Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'One of the Tears for Fears boys came in. I was so starstruck I asked him to sign my satchel and spat cheesecake on him'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

So, this is my first day attempting a new job: Independent columnist. After unwrapping a new pencil-case and a good luck card from my mum, my thoughts turn to previous first days.

My first paid employment was as a waitress at Maria's Coffee Lounge in Chalk Farm. I was 16, and thought that wearing brown tapestry trousers and my dad's shirt with a bow tie (electric blue velvet) was a good idea.

I took one look at the carrot cake and decided to eat the whole thing while serving customers. Maria, a friendly woman from Poland, had to tell me that eating and serving was not what was required. Then I took some plates to the kitchen. Daryl was washing up. He was better looking than Morten Harket and had fantastic eyebrows. To this day, eyebrows are really all I look for in a man. My girlfriends all want men with sensitivity and a sense of humour. I still fancy Denis Healey.

Daryl and I embarked on an affair. I say affair, but he couldn't get the dicky bow off in time between serving an avocado surprise (the surprise being that it was very old) and chicken noodle soup. We never got past second base. I later heard he'd got together with another waitress, called Louisa. She, incidentally, wore low-cut tops from Camden Market. Whatever.

Anyway, on the afternoon I started, one of the Tears for Fears boys came in and asked for a cappuccino. I was so starstruck I asked him to sign my satchel and spat cheesecake all over him. I was asked never to come back.

My next job was as a cashier at Harrods. It seemed like the perfect gig. It's a nice glamorous building, right next to a Tube station, and it houses lovely twinkly things. We got quite good pay and 10 per cent discount off anything from Way In. I lasted a week. After a hideous customer who tapped her Harrods gold card on my forehead (I am not joking) when I failed to tell her IMMEDIATELY where the stationery department was, I decided that I was not ready to serve rich, rude people.

The thing about first days and new jobs is that they're a whole new opportunity to reinvent yourself. Every time you start afresh, it's a great chance to persuade your new workmates that you're fabulous. I want people to think that I don't care what they think (I'm still worried that the girl from Directory Enquiries thought I was a bit impatient yesterday). I want them to assume that I'm out all the time (I haven't left my house in years) and that I'm wildly adventurous in bed (I did it once in an "outfit", but it was a neck brace and I'm not sure that counts). I fail miserably by elevenses. Maybe it's the pressure. When first impressions really count, I can't seem to make the one I want.

My first day at secondary school was the same. Desperate for my new classmates to think I was cool, I turned up looking like a goth with heavy white make-up, a witch's hat and inch-thick black eyeliner.

The truth is, pale isn't that interesting to me. I'd much rather be bright orange. I aspire to look like Des O' Connor, not Marilyn Manson. I kept it up for one day and then, when I turned up all fake-tanned on Tuesday, they knew I was a phoney. I had to make friends all over again.

My first day working in television was no better. I was asked (amazingly) to present a show about craftwork (as in crochet, not the German electro band). It was a 30-minute show, and my job was to interview keen stitching enthusiasts. There was an item on découpage, on how to jazz up a lampshade with some transfers and a reel of gingham ribbon, and an eight-minute egg-painting demonstration. It was a live show and it was terrifying. When 10 minutes were assigned to the woman who crocheted whole scenes from the New Testament, I'm afraid I lost it. Not a quick snort and a smirk, but a fully fledged falling about, crying with laughter.

My boss said one more stunt like that and I'd be out. The crochet queen returned the next week with her life-size "loaves and fishes" display and I knew that, after pointing and weeping, I was going to get the sack. I was right.

My first office party also did me no favours. I'd managed to keep up the pretence that I could hold my alcohol and dance like Madonna. I was doing work experience at a production company and turned up in white leggings and fluorescent leg warmers (big mistake).

After one sip of shandy, I thought that requesting "System Addict" by Five Star seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. I took to the floor and did my robotic routine, something I'd practised since the age of 11. The next morning they said they'd found someone more "suitable" for the job. They didn't say it was because of the dancing but I could have sworn I heard someone humming "System Addict" as I cleared my desk.

I suppose I should have seen it coming. My first day at Brownies wasn't a roaring success. First, my grandmother insisted on coming in with me to take photos, and second, I admitted to not really "getting" owls. Brown Owl was so offended she insisted that Tawny Owl (pur-lease) show me her slide show that she'd called "the wonder of owls". I couldn't go back, and I still have nightmares about mouse-torturing, twitchy birds that turn their heads all the way round.

I'm not sure how I've messed up this particular first day yet, so I'll stand by for a bollocking and fill you in next week.

c.winkleman@independent.co.uk

Comments