Posted 20.10.17 by Cassie Leung
As I was browsing some of the unpaid internships in London, I could feel my heart sinking. How the heck was I going to afford this? Was my dream of working with books going to be unceremoniously squashed because I didn’t have the money for an Airbnb, or a conveniently located family member living in London with a sofa?
Then I stumbled across work experience at Penguin Random House. First of all, it was paid. Big tick. Secondly, it was only two weeks. Okay, if I was paid and it was only for two weeks, I could probably get an Airbnb or a hostel or something like that. So I applied. The first couple of times I didn’t get a placement, but then in September I struck gold and got a placement at Michael Joseph in the Marketing and Publicity department.
Just before I started ploughing through the internet again looking for affordable accommodation, I got an email asking if I would like to enter the ballot for accommodation provided by the Book Trade Charity for £75 a week. Yes please! I figured that loads of people would opt for this so I might not get it, but I think I underestimated how many people had strategically located family members. I did get the accommodation and was put in contact with the lovely Glenda.
The Book Trade Charity was established all the way back in 1837, and one of the things they have done is build The Retreat. This is a collection of houses, bungalows and flats nestled amongst little gardens and big trees in Kings Langley, aimed at providing a home for people in the Book Trade. So the Sunday before my placement, I piled my suitcase and half of Tesco (Thanks, Mum!) into my car and headed down south from rural Worcestershire.
I’d heard stories about the M25 being the world’s biggest car park, and I’d never driven anywhere near our great capital before in my life so I was a tad nervous. It turned out to be a really easy drive with lots of service stations to stop at for emergency meatball sandwiches from Subway.
As I said, I had quite a lot of food in my car already, but I thought I’d stop at a supermarket before heading to the Retreat to pick up milk and maybe some frozen chicken dippers. I googled supermarkets near Kings Langley and a Tesco in Hemel Hempstead popped up. Dear reader, if you learn only one thing from this post, let it be to never drive to the Tesco in Hemel Hempstead. If you do, you will encounter the Plough. I have been driving for a few years now, but nothing prepared me for this.
It’s a roundabout that gave birth to six mini roundabouts and it is quite possibly the most confusing thing I have ever come across. You definitely wouldn’t want this on your driving test! On the plus side, the locals didn’t seem to know how to drive on it either which made me feel a lot better. If you need milk, drive to the Sainsbury’s just outside Kings Langley, or walk 20 minutes to the Spar from the Retreat.
After the high octane drama of the Plough, I drove on to the Retreat and turned down a drive that curved between the cottages, bungalows and the manor towards the community centre that housed the office. I met Glenda and she showed me to No. 8 which would be my home for the next two weeks.
I absolutely loved my time there. There’s a gate on the far side of the property which leads to a path that goes under the M25 and pops out on the train platform. From No. 8 to 80 Strand it took me pretty much bang on an hour door to door which wasn’t too bad at all. Half an hour of that is on the train to Euston which is enough time to get stuck into a book. I came home in the evenings, cooked up some chicken dippers and settled down in front of my TV. There’s a DVD player and fortunately I’d packed some DVDS so I was able to snuggle down to some of my favourite films. The shower was decent, the kitchen was fully equipped and it really felt like a home away from home. The best bit was that I was given a key to the library in the old manor so I could tuck into a good book in the comfy armchairs.
I loved my work placement and I loved staying at the Retreat. So go on, click the button and apply for that work experience! You won’t regret it.