The novelty of living in one room really wears thin when exams approach. The horror of sleeping in the same room that you have spent the last two days battling through Kant and then accidentally burning pasta, forgetting to do dishes and having to brush your teeth in the same sink is incomparable. I would rather get up at 7 in the morning to be the first person in the library instead.
So I have started a new chapter in my life that involves setting alarms on my phone for before 10, making green juice, and going to the gym. The library security guards wish me good morning! I am a new person. A person who is reading war and peace before bed mostly every night and makes packed lunches, mostly.
Before I get into this, I want to stress that if you have never lived in an apartment with thin walls, you probably won’t understand how it is possible to know your neighbours so intimately that you have a clear image in your head of what they look like despite never having laid eyes on them. You know their deepest, darkest secrets, because you have overheard them. It’s a special, weird relationship that is impossible to imagine until you enter into it.
The first indication I had of the thickness of the walls was when what sounded like two parents fighting with their son about his fondness for smoking marijhuanna. It was so amusing to hear someones teen angst erupt in a situation that I had no emotional involvement in whatever I actively enjoyed the shouting. It ended pretty quickly, I fell asleep, and weeks went in perfect science, apart from the occasional rumble of a deep male voice and the sound of a TV on quiet. I felt pretty lucky, to be honest.
Exam season began to approach, and I started going to bed the earliest I have gone in 3 years and waking up the earliest in order to get a seat in the library. Its a routine that has brought me surprising calm. I enjoy it. The third night of this new me, I cracked and didn’t go to bed until half one in order to watch Game of Thrones. As I was drifting off into sleep, the house was blissfully quiet. I was trying to empty my mind of thought in order to drift off into blissful sleep when suddenly, a TV started blaring, I live in an attached house, so it was in the next room (and next house). Whatever the person was watching, it was dramatic. My empty mind filled with the noise of frantic violins, and a couple having a violent argument.
I laid in bed, the knowledge that my alarm was going to go off in 7 hours filling me with panic and anger. I got close to knocking on the wall several times. I thought about the Buddha, and how he says all suffering is alleviated by abandonment of the self. I tried to abandon myself, and not care about the neighbours for what felt like thirty minutes before my hate fire was burning so brightly it was impossible to sleep. I deeply regretted not taking my sleeping tablets, and got out of bed to take one, despite the fact that they make me drowsy after 10 (it was two in the morning.
I climbed back into bed, and the singing started. I am sure the Buddha himself would not have been able to abandon his ego if he had to listen to two men (in my head they were wearing check shirts, had receding hairlines and were wearing jeans with brown loafers) singing wagon wheel over the blaring noise of the TV drama. I knocked on the wall, the univeral symbol of neighbourly displeasure, and nothing. They seemed to be working their way through Nathan Carter’s (described by my mother as “a man who should be silenced’) entire discography. I banged a shoe, and still nothing. I thought wagon wheel was the song I most despised on this planet, but I had yet to hear Back to Tourmakedy. This inspired me to throw War an Peace (which conveniently was located beside my bed) at the wall.
They moved on to Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off. I realised the music was so loud they couldn’t hear me. I had thrown what some considered Tolstoy’s finest literary work, one of the longest novels ever written with great force at the partition wall which had proven itself to be very thin and they still could not hear it over the volume of their Nathan Cater sing along.
I had nearly reached a level of rage that would have overcome my hate for confrontation and was considering going next door to ring their doorbell in breaks between songs and then let all of my pent up anger out, when I remembered that I had a secret weapon I could utilise. Two could play at the annoying music game, especially when one of those people(me) had an unusual like for bagpipe music.
There is an incredible man on youtube called MarinesandPiper, a man I had unleashed against neighbours many times with great success. A man who covered pop songs on the bagpipes. I think he is a hero, and should be sainted, but most people despise Lady Gaga’s poker face on bagpipes for some strange reason.
Pavlov’s dog new what was up. I decided that the only cure for this awful, awful, two in the morning sing song was Rebecca Blacks Friday, covered on bagpipes. I turned it up loud enough to drown out the music, pressed the repeat button, and drifted off into sleep confident in the fact that when they eventually did stop singing, they would spend the rest of the night listening to the worlds most irritating song played on what some consider the worlds most irritating instrument.
I woke up the next morning to the shrill noise of terribly recorded bagpipes. I felt like Leonardo de Caprio emerging from the frozen body of the bloody horse in the Revenant. My sleep had not be the most refreshing, but my desire for revenge made it sweet.
i wish this was the end of this story, but it isn’t. The same thing happened for the next three night. Something had changed though. The singing was coming to a stop sooner and sooner after I began the bagpipe music.
But on the fourth night, something magical happened.
The voices started up around half one, and I clearly heard a male voice shout “I have been enjoying a drink for the last forty years, fuck off”. Nathan Carter started up. I hit play on the bagpiper cover of Taylor Swifts Shake it Off.
Nathan Carter stopped a verse in. A broken man shouted “Those fucking bagpipes!”, and silence. No more Nathan Carter. I turned off Marinesandpiper, liking the Taylor Swift cover and sending out thanks to the universe for its inception. It was over; I had won. Nathan had been defeated.