Friday, 25 June 2010

So this fox walks into a bank......

The Penny Coin

Hopping off the 220 at my bus stop in Putney, it wasn’t long before I knew today would be a great day - I found a one penny coin as I walked up the high street.

Like a madman, I picked it up, and mouthed those magic words, ensuring that no one was looking at me.

“Find a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck”

I quite often find penny coins and have seen other “scabs” or “very lucky people” do the same thing and it wasn’t too long before this “luck” had come to fruition.

I met my colleagues and as we trundled into the bank together ready for another day, we were met with a foul stench and a comment by my boss as she let us in: “We’ve had another fox” – like it was something that happens often.

Looking around the dishevelled banking hall, all the furniture had been moved like we’d been burgled.

The display sign in the entry was on the other side of the room, chairs displaced, a computer tower on the floor and an odd scent.

Before I knew it, my colleagues were dry reaching and letting out painful moans as they started to dodge pieces of poo on the floor.

ME? I started asking questions.

What do you mean a fox? How did it get in? Are you serious? You mean to tell me a fox broke in and did all this? I can’t believe a fox broke into the bank and did all this! I can’t…….

So what happened?

During the night, there had been movement in the bank and the police were alerted.

They soon discovered, along with the eldest member of staff in attendance (she lives a few streets away), that there was in fact a fox trapped inside.

Two hours, four police officers, the dog squad and our fearless colleague had finally captured the fox.

When I say captured, I mean it ran out the front door!

No wonder the furniture was everywhere – the fox had tried to hide in every possible cranny.

So here we all were, gloves on, febreeze in hand, trying hard to clear up a big mess.

I won’t give more details than that, but this fox must have been so scared that it had sprayed everything and left more deposits than yesterdays entire day of trading.

But this is only half the story…….

Crisis on the High Street.

As the professional cleaners and builders were called in (part of the ceiling had caved in where the fox had entered), we were unable to open the doors!

The luck had started. We couldn’t open!

This meant two of us would have to stand out the front and let people know why the bank wasn’t open. We offered them alternatives, as there are 4 branches in close proximity where you can walk, catch the bus or train.

And so it began:

Me: Sorry Sir, the bank is closed at the moment. We are looking at a 1pm opening at this stage.

Customer: Why? (I don’t know why we had to answer “why?” but this was the case with everyone)

Me: We had a fox in last night and there is a bit of … errr… umm... damage.

Customer: (surprised, yet sceptical) A fox?

Me: Yes, a fox.

Customer: (shakes head, smiles with frustration and follows with…) Well, what am I suppose to do now, I can’t believe this has happened. I need to get cash out. So there is no chance of me getting my money? Typical (bank name)!

Walks away.

I’d got what I wanted, but this was becoming a cruel twist of fate.

I need to find another penny – and urgently!

As you can imagine, it’s Friday, the busiest day of the week. Many people still cash cheques from their own account, a lot of them only draw cash over the counter and many don’t even know how to use an ATM!

By midday the cleaners had arrived and we knew this 1pm promise was not going to happen.

We never did open, but these are a few of the classic lines we were faced with:

1. ”Oh my god! I need money for my holiday. What am I suppose to do? You’ve ruined my holiday” (have I?)

2. ”You told me 1pm and now you don’t think you’ll open? Have you caught the fox yet?” (I re-explained the whole story and again offered the alternative branches to no avail!)

3. (remember, the doors were closed and by this time, the world knew about our fox) “Look, I only need to deposit this money, as I have a bill that’s due. Is there any way I can just come in and pay it?”

4. ”I don’t need this today! I’ve been at work and I’ve got to get my daughter from school and I cannot see how a fox would cause all this. (she stares longingly at me like I have a magic wand or a new solution)

I explain to her the alternative branches again then…. (she stares longingly at me like I will take pity – no words).

Replying to her stare and being as dismissive as I can be but nice at the same time:

“I don’t know what else I can tell you. We will not open today” (stares for the final time, then walks off).

5. “Awwww, is the fox ok?” (I suddenly became the person staring blankly, as this was the first time all day someone had given the fox a thought)

So what started out to be a “lucky” day, ended up with a little old fox – who is now off running around the suburbs - showing me both sides of the coin.

The next time I find a penny, I’ll “pick it up and …………….

Monday, 21 June 2010

It took 6 months, $300 and Ann….

E-mail response from Ann: “Daniel, Unfortunately on this occasion I really do need someone with online marketing experience which unfortunately you mentioned you do no have”

You do no have????

