Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Newbuild Flats Are Homewreckers

Couples move to Dovecot Towers to improve their arguments. Theatrical, ear-splitting, traumatic public rows are a regular fixture hereabouts.

Once locked inside in a tiny flat, there’s no escape. With outsize furniture shoehorned into an inhumanely small space, couples are trapped: they cannot move, manoeuvre, or walk away. Even slight misdemeanours are magnified into dramatic and convoluted disagreements, with lasting recriminations.

Newbuild rentals like Dovecot Towers are often the first step into the magical world of living together. It’s cheaper to share a one bedroom flat, but couples ignore the consequences when leasing their little hutch. Some two bed flats are home to two sets of couples, which (even with two bathrooms) must be a fresh, living hell for all.

That precious balcony becomes both a haven, and an arena. It’s an escape from a claustrophobic house share with its lounge/dining room/ kitchen/study room/everything room combo. Scrapping couples use the balcony as a stage to heighten the impact of their quarrel: step outside to scream abuse and everyone in the whole block will know what a bastard/bitch he/she really is. Balconies are also high altitude launch pads for dramatically throwing out precious belongings.

I witness al fresco marital ructions nearly every day. A motorbike is usually parked outside the building, in clear view of its owner’s flat. The couple who live there argue frequently. I have seen ‘Him’ sitting wistfully astride his bike, and noticed a girl - presumably ‘Her’ - weeping in the shrubbery. Neighbours recently watched in amazement as one couple ran outside to slap faces and shove each other, before reuniting to abuse the onlookers, who they accused of ‘…nosiness.’

God knows what it must be like with four people, their visitors, phones calls, cooking, varying daily routines, soggy laundry, TV choices, and music, all crammed together like inmates in a twisted reality show. Except there’s no prize.

Personally, I find shouting and screaming upsetting, whereas others find amusement in watching a drunken couple exchange wounding and humiliating personal abuse. One domestic dispute was extremely violent: I even heard the thwack of ‘Him’ hitting ‘Her’. We all knew what has happening. What shocked me wasn’t just the violence, but the fact that in a building of around 300 people, I was the only one to call the police.

Recently a lamppost near Dovecot Towers was damaged. The attached traffic notices were torn down, and strewn across the road. Nearby, a man sat for hours in his dented car, playing dreadful generic ‘Dumped Bloke’ slow tunes, clutching a road sign in his arms, while sobbing loudly.

Neighbours screamed at him to turn it down. Genuinely distraught and weeping, he slurred that his relationship had ended. Didn’t we care? He was drunk, and spent the entire weekend alone in his flat, howling and berating the girl who broke his heart.

You just wonder: what’s the significance of the road sign to the break up? Did it read: ‘Give Way,’ ‘No Entry!’ or simply ‘Stop!’

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