Welcome to day 6 of 9 of guest posts here on my blog. I didn’t want to leave my blog a barren wasteland whilst I take some time out so a group of lovely bloggers offered to write a post and share some thoughts, recipes, ideas and crafts with you.
Today I welcome Vicky Charles who blogs at Single Mother Ahoy. She a single mother blogging about life on her own with her little girl. She has written a fascinating post about a day in the life of her life.
I live in a flat on the edge of a council estate. If you imagine buildings in a T shape, my flat would be on the first floor on the top right end of the T. On one side of the building (across the top of the T), there is a road which is the main road out of the estate. People walking from town into one side of the estate will use this road. My daughter’s bedroom and our living room look out over this road. On the other side of the building, there is a car park with several sheds and garages. There is an alley running down the side of this building linking the road with the car park. The bins are also here.
I have lived here for two years. Because of the way the buildings are set out, it is never quiet; there is rarely silence. Because my flat is the last one on the estate, anyone coming from town onto the estate must pass my windows, on either side. Or both sides, if they’re that way inclined.
I am a freelancer and work from home, which doesn’t go well with a distinct lack of silence. Here is a typical day in our lives:
05:30 Rudely awakened by a van pulling up below my bedroom window; the driver leaves the engine running as he opens the back of the van and empties his rubbish into our bins. Irritating as this may be, it is infinitely preferable to the problem we had a couple of weeks ago, where we were being woken at 4am by a different man who would spend an hour going through the bins. I’ve no idea what he was looking for, but it did mean an hour most mornings spent desperately trying to think what I’d put in the bin the day before.
Stop and think for a moment – where do you put your underwear when you decide it won’t be your underwear any longer?
6am: the alarm goes off, but I am already awake and so is my daughter. I give her some of the books we keep upstairs and put a Tinkerbell dvd on for her while I have a shower. When I emerge from the bathroom, she is usually running about the upstairs, so my dressing is interspersed with rescuing Ted from the other side of the stair gate, asking her to move so I can find some knickers, and giving cuddles when she falls over.
7am: this is our cut-off time for getting ourselves downstairs for breakfast. However slowly I am moving, we must be in the kitchen and getting breakfast by the time the 7am pips sound on the radio. I make breakfast while S plays in the living room, and then we sit at her little red table to eat together.
7:30: Time to get dressed for nursery! I chase S around the living room with a nappy in my hand, and then she chooses her outfit.
7:50: Out of the door to walk to nursery. As soon as we’re out of the door, I pick S up and carry her. We walk down the stairs, dodging empty bottles and cans, broken glass and often dog mess. At the bottom of the stairs, there is an overwhelming smell of dog piss. At least, I hope it’s dog piss; it may well not be. S begins to struggle to get down, but I can’t let her walk before we’ve got past the bins.
8:10 Back home and sitting at my desk for a day of work.
10am: Harry is up. Harry lives in the adjacent building. He is in his early twenties and doesn’t have a job, but he does have a loud voice and enough money to buy booze. Today’s choice is a box of Bulmer’s strawberry cider, which he is carrying around on his hip, as if it’s a small child. He and his friends are enjoying a drink in the sunshine. Loudly.
11am: a man (not George) is standing in the car park, shouting a song that sounds like it was once Rule Britannia. Every syllable is emphasised by a kick of a garage door.
12pm: George and his group of friends are alternating their drinking between three places: firstly on the street outside my living room window, sitting on a wall, shouting at traffic. Secondly under the bridge my building creates over a road, shouting at each other (I suppose). Thirdly in the car park outside my kitchen window, where the noise reverberates off several buildings that are close to each other, shouting at the sky (one assumes). One of them has a dog; the dog likes to join in with the shouting. This sets off every dog in the vicinity, including the massive Alsatian next door.
12:30 I give up and decide to take a “lunch break” – I pop into town to do some shopping, in the hope they will be gone by the time I get back.
1pm: They are not gone. As I walk up the road, I see empty cider bottles balanced on people’s garden walls, and on the stairs I have to bring my daughter up later. I am not sure where they are, but I can hear them. “Oi, c**t!” shouting, snorting, kicking bins and doors. They are discussing whether they will do any more lines, or give up.
As the afternoon wears on, more people join the group. I can’t tell whether they’re arguing or this is just how they discuss their day to day business. They move around the area, shouting and swearing and leaving a trail of bottles like a drunken, chavvy Hansel and Gretel.
A football appears from somewhere, and now there are around 10 drunk 20-year-olds playing football in the street.
