Saturday, 7 April 2012

(Day 30) The Wrath of Grapes

Saturday 31st March (Day 30)

Today is the day I have been looking forward to all week; the day of the wine tasting event!  One of my housemates called Troy (a New Zealander) works in a wine shop and got us tickets to today’s wine tasting event.  We also have a night out planned later tonight for Lisa’s Birthday and I think going on a night out after going to a wine tasting event should be in interesting and potentially disastrous combination.

Harbour Bridge from the window of a train.

The wine tasting was in Circular Quay at the northern most point of the city right between the Harbour Bridge and the Opera house.  The journey was walkable but we took a train so we had more time to consume wine.  The weather today was glorious; it was just another perfect day in Sydney.
Approaching Harbour Bridge.

On the way to the wine tasting we had to walk underneath the Harbour Bridge.  This is the first time I had been close (or under) the Harbour Bridge and it is huge!  From a distance it just looks like an iron coathanger in the city skyline but from close it is a masterpiece of engineering.  You just don’t get buildings like this anymore.  Nobody has the balls or the money to undertake such engineering projects like this anymore (unless you live in Dubai).

It is just massive.
We arrived at the function hall where the wine tasting was being held.  At the start of the wine tasting corridor was a large table filled with rows upon rows of bottles of mineral water.  Providing this much free water in a room with this much alcohol is a good idea.  We were also each given a goodie bag which also contained a bottle of water amongst a few booklets and other wine tasting related literature.

The entrance.

The wine tasting hall.

In the hall there were at least 50 booths.  Each booth had a table with various bottles of wine on display and a few people stood behind the table representing the winery (wine people).  Their job was to smile, pour the wine and tell you about the winery they were representing.  There were probably more bottles of wine in this room than in Nicolas Sarkozy’s basement.
We started off on the first table where we tried some wine from a winery that was proud of the fact that it was one of the only carbon neutral wineries in the world.  That is great and all but I never really associated wine making as a major source of carbon dioxide.  It is like going to a dentist and being told that the dentist surgery is carbon neutral, it is nice but a in the grand scheme of things completely pointless.

After we finished at the carbon neutral table I moved onto the second table.  It wasn’t long until I noticed that my housemates were gone and had wondered off, probably straight to the champagne tables rather than doing each table one by one like I was trying to do.  To be honest doing every table was an insane goal and I would probably collapse before even making it around half the room.

Every table I visited left me feeling more and more drunk.  I was trying to have intelligent conversations with the wine people because I felt like it was polite to take an interest in there wine that I was drinking for free but this was becoming increasingly difficult, especially when they started getting technical and started throwing French words at me. 

To me there are 2 types of wine, red and white.  You can also mix red and white wine together to make something called Rosé as well.  But the wine people disagreed with me, apparently there are lots of different types of wine and they all have these complicated French names.  I did French for 5 years at school and I remember nothing.  French is a lost cause for me and if sober Mike couldn’t remember French there was no way drunk Mike was going to pick it up.  In the end I just resorted to agreeing with and saying “yep” or “that’s grand” to everything the wine people said, even before they had finished saying it.

I tried various different types of wine from various countries across the globe and they all tasted quite different.  One thing I did learn was that a more expensive wine doesn’t necessarily taste better than a cheaper wine.  It was almost embarrassing when I was trying out a range of wines from one table starting off with the cheapest and working my way up until the end when they bring out the expensive bottle and make a big deal out of it saying “ah, this is the stuff”, then I drink it and have to try and hide my face of disgust.  “What is this shit?”

One bottle of $100 wine was truly horrific; I honestly think I could make a better bottle of wine in the bathtub at home.  And the wine people were watching me so keenly!  This was there most expensive bottle, their best wine, their pièce de résistance (some French for you there).  I didn’t want to upset them, they probably worked there arses off making this stuff (well not them, but the underpaid labourers they have in working the fields).  “Yes, it is very lovely” I said whilst trying to hold back my gag reflex.

I think the thing I liked best about the wine tasting was the atmosphere.  When I go on a night out I usually end up in some dingy basement full of drunken people and oppressively loud music.

