Number 49 – The man who hated noise.
The door next door – number 51 slams shut, with a bang so loud it makes his window frames rattle and even though he is expecting it, after all it is 7.35, he still jumps, just a little and slops tea into the saucer, splashes some onto the draining board, he tuts quietly, annoyed with himself, he should be used to the door by now, it happens every morning. It shouldn’t be a cause for real anxiety, but today it is.
7.45 and his other neighbours- number 47 have started the litany of
He doesn’t understand why she needs to stand at the bottom of her stairs and scream up to her oversized teenage son. He didn’t understand why she doesn’t simply walk up the stairs and actually speak to him.
Instead her screams come straight through the thin walls and fill his sitting room with her frustration
“ get up, you’re going to be late”
“Get up, you’re going to be late
“ I said, get up, you’re really late now”.
There are times when he seriously considers punching a hole in the wall and screaming his frustration at her and her sharp, edgy voice and for once filling her house with noise so loud it stops you thinking.
But, of course, he doesn’t.
Instead, he washes his cup and saucer, dries them carefully with the green checked tea towel and puts them both away in the cupboard next to the kettle.
He spends a moment checking the kitchen, work surfaces wiped down, cereal boxes carefully aligned in a tidy row. Sandwich box ready to go, flask filled, Apple polished and because it’s Friday, a two finger kitkat as a special treat for break time.
7.53 and a minute or two later than yesterday, the barking starts,staccato yaps, with no rhythm or pattern
Bark, bark, bark
Bark, bark, bark, bark, bark
And then a longer pause,
But, he has no time to savour this, to hold onto the last moments of peace before he must leave the house because the sullen teen has finally been prised out of bed and the thud, thud, thud of some hideous rap music has started and it’s counterpoint
“What do you want?”
“ mum, I can’t find my PE kit”
The voice manages to be both booming and whining simultaneously
“ I can’t hear a bloody word, turn that bloody music down”
amen to that thinks the man at number 49, but it’s 8.10 and he needs to get going himself.
He collects up lunchbox, keys, waterproof jacket and a book and leaves the house, carefully and quietly shutting the front door.
The dog is still barking , but miraculously the music has stopped and he makes it to the car before the front door of 47 bursts open to disgorge six foot of teenager, all hoodie and rucksack hanging off him and the tssk,tssk, tssk of badly muffled outsized head phones.
Today, he doesn’t have to cope with the barely disguised sneer of dislike and he slides quickly and quietly into the car.
A deep breath and then engine on, the gentle purr of a car well maintained by it’s owner, check in mirror, signal and pull out onto the street.
Some mornings he listens to classic FM, playing low, almost sub audibly, but not today, his nerves are already jangling, he needs the silence of his commute to gather himself for the day ahead.
There are times when he genuinely believes that his neighbors are doing this on purpose, that they are conspiring to actually drive him insane, that this cannot be simply random thoughtlessness, that there must be some planning in all of this.
He doesn’t understand why they find it so difficult to just keep the noise down.
He is always thoughtful, mindful, careful and above all quiet.
Keeps his windows closed in all but the most freakish heat waves.
Only uses his Hoover once a week and at a time he has carefully calculated to cause the least impact on his neighbours- 11 am on a Saturday is hoovering time.
He would never dream of running his washing machine or tumble dryer at 10pm on a Tuesday night.
He saves his DIY tasks for holidays when he is sure that his neighbours are out at work.
He has never owned a pet or learnt the drums or bought a home entertainment centre or had mid week barbecues.
He keeps the volume on his television and radio to levels that can only be heard when he sits, quietly, in the armchair next to them.
But,none of this makes any difference to his neighbours, they seem completely impervious to his role modelling of good neighbourliness.
His offers of timed plugs to help them ensure that TVs and music go off at a sensible hour have caused terrible row,promises of injunctions and in one case and the threat seemed very real, the threat that if he ever knocked on the door again, he would get his face filled in.
After work, he parks his car, carefully, considerately outside his house. The dog next door hears him coming and starts to bark
“Bark, bark, bark”
“ bark, bark,,bark, bark”.
The teenager is home, his mother is not, so the noises are all recreational
Call of duty ..ack,ack,ack from the front room
A music channel from the bedroom and his voice, loud,echoing on a mobile
“ yeah, safe, yeah mate, safe, innit”
The man from number 49 puts on the kettle, waits for it to boil, takes his cup and saucer down from the cupboard and reaches Into the biscuit tin and chooses a chocolate digestive.
He sits quietly in his armchair, places the cup and saucer on the nest of tables next to him and reaches out for the book he has left on the arm of the chair.
He removes his bookmark and has just started to read when the the phone at 51 begins to ring and the dog, not to be outdone, begins to bark in answer.
“ Ring, ring”
“Bark, bark, bark”
“Bark, bark, bark”
He doesn’t mean to, but as the front door of 47 opens and slams shut, he drops the book, but gently, not to make a sound when it hits the floor and curls Into the chair, makes himself as small as possible and wraps his arms around his head, pushing his fingers deep into his ears.