment feeling though. Walking past Television Centre may in time come naturally and without reaction from me. For now though, it comes with mixed feelings of excitement and deep-seated loathing....

OK so the positives. I do get to stroll past with a genuine good excuse daily. I act a little like a meerkat each time, darting my eyes about for any sign of anything/one exciting. More than that though, today I discovered what I suppose is called the Media Village. It's so cool! 5 minutes walk from my house and just around the corner from the main BBC building. There's this little green space in front with picnic benches and beyond that a little pedestrianised street with cafes, restaurants, shops and even a little spa/massage parlour! Oh, and an outdoor ping pong table, of all things. Of course it's crawling with BBC staff but also completely open to the public. There's a small Tesco there too, which I think is my nearest food shop, although it's clearly catering for those grabbing lunch as it's almost entirely sandwiches, snacks and drinks and has very little 'real' food. Got a few bits in though which will keep me going, not that it seems I'll ever have time to actually cook anything.

Now I'm in London there suddenly seem to be lots of people to see and things to do. Got a bit stressed last night feeling I was being tugged in about 5 directions at once, but it's sorted now. On Sunday I'll pop back to Kent to pick up more of my belongings (getting desperately short now!) and come back Monday for good!

Have been set all important cupcake challenge by Jo. This is a mission I am happy to rise to. Had to go to Westfield this morning so had a look round the cafes whilst I was there. It's pretty much out, Jo. Did however enjoy a very nice muffin and coffee at a chocolaterie, who also provided me with a free chocolate. GUH! Delicious. Worth remembering for future reference. I think the best cupcake places will be independent cafes more central though, so will continue my search every time I'm in town!! ;)

Should this blog have been called 'The Cupcake Diaries'? Perhaps a more logical name since I have not yet sudokued in Soho at all. I don't even like Sudoku. I can't even do it. Just thought the name sounded catchy and it kind of rhymed and sounded funny. Perhaps I should attempt a sudoku in Soho soon. Just to justify my name of choice. Hm. Food for thought.

Three more shows til a day off! Not that I mind at all. Can still happily report I'm loving work and looking forward to it! Had a very amusing episode last night running about the back of the Grand Circle trying to locate all of the toilets without disturbing the audience. A lot of loitering behind curtains and dashing up and down corridors was done. I realised I reminded myself of a maid from 'Upstairs Downstairs' or something. All that running up and down back corridors wearing an apron and calling customers 'sir' and 'madam'. Definitely getting the hang of it now though!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Crazy days

It's Thursday morning and for the first time since I last posted on Tuesday morning, I have time to breathe!

My routine could not be more different now to what it was a week ago. So here's a rundown of all the craziness of the last few days.

1) Eating habits. Have they ever been so bizarre? On Tuesday I went for a walk down Holloway Road. I ended up, somewhat dully, in Morrisons supermarket, and decided I needed to buy a lunch big enough that would sustain through the evening as well (as I was due to start work at 4 and not finish til 10.30). Didn't want dinnery type stuff though so decided to consume a vast amount of soup and bread. Had a panicky middle-class moment when I couuldn't find the fresh soup, but eventually did and duly took it home to eat. There was such a vat of it I needed a pyrex bowl rather than an ordianry one, but sure enough it did the trick and lasted me. I was a little peckish by the time I got in, but had to go straight to bed (as my friend had). I had an appointment to see a room on Tuesday morning (I didn't get the first one, boo) at 10am in West London. I woke up in time but by the time I faffed about I realised I only had an hour to get there, so didn't have time for breakfast and had to dash. I decided to take the room (more later) but then had to go on a mission to find a cash machine so I could give her the deposit. By the time I'd finished and hobbled to Westfield shopping centre to collapse in a Pain Quotidien it was about 11am and I realised I hadn't eaten anything in nearly 24 hours. This is not like me. So I indulged in a delicious plate of scrambled eggs on toast, washed down with lots of tea and followed up with a pain au chocolat. Later, between shifts I managed a foot long Sub and on the way home later a cookie. Calorie count very much back up.

