Let me introduce you to Dominic.
Dominic is my neighbour. He lives in the flat downstairs. He moved in about two months ago — although I’ve never seen him or spoken to him, and wouldn’t even know his name if he hadn’t informed me of it himself. I’m the typical British neighbour, you see — I keep myself to myself and don’t mix with the people next door.
However, I have been forced to become very aware of Dominic since he moved in. It’s difficult to ignore him, in fact. Dominic plays the bass guitar. His typical early evening entertainment involves putting on a tape of some unidentifiable rock music and playing along to it. For an hour or more. Monotonously. Tunelessly. Loudly. Even worse, he sometimes plays bass accompaniment to a pattern on his drum machine — “duh — tschhh — duh — tschhh — duh — tschhh — duh — tschhh!” Bass guitar — like the violin — is one of those instruments that it’s almost painful to hear played badly. But I’ve been very patient — I love music, and I don’t want to begrudge someone the chance to practice on their chosen instrument.
Dominic’s other hobby is hammering. Oh boy, does he love hammering. Once again, I don’t begrudge anyone the chance to indulge in some DIY when they move into a new property, but Dominic has now been hammering almost constantly for two months. His favourite time to enjoy a spot of incessant banging appears to be weekends, especially the mornings. It’s difficult to have a chilled and relaxed weekend when it’s accompanied by the sound of Dominic hammering floorboards, Dominic hammering walls, Dominic hammering doors and window frames.
Having a somewhat snti-social attitude towards neighbours, and also displaying all the traits of typical British reserve, I have so far resisted “having a quiet word” with Dominic. I have not given in to the temptation to pop down to his flat with a strong pair of scissors and cut through the strings of his bass guitar. As for his hammering, it is so frequent that I had recently begun to imagine that either he was burying things under his floorboards, or he was running the bomb-making factory supplying the explosives for the recent spate of terrorist explosions in the West London area. Fortunately for Dominic, I decided not to call the Crimestoppers hotline to report either of these theories.
Finally, however, Dominic may have pushed me too far.
When I got home yesterday evening, I discovered that a note from my neighbour — whom, for the first time, I discovered was called Dominic — had been put through my letterbox. It was written in bright purple felt tip pen. Not a good start. It was also barely literate, in a way that I particularly hate — none of the spelling was incorrect, but the grammar and sentence construction were all over the place (yes, feel free to call me a snob if you wish). Finally, possibly in an attempt to legitimise his note even further, he had written it on the reverse of the most recent edition of the newsletter from our local Residents’ Association.
Aside: Yes, I’m afraid that we have a Residents’ Association where I live. If you’ve never experienced the joys of this peculiarly British institution, they are basically an excuse for people with too much time on their hands to wield a little bit of power, in an attempt to brighten up their empty little lives. These associations are exclusive ‘clubs’ where these poor deluded souls can imagine that they are figures of importance and influence in the local community. Our association, for instance, is very fond of extremely formal notices, which are located on almost every street corner and gate-post: keep off the grass, please refrain from sitting on the walls, no parking permitted, please don’t exhale between the hours of 10.00pm and 7.00am. That sort of thing. Just to remind everyone who is in charge, every notice displays the name of the Residents’ Association at the top. The message is: it’s a free country, and an Englishman’s home is his castle — just as long as you don’t happen to live under the ridiculous and nit-picking rules of a Residents’ Association.
Back to the note. Dominic’s poorly-written felt tip scrawl informed me — in an insufferably polite manner that failed to disguise the petulant tone — that he is currently working odd hours, and therefore he often sleeps late on weekday mornings. Apparently, the music that I play whilst dressing and getting ready for work is disturbing him. Hmm.
I’m nothing if not fair. In the few weeks that I’ve had my new hi-fi, the volume of my music may have been creeping up slightly, and the system does have a powerful bass level. But having lived with noisy neighbours on a number of occasions, I’m always particularly careful to keep a check on the volume of any music I play. Unfortunately, Dominic’s hammering and bass-thumping antics of the past couple of months have hardly endeared him to me, and I’m drawn to thinking that his note therefore displays almost unbelievable cheek. Despite all that, this morning I kept the radio on rather than putting on a CD, and I kept the volume control in the bottom area of the dial. I am far too considerate, and I hate myself for it.
Yesterday was a very enjoyable day, for various reasons, but this incident succeeded in sending me to bed feeling decidedly grumpy.
Hello Dominic. This Is War.