The last week we have been woken to the huffing and puffing of imminent heart attacks from the rather larger proportioned couple and loud discussions of ‘oh I need a wee now’ or ‘oh someone has been having a barbeque in the building, oh, oh the smell of burnt meat’ somewhere between midnight and 1am… when they have come back from a night at the pub. We’ve remained irritated but silent; I have a feeling that may now have all changed. As being woken at 3am to singing, shouting, wailing and crying you tend to loose all sympathy. In Mr B’s case you decide to jump out of bed grab the nearest heavy weapon (in this case a boot – I don’t even want to know what he was going to do with it) and charge for the area where our fire exit meets their front door on a landing. Yes the area they dropped all their food and blamed us for, it would have been an ironic place for a fight, well ironic in an Alanis was maybe.
Retelling the whole sorry saga back to one of my friends this morning she said ‘it’s London though Simon isn’t it? What did you expect your neighbours to be like the couple on the old Nescafe adverts?’ I decided not to comment at the time and simply said ‘well I think it’s selfish and rude’. I do strangely have the deep down desire that I should befriend all my neighbours and have a lovely time, have dinner parties, develop life long friendships - you know the stuff of soap opera. Well maybe without the constant bed hopping, occasional murder and finding out you sister/wife/Alsatian/Dad is in fact your Mum. One of those almost happened to me as it turns out if things had gone a certain way when I was born, but that’s another story.
Growing up in the 1980’s in the little town of Matlock Bath in Derbyshire (or Little Switzerland as it is sometimes called), everyone was friends with every one of their neighbours. Doors were left unlocked and you could pop round for some sugar if you ran out like in the old Nescafe ad’s. In some cases like with the Nescafe ad’s little love stories developed, especially if you sent my aunties (who are only 12 – 14 years older than me) round and one of the many neighbour’s sons answered their plight. Oh the Savidge girls were minxes. In fact I must blog at some point about Matlock Bath and my childhood there as it was the most happy time and is such a strange but brilliant place. I have a picture below and you can see out house if you go to the middle from the top of the postcard and drop down till you get the very dark tree our house was the one on the left.
Sorry in going down memory lane I digressed. There was also of course the show Neighbours which taught you everybody needs good neighbours, that love was just around the corner, you could be there for one another, bad people don’t win out, girls can be mechanics too and that sleeping with twins was possible. Oh erm scrap the last one (I loved the Alessi twins, not as much as I loved Paul Daniels though) and of course in finding Kylie it changed my life in a whole other way.
In my mind ‘The Matlock Spirit’ was what being a neighbour was all about and still now in Matlock my Gran has neighbours who do the same; they all look out for each other, do Tai Chi together of a Thursday, have book groups, swap recipes and get very drunk playing bridge. I suppose it’s a bit like the Golden Girls, another show which in my early twenties furthered my ideals of what housemates/neighbours should be like. Mind you I think my Gran secretly dreams of a life like The Archers and all the goings on in Ambridge. I was subliminally subjected to these goings on from the age of zero (the theme tune was the first music I danced to) to around sixteen as my mother and Gran both devour it. Maybe another reason for my ideals of neighbours and how they shoudl behave. For me though the two biggest ideals of neighbours came from TV and books in my late teens.
The first of which was This Life. Oh how I adored that show. I was fourteen so had to go to bed then wait for mum to be asleep and then creep down and watch it or somehow sneakily leave the video recorder recording BBC2 all night so I could watch it. There were flaws in this, the tape would run out or Mum would notice it recording think of the electric wasted and stop it, shes always been enviromentally minded. She never seemed to notice it was the same accidental recording the same time every week, well she probably did but just overlooked it. Mums know everything after all. At the time I was obsessed with the show and Anna in particular. I think she was a first major icon for me and I dreamt of auditioning for the role of Anna’s brother and getting it. It didn’t matter there wasn’t such a role, or London was miles away from Marlborough (where we'd moved and the neighbours were evil) or that I couldn’t do a Scottish accent. Oh or the fact that I can’t act; as the rejection letter from my Hollyoaks audition which is framed in my toilet will tell you all. One day deep down I knew I was going to live that life, well This Life life!
When I finally did house share in London it didn’t quite end up like that. There were some illicit nocturnal drunken activities with fellow housemates and even once the landlord who ‘lived in’, there were lots of parties but nowhere in This Life was their an obsessive self proclaimed ‘fag hag’ who turned up on all your nights out, fell in love with you and tried to ruin any female friendships you had or any relationships with boyfriends you had. They should have though it would have been a cracking storyline. For me though it was a very real few years of hell in East London. My house-sharing days are now behind me and I can think of them as mayhem of the past and slightly fondly.
When I got my own place though it would of course be just like one of my biggest late teen obsessions… Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. Through these novels, in my mind at least, the perfect neighbours were created. Ok so some of the inhabitants were a little bit ropey but what a landlady! I have never ever had a land lord or landlady who has ever come close to the Madrigal and it has wounded me in some way I am sure. Plus who knew you could end up meeting a stunning rich gynaecologist after going roller-skating? I almost met a fit first aider through roller-skating though sadly not because he caught me as I fell, more because I sprained something and had to be helped out of the scene which I had caused. It was my ideal vision though of what my adult life would be like when I lived in the big city. A mixture of lovely gay guys, fabulous women, some fit straight men who didn’t beat up gay men and a fabulous crazy lady with dark secrets (I have now noted I don’t live in this environment but it does sum up my friends quite well) what more could you ask for?
Waking up at 3am this morning I of course I realised that though that scenario is heavenly it simply isn’t going to happen. Well not at this address anyway, but maybe at the next one. There is a block that Mr B and I are permanently watching locally to see if a flat comes up on which is beautiful and art deco filled and I secretly think has the great makings of the next Barbary Lane!