But here everyone was drunk but the room was large and clean.  The air conditioning meant that although it was hot sunshine outside inside was pleasantly cool, like being in the shade.
There was a balcony overlooking the busy but relaxed harbour of Sydney.  Across the water was the iconic Sydney Opera house and on the other side was the iconic Harbour Bridge.  Various sized boats calmly drove past the balcony.  Everything is more relaxed when you add water.  This place was just perfect. 

The Opera House in the distance.
The Opera House from the balcony.
Life is move relaxed when it is on water.
Everyone here was in such a good mood as well.  And they were people of all ages, young people, drop dead beautiful women in long flowing dresses, posh older couples and just a variety of nice people.  People I loved being in company with but people sadly you would never see on a night out, not in the places I go to anyway.

I felt like my somewhat posh sounding British accent help me fit in to this event, and to be honest I was trying to emphasis the posh.  Saying words like “wonderful” and “splendid”.  I just wish I knew French and actually knew a thing or 2 about wine, then I could really play the posh English card.

Is this how the French drink wine?
(But look, even the guy in the background between the 2 heads is smiling).

After about 5 o’clock we staggered out of the event hall.  I haven’t been in such a jolly mood in a long time.  To me everything was perfect.  Yes I was drunk but I was in Sydney which was perfect, the weather was perfect, the company was perfect (my Canadian, French, Dutch, Kiwi housemates) and my mood, it was perfect.

Some guy was so drunk outside he couldn't even stand.

Friday, 6 April 2012

New Archive system

I never liked how Blogger archived my posts so I have just added a new system which makes going through my posts and finding your favourite posts much easily.

Just thinking of you guys.


The Old.

The New.

(Day 28/29) Days of Idle

Thursday 29th and Friday 30th March (Day 28 and 29)

On Thursday and Friday I did very little worth talking about.  To be honest I was expecting a phone call from the street fundraising company I wanted to work for so I couldn’t really do much.
You can’t expect me to be Mikeing it up every day; I do occasionally give myself the day off.  I spent most of these 2 days watching stand up comedy, I had been recommended by Ryan (New Zealand housemate) to watch Dylan Moran and yes he is hilarious.  I love stand up comedy and one day I hope to be doing stand up comedy myself.  One day...

Between watching Dylan Moran I spent time thinking about my blog.  You may think my blog is simple and you are right, it is.  It is the story of my life in Sydney for one crazy year.  But I am always thinking up new ideas, new things to add and ways to improve my blog.  I am doing a fair about of behind the scenes work which hopefully you will see soon.

Tomorrow is a big day, I am going wine tasting in Circular Quay and then there is a BBQ and a big night out.  I can’t wait!  Like I said before, this is going to be a messy one.

(Day 27) Lisa's Birthday

Wednesday 27th March (Day 27) 

Today was Lisa’s birthday; I can’t remember how old she is but it is either 19 or 20.  I always find it funny when someone complains about their age in the company of people who are older than themselves.

When it comes to age I always remember something my dad told me.  I asked him once “what were the best years of your life?”  He answered “the best years of your life are the ones you are living now”.  I think this is a very wise statement and I think everyone should have this outlook when it comes to there age (until time travel becomes commercially viable).
On the walk back from last night’s pizza I picked up a birthday card for Lisa and during the walk I was approached by a prostitute.  She asked me if I was looking for some company.  There was a sound of desperation in her voice, though she did have these lovely green eyes.  Not like I would ever go there of course.

Today I did the card signing errand where I go around knocking on everyone’s door and get them to sign the birthday card.  I quite like doing this; it is a good way of saying hi to everyone.  There are some people in the house who aren’t big drinkers and therefore don’t partake in most of the social drinking so we generally don’t see them very often.  Doing the card errand is a good way of checking to see if these people are still alive.

At one point I was getting a group of people sat outside to sign the card but then Lisa showed up and JC who was signing the card at the time had to quickly hide it.  Lisa looked at us suspiciously but I think she just thought we were acting weird again.

Tonight some of Lisa’s friends came round for a small birthday party.  The main party was Saturday so tonight was generally quite modest.  It was just a generally nice evening of drinking and talking. 

