my work experience nightmare

This is a tale of woe. I warn you, though in no way exaggerated, what you are about to read is grossly self-pitying and for want of a better word – whiny. It documents my first two weeks (I’ve yet to complete the third) of work experience at BBC Radio Bristol.

Before I begin this story I should clarify that this piece of writing in no way reflects the BBC or my time there. Everyone I’ve worked with at BBC Bristol has been lovely I’m happy to say. If you were looking for any juicy gossip or an account of my failure (see title), sorry to disappoint.

The things I’ve had to endure, in the last two weeks, I never would have imagined. If I could have predicted what my oh-so-innocent 3 week placement would have entailed a few weeks ago, lord knows I might have thought twice about doing it. I accept that things would have been a lot simpler if I could drive and owned a car, but the fact is I don’t and cars are expensive and I have no money. Who knows whether I’d even have a car if I could drive one.

And this is the crux of the problem; money. It always leads back to this. If I was rich things would have been a lot simpler. But I’m poor, I’m very, very poor, and I’m made poorer by the fact I’m forking out hundreds of pounds to fund transport and accommodation to work for free.

A few minutes walk away from the BBC for only £80 a week, I couldn’t believe my luck.

The amount of time I’ve spent Google-ing ‘cheap accommodation Bristol’ and every other variant of that phrase is ridiculous. I’ve wasted hours looking for places to stay that end up being predominantly too expensive, booked out, too far away or too much of a shit-hole. Not only this but I’ve spent almost £100 on trains that are nearly always late, delayed or break down. When I stumbled upon a place to stay in Clifton, a few minutes walk away from the BBC for only £80 a week, I couldn’t believe my luck. Little did I know what a nightmare it would turn out to be.

The paragraph detailing what I’ve done during my time at the BBC on my CV will seem like a joke to me, as it cannot convey the reality of what this placement has involved. The ordeal I’ve been through merely to be able to type out the next few lines:

What did I do during my placement?

  • organised interviews for radio shows, conducted interviews in the studio, clipped the audio and written two separate cues for the news headlines and radio programme
  • interviewed members of the public, cut the audio and made it into a vox pop which will be broadcast
  • chased up local stories and compiled details for future use on local city council policies and plans (regarding transport)

What else did I do during my placement??

  • Caught trains that were delayed and broke down
  • Stayed in a flat that resulted in me being bitten over 40 times all over my body and bought £20 worth of prescription medication not to mention another £5 on over the counter products which inevitably didn’t work
  • Moved around like a yo-yo, commuting from Weston-super-mare 2 days, then staying at my aunty’s in Winterbourne, then travelling home at the weekend, then going back to Clifton, then staying at my aunty’s again because I was being bitten so badly, then going back to the flat in Clifton and last-minute packing all my things and staying on my brother’s sofa in Brislington and getting a taxi to the BBC at 5am in the morning, then getting a train home again where I had to stand for over and hour and a half in a sweaty, smelly, stuffy compartment between clogged carriages
  • Missed Port Eliot festival because after 2 weeks of constantly packing my things and moving around, scratching and itching, spending hours on or waiting for trains, getting up at 5 and not stopping for almost 14 hours two days in a row – I felt like I was going to implode

I started off the work experience commuting from Weston-super-mare, where I was staying in a cottage with my family. We did this because my aunty who lives in Bristol couldn’t have me until Wednesday until her children had gone on holiday and there was a spare bed for me to sleep in. Not only this but she lives in Winterbourne which has little to no transport connections to Clifton and I had no idea what hours the BBC would have me doing.

Staying with my aunty was great; I was fed, had a comfortable bed to sleep in and got lifts into the BBC. On the Friday I travelled back to St Austell which was a mistake.. My parents somehow got the idea that it was too much to ask for me to stay at the weekend as well (which my aunty said was ridiculous) and so I got the train home; which ended up being 30 minutes delayed.

The train back to St Austell was delayed and I didn’t get home until 10pm. I worked on my documentary all the way home and Saturday morning got up at 9.30 and repacked my suitcase. My god I was tired. I went to catch a train to Plymouth which didn’t stop at the station it always stops at, so had to go back home, wait half an hour and then catch the next one. By the time I got to Plymouth it was 3pm and half my day had gone. I had only 24 hours left until I had to get back on another train and go back to Bristol (which broke down at Tiverton).

