I remember waking up one afternoon to the gray haze of an autumn drizzle glowing in through my tiny window. I remember twisting onto my back, tangled in my new red sheets to stare at the distorted reflections of dripping water on my ceiling, and thinking about how I'd adjusted so far to my new home.
Living with me in the synagogue were an assortment of other 20-somethings from around Europe, including a Polish girl named Aga whose room was across the hall from mine.
Aga had been living there for about six years and had spent the whole time working in customer service for Eurostar. Though she seemed to like me, she had an astounding temper, and would frequently scream things in Polish and slam doors if something displeased her. She mostly seemed to take issue with the Eastern European couple on our floor, which I resolved was better than her taking issue with me.
As far as the job hunt went, I'd been shortlisted for an editorial position at an independent film company, but was never even called in for an interview. I'd also registered at a media recruitment agency on Poland Street, which also never amounted to anything. So, needless to say, I was feeling pretty dejected.
A few halfhearted trips to the BUNAC offices to look through the job postings, or to send out my CV to internet listings were equally fruitless, and perhaps the truth was that I was enjoying the unemployed life a bit too much to really throw myself into it.
Gina and I met frequently to take days to places like Hampstead Heath, where we'd lay in the grass, secluded in the little glades that dot the massive reserve, and watch the clouds go by; or to sit at a fountain in Hyde Park with cheese and crackers and sink into our respective reading material.
London was golden and red with autumn, and the call of the little park across from my flat, or taking a day to explore the South Bank or trek to the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe to do research, were just too seductive. That is, until my funds started running incredibly short.
What I resolved that afternoon, staring at my ceiling after a mid-Wednesday nap, was that I needed to find anything to supplement my income while I was still searching for media work.
I pulled myself out of bed and into a pair of waterproof boots, threw open my umbrella, and headed out to take the tube to Farringdon, where I would print out a handful of CV's and march up and down the high street until I found gainful employment.
What I stumbled onto the next day would dramatically affect my London experience, and put me into some of the most terrifying and exceptional situations I've ever been in.
Obviously, I had no idea what would follow when I approached a little Irish woman sweeping a pub doorstep in Stoke Newington the next day.
Her name was Maggie.