This is my experience, My opinion, My way to stop the inner monologue taking over.
Hate it? Don’t read it. Simple.
And if you are wondering about the e-mail or my new friend Ann, I’ll get to that.

The Glazbrooks did it, so can we.

We are currently living in the UK.
The Glazbrooks inspired this trip.
They took a chance.

When things weren’t changing for the better, our friends Rene, Rachel and Eli threw themselves into the ute to a new state, new life, no friends or money and gave it all they could.
A couple of years later they’re still there. We sat, watched and said – they did it, so can we.

We’d saved an enormous amount of cash in a year and a half, sold the cars, got rid of a debt mum never knew about, sold off the crap in the cupboards and dispersed the furniture across the Central Coast for people to babysit.

Here it was: October 2009. Ready for a new exciting adventure. No idea what to expect. Reality had set in.
This is real and now I’m scared.

Crying and Lasagne

Crying was a big part when saying goodbye to friends. As was lasagne. We had the two week tour of lasagne to be precise. I can’t remember how many, but for those two weeks, I recall everyone’s version of lasagne was a little different. This just shows you where my head was at, worrying more about lasagne than the people.

With everyone needing a goodbye ticked off the list, the last day and a half was awful. I couldn’t eat, was uneasy and to be honest, very lost. This wasn’t all in my head.
Here I was, sitting in the car with Mum and Dad fanging down the F3, ready to go. I sobbed at the gate, sobbed through customs and as for the one hour flight to Brisbane, I really thought it was long enough.

But the 27 hours, 5 of which were sitting in KL airport at 5am did “fly by”. I had no choice but to relax and I kept telling myself if the plane went down would I have a choice?

In a blur we arrived in London and over the next three days walked off the jetlag.
First things first – facebook. (of course)

Over the coming weeks we travelled Europe, eating, drinking, pinching ourselves everytime we’d see a landmark. Yet amongst all this excitement and taking a million photos, we had that unnerving feeling – what’s going to happen next?

We live here now. But where???

We scheduled 7 days to find a place and move in – we did it in 8. I still wonder where the “week” came from.

Hammersmith. 15 mins to the heart of London on the tube. Two and a half hour hike from Big Ben along the Thames Walk, which, incidentally, at times goes though back streets and sporting fields!
The flat is up the road from Disney and Coca Cola Headquarters and next door is Harper Collins. In two minutes you have shopping, a theatre, a hospital, infrastructure ……..oh the list goes on! It’s perfect!

But there is a back story….
Where should we live? What do we need in a place? Did we forget we have no jobs? What reason would an owner have to approve us? Oh Shit!

The options: Pay 6 months in advance – no. Pay three months in advance but with 10 weeks deposit – yes. Re-reading this sentence, there is little difference. But at the time, it made perfect sense.

We looked at some dives, two great ones, were pipped at the post by apparent “broken central heating” (I still think the real estate guy was just being nice – he knew we were desperate and were obviously rejected) and found the palace we call home with all bills included.
Of course, on the day we needed to pay (cash only) our faithful bank in Oz had frozen the cards (after a month of being overseas???). Thank god we had placed $20 on skype and Maccas had free internet or we would’ve been stuffed!

The Palace (it’s on Fulham Palace Road – hence the joke) is fully furnished and looks to be recently renovated. Our landlord is very good and we’re above a cafĂ©. The Italian neighbours are LOUD and there seems to be 15 of them, but we’re piggybacking on their internet – so we like them.

Right! We’ve got the house, now the job……


YES it snowed at Christmas. YES there were carolers on every street corner. YES it was freezing but fun. YES I had the flu for over a month (I think it was swine). YES we walked everywhere and every single day was brilliant. And YES we couldn’t find a job!
I don’t know why we thought we could “just get a job”. As time rolled on, we had to change the non-plan.

Was it Reverse Racism? Being Australian? Reaching for the top? Trying too hard? I’m still not sure, however I do know that hundreds of UK businesses know of us, don’t need us and didn’t bother to let us know.

Very early on (January), Mark and I joined a couple of temping agencies to “tie us over”.
When signing the myriad of forms on the day, we received this piece of advice:
“It’ll all come good once you hit rock bottom”

What and When is rock bottom? Can we have the date? Well, it took a while to hit rock bottom – April/May 2010 (is it twenty-ten or two thousand and ten? I’m still not sure.)

