IN CONVERSATION :
Scarlett (In Person. Norwich, the East of England)
Scarlett is a young woman currently working in a Norwich café/bar. True to form, I had left it late to sort my accommodation on entry to Norwich and settled on the bar as somewhere to try to book myself a room for the night. Scarlett spoke to me until the bar became busy.
JO: Right. Whoops. That was a bit loud. Do you want to say a few words? Just introduce yourself. I’m just going to watch and see if it’s picking you up.
S: My name is Scarlett and I’m from Norwich.
JO: Hello Scarlett. Yes, that’s about right.
S: Yeah. Good?
JO: So, we’re sat in … you’ve kindly served me a Bloody Mary. I now have somewhere to stay the night. I was panicking a bit. I don’t know whether you could tell because I’d come in quite late and was ….
S: yes …
JO: now I’m cool. But you’ve also … happily … because you are not run off your feet right now …
S: no, unfortunately not, not on a Tuesday night
JO: you’ve agreed to do a bit of a chat. So, do you want to tell us a bit about yourself? You’re not like your peers, you said, in that …
S: I am not like my peers in the sense that I haven’t gone to university. As soon as I finished my ‘A’ Levels, I went off travelling and worked, and haven’t really settled down as much as other people, I think … and I still have no clue what I want to do.
JO:yes. That’s fine – I think I tried to reassure you when you said it. It’s fine – there’s no right or wrong. You have to just find your way and only you know how to do that.
S: Definitely. And I’m not scared of the fact … well sometimes it does freak me out, but I’m not really too scared that I don’t know yet bceause my Mum didn’t know what she wanted to do until she was like 30 and still doesn’t really know.
JO:Yes, well some people go to the end still not knowing. There’s nothing wrong with it.
S: Yes, it’s just more of an adventure, I think.
JO: So, you said you had travelled a fair bit already, yes? I think you’ve already done road trips, you said?
S: Yes. So, I travelled the east coast of Australia. I actually … I went to Australia. I thought I was only going to be there a month. And that I was just going to travel about. I was like, “yes, I’ll just be there a month, Mum. Don’t worry. I just need a break from Norwich.” And then I got there and I just had the best time ever. I just thought like I didn’t want it to end. So, I flew to New Zealand for two weeks to apply for a working holiday visa because you can’t be in the country when you … one, and then flew back and then stayed there for like a year and then went to New Zealand and lived there for a month, then came back like … I just … yes .. roadtrip though was the best thing .. the best decision I ever made because it really like opened up my mind and like you get to meet so many different types of people and also you realise that you kind of get the same characters, whatever culture you go to, like there’ll always be the mean girl, or someone really popular, and stuff like that ….
JO: that’s interesting. How would you say … did it make you feel, looking back, that ooh, that really has … you know the old cliché about travel broadens your horizons …
JO: do you think it did?
S: definitely …
JO: can you give us an example of two?
S: I’m a lot more calmer with everything. I’m just like .. what’s the worst that can happen? You know … whatever happens … I know .. like … you get put in so many weird situations .. like I … when I … actually when I went to New Zealand for two weeks, I flew into Auckland, and I thought I’d booked a hostel for the night, but I’d booked the wrong day.
S: yes, and they were like none of the other hostels were open and I didn’t have enough money to just get a hotel room for like a hundred dollars, so I was like, what am I going to do? And I remember I just slept on the sofa of the hostel and it was freezing cold and ….
JO: … but you were still alright …
S: yes, I was still alright …. and in the morning, the guy was like “you can’t sleep on the sofa anymore because when people start arriving … ” but then he kind of … he was really nice to me … and took pity on me and then let me clock into a room early and just get like a couple of hours sleep
JO: catch up a bit
S: yes … [ ]
JO: people are cool, aren’t they?
JO: I’m finding that actually people are quite kind
JO: on average
S: yes … there’s not a lot of times where I’ve been stuck in a bad situation and people haven’t helped me out like I’ve overslept on my bus and missed my stop and it’s … I had to get to work so I was like “Let me off the bus! Let me off the bus!” and I was like “I’ll walk back” but I kind of … inside my head, the walk was a lot shorter than I thought and then I ended up trying to hitchhike and then this guy picked me up and took me to work … like … it was all ok.
JO: yes. So you’ve .. basically you’ve relaxed a bit … and you … things don’t phase you quite so much …
S: no, not at all ….
JO: yes … that’s sort of confidence … is it confidence building?
