Among other things, Drama School, waitressing, revenge and applying make-up.
Youth is full of plans and dreams. Like many young people I felt capable of anything. I was young, fit and loveable. People would be willing to donate their life to my life. It was obvious. Well, I’m older now…
As a teen I thought I might want to be an actress. Well my brother and sister had succeeded on stage, I shared their blood so obviously I could do what they could.
I didn’t even have modest aspirations. I applied to RADA. Learned a passage from one of Ibsen’s plays. So astoundingly beautiful and talented was I, I didn’t read the whole play. Why should I?
I recited it with a few subtle gestures. Probably in one of those unimaginative dramatic monotones. I was sure their silence was out of awe at my ability.
I didn’t get in.
I had the same rejection letters from LAMDA and worked my way down until even the local Tina Jones (or something) drama school didn’t want me.
My dedication ended there.
I did a term at a Drama college where I was swiftly outshone by other youngsters who were brave, creative and born actors. Some had read Ibsen’s plays.
The disappointment wasn’t because I couldn’t act but because I couldn’t do the thing I thought I could. Ahhh, so lacking in direction…
While living abroad I found I was quite good at working in a bar. Blimey didn’t I look cool carrying that round silver tray filled with drinks. I was hugely impressed.
I managed to get people’s drinks right. Three coffees, one black, one American, one normal. Two Fantas, one bitter Kas (has anyone else come across that? Medicinal and very refreshing.) Two waters, one fizzy, one still. Three wines, one milkshake, one brandy…
I got tips and people were nice to me.
When I moved to working in a restaurant, all I got was yelled at by the owner and sulky looks from the customers.
Bear in mind I was abroad. The customers were English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. One owner was Spanish, the other (the shouter) was Swiss.
I wrote down orders in English (often translated from French or German); it was all I could think of to do.
About the third time I did this, the Swiss man came out of the kitchen with my neat order sheet in his hand, teeth clenched, hissing at me that the kitchen staff didn’t understand English.
“Write it in Spanish. What do you expect them to do? They’re cooks. They don’t have time to find the dictionary and look up your English words!”
So now I had to translate orders told to me in French, German, Spanish, Italian and German into Spanish on the spot and make them legible to the kitchen staff.
Errrm, OK, pork chop = chuleta de cerdo; frites = patatas fritas; jelly = ? Jelly! What’s that in Spanish? Gelatina?
My Swiss shouter would bring out a pig’s trotter in a bowl of thickening liquid. He’d shout at me and force me to take it to their table. Just desserts. Punishment for my imbecile order. The customer would shout at me too. Maybe hit me. No, maybe I can persuade them to have fruit salad.
I’ve never been so blatantly hated before or since.
Back in England I failed at operating a switchboard. I connected callers to wrong extension on a daily, hourly basis.
I didn’t succeed at being a travel agent either. My job was to sell customers the holidays that made the company most money. I wanted to sell them what they wanted. My manager and I had a pep talk, then we had a consultation, a one to one, then I had a warning then I left.
When I was a temp in a solicitor’s office, some suited little upstart mocked me in front of other staff members. I did my job well but she frankly didn’t like me. It’s all yours shorty, you post your own letters. I’ve hidden the stamps and crumpled all the envelopes by the way.
So where am I today?
Well none of the above. Obviously.
I tell people I live off the fat of the land. I manage the family’s estate. I’m a poet’s muse…
My failures were painful at the time. When that young, we really have such energetic aspirations and no experience to support our desires. I thought I really wanted those things.
Some of the blame lies in lack of training, some in just being a young fool with no confidence and a lack of direction.
Bring back military training. I could have done with an officially-sanctioned slap by some uniformed swine. “You’ll never be anything but a second rate person…! Go scrub the mess floor with a toothbrush!” Literally or metaphorically, I seem to do that a lot now anyway.