It was/is with dread I often found myself coming home after work, opening the door and not knowing what deluge lay behind it after a day of builders clobbing about the house.
Last week was no different, especially as I turned to enter our communal door into the hallway, I saw more detritus than usual on the doorstep.
Fucking builders leaving their beers on the doorstep?
I picked them up and put them to one side, intending to deal with it once I had caught my breath, while also noticing the bins overflowing with the neighbour's cleaning products.
I was particularly exhausted this day - I remember as standing for more than two minutes proved impossible, but tonight the Brit and I had to unpack our kitchen. The usual shunting of boxes from one room to the next, like every night.
Then, like Miley's wrecking ball, I heard it.
A completely hysterical French banshee burst through the communal door screaming and shouting like someone had killed her cat.
The Brit and I cowered in the kitchen while she proceeded to go MENTAL right outside our front door.
The Brit, in the meantime, assured me the beers weren't any of our workers - he had asked them - and said NOT to leave anything outside because we knew there would be hell to pay. For all we knew, they could've been hers?
The only words I could make out coming from her shrieking cake hole - her cul de gateau if you will - was the "THIS IS WAR!" and "revolting" and "beers" and "who do they think they are" as she roared past our door, stomped up the stairs and then continued to berate her husband for another twenty minutes about us downstairs.
We knew, that either in a matter of seconds, we'd be having her at our door shaking her fists and/or an email.
At this point, I've had enough of Madame Flare Up. And how she thinks because she lives above us that she owns the whole fucking building.
Being pregnant, sore, tired and breathless means my patience for irrational, crazy-eyed creatures is as at an all time low.
I've never been good with crazy people. Fun crazy is fine; mental crazy just pisses me off. I have dealt with a few Crazies over the last few years.
The immediate example that springs to mind is one such person who texts me under the guise of a another person/number in the hope to get information from me. And repeatedly did so. Makes my blood run as cold as ice.
Often, there are the drunk Crazies (who you don't know very well, and call not to tell you how much they love you, but rather in fits of tears/a rage to rant about something) and like now, the French Crazies.
Usually you can forget about most Crazies after a few days, unfortunately the latter lives above us.
This is what went down. And it is far from over:
Email to all in the building - ourselves, them and a tenant living on the top floor:
"Can I ask that the downstairs premises stays clean,
We came home today and found can of beer in Asda bag outside of our front door, which is revolting, you wouldn't do this in your own home so I expect same amount of respect for outside space and communal areas as we all responsible
The inside is always messy since the work in your flat has started & dusty so it will be good out of respect to the other neighbours to leave the communal areas cleans please
We never had this issue before and we would like to remain the same,
This is not acceptable, further more, the door hasn't been locked properly few times
We have been very clear that we need to lock the bottom door regardless how many times workers are coming in out."
Oh, there she is.
The Brit responded cordially, as he is 8000% more diplomatic than I am, while I seethed. And seethed.
She wrote this after screaming and shouting outside our door for half an hour.
And the 'beer can' has FUCK ALL to do with us.
It's also the snarky, I Am Queen Of The Fucking Universe attitude that made me particularly annoyed.
The Brit responded:
"Before you accuse us, we have no idea where the beers came from, they're nothing to do with us or our workers I assure you as I checked with the two that fitted our kitchen.
You should also note that I regularly take the bulky items to the tip for the benefit of everyone in the building even on occasion if it's our waste.
We will clean the communal area since all of the heavy duty work is now pretty much done as of yesterday as I suggested in my mail to your husband yesterday. We were waiting for it to be done before a deep clean.
We will also likely clean the carpet since we're going to clean our carpets anyway - this was always our intention, we're well aware of the mess but there's little point in cleaning it if it's going to be made dusty the next day. The builders vacuumed the communal areas before they left for the day on most days, and we intend to make it clean once all the work is done.
