Thursday 22 February 2018

All's fair in love and neighbourly warfare

Puzzles: Kirsty is taking a leaf out of Jessica Fletcher's book in Murder, She Wrote
Puzzles: Kirsty is taking a leaf out of Jessica Fletcher's book in Murder, She Wrote
Panned: Kendall in that Pepsi ad
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Living in an apartment building is passive-aggressive warfare.

Over the years, some very intense, silent skirmishes have broken out in my building.

The first emerged when someone pasted sheets of A4 paper all over the foyer shaming "the letter box thief living amongst us". It seemed the thief had stolen a birthday present from someone's postbox, and the intended recipient was mad - real mad.

They threatened to call the guards to ­finger print the scene of the crime, and expose the culprit once and for all.

A few weeks later another note was ­posted in the lift giving out about parties being held at ungodly hours.

"Some of us have work in the ­morning!!!!!!!" they scribbled angrily. "Be considerate!!!"

When I returned home that night, I found the sign had been torn to shreds and hurled on the floor.

Needless to say, I was enjoying the drama of all of this immensely. It was a fantastic spectator sport, and allowed me to invent elaborate backstories about everyone living in the building.

Why is apartment 25 so noisy? Did that man in the lift really have a curious gait, or was he Ireland's very own Keyser Söze? Are that couple in the basement swingers? Or murderers? Or both? The tiny glimpses into each others frustrated lives created a wonderful Whodunnit atmosphere.

I felt like Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, but instead of solving murders, I was trying to figure out who had stolen birthday cards, or dumped three empty bottles of Buckfast on my landing.

As the months rumbled on, so did the dramas - there were typed letters from management asking tenants to stop letting strangers into the building, Post-it notes with accusations of bin rummaging, and a letter warning against the danger of leaving food out for seagulls. "They are flying pests!"

Another note tacked in the lift politely asked residents if we could all refrain from urinating in the stairwell.

(We have a lot of Airbnb-ers passing through and I like to think/hope that was directed at them).

I was happy watching all this play out until recently, when I went from being spectator to participant, and had to leave a note of my own.

It was, I thought, a perfectly reasonable request; asking my upstairs neighbours if they could not play trance music at 3am.

I got a reply pushed under my door the following day, with a number and a brief message telling me to "text if there's a problem". So the next time I did just that. I pressed send and waited for the message to deliver - I could literally hear it arrive as the music dipped when it landed.

There was a pause and then a message pinged back.

"I'm not here," it said.

"But I can hear you," I responded.

"Not me. I'm not here," they repeated.

I went upstairs and knocked on the door. I could hear music pulsing out from the frame but no one answered.

So I returned to my bed and after much tossing and turning and cursing I eventually fell asleep.

This has now been going on for a few months.

I text, they say they're not there, and round and round we go.

It's a curious dance.

I haven't figured out my next move yet. But if there is one thing I have learned from my fellow aggrieved neighbours, it's that counterinsurgency is a war of attrition.

So I'll invest in some heavy-duty ear plugs and fall asleep while asking myself that eternal question: 'What would Jessica Fletcher do?'

How Pepsi united us all with its faux-pas liberalism

Panned: Kendall in that Pepsi ad

Panned: Kendall in that Pepsi ad

There are roughly a gazillion articles, and think pieces about fake news and alternative facts swirling around the internet.

This week, another type of fakery came to the fore - fake woke-ness. To 'be woke' or 'stay woke' is to remain aware of injustice in society, especially racism.

The phrase is a part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and last year made the Oxford Dictionary's 'Word of the Year' shortlist alongside Alt-Right, Hygge and Adulting.

As far as advertising agents are concerned, 'Staying Woke' is also a great marketing tool as it creates a lot of traction online.

So perhaps it was inevitable that one day, Pepsi's creatives would crowd into a boardroom and start brainstorming about millennials and the Kardashians and protests ("all the kids are doing it these days!") before coming up with that universally panned and swiftly pulled Pepsi ad.

The one where Kendall Jenner single handedly ends racial inequality by handing a cop a can of fizzy cola. The onslaught started almost immediately.

One of the first to criticise it was Piers Morgan who labelled it "stupefying diabolical. Absurd, PC-crazed" and "virtue-signalling".

I'm not a big fan of Morgan, but in this instance he was absolutely right. The ad was loud but crass, and very, very hollow. It also seemed to typify a strain of liberalism motivated by bragging rights. I think we all know someone like this. Very vocal but a little shaky on detail - the minute you quiz them they start barking out old arguments - about Trump's hair or what a dose Katie Hopkins is.

When the ad provoked, what I think marketing execs term "a complete shitstorm", I contacted Dr Kehinde Andrews - who lectures in Black Studies at Birmingham University to see what he made of it.

He thought it typified the condescending attitudes the extreme left can have. "Like the Rock Against Racism concerts," he said. "This idea that a white saviour can come in and stop black people's problems."

But Dr Andrews wasn't offended by the ad. "How could I be? I thought it was an SNL sketch," he said.

The ad will surely go down as Pepsi biggest marketing gaffe. (Aside from that time it set Michael Jackson's hair on fire in 1984).

While the ad itself fell flat - some good came of it. It seems to have united the left, right and everyone in between; we all agree it was total and utter pants.


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