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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

"Being married gives one one's position like nothing else can." Queen Victoria

I went for an interview yesterday: at the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A to those in the know). No seriously I did. A couple of weeks ago I filled in an application and last week received an interview date and time. Tuesday 16th August, 14:00 to 17:00 hrs. Impressive don't you think?

Well to be honest, it's not a full time salaried job, it's not even  part time paid. It's as a Volunteer - a Visitor Experience Volunteer - half a day a week for a minimum of 6 months. In the interview e-mail one was encourage to visit the Museum and experience a "Visitor Experience" before the interview which seemed a good idea.

Monday morning found me at the underground entrance to the V&A: you reach it by the tunnel from South Kensington tube. And a splendid entrance it is, all very bright and shiny and full of Victorian promise. After having my bag searched by a very nice young man I headed for the galleries  and on the way came across this vision of beauty. She looked like a Pre-Raphaelite painting and she had a V hanging from her neck. "Are you a Volunteer Welcomer?" I questioned, "I am", she replied. "I hope  you don't mind me asking", I continued, "I've an interview tomorrow for a volunteer job like yours can you tell me about it, please?" And she did. I learnt that she worked every Monday from 10 to 13:15. That she arrived at half past 9 so she could be briefed ahead of her shift. It was a very satisfying job, with people asking you all sorts of questions in all sorts of types of English ( I recalled the job ad did say knowledge of a second language would be an advantage). The people she worked with were fab! ( I put that down to the new exhibition at the V&A in September about the late 60's). It was a groovy place to work in, all those galleries and stuff. She thoroughly enjoyed herself. I thanked her and made my way into the body of the V&A.

It was extremely busy, everyone snapping at this statue or that piece of silver. Artists studiously sketching the many busts and statues. The shop full of hugely expensive replicas and items that appeared to me  to have very little connection or no with the Museum or its works of art. I suppose the management know what they're doing.

I didn't go to the cafe - been there before it's very, very smart, so went into the central garden where they were selling teas, cakes and beers. I decided that rather than spend a huge amount on some flaky beer there I'd pop into a local pub later. But before leaving I perused  the "Rise of the French" gallery. The Sun King, Versailles, Madame Pompadour - that sort of thing. Pretty impressive I can tell you. I was especially interested in it all because the previous week I'd seen Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" which was set around the same period.  That's a great, if long film. As I watched it I reflected on life. When I first saw it 40 years ago -it was too slow and too long. Now when my allotted years are rapidly diminishing, it was neither too long nor too slow. Strange that: you'd have thought it should have been the other way around.

Yesterday afternoon arrived and I arrived at the Main Entrance. I went up to the enquiry desk and asked directions to the interview suite - sounds so much more classy. The volunteer Visitor Experience person took out a map and showed me the way. When I asked if I could keep the map I sensed a reluctance to hand it over. It was only later did I recall that part of the job description was to ask for a £1 donation for the map. Well, she'd not passed muster there: but I didn't report her.

The interview suite was crowded with loads of people, all of whom were to be interviewed. They were mostly women, mostly young and mostly to my eyes at least extremely attractive.  We were ushered into a large cavernous room. A stout Spanish lady with a pronounced accent then told us the order of play. I'm afraid I didn't catch a single word - the echoing room and the heavy accent defeated my aged ears.

I quickly realised that the first thing we had to do was to talk to our neighbour and find out all about them in two minutes and then tell the rest of the gang all that you'd learnt about that person. How I hate those games. Anyway it passed off without a hitch. Then we were told to split into four groups. When we'd arrived we'd been given a name tag with a number on it. I was a number "2" and all the "2"s went into one corner and the "1"s, "3"s & "4"s to the other three corners of the room. There one of the interviewers presented the group with a problem - a problem visitor to the Museum. How would we deal with them. We had 4 such exercises. How I hate such games. As far as I could figure out - no matter how obnoxious were the visitors you had to be really nice to them and strongly resist the temptation to slap them across the face and kick them out. I thought I constrained myself pretty well, although one of the interviewees did appear to adopt a hospital matron approach which I didn't think the interviewer thought was quite right.

After that torture we went back to our seats. The final exercise involved the four interviewers each interviewing each candidate for one minute at a time. Think speed dating without the drink or sex. It did however give us time to chat to our fellow interviewees. One was an ex solicitor, she'd worked for the Treasury Solicitors, got married, had kids and became an artist - usual career path. She did her art at home and also volunteered all over the place. She lived in Muswell Hill so we were onto house prices and loft conversions in no time. The guy on the left Joe was a computer expert having graduated in that science, but hadn't found full time work. He appeared to spend all his time volunteering. It was his way of interning and getting to be indispensable: hoping that would lead to a full time permanent job.

And so to the speed dating: out of which I don't think I did well. No chance of a second date. We'll hear in 2 weeks time and  if we're successful a training day and thence walking the floor, smiling and being extremely helpful.  Well the V&A is a lovely Museum   

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