Against all odds…

…I am really in quite a good mood this Saturday (writes Dot), despite the fact that:

1. after a sunny start it has become extremely windy, rainy and cold, meaning that our trip to Powerscourt Gardens never got further than the shop;
2. Hugh’s cold is now quite bad, and as a result he
2a. (aren’t I being orderly, by the way) woke up at 3.50am this morning;
2b. didn’t make it back into his cot and a sound sleep until about half-past-five;
2c. is very bad tempered, strenuously resisting such assaults on his person as putting his shoes on, changing his nappy, applying clothes, or placing him in a buggy, often by jerking violently backwards so that he falls on the floor, hits his head, and really gives himself something to cry about;
3. our neighbour from downstairs came up at 8am to complain about the noise again.

The thing is, she might have a point if it were the infant bad temper she were complaining about, but the problem apparently is that she can hear us WALKING AROUND and DROPPING THINGS from as early as 7 IN THE MORNING. And she needs her lie-in at the weekend.

In fact, today’s complaint was something of a break-through, because I think we have established that the problem is not us being noisy – though doubtless there would be less to hear if we didn’t have a fourteen-month-old – but very poor sound-proofing between the flats. Also, she hadn’t realised we don’t own the flat and are therefore unable to do much about the fact that there’s no carpet in the bedroom. (We put mats down, but it’s evidently not enough.) So I think neighbourly relations have been somewhat improved. However, it does spoil one’s enjoyment of a day at home thinking that every dropped piece of lego takes us one step closer to the next reproachful 8am visit. And I worry that if, as the neighbour has suggested, we take this to the management and/or the letting agent who is our route of communication to the owner, they will automatically assume that the problem must be us. After all, we are so scummy we don’t even own our own house.

Which is all rather gloomy. But it’s nice being warm inside when it’s cold outside, especially when you made extremely successful drop-scones for breakfast. I therefore retain a little defiant glow.

P.S. I should mention, in fairness to the neighbour, that I think it was mostly the point about the sound-proofing she was trying to make all along, and I was hearing it as a complaint about our behaviour. I still don’t think 7am is that early, but I guess that’s a symptom of how parenthood changes you.


8 thoughts on “Against all odds…

  1. Helen Conrad O'Briain

    It may also be cultural: raised in Ohio, I do not think 7 am is early. 6 am is early; 6:30 am is borderline.
    There is also the point that if she were an American she would probably have had a good chance of having lived in a dorm. I cannot say that living in a dorm is an unalloyed joy, but there are advantages to having spent a few years in one. Being able to sleep in the middle of the acoustic equivalent of a rock concert is one. Another is the ability not to notice extreme states of undress.
    It is rather like having been in the US air force: it is a long way down, but you do learn how to really make shoes shine and how to make a bed perfectly with unfitted sheets (neither of which skills my father ever quite succeed in handing on to me)- being able to land a stricken airbus on the Hudson might also be mentioned (and, no, I don’t think I could quite manage that either).

    It might be worth sending her down a plate of those drop scones. Food is a always useful in diplomacy as the chocolate adds keep reminding us.

  2. Belle Inconnue

    Tell her to try ear plugs if she wants a lie in. Obviously that’s not very diplomatic, but I find them amazingly effective.

    We have no soundproofing between us and our right-hand neighbours (terraced house). This is awful because their sole method of communication/entertainment is screaming at each other. From 6 am til 10pm, every day of the week, there is always at least one person yelling their head off, if not 5 or 6 people at the same time. Sometimes they do this at 4am too. Then of course their 4am yelling match wakes their baby, who starts really screaming as well. Your tales of dropping lego and ‘walking around’ sound blissful in comparison. You can move in next to us whenever you like – I’m sure no earplugs will be required!

  3. We have no neighbours on one side of our terrace house, which is nice, but, even since Clem came to us, our neighbour on the other side says she hasn’t heard him crying much. The only thing I ever hear from her side is her shoes on the wood flooring in the morning and sometimes at night. But this doesn’t bother me. Even if it did I wouldn’t feel like it was right to complain. She has to get dressed for work and undressed for bed.

