As they say in mediocre westerns, it’s quiet. Too quiet. Recent nights in Dovecot Towers have been silent, and gloomy.
After all I’ve written about noisy parties and rowdy neighbours, you’d think the lead up to the festive season, especially New Year’s Eve, would be crazy with booming, bass-heavy, drug-fuelled debauchery. I’m not so churlish as to expect silence, especially not on New Years Eve, but I was dreading yet another 48 hour party from hell, with my neighbours screaming and banging on doors for a fortnight. But they didn’t.
Even Georgie from 603 has been quiet of late. Same with Thumping Techno Boy (he of the response: ‘I can do whatever I like – it’s my flat!’) To commemorate Hogmanay I was expecting predatory torrents of vomit cascading down the stairs, like the flood of blood in The Shining. But no walls ran with fountains of beer splattered from vigorously shaken cans. No unofficial community urinals appeared; we just had a few pizza boxes left on the floor, but then there are no bins.
Days before xmas, the lights in the surrounding flats went out ominously one by one. The nearby building site shut down, granting a merciful release from my hitherto floodlit lounge. The darkness was eerie. New Years Eve was deathly quiet: nobody shouting their order to the drug dealer conveniently waiting on the street below. Not so much as raised voices or loud laughter. Nothing.
Students heading home for xmas made the building seem even more bleak. Many have gone for good, with replacements electing to start their tenancies at the beginning of term, rather than on the first of the month. For owners, this means a worrying and expensive void period, with no rental income for those dabblers and other property chancers, now officially known to be dancing on the edge of bankruptcy. There have also been some evictions.
Tenants might be calling some of the shots – a timely development in certain respects. Owners are increasingly desperate; simply grateful to have guaranteed occupants - even if newer tenants feel free to be more assertive. Landlords, especially newbies, can be unreasonable and intransigent. Last year, one poor soul was forced to move out by Jan 1st, and Xmas is no time for flat hunting.
I scan the horizon, with its crane raddled carpet of building sites and similar cliff faces of newbuild flats, and notice that the newest blocks are especially slow to light up. A checkerboard of houselights indicates human occupation, but so many buildings seem three quarters empty. The silence is deceptively tranquil, as this stillness is indicative of forthcoming economic desolation. And vacant buildings do nothing for the character and charm of the neighbourhood. Inhabitants who perpetually come and go are literally causing darkness to descend.
The festive season is long over, but Dovecot Towers is still too quiet, and the house lights around me are not switching on. One ray of light was the fact that a neighbour and I exchanged Xmas cards. It might not seem like much, but around here, it’s a massive advance for humanity.