The party wall is the one that divides properties inside and out, say in a semi detached or terraced house. It’s so common in this tightly populated land that it has its own piece of legislation in UK law, the 1996 Party Wall Act. This assigns responsibilities and determines the way that work is carried out, like when a fence blows over in a blustery gale. In fact there’s such a thing as party structure too which include the floor/ceiling boundary between flats. In terms of these dividing lines between intimate living spaces the term ‘party wall’ can often take on a literal connotation. My elderly parents were being upset by the shenanigans going on next door every Saturday: loud music, shouting and running up the stairs. I decided to sort it out during one of my visits. My childhood home is in Essex but decades of living in Devon has softened my estuarine twang. But when I banged on the neighbours’ door wearing my pyjamas I delved deep and managed a passable impression of a TOWIE star. ‘Will you stop this bleedin’ racket?’ I bawled. ‘You’re upsettin’ my kid!’ Amazingly this small piece of intervention worked a treat. Mum and Dad have rarely heard a peep since.
There can be other sources of conflict too. Just this week a friend at work was kept awake by neighbours arguing at 1:30 in the morning. ‘I’m effin’ leaving you’ shouted the bloke. ‘I wish you effin’ would!’ my colleague thought. To make matters worse she was woken in the morning by the sounds of enthusiastic make up shagging . And there were problems when I lived next to students where their was little communal space. So the master bedroom next to ours was the preferred gathering spot at hours beyond which sensible working people stay awake. My ex-husband developed an excessive fear of neighbour noise as a consequence. So a search for a new quieter home began. It took us to a new build townhouse. My ex got permission to conduct his own tests on the quality of the sound proofing and turned on a radio in the kitchen next door. At full volume it could barely be heard through the walls but that was enough to scupper any notion of moving there!
I live in a ’30s semi by the sea. It was empty for some time and I began to dread what noise would be associated with new residents. I think that my worse fear was that it would be the type of holiday let where the vacationers would drink wine and play music in the garden until the early hours. Eventually a family moved in with three children, two dogs and a litter of puppies! They are lovely, lively people. And of course I can hear their goings on. The dogs bark, the kids argue and play musical instruments and I often catch snippets of music or the sounds of the TV. My ex would hate it. But instead of feeling annoyance it increases my feeling of connectedness and community. And of course if they had a party I wouldn’t be bothered one little bit. For I’d be in there joining in the revelry.