Posts Tagged 'tenement living'

Laminate Lament

Peaceful weekends at the Buteshack are a thing of the past, now that the carpets in the holiday flat upstairs have been replaced with the dreaded scourge of tenement living: laminate flooring. Cheap, hygienic and easy to clean, it has the unfortunate side effect of being nerve-janglingly noisy for those underneath, even those who are slightly deaf. It would seem that the cookie bite ears can hear the gentle click-click-click of a canine claw on laminate just as well as the next person, although at least the ears did spare me from overhearing the embarrassing details of the neighbours’ heated critique of the spouse’s car parking habits through an open upstairs window, as I supped a G&T unnoticed on the garden bench below.

The traditional method of noise control in a tenement is to bash a broom handle against the ceiling as hard as you can, whilst shouting “Shut up…SHUT UP…SHUUUUUT UUUUUUP!” until those above get the message. It carries the benefit that you don’t have to leave the house to go upstairs in the middle of the night, and can even be done from the comfort of your bed, provided your broom handle is long enough. I have never used the broom handle method myself, though, and wouldn’t recommend it, since it carries the double risk of angering those above so much that they decide to make some more noise, combined with accidentally bringing your ceiling down at your own hands and being killed by a falling lump of plaster.

No, what is required here, is a bit of psychology. A bit of carpet is the ideal solution, but where this is not possible, I propose an intriguing new approach. I thought of it at six in the morning when the three kids upstairs were racing their dog from one end of the flat to the other. What if…what if one created the mysterious phenomenon of footsteps on the ceiling instead?

The clumpers overhead would freeze silently in their tracks as they tried to work out if those were really footsteps on the ceiling below. And here’s the good bit: they might even say to the kids “Shhhh! Quit jumping off the top of that wardrobe for a minute, and stop the dog barking, I’m trying to listen to something here”, a feat which could never be achieved through neighbourly diplomacy alone.



I was having a nice dream about being on board an ocean liner with Jeremy Irons last night, when my sun-kissed fantasy was intruded upon by the distant and rather incongruous sound of an alarm. I tried to ignore it for a while, but it was getting much louder.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy, I’ve got to go”, I said, looking longingly into his eyes and knocking back the last of my dry martini. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t try to stop me leaving, and the next thing I knew, I was back in dreary Glasgow at 12:37am and a burglar alarm was going off somewhere. A particularly efficient and annoying burglar alarm.

I went to the window and did the usual pointless looking around outside, noting all the other shadowy figures standing at tenement windows in their nightclothes doing exactly the same thing. I was the only one cupping and uncupping my hands to my ears and swivelling my head as if doing a cheesy disco dance, though. Since I was dressed only in a shrunken t-shirt, I hastily returned to bed just in case anyone got the wrong idea.

“Wossahhhhtaaaaaamringnoise”, said the spouse as my head hit the pillow.



“Hammering noise…where?”

“OH, FOR GOD’S SAKE…IT DOESN’T MATTER”, came the grumpy reply.

Thanks to the spouse’s uncanny ability to hear through his earplugs, I now had a mental picture of a burglar on the prowl with a sledgehammer…perhaps an intruder had seen my bejewelled hearing aid covers on the internet and mistaken them for priceless artefacts…mmm, maybe not. Crimewatch UK would have to wait a while to feature that one. It was much more likely to be a false alarm coupled with some nocturnal clog dancing or something, and I hoped neither was about to become a regular occurrence.

Then I suddenly remembered the unused pair of earplugs I bought back in 2003. I got them after a drugged-up neighbour played Bono’s ‘One Love’ at full volume on a loop for eight hours. I swore I’d never go through that torture again.

I rummaged about in the dark until I found them and, although they were a little crusty to the touch after 8 years, they were still quite usable so I eagerly bunged them into the lugs and lay down. Result. Total silence. Well, apart from the alarmingly loud pounding of my heart in the left lug, and a familiar Minor Third chord ringing in the right.

After a couple of minutes, I opted to listen to the burglar alarm instead.

There She Blows

There’s been a bit of boiler trouble going on at Cookie Bite HQ recently, bringing back memories of the last major boiler incident. If only I’d had the hearing aid back then…

On a dark and stormy night in 2009, a phone call from the downstairs neighbours gravely informed us that sheets of water were running down the outside of their kitchen window. Nothing unusual in that, except for the fact it wasn’t raining at the time. A glance at the somewhat elevated pressure gauge on the boiler told me that something had gone horribly wrong.

“What’s that noise?” said the spouse, as I ripped open the door to the pipework and began fumbling about as if I knew what I was doing.

“What noise?” I replied.

“That kind of rumbling noise…it seems to be coming from the pipes…”

“Oh, shit”, I said as I realised that I hadn’t turned the stopcock fully off after I’d topped up the water in the boiler two hours previously. The system had continued filling to a dangerous pressure, and the safety overflow was what was responsible for our neighbours’ unwanted water feature.

“Got to get this stopcock closed quick, or we’re in trouble”, I grunted, applying my full bodyweight to the annoyingly stiff tap, to no effect. The rumbling noise was now loud enough to break through my hearing threshold and was making me somewhat edgy. I gave the tap one last desperate anti-clockwise twist, and finally felt it move. The relief was short-lived.

“Oh shit”, I exclaimed, “it’s come off in my hand!” I stared with disbelief at the now useless stopcock. There was now only one thing left to do. Panic, and swear a lot.

