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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Ping Pong and the Noise Abatement Society,
with classically trained agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
I have a problem with my desk-partner, which I've never heard of before. This guy plays brilliantly, is considerate about marking the part, turning the pages -- everything. Unluckily, he stinks (literally!!!) He's from Eastern Europe and doesn't seem to have heard of, er, deoderant (hair pretty dirty too, most of the time). He doesn't seem to notice that people aren't wild about sitting beside him in the coffee shop etc -- but I'm the one who really suffers, of course! I don't want to make an enemy, but what should I do?
Fed-up with it

Dear Fed-up,
I don't blame you for feeling fed-up. Perhaps I've lived a sheltered life, but this is a new one on me (or hang on, maybe not quite so new. When the International Festival of Youth Orchestras was in Aberdeen -- about a trillion years ago -- a lot of the other youth orchestra members moaned about the Bulgarians for the same reason. I put it down to the fact that they won the ping-pong tournament.)

Anyway, your course of action is tricky, but obvious. You go to the orchestra manager and point out that your life will be a misery if X finds out who complained about him, but that somebody just has. The orchestra manager takes X for a drink in the pub and discreetly points out that -- while he, the orchestra manager, personally thinks he smells just find and dandy, that 'there have been complaints' from orchestra members about him in this department. They then have a good laugh about how silly some people can be, and X goes out in the morning and buys a deoderant (Note to X: remove cap first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Should X, once the exhilaration of the night has worn off, wonder who complained about his manly whiff, you must lie through your teeth. It was NOT YOU. You never noticed. You are absolutely astonished that anyone should do such a thing, probably the crabby guy in the back of the violas who never talks to anybody etc etc.

Ping-pong, anyone?

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
I live on the same road as you and often see you walking your charming dachshunds, Giant African landsnails, goldfish and gerbils (well, not the goldfish, but you know what I mean).
I am just wondering what you plan to do about the new couple at number (number omitted for legal reasons) -- you know, the ones who had that horrible party last weekend that could be heard, so I'm told, in Lower (though not apparently upper) Siberia.


And don't pretend you slept through it. My husband saw you, arms folded, grinding your teeth while stalking up and down the road around one am (really two, due to the clocks being put back). I think you ought to write about them.

Dear G,
Oh, I couldn't. Legal reasons.

So I was spotted was I? Now, let me see, was that while I was waiting for the police or the Noise Abatement Society? Saturday night seemed so long ago ... all a bit of a fog, really.

Now let's see, the party started at nine and was due to end at one (very sneakily, in my opinion -- as you pointed out, it was actually TWO). At ten I developed a nervous tic. By eleven, the throbbing bass of their unspeakable band had started vibrating right through me. The headache itself kicked in around midnight, I took the pills around twelve-thirty and called the police at one. (Note to readers: not a police matter. Instead you wake up some sleepless fellow at the local council authority. Policewoman deeply sympathetic, however, two points for Bromley Police.) Then I began to wonder whether the sleepless guardian at the council was -- er -- actually asleep. After 195 rings he picked up the phone, however, and also became deeply sympathetic. He told me (and this too was news to me) that the council have more sleepless bozos patrolling the whole area with sound measuring equipment and (presumably) also nerves of steel. He assured me that I would be put on the list of demented neighbours and that the house down the road could expect a visit shortly.

And then, of course, they were Too Late. By the time one (read two) am came around, the instruments of torture and been packed up, and number (blank) of our road no longer resembled a more-than-averagely wild night in a City nightclub. And the next thing I knew the birds were tweeting and the head was throbbing and it was morning.

Now I slipped up here, didn't I, G? First, I left it too late to moan for the noise abatement team. Secondly, I failed to emigrate shortly after receiving the note mentioning a little birthday party (ha!!!!!!!!) Thirdly, I didn't realise that anyone (even the buyers of the biggest house on the road, you know, the Edwardian pile that was on the market for a million) could have the immortal arrogance to alienate everyone short of upper Siberia within such a short time of moving into (what was previously) a quiet, peaceful -- even rather dull -- suburban road. I can't even imagine anyone else on the road having (a) a marquee (b) such loud horrible music or (c) the nerve!!!!! Especially right opposite a church. (It really is the sort of behaviour that got the Cities of the Plain so disliked.)

By the way, I spoke to the Reverend about it, and his considered advice was against murder. His view was that (even though his head was still aching too) that it would probably cause more trouble than it would solve. (That's the trouble with the clergy. No get up and go.)
Anyway, I certainly couldn't write about it.

Copyright © 2 November 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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