True Gripes: Turn the noise off: Next door's fun can be your nightmare

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Why is it, whenever I decide to have an early night, the people across the road decide they want to have a late one? Not only that, but they invite all their friends along too.

There I was tucked up with my book and hot cocoa, nursing a bad cold, when the warning signs began around pub closing time. Car doors slammed, slurred voices hollered across the street then - boom, boom, boom - on went the music.

Years of living next to a squat (now a 'community care' home for former mental patients, and thankfully much quieter) taught me to adopt a Zen-like approach to noise nuisance. Rather like pain, it can be managed best if you let it drift over you, rather than immediately rush for the nearest bottle of aspirin in an act of repeated desperation.

I also learnt that the most practical answer was to have a pair of earplugs handy, a lesson I seemed to have forgotten this time round.

I tried Zen. Rocked by the beat, I managed to get off to sleep at first but that was well before midnight and the party had hardly got going.

Half an hour later it was a different story. The volume was up and so was I, peering through the darkness at the vivid green figures on the alarm clock. 00.31.

So it went on - wake up, turn over, check the green light.

01.05, 01.20, 02.00, 02.15.

By 03.00 I'd had enough. How dare they? Don't they have jobs to go to in the morning? Don't they have kids who need to sleep? Don't they have a cold for God's sake?

I contemplated ringing the council's noisy-party line to complain. But I couldn't remember where the number was, didn't really want to put the light on and search through the directory, and wasn't really capable of stringing together a coherent sentence to the person at the other end. Then I remembered that this was a Sunday night and the noisy-party line only operates on a Saturday. Finally I remembered the earplugs somewhere on my bedside table. Fumbling around among the piles of magazines and tissues, I found them at last. Fortunately, in the darkness, I couldn't see how dirty they were.

As I popped them in, the decibels dropped to a tolerable background level. I collapsed under the duvet back to sleep - only to be woken a few moments later with a persistent dull ringing in my head.

It was the muffled sound of the alarm - 09.00 and I'm late.