Home invasion

For weeks, I’d been having the same racing semi-conscious thoughts. A gang is breaking into my flat. What do I need to do to make sure Rosie is safe from harm? One, make sure my mobile phone is by the bed. Two, have some warm clothes nearby, too. Three, keep the key to the window within reach so we can open it and escape onto the roof of the extension to the flat below us.

Over and over, I played these stages in my mind, refining them, re-ordering them, until I had the perfect exit plan.

When the “home invasion” finally happened, I had no such fall back. I had no list to pluck from my tired brain. Just my rage which, like that ever present destination “just ’round the corner”, is never far from reach.

Before I raise your expectations too high, I should say right now that no one physically broke into my home. No one has tried to assault us – not in the usual way, anyway.

You see, on Friday – which also happened to be my birthday – a new set of neighbours moved in to the flat downstairs. The flat had been empty for weeks. Before that, it had been occupied by a group of benign students whose worst habit was leaving the front door open from time to time. Annoying, but … well, not dreadful, I suppose.

My new neighbours might have been equally benign except for one thing. They’re smokers. Smokers who smoke inside.

Let me explain. We live in an old English 1930s building. There are gaps everywhere. And where there are gaps, there is smoke. So now, there is smoke pretty much all over the flat. Rosie and I are asthmatics. I’d put a sign outside for the estate agent to see – so he or she might think twice about renting the property to a smoker. No such luck.

It’s well below zero outside, but I am sitting here with the windows open. I’ve taped up the area beneath the bathtub to minimise smoke entering the bathroom. Ben spent the whole weekend meticulously sealing the living room and bedroom. But the stairwell is the worst – it needs industrial sealing – and Ben isn’t here to do it.

We’ve tried speaking to them – tried explaining the situation to them – but they are students who don’t speak any English. They don’t or won’t understand what we are saying.

I’ve been coughing since they arrived. Rosie is, too. My nose is leaking, my throat is itchy. It will only get worse. If I could sell this flat and leave tomorrow, I would. But it doesn’t work that way here. Selling and moving can take six months to a year. And there is the small problem of money – I’m about to lose my job.

We’re trapped.





10 thoughts on “Home invasion

  1. I’m so sorry. This is miserable. There is someone in my office building who smokes inside and it creeps into our office. It makes it hard to work. Our eyes water and get dry. Our throats hurt. No manner of complaining makes it stop. I used to smoke, but I went outside. I’m glad I did.

    • Yeah, even Ben smokes outside. Today they seem to have opted to smoke outside, but who knows what they’ll do tomorrow. I’m surprised people are allowed to smoke in an office building. Aren’t they breaking the law?

      • Yes, he is breaking the law. He is also one of those entitled people who believes he can, and he’s wealthy enough to pay the fine. The rest of us suffer and choke.

    • Ah, the entitlement that comes with money. Typical. I’m sorry. What if you complain about him to the authorities every time? Surely that will convince him that it’s too much hassle and maybe he should just do the decent thing and go outside?

  2. How horrible for you! Yuck, smoke! I keep trying to think up what you could do to get your neighbours to move out! Something stinky sent down to their flat, lots of noise at weird hours, a haunting, dressing up as a crazy old lady,…somehow freaking them out so they will move! Maybe other readers could add to the list. I wish there was a law that you could use to ‘fight’ this sabotage of your family’s health. Praying hard for a solution for your situation. So sorry to hear about your job.

  3. Have you talked to the estate agents? In all the rental contracts I signed it said that I wasn’t allowed to smoke inside. These people may be breaking their contract and the agents don’t know. Plus if you go to them armed with a doctor’s letter saying you and Rosie are asthmatic it may just do the trick

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