Friday, October 29, 2010

toronto woes

Bad news from T.O. this week.

Going against its brave ambitions to be a world-class city, Toronto voted in red-neck councillor Rob Ford as mayor this week. Unbelievable -- and sad. The Torontoist sums up the situation well, revealing a deep divide between the city's core and its outlying areas.

And, I was shocked to find out on Facebook that almost 10 people who I worked with on the national free dailies have either been fired or quit in the month and a half since I left. I'm hoping more left on their own accord than were let go.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I have the next two days off (Sunday and Monday), after 6 days in a row at my new job.

This morning was the first day I've felt as if my body was adjusting to the newness of 'manual' labour. Surprising, as yesterday, Friday, was a crazy, marathon of a day. I'm still officially training and only on half the eventual expected workload, but yesterday I barely stopped to catch my breath.

One hundred and seventy rooms out and one hundred and seventy new arrivals -- almost a complete turnaround. I only had 6 rooms in six hours. There can be a lot of lost time finding low supplies, waiting for the service elevator, etc., contacting supervisors or maintenance about wayward irons and bedside lamps. The departures require complete bedstrips which involve a mammoth struggle fitting a floppy down duvet into a queen- or king-size coverlet. I am determined to master this bewildering process of the duvet.

Fortunately this week I am off Sunday and Monday, other big check-out days.

I find this whole cleaning process strangely comforting. It takes me back to my childhood. With every tucked bed sheet I can hear my mother explain to me about 'hospital corners'. With the flapping of every clean pillowcase, I can hear my mother telling me how the zipper should go in first, so it doesn't show.

Every room is like a visit with my mother. Something I certainly wasn't expecting, but something very nice indeed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

on working street

Third day under my belt as a room attendant at a large international hotel chain in Cardiff.

Today was an easy day, but Monday, with the Ryder Cup lasting an extra day, was quite busy -- and I'm sure today's ease was an exception.

So far I am liking it. I'm sore and tired, but in a good way. Using many muscles I haven't had use for in a long time. The people are quite nice. Working with primarily women from the U.K., Poland, Latvia, Thailand, Morocco and a few other countries I'm not aware of yet.

My pay is a pound more than I thought -- making £6.60/hr -- almost a pound over minimum wage. Our lunches are free and supplied by the hotel's kitchen. So far, even with kitchen rejects, it's been very fine dining. Downside: apparently it is standard practice in the U.K to only get paid monthly. Ouch! We get paid on the third Friday of each month. I should be getting paid for this week in next week's pay, but after that I will be waiting five weeks for the next pay. Double ouch!!

The hotel is in Cardiff's city centre, at the end of one of the major pedestrianized walkways, part of which is known as Working Street. I love that name. I say partly known because streets here have the discomfiting habit of having five names --  with every change in angle the street receives a new moniker.

The section I believe is called Working Street is smack dab in the centre by the Cardiff Market and Hayes Island (a landmark eatery) and there are always construction workers and market workers and delivery people making their way along the granite walkways. People in this city seem to be happy doing whatever their job entails, whether it's sweeping the street or lugging parcels or arranging sweaters in a retail store.

I'm happy to be a part of it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

three weeks and two days

Whoa, time is zipping along. The first two weeks in Cardiff seemed like an eternity, but this last week has flown by and it's October already.

Great news on the job front! I have been hired as a casual room attendant (I'm afraid the term 'chambermaid' was long ago deemed sexist) and begin Monday morning at 10 a.m. This is a great relief. The job is for 30 hours a week, usually from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. The supervisor said it could easily and quickly lead to full-time as well as other opportunities within the international hotel chain.

I worked as a waitress/chambermaid for a summer while in university at a Muskoka resort and actually enjoyed cleaning rooms (to my surprise -- and probably to the surprise of anyone who knows me). The work is engaging, not too repetitive and one works on one's own for the most part. It's also more physically engaging than sitting at a computer for eight hours a day and frying my brains and eyes until my head is a vast wasteland. I don't plan on giving up fried brains but the change is needed and should be good.

This job may pay most of my rent, if not all of it, and will definitely ease the outward flow of savings. The hours are nicely situated to enable me to possibly work part-time somewhere in the afternoons or evenings as well.

And one of the great secrets to not feeling like a sad waterlogged piece of flotsam in the rainy streets of Cardiff is: dry feet. I finally dug out my watertight shoes yesterday from packed luggage and I'm now a happy little duck.