The excitement of flying the first time and coming to this city called London. 

I first found out about London in the book ‘A Little Princess’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was a child. Unaware that it was a real city, I placed myself in little Sarah Crew’s place and faced her fears and struggles as if they were mine. 

I arrived in London 14th February 1999, on a wintry afternoon with a medium size suitcase and a few words of English in my language compartment. I could write and read in English ok, but speaking was the difficult one. 

I didn’t have many clothes or anything else, but it was the presents for the host family that had filled up my suitcase. 

No one came to collect me from the airport, so I made my way to the tube station. Here there was an underground worker with the most gorgeous wavy hair reaching to his waist. 

I walked towards him and tapped his arms gently.

“Mr worker man,” I said.

“Yes, love,” he said, smiling.

I pointed to Woodside Park on the tube map and said “Me, go there”. He took a pen out and draw some lines on the tube map.

I did not understand a word of what he said.

I thanked him and dragged my suitcase along the platform.

I followed the line he drew on the map.

I finally made it to Woodside Park station and did not understand what ‘Mind the Gap’ meant. The cab in front of the station refused to take me to my destination because it was supposed to be just a five-minute walk away. 

Here I dragged my luggage again. Five minutes felt like five miles. I could feel the muscles in my arms growing tighter and bigger. I was only 45kg, wearing size 6 clothes, but was very strong, like an Amazonian warrior.

I knocked on the door, and an old gentleman opened it with a smile on his face. He asked me to leave my suitcase in the hall and led me to the kitchen. There was a plate with three chocolate digestive biscuits on a small wooden table. He pointed to a chair and told me to sit. Then brought a cup of tea and a glass of water. 

That was my first encounter with chocolate digestives and believe me, it was unforgettable. I literally did not want it to end. The next day when I went out, my first purchase in a shop was a big pack of chocolate digestives so that I could enjoy them whenever I wanted. Luckily, the biscuits I ate did not end up as an additional wing on my buttocks then.

I spent a few months looking after this lovely gentleman who was living with his son. I remember going for a walk with him every day, which involved stopping and staring at every single tree on the street for at least three minutes. I wish I knew better English then, as I am sure I would learn a lot from this wonderful person whom it seemed like he’d had a very interesting life.

Cleaning this giant house and cooking meals, being there for him was quite peaceful. Plus, I earned 45 pounds a week. Not bad!

I even managed to attend a language course once a week, run by a lady at Mill Hill Broadway. The kitchen was her classroom, and she literally had language lessons for all the Au-pairs in the area. I met many nice people, and we shared stories about our lives, especially about our host families. A little gossip doesn’t harm anyone. The course cost around 120 pounds for 10 weeks. We met once a week for around 2 hours.

Let’s do the maths:

Monthly earning – £180.

Monthly spending:

Sending money to mum–£50.

Language course – £48. 

Chocolate digestives–£4.

Slice of pizza weekly–£4.

Shampoo, soap, deodorant, always pads, shaving razor, face, and body cream–£4 a month.

Travel cost – none.

Balance – £70. 

I walked everywhere, even from Woodside Park to Central London. 

It took me 2-3 hours, but I would get up 6 o’clock in the morning at the weekend to explore London on foot. Luckily, I could get cheap shoes from charity shops. I treated myself with a slice of pizza from a food stand opposite Leicester Square tube station. 

Oh yeah, that greasy, cheap, but delicious pizza. 

Learning a new language, meeting new people, experiencing a new culture.

Oh yes, life felt exciting…

I know for sure that I was on a big, long adventure!

Thanks for reading, 

Until next time, stay safe and joyful!

Sending you hugs and stars.


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