1.1. The Adjustment
stepped down from the coach onto the gravel parking lot and studied the large
stone building, standing just 100 metres away. It looked run down and
abandoned, but people were entering and leaving the main entrance, proving that
looks can be deceiving. It had obviously been a magnificent residence back in
the previous century, but it was now suffering from neglect and the ravages of
was jostled by the other girls leaving the coach, but stood her ground. She
waited patiently for the driver to find her single item of luggage in the
under-seating storage space. Once it was handed over, she clutched it to her
chest and stepped back to let another girl in.
“Get in a line, girls!” one of the guides
shouted over their heads.
girls were in the way, waiting for their bag, but she shuffled past them,
toward the impatient minder/guide. She found herself second in line behind the
girl she had befriended on the coach.
are you all right?” she asked in the girl’s native tongue - Lithuanian.
bright-eyed youngster nodded. “Yes. I’m pleased that we’re finally getting
somewhere after all the interviews. Oh, and speak English, so I get used to the
organizers of the placement course had stipulated that only English would be
tolerated at the adjustment centre. The group were going to spend a few weeks
being coached in English culture, to give them the best chance of impressing
the employers when they eventually get to meet them.
like all the others, had paid 8000 Euros for a one-way ticket to the United
Kingdom. Ever since the UK had put the brakes on immigration, it was only
possible to get into the country if one had a job to go to.
‘East to West Placement Company’ (EWPC), guarantee, included training at the
placement centre, a job, transport to the UK and a five-year work visa. She had
used her life savings to get on the program and was only just beginning to have
doubts about the organizers who were running the show.
program, for 18 and 19 year olds, was highly recommended
by one of her school teachers and because she trusted his judgement, she took
the plunge and signed up. She was shown examples of girls getting fashion
contracts and PA positions in large companies in the City of London. Since the
UK closed its borders, there was a huge waiting list for visas, but EWPC
guaranteed a job within two months.
factor was that the company promised to refund their money if they couldn’t
find them a job; and wouldn’t deduct any expenses. It was almost too good to be
true, but she had handed over the money to what she thought was a large
first warning sign that something wasn’t right, was when only 12 girls turned
up at the meeting point; and that the staff were all men. The three guys, including
the driver, searched each girl, before they were allowed on the bus. They said
they were looking for mobile phones and electronic devices, which the girls
knew were banned at the adjustment centre.
was an embarrassing experience to be patted down by a man as though she was a
common criminal! The same men accompanied them on the coach and were now
leading them toward the steps, at the front of the old stately home.
gestured toward the building. “What do you make of this?”
shrugged. “I was expecting the accommodation to be more modern. Hope the inside
was around 10 o’clock and because the sun hadn’t risen very far, the
temperature was still in the low single figures. They were collected at 5am, in
darkness, and the tedious journey west had taken at least five long hours. She
had slept through part of it, so felt bright and alert as soon as she stepped
off the coach.
large, vaulted entrance hall was gloomy and depressing. She couldn’t see any
light fittings, so guessed the building wasn’t equipped with mains electricity.
A rope barred the way to a grand staircase that split half way up, on its way
to a landing that encircled the well of the hallway. Ingrid’s imagination ran
wild, conjuring up an image of what it might have looked like a hundred years
up girls,” one of the men shouted, loud enough for his voice to echo around the
led them down a vast corridor and stopped by a door. “That’s the toilets if you
please,” they all chorused.
12 girls filed into an enormous rest room that desperately needed modernising.
Three of the six stalls didn’t flush and only a couple of the taps on the hand
basins worked, so they hurried each other along. When they emerged, the men led
them into an enormous room that thankfully was bright and in better condition
than what she had seen thus far. Rosewood panelling covered the back and end
walls, while a row of tall windows dominated the long fourth wall.
the room looked tired and was missing all of its former character and glory.
Oblong shadows on the walls showed where huge paintings once graced the room,
in between which, brass gas light fittings jutting out. The parquet flooring
was worn and untreated; and missing a rug that would have at least made the
room more welcoming. A table had been set up at one end with what looked like
breakfast items spread out on it.
