is a small series of stories about the life and adventures in London
of a Russian-speaking emigrant
coat with lining.
2. Nobody and a millionaire.
3. London survival guide.
4. An oath to a fictitious bride.
5. Failed bride.
6. The dream requires sacrifice.
8. On the run from London, from
9. About one stupid cyclist
First story published in full
of words 29 000
of a cover,
proposed by the author
coat with lining
don’t think many people would consider doing what I did. At the
end of November 2005, I came to England withnot having here no relatives
or acquaintances, and I didn’t have a single English pounds in
Winter in London as it turned out
is not very cold. But, occasionally, the temperatures can drop below
zero, and the climate is quite humid, making you feel very colder.
I came to the foreign country wearing
a trench coat which I had bought in a second-hand shop for cheap. It
looked quite decent, and it had a ‘made in England’ label.
I was wearing a wide brim hat and grey a suit, a shirt, and a tie under
my trench coat.
I carried a laptop bag with my small
personal items and relied on a DIY walking cane because of my bad leg.
On day three, as i noticed, tourists
saw me as a real Englishman and frequently took pictures of me. One
couple from Japan or China asked if I didn’t mind them taking
my picture with Big Ben in the background. They didn’t offer me
any money as I apparently didn’t look like someone who needed
Once on a gusty day when the thermometer
showed zero, I noticed that all natives hid their faces in their scarves,
only leaving their eyes uncovered. Some perched their knitted beanie
hats on their heads and left their eyes and mouths uncovered. As if
the whole city, today, was going to rob banks. It left an impression
on me as I was not used to such a masquerade!!!
I was amused and giggled quietly,
covering my mouth with my hand so that no one saw me smiling, and took
a deep breath through my nose.
Then I couldn’t believe what
had just happened to me. The tip of my nose got stiffened with cold
and turned into an icicle. I felt a sharp pain, and tears squirted out
my eyes. I stopped, pinched my nose with my hands, and started blowing
on it with warm air from my mouth. All the passers-by who were moving
towards me must have been laughing. But I didn’t care about them.
I had to rescue my nose. In a minute, my nose seemed to be okay again.
I carefully removed my hands and smelt the air. Luckily, my nose could
breathe, but I didn’t feel like making another attempt to breathe
through my nose again.
The only more or less warm public
place was a Victoria bus station where you could go in, sit on a chair,
and nap. Sometimes there were around ten of us homeless people at once.
These were mostly people who gave up in despair to find a job in London
and were waiting for money to be transferred by their families to go
back home. It seemed that I was the only one who couldn’t count
on any help, so I kept looking for a job.
The thermometer showed 5 degrees
above zero that evening. I was dozing on a chair in Victoria station.
Then at 9pm, I saw a young, dark-skinned guy who looked around twenty
years of age or maybe older. Everyone at the station seemed to notice
him. He had a small suitcase, similar to an attache case, and he was
wearing just trainers, light-coloured trousers and a white T-shirt without
sleeves with a picture from some ad. I couldn’t even imagine which
country this gentleman had travelled from. The December weather in England
and Europe was not hot as I remember right. But the guy ignored all
the surprised looks, headed to the phone booth, and started making a
At last, I managed to sink into
a deep sleep and couldn’t recall if I had dreamed anything. I
was woken around midnight when the station was starting to close. All
the people inside were getting kicked out. Everyone went out of the
building, but the dark-skinned guy in his summer clothes refused to
go out. He was arguing, begging to stay, but all was in vain. The station
was equipped with cameras everywhere, and any unauthorised person would
have been spotted very quickly. The staff at the station were mainly
black people. You could tell they felt sorry for the poor guy but couldn’t
leave him in the station as they didn’t want to risk their jobs.
The guy ended up outside and stayed by the closed doors.
It didn’t take long for his
skin to go bluish from the cold. When the station opened in six hours,
the guy would have to be carried into the station unconscious as he
would turn into an ice sculpture. What could I do? The trench coat I
had on could be an all-season one as it had a warm lining for cold weather.