Lisa went into the house for a second and we decided to sing happy birthday to her when she came back out.  I was put in charge of counting us in which probably wasn’t the best idea because I was quite drunk.  After singing happy birthday Lisa’s friend started singing happy birthday in Swedish (because they and Lisa are Swedish).  It isn’t just the English version translated but a completely different version with a different rhythm and everything.  To think about it there are probably loads of different versions of Happy Birthday in many different languages and countries.

Overall tonight was a nice simple night, but I can already tell Saturday night, the main night out will be a messy one.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

(Day 26) This isn’t over!

Tuesday 27th March (Day 26) 

I was walking back from my exit interview thinking about working as an engineer again when I was approached by a fundraiser.  She used a very interesting opening line to get my attention.  She said something like “ah, there you are, I have been waiting all day to talk to you”.  It was a little confusing but very flattering, I was like “what?” but when I said this I had a big smile on my face.  After we started talking I quickly explained that I had just quit my job as a fundraiser.  She said that it was there loss and I should come work for the company she works for.  She had a lot of faith in me considering I had just walked away from my last job less than an hour ago.

It got me thinking though; had I left fundraising too early?  Whilst this thought was on my mind I got approached by a second fundraiser.  She was just a little shorter than me; she had these big brown eyes that matched her brown hair and the brown tee shirt she was wearing.  Her eyes might have got my attention but it was the way she was talking to me that captivated me.  She was talking to me like we were best friends.  It wasn’t long before she was writing down my details so I would be contacted by the office and invited to an interview.

That’s right, I want to go back to fundraising, engineering can wait a bit longer.  It is because of the people who do fundraising, I have become fascinated by them.  How can someone be so happy and energetic throughout the day?  When the brown eyed girl spoke to me it was getting past 4 o’clock; it was near the end of her working day but she was still fresh as a daisy and full of energy. It is like each of them inside have a never ending fountain of happiness and charisma.

I want to know their secret; I want to know what makes them tick.  Is there some kind of secret fundraising drug they snort 3 times a day to keep them going?  Did an ordinary person receive a heavy blow to the head whilst thinking a happy thought and thus became a street fundraiser?

It is a shame that most people walk past fundraisers and pretend they don’t exist when really they just missed the opportunity to talk to probably the most interesting and charismatic person they will speak to all week.
What makes them smile all the time?
I want to spend more time with these people and I want to get good at fundraising.  Another reason for giving my details was because I liked the vibe with these people.  The atmosphere was good and they seemed happy with their job.  I had thought that fundraising wasn’t for me but maybe it was just the company I was working for wasn’t very good?  I can’t help but think that judging by the positive vibe with these fundraisers that things would be better with this company.  I am going to give street fundraising another go.  My first attempt was just a practice, an introduction.  This is the real thing!

I still want to do this, but not yet.
This is what I want to do for now, and I want to be a beast at it!

Images from
No copyright infringement intended.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

(Day 26) Charity ends on the streets

Tuesday 27th March (Day 26)

Today was another day of work, the morning started off okay but Joanna my boss showed up in the afternoon.  She wanted me to pitch her to see how my pitch was developing and to find out why I hadn’t managed to signed anyone up yet.  It is always hard to act natural whilst you are pitching some you know who is pretending to be a “normal person”.  It is even harder when you know that person will be judging you on everything from body language to every word that comes out of your mouth.

I generally did the pitch well this time but I came apart when it came to the close and concern handling.  The concern handling is basically when the person you are pitching says they can’t signup and you have to try and convince them otherwise.  I absolutely hate doing this which is why I am terrible at doing it.  I just feel like I am twisting there arm into doing something they don’t want to do.  I see myself as a generally light easy going guy and making people do things they don’t want to do is just not in my personality at all.

Joanna said overall my pitch was good and I was improving very well, but she also said that if I finished today with no signups I should drop by the office after work with all my stuff (charity tee-shirt, paper work, clipboard and ID badge).  Basically it sounded like if I didn’t get any signups I was going to get fired.

In fairness Joanna is a very nice woman but as my boss she is target driven and I felt like I was not performing as she wanted.