S: yes … definitely … I think the most … the best part about travelling .. kind of … you have more confidence within yourself
S: and the choices that you make and that … you know…. you’ll be alright … well … and your resourcefulness, I think
S: it’s the right word for it …
JO: yes … it’s a fancy word but it’s a good word … So you’re back here now .. you’ve been back for
S: about … I came back at the end of April so that’s probably been six months now
JO: yes … it’s gone very quickly, this year
S: yes … really quickly … scary
JO: So, you are working here … is it full time?
S: yes .. full time … so pretty much I got this job as soon as I came back because my sister works here so .. and then they … basically one night this … someone from the staff just left and didn’t tell anyone so they needed someone like quickly …
JO: they were in the lurch …
S: yes, and Phoebe said “My sister can help out. She’s just come back and she’s got experience.” And then I did really well because it was one of their busiest nights and they were like “oh we really like you. Why don’t you just stay?” It’s been like that ever since.
JO: and you said that … you choose what you want to say … and you can even edit things afterwards
JO: if you feel “I don’t want to say that on …” I’ll just take it out … but you said actually the deal here is pretty good, yes? Compared to on average.
S: yes. I did apply for other jobs and there were … so they were offering minimum wage and it was like £5.75 which is …
JO: yes … we should explain … this is the minimum wage for …
S: for under-21 year olds
JO: under-21 year olds … ok
S: so I think that’s just ridiculous because … if I wanted to live, I can’t live off £5.75 even if I worked the amount of hours that I’m working now … It would be impossible … like … you’d literally just be .. I think you’d just be going … going home .. going to work and not doing anything fun … having anything ..
JO: I mean is it … does it sound to you like … that people … the government expects you … the people who are the authors of this structure … do they expect you to live with your parents whilst you are young? Ergo you can be paid so little? Is that the deal?
S: I think so …. and I think they try to kind of push you into like lanes … like … not lanes like categories … because when I was in … when I was in school … like … no one ever said like “you do realise, you don’t have to go to university … you don’t have to go to this and this … you can actually just do whatever you want” … and it made it seem like if you didn’t pass your ‘A’ Levels, that was the be-all-and-end-all and you’re not going to go to university, you’re not going to do anything with your life, and actually … it’s not that way at all … like … and I think when you don’t fit that kind of .. that ….
JO: is this a state … state school?
S: yes, a state school I went to … yes
JO: a sixth form college or a school with a sixth form ?
S: yes … a sixth form college …
JO: is that in Norwich?
S: that was in Reepham, just outside of Norwich
S: Reepham …
JO: Reepham … ok
S: and it’s just kind of like …
JO: so, basically it’s … there’s a lot of pressure …
JO: to get you in … and I like motorbikes … to get you into university
S: yes, there’s loads and loads of pressure like I … I mean I got really ill because of the pressure of ‘A’ Levels. A lot of people that I went to school with came out with mental health problems …. and that should not be the case … two people from my year have killed themselves
S: and it’s just .. and you just think that should not be happening for kids this age … they should feel like … that this is the prime time of their life … like there is nothing stopping them
JO: I mean … I knew there was … I knew there was a problem …
JO: … but it’s still shocking to hear someone just tell you “yes … two people took themselves out”
S: yes, and it’s like .. because no one makes you … [ ]
JO: we’re talking about children
JO: taking their own lives
S: and there should be help as well but the government aren’t giving enough help .. like when I was really ill, I had to be nearly dying to get seen by a doctor … and it’s just like …it’s just … there’s a complete lack of support and I just think the whole thing is just going [ ] .. I mean I’m very lucky in the way I’ve been brought up … my Mum has kind of always been like “you can do anything that you want”
JO: yes… so you have got a strong parental structure
S: yes … I’ve been really lucky … but…
JO: and your sister, yes?
S: yes .. my family are really close knit and we all really like help each other …
JO: so you can imagine if you don’t have that
S: yes .. if you don’t have that, I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up in a different position
JO: you know Sandra … the woman I was telling you about in Nottingham? She said loads of people she knows wanted to be nurses … and would make brilliant nurses but the bursary has been taken away and she … she was saying that there’s just too much pressure to put people in university like they belong there … they don’t want to go to university … they want to be a nurse … practically … on the job …
JO: through an old-fashioned … and it’s gone … that route has gone for certain kinds of people
S: yes … learning the actual trade straight away …. then having to … like an apprenticeship, isn’t it, almost?
JO: yes .. that kind of …
S: ’cause that isn’t … that isn’t really pushed at school any more .. I remember Mum telling me like when .. like … apprenticeships were a big thing .. like … you could learn how to be a bricklayer and everyone would be cool with that. No one would even suggest that now. And then it’s also got to that point where like … like you said .. they tell everyone to go to uni but now everyone’s got a degree so …
JO: what does it mean?
S: what does it mean any more, yes … just a lot of debt ..
JO: I’ll pause that … That’s a good topic …