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A Small Key to Great Britain

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Photo: A Small Key to Great Britain, Source: Midjourney
Photo: A Small Key to Great Britain, Source: Midjourney

Kyiv journalist, fashion expert, and PR specialist Kateryna Davydova is temporarily residing in London due to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. From there, she shares interesting and ironic observations about the lives of native Londoners. The editors at The Gaze believe that some of Kateryna's posts might interest not only her compatriots but also the British themselves, as what could be more intriguing than seeing oneself through the eyes of a foreigner?

My phone is going crazy and sending me daily messages: 

"We are together in the UK! Follow simple rules to ensure your stay is safe."

The rules that follow are of little apparent use. However, I am grateful to the Vodafone folks for reminding me where I am.

For instance, the other day, or rather in the middle of the night, I noticed that I couldn't open the door to my building because a foreign object was stuck in the lock. Not wanting to spend the night on a bench, I woke up my daughter to open the door. We fiddled with the broken lock and realised that from now on, we wouldn't be able to get home unless one of us was inside. We needed to make arrangements, like taking turns under house arrest.

What would I have done at home? I would have fixed the lock as soon as possible and given keys to everyone who needed them, so I could continue living my life.

What needs to be done in the UK? I wrote a detailed letter to all concerned parties. In it, I mentioned that there are many problems in the world, from wars to social inequality, and my inconvenience is not that significant in this context. But I do feel a slight discomfort from not being able to open the door to the home where I live. I could, of course, endure and live in the nearby park, as the park built by Sydney Waterlow has comfortable benches and many fragrant plants that inspire me. I also have a backup plan: lock myself at home in depression or meditative self-discovery and never, ever go outside again. However, maybe someone has free time and inspiration to solve my little puzzle just for fun.

Note to Vodafone: To stay safe in the UK, you must not voice problems directly. This should be done in a roundabout way, emphasising that your problem is the lowest priority in the universe. You also need to interest your interlocutors in your problem with some facts, fun facts, or even quirky facts.

The next day (miraculously, as such processes can take weeks, months, and years), a delegation of property managers and landowners (marvellous medieval legislation!) arrived, along with a locksmith who extracted a foreign object, a broken key fragment, from the lock. The door was fixed.

Wonderful! Splendid! — the delegation rejoiced. But unfortunately, at that moment, my daughter returned from college.

Hold on a minute, gentlemen! — she ruined all the joy. My key is intact, my mum's key is whole, so who broke the key and left the fragment in the lock?

At this point, everyone quickly said their goodbyes, got into their cars, and drove away.

Note for Vodafone: For safe living in the UK, never ask difficult questions like "to be or not to be," to which no one has answers. No one is Shakespeare. Yes, not even you, with all due respect.

Late in the evening, I heard the frantic blare of an electronic doorbell. It screamed as if announcing the end of the world. My neighbour Pam had returned home.

What would I have done at home? I would have asked why she was ringing, as the lock had already been fixed and she could enter on her own.

What should be done in the UK? Ask what happened and if help is needed.

Of course, help was needed! Pam showed me a non-functional stub, which was her key just yesterday.

What would I have done at home? I would have asked how she managed to break the key and the lock, and more importantly, why she hadn't informed anyone.

What should be done in the UK? Ask what support I could provide.

"I didn't do anything with the key," Pam read my thoughts. "It broke on its own."

"Of course," I agreed, "what an unpleasant experience you must have had."

"A horrible experience," Pam agreed.

"Extremely uncomfortable," I summarised.

"And now we're under house arrest," Pam concluded.

Now I needed to somehow inform the group of interested parties about who had broken the key and the lock.

What would I have done at home? You can guess.

What did I do in the UK?

"Splendid, optimistic news, ladies and gentlemen!" I wrote. "It wasn't some thieves and rascals trying to break into our building. Our neighbour Pam accidentally left a piece of her key in the lock. Isn't that a wonderful end to the day?"

Note for Vodafone: Never say what you think. Imagine you are Shakespeare after all, and look at the situation allegorically, metaphorically, and from the heights of a pelican's, starling's, etc., flight.

What would they have replied at home? You can guess.

What did they reply in the UK?

"Thank you very much for this valuable information. What a relief! Glad to hear that, Kateryna! But your neighbour is probably a bit scatterbrained. Oh, we can't blame her; she's been under so much stress!"

Note for Vodafone: If you want to call someone scatterbrained, it is more polite to say they are under stress.

Now, while waiting for the lock to be changed, Pam and I have teamed up. We constantly text and call each other. We now know who, when, where, and how works. We take turns going to the supermarket and carefully ask if the neighbour needs anything. This could be the beginning of a friendship if we weren't so differently scatterbrained.

I am now also actively corresponding with all the landlords and freeholders and have even met their dogs.

Note for Vodafone: Never solve problems immediately! Problems are a great excuse for friendship. 

Vodafone, update your instructions already.

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