They boinked as though they'd seen the apocalypse and knew it would be the last time. Her screams of ecstasy echoed through the night. He grunted like a pig at a trough. I jammed pillows over my head. I bought earplugs. I moved onto the couch, away from the party wall that separated our bedrooms. Someone was having a wild party every night in the early hours but it wasn't me.
I slipped a polite, unsigned note under my neighbours' door. I can't remember how I phrased the message. Perhaps I said I was concerned for their postural health, given the creakiness of their bed and the vigour of their bedhead. Perhaps I reminded them about the challenges of high-density apartment living.
The screaming and grunting stopped soon after. I moved back into my bed. Collecting mail one day I bumped into another neighbour and told her of my successful mediation. "Oh no, haven't you heard?" she replied. "He's in hospital." My neighbour, she told me, was a lighting technician. He'd tumbled from a rig above a stage. He'd broken his back. Things weren't looking good for his boinking future.
It's not that I was unsympathetic. I felt for him, I really did. I felt for his girl whose screams of ecstasy had been so cruelly dulled. But a bad neighbour's a bad neighbour. And I've had too many of them.
Take the one in the Melbourne apartment block I moved into after moving out of a bad relationship. The day I moved in, I may have been a little unsteady. I may have accidentally parked in the wrong spot in the communal car park. A neighbour's rebuke was swift and malignant. The following morning, I found an egg, an intact raw egg, resting on my windscreen wipers. I don't remember what the note tucked under the egg said but it wasn't, "I know you won't have had time to stock your fridge yet, so here's an egg to boil for your dinner tonight (I find toast soldiers are quite good with a boiled egg) - Your New Neighbour."
No, its message was altogether less friendly. There was a threat. There were rude words.
I suppose I should be grateful I haven't lost an ear. Or been clocked over the head with a tyre lever. Or been accosted by a chainsaw.
Australians don't get enough credit for their angry-neighbour antics which, by all accounts, are growing in number and inventiveness. Magistrates know that. Why, the dirty laundry that gets aired in courtrooms across the land ... like the kerfuffle between two retired priests in Perth last year over a sprinkler in the garden of their apartment complex. Praise the Lord for first-world healthcare. According to reports, the ear that one former man of the cloth gnawed off the other was successfully reattached. And while we're on the subject of healthcare, someone should tell the Brisbane gentleman who was belted around the head with a tyre lever a year ago that vitamin E cream works wonders on scars. It was the noise of the high-pressure hose he was using to clean his driveway that pushed his neighbour over the edge.
Noise! So often it's about noise. Evolution forgot to plan for leaf-blowers and sub-woofers and power tools when it mapped out the human nervous system. It didn't think about wind-chimes. It didn't take into account the man over my back fence with mighty vocal cords, a manic laugh and a fine line in profanity. I've considered my options. After reading about Troy Thornton's story I've considered a chainsaw.
Thornton allegedly used a chainsaw in May last year to express his displeasure with a neighbour, Mark Jorgensen. His family had complained about the top 40 on high volume coming from the Thornton house. On a suburban street in south-western Sydney, a family feud ensued.
Bats, poles, a sword and a chainsaw were the weapons of choice. Jorgensen and his arm were nearly separated in the melee. Thornton lost a finger and is facing a charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm.
When it comes to neighbourhood disputes, the little things, like a little bit of One Direction on the radio, can become big things.
And then there are the neighbourhood issues that are big things. Big trees, big renovations, big views. It's hard to spare much sympathy for people with houses by the beach. But how about some sympathy for a little old lady with a house by the beach? A little old lady like my mum.
In the early '70s, for about the price of a Holden Kingswood, Mum and Dad bought a steep block of land with a sea view. They built a modest house, kept it low so they didn't bugger up the views of neighbours behind them, and painted it green. Dad bought binoculars to watch container ships on the horizon and birds flit through the scrubby native coastal vegetation he refused to cut back.
He kept watching those ships and birds as the neighbourhood became fashionable. Next door, someone built a nice big beach house but tucked it inoffensively into the slope. The owners were friendly and sometimes popped in with bunches of bananas from their tree.
Some years on, they sold their nice house. The new owners didn't pop over with bananas. They didn't seem to have the same nice neighbourly manners. Two years ago, they demolished the house, moved in a fleet of earthmovers, and spent the next year giving my newly widowed mum grief as they built their new holiday house.
I think the architectural magazines will like it. The way they've used space by taking the house almost to the boundary lines and then defining it with high concrete walls is impressive. And they haven't cut corners: word has it that it was a $2 million build.
When I visit Mum these days I like to watch the owners. I hope they don't mind; I mean, it's hard not to watch them because their house is in the spot where we used to see trees and the sea. Sometimes the owners are in their neat little backyard. The wife seems to relax by pulling weeds out of the velvety square of turf. The husband plays cricket with their little boys, which is good, because he's getting a bit of a paunch.
I saw Mum's neighbours in the local bakery once. I thought about saying hello but then I reconsidered. I'm not sure they'd be very nice.