After the humiliation of having my card rejected in Waitrose while trying to buy houmous, I decided to abandon the notion that jobs were something boring, ugly people did and get one for myself.
I was instantly drawn to the idea of being a street fundraiser, as not only does this mean no getting up early, but helping the needy has always been something close to my heart. During my gap year in Thailand I helped paint an invaluable mural for a local orphanage – although unfortunately this foray into charity work was brought to an end when I was hospitalised with alcohol poisoning. However, my generous spirit continued upon starting uni, where, unasked, I would often buy Slimfast for the fat girl I lived with in halls.
Despite these stellar credentials, they seemed hesitant about my lack of experience and asked me if it would be possible to develop dreadlocks, facial piercings and/or a vague interest in the healing power of crystals before I started. Luckily they saw the desperation in my eyes and conceded that it would probably be fine if I just neglected my personal hygiene for a few days…
11.19: Quite late for my first shift but swiftly stop feeling guilty after seeing the hideous fluorescent yellow tabard they expect me to wear. My team-leader is called Adrian and he shows us how to approach punters with a smile and the offer of a ‘free hug’. Unwisely, the man he chooses to demonstrate this on is 6’5” and from Newport.
11.23: Adrian’s nose has finally stopped bleeding but he seems reluctant to continue our training and we are left to fend for ourselves.
11.24: It’s pretty busy on Queen Street and with £20 commission for every mug I can convince to sign up, I know it won’t be long before I can ditch it and get back to what I do best: being sick outside Revs, stalking people I don’t know on Facebook and eating overpriced chickpea-based dips.
12.01: It’s amazing how many people suddenly get phone-calls as they approach me. Even the Big Issue seller is giving me sympathetic looks.
12.15: I have discovered that the most effective method is to avoid anyone with facial tattoos or more than one Poundland bag and instead to target the weak and the vulnerable-looking. I’m a lot like the killer whale on Frozen Planet – albeit one that cares deeply for those in need.
12.24: Finally manage to corner a slow-moving old lady. I tell her about the plight suffered by many African children and even manage to make my eyes fill with tears (top tip: think about the possibility of them not making any more Made in Chelsea) as I speak to her. She initially seems moved but then notices my clip-board and walks off, pointing out that the charity I am working for is the RSPCA. Some people are so random?
13.25: Chat to another street fundraiser and don’t even gag when he says he goes to UWIC. Think this charity work has made me a better person.
13.26: My housemate arrives to fortify me with Starbucks. UWIC tries to keep talking to me and I pretend he’s got me confused with someone else. Cringe.
14.22: I flag down a passer-by with a dog and appeal to him, as an animal-lover, to donate. Become quite irate as he fails to respond to the photos of the starving, flea-ridden cats I show him. In fact he doesn’t even bother to take off his sunglasses. It’s only when I notice his dog is wearing a very similar hi-vis jacket to me that my mistake becomes apparent. Bit awkward.
14.42: Spot a man on his fag-break and approach him. For a moment I see him consider ducking back into the shop, but fortunately his overwhelming nicotine addiction acts in my favour. At first he looks unconvinced but then I break down and tell him that unless he signs up I’ll be doomed to scouting the reduced section of Tesco, or perhaps even shopping in Lidl. He finally promises to give me his bank details if I stop beating my fists against the floor and making ‘that noise’. Success.
14.59: I’ve been here so long that I can no longer feel my face and I’m starting to believe the things that the Evangelical man with the megaphone is saying. Although all things considered, ‘burning in the eternal fires of hell’ at least sounds as though it might be warm.
15.21: Have a depressing moment of realisation that I’ve spent more in Pret A Manger than I’ve actually earned today. Find Adrian and inform him that not only do I find the job utterly demeaning, but also that I consider most animals to be both terrifying and dirty. He suggests that I don’t return tomorrow.
20.01: All is not lost; with my new skills of persuasion and previously undiscovered talent to cry on demand, I make my most convincing plea for charity yet. Thanks, Dad.