They all turned to face the opposite end, where two rows of chairs were lined
seats were facing a small stage constructed from packing crates and planks of
wood. A tall, austere woman, standing beside a lectern, pointed to the window
wall. “Put your bags over there, then come and find your seat.”
was relieved to see a woman, even though she looked like a middle-aged
headmistress in her long black, tight-fitting dress. Her shoulder length black
hair was cut with a severe fringe and highlighted her pinched features, thin
lips and narrow eyes.
Ingrid had seen with regard to EWPC, hardly filled her with confidence. The
coach was dilapidated and uncomfortable, the placement centre was in the middle
of nowhere and to make matters worse, the building was hardly habitable.
was already missing her phone and tablet and the social life the gadgets provided
on a daily basis. The company was promoting a fresh start, but she was
beginning to think that the rules were far too draconian.
and the others dropped their bags and then wandered over to the chairs, only to
find that their names had been written on small pieces of paper and sellotaped
to the back of each chair.
was another amateurish practice that bothered the teenager. She was distracted
from reading the names, when the trio of minders who had been with them, since
collecting them from Riga, wandered down one side and met the woman for a chat.
continued searching for her name. ‘Ingrid Briedis’ was stuck on a chair at the
end of the front row, on the right: and like all the others, was occupied by a
small cellophane packet containing clothes.
The woman called out again. “Take your uniform pack to where you dropped your
bags. Remove all your clothes and change into the items in your pack.”
picked up her pack and turned it over in her hands. “Miss?” she called out.
woman looked up and gave Ingrid a cold stare. “What is it, girl?”
rest of the group paused to listen to her question. “Is this all there is?”
woman took two paces toward her. “Adjustment is going to take many tiny steps.
The first one is to learn to do as you’re told. Now get changed!”
and the other girls were stunned by the woman’s forceful attitude, but the
Latvian youngster wasn’t overawed. “Are there any changing rooms?”
there are no changing rooms. You will be shown your living accommodation later.
For now, you will change here.”
whose chair was two along from her, put her hand up.
is it girl?” First one man and then the
other two stepped forward to join the woman.
men, who were smartly dressed in dark grey suits and blue shirts, looked as
though they belonged to a bona fida company, but
their manner was overly aggressive and surly. Ingrid immediately felt
threatened, and glancing around, saw that the others did too.
she is right, Miss. We… we need somewhere to change. What about the restroom?”
you will change here. You have to get used to changing in public.”
never changed in public,” Ingrid protested.
woman put her hands on her hips and took a deep breath. Her eyes flicked
between Anna and Ingrid. “I get it. We have a pair of trouble-makers in our
midst…” she glanced around the others. “Is there anyone else wanting to get off
on the wrong foot? Any more prudes among the rest of you?”
on, get changed!” She made a shooing motion with her hands and the rest of the
group began to move.
looked in Ingrid’s direction and gave her the nod. When she stayed put, the
Lithuanian teenager joined the others.
I don’t want to cause trouble,” she said softly, “.... but this isn’t right.”
woman glared at her and the men stepped forward, creating a semicircle. “Do you
want to withdraw from the scheme?”
of course not, but I thought we were here to learn about British culture in a
scoffed. “If you have joined our course thinking you are going to sit around
waiting for your visa to turn up, then think again!”
was taken aback by the woman’s oblique argument. “No, I would just like some
employers don’t want lazy trouble makers. They want girls who are active and
fit. My job is to find you and the others, employment that suits you. Are you
lazy, or active? Are you compliant, or a trouble maker?”
very active and I don’t want to make trouble…”
go and change with the others, or…” She lowered her voice. “… you can go with
Juris and Kriss and they’ll help you with your
was shocked by the suggestion and the aggressive expression on the men’s faces.
Ingrid’s resolve folded, but when she turned, she was horrified to see that the
other 11 girls were in a state of undress. They had all decided to remove their
jeans and panties first and because their jackets were short, there was a lot
of naked ass flesh on display.
was seriously wrong and the woman had threatened her with force, which was
inexcusable. Looking at the group of semi-naked teenagers, Ingrid began to
wonder if she had made the stupidest mistake of her life.