Fallen trees and interview techniques – first published 13 february 2014

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Some of my random and slightly desperate applying for jobs had resulted in a job interview back in February 2014. It was with a large financial institution in the city centre. Anyone who knows me will tell you finance and figures isn’t really my thing. I’m pretty sure I only applied to make up the numbers on my job search form but still, a job was a job.

13 February 2014

This morning I had a job interview so nine o’clock saw me all dressed up in my best bib and tucker going out the door thinking about interview techniques and which type I’d be likely to encounter. My black cloud was nowhere to be seen and the sky overhead was a beautiful blue with pretty white fluffy cumulus. Maybe the posh coat fooled it.

Not wanting to arrive all hot and flustered, I got the bus into town. It arrived quicker than expected so I had a little time to kill. Of course I began with the enchanted park, it’s been a while since I visited. The camellias I saw back in mid January have survived despite the abysmal weather, although a host of petals litter the ground beneath the bush. Clumps of strappy leaves that may be daffodil or possibly bluebell have pushed up through them. A few brave squills have come out here and there although their pretty petals are mud splashed from all the rain. Then I saw the daffodils. Maybe spring really is on the way!

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Even after wandering around the park I had time to kill so I walked around the block a couple of times. Maybe I should have been preparing, thinking about what I’d say or what they might ask. In the past I’ve done tons of preparation for interviews, read up on the company, written down questions to ask, even put together portfolios. In fact I’ve done all the things my little book of interview techniques said I should. The problem with interviews though is you never quite know what you’re going to get so how can you really prepare?

Sometimes they ask you to do things, like the inbox exercise I had to do for the cruise company. Some, I’ve heard, make you give presentations, still I’ve given enough off the cuff presentations in my time, I’m sure I could manage one more. They ask odd questions like, if you were a cake what sort of cake would you be? Lots of them ask you to ‘describe a time when….” And you have to think on your feet and hope you come up with something that doesn’t sound too lame and ends up having a point to it. The best ones are where they just chat to you and you chat to them, like the one I had with Arabella. That one almost felt as if I was interviewing her. Yes, interview techniques come in many different shades and hues and you never quite know which one lies ahead.

The other thing they do is give you tests. I knew from the email there would be tests and the one thing I was dreading was a maths test. Numbers are not really my thing unless they’re in a spreadsheet or they relate to something interesting like how many fuel points I need to hit my target or Saints’ goal difference. Of course there was a maths test, after the ‘describe a time when you…” And some chatting about what the job entailed.

By the time I got to the maths test though I didn’t much mind whether I passed or not. Turns out the job is just a three month contract, although it could end up lasting longer or even be permanent, they also expect you to work lots of overtime, including some Saturdays and the money is less than I’d like. Of course I did my best, pride wouldn’t let me do anything else. The questions were mostly simple enough and they did give me a calculator. There was one where I had to work out what percentage £xx was of £xxxx. Now I know there is a clever way to do that but I can never remember without Gooogling it. Luckily I could tell roughly what it was and I worked it out by process of elimination.

Once it was over I walked out into the sunshine breathing a sigh of relief. Then, with a skinny latte in hand, I walked home. On the way I took a photo of an interesting door and window. These were on a listed building in Portland Street. One I knew very well because I spent many years of my life sitting behind that particular window when I worked at Dream Factory.

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In the north east corner of Palmerston Park a huge tree was down. The council had already come along and started the process of sawing it up but it was sad to see a majestic old tree gone before its time. It looks as if the rain and the high winds were just too much for it. The earth around its roots was so soggy it just couldn’t hold on when the high winds rocked it.

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On I strolled, through Six Dials where Tom Grimsey’s Shoal sculpture glistened in the sun. It was unveiled in 2002 amid much controversy, not least because it cost £6500. Meant to represent a shoal of fish it makes me think of a roll of razor wire. Much as I like urban art, this is a very deprived, down at heel area, so I’d have thought there were more important things the money could have been spent on. Then again, it does brighten up the area.

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Over the railway bridge. Past the stadium and the monkey puzzle trees. As a child on school trips to the swimming baths we would play a game, no breathing between the two monkey puzzle trees. If the bus got stuck in traffic there’d be lots of red faced children and a huge gasp when things got moving. When they widened the road for the stadium one of the trees was cut down. There was an outcry, possibly because we weren’t the only children to play that game over the years, and they planted another by the new flats. Now they’re like father and son and I wonder if I’ll live to see the son grow as tall as the father?

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Then it was past the painted shops. Years ago this was a row of thriving businesses but, one by one, they closed. The area is not only deprived but crime ridden. Shops were broken into on a regular basis. None were making much money in the first place and such losses couldn’t be sustained. Now just one general store, like a fortress, remains. At some point the council decided to make things look better by painting shop fronts on the closed metal shutters. They are witty and bright and I do like them but I’m sure the locals would prefer the real thing.

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Soon I was crossing the Big Bridge. The water looks so much nicer with a blue sky overhead. A quick stop to snap some lush looking lichen on one of the whitebeam trees and another for a trio of oystercatchers sitting on the old wall along the embankment and I was across. The skeleton ship is disappearing at an alarming rate, what with the high tides, the high winds and the owners of the little boat clambering over it every day. Soon it will be gone I suppose.

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When I reached the woods at the end of the river path it was such a nice day I thought I’d have a walk along the trail. The mud meant I didn’t get very far, especially not with my interview shoes on. At least I got a nice view over the little quay, the masts of all the little boats against blue sky really did make me think of spring. Reeds swaying in a gentle breeze rather than a howling gale made me smile and I even saw bluebells, admittedly only leaves, along the path.

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When I got home there wasn’t much time for resting. CJ informed me we were out of milk so it was straight back out again and up the Big Hill. Quite why he didn’t text me while I was out so I could pick up some milk in town is beyond me. Still, he did come with me up the hill and it did give us the chance to have a look at the remains of a disaster on our own doorstep.

Yesterday, while Commando was out running, we saw a red helicopter circling overhead and wondered what it was up to. The news last night answered our question. One of the big trees on the common at the top of the hill had blown down onto a car in the eighty mile an hour winds. It belonged to a childminder on her way to pick up children from school and a little girl of two was trapped inside. Luckily the fire brigade soon got her out and she was unharmed. Commando says it must have happened not long after he ran past.

Rather ghoulishly, we thought we’d make a quick detour and look at the remains of the tree. Workmen were up ladders checking out the other trees when we got there. For a moment I wondered if we should risk walking along the road. Another rotten tree had already been cut down as a precaution. We kept to the opposite pavement, just in case, and walked a little further to investigate. I’m pretty sure Mini Commando was hoping to see a mangled car but that was long gone, as was the tree. All that remained was a stump of what was once a large, mature beech tree. This was another case of waterlogged ground and high winds being the straw that broke the camel’s back and now there have been calls to cut all the trees along the road down. I hope they don’t we need all the trees we can get.

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So now it’s a waiting game. Waiting for the next storm, probably tomorrow if the weather forecast is right. Wondering where the next tree will fall. Finally, waiting to see if my interview technique, or lack of, paid off and I’ll be offered a job I don’t really want? It would be just my luck.

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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