Friday, February 4, 2011

Oh no (continued)

So on Tuesday I flew down to Wellington for my interview. I'd done some preparation, but not much. The interview, near the top of one of Wellington's swankiest high-rise buildings, lasted almost an hour and a half. I was interrogated by a panel of three, so they were certainly taking the process seriously. It wasn't easy - in an interview that long, it's hard to disguise the fact that in nearly six years I did very little work of any substance. It's also hard to pretend that I want to do that line of work as a career, above anything else (in fact I didn't even try to pretend that). Most of my answers were pretty woolly. On balance I didn't perform badly, but I put my chances of being offered a job at about 10%. It would all depend on how desperate they were - if they were really desperate and the other applicants were really bad, I might have a chance. That's where the 10% came from.

I like Wellington. The city centre has a nice feel about it, in contrast to central Auckland which has very little feel at all, nice or otherwise. Tuesday was a lovely sunny day; that of course enhanced my impression of the place. After the interview I caught the bus to my cousin's house. It was good to see her - I've always got on pretty well with her. She and her husband have three boys, eight, six and two - they're all such good kids. During the night a storm sprung up. The house shook; sleep was decidedly difficult. The gale continued the next morning and it became very apparent why people joke about Wellington's inclement weather. About 300,000 people live there and they must all be nuts. In all seriousness, coming from the UK, the weather would be the least of my troubles. My biggest challenge would be lack of familiarity. I said Auckland doesn't have much "feel", but I've been here for seven years, know my way around (kind of!) and most importantly I've made some good friends in the last year or two. A couple of years ago moving would have been easier, but now could I possibly face having to start all over again?

I visited Te Papa on Wednesday morning - mostly the natural history section - and spent some time on Cuba Street, one of Wellington's more colourful areas. My cousin (who works from home as a patent attorney and earns roughly 5.4 squillion dollars a year) kindly took me to the airport and I arrived home around five.

On Thursday morning the company rang me. I fully expected (and, if I'm honest, hoped for) the big fat no. But no, it wasn't the big fat no. They wanted to check references and to see my degree certificate and exam results letters. Suddenly my chances had shot up to something like fifty-fifty. Could I really face actuarial work again, especially in a city I don't know? Later that morning I got another phone call, this time from a recruitment agency in Auckland who might have a temporary job for me, and then on Friday morning I got a call about another actuarial job that I'd basically forgotten I'd even applied for - I've got an interview (near the top of some big tower in Auckland I expect) scheduled for Tuesday week.

Applying for that job wasn't a pleasant experience. For a start they're a big company and they're Australian. I had to fill in this online application form but first I had to register with their site, or whatever, and pick a password. This was a reminder of everything I wanted to get away from when I left my last big job. The passwords for this site had to have three vowels, four consonants, two digits and a currency symbol, and at least two letters from each row of the keyboard. You couldn't use any letters from your name, your parents' names or your pets' names. Think these companies don't know your dog's name? Think again. They know everything about you. Worst of all, you had to change your password pretty much every time you logged in, and you couldn't use any of your last 48 passwords. Have I used dvu8a7$!Mkiq yet? Buggered if I know. Is it just me or are endless impossible-to-remember passwords a defining feature of the start of the third millennium?

Yesterday I played tennis. A lot of tennis. I turned up in time for a 1pm start but I had to wait nearly two hours to get on court: there were so many matches to finish, and they seemed destined never to finish. My partner in the men's match is getting on a bit (to put it mildly) but played at a very high standard back in the day. His name is on the honours board several times. He won his first club championship in (I think) 1961! The thing that really got me was how quick his thought processes were on the doubles court, especially at the net (where my thought processes are usually "oh shit"). It went without saying that I did most of the running. The very first game was an 18-point, one-ace, three-double-fault affair on my serve. We lost it from 40-love up and it seemed to confirm some of my feelings about tennis in recent times: that it's like pulling teeth, only not as quick, more painful and far less fun. That reminds me, I have to see the dentist on Tuesday. Bazza was watching our game from the sidelines. When we nosed in front for the first time, he said "if you stay ahead you'll be fine." Yes Bazza. If we never relinquish our lead at any stage, we'll probably win. But it wasn't to be. What made the difference in the end was the serve of one of our opponents. He was just warming up in the first set, but in the last two sets he was on fire. A dodgy line call at 3-all and deuce in the third set didn't help our cause, and at 5-4 we had to break Mr Impossible to stay in the match. They quickly moved to double match point, but he double-faulted, I got one of his big serves back and we somehow had a break point on his serve for the only time since the first set. We can still do this! Hmmm. Bam-bam-bam, we didn't get another return in, and it was all over, 4-6 6-4 6-4. A very good match though, I must say.

On to the mixed. Another match that could have gone either way. I'd never played with my partner before but she was a very consistent player. We just got there in the first set, 7-5 after falling behind early, but in the second set I got more and more frustrated with my inability to hold serve. "We go up 40-frigging-15 but every time I still lose my serve. What the *beep* am I supposed to do?!" At 4-5 down in the second it was my serve. I was still yet to win a service game; it was pretty remarkable that we still had a chance to win. Again we get to 40-frigging-15. Inevitably they get back to deuce. But, shock horror, we win the next two points for 5-5. We broke in the next game, and then my partner (who never lost a service game all match) staved off three break points and we won the match. It was a hot afternoon (and early evening - we finished at 6:45). The tennis was very attritional by doubles standards, but it felt quite satisfying when it was all over.

I'm about to meet up with some of the Asperger's group at Cornwall Park to celebrate Bob Marley's birthday, which is a national holiday here in New Zealand. Although this year it falls on a Sunday and people don't get a day off work for it. I'm sure there will still be that debate about whether the official Bob Marley flag (the name of which I can't pronounce) should fly on the Harbour Bridge. I'll be crossing that bridge very shortly so I'll find out whether that flag got the thumbs up.

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