Yesterday we got a note under our door from the neighbour downstairs.  It was typed and inside an unmarked, brown envelope so I didn’t really know what to expect as I opened it.  Had we known whom it had come from, of course, we could’ve harried a guess — it was a complaint about our sliding door.

For some reason the neighbour downstairs has a real problem with us using the sliding door onto the balcony (although it is clearly not the type of problem he feels he can come and discuss amicably in person, but rather one that requires notes and tantrums).  It’s too noisy, I guess, although the people upstairs from us use theirs and it certainly doesn’t bother me — nor would it keep me awake if they were using it at all hours, which is what our neighbour claims of us.

Admittedly we went out there late one weeknight, which prompted the first (handwritten, unenveloped) letter through our mailbox.  Of course, at this time we had no idea it was so annoyingly loud (at least to the neighbours downstairs — a cruel twist of acoustic fate, perhaps?  The concrete wall acting as a reverberation chamber and, thus, amplifier?) but nevertheless we vowed not to go out too late during the week.  Fine and dandy.

Until one Friday night we had some friends over, a few drinks, a little music.  At a bit before 11pm he stepped out onto the balcony below, opened and closed his door a number of times and remarked, “What is wrong with you people?”  Okay, so the music may have been loud, but it was the door he was upset about and not our singing.

The next time he complained (from downstairs, mind) was Christmas eve.  Christmas Eve!  This time it was perhaps 12pm, but … it was Christmas Eve!  Not even children are asleep before midnight on Christmas unless their clever parents somehow contrive to complete exhaust them — without exhausting themselves, as they have a long night of sneaking around to do (parents like to meet Santa Claus, and help him with the stockings sometimes.  It’s one of the benefits of being grown up).

And now this letter, much more formal and much more contrived.  He complains of two things — music late at night (which happens rarely, and never on a weeknight anymore) and the sliding door.  Of course, he couldn’t just say, “That door is really fucking loud!”  The building management, or “factor”, wouldn’t listen to that.  Rather, he said, “Using your sliding door at all hours to throw away cigarette butts will both annoy the neighbours and damage the local environs“.  Okay, he didn’t say “environs” but I’m paraphrasing.

We do not open the door to the balcony and throw out cigarette butts, of course.  When people smoke here, they smoke outside on the balcony rather than in the house (which I insist upon and am thankful for) but there is a suitable ashtray sitting out there so there is nobody throwing butts anywhere.  We use the balcony because what’s the point of having one if you don’t use it??

It’s a lovely view which looks out over the Water’s of Leith, a little river that runs through Edinburgh.  From up-high we can watch the antics of tourists, joggers and dogs escaping their owners.  It’s a bit cold at this time of year, but not so cold that you can’t rug up and bear it.  It reminds me, at least, of the camping trips in Australia’s gorgeous “environs” (yep, it’s my word of the day).  To suggest that we would allow anybody to sully that by throwing cigarette butts all over the riverbank is laughable, ludicrous and very-nearly libellous.

We’ve not had complaints about noise from any other neighbours, which is probably the only thing that would give legitimacy to his claims of disturbance, so he’s fabricated this offensive behaviour in the hope that someone will listen.  We’re listening: we’ll be asking the neighbours if our music/TV is too loud, then composing a response … and sending it, with copies of the original letters, to the neighbour, the building manager and our real-estate agent.  As Dee said, displaying a grim humour I’d not seen in her before, he’s pushed the envelope just a little too far this time.

We’re sympathetic to our neighbours complaints, really we are, but surely we must be allowed to use our balcony whenever we wish?  It’s not our fault if it’s so ridiculously loud that it is causing him such grief!  If he can convince the owner of our flat, or the building manager, or anyone who cares to somehow modify the door to be quieter, we will support that action every step of the way.

But to make a formal complaint before attempting to talk to us?  That’s just bad form.