Continuing to enact my textbook demonstration of why I would be temperamentally unsuited to land an aircraft if the captain had a heart attack, I turned aimlessly in circles with the heels of my palms clamped to my temples until the spouse found a pair of pliers. The rumbling noise had now reached an alarming level, and an image of an aerial view of a pile of rubble in the evening news bulletin flashed through my mind. I snatched the pliers and began the delicate operation of trying to turn the remnants of the stopcock to the shut position without snapping anything else off by accident. Dripping with sweat, I finally succeeded. Phew. I had saved us all from disaster.

Strangely, the rumbling noise was still going on. Then all of a sudden, a sharp click was heard, followed by silence.

“Oh…” said the spouse apologetically, “…I forgot I put the kettle on before the phone rang.”

She Nose, You Know

My cold has finally left me, and not a moment too soon. As I seated myself at the computer at home this morning, my newly restored sense of smell detected a slight whiff of fishy mustiness. After establishing that it was definitely not coming from me, I followed my nose around the room, and ended up staring at the ceiling. Had I been adopting the reflective practices of the the illustrious Herr Not Quite Like Beethoven, who has taken to examining the world most insightfully from a recumbent position lately, my eyes might have ended up on the ceiling slightly sooner.

Unfortunately, the sight that met them was a big brown wet patch from what turned out to be the leaked contents of the upstairs neighbour’s dishwasher. Cripes, how did I not see that before, I thought. Knowing that gravity is a powerful force, I now looked downwards and spotted a matching big brown wet patch on the cream carpet. Mmmm, I thought, that matches the big brown wet patch on the spouse’s study ceiling and the small brown wet patch in the kitchen ceiling from last month’s toilet episodes upstairs. Co-ordinated decor at last.

Since bad things come in threes, we’ve hopefully reached our quota of plumbing incidents now.

A Grand Entrance

Ever since my father took a sledgehammer to my beloved H. Lange & Co. of Magdeburg upright piano back in 1982, after an argument over whose turn it was to do the washing up, I have longed for the day when I could get another one. My trusty first-generation digital Clavinova with its handy headphones has served me well through several flat shares and removals over the last twenty years, but you can’t beat the sound of the real thing, no matter how out of tune and crappy the instrument.

It was with great envy, then, that I spied this baby grand being delivered to another flat along the road this morning. Envy that they had a nice acoustic piano, and even more envy that they had the confidence to play it in a tenement flat, where the sound of a pin dropping can bring an Anti-Social Behaviour Order from the neighbours. Our own upstairs neighbour has commented with concern many times on how she can hear us talking, although funnily enough, she did say it was only the spouse’s voice that she hears.

I cast my mind back to our own removal seven years ago, where the sight of even a digital piano was enough to cause panic amongst our new neighbours. The cheery removal men decided to add to it by doing their well worn comedy routine of shouting loudly up the stairwell


As I watched today’s removal men attaching the ropes to lug the ten ton beast up the front steps, my envy was tinged with a certain amount of relief that it was not coming to our address, just in case the owner was conscientious in practising his or her scales. For the sake of the removal men, I also hoped that the pianist’s front steps were not in the same perilous state of undiscovered pre-collapse as ours.


Goodbye piano…

Now That's What I Call Graphic Design

…Hello organ. I’ve always hated organ music, mainly because it tends to accompany a coffin. As I sweltered in my voluminous academic gown at the recent student graduation ceremony, I braced myself for the organ solo after having had my eardrums pummelled by the organist’s 120 dB eclectic practice session beforehand.

As the hall was hushed for the kick-off, I spotted Organ solo: Last movement 3rd Symphony, Camille Saint-Saens in the order of ceremony leaflet and inwardly groaned.  The name Saint-Saens is forever linked with having Danse Macabre rammed down my throat at interminably dull school music lessons.

The first twiddly-diddly organ bit struck up relatively quietly, as the academic procession swayed their way up the aisle, groaning under the weight of ermine hoods and giant velvet Ecky-Thump hats. As the organist began an assault on a worryingly steep crescendo, I prayed for release and consoled myself with the thought of the post-ceremony champagne and strawberries. Four majestic chords later, however, I had undergone a complete conversion. The Saint-Saens 3rd Symphony is actually the theme from Babe! Yes, you heard me correctly, Babe the pig movie. Saint-Saens ripped off Babe! I always knew he was a wrong ‘un…er, no, wait a minute… other way round. Great! I’d always felt guilty liking the tune before, but since it’s actually classical, it’s now alright to like it, despite it being by Saint-Saens.

At a loose end yesterday, I downloaded the Saint-Babe sheet music and pressed the ‘Organ’ button on my vintage Clavinova for the first time in fifteen years. Blimey, that’s loud, I thought and rushed to check that Des in the basement’s taxi wasn’t parked outside, or I’d be in big trouble for waking him up when he’s on night shift. Then I remembered an organ-related clip from The Buteman in a previous post, and plugged the headphones in to the Clavinova for the benefit of everyone else in the building.

Through the headphones, the organ is spectacularly loud, unlike the piano, and I spent a fabulous afternoon playing the Babe Theme and all my secret naff stuff from 1980, including the embarrassing ‘Sky’ volumes 1&2. Magic. A couple of bits of Bach at the end brought some decorum to the proceedings, but also brought the realisation that the piano combined with a bit of hearing loss is much more forgiving to my dodgy playing than the organ.

Nevertheless, I can now appreciate where the man in The Buteman was coming from…


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