Dear rain, please come back. We miss you.

by Suw on July 25, 2008

Kevin and I are being driven to distraction. The warm sunny weather has been lovely, right up until the point where we want to go to bed. Ours is a top floor flat, you see, and it can get quite warm in here, so on hot summery nights we like to have the windows open for a bit of fresh air. Unfortunately, several of our neighbours like having loud parties, or sitting in their garden having shouty discussions, even on school nights. We have been kept awake or woken up five times in the last two weeks by three different sets of neighbours. Last night, the party started at 2.30am, and is still going on now, as I write at 8.30am.

For my own records, the chronology goes like this:

17 June – Neighbour in middle flat, No. 74 goes berserk, breaks into his own flat, smashes the place up, and we call the police. Police arrive quickly, arrest him, come and have a chat to us and our downstairs neighbours. Turns out he was threatening our neighbour that afternoon with “I could kill you, I could. But I won’t. But I could kill you.” Sort of like Vicki Pollard goes to the dark side. Same night, neighbours begin to move in to no. 78, which had been empty for a month. We thought the two disturbances were related, they weren’t.

18 June – For a few days, new neighbours at 78 are moving their stuff in, but only after 10pm. They’re not quiet about it.

21 June – Neighbours at 78 have a spirited and lively discussion in their garden, at the tops of their voices. We can hear them with the window open. We can hear them with the window shut.

? June – Big party in the garden of no 74 which went on until the small hours, although I can’t remember precisely which day. However, it prompted…

4 July – I order several different types of earplugs.

5 – 9 July – Kev and I are away in Prague. Sleep better in the hotel than we have been at home.

12 July – Neighbours at No. 78 have massive garden party which starts mid-afternoon and goes on until 3 or 4 in the morning. Kevin and I blow up our inflatable mattress and sleep in the front room, because there’s no way we’ll be able to sleep in the bedroom. Use our new Alpine SleepSoft earplugs. They cut out the last fragments of noise that trickles through to the front room. As we’re preparing to go to go to sleep, one of the party-goers passes out, flat on his back on the pavement. His friend attempts to rouse him by kicking him.

15 July – No. 78 have another fun discussion in their garden, starting at 10pm and going til some time after 2am. Alpine SleepSoft earplugs fail. They can’t cut out enough noise for me to sleep. I try the pink noise trick – put a track of pink noise on repeat on my iPod, put in one sound isolating earphone in my upper ear, and try to sleep. Sorta works. Can’t put earphones in both ears as too uncomfortable.

17 July – No. 78 have yet another fun discussion in their garden, starting late and going on for a few hours. Try playing pink noise really loudly on our iPod speakers. Doesn’t really work, not least because system turns off before arseholes next door have finished yapping. Co-incidentally, get letter from social housing landlord about “anti-social behaviour by one of your neighbours.” Hoping they mean No. 78, but it’s hard to tell – there’s so much of it about.

18 July – Spend hours on the phone to social housing landlord and discover that they meant the nutjob who broke into his own flat back in June, not the wankers at No. 78. Rang the council and got the number for the Noise Patrol, who will come and assess the noise.

22 July – No 74 have a party in their garden this time. Is in full swing by the time I get home from hanging out with friends, and goes on at least until 2am. Discover that PillowSoft earplugs, which are basically balls of silicon putty that you plaster over the entrance to your ear canal, work well at cutting out noise, but take a bit of getting used to.

24 July – A bunch of arseholes living on Hornsey Road, a few doors down from us, come home at 2.30am and start raving. I can see them from my window, doing that stupid fist air punch thing. Angrily get up and call Noise Patrol. Even more angrily discover that our neighbours have had the discourtesy to have their party outside of the hours that the Noise Patrol work on a weekday. They do 8pm until 2am Sunday to Thursday, and 10pm until 4am on Friday and Saturday. What? Do noise disturbances never occur outside these hours?