2) Hobnobbing. Yes, this is something of a different kind of existence, to be sure! So far, I have worked 3 shows and we have had 3 celebrities in. First night, Lenny Henry (although I didn't see him myself, unfortunately); yesterday Lorraine Chase and Louie Spence. The latter was prancing around the foyer during the interval on the phone and as he left I said 'goodbye'. He grunted. Why do celebrities get so grouchy? For goodness' sake; you're rich, famous, people adore you, you get things free and you're allowed to use the disabled toilet in theatres so you don't have to pee with the riff-raff! Cheer up! Anyway, 3 in 3 ain't bad, so I'm hoping to catch a few more as time goes by! My claim to fame quota will go sky high!

3) Work. OK, so if you're not interested in the ins and outs of my routine, stop reading now. If you are, here we go...
First night was Tuesday. Baptism of fire. Inferno. Just about fully booked, with members of the press, VIPs, big 'prodooocers' and half of the rest of London. So far the boss has kept us on the same roles each show to give us chance to get used to them, so this is what I've been doing so far:

First off, we arrive and head up to the staff area. As of yesterday I learnt the exciting way to do this, which involves going through the stage door, past the dressing rooms, through a door into the wings, around the back of the stage behind the set, through a door, through a box, round the dress circle and up. Have to say being on the stage is flipping exciting. I had one of those moments 'I am on a West End Stage! ME! Aaaaaaaarghkanpacapcoasiasncopjsainasop!!!!' I have never really wanted to be a performer but I think there's a little bit in everyone that dreams of it. Mine was definitely let loose when I looked through the gauze stuff representing a window out onto the seats.

The staff area is at the top of the theatre behind the Grand Circle. It consists of a kitchen, bathroom, offices and dressing area. Here we get changed into the uniform: black trousers, white shirt with a gold emblem and a maroon apron tied around the waist. Then we meet in one of the bar areas for a briefing.

My first job so far has been to stand guard in the foyer before the bar opens. I'm not quite sure why, but four of us line up along the bottom of the steps even though it's obvious that anything beyond is still closed as ropes are up. I think we look initmidating, but we're supposed to be there to be friendly and answer anyone's questions. When we get the signal we remove the ropes and stand in our positions by the different doors from the foyer ready to take ticket stubs, inform people where they should go for their seats, and tell the 500 people who ask where the nearest toilets are.

Once the foyer is cleared, we line up at the front doors ready to deal with latecomers. They can't enter once the performance has started but can watch what's happening on a TV screen in the bar, and then we take them up in time for the first scene change, at which point they can get to their seats.

Then I have the ultra glamorous job of toilet checking. Probably best to get this sooner rather than later.

I take the ticket stubs I ripped earlier to the front desk where they need to be sorted into order. On Friday when we had about 850 people in, this took a long time. Yesterday matinee, we had 250 people in. It took about 3 minutes.

A quick break if I'm lucky, then ready for interval duty. I'm on front doors, making sure people have their tickets to go in and out with and give them plastic cups as they're not allowed glass outside. I think one of the craziest things I've ever done may have been on the first night, when there were loads of people outside smoking. We got the 5 minute call for the 2nd half so I had to go outside and YELL the warning at people. Me, in the middle of London, shouting down Shaftsbury Avenue at the top of my voice! Not something I ever pictured myself doing!

In the second half it's counting more ticket stubs and then I get a radio for foyer duty. Again on the first night this was really busy and before I knew it, it was the end of the show. It was a pretty boring duty yesterday though, as no one was about, ticket counting was done really quickly and so it just involved waiting around til the end of the show. This is when the feet really start to kill from standing up for so long! Towards the end of the play, tthe stage manager makes an annoucement into the foyer that the curtain will fall in 5 minutes, which I have to radio to everyone else positioned around the theatre so they know to come down for outgoing duties. Mine involve standing on the front door waving programmes at people which they don't want and wishing them good night.

After all that, it's a debrief, then back upstairs to get changed and home!

