Tuesday, 21 August 2007

If The Tenants Are United

Bluebirds are flying over Dovecot Towers. Peace has been declared. Love rules once more.

Last night, the man in the flat below screamed up from his balcony, demanding that I turn down my music, except I wasn’t playing any. It emerged that he’s just moved in, and his predecessor - who had tormented me with shouting and appalling musical choices - has gone.

In an instant, more shouting heads had appeared over each railing; inquisitive neighbours wondering who was playing the nasty, thumping techno loathed by us all, admitting that we’d all been blaming each other.

In this increasingly Pinteresque scenario, a growing multitude of disembodied faces popped out of windows to join the debate. None of us had ever met before. People don’t normally speak round here. Tenants are more than naturally unfriendly; some are actually scared.

And so began the weirdest tenant’s meeting ever, where we discussed repairs, rubbish collection, and just who was responsible for the truly awful thumpage rentergirl has complained about many times here, with more and more heads speaking out.

A representative from the now numerous array of talking heads ventured down to visit the noisy culprit, and stated our case for some quiet. The thumping horror house was turned off. I could hear myself think for the first time in months.

It can be scary in Dovecot Towers. I never answer my door, as visitors know to call before they get to mine. People who bang on doors and ring bells randomly late at night are always trouble, and I often wonder what could be done to make life a little more hospitable.

Tenants/residents associations seem like a great idea: everyone working together against the evil management company/council/rogue occupant. Unfortunately, my only experience is of such organizations is that they are run by people who are strange and misguided. They convened meetings in the pub, and negotiated cut price real ale as refreshment. The first resolution they agreed concerned solidarity with Cuba. Then they came round at closing time to rustle up interest in their organisation, calling on the younger, female residents.

Buy to let owners are appalled by the intimidating atmosphere in Dovecot Towers: prospective tenants and purchasers have been glared at, or sized up as potential victims for later on, at the muggers convenience. Residents avoid eye contact in the lift, and I never use the stairs (especially at night.)

But it pays to be cautious. One neighbour ostentatiously greeted me everyday, until he became quite threatening. Tetchily, he ticked me off for being ‘stand offish’ and was later found loitering outside another female neighbour’s flat, playing hangman with her name on the wall outside before launching into inquisitorial chatter whenever she emerged. They came for him in the night.

That night though, I listened to my own music, with no invasive thumping house ruining my happiness. Then, the man who had complained loudest about the rogue music, and who had ventured down to arrange its cessation, turned his telly up full volume, but - realising what he had done - immediately lowered the sound again. No actual bluebirds, and not quite peace in our time, but hopefully a change in attitude.

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