(Memoir Monday) Waiting for dawn; My first night in London

Fifteen years ago, at 24, I gathered all of my belongings into a bright purple backpack and flew to a new life in London.

I wasn’t the first to do this and I definitely won’t be the last but when I look back upon that first evening it is no wonder I didn’t catch the first flight back.

This is the entry that I wrote after my first completely wired evening fending off a drunk Irishman and waiting for the dawn; which during January in London, takes a perpetually long time.

Looking back, I can see the danger that I was in that evening as a young woman on her own in a very big city but I handled it well.

That evening was the beginning of building a strong set of street smart skills that have seen me, since then, travel the world solo and safely.


It was 2:30 AM and initially I ignored the insistent knocking at my door. I had been in London for exactly ten and a half hours and already I felt small and completely out of control.

I kept ignoring it, choosing to submit to the waves of nauseous jetlag consuming me. But no… still knocking.

Alright, I suppose this requires standing. I assumed a seriously irritated expression, in part to disguise my apprehension at who and why someone would need to speak to me at this time.

I opened the door.

It was Danny, a drunk and un-originally named Irishman who I had met on my way into the hotel.

“Fancy a drink?” as though this was a completely reasonable request.

“No,” I stated firmly as I attempted to close the door. But he had placed his hand strategically and that option was vetoed.

“Aw, come-on, what about an orange juice?”

“No! I have been awake for two days I need to sleep!” I slammed the door in his face and I went back to bed but with every creak I heard along the disturbingly loud hallway the menace of Danny Boy increased.

At 4:30 AM I turned the telly on.

Lying wide awake, my stomach rolling in anticipatory waves feeling not unlike the sense that someone was following me, I waited for sunrise and the ‘everything will seem better in the morning’ sensation.

Finally dawn came. I walked into the breakfast room and Danny greeted me gregariously; the threatening connotations of last night immediately fading into his bright morning smile and greeting…

“Sleep well?”

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