I needed to help the guy. (This
was the first time I had ever talked to a black man)
I took off my trench coat, detached
the lining, put it on, and gave him my trench coat.
The lining was sleeveless, but I
had sleeves from my suit jacket. Under the jacket, I only had a shirt,
so I had to hold the part of the lining, which was not fastening. The
black guy was still freezing in my trench coat, but in six hours, he
no turned into an ice sculpture.
We, a group of four poor sods, were
chatting and, at times, trying to warm ourselves up by squatting and
doing push-ups. One resourceful guy found a blanket, wrapped himself
up in it, and tried to sleep on the pavement. He noted that it wasn’t
cold with cardboard laid under the blanket. But I was not too fond of
the blanket that came from who knows where and possibly had fleas.
The black guy didn’t join
us but stood by the station’s doors. I wasn’t watching him
all the time, so he managed to disappear without my knowing.
‘Well’, I thought, ‘now
I am in a ridiculous situation – how can I go places dressed like
this and how am I going to look for a job?’
As it turned out, I shouldn’t
have been worrying as the guy came back in about five minutes. He probably
went to the loo.
When the station opened, and we
were all warm enough, I asked for my coat back. He was only there for
half an hour longer before someone came to pick him up.
I forgot all about him as I busied
myself looking for ways to survive that afternoon. But that evening,
when I returned to the station and was about to doze a bit, another
black guy reminded me of him. A cleaner who had thrown the black guy
out of the station carefully touched my shoulder and asked me to follow.
‘Look at this guy’,
I thought to myself, ‘yesterday he was kicking his own people
outside, and now he doesn’t let me have a nap.’
I started resisting and told him
I was not going anywhere. But he insisted that his boss wanted to see
me. I felt he wouldn’t leave me alone if I didn’t go, so
I trailed after him.
Next to a station’s paid toilet,
there was a door to an auxiliary room. There were five cleaners and
their boss, a black man of around fifty years old.
The boss started saying something
to me, but he was speaking so quickly that I, with my bad English, couldn’t
make it out. I could only understand that he was telling me ‘I
was a good man.’
The boss and cleaners no thanked
me and only decided to help me as well. They probably thought that if
I was sleeping at the station, I also had problems getting enough to
I n the end, the boss pulled a big
plastic bag from under his table and handed it to me. The bag was full
of wrapped sandwiches – there were around ten of them.
I thanked them, took the bag, and
went to the station to look for companions in misfortune who were sleeping
in the station just like me. They all needed food, and ten packs of
sandwiches were too much for one person, even a very hungry one.
The next day, or maybe, later, I
found a job – not a very good job but one that paid. Now, my goal
was to earn enough money, at least for a bed in a common room.
I had to live in Victoria station
for around another two weeks. In the end, the head of the station came
up to me, apologised and asked me to find another place to stay as soon
as possible. He said that another 5-6 people were sleeping in the station
because of me.
They couldn’t handle them
or put them out, because of me. But if he kicks me out, then the cleaning
staff promised to start a strike.
I didn’t have to go to the auxiliary room for sandwiches anymore.
A cleaner brought a whole bag of
them every evening as I would turn up at the station. I would give some
of them out to the ones in need, my homeless fellows in misfortune.
I immediately guessed where sandwiches
come from. There was a date on the packaging and today was the last
day of sale. The cleaners agreed with the station’s cafés
and collected what they need to throw away.
It was now time to look for accommodations,
and the next day I paid for a bed in a three-person room.
years later, I found myself at the Victoria bus station again, where
I was picking someone up. It was a surprise, but those cleaners didn't
forget me. Three of them even greeted me with a smile and nodded in
greeting. I couldn't recall their faces. However, I remembered their
boss's face. He turned up once I made myself comfortable on a chair.
He asked me how I was and if I needed any help. And then he boasted
that now they had some clothes to give away. But in the last two years,
the only person that needed his help was just one white man.