Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Wild Nights in Londonistan

Wild Nights in Londonistan

A few years ago, I botched our lodging choice in London. We ended up in a flat (apartment) a couple blocks from Hyde Park. The rate was good, but the value was not. On all sides were fascinating neighbors.

Note: here, I use the word ‘fascinating’ in the same way that Mr. Spock would as the Enterprise was falling in to be crushed by a black hole.

Westminster Cathedral on a December Day

The good news was that we were out and about most of the time. The bad news was that we had to sleep sometime. I won’t bore you with the continuous screaming mayhem that passed for neighborly consideration all around us. At all hours, a palpable rain of cultural insight blasted through the walls. It came in Arabic from one side and Pushtu from the other, punctuated with ultimate, non-negotiable demands among themselves in heavily-accented English from time to time. Above us, the perpetual, rhythmic stomp of a dancing Cyclops family provided counterpoint.

Amongst all this, one story stands out. Our gracious, Arabic-speaking neighbors were a man and woman with no children and powerful vocal chords. We named them ‘The Habibis’ because habib means friend or lover in Arabic.

The night before our departure, three days of high-volume disagreement between those two culminated around 10:00 PM with the man declaring, “You are going nowhere! You belong to me!” instantly followed by a sharp slapping sound and a substantial thud against the wall.

Meanwhile, through the other wall, the seven Pakistani (Afghan?) kids—all under ten—provided shrieking backup harmony via their week-long, marathon soccer match down a long hall in their flat whose wall we shared.

Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

After the ‘going nowhere’ shout on the Arabic side, there were a few blissful minutes of unprecedented silence. Then came the woman’s counter-attack. As Mr. You-Belong-to-Me tried to watch a soccer game (at full volume), the Mrs. decided to re-hang all the pictures on our adjoining wall. Several times. With a big hammer and what must have been very long nails. For more than two hours.

Then, well after midnight, Mr. Master-of-the-House showed unflinching courage and called in reinforcements: his mother and sister. These two banshee harridans double-teamed the erstwhile decorator. Backing her up hard against our bedroom wall, they proceeded to inform her about what we assume was dutiful wifely behavior in no uncertain terms and ear-piercing tones. About 4:30 AM, they had apparently exhausted Tier One of the litany and, still screaming at the wayward wife, slammed the heavy door on their way out.

My bride and I then got our nightly ration of 90 minutes’ sleep before we had to get up and go. When we had packed and were ready, it was 8:00 AM and the neighbors were stone silent. We had long since deduced that no one in either apartment had a job, so the time when normal folk headed off to work was their time to dream of ways to inflict more innovative mayhem on the world.

Walls Around the Tower of London on a VERY Wet Day

A piece of advice: try very hard not to be rude to my bride. During the unfolding drama, she declared that the wife should just whip up his favorite dish as a ‘peace offering’ but lace it with two or three bottles of ExLax. Then, as he moaned and whimpered, unable to leave the porcelain throne, the woman should get dressed up, spit in his face and go out with her friends as she’d planned. I agreed wholeheartedly.

This morning as I put the bags by the door, and in fond remembrance of our happy stay, my wife came marching out of the kitchen with two big metal pot lids, clashing them together as cymbals. For ten minutes she proceeded up and down the apartment with that adorable smile of just vengeance that I so love and righted a tiny bit of the wrong perpetrated on her during the past week. I joined in at the top of my horribly unmusical lungs with an enthusiastic but awful rendition of the ‘Stones You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

On the plane home, we decided that ‘habib’ must translate as love in the same way that ‘shaheed’ translates as martyr. The English word martyr means to suffer persecution and perhaps an awful death for one’s religion, while the the Arabic word includes the gleeful murder of as many innocents as possible in exchange for a guaranteed ticket to rape 72 virgins as a delighted god looks on approvingly.

As you might guess, I’ve been careful as can be about lodging since our ‘fascinating’ wild nights in Londonistan.

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