Tag Archives: Noise

On noise and nudity

On Friday, my half-naked neighbour graduated to being full-on naked. While I’m not a fan of my eyes being assaulted by a swaying, sagging, dimply arse, I do have bigger problems with the guy.

As I’ve mentioned before, he’s an opera singer. Or opera student. Whatever. All I know is that it entails him singing sporadically, at the top of his voice, from early in the morning until late in the evening most days. I’m as much of a music lover as the next person, but I do need peace and quiet while I work (or nap).

Maybe if he’d mixed it up with a bit of Johnny Cash, I could have stood it, but it was wall-to-wall opera. Opera, opera, opera. I was going out of my mind. Sorting him out had been on my to-do list for quite a while, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

20160319_170652
German organisation

The helpful, and often fabulously entertaining, “Free Advice Berlin” Facebook page came to my rescue. On this page, people can post pretty much anything they like in the hope that a kind soul will help them out. Questions have included everything from people looking for unusual products or cool bars, where to neuter a cat or buy a TV, help with moving flat, and even a Russian asking someone to explain feminism to him. (Good luck with that last one.)

The post that caught my eye, however, was by a musician. He explained that he wants to study sound engineering and plays around 13 instruments, including the drums, which he practises at home. Amazingly, he was getting noise complaints from the neighbours…

People were quick to comment on this one and, luckily for me, this being Germany, there are RULES about this sort of thing. It turns out that you can’t actually practise an instrument (voice included) for more than two hours a day. I downloaded the “Merkblatt zur Hausmusik” that someone posted, which contains scary terms like “Gemäß § 5 des Landes-Immissionsschutzgesetzes” and “Einschlägige Gerichtsentscheidungen”. I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant, but I figured you probably wouldn’t want to mess with that stuff.

Fun with German words...
Fun with German words…

A quick perusal through my rental agreement backed up the general Berlin rules with more specific house rules.

Take that!
Take that!

Ah, lovely German rules.

After a night filled with bad dreams about jiggly, naked opera singers, I was rudely awakened on Saturday morning at 9.30am by the man himself. I repeat, 9.30 AM on a SATURDAY. This was war.

WAR I tell ya!
WAR, I tell ya!

But instead of banging down his door like the fighting Irish woman that I am, I opted for the more civilised German approach. This involved me sitting at my laptop in a fury, with extreme bed hair and fluffy pajamas, and hammering out a “pleasant” letter to my neighbour, “politely” asking him to stop with all of the fucking singing because he was driving me fucking mad disrupting my work and my sleep.

I printed out the letter and the Merkblatt and, after making myself slightly less mental looking, popped them both into his letter box.

And now I wait. I guess there’s a good chance an angry, half-naked opera singer will show up on my doorstep. If that does happen, rather than resorting to fisticuffs, I’m hoping we can have a good old-fashioned sing-off. Throw in a couple of beers and a bit of Schlager and that would seem to be the most German way to handle things…

 

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The Eagle has Landed

I’m finally in my new place. The good news is that it only took two days, six train journeys, six bus journeys, a lot of sweat, some bumps, scrapes and bruises, far too much riding in lifts with screeching brats, and more swearing than Berlin has probably ever heard before. Still, maybe there’s something character building about knowing you can do this kind of stuff by yourself when you have to. I’ll let you know when that feeling kicks in…

Although I’m now living in what most Berliners would probably consider “the sticks”, I couldn’t be happier. This morning, instead of being woken up by blaring Turkish car radios, manic beeping, and sirens every seven minutes, I woke up to the sound of birdsong and distant church bells – something my good Irish Catholic soul finds very soothing. Ahem.

From this:

To this:

For the first time since I moved to Berlin, I have unpacked everything I own. In fact, there’s so much storage space here, I might need to buy new stuff to fill it all. The joy, the utter joy, of not having to move other people’s stuff to the side, or squeeze my things into the gaps that they left behind. I have drawers, cupboards, wardrobes and they’re mine, all mine! The place is spotless and fully equipped, even coming with a 104″ flat screen TV…

Welcome to the future.
Welcome to the future.

Of course, even when a flat comes fully furnished, there are always some bits and pieces that you need, in my case, clothes hangers and decent-sized mugs. So, after hefting the second load of stuff up the stairs and into the flat, I took a stroll to the DM (a bit like Boots) on the corner.

Where the hell were the clothes hangers? I did three laps of the shop and still couldn’t find them. Thankfully, there was a woman stacking shelves so I approached her.

Me: (in German) Excuse me, do you sell… (Shit. Due to the excitement of the day, I’d neglected to figure out what I’d say if I couldn’t find something. What on earth were clothes hangers in German? Deciding that ‘hangen’ was probably a verb, I finished with…) the things for clothes hanging? (Brilliant, I know.) 

Hadwigis: What? 

Me: You know, the things for the clothes hanging! 

Hadwigis: (looking like she wished she had an emergency security button underneath the shelf) What? 

Me: (lots of enthusiastic miming of clothes hanger shapes and hanging things up)

Hadwigis, finally twigging what I was after, or just desperate to get rid of me, pointed to the other end of the shop, said something in rapid German and went back to her shelf stacking.

