This is the story of how my wife Victoria and I started 2018.

We left Abuja for Dublin on 1 January, Victoria to undertake a one-year master’s degree programme, me on a few months’ holiday, hoping to get some writing done. At the time of our leaving, I had no idea that I would not write a single word in a month, no idea that the following weeks would turn out to be more of a nightmare.

On the first leg of our flight via Frankfurt, about an hour after we had taken off, a young lady sitting across the aisle to my left took seriously ill, and the flight attendants and a kind doctor on board battled to save her life. The doctor was Nigerian; he wore a t-shirt on which the word HUSTLE was boldly written. He looked nothing like a doctor. I was impressed by his professionalism as he attended to the lady throughout the duration of the flight, and, thankfully, she was okay in the end.

Victoria and I slept on the flight from Frankfurt to Dublin and we disembarked groggily when the aircraft landed. My friend Damian was waiting to pick us at the airport. We crowded into the small car with our luggage after we had exchanged warm greetings. As Damian drove, the conversation shifted to getting accommodation. Damian had been trying to get us a place over the last month. ‘It is almost impossible to get an apartment in Dublin, the last viewing I went for there were over forty people,’ he said. The implication of his words did not dawn on us at the time.

We checked into the Charleville hotel (which would get embroiled in controversy on social media with a blogger weeks later), and we promptly began house-hunting. The days that followed were more shocking than harrowing. Each viewing we went for had thirty to fifty people in attendance. It did not take long for the harsh truth of Damian’s words to dawn on us. Out of desperation we offered to pay six months’ rent in advance. Then we offered to pay for a year, still without luck. In wet, freezing and windy conditions we travelled from one end of Dublin to the other. Sometimes Damian drove us, or we took a taxi or bus. We took a fast bus to the Sanctuary, Blackrock, County Cork, mistaking it for the Sanctuary, Blackrock, County Dublin. By the time we realised our mistake it was too late. We never made it to the viewing; we were three hours on the bus, and over two hours late. In any case, staying in Cork was out of the question. We took the next bus back to Dublin. Over six wasted hours.

I found time to buy a copy of Murakami’s ‘Wind Pinball’. His words soothed me as I read after a hopeless day. I read how he and his wife were stuck for their monthly payment to the bank. And how, defeated, trudging along with their heads down, they stumbled across money in the street. The exact amount they needed to pay the bank. He wasn’t sure whether it was synchronicity or some sort of divine intervention. I shared the story with Victoria. She was amazed, and I saw a glint of hope in her eyes. I was hopeful too, but I did not know that I would be using the words ‘divine intervention’ a few days later.

Ten days after we arrived in Dublin, at our wits’ end, Victoria replied to an advert on at 4 a.m. and the landlady invited us to come along for a chat. The appointment was at 7 p.m. on a freezing night, when the winds howled as if from the darkest corners of the world. We arrived an hour early, and sought shelter in a building nearby which had a reception area. It is one of the poshest areas of Dublin; we wondered if we had any chance at all. It would take just ten minutes by bus to Victoria’s university. We prayed silently. Just before 7 p.m. we got back into the cold and made our way to the building which housed the apartment we were to view. As we approached, we saw a woman enter the building. Victoria was about to press the buzzer, when the door opened and the woman who had just entered asked, ‘Victoria?’ We nodded eagerly, our lips frozen by the cold and anxiety. We exchanged greetings and she ushered us into the lift to the fourth floor.

It was the only time we attended a viewing alone. The woman was in early middle age and she told us she was Polish. She quickly showed us round the apartment. Then we sat down for a chat. ‘Do you like it?’ she asked. Victoria and I exchanged astonished glances. ‘We love it!’ we said as one. ‘When would you like to move in?’ she asked. We both thought we were in a dream. ‘Now, if possible,’ I said with a small uncertain laugh. ‘Yesterday,’ Victoria said to general laughter.

It was a Wednesday. ‘Would it be okay if you moved in on Friday?’ she asked.

‘Perfect!’ we replied.

‘This is …. unbelievable luck,’ Victoria said.

‘No, it is divine intervention,’ I said without hesitation.

The woman smiled softly. ‘Those are the words I was waiting for – divine intervention,’ she said, and we all nodded in agreement. She continued, ‘When I received your response to my advert telling me about the two of you, I told myself that they need help.’ Her words seemed to echo in the room for a long time.

And so, thankfully, our ordeal came to an end.

Now I’m sitting in the apartment on the fourth floor, drinking a beautiful view of Dublin and writing this. I have changed my ticket to go back home earlier than I had planned. I look forward to going home, but I’m terribly saddened that I will be leaving Victoria in Dublin on her own. But I must go back home to get some work done. Over the last few weeks I have discovered that Dublin may not provide me the right atmosphere to write after all. It is peaceful up here in the apartment, but something is missing. I still have a few weeks to go. I wish I can stay.

■ PS: May you enjoy divine intervention when you need it most.