Living next door to a neighbour from hell.
|What would you do if your new neighbour, by way of introducing herself, turned up
at your door early one morning drunk, asking if you had any suspenders that she
could borrow? I was faced with this predicament three years ago; it was a school
day and getting my son out of bed and organised enough to leave the house by
eight was hard enough. I didn't need any interruptions, at this hour my mood is
never good. Drinking strong coffee is a necessity. Without it I am that of a spitting
cobra. I tend to become rational around ten and that's on a good day. When the
doorbell rang I hadn't finished the first cup so whoever was there was on thin ice
The alcoholic fumes hit me full on, making my stomach turn over. Clinging to the
door frame and clutching a bottle of wine, my new neighbour seemed keen to spread
the good cheer she was obviously feeling. When she put forth her request, I stared
at her with horror. Kate Moss she wasn't; her appearance resembled that of a
derelict who resided in the nearest hedge. Of course, the door got slammed in her
face and I stumbled into the kitchen trying to figure out what had happened. Alex
was bombarding me with questions having witnessed this strange encounter.
Through the window we could see her making her way across the street to Alfie's
house. Whether she got the suspenders from him I shall never know. An old man
has his secrets.
Ringlet Way is part of the Turnpike Down estate. I wouldn't say it was rough but the
kids here have lessons in how to get an ASBO. (Anti Social Behaviour Order).
Of course, when I first moved here I wasn't aware of the bad reputation it had gained
because I used to live in London. Moving to the country and going for long walks
in the fields that surrounded the estate was what I'd envisaged for me and Alex.
Instead I got a reality check when my car got egged and scratched the day after
moving in. It wasn't the welcome present I'd been expecting.
I realised early on that there seemed to be a lot of tension on the estate, witnessing
public arguments in the street between parents who fought over their children was a
common sight. No one, it seemed, could solve the minor disputes that kids have
without it becoming a huge drama. Alex, being the new kid on the block, was
immediatly targeted and even today gets verbally abused in the street.
As time went by, keeping to yourself and trying to live quietly wasn't always easy.
Halloween, for example, became a nightmare. The usual eggs up the window and
if I didn't answer the door it would get kicked. Using this traditional holiday as an
excuse to cause trouble, the teenagers didn't bother with masks and costumes.
They would knock on your door and just ask for the money. If you refused, verbal
abuse would pepper the air and my car parked outside would get another scratch.
Toys and garden equipment would suddenly go missing from the back garden,
which was often used as a short cut by several people on the run from the Police.
The barbeque we were enjoying at the time was kicked out of the way as they
made a desperate attempt to escape.
Complaining was pointless; it turned into a case of my word against theirs. Police
are regular visitors to the estate and know many residents by their first name,
anti-social behaviour being the main reason for their almost constant presence.
Being a small estate it seemed everybody knew your business whether you wanted
them to or not. My new neighbour's antics were just another thing to gossip over
and just a few weeks after she'd moved in the rumours were already circulating.
It wasn't long before she knocked at my door again. Now sober she introduced
herself to me as if we'd just met. This was followed by a list of items she needed
to borrow, including use of phone, cigarettes and not surprisingly, headache tablets,
as according to her, she had the hangover from hell. Judging by the empty wine
bottles that overflowed her dustbin on a regular basis, it was hardly a revelation.
I don't mind lending the odd item to a neighbour but when they begin to think of your
house as the local convenience store it gets a bit much. After a while I would
pretend to be out, ignoring the incessant ringing of the doorbell, hoping she would
get the message. She didn't.
Blanche, as I call her is not her real name and when it's mentioned, which is often,
people tend to screw up their face so it's appropriate. Her daughter, I've called
Grace for a similar reason.
Loud parties next door became the norm. Countless requests to keep the noise
down were ignored. Blanche and Grace and a never-ending stream of visitors
seemed intent on making everyone else's lives miserable, mine especially, as I
was the nearest neighbour. Lack of sleep had made Alex fretful and anxious, which
in turn, worried me. The stress of this left us unable to relax in our own home.
It's hard to keep to yourself when a drunk person follows you into your back garden
and won't leave until they finish telling you their problems. I'm not an agony aunt,
I'll sympathize up to a point but sooner or later a person has to help themselves.
The people who did this had serious drink and drug issues, hard to deal with, when
you have your child with you at the time and witnessing it all. As a result we rarely
used our garden as the constant interruptions spoilt the enjoyment somewhat.
Complaints had been building up against Blanche and Grace, as neighbours got
fed up with the constant noise. Police cars would turn up repeatedly as would the
ambulance that took Blanche and her friends away when the never ending parties
got too much.
