Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Neighbours from hell: the soap opera

After a hard day’s work, it can be quite relaxing to slump on the sofa and watch a soap, particularly if it’s written with wit and acted with talent.

It’s quite another matter to be caught up living in one starring our neighbour.

I’ll call her Hailey. That’s because I think it’s her name, though I’m not sure: she’s never felt it necessary to introduce herself though we’ve lived side by side for the best part of a year. Sometimes the worst part.

I admire people with a lively taste for music, particularly if that includes performance. Sadly, it’s less easy if the performance mode of choice is karaoke and the choice is made some time after midnight. And the performance only stops when the serious partying starts. And the partying stops at 10:00.

I don’t know what Hailey and her friends are on, but it must be potent stuff. Not even when I was her age could I have kept going that long unaided, and at that intensity. Impressive.

She doesn’t just sing. She and her friends enjoy lively conversation too. The subject matter, and we can tell because they’re not bashfully discreet about the tones in which they discuss this engrossing theme, seems to be procreation. At least, they do seem to keep telling each other to go forth and multiply. They also like to emphasise their statements, and it’s wonderful to need only one word to do that. That's what I call economy. So whether they’re declaring someone else’s statement to be true (occasionally), offensive (rather more often) or rubbish (the most common case), it’s always the ‘fucking’ variety of that attribute.

Fortunately, the overnight partying doesn’t happen that often – once a week or fortnight – but when it does, it’s certainly memorable. Particularly when we’re working the following day.

Hailey lives with her five-year old daughter. Quite often, a boyfriend (not the father of the daughter) comes round and they tell each other home truths – emphatically – and occasionally fling crockery at each other. At other times, the father of the daughter (not a boyfriend) comes round to take her out or drop her back. With both men, she talks a lot about fucking, to the point that I wish she’d get on and do some, if only because it might tire her out and shut her up.

We’ve met the little girl a few times too. She likes to stick her head over the back fence and chat with us if we’re in the garden. Why, she even apologised to us for her mother
’s noisiness, which made her seem quite charming. Then, however, we noticed her throwing stones at a neighbour’s greenhouse, and reaching with a stick into our garden to beat cabbages or lettuces, not a treatment calculated to help them flourish. It occurred to me that I was witnessing a curious form of inheritance, entirely independent of genetics: an essentially pleasant girl rapidly turning into a pest as exasperating as her mother.

Not hard to understand why. Her father brought her home yesterday. They were chatting away happily until Hailey emerged.

’Have you got some money for my mother?’ she asked.

’Oh, shit, I forgot.’

I could hear this all through the open window through which I was enjoying our glorious weather. Or had been.

’Well, are you going to have the money in the morning?’

I wasn’t really listening, but it was as though the conversation was happening in my living room. I concluded that her ex-boyfriend still had some kind of debt to her mother and was having trouble paying it off.

’Sorry, I can’t, I won’t have the time.’

And that’s when we got the explosion. No build up, no increasingly intense warning signs, just a sudden vitriolic outburst.

’Oh, for fuck’s sake, you’re fucking hopeless,’ Hailey screamed and there was a yelp from the little girl, ‘you’ve no fucking idea, you’re a useless fuck.’

He still wasn’t saying anything, even though the last bit was obviously wrong: the little girl was there to prove it.

’Just fuck off, will you just fuck off, I don’t want you anywhere near the fucking place any more.’

There was another little protest from the girl, ignored by the mother, but then one from the father, which wasn’t.

’Just fucking shutup. Just fucking fuck off. And never fucking come back.’

And there I heard a most odd noise, like the sound of an open hand on flesh. Was she slapping him round the face? I’ll never know because, though I moved over to the window, too curious about the living soap opera to ignore it any longer, she was already moving back to the house, little girl clutched by the hand, while he had run several steps down the street.

She hadn’t finished admonishing him though.

’Just fucking clear off. You make all this fucking noise in front of the neighbours. Outside my fucking house.’

That did seem unfair. He’d barely said a word. But he made up for it once she’d closed the door and he was relatively safe from further attack. He addressed a few choice apothegms at the house.

’You’ve always been a fucking bitch,’ he wittily informed her. Though he may have said ‘witch’. I hope so: we have a female dog who is infinitely superior to Hailey.

A fascinating experience all round. But the most fascinating aspect of all is that this is Luton, the home town of the anti-immigrant English Defence League. I’ve heard their supporters many times, and funnily enough they express themselves with exactly the same mastery of language, charm in expression and delicacy in accent as our neighbour and her entourage.

The EDL in Luton.
They expect us to prefer them as neighbours?
So here’s my question to them: what makes you think people like you are preferable to a few quietly spoken, courteous and hardworking arrivals from the Indian subcontinent or Eastern Europe? 

What on earth could give you that idea?

No comments: