Monday, 10 October 2005

Thou shalt not annoy thy neighbour

Apart from a few months in 1974, I have never lived in a house, always in flats – from day one. I know how to live in shoe boxes, surrounded by other people.

I’ve had quite a few problems with noisy neighbours in London: one young boy played the drums “on my head” for a year; a couple of Italians rebuilt their bathroom, next door to me, from 8pm to 11pm for a whole month; a restaurant chef had parties and machine-washed her dirty working clothes in the middle of the night, every night, for six months; when I first moved to my current block of flats, I found myself confronted with two brothers from hell, whose favourite pastimes were watching A Clockwork Orange with the sound on full and making animal noises (it got so bad I had to sell that particular flat and move to another one in the building).

I am very quiet: I never listen to loud music and I watch TV with earphones. In the middle of the night, when all is still, any TV sound – however low – can be heard through our paper-thin walls. Yet, lots of people who live in my building never give that fact a thought. They also talk very loudly on the telephone, on the walkways. (Have you noticed how much noisier the world has become? Before the advent of the mobile phone, a person on their own wouldn’t have made any noise, would they? Now they do and they add to the ambient cacophony.)

Today I saw someone on the 4th-floor walkway throw the dregs of the coffee he’d been drinking over the railing, without even looking down to see if there was someone in the communal garden. A lot of prospective tenants lie to landlords when asked whether they smoke and later have to resort to smoking on the walkways: their cigarette butts usually end up in the garden too.

I always wonder where those kinds of people have been brought up. The word pigsty comes to mind.

What about that couple who’ve been throwing their baby’s dirty nappies over their balcony? That’s been happening in a council block somewhere else in London – unbelievable, isn’t it? Or is it?

My upstairs neighbour left about ten days ago and the owner has been redecorating the flat. Someone new is bound to move in soon. I’m dreading it.

Tonight I’m slapping all bad neighbours, all those who only care about themselves and show no regard for the people who live next door to them. Slap!


  1. Dear Bela, I see you get comment spam too. I think barging into someone's blog and adding unwanted comments is another way to be a bad neighbor in our Internet City. I had to turn on word verification on my own blog after someone spammed a memorial post. A memorial post!

    I too have had some atrocious neighbors in my time. The lack of common decency is astounding. I always think of the Polanski movie, "The Tenant," where a character asks a hideously noisy neighbor to hold it down as his wife is ill. The neighbor screams, "is it MY fault your wife is ill?" At the time I thought the scene was exaggerated, but it is NOT.

  2. Dear F, those two intruders are going to be zapped out of existence in a minute. I'd rather not turn on word verification: I had it on for a while, but it was annoying me and was proving a nuisance to a couple of my commenters so I turned it off.

    You're right it is similar to being a bad neighbour IRL.

    Here in London, we have lots of young people who have been brought up in the provinces or the suburbs and have no idea how to behave in flats. They're used to living in houses, where you can put on the washing machine at 2am if you feel like it. They come up to London to work and suddenly find themselves in rabbit hutches. And then there are the sociopaths; they're the ones who move in next door to me.

  3. i hesitate to pimp my blog, but i have been prolific and vituperative about my bastard horrid neighbours - the drunk screaming ones, the deaf ones downstairs, the particularly deaf and noisy-telly-bloke next door. last night also brought the police helicopter circling nearby for an unprecedented 20 minutes.

    tsk. what is the world coming to?

  4. J, We live in a house, so have no trouble with neighbors in particular. Instead let me send a slap out instead to my beloved husband, who walks in the house, turns on every TV to ESPN (and we do have too many) and then goes off to work in his garden for an hour, leaving sportscasters blaring from every room. It makes me insane.

  5. *just in to say I love your logo ... it's very SLAPPY!* xoxo

  6. I hate when my apartment neighbor plays the same song over and over again. I fall asleep to it. Wake up to it. Eat to it. Bathe to it. He could definitely use a good slap... or some earphones.

  7. surly girl, living in too close proximity with others is very difficult unless everyone cooperates. People are getting more selfish by the minute.

    R, at least you can go around and switch off all those TV sets yourself. I wish I could do the same with my neighbours. LOL!

    Thanks, M! It took me a long time to find the right "hand". zockso

    Danielle, I have very often wanted to offer some of my neighbours pairs of earphones just so they would give me a break. Hey, there's a vacant shop attached to my building: I could sell earphones. I bet there would be a stampede...

  8. I once lived in an apartment (I was 19 and broke) one floor below a room full of heroin addicts who would drop their used needles onto the little terrace that was attached to our kitchen. They had screaming fights and a habit of blaring pop music at astonishing volume out the window at 7 in the morning on Saturday. Once after one of their fights, I found needles, broken bottles, and someone's torn up photographs all over my deck in the morning. In the photographs, someone's face had been scratched out. I went upstairs to ask what was going on, but when faced with a clean-shaven young man, a small dog, and a huge apartment completely devoid of any furnishing, decoration, or anything AT ALL, I was too afraid and just backed away.

    Next door to us were, I'm convinced, prostitutes. Strange men, respectable looking men in business clothes, showed up at their door at all hours and occasionally knocked on mine. I won't recount the sounds I heard from that side of the wall. Then one day a woman came to my door saying she was there about the job. What job? I asked her. The phone sex job, she explained, and showed me the ad in the Village Voice with my address published in it. To clarify, I was not then or ever running a phone sex business.

    Then there was the time I lived in the room with a window peering into an air shaft. Someone on a lower floor was trying very hard to write a folk song. She tried for a year. For hours a day. Singing into the air shaft.

    And now, of course, there are the neighbors' young children, who play right outside our window (the curse of the first-floor apartment) and shriek in true Brooklynese at each other: "Naw, you're outta there! You didn't touch the base! MAAAAA! Joey CHEATED!" While their parents scream, "Don't touch that! JOEY! AUDREY! Get outta there!"

    But they have to endure the annoyance of seeing me dressed up for dinner and a show with my husband on the weekends, so I guess they figure we're even.

  9. I remember living next door to an Indian couple many years ago. All I could smell was curry. I was sooo glad when they moved out.

  10. I don't think I have ever had quiet neighbours. Ever. Truly. I have always lived in cities, I guess it goes with the territory? I don't like the countryside and houses make me kinda nervous.

  11. First of all I just want to point out that Tania wins...definitely, no contest.

    I have to say all in all, with the 16 years under my belt here in Manhattan... I really have never had a "problem problem" neighbor. I mean sure occasionally you had someone that stomped up the hallway stairs loudly, had a TV blaring, but nothing major. But to be quite honest, I was really never home! However noise intrusion in general is a total infringement.

    My new apartment is silent. No noise whatsoever. I truly wonder if I screamed for help would anyone even hear me.

  12. No doubt about that: if this had been a competition, Tania would definitely have won it. Blech! Horrible!

    Fred, I wish I were only bothered by smells. I could cope with smells (up to a point, obviously), but noise, etc. is such a violation. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown the last time it was very bad. You really feel suicidal, so trapped in your own home, which should be a refuge. It's terrible.

    M, you put your finger on it when you said,"I was really never home." I work from home and I have nowhere to go if my home becomes unbearable to live (and work) in. And, these days, I don't even have a second room, where the noise might be less.

    Your NYC apartment sounds very attractive... can I come and stay if it gets bad? :-)


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