My first sit abroad brought me to London. What I quickly learned, is that practical issues sometimes can be complicated if organised remotely.
After a very pleasant first Skype-contact with home owner Niamh things appeared to take a wrong turn. As it was impossible for us to meet up at my arrival, the house keys were supposed to be delivered to me via snail mail . But whatever i found in my mailbox, there were no keys. So after a safe time frame, I alerted a stressed-out Niamh. She said she had actually paid a considerable amount of money to send the parcel, but wanted to take no risk and sent me a second copy. Both keys arrived within days after each other, so I embarked on my trip in the possession of two sets of copies of their house keys!
The flat was situated in East London in a so-called council estate. In my book, not a happy-looking place. My English friend said: “It’s London. It’s an expensive place to live no matter what”. Posh or not, it didn’t bother me one bit: I was in London and the house was cosy and tastefully decorated. London, freedom and the company of the identical black and white cats Freddy and Louis, that was enough for me!
But for some reason I seemed to be on a string of bad luck, like a negative form of synchronicity. It started in a small way. While sitting down in the living room, I noticed the house was not very well maintained. Sure, the house was old. And a rental. But that didn’t explain the dust on the floor plinths and the mildew in the washer. In spite of Niamh making a point of letting me know she had had a cleaner coming in in preparation of my arrival.
A trip to Birmingham seemed to mark a turning-point – for the worse! – from which nothing appeared to go right anymore. That day I met my friend halfway during her and my residence, Liverpool and London. The Virgin Trains are fast and comfortable, with spacious seats and a wide variety in drinks, snacks and meals. My misfortune didn’t start until the end of what had been a lovely day up until then.
On the platform at London Euston I found out the house keys were lacking and I turned my pockets as well as my bag upside down, more than once. I’d been lucky before so why not this time around? Walking back toward the compartment I’d been sitting in during the journey for a brief inspection didn’t help either. Nothing there.
Which left me with no opportunity then to call Niamh. Did they by any chance have another spare key somewhere around town? The answer was no. They were in Brighton, so no chance of any help from them. There was a spare key, but inside the flat, where I’d left it. She seemed to be able to see humour in the situation.
I didn’t. What followed was a long night. After the journey back to East London, I had to find a locksmith. He had not trouble opening the door for me – which I considered equally as comforting as alarming. The whole situation cost me a pretty penny..
No more than two days later I found myself in a conflict with that very same front door. For some reason, it didn’t seem to close without the key in the lock, but only on the outside! I took up the challenge of getting to close it properly, but got hurt in action. Stupidly enough, I managed to lock the door, but with my left index finger stuck between. I still cringe when thinking about it, it was a proper bloodbath. After spending a long time cleaning up, I was lucky enough to meet a friendly neighbor who happened to be a carpenter. He solved whatever the problem was for me! “This lock is very old,” he explained, “ours has been replaced quite a while ago. You need to tell those people”. To offer him money for his service was out of the question – he was just being neighbourly. Later on, I felt quite proud telling this story to Niamh. Did she know how nice her neighbours were?
This time around, she wasn’t so amused. Possibly, by now she was totally fed up with my blunders. “Oh, but we never had any troubles with it at all,” she started. What followed was a detailed description on how to handle the lock, ending with “and you’ll see it’ll work just fine!” Luckily I’m not the one to always want to be right, so I just left it at that. After all: I wasn’t the one living there!