Posted on Tuesday 13th February 2007 at 00:00
One of the hardest things to get used to about living in a new house is the different noises that you hear on a day to day basis and what they mean. Back home I've become so familiar with the different sounds the house and its inhabitants make that I can pretty much work out exactly where everyone in the house is and what they are up to simply by the sounds of footsteps, typing, the opening and closing of doors etc. Even the oldest mystery in my house was recently solved, completely by chance.

As a child I was always fascinated by a strange noise that I used to hear each evening whilst I was in bed. It would begin with a strange scrapping/sliding sound, kind of like the last Smartie in the tube rolling from one end to the other, only much louder. It would seem to get faster and faster and then end abruptly with a single sharp click. A few seconds later the sequence would repeat itself and then there would be silence.

As a child I was never able to figure out what this sound could be, and I'd largely pushed it to the back of my mind until the other week, when I was thinking about it one evening as I sat in the lounge. It was getting dark so I got up to shut the curtains, at which point I heard it again. Only this time, it wasn't a strange alien noise that I couldn't detect the source of. It was a sound I was making! The sliding/scrapping noise was the sound of the wooden curtain hooks running over the rail as I closed first one and then the other curtain. The abrupt click was the safety hook hitting the stopper as the curtain reached its full extension. For all these years the very sum of my imagination had not been able to explain the strange sound I'd heard every night as a child, and all the time it had been my parents drawing the curtains in the lounge below me!

Here in Bristol the sounds are much harder to explain. Not only am I lumbered with all the sounds of my housemates and their boyfriends moving around as and when they choose, but also the sounds of our neighbours, whose behaviour is very hard to quantify in the normal way. It can be said that, without a doubt, the walls in this house are more than averagely thin, and certainly a lot more so than in my previous residence. Annoyingly enough, we are on the end of a row of terrace houses, and for some reason the builders did not consider it important to make the dividing wall any thicker.

He did however attempt to make things easier for us by placing our staircase and their staircase on either side of the adjoining wall, presumably so that no one would have to spend much time on the side of the house nearest the neighbours. What he failed to take into account (presumably in the 70s or 80s or whenever this problem didn't exist) was that next door were going to somehow pop out at least 10 kids, and then totally fail to discipline them in any way, shape or form. That's not to say that they didn't try of course. We know that at least one boy there gets shouted at about once an hour for his behaviour & we can hear the entire conversation. Every. Single. Time. It. Happens.

Sadly though, attempts to control the behaviour of so many kids have totally failed, and they seem to have been left to charge up and down the stairs most of the day long. When they get bored of this they switch to banging on the walls. No one knows what they use exactly, but we think it is either their fists all their heads. The problem has got so bad that we don't actually realise when people knock on our front door because we are so used to hearing the banging. We aren't really sure if any of them go to school, but given the range of times that this unbearable racket is allowed to continue we imagine that they probably don't.

Of the three of us, J is the most prone to neighbour-induced anger and will frequently knock on my door to come and rant to me about how the little bastards have been disturbing her. Often I don't actually notice since I can no longer tell when she is knocking on my door and when next door are knocking on the wall. When I told her I was writing about this subject on my blog, the response she gave can roughly be translated as 'GRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHAAAAAAAA!!!? H, also regularly complains about the disturbances, which wake her up in the morning (usually at about 6 o clock) and distract her from her uni work, of which there is apparently a lot. I'm reliably informed that they voiced these complains to the landlord, but they were dismissed. Personally I think they did quite well since I've still had no response to my request for a new freezer as a matter of urgency.

Another noise that it took a while to identify here was the strange click I often hear in an evening coming from the wall above my desk. I eventually discovered that it was the light switch in the lounge & a rather stubborn device & being switched on the other side of the wall. I can now tell exactly when one or other of the housemates go into the lounge to switch the heating off, as there is always the click of the light going on and off, either side of the evil act.

When A was here, I'd frequently be kept awake by the TV, which he used to watch late into the night, as well as all the way through the day (not least because he was almost too fat to climb the stairs to his bedroom). It was only the other week we discovered that the place where the TV was mounted had originally been a door way into what is now my room, and that the gap had been filled by a single piece of plasterboard. Not exactly soundproof!

Last of all is the noise of the rain, currently pouring onto the roof as I prepare to go out and get soaked on the way to my last lecture of the day.

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