15:50 I leave the house to collect S from nursery. They are still in the street playing football. I make a mental note to use the other entrance to the estate when we come home, so as to avoid my daughter seeing this. Then I realise that whichever entrance we use, she will hear it.
16:20 We took a long, circuitous route with many detours but since nursery is only up the road, and it’s too hot to be outside for long, we are now defeated and home. I pick my daughter up before we reach the building and carry her up the stairs, past empty cans and bottles, a broken bottle, some suspicious puddles and the remnants of a MacDonalds. I put her down to open the front door, and usher her through it as quickly as possible.
The TV is switched on immediately, and turned up so that the noise outside is still loud, but not quite recognisable as individual expletives. We watch Tangled and play with Lego.
17:30 We go into the kitchen to make tea. Normally S would sit on the work surface and “help” with the tea but as we enter the kitchen I realise the group of shouting people (or maybe a new group of shouting people) has moved to the stair well on this side of the building. Anything that happens in the stair well is made twice as loud by the walls reflecting the noise. I usher S back into the living room, and put Tangled on again.
18:00 I am washing up in the kitchen, while the men from the stair well are pacing up and down past the window, a foot in front of me. My flat is the last one on this balcony; they don’t walk along here on their way to anywhere. They walk along here to take their calls away from where anyone will hear. Apparently it doesn’t matter if I hear. I try not to cry as I wash up, wondering how we will get any sleep tonight. How will we get out of here? I can’t have my daughter learning these words, growing up with drugs and drink literally on her doorstep. What can I do? How do I escape?
18:30 The gypsy family downstairs have visitors. There are three trucks parked in the street outside their garden, and they are chatting. They’re perfectly friendly and happy, chatting about what they did last night. The lady downstairs is lovely. But they swear a lot, and are very loud. As they leave, each truck beeps several times.
19:00 Bed time. After a shower and several stories, S settles down in my bed. The radio is on at a carefully-selected volume: not so loud as to preclude sleep; hopefully loud enough to drown out most of what is going on outside the window.
22:00 Miraculously, S has been asleep all evening despite the noise. As I go into the kitchen to get a drink, I find that the people outside have moved on somewhere. It is relatively quiet as I go to bed, and I pray it will stay that way. Bed time poses a dilemma: do I leave the windows open, and risk being woken several times during the night, or do I close the windows, and guarantee being kept awake by the heat? I close the windows and put a fan on a timer for an hour.
Midnight: People outside, shouting and screeching. When I say “screeching,” I mean there is actual screeching, as one would expect from a banshee. Thankfully this group move off into the estate, shouting and screeching as they go.
01:30: People outside shouting. Sounds like the same people as earlier. Lots of swearing. I turn the radio on in the hope of drowning them out.
2am: The radio cannot drown this out.
02:15: Among the other noise, a man called James is fighting with a lady called Ellen. There is a second man involved, but his name is not mentioned. James is apparently a mongrel, always hanging around the estate, stealing off people. He needs to stop it. James is not happy with this, and shouts a lot. Ellen tells him to be quiet. “It doesn’t f***ing matter, Ellen; nobody round here gets up for work in the morning any way!” I resist the urge to put my head out of the window and point out that yes, actually, I have to get up for work in the morning and would quite like some sleep now, thank you very much. James, Ellen and the other man eventually make their way further into the estate, shouting and arguing as they go
4am: People outside shouting some more. The 18-year-old boy from two doors down is having an argument with a friend. After twenty minutes or so, he goes inside his house and shuts the door. His friend is not happy with this, and stands outside for another half hour shouting at Johnny. Clearly he is not aware that Johnny’s bedroom is on the other side of the building, and he probably can’t hear him. Apparently it’s all Johnny’s fault: “you come to my house mush and I never done nothin’ but now my dad’s kicked us out, it’s ok for you Johnny you can go home mate, I’ve got nowhere to go now mush! … Johnny! … I’ve got nowhere to go now Johnny! … It’s your fault mate, you made all that f***in’ noise mush now me dad won’t let me in…” This continues until the friend apparently gives up.
5:30: Not so lucky. The friend is back again, shouting at Johnny. I doubt Johnny can hear; if he can hear, he’s not responding and neither are the other inhabitants of the house.
6am: The man with the van is a little later this morning, but he seems to take twice as long to empty the rubbish from his van into our bins.
8am: Johnny’s mother is standing on the stairs outside, chatting to someone. “did you hear all that bloody noise out here last night? Bloody stupid. I’m off to work now, he can sleep it off. Bloody idiot.”
Later that day, I put out a plea on Facebook; it’s Saturday night and I don’t want to try and deal with another night of this. A friend finds us a spare bed, and we go on a little adventure for the night.