Warnings from the local Housing Authority were sent to them but to no avail. After
a while the drink-and-drug-induced lifestyle got to her daughter. Grace was barely
sixteen when she left home. Despite the miseries she caused us for the two years
she lived there, I hope she's doing well. Having a mother, such as Blanche, can't
be easy. It wasn't a surprise that Grace behaved in the way she did. It's bound
to have an effect.
The sight of another ambulance outside Blanche's house, as I've said, was a
common occurence, except this one was different. It had been converted into a
home for two adults and two large dogs and was used to sell drugs from about
twenty feet from my kitchen window. Three months it was parked outside, attracting
the addicts from Blanche's house and others in the local area, causing further
misery to people on the estate who just wanted to live quietly. Seeing a man inject
his neck in full view of children playing nearby led to the police descending on
Ringlet Way in droves.
The awkward questions from Alex about the ongoing situation were difficult to
answer. It made me angry that my child had seen such damaging behaviour from
adults who should have known better.
Blanche had a criminal record as long as your arm. Her all too brief spell in prison
gave residents a chance to enjoy home life and some sense of normality.
Unfortunately, upon her return, nothing had changed. Her 'friends' were no longer
around but Blanche's chronic addiction to alcohol led to more grief and scary
situations for many residents.
The final straw came one night around three am. Blanche had taken to wailing
the word 'please' over and over at all hours of the day and night. Now alone, unable
to deal with her manic depressive addictions and no one to supply the booze she
desperately craved, the only thing left was to ask the neighbours. Again. Of course
sleep was impossible as her wails could be heard echoing all over the estate.
Reduced to tears, I wondered how much more misery we had to suffer in order for
something to be done. The previous week her smoke alarm had sounded for forty
minutes waking me and the neighbour on the other side. Blanche had put a chicken
stew on the stove to cremate while she passed out in the bedroom. A fireman who
arrived in one of three engines shook her awake. For saving her life, I didn't even get
a thank you. Perhaps it was a cry for help. I was more concerned that my house
could have gone up in flames at the time rather than be a shoulder to cry on.
Thankfully, someone had already called the Police and to see her taken away was
a huge relief. That night almost half the residents on the estate had been disturbed
by her begging for booze at their door. The local Housing Authority received more
complaints and finally with enough evidence to proceed, court action began against
Blanche wasn't seen around for a long time, admitting herself to Rehab for the third
time meant she was finally facing the demons that plagued her for so long.
Rumours circulated that she would be evicted from her home, rent arrears being the
main reason. Obviously the three years of anti social behaviour were included but
that meant witnessess coming forward willing to appear in court.
I wasn't willing. Living alone with my son and being the one most affected by her
behaviour, made me vulnerable. Some of Blanche's friends were not the sort of
people you would want to meet on a dark night. I gave a statement and hoped for
No one wanted Blanche to lose her home, I didn't. The woman needed serious
help not prison. At the time I had no knowledge of the crimes that she'd committed.
It all came out in court when she blamed everyone else for her problems, The Judge
had seen enough evidence to send her to prison for twelve months. Once she had
served her sentence then her home would be repossessed, leaving her homeless.
The house sat empty for a year while she resided at her Majesty's Pleasure, the
garden was overgrown and used as a place to dump rubbish and several windows
were broken. It was a sorry sight to see when coming home from work. The
Housing Authority couldn't do anything until Blanche was released, then steps could
be made to redecorate it ready for another tenant.
I've learnt a lot from this experience, not through choice, I have to say. Seeing a
once attractive woman deteriorate through an addiction is heartbreaking and I'm
just a neighbour. Her problems became mine as she bought them to my door at
all hours. Sympathizing is a waste of time. It doesn't solve the problem. It's
pointless offering help or rehab when the person needing it is not willing. Blanche
will have to realise this if she wants to conquer her addictions and reclaim her life
again, if she fails this it means wherever she goes another neighbour will endure the
same hellish nightmares that I've gone through. Not a nice thought.
In today's society everyone has encountered anti-social behaviour of some kind
and respect for others seems a thing of the past, which is a sad thing. I want my
son to enjoy his childhood as I did. It pains me to see him suffer through the
actions of others. Not everyone on the estate is bad but as few families, such as
Blanche's have destroyed what could be lovely place to live.
With her house now being decorated for a new tenant all thoughts of Blanche are
becoming a distant memory. Life is back to normal and we can begin to enjoy
living in peace again. Sounds of shouting in the street still make me panic, if only
for a second. It's strange how some things take longer to forget. I guess time will
change that. At least I hope it will.