I walked in the direction she’d pointed in, did another couple of laps but still failed to find anything remotely resembling clothes hangers. Embarrassed that Hadwigis would see my hangerless basket, I shiftily checked each aisle to make sure she wasn’t there and skulked to the till. Once outside, I Google Translated “clothes hangers”. “Kleiderbügel” – what a fabulous word, and one that I will not easily forget.

Kleiderbügel! Say it with me!
Kleiderbügel! Say it with me!

I wandered down the street and came to a stop outside a blast from the past – Woolworths. Pretty sure they’d have everything I needed, in I went. Naturally, the clothes hangers were again elusive, but armed with the correct word this time, I marched up to another shelf-stacker and confidently asked her where they were. My pronunciation might have been a bit Irish because she gave me a huge grin while directing me to the lower floor. I hadn’t even realised there was a lower floor but, oh my god, it was home-start heaven down there.

I finally struggled to the till with two mugs, 20 clothes hangers, a chopping board, a duvet and pillow cover set, a sheet, a dishtowel, a small bin and a scented candle. I nearly fell over when she told me the total – just over €16. As this makes Woolworths my new favourite shop, Hadwigis can breathe a sigh of relief as I’ll never have to darken her door again.

I now have everything I need, but the only thing I was slightly concerned about before moving here was the internet situation. The company I had contacted said that it would take three weeks to set up a connection. (Um, why?) But, lo and behold, thanks to a T-Mobile hotspot that I can pay for for 30 days, here I am. I’m hoping that by the time the 30 days are up, the other company will have got their act together. I mean, Jesus, I need the internet for Scrabble Facebook work. How hard can it be, Germany, huh?

So, before I go and enjoy a glass of wine in blissful solitude on my balcony, I can tell you that I’ve also made a major leap in becoming a real German…

Yes, it's my very own poo shelf
Yes, it’s my very own poo shelf

You’re free to laugh now.

There is something worse than naked neighbours

The last thing on earth I wanted to see on Tuesday morning was an angry Hildeberta with a pen and paper in her hands. Groan. Was the dreaded cleaning rota finally going to materialise? I ventured a little closer with a cheery “Good morning!”, and peered at what she was writing. “Lieber Nachbar…” Phew, it seemed I was off the hook.

Me: What’s happening? 

Hildeberta: DID YOU HEAR ME LAST NIGHT? 

Me: (backing slowly away) Ummmm… 

It emerged that, in a fit of rage, she’d stomped upstairs in her pajamas to deal with our insanely noisy neighbours. I had actually heard our front door opening at around 1am but as I was nice and warm in my bed, I just thought, “Sod it. Let the bloody burglars come to me. I’m not moving.” I nodded off again a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, Hildeberta had been banging away on the neighbours’ door, determined to have it out with them. She said she could hear them talking in rather coarse German, tiptoeing around for a bit, and then all was quiet. So she came back downstairs and went to bed again. Having got no satisfaction (duh nuh nuh) the night before, she was now writing a note to them in VERY SHOUTY LETTERS.

The truth is, this has been going on for months now but, as Germans are oh so polite, we didn’t do anything about it. I had previously offered to be the short, silent, crazy-eyed sidekick to Hildeberta’s dignified lead – think Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro in Casino – but my flatmates had turned me down.

You see, there are laws against this sort of thing in Germany. Between 10pm and 6am, you’re not supposed to do anything that could disturb your neighbours in any way. This includes, but is not limited to, hoovering, turning on your washing machine, blaring your TV, and revving your car engine. I have even heard of the police being called on a crying baby. And while Berlin is generally rather lax with this sort of stuff, our neighbours are a pretty extreme case.

I put forward several theories as to what could be going on up there, but as my macabre imagination freaked out Hildeberta and Hildegard, I’ve toned it down to what is probably the most likely one. So here it is – Gebhard’s Guide to Driving your Neighbours Crazy:

1. Look at your watch and realise that it’s around midnight.

2. Put on your hobnail boots.

3. Proceed to line dance for 30 – 40 minutes.

4. When you’re good and warmed up, move every piece of furniture in your flat to a new position.

5. Jump off every piece of furniture while still wearing your hobnail boots.

6. Repeat.

Luckily for Gebhard, Hildeberta and Hildegard are extremely well-mannered individuals with the patience of saints. I, on the other hand, am not. This has led to me jumping up and down, banging on the ceiling with a sweeping brush in my hand while roaring obscenities at night, and “treating” Gebhard to my version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” at the top of my voice first thing in the morning. However, it seems that none of this has had any effect whatsoever.

Hildeberta dropped the note up on Tuesday morning. As I sit here writing this, 2 Unlimited are blaring from on high, and Gebhard is having what sounds like multiple seizures (in hobnail boots) directly above my head. (Although, if I were forced to listen to 2 Unlimited at that volume, I’d probably have a seizure too.)

So it seems he’s not just an inconsiderate moron, he’s an inconsiderate moron with embarrassingly poor taste in music. It’s now around 9.30. At 10.01, I’m going up there. Now, where’s my pen…