Whilst we prepared for this “rock bottom” thing, we decided one of us would just get a full time job - anywhere. That way the other could apply apply apply for what they wanted and we’d have the cash to stay. Easy right?

1. I was rejected by a lady who spoke minimal English whose shop (a discount shoe shop) had a hand written sign in the window.

2. I went along for an interview at some ‘pyramid selling business’ which was disguised as “Promotions Marketing and Events” where the woman talked at me for 45 minutes and I mean talked at me!!!! I’m still unsure what they did, but I know all about her self-importance. I did make it to the top 5, but politely declined the chance to work for the lady and whatever it is they do.

Moving on from them, silly me forgot about my hospitality experience between the ages of 18 to 25, and got a job in a hotel. This job was fulltime and a quick fix.

During this odd 10 weeks of employment at the hotel, I received the e-mail at the beginning of this story.
An excellent opportunity had come up where I had worked for a day for the temping agency. For the following two weeks I was researching, planning, attending a social media conference – even going as far as writing e-mail, facebook and twitter promotions to take to the interview.

Interviewed for an hour, and completely convinced it was in the bag, I was anxious to hear those wonderful words – “you’ve got the job”. Instead……
“Daniel, Unfortunately on this occasion I really do need someone with online marketing experience which unfortunately you mentioned you do no have”.
Well, I believe she was wrong and in protest, I decided to write this. She clearly cannot spell, but I bet she didn’t think she’d have this dedicated to her.
This is for Ann is born.

And worse than her spelling, for the time being I still have to work at the Hotel……….

Well one of us has a job, so we can relax right?

In amongst all of this business of moving to the UK, Dale, a great friend had moved jobs and offered Mark a Graphic Design gig back home.

Perfect – he can still temp whilst looking for the full time job, keep up and grow his skills doing a few hours a week for Dale and it’ll be fine. Or so we thought.
We were “just getting by”.

Even though there was cash coming in, it wasn’t enough. Apart from the money, it was the times we worked. I’d start at 5pm and finish about 2am. He’d start at 9am when he had work. Something was amiss!

We simply had to cope and for the most part we did… OR… in a rush of lunacy I’d stop and say “let’s go home” – like I had ‘one up’ on the UK.
The only problem with “let’s go home” was simple - We had no money, no car and no jobs there either!

And as the rent date rolled by again: £953.33, due 11th of each month, (its done over 52 weeks and divided by 12 – in case you were wondering about the 33p.) The cash was about to run out.

A ray of sunshine had broken through at this time and our moods had changed from “survival” to “ahhhhh”– Mark had picked up Full Time work in a bank. But, he had to get there……..

Can we borrow $300?

You see, without knowing, Mark asked his dad for $300. This exchanges to around £160 ish.
On the weekly skype (I cannot be more impressed by skype – genius) My parents and Marks would somehow bring into the conversation “if we needed to borrow cash, please ask”.

Mark had asked his Dad and we were RICH! $300. RICH! Converted to £160. RICH!
Ok, so we had food but more importantly Mark could afford the tube ticket to work.

It did mean a there’d be a short time where things would be tight, but it really didn’t matter. It’d only be a week or so.

As we pondered this good fortune life was treating us to, we sat down and thought about some wise words given to us a few months earlier in January…….


The stress and annoyance at Ann and everyone who wasn’t working from 5pm and thinking “what have we done” was all changing.

With $300 in our pockets, Mark working full time, it was a no brainer. Goodbye Hotel.
Whatever happened next would still be easier than the current situation and any bad thought only crossed our minds for a day.

I gave the Hotel a weeks notice and the next day I was filling out a form for a full time customer service job – in a bank. Two of us in a bank. Both full time. Both working the same hours. Both paid weekly. Almost double my minimum wage job at the Hotel.

Asking for the money had changed everything.


If I knew Rock Bottom meant asking for money and the universe would turn things around, I would’ve taken up the offer in October.

Which brings this story to the present day.

Of course there is more – Mark then picked up a full time job in a Design and Print company just a few doors from Madame Tussauds, I really enjoy the bank, it’s a 15 minute bus ride and they really like me. Life is great!

But more importantly, there have been some very nice people we have met and whilst we couldn’t really be social in the past few months, we now have the opportunity to re-connect and are having a great time with them.

Reflecting, what would we have done differently?


Without a bit of drama, I wouldn’t know how to live!

I really do need to thank Ann for motivating me to share this with you.
There will be more - when I am ready to write it.

It took me 8 months to write this!