Kevin and I are exhausted, we really are. He’s had two really early starts this week – 4am on Monday, to go and do a BBC interview, and 6.45am on Wednesday so he could get to an event. Today, both of us are so tired that we’ve pretty much given up on the day before it has even begun. Kev’s phoned in sick for the first time since I’ve known him, and his boss has kindly said he understands how exhausted Kev is and not to worry. Knowing Kev, he’ll work from home, in between the naps that we’re both going to need just to function.

I have never had so much of a problem with noise. Even when I was in Reading and suffering from the noise pollution and abuse heaped upon me from the guy who lived upstairs, it wasn’t this bad. This is not just one bad apple, this is a whole host of selfish, narcissistic, thoughtless arses who give absolutely no thought to their neighbours and have no regard for the disruption they are causing those around them.

Kev and I struggle with the way that people in London seem to live in their own selfish little bubble, never moving over when they block your way on the pavement, never giving you room to get off the train during rush hour, never respecting or considering those around them. But at least when we came home, we had some relief from the constant press of people.

Not anymore. Now, our privacy is being invaded on a regular basis, our peace and quiet disrupted, our sleep destroyed. And for what? How hard would it be for them to just keep their voices down? Keep the music at a level where it can’t be heard outside? What would the loss to them be? You can still enjoy yourself in your garden without shouting. We all live too close together not to try to consider other people. Where are these people’s basic common decency?

Personally, and pragmatically, I hope the rest of the summer is wet and rainy – the rain helps keep the noise down and I’d rather have some sleep than a sunny summer.

Updates will be appended here, for my own records more than anything.

28 July: BBQ and party in the garden, starting late (between 9pm and 10pm). Very noisy again, so we set up camp in the front room. We also called the Noise Patrol at about 11.30pm, who called us back, and then came round to see what was up. They arrived about 12.15am, but were pretty unhelpful. They explained that there’s little they can really do unless the neighbours start using amplified music. They did say that they would go round there and have a word, but I didn’t see any evidence that that word was successful. We will keep calling them out, as the more we call them out the more seriously they will take it (their advice), and I will also call the daytime noise department and open a complaint with them, again, on the night team’s advice. (Apparently it helps to have two complaints open with the two different teams. Hm. Joined up government, anyone?)

Things eventually quietened down a bit sometime before 3am, and we went from the blow-up mattress on the front room, which was deeply uncomfortable as we hadn’t put down the duvets on top of it to sleep on, back to our own bed. I could then hear the faint strains of music, which was just one the edge of my hearing, so consequently just enough to bug me.

I’m really not sure how much of this I can actually take.

7 Aug, 8 Aug: Yay! Let’s have a beer in the garden and talk really loudly so that the neighbours wake up! Not as loudly as before, I will admit, so shutting the window cut out the noise, but they started both nights at 1am. *grumps*

bbm July 25, 2008 at 11:31 am

what are you going to do about it? you can’t be the only ones suffering. what about a neighbourhood meeting?

Suw July 25, 2008 at 11:38 am

We’ve spoken to the people in this building, and they are all rather annoyed too and will sign on to any letter I write. I am going to talk to the council, and see what they can do first, and will then write to the owner of No. 78, and, if I can find them, No. 74. Neighbourhood meetings are a bit of a scary prospect because this isn’t exactly a place where there’s much sense of community. I’d feel like trying to organise one would be a bridge too far right now, but maybe later.

Failing that, we’ll move.

Stu July 27, 2008 at 8:45 am

Gosh that’s terrible. Have you tried the pillow method? To really block out noise, lie on your side with you head on your pillow then put the biggest cushion or pillow you can find on the other. Two if you can balance it, making sure there’s enough room to breath. If the pillow itself doesn’t block out the noise entirely, the sound of the movement of the pillow on your outer ear can be quite comforting and provide an alternative for your ear to listen to. Also it can have the effect of blocking out the sunlight if its during the day. The only obvious problem during the summer is that it can get a bit sweaty if you’re not careful.

Ada August 5, 2008 at 11:53 am

I hope you are happy now! Is raining! 🙂

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