Maureen Brophy tells her story of renting a ground floor flat in Finsbury Park, north London. She now rents a house in Leicestershire.
Three years ago, Maureen Brophy was excited by the prospect of moving into her own flat, a studio in Finsbury Park. "I had lived in a shared house in Manchester with five other twenty-somethings for far too long. It was going to be great. My very own (rented) space! No nasty goo in the fridge, no greasy dishes blocking up the sink and, above all, a pristine toilet to myself. At this point I should confirm that I am not Monica from Friends, just someone who has had more than her fair share of housemates with extremely strange habits. But I'm not even going to go there...."
The studio was on the ground floor of a three-storey Victorian townhouse which had recently been converted into smart "Ikea-esque" studios. Maureen was thrilled to have a new home, and a new life, in London, but, on seeing the ground-floor flat, her mother wasn't so keen: "I remember her wailing 'why did you have choose the ground floor?' But I told her not to worry and showed her the big security lattice across the bathroom window."
Maureen recalls that her flat's location, right next to the main front door, meant that it wasn't long before she "met" the neighbours who, each night, made their presence felt. "The fall of unsteady footsteps on the pavement outside in the early hours, the fumble for mislaid keys punctuated with liberal swearing, the slam of the heavy front door, and the painfully slow upwards trudge, were a nightly occurrence."
Security worries often gave Maureen sleepless nights: "Occasionally they would forget to shut the front door altogether. I remember lying awake one night waiting for the door to slam. I woke again five minutes later to hear someone else enter the house without having to open the door first. Was it another tenant arriving home late?"
When there was still no slam and Maureen could hear footsteps outside her front door she decided to call the police. "I'd got as far as tapping '999' into my mobile and was about to hit send when I heard the footsteps retreat back outside. Needless to say I gave the front door a good belt of my own shortly afterwards."
Maureen wonders if her own attitude was to blame: "I suppose I could be accused of being a bit of a Mrs Mangle from Neighbours (anyone remember her?)". But she did witness what she assumed was a police raid outside her window in the small hours, prompting her to ask: "Doesn't anybody sleep during the night anymore?" On this occasion, Maureen heard cars pulling up outside and she saw ten men dressed in black being handed papers from "Chief man dressed in black who was holding a clip board". She never discovered what they were doing: "They were an orderly, professional-looking bunch who got into their cars and disappeared as quietly and swiftly as they had arrived. Were they the drug squad perhaps, or just the Finsbury Park youth club on an outing?"
Some of the nightly antics were more comic than sinister, often involving the couple that lived above who were prone to dramatic squabbles: "The best one happened outside my flat, again in the small hours. Benny was bemoaning the fact that his partner, Jay, didn't respect him or his family anymore." The argument escalated: "Benny's wailing and cursing grew to a crescendo, as did Jay's protestations of innocence, culminating in the suggestion: 'Calm down, calm down, let's go and have sex in the park'. This is now a phrase that Maureen frequently employs: "I use it to dispel rising tensions between friends or colleagues, it works wonders."
Looking back, Maureen has some happy memories: "My little ramble is not by any means a slur on living in Finsbury Park, I really enjoyed the two years I spent there. However, after rounding the corner to my street one tea-time to be confronted by a woman being violently mugged, I decided to up sticks and head for Leicestershire." She now rents a house "all of my own".
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