It’s Monday night and the residents of my apartment block are gathered in Apt 11 for a meeting. With extreme nosy neighbours Susan and Dick no longer at the helm, we have become a rudderless vessel, flailing in a sea of overflowing bins, badly-parked cars and uncooperative bin men.
Following the departure of SuDick and others, there are quite a few new faces around the room.
Desperate housewife Diane – fan of the feather duster – is perched like a small bird on the sofa, her big eyes scanning the room anxiously; Valerie – a kindly-looking pensioner, new to Apt 5 – nestles next to her. She is sporting flesh-coloured pop socks.
Ironically, one of the main reasons SuDick sold up (apart from ongoing feuds with the bin men, gardeners, cleaners and the management company) was because they felt the apartment block was becoming overrun with party-loving young professionals. At this latest meeting, it appears the demograph has shifted; we now seem to be housing a horde of down-sizing retirees. I couldn’t be happier.
For some reason, I seem to still be receiving the occasional email from Susan, boasting about her harmonious new neighbours. ‘There are only eight apartments here and everyone gets on wonderfully,’ she wrote, with barely-contained glee.
‘I’ve already been asked to be the director of the management company!’
Her new neighbours clearly have no idea what they’re dealing with.
Back at the meeting, the slovenly solicitor from Apt 8 – Sonia, I learn – has sent her apologies. She is not, I note, apologising for permanently hogging the only free parking space with her cream Mini. In fact, when challenged, she purportedly outright refused to use her own space further down the car park.
Over in the corner, Belligerent Bill from Apt 1 is brandishing a sheet of paper; it’s a letter from the management company fining him £250 for refusing to park in his allocated bay. Allegedly, Bill received this letter after a litany of complaints from some unnamed residents. SuDick might be long gone but their legacy lives on. Slovenly Sonia had better watch out.
Florid-faced Bill isn’t happy. From time to time, he makes occasional puffing noises and folds his arms angrily. I can’t help but think this is retribution for my own parking wrangle with him last year.
One of the new down-sizers – Tony, I think – leans over and pats Bill reassuringly on the knee. ‘Don’t worry mate,’ he says. ‘No-one expects you to pay that. We’re all behind you’.
I say nothing.
Tony and his wife Pat sit ramrod on their hardback chairs. They haven’t even moved into their apartment yet but seem alarmed by the tales of resident woe: unruly tenants, all-night parties, pesky Dick almost arrested for harassing the noisy nuisance-makers in Apt 4.
I chip in my own tale about a recent visit from a pair of Bobbies on the beat. The aforementioned noisy nuisance-makers from Apt 4 are wanted on drug charges, I say.
The room falls silent.
‘I always thought I could smell marijuana,’ I add, warming to the drama.
Tony and Pat look positively horrified.
There was some discussion about the bin men. SuDick had fallen out with them so spectacularly that they are now refusing to empty our bins at all.
I am just beginning to wonder who might want to take SuDick’s mantle as chief complainant when George steps forward, husband of Diane.
‘This is ridiculous,’ he says. ‘I’ll lie in wait for them next Friday and get this sorted once and for all.’
‘Oh, George is terrible when he gets worked up,’ trilled big-eyed Diane. ‘Once he gets the bit between his teeth, there’s no stopping him. Bins, parking… he’s going to be the Victor Meldrew of the apartments!’
Eva from Apartment 16 and I exchange a look.
‘I don’t think he can be any worse than his predecessors,’ says Eva. ‘Susan and Dick were on a whole new level.’
‘Those are some very big boots to fill,’ I agree.
George merely grunts and folds his arms.
Those bin men don’t know what’s coming.