Being blessed with the incredible talent of not technically being from this country, I managed to get myself on the civil service diversity internship scheme this summer. I’ve been placed at the Home Office, which occupies really a rather snazzy building, complete with cylindrical glass portals at the entrance that one has to awkwardly pause in before you can pass into the enormous atrium within.
I assume they’re there either for security or emergency teleportation.
I live with a group of total strangers (three really-rather-attractive-looking young men of about my age, two of whom are on investment banking internships and so clearly are going to be filthy rich) in an awesome flat directly above a Tesco Express and a cash machine, and about half a minute from a direct tube journey to Westminster. So all in all, it might seem like I have it quite good. Not so.
Firstly, it turns out that living in London is really rather expensive. Obviously, I knew that. And obviously, I planned for it. Unfortunately, an inexplicable dresses craving that required urgent attention towards the end of term left me in a bit of a pickle this last month. But being on a one-woman quest to prove that despite dropping Economics, I can handle the concept of money without too much undue effort, I must say I developed some innovative solutions. For example, I insisted on meeting a friend the other week on the tube side of the Baker Street underground station. Thus, socialising could take place within the confines of a single use of my newly acquired oyster card. It was very cunning.
Oh well. At least I still graduate in PPE. No one in the real world seems to have worked out that the degree is a sham.
There is one key advantage to living in London, in that I’ve been able to quickly develop that innate sense of superiority that all Londoners (especially the ones in Oxford) seem to have. I regularly strut around Westminster looking disdainfully at tourists, and allow myself to feel incredibly important and definitely never at all confused. This is occasionally undermined by stressful London-related experiences, such as the incident the other morning, when I absent-mindedly sprinted, Olympic-style, into the wrong train and then had to awkwardly run right back out again, desperately avoiding eye contact and trying to pretend like I’d meant to do it all along.
That was the day I had accidentally left my phone in the offices overnight. My very lovely colleagues locked it in a drawer for safekeeping, which was kind of them. They definitely regretted it though, because the owner of the locked drawer arrived late that morning. Imagine the dawning embarrassment as I slowly headed towards my desk, fresh from tube-related travails, through the vast, open-plan offices and with each step heard the dulcet tones of my blackberry alarm growing ever louder. In shock I confirmed the news that they had been listening to it for the last 45 minutes. It was with a wicked smile one colleague pronounced that now, I could sit down and listen too. My humiliation knew no bounds.
And the tales of mortification don’t end there. My internship began marked by the ‘keys’ issue. The friend from whom I’m slightly illegally subletting a room lost her key to the downstairs entrance of the block of flats, which meant that I spent my first two weeks here unhappily buzzing random inhabitants to get in. My pleas that I wasn’t a burglar weren’t entirely successful, and I now live in constant fear of the very angry man in flat 7.
But you know, other than Mr Flat 7, my neighbours are absolutely fabulous. There’s this elderly Indian couple in flat 4 who I think have more or less adopted me as a daughter. Thankfully, they were on holiday when I invited a bunch of St John’s friends to celebrate my birthday last week. When one friend ends the evening throwing up in a stolen hat, you know it’s been a good night.
And you know, it actually really is exciting being in London for the Olympics. Boris’ voice serenades me at every other tube station, and I read media cuttings about immigration queue scares every Monday morning. Yet when I walk out of Westminster station, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on my left, through throngs of excited sports-mad tourists, and head into the depths of government, I can’t help but forget my woes and fraudulent diversity background. I feel quite gloriously British.