I left Drogheda for the last time in 1993 and came here to London 'for six months'. How many times I have heard that sentence since then!
Had a bit of cash in my pocket and a contact number and address for Fr Jim Kiley who had a connection at Austin House Hostels. I had a phone number and some English change to make a call when I arrived at the airport.
Took the fight from Dublin airport to London Heathrow and then the tube to Barons Court station. Everything looked so big and busy. People going from one place to another, I was astonished with the bigness and noise all around me. The smells of the trains and food everywhere.
I phoned the number on the scrap of paper and spoke with a hostel manager who asked me to wait outside the tube station and someone would pick me up in 10 minutes. Eventually an unmarked black taxi pulled up with no light or taxi plate and a man leaned out, asked after me and told me to jump in. It was his decommissioned vehicle. Derek Kelly made quite an impression giving me a lift like this! He has always liked to do things a little differently.
We went to the hostel office in Hammersmith Grove, gathered some bedding and food, went to the Irish Support and Advice Centre which was located behind the old Police Station and the Augustinan Church to sign up the paperwork and collect keys for a room in a large terraced house on Talgarth Road.
The room was narrow, comfortable and warm. There were 6 others living there. I have lost contact with them and sometimes wonder what they're doing today. I hope they succeeded too. The traffic roared by up to 2am daily and calmed until 4am. There I spent the first 5 months living in London. I was safe, secure and able to to find voluntary work and eventually a job.
Never looked back. Married and reared a family in Camden. London gave me what I could only dream of and desire in Ireland, so it's been good to me.