When Did Neighbours Stop Being Good Friends?

All I know about mine is that they play the piano after 10pm and have a fluoro orange pen.
I wish friendly ole Harold was my neighbour. Oh no, hang on, he plays the tuba!
I wish friendly ole Harold was my neighbour. Oh no, hang on, he plays the tuba!

As far as neighbourly disputes go, I realise this is quite trivial, but ours have developed a habit of playing the piano well past my bedtime. I get up at 5 am every day and need my eight hours of sleep. As you may have guessed, 10 pm piano sessions are not conducive to rest. Especially when the same three notes are being smashed out on repeat. That ain't no lullaby.

After a few sleepless weeks, a quick Facebook poll, and keeping in mind we'd never met before, I decided to slip a friendly handwritten note under the door asking if my neighbour could please try to keep the piano playing to a minimum after 9 pm Monday to Thursday. I thought it was nicer than the other options suggested to me, like dobbing them in to strata (our apartment block has a very strict noise policy) or working on my bagpipe skills at 7 am on a Sunday.

What I got in return, five days later, was a copy of the noise regulations printed from our local council's website, which says musical instruments are permitted until 10 pm. No accompanying note, no kind words, just some aggressive fluoro pen-circling on an A4 sheet of paper.

I'm smuggling earplugs from the nap room at work, which I might actually use for the first time this arvo.

I was tempted to write back that I was fully aware of the noise restrictions in the area, and that I was just asking, neighbour to neighbour, if they'd mind 60 minutes less symphony during the week. Or that I'd spoken to our real estate agent, who had informed me the noise restrictions were actually earlier for apartment blocks, but I decided a good pair of earplugs was a better way to avoid a war through the wall. Especially now that I know they're armed with fluoro pens.

It's such a contrast to my experience at my family home. Growing up, my parents had a great relationship with our neighbours. Peter and Jenny would let my sister and I go through the back gate and use their pool on hot days -- even if they weren't home.

My Dad and Peter supported opposing teams in the English Premier League. When Liverpool won my Dad would drape his scarf over their front fence, and when Manchester United won, Peter would cover our lights in red cellophane. Sure, it made the house look a bit like a brothel, but it was all in good fun.

The most memorable neighbourly moment was the first time my parents left my sister and I home alone to 'duck up to Bunnings'. They thought we'd be fine for 15 minutes. They were wrong. They returned to find a fire-truck on the lawn and Jenny in our house with her garden hose. Long story short, we were meant to 'turn over' some chicken my Mum had cooking but got distracted by a movie.

When I reopened the oven, fire shot up through the kitchen and burnt all our cupboards. I called the firefighters and my sister ran next door for help. After the initial shock, my parents were able to laugh it off, over beers with the neighbours, of course. "We wanted a new kitchen anyway," joked Dad. My sister and I never watched 'Madeline' again.

Peter and Jenny eventually moved out and what was once a house to the right of my parents' property became four duplexes. We have no idea who lives in them. Welcome to Sydney.

Retelling the 'chicken' story makes me realise I probably wouldn't turn to my neighbours for help nowadays. Mostly because I don't know if I could depend on them to do anything aside from some passive-aggressive highlighting, but also because I have no idea who they are.

The irony is, if I had a good relationship with my current neighbours and knew more about them than 'enjoys playing piano at 10 pm and uses orange biro', I probably wouldn't mind that they're playing so late. I'd just smile to myself and think 'wow -- they're getting better at reading music!'.

Instead, I'm smuggling earplugs from the nap room at work, which I might actually use for the first time this arvo.