    I would feel kind of self-righteous if I were you. You are doing nothing abnormal, you are only living and behaving in a reasonable manner, so she is wrong to complain. If you were screaming or blasting music or even doing aerobic exercise then she might have some grounds for complaint. But as you are merely going about a normal family routine, how can she ask you to change your habits? A lie-in is nice but you can’t expect your neighbours to be silent during day time hours just because you want a few extra winks. If she really wants that level of silence, she should move to a more isolated dwelling.

    But I think this is a general problem in the UK and I guess Ireland — people have unrealistic expectations of their tiny, densely populated properties. A woman down the way from me complained to me about the dog soiling the alley because she wanted her grandchildren to play football there. Now, just to give you an idea of the scene… This a filthy alley where men routinely stop to urinate and vomit on their way home from the pub, it’s where the rubbish is picked up and there are always stray chickens and diapers and condoms out there. Kids smash bottles in the alley. Every dog within a five or six block area is walked up and down these alleys and they all use it as a toilet. I am always picking up other dogs’ excrement that is just left there. The pavement is uneven and patchy. It’s a small hill, too. And she wants her grandkids to play football there? I told her that the space was not suitable for kids to play in, that it was a utility alley for yard access and waste dispoal, that her grandkids should play in one of the many parks within a ten minute walk. The problem is this lady wanted to use the alley as an extension of her property. She wished she lived in a detached house with a big garden, but she didn’t, and she was trying to take the alley as part of her space in compensation for the fact that she lived in a confined dwelling with no outdoor space. She was unwilling to share the space with her neighbours if their usage did not exactly coincide with her own. Many people here wish they lived a life that they don’t live. They try to live as if they had more space and serenity than they actually have, and it is the divergence of expectation and reality that causes problems.

    As for the early hours… 7am is not early. I don’t even think 6am is early, though I rarely get up that early these days. Just to add to Helen’s America comment, I was up between 6 and 6:30 every morning as a child, because school started at 8 and I needed time to shower, eat breakfast and drive there. Before I could drive I had to be dropped off and work started at 8 for my mother so I usually got to school at 7:40 or so and sat around with friends in the cafeteria or common room until 8.

  4. Dot

    In my teens I used to get up at 6.30 to go to school, because I caught the train into Norwich at 7.25 each morning. Even as an undergraduate I used to get up at 7.15 so I could be at college breakfast for 8. But that was considered a bit eccentric:-) The Brits and the Irish don’t like early mornings! (Nor do the kiwis, for that matter.)

  5. Pingback: Common property « Ken and Dot’s Allsorts

  6. Dot

    @Belle Inconnue: I’m not sure you would really want us as neighbours. Hugh is a pretty vocal child…but we would be better than the family you have at the moment.

    One of the things I found so hard to get to grips with in our current situation is that it’s not the noises I think of as noisy that bother our neighbour. It’s just anything to do with the floor. For instance, she kept complaining of a sound like ‘little things being dropped all the time’ in the bedroom. We naturally thought this was Hugh dropping little things, so we’ve started to keep him out of our room first thing in the mornings. However, when she came up on Saturday she complained about this noise again, and Hugh hadn’t been into the bedroom at all; Ken meanwhile was still in bed reading. The only thing I can think of is that it must have been the sound of my slippers flapping against the floor – once when I went in to get my dressing gown, and again when I took Ken some tea.

    @Jeremy: it sounds as though people generally abuse this alley-way and that’s a bad thing, but you’re right that the lady shouldn’t be complaining to you. People should know better than to vomit and pee and smash bottles in a communal outdoor space, and ideally children would be able to play in such a communal space, but that’s just not how it is and picking on you because you have a dog isn’t going to achieve anything.

  7. Belle Inconnue

    I get up around 6.30 on a weekday to go to work, but at the weekend I like to stay in bed as long as possible. Since I don’t have to leave the house and catch my train, it doesn’t really bother me if other people are noisy – next door’s shouting aside. The main thing about a lie in is I DON’T HAVE TO RUSH TO CATCH THAT TRAIN. I’m sure there are people woken up by my alarm going and us making noise on a weekday, so I’ll cut other people some slack if they’re noisy earlier than I would like at the weekend. I always thought that having a lie in was something you grew out of – my parents get up early – but maybe so many people are childless now that they don’t get into the habit?

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