Monday 26 July 2010

Surprising revelations re my downstairs neighbour

When he moved in almost exactly a year ago I was immediately complaining about the disturbance he was making, mainly by frequent playing of loud music into the early hours. Well, that has abated, though not stopped - it's now about once a week at the most instead of most nights. (And it's still usually the Stones or Susan Boyle - such an unlikely combo!).
I feared worse things about 10 days ago when, hearing me going out - "Hey, Ray, have you got a computer?" I wished I'd been a good liar but had to admit it. (I just can't tell bare-faced untruths, especially to someone in my physical presence - stuttering, red face etc.) It turned out he wanted a favour as he'd just got a job as a solar-panel salesman and needed to be informed each evening of the addresses of potential clients to call on the following day, though he did offer to pay me. So, unwisely perhaps, I gave him my e-mail address to pass onto his firm. But after a week of giving him daily details he jacked in the job. He now intends to be a double-glazing salesman, work he says he's done before, so I may still be needed for the same reason. Anyway, as he was telling me all this I gently enquired about his previous life. It seems that not only did he used to own a pub in the west of England, which, he said bitterly, had to close down due to loss of business following the national smoking-ban of a few years ago. But before that he'd been an army 'tank-commander' in the first Gulf War. However, to cap even that, it turns out that he is also a published author - and he gave me as a gift a hardback copy of a book published in 1998, which he inscribed to me. It's a 220-page modern fable of animals and humans fighting to prevent a motorway being constructed through a rural area. It's not a children's book, even though the animals are anthropomorphic - wearing clothes, talking among themselves, even smoking and drinking. All this is witnessed by one little girl who, uniquely, is able to interact with them - the other humans see the animals as 'normal' (unclothed and only making animal sounds). Notable, though, is how most of both the animals and the humans are continually smoking - cigarettes as well as cigars and pipes. There's hardly a scene in which one of the characters of both types isn't lighting up. (It's clearly an issue with the writer.) The obvious comparison of the book is with 'Watership Down' though I think my neighbour's book is better. (I found 'Watership' a difficult and actually quite a turgid read.) But I'm very impressed by my neighbour's command of language with such vivid imagery that's so alive - writing which is quite at odds with what I would have expected from a man who's not infrequently the worse for drink. But so many writers were (and are) heavy drinkers - and, indeed, smokers. But it is a pretty good book, I must say! I've checked on the web and this is the only book of his I can find. Even so, it's an unlikely and welcome surprise.
I don't know much about his personal life at all - whether he's married, been married, and/or if he's gay - though there's no 'indication' of the latter, and no acknowledgement of 'gayness' in any characters in his book, even while reading between the lines and looking for 'hints'. But additionally the guy, who must be about 40, is just not my type. The only visitor he ever gets is an old (older than me, that is!) fellow who sometimes comes round to walk his dog. I've never seen or heard any other visitors in the year that he's been here. His beautiful dog, by the way, still comes out to give me a sniff, but no wagging tail now - and then she walks away. I'm clearly just a crashing bore! It gets occasional excitements out at the back by lunging at my two furry flat-mates when they sit on the garden wall, but who scamper off at lightning speed as soon as they see her.
Before he moved in below my landlord had told me that one of the potential tenants was a guy who'd hit financial rock-bottom and had been reduced to living in a tent on grass verges. I reckon it must have been this guy - who had came back to this, his birth area, after his pub business collapsed. For that I have some sympathy as more than once I've come within a whisker of being in the same situation myself. So learning more about him has altered my perspective quite favourably. But I don't think we have enough in common to make me want to socialise with him. (He did invite me in for a whisky and a chat but I excused myself) Besides, there's all that smoking!


  1. Well, you finally got to know your neighbor, who is not so bad. Sometimes, we let our imagination go wild and expect the worse to happen. Often, that does not materialize. This guy seems to have problems as we all do. In his way, it appears that he is trying to solve them. I was sorry to read that you did not take him up on his offer, clearly, he was reaching out. Smoking? I believe that there are so many other bad things in life - this one is minor. As long as he doesn't smoke in your presence, there should be no problem.

  2. I think it's really cool that he's a published author, and a good one at that. He's also an alcoholic looking for a drinking bud. You were smart not to have a drink with him.

  3. Yup, Larry. If I did get closer to him I think there'd be dangers, like he might start making more demands on me and get offended if I didn't agree. So I prefer to keep him at a distance.

  4. It is amazing how people can surprise us in unexpected ways. Sounds like he is a pretty nice guy, with some major problems he is trying to resolve. I think you were probably smart to be careful Ray. Trust is best earned, over time.