Tuesday 25 April 2017

Nightwatch: House-warming wars

Declan Cashin

Not for the first time in my life have I found cause to ask the question: WWMD? (What Would Madonna Do?) Or perhaps more accurately: WWMSD? (What Would Madonna's Staff Do?)

You may have noticed a few weeks back that Her Madgesty was served with a noise abatement notice for a late-night karaoke party held in her €8m London home. La Ciccone herself wasn't present — or so we're told anyway — but rather the soiree was the work of her entourage.

That explanation won't wash with her local council, however, and now the age/gravity-defying singer faces a fine of up to €6,000 because it rather irked her well-to-do neighbours.

Madge's plight has been on my mind this week, seeing as I'm currently making tentative plans to hold a house-warming in my own new — albeit slightly more humble — London gaff.

It's a bit of a tricky one, because I live in a house of two converted flats on an extremely built-up residential street. The acoustics between flats, and even different houses, are insane: a cat could miaow in the kitchen next door to my place and, somehow, it ends up sounding like a warring family from the Jeremy Kyle show had just moved in beside me.

So yes, noise is a big concern, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that my 'hood is located in the Heathrow flight-path, and is situated right beside a light-rail train station (hand on my heart, the glass of water on my desk is, as I write, trembling a la Jurassic Park due to a passing train).

The most immediate issue is the flat beneath mine, and the two girls residing therein. The best tactic, of course, is a preemptive strike: a plan to charm, cajole and plámás — you know, get them roaring drunk — so that we'll have friendly allies on our side, thus securing at least one important front on which we won't have to fight a latenight battle.

So they're not the real concern. Oh no. It's the ones all around us. A lot of the neighbours appear to be couples with kids. Now I'm going to make a huge generalisation here, and I beg forgiveness in advance, but, in my experience, such people are not cool with the house-party buzz. In fact, I'd bet it was that very demographic that complained about the hooley at Madonna's place.

Hey, I'm not totally unreasonable, I get it. You have kids who are trying to sleep and you might be up late/early with them. But — and this is where the immature-slashirrational side of me takes over — answer me this: surely any noise that we produce during a house party couldn't be as disruptive and ear-splittingly shrill as the din that comes at all hours of the day and night from the little brat living right next door to me?

Honestly, this child — who I reckon is about three or four — screams all day and, before you grow concerned, trust me, there's nothing going on there that would warrant the intervention of social services (unless they want someone to swoop in and rescue me).

It being summer, a lot of this family's life takes place in their garden, and accompanying the child's screeching is the hopeless, helpless pleading of its parents trying to negotiate — negotiate! — with the child to behave and keep it down. Tweren't like that in my day, no siree.

“But that's a child!” some might retort. “It's completely different!” Is it though? Noise is noise, after all. This child has woken me up most weekday and — sacrilege! — weekend mornings. Somehow I don't think the council would entertain any complaint registered because of that.

But I digress. By accepting that kids have more rights than house parties — at least until I'm in charge — I realise that the compromise, the Obama option, is to start the party early and get the heck out early. I'll strive to keep people out of the garden, and I'll keep the music at a respectable level. Or maybe I won't bother and I'll just wreck it like Rebecca. In which case, I'd ask the council to address any notices or fines to a one Ms M Ciccone, Marylebone, London W1. After all, WWMSD?

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