After a few hours of hard work I managed to speak to a fair number of people but again no sign ups.  By this point Mina was working with me to try and get a sign up for me but this didn’t really help.  I stopped for a second to watch her work and that girl is just a little fundraising machine.  There is nothing special about her as such; she is so short that most people probably don’t even notice her at first.  But she is such a machine; she never stops talking to people.   She is constantly going from one person to the next.  Another one of her great abilities is her ability to isolate someone from a crowd.  Usually when people are on their own and they see fundraisers they walk closely to groups of other people they don’t know in order to hide.  But this doesn’t work with Mina.  Her ability to pluck people from crowds is just awesome.
With the words from Joanna ringing in my head and seeing busy body Mina work the only way she knows (at all capacity) I realized something.  I was shit at this job.  It was like I almost woke up, I am an engineer not a fundraiser.  I can’t do this.  I approached Mina and told her that I had decided that fundraising wasn’t for me.

She was very nice and said that she was sorry to see me go and that I had been a pleasure to work with.  She also said I had a lot of potential to be a great fundraiser.  I told her that I thought I had potential, but there are other people who will pick up this job and become better at it faster than me.

I just sat down and took of my charity tee-shirt.  Overall I felt terrible; I have failed.  I thought I could do this but the truth is; I can’t.

I had to go back to the office to hand in my stuff and to have an “exit interview”.  Overall the exit interview was actually quite good.  The woman I spoke to was very nice and she just asked me a few questions.  One of the questions she asked me was what could the company do better?  I said that I felt underprepared when I went out on the streets and that 2 trainings days would have been a lot better.  She agreed with me and said that a lot of people had said that.  This made me feel slightly better.

On the walk home I was thinking about all the engineering jobs I was going to apply for.  I was excited about the idea of getting back into engineering, but then something happened.  Something that changed everything...

Monday, 2 April 2012

(Day 25) The Sole Survivor enters his second week

Monday 26th March (Day 25) 

I am the last person left from Wednesday’s training day and I feel like I am holding some sort of gauntlet for that training day.  I don’t want to fall into the wayside like everyone else before me has done.

Today is Monday and every Monday the fundraisers meet up at the head office for some generic weekly meetings and to meet their new team mates (the teams change every week).  This week I was being paired up with 2 girls called Kay and Mina with Mina being our team leader (it’s funny; I haven’t worked with another guy yet).  I was told that I had been paired up with Mina because she was a great fundraiser and I was told I could learn a lot from working with her.

After some boring meetings we left the office and headed outside where I was asked to demonstrate my pitch (script); Mina wanted to know how much I knew and I don’t think she was impressed by my attempts at pitching Kay.  The thing is I didn’t practice my pitch at all over the weekend and the reason I didn’t practice it is because I didn’t want to.  I know that sounds lazy but the main reason was because I hated using the pitch.  I know I should have learnt the pitch and doing so would help me do the job immensely but really I wanted to stop and talk to people as myself and not as someone reading a few lines that they have been told to memorise.  It just made the job feel impersonal and I felt uncomfortable using it.

After a talking to by Mina I tried to force the pitch into my memory but really I was more interested in chatting to Kay.  After a bus and train journey we arrived in the town of Burwood 7 miles west of Sydney.  The weather was nice today and Burwood seemed like a nice little town.  Mina our team leader was working on the other side of the road which allowed Kay and I to continue chatting whilst people weren’t passing by.  Kay like myself was English and because of that I suppose we had a lot of common ground to talk about.  Like I love talking to people from all different countries but conversations just flow better when you are talking to someone from your home country.

Today passed at a reasonable pace, I felt my confidence improve in approaching people but my lack of knowledge of the pitch was preventing me from getting sign ups.  Both Kay and I ended the day without signing anyone up but Mina on her own managed a healthy 3 which to be honest was really important for the team since Kay and I hadn’t managed any.

Today was a reasonably good day but I am starting to feel the pressure of not signing anyone up.  I had been told on numerous occasions that the company expects people to get a signup before the end of the third day.  Today was the end of my third day and I still had no signups.  I feel like the lack of signups is going to come and bite me on the arse very soon.

