Another Christmas is done and dusted. Each year the lead-up of seems to get longer with me dying for the break like a marathon runner nearing the finishing line. I find it an unnerving time of year, always wondering what’s going to happen this time around. Will my uncle yet again ask when I am getting married while wiping his nose furiously with a soot coloured handkerchief? Will the snow turn the roads to glass making it impossible to leave the house until cabin fever turns to argument filled delirium? Will I drink so much Prosecco a while day is spent groaning pitifully in bed?
Well this year it was noise; the rattle of doorframes being abused and shrieks rising through the rice-paper ceiling, while outside the birds are impatient for the dawn. Upstairs I twisted and cursed through gritted teeth willing them through the power of persuasion (without the actual persuasion bit) to go to bloody bed. ‘Them’ are my sisters; oblivious in a world of their own as only those in their early 20’s can be.
Now I have to admit that living on my own for five years has made me pretty intolerant to things, namely other people’s annoyances. But after living with others since I was 15 in the dorm mayhem of boarding school, when the opportunity arose to no longer pull someone else’s hair out of a plughole or be woken by a random guy going ‘Is this Lisa’s room?’ while I blinked furiously at the hall light and tried not to leap from the comfort of my covers to slap him senselessly around the head with a shoe, I feel entitled to my own space. So, when there are others in the space, noisy others that seem to find everything either shocking or hilarious going on the range of utterances downstairs, my body tightens into some kind of twisted seizure. It has to be stated that the walls are thin. So thin that outside is a quieter option and I would have decamped to the back garden only for the rain, the ambulance depot at the back of our house or the hedgehog so large the fire brigade were nearly called out to free it from a gate.
Accompanied by the noise is my sister’s total lack of interest in daytime. They are vampires, only really lazy ones that wouldn’t lunge for a neck even if it was arched towards them in a hickey. Their routines go against any ordinary or working person’s routine – bar those on the night shift or the aforementioned creatures of the night. They, for some unfathomable reason stay up till 5am and rise at between 4-5pm just in time for dinner, which is eaten sleepily in their pyjamas. Now dinner in our house is a proper affair – roast beef with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy. This is their breakfast. If someone came to me at 8am and offered this as a snack before work I would think them idiotic or mad, but for them this is perfectly normal. And the eating continues throughout the night as I hear the beep of the microwave and clink of plates. I swear if we lived in Hansel & Gretel’s house the front walls would be gone by midnight.
On Stephen’s night they were going out. Friends dribbled into the house, the doorbell stuck in a chime reminiscent of the tune of a church bell that gets longer and louder every 15 minutes. The noise became colossal. So much so that as my mother and I tried to watch Lord of the Rings, the screech of orcs sounded like a small kitten curled in a basket. When we raised the volume so did they, and as doors opened and closed heels clacked on the tiled floor making me question if I was in middle earth and Sauron’s army was actually coming for me. Then there were the phone conversations, people speaking to each other as if through cans on a string miles apart. As the drinks went down the conversations got even louder so that I started to imagine what the person on the other end was saying. There were now four people in the conversation, with two being reluctant to acknowledge there was even a conversation taking place as Frodo and Sam were trying to have a touching moment ruined by how packed Mantra would be.
Finally there was none, after several slams and calls of ‘C’mon we need to go!’ it was silent. Enough for me to watch the Ents trash Isengard and feel the spasm of irritation settle. At least until the nightclub and Supermacs have experienced the noisy wrath of hundreds of 20 year olds hopefully too worn out to make anymore noise at home.