Wednesday, August 20, 2008

noise from without

I don’t think the music wakes me, I think I just naturally wake for a moment, and at first I’m not even aware that I can hear a noise. But my girlfriend is sitting up so I crane my neck and am about to ask what is wrong when I detect the murmur of voices from behind the wall.

"What time is it?", I ask.

At three o’clock in the morning my neighbours, who I’ve not properly met so far but have passed a few times and with whom I’ve exchanged friendly greetings, have arrived home with friends and turned on their stereo. It’s pretty loud – the constant, mournful wail of Arabic-sounding pop music. But worse is the hubbub of their voices, which comes and goes and rises and falls, but is always audible through the thin wall. I lay there for a while, conscious that I’ve got work in the morning and my girlfriend has a job interview to wake for. I sit back up and watch her draw her hand back to beat the wall, and instinctively catch her arm to stop her. We sit and think for a moment, and then she carefully thumps it, thwack, thwack, thwack, three times. It’s a hard, dead sound, not loud.

We lean in to the wall, wondering if the noise will abate. There is no corresponding reduction of volume.

"Should we go and sleep in the living room?", I ask, where we have a futon.

Why should we? We switch ends in the bed and my girlfriend stretches out a leg and kicks the wall, harder this time, four or five times. Whump, whump, whump, whump.

Again there is no reaction, and we conclude that the music is too loud for them to hear us.

It’s been perhaps forty five minutes now, and they’re getting, if anything, louder. We open the window and peer round, noting that their window is open and the volume rises further. I slam the window shut. “That is it”, says my girlfriend – who is braver than me. She pulls on her clothes and marches down the steps. I lean in to the wall and wait for the sound of their doorbell, but I hear nothing. Eventually I hear her thumping at their door. Again, the music does not lower in volume, and I hear no sign of their answering. If I’m honest, in retrospect I think I heard what I didn’t want to hear, which is a slight ripple of mocking laughter in the room.

My girlfriend returns. They didn’t answer. Shall we go and sleep in the living room?

Why should we? I fucking hate them, being so incredibly, stupidly inconsiderate, making this much noise at what is now half past four in the morning. We hammer on the wall again, harder, for longer. This time there is a reply.

A sequence of knocks.

Then the music , which has until now been a constant murmur behind their conversation, shifts up in volume. Deliberately. Provocatively. Mockingly. I am utterly furious and practically sobbing with frustration. Shall we sleep in the living room?

Why should we?

Should we call the police?

We traipse through and upheave the futon, folding it out across the floor. I walk back to get the bedsheets. The music is now so loud that surely everyone in the building has woken up. By five – less than two hours before I have to get up again - I have, mercifully, fallen asleep. My girlfriend later tells me that the music finally stopped at around the same time.

This morning I felt murderous, angry and tired – but also eager to forgive, to write it off; meek. I hate confrontation. I will give them another chance, I tell myself. But next time - if it happens again – I will call the police.


11 comments: said...

argh... a nightmare, almost literally. I hope that is a one off.

I've been very lucky and never had noisy neighbours, its the luck of the drawer I guess.

Bit worrying having not been there very long I know but yes call the Police next time.

jonathan said...

I hope it's a one off too. We'd not heard anything from them until last night, so perhaps it was a birthday celebration or something. Very annoyed that they knew they were keeping us up and yet chose to turn up the volume. Grrr. But I guess they were just drunk and I hope they feel a bit foolish today. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

i feel exactly as you do when it comes to confronting neighbours, so if it happens again, don't bother confronting them: just call the police straight off. cowardly, but effective!

d e b b i e said...

i know how you feel too!
i had a band living next door for a few months and they had VERY late band practices (and only one song it sounded like).
The music didn't bother me so much - but one of them had an annoyingly loud laugh that i could not block out.
Luckily they've moved out now. I hope your don't have any more sleepless nights!

Bloggers4Labour said...

Oh, that's horrible. It's so miserable to be at the mercy of someone else's selfishness in your own home and to be worrying about when it might start again, so, yes, you have to "go nuclear" sooner rather than later.

How about leaving a note under their door as a firm but fair warning as to what will happen if the noise recurs? You could even just drop your Letting Agency a mail or letter, on the offchance there are strings they can pull.

Rowan Stanfield said...

I feel your pain. We've had sporadically noisy neighbours in the last two places we've lived (including the current one). Back in Bedford Place it was old war movies and bad guitar playing late at night from the flat below. Now our upstairs neighbour comes home drunk (I assume) and puts on a DVD, but evidently falls asleep before actually watching it, so that we get stuck with the (loud) menu music on a loop for hours. My other half is the braver one in our house, and has often gone up and knocked on their door, only to be met with resentment and rudeness. I would be mortified if someone complained that I was keeping them awake - unless of course it was the perpetrator of my own sleepless nights. *Apparently* it doesn't pay to retaliate, but oh the temptation.

jonathan said...

Thanks all - yes, retaliation, warning letters etc have all been considered. Think I'll leave it for now and see if any further problems crop up. Everyone has a stupidly loud party every now and again (although as Rowan says, I'd be mortified too if I was disturbing others). Having been there for nearly two weeks it's the only time I've heard from them, so I'm not panicking just yet.

It does occur to me, however, that when calling the police at the time of the next transgression, I might just report the arabic nature of the music and perhaps chuck in the possibility of a bit of a 'sinister chanting', in the hope of enlisting the terror squad.

(That joke was quite out of character, sorry).

anneso said...

why not dropping a smelly cat poo on their door mat with an anonymous letter to threaten them?
good luck Jonathan, noisy neighboursjust make you so stressed.
by the way how did the job interview go?

jimmy said...

That must be the worst neighbour-story I've ever heard, and I have heard some really bad ones! Although when I was living in halls there was a small down-hill slope just outside my bedroom window, that used to trigger the urge to run and scream as loudly as possible amongst the drunken freshers returning from honeyclub (or whatever shithole they'd been). Looking out the window I could only ever see fragments of cheap river island fabrics and glitter make-up. Clearly I am still bitter about this.

Anonymous said...

Count yourself lucky. My friend used to have a next door neighbour whom we christened "Bird Man". He used to stand in the middle of the road, throwing seed into the air and sign-languaging to his avian friends, before pissing onto bread and slinging it into his front yard, in the hope that they'd come and feast on it.

Through the window, you could see that his entire Victorian front room was filled with margarine tubs, bread packets and newspaper, with not one piece of furniture.

Once we kicked a ball over his wall by accident, and he emerged in the street, asking us whether we wanted our ball back, "or a dose of cancer".

GUGAW said...

oh yes, i remember those feelings of blood boiling frustration...but resorting to banging on neighbours doors in my dressing gown and trying to look intimidating and mean...but failing

oh, and used to live next door to a bird man too, his racing pigeons would sit on our roof. was quite nice really, but made our garden smell like chicken poo