(Day 24) Sunday Reflection III - Work

I am feeling a bit bummed about having to go back to work tomorrow but I am not worried.  It is the same feeling I had after a week of starting my first full time job.  I feel a bit down because I am spending my time at work rather than being free to do anything I want to.  But that isn’t really true because my free time is spent doing unfulfilling things like staying in bed late and grazing on the internet.  Plus there is always the small issue of money; what is the point of having all this “free time” when you are penniless.

A few years ago after a week of starting my first full time job I was feeling a bit depressed.  I felt like the purpose of my life was to go to that office every day and spend all day sat in my chair in front of my computer.  That was my purpose in life and it was really getting me down.  But it was a silly thought really; of course that wasn’t the purpose of my life.  I was just feeling that way because I had never worked full time before and it was a shock to the system.

I could describe my feelings towards work as being a scale with an extreme on each sides.
On the negative side I would describe work as selling your life for money.  You just convert the hours of your day into money; effectively you are selling time, your time.  How much money you got for your time depended on how much your time was worth.  If someone was being paid more than you that is because there time was more valuable than your time.  It would be easier if they just built a machine, a booth that you stepped into and it just magically sucked time off you.  You leave the booth and it dispenses some money for the time you have just sold.

On the other end of the scale I would describe work as doing something you love.  It is a hobby and you find it fulfilling and rewarding.  The fact that you are getting paid for it is not important.  The only reason you get paid is to allow you to keep doing this rewarding hobby you enjoy every day.

So this scale is how I describe work in general.  Since it has been over a year since I had a full time job it is a bit of a shock to my lazy system and my feeling towards work is somewhat nearer the negative end of the scale.  But this is exactly how I felt before when I first started working and after a few weeks I quickly found myself moving up the scale more towards the positive end.  I hope one day I find myself right at the very end of the positive side of the scale.

Where are you on the “Mike’s Scale of Job Satisfaction”?  Is your job a hobby you get paid for or are you just selling your life for cash?  Maybe you are on the more negative side and you should consider finding a new job?  Or maybe you have found your calling and sit nicely on the positive side?  Join in and write a comment, don’t worry your boss does not read my blog, I checked.

This is going to catch on people!  In a few months you will see this in
every job centre and every recruitment company.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

(Day 23) The life in the picture

Saturday 24th March (day 23)

Today I went for a wonder around Sydney.  I was actually looking for a birthday card for Amy (one of my house mates) but I discovered that card shops are hard to find in Sydney.  Over in England there is a card shop on nearly every main high street, each filled with so many cards for every conceivable occasion.  However here in Australia it would seem that the greetings card industry hasn’t really taken off yet.  After a few attempts at finding a card shop I ended up in a place called the QVB (Queen Victoria Building).  After a few minutes of wondering I had a stroke of deja vu.  I recognised this place because I had read about it in my favourite guide book before coming out to Australia.  (A book I have since lost)

What fascinated me was I read about this place and looked at the illustrations in the book ages ago; I was reading and thinking about this place when I was 10,000 miles away, thinking about what it would be like to be there.  I am here now in the place I read about and tried to imagine.
It is said that a picture says a thousand words, but not all of those words are accurate.  The pictures of QVB in my guide book show a calm and relaxed atmosphere; like the QVB is a hidden gem where few people go.  However the actual shopping centre was a lot more chaotic; it is full of busy people diving in and out of shops.  The QVB does seem to be more catered towards tourist rather than local people and there were a lot of touristy looking people here. Maybe some are here because they read about the QVB in the same guide book I have.  Maybe they are even thinking the same thing I am thinking about how it looks and feels different from the way the book portrayed it. 

I did end up finding a card shop and got a card for the house to sign for Amy’s birthday.  I also bought a flask to store hot coffee in.  I had the idea that having constant access to strong coffee would help me whilst trying to be a good street fundraiser.  Coffee has helped me get through jobs and university classes in the past, why not now in this job?

But today was about walking around the QVB and the feeling of deja vu.  It was just really interesting walking around a place that my mind had been before (well, to the best of its ability).  I not sure if I am describing the sensation well and I hope you guys can sort of relate to what I am saying.  I just found the experience fascinating.

By the way I am going to come back to this post and add some imagines in a few days (including the ones from the guide book).