The good news was that I didn’t have scabies.

After having to switch trains I arrived in Clifton, Bristol and started at the beeb at 9am on Monday. That was the day I started scratching. By the evening I had 8 or so bites on me. I showed my live in landlady and asked for fresh bedding. Despite changing the bedding by Tuesday evening I had almost 20 bites on me. On Wednesday I had over 30. Wednesday evening my aunty offered for me to stay at hers again and I packed a bag after work and got a lift back with my uncle.

Thursday morning I started at 6am. By this time the bites were horrific. They were everywhere, clusters of them on my stomach, on my legs, bites on my neck, my fingers, on the side of my toes, even a bite on the palm of my hand. By Thursday half of them had blistered. The cream I’d bought from Boots a couple of days before was doing nothing, nor the tablets. Thursday afternoon after I finished work I walked back to the flat, dropped off my bag, walked around trying to find the drop in surgery in Clifton because Google Maps on my stupid phone wasn’t working and ended up spending my afternoon in a waiting room followed by picking up £20 worth of prescription medication.

After being told by the doctor the good news was that I didn’t have scabies… (the worst good news I’ve ever received) it was pretty obvious that fleas were the most plausible explanation, though she couldn’t say for certain. But the lady has cats and there was really nothing else it could be. Knowing I had to stay in the flat one more night, I bought insect repellent and reluctantly made my way back.

You can imagine I was horrified.

Well… you don’t look for things you can’t see unless you know they’re there do you? When I got back to the room I was paranoid. I looked over the sheets but couldn’t see anything. Then, whilst applying the steroid cream I spotted something on me, a tiny dark thing that could have been mistaken for a spec of dirt. Then it flew off. A few minutes later the same black spec was on my bare leg. I slowly inched my finger towards it and then when my finger was about a centimetre away it was gone. It watched it jump off my leg.

After witnessing that you can imagine I was horrified. I was in tears for about the fourth time that week. There was no way I could stay there. I was already in huge discomfort and the thought of having another ten bites on my body was unbearable. The next hour or so involved frantic phone calls between me, my parents, my aunt and my brother. After getting through to my brother it was arranged that I would sleep on his sofa. I packed up all my things and my aunty picked me up from the flat after she finished work.

Then ensued a stressful car journey because Google Maps nor the internet on my stupid effing phone was still working and my aunty had no idea where she was going because she’d only been to my brothers flat once and I’d never been there before. We took a right hand turn when there wasn’t one and almost collided into bus…

I’d arranged to start at 6 the next day so I could get an early train home and so I could go out with Nigel Dando again in the radio car. I caught a taxi at 5.30 and then for the second time that week – the day I wanted to leave on time was a day I was actually given lots to do. By Wednesday I had so many bites that I had to stay at my aunt’s again, as I said, but that meant leaving at half 5 and on that day they were short-staffed and actually needed me. Typical. I wasn’t able to finish what I was doing and felt like shit not staying on. The one thing they tell you to do during your work placement to make a lasting impression is to offer to stay on.

So on Friday, I got given something to do for Sunday’s radio show late in the day (well.. 12pm, which was late in the day for me) I went out to do a vox pop and was meant to finish at 2 but really didn’t want to leave without editing my vox together, despite Jack telling me to go. So, I stayed on and finished it, but by this time I’d missed my train. I had to wait 45 minutes for the next train from Clifton to Temple Meads and despite finishing at 3.15 didn’t leave Temple Meads until 4.45.

I’ve found I’ve been bitten 50 times in total.

After my 5am start I got home at 8pm and then had to decide whether or not I could manage volunteering with filming at Port Eliot the following day, which sadly I decided I’d have to forgo after looking forward to it for weeks. After recounting my bites countless times, har har, I’ve found I’ve been bitten 50 times in total, which despite some of them being 5 days old itch like hell, and that’s from just  3 nights stay in the flat. God knows what state I’d be in if I’d have stayed another night. I’m applying witch hazel, calamine lotion, steroid cream and taking two sets of tablets every day. I’ve had to find different accommodation for next week and currently face either staying in a hostel Sunday night in a dormitory with 4 other people or spending around £70 on a 6am train Monday morning to get me to Bristol, because the return ticket I’ve bought is off-peak.

All this to have something to put on my CV??