If this is to be a slinging match maybe when you open your post you could actually put the empty envelope in the bin? We feel like the postmen, always sorting all three flat's post! I've also taken upon myself to re-post mail for people that no longer live here so that our junk mail is reduced - something that should've been done years ago.
It's not always the workers who don't lock the door, I've witnessed it not being locked under other circumstances. Plus I have reminded the workers on several occasions to lock it because I know how you feel about it.
May I please ask that if you have an issue or query than rather than coming home and shouting/screaming in the corridor and in your flat that you politely knock on our door either when you've calmed down or at a more convenient time. We were made to feel like prisoners in our own home last night."
This email obviously made something in her brain go 'ping.' For after a considerable 8 minutes, this arrived. Be aware that the spelling is as is. The downward spiral begins:
"Great if you had no idea so maybe a bit of common sense, just pick it up and put it in the bin like I did yesterday,
This is our communal area and respect it as well as your neighbours, you don't live on your own
We are always picking up post from the floors and cleaning downstairs so again for you don't accuse, we Hoover every area, my husband does all of the DIY work in communal area to keep it clean but don't ask anything in return, it's normal for us to leave in a clean environment
Respect goes both way, I have no time or care for such rude and nasty behaviour
We never had this issue before with any of the neighbour
Maybe you should ask yourself why during the day and Saturday morning we never complained to you about noise or dust as we didn't want to annoy you and respected that you are doing work
However just take the feedback, I do whatever in my own home,
Don't start with the screaming topic as lot more can to be said
Don't send me any more rude email or I will take this further, just be polite & clean the mess maybe something you not familiar with,we don't need to speak, just clean and respect your neighbours that's all we ask, and yes we were both unhappy about it!"
Something went 'ping' in my brain. I don't like being shouted at, especially by someone who takes on the persona of a head mistress.
So I responded:
"I'm afraid i'm going to step in here. Take this email from me, not my husband.
I don't know who you think you are, but saying we are rude and nasty after we have only EVER complied with what you have asked, given you head's up of all of the work we are doing, and tried to do this as quickly as possible for ALL parties involved (including ourselves - I am 8 months pregnant with twins - you are picking a fight with the wrong woman right now, believe you me) and you call us rude?
I am utterly gobsmacked. The Brit told you the work would be finished Wednesday/yesterday and would thoroughly clean the area once this was finished - which he has done this morning, including your rubbish/cleaning products in the bins that you have left there.
We had plans to deep clean the area once it was finished.
Beers left on the step has nothing to do with us, so calling us "revolting" is completely off sides. Is this the kind of environment you want here, for all of us to hate coming home in case there's a screaming match outside the doors? I'm sure you can agree that everyone here just wants a "quiet and peaceful life" as you've mentioned before.
We want a clean communal area as much as you do, and that was the plan once our work was finished. Saying "we are not polite or not cleaning the mess is something we are familiar with" is completely offensive and rude!
I am shocked - and will not leave this be - and right now, trust me you do not want that. You choose to scream outside our door, what kind of adult behaviour is that, or environment for anyone in the building? How will that resolve anything?
Your accusatory email has only worsened things here, so if you want war - you have got it. My husband has only been polite and cordial to you, this email is coming from me, because I am appalled at what I am seeing here after all he is trying to do to get this done as quickly and as as quietly as possible.
Now it gets interesting.
She wrote back, obviously steam spurting from her ears, which obviously blinded her judgement as what she had to say next was - and the key line is the first one:
"I will forward this email to the police, best that you back off if you don't want to be arrested, this a proof of you treating us by using such word in email like war
[Woah! Allo? You Cannot. Actually Be. Serious.]
My first email was neither rude or nasty, I am asking you and the other neighbour to keep the area clean, is that too much for you to understand??
I don't think you understand very well here, you are not in war, being pregnant is not a sickness, you don't deserve a specials treatment because of it, and I personally don't care it's your personal life and it has nothing to do with the fact that we asked the communal area to be tidy as fas as I am concerned
As mentioned before don't send threatening emails or try to intimidate as this is a very childish behaviour, you are not in a playground and come to me face to face if you want to start a fight or have something to say, I am not scared but I will take legal action
[So when you were screaming outside our door, that's what you did, did you?]