I haven't managed to see any of the play so far, but can direct people to Leicester Square and the Ladies' toilets. When we swap round duties I'll get to sit in on some of it. I am exhausted, my feet feel like they want to drop off, run away and hibernate but I am having so much fun!! The people I work with are just lovely and we all get on really well. I can honestly say again that I'm looking forward to going to work again! Just not putting on my work shoes : \

4) The house hunt. OK, so as mentioned I found somewhere to live! Hurrah! My friend has the patience of a saint for letting me stay. The last 2 nights I've got in after she's gone to bed so I've had to climb over her when I've got in. It's strange but even though I've been living with her all week I actually haven't seen her since Monday night. She leaves early when I'm still half-asleep and I get in late when she's half-asleep. We've managed to grunt at each other but that's about the extent of our conversation! I miss her! Hopefully we'll get to catch up properly at the weekend. So, feeling bad about waking her up every night and her having to tiptoe round me every morning, I decided I needed to find somewhere fast. When I picked up my phone after my shift on Tuesday night I had a message from the guy in the first house I'd seen saying it was taken. Disappointing as it was lovely, but in the meatime I'd arranged to see this other place yesterday morning. It's in Shepherd's Bush, behind the BBC and QPR football stadium. Oddly enough, it's also very near where I went to see Ella and The Bad Shepherds play last year with Ellen, Jella and Jo. It's on a quiet little terraced street and the room is small but functional. The house is owned by a lovely lady who showed me round- one of her daughters has the downstairs, which is accessed through a separate door, and she lets the upstairs which has a separate kitchen and bathroom. Apparently there are 2 other tenants but I didn't meet them. It's not exactly a top-notch place - the kitchen leaves a LOT to be desired - but it's available now, it's very reasonably priced and it's in a good location which I know and won't take too long to reach central London. It's walking distance to Westfield (probably a dangerous thing) with local shops, and I also need to walk past the BBC every day, so plenty of opportunities for spying/mentally shouting abuse. Anyway, I can move in today so intend to start shifting stuff over there later on! So I won't need to climb over anybody tonight to get in!

It feels like I've been here for ages now, even though it's been less than a week. I have been catapulted into a completely different way of life; completely swept up in it. Every time I pause to think, I realise just how crazy it is, but how I'm absolutely loving it!

More soon pets xxx

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

London Calling!

I have decided that if ever a time in my life was worthy of blogging it will be this week, so here we are! Welcome to my very first blog! We'll see how it goes.

Right now I am sitting in a small bedroom in north London belonging to my friend who is being a superstar and accommodating me until I can find a place of my own to live. The reason for this is a little strange and I'm still not quite used to the idea that I'm here at all! It is the result of a big brave decision, several months of unemployment and a couple of impulsive decisions. All of the above, however, have been driven by the realisation over the last couple of years that I really wanted - needed - to live in London.

I used to hate it. I grew up just 60 miles from here and so was dragged up regularly for school trips, family outings etc. Whilst I liked the museums and galleries and theatres, I hated the noise, the busyness and the frantic speed at which everyone and everything moves. I was an unashamed country bumpkin and never, ever thought I'd want to live here.

Then, I grew up, I started visiting friends here and I started to realise what an incredible place it was. So vibrant, full of life, full of different and interesting people, places and opportunities. I decided I had to take the chance to live here this year. My partner was going abroad for a work placement and I was sick of my job in Wiltshire. It was time to take the plunge, chuck in my job and find work in the capital.

It's been far from an easy road getting here. I, perhaps arrogantly, thought that with my degree, post-graduate and teaching experience, I should have no problem in finding employment. Huh. It seems that the media haven't been exaggerating the unemployment siutation. I spent months applying for positions, and then either never hearing back or getting flat rejections: 'Other candidates had more relevant experience than you'. By the end of August/beginning of this month, I was in despair. I'd moved out of my beautiful flat in Bath back in with the parents to save money. By then I was sure that I'd be on my way again and in the Big Smoke. It was starting to seem as if I'd be stuck in Kent forever.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, having decided to broaden my search slightly, I came across an advert for open interviews at a West End theatre. I was due to be in London that day anyway, so thought I may as well go along. I've always loved theatres: the atmosphere, the architecture, the sights, sounds and smells. Being a Literature graduate, I've always loved going to see plays. So, despite my concern that a front of house position (which is what the post advertised was) probably wouldn't pay much money, I decided to go.

