Saturday 25 January 2020

Orla Barry: Sometimes, it's no harm being nosy

Orla Barry

I live in an apartment in the centre of Dublin, which I bought unfortunately a few years ago. Now I'm stuck in negative equity in an apartment block that is semi-deserted.

This is only part of my problem. My neighbours who owned the apartments around me have all moved out and some of them have rented out their flats. Gradually, I have started to feel more unsafe. I don't know any of my neighbours anymore.

A couple with a baby moved in next door a few months back. The woman is nice and always says hello but seems to have very little English. She is in the apartment whenever I am there and doesn't seem to go out or have any friends around.

Her partner/ husband has never been friendly. Since they moved in, I can hear shouting and crying from the flat. A few weeks ago, the shouting started again and this time I could hear a crash and a lot of crying. I was so shocked and, without thinking too much, I called to their door.

The man answered and asked what I wanted. I said I had heard a bang and wondered if everything was ok. He said it was fine and basically to mind my own business and shut the door.

A few days later, I met the woman in our building stairwell and I'm fairly sure she had a bruise near her eye. Since then, I was out in a bar one night and I saw him with three women around him.

A lot of people seem to go in and out of the apartment at all hours of the day and night. I guess I should also say that I recently split with my boyfriend, who used to live with me. He moved out fairly suddenly, and I'm heartbroken.

Anyway, with all the events of recent weeks in Cleveland, Ohio, I wondered if I really should be a more responsible neighbour and not ignore worrying signs of possible violence. On the other hand, should I consider moving out?

Orla replies:

I wonder would all of this trouble you so much if your boyfriend was still living there.

I'm not suggesting that there might not be something to question here, but I think your current state of mind may well be exacerbating the matter.

The horror that the three women went through in that house in Cleveland is a terrible reminder of the little regard we give to our neighbours, though. Living in an apartment complex often encourages isolation due to the lack of communal areas or gardens.

There are ways you can strike up a conversation with this woman that may not involve sudden intervention.

Existing in negative equity is an all-too-common problem, but I wonder if you have investigated what options are open to you.

Contact the Money Advice and Budgeting Service to get their view.

At the moment, the apartment feels like a noose around your neck but that may well be down to the way you are looking at things. Breaking up with a long-term boyfriend is a hugely emotional occurrence.

That alone would turn you off your living quarters.

Spending time moping in the apartment achieves nothing. Get outside. Meet friends, socialise, exercise, chat to other men and remind yourself that there is more to your life than your former relationship.

Spending more time out of the apartment doing things should also allow you a better night's sleep so you won't be wondering when the next row will kick off.

It does sound, however, as if his partner is alone a lot of the time.

Even if she doesn't speak very good English there is no reason you can't get to know her a little better. Why not call to her during these times and invite her over for a coffee.

Find out where she is from and see if there are women from her country who might meet up regularly to chat or socialise.

If she is isolated, any gesture like this can be a huge help.

You say he is her partner or husband but actually do you know if this is the case?

If you do continue to genuinely worry about his activities, consider contacting the landlord and raising the issue with them. It may just be that his apartment has become a meeting point for people from their country and your overactive imagination is concocting more exotic scenarios.

If, however, there are times that you genuinely worry about the woman's safety, then call the Gardai.

Sometimes, it's no harm to be just a little bit nosy.

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