You are rude and out of order, if you see in my first email was addressed to everyone living in the bundling so if you feel insecure it's your issue not mine of anyone in this email
Remember all we ask is to keep the area tidy, there is no need to threaten and on email so I will take legal action against it and get the police involved as we don't want to leave with people who think they can do own law, you don't live in the jungle!"
Mate. Just as we don't live in the jungle, we also do not live in France. Where you can strike or call the cops because someone wrote you an email putting you in your place.
I did check though. (I mean, COULD I get arrested or could she take 'legal action' because I told her where to go and stuff herself? Apparently the cops do have better things to do, I was told. Even in the quieter parts of England.)
I stepped away - mainly to stop hyperventilating - and The Brit took the helm once again:
"This is a joke. This is the second time that you've threatened legal action, firstly because we had our building planning approved to which we needed your consent.
You were the only neighbour out of 6 that dissented. I sought legal advice on the matter and my lawyers were adamant that we would've won any appeal due to you being out numbered and due to our circumstances, we chose not to because of time, stress and cost for both parties.
We carried on with our internal works because we're allowed to do as we wish in our own premises and want to make the most of our space now that we're not allowed to do the work.
Secondly you're threatening legal action about the cleanliness of a communal area? How is that rational?
If you want to talk legal action look at page 48 of the lease clause 2 schedule 4 where it prevents any business activity from home. Considering you have a work from home contract - we could also have used that as leverage against you but because we want an easy life and to at least try and be amenable toward you - we didn't.
[My clever husband. Turns out Frenchie over here is breaking ze rules...]
I'm done with this childish idiotic back and forth. If you're going to point fingers about who does what in the communal areas then perhaps we should employee a third party to clean the place and they can be paid from the kitty."
By now the other tenant living in the loft must've either been laughing really hard at the emails going back and forth between us, or horrified.
The Brit and I wrote to her to say sorry about all of this and she wrote back saying it was slightly hilarious, but also that "She's a bit of a over-reactor, isn't she?
Then her husband put in a call to my Brit to apologise. On behalf of his French wife. And that he would try and calm her down.
And yet, a few hours later - without any prompting - she wrote to us AGAIN.
Bearing in mind her use of written English is such that I fail to understand most of what she is saying, however you get the gist:
"Legal action and police to be involved towards the threshing emails your wife sent below while I never accused I only asked to keep everything tidy, not massive request?!
Everyone copied in this email on purpose as all of us leave and share the communal areas, the inky time I directed to you [What's an inky, please?]
Please re- read and we can leave the police to decide, once again I welcome your wife to come to speak to direct & will indeed take legal action if necessary
Nothing to do with the request to keep as clean, the' war' as suggested is something that is out of context
Don't want to deal with violent neighbours who don't hesitate to threaten over a small issue and make their view clear! Once again not scared and speak to me direct,
[Do you even know what violent is?]
When you asked permission to council and submitted your plan did we do a big issue out of this? No we just told you our view, something you seems obviously difficult to understand
This is not your house, you share I am afraid, you didn't buy the whole property so you have to respect the rule of freehold
Don't start as well with the fact we decline you outside building work. This is nothing to do with do with the 'cleaning issue' below but maybe it is after all hence why the whole 'hate' and rudeness since we declined
It took gigantic chunks of restraint for me to let her have the final word. I like to think that it was the adult, RATIONAL, high road thing to do.
Given the circumstances, and because fighting with an irrational person claiming to have you arrested due an email you sent, well, there's no point. You can't fight Crazy.
I did want to reply asking if she had got in touch with the police yet, as I think they'd be interested to hear she's working out of a residential property that states in the lease that she can't.
But I will save that for if there's a future verbal confrontation.
So. Do you have nice neighbours?