Close quarters

At 22:30 this evening I decided that since it was Friday, the end of the working week had come. This entitled me to do what I had been itching to do all week: move the furniture around in my office in the hope that a change of view will lead to greater concentration and efficiency. The job took about 45 minutes.

I should mention two things to put you in the picture:

  1. When in bed, our heads are right up against the wall shared with our neighbour’s kitchen.
  2. My office shares a wall with our neighbour’s bedroom (headboard of bed against the wall).

Last Sunday night she (our neighbour) decided to use her electric mixer at 00:30 to make an instant pudding. I had set my alarm to wake me up at 05:00. The mixer is an unusual occurrence, I have to concede.

What is not unusual – and I am not making this up – is her habit acquired about four months ago of sweeping and mopping her verandah, located right outside our bedroom window. For some reason, this requires the throwing of two buckets of water on to the pavement for it to flow down the road. Completion of this particular household chore normally occurs anywhere between 00:30 and 02:00, but most often I wait to hear the double splash of water at about 01:30. Needless to say, this activity has wrecked my sleep pattern.

She (the neighbour) is a mother of a four-year-old, who has recently started nursery school. This, I think, is a huge relief to both the child and I, because neither of us have to put up with her mother’s sudden, intermittent screaming for the better part of the day. Until she started nursery school, it would seem that the child’s bedtime was most often at least an hour later than mine. Sigh.

Our neighbour is the housewife in a two-roomed apartment. Her husband does not do shift-work; he has a regular day-job just down the road. He arrives home to eat onions every lunchtime – and, I suspect, a bit of goat meat which has been dutifully banged against the wall about an hour before. That is what it sounds like, anyway.

When not screaming, singing loudly off-key, or nagging her mostly silent husband into an early grave, our neighbour is a quite a pleasant person really. I know this from the occasional times we have actually helped each other, and from the inane conversations in which she engages me every single time I return home after some chore or other in the village. She never misses the opportunity, although I cannot think why. All we have in common is a wall.

We have had the odd altercation, mostly because I have had to complain about the prolonged periods of noise emanating from her busty lungs. Three times this year, I think. Actually, our neighbour is extremely fortunate.

She is fortunate that I am not fluent enough in Portuguese to give her the sharp end of my tongue.  I am fortunate for the same reason. Imagine what dreadful comments I may have uttered were I able to deliver these in my mother tongue!

I am no angel. Depending on the phases of the moon, I am sometimes in moments of extreme stress given to loud outbursts within my own domestic arrangement, normally lasting no more than five or ten minutes. Faced with the formidable competition from next door, however, these outbursts seem to have been whittled down to infrequent grumblings which barely rise above the decibel level of the average bout of flatulence.

So, tonight, when after about twenty-five minutes of shifting and scraping furniture about my office, I hear someone banging a fist repeatedly against our shared wall in protest, I call out to my partner in the lounge, “Someone must be having an early night for a change. They are objecting to the noise. Do I even given a toss?”

Voice from lounge says, “No”.

Allison

9 thoughts on “Close quarters

  1. Neighbours can be an absolute pain – also a gift.
    Is it impossible to swap the bedroom and the office? Can you fix “Kaylite” (expanded polystyrene) between the bedhead and the wall, it’s a great sound deadener? Can you move to a quieter flat? But as you have been there for 3 1/2 years if you moved to a quieter place you would spend all day and all night waiting for the noise to start. Is the landlord above you all sweetness and quiet? He must be able to hear all this as well, surely. Eveil thought – buy another alarm clock (from the Chinese shop) and put it in the office set to you 5 am wake up time – make sure its by the dividing wall. Perhaps then you can do a deal – you’ll stop it if she stop her 1.30 am veranda cleaning!

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  2. Oh Sheila, we do not have that many options right now, either in terms of swapping office for bedroom, or moving. I did try drowning her out with Andrea Bocelli followed by some Puccini at full volume one Saturday night for a several of hours whilst ironing; this after five long hours of disruption from my neighbour, but I subsequently discovered that she failed to see the connection between her noise-making and mine. Ironing thus is a pleasure, nevertheless. As to waking her up on purpose at 05:00, the mere thought of ruining my few remaining hours of peace and quiet of the day could very well drive me completely bonkers. I doubt she will be so obsessive about her verandah cleaning in winter, and so look forward to the cold, wet weather! Besides, the extra blankets over my head when sleeping deaden any noise emanating from her. My landlord is her father-in-law, and does not like the noise either, but does not like confrontation – something which I have to respect, I suppose. I guess the best course of action for now is to continue as peaceably as we can. I do laugh though. I have just returned from sweeping my tiny stretch of concrete outside our bedroom window under the stairwell, and could not help but hear my neighbour saying (twice), “She (referring to me) is outside now: go and talk to her! Go on!” (and in reference to my disruptive furniture shifting last night). Did the husband come outside, despite such passionate entreaties? No. Am I bothered? No!🙂

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  3. It is so hard!
    When people don’t get it at all.
    Some day these will be the good old days. But, in the moment it so sucks!
    Not that I miss it, just that it was my life, rather like yours once.
    Ha ha, I know.
    Your story took me back to the one room in my nuptial family house in Mexico. Twenty-four hour blaring music, on weekends especially, and non existent trash cans. At least your porch is clean. No one is sweeping all the trash out the doors for the one daily sweep up to handle. The all day shouting at the children, yes.
    Lovely story.
    ((((((( Allison )))))))))

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