This was a week ago today. I turned up on Shaftsbury Avenue (a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus and just in front of Soho) at one o'clock and gave in my CV. In total, there were about 25 people there, and this was just one interview of several that they would be holding over the course of two afternoons. I discovered they were only looking for about 20 people in total, so I decided my chances weren't good. As the group was so large, I only got to speak for less than a minute. I came away having enjoyed the experience, having met some interesting people (including a French mime artist, no less!) and with the notion that it would be a fun job and I'd accept it if offered, but wasn't optimistic.

The very next day I received a phone call. 'We would like to offer you the job; can you start on Monday?'

Oh my good godfathers!

I immediately accepted. Sod the worries about money or anything else. This was a job! In London! In a theatre in the West End! I figured it that as it would be evening work I could use my day times to keep looking for other positions (especially as this job is only guaranteed until the end of the show's run, at the end of November).

My first panic of course was accommodation. I immediately leapt for the internet to look for spare room advertisements and in the meantime made a frantic call to my friend who lives in London already (and with whom I've stayed many times). She, luckily, was delighted to hear my news and happily offered to put me up until I could find a place of my own. Thank goodness! This meant i could move up on Sunday, a day before we were due to have our training session on Monday (yesterday).

On Sunday afternoon I arrived in London, taking the bare minimum with me and with fingers crossed for a room I was due to see that afternooon. I spent an hour with my friend Sophie and then headed off to view the room. It was great, so I registered my interest and I'm waiting to hear back today to see if I've got it. Fingers and other limbs still very much crossed!

Yesterday was my first day. I was due to be at the theatre at 1pm for the training session. I decided to make the most of what was a sunny morning by heading down to the river and having a wander before going back into the West End. As I strolled across the Golden Jubilee Bridge in the sunshine, gazing across at St Paul's and the Gherkin, with trains rattling across the line behind me, I felt so happy and lucky. Here I finally was! Unbelieable.

I perambulated down the South Bank, past the street entertainers and crowds waiting for the London Eye. I rested on a bench opposite the Houses of Parliament, just soaking in the view. A man sat next to me. 'Wonderful view, isn't it?' he said. I had to agree. He turned out to be a French/Italian painter, who had left those infinitely beautiful countries to be able to sit right there and paint. He said he loved how green England was compared with summers in the south of France. I was then amused by his attempt to teach me French and Italian, his pretence at being impressed by my limited knowledge of both and finally his invitation to accompany him to the National Portrait Gallery. I politely declined. In fairness, it was time for me to be leaving for work. Across the river, Big Ben was chiming midday.

How glorious was the walk from there?! Across Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament. Skirting along St James' Park and onto the Mall, from where I could see Buckingham Palace to my left and Admiralty Arch to my right. Cut through onto Pall Mall and up Regent Street. Voila.

I was the first to arrive at the theatre and was directed to sign in at the Stage Door(!) The afternoon was typical of a training session, in that we were given far too much information all at once about things we're unlikely to ever need to know (what happens if someone has a heart attack? What if a bomb goes off in Piccadilly Circus? What you should shout during an evacuation?). All necessary due to legalities I guess but a little alarmingly... alarmist.

Still, it was great to be there, to meet everyone and to eat the rather delicious pastries they provided for the break. Can't complain!

So, we start tonight! In a few hours I will be making my way back into Central London, walking into that Stage Door with increased confidence from yesterday, stealing a happy glance at the Soho Revue Bar right behind me and then it's on with the uniform and in with the patrons!

Everyone I told yesterday seemed geniunely impressed that I'd had the courage to quit my job, move to the big City and take the plunge into something which will hopefully be so much more fun and exciting. I'm impressed with me too, really! It is all so incredibly unlike me, who up until now has been so sensible and careful and.... dull, frankly. I'm so glad I finally saw sense. The thought that otherwise right now I'd be in a classroom ready to attempt entertaining 30 teenagers with spelling strategies is certainly enough to realise that!

So, hopefully, this is the start of my big adventure. My new year's resolution this year was to be brave and start living my life. I think I might just have achieved that. I shall keep you posted!!

Brave fairy Rachel x