Driven mad by Madonna
Scientists have identified the musical devices used by songwriters that bring listeners to tears – I could have saved them the bother: it's when your neighbour goes away for the weekend leaving a Madonna CD on repeat-play.
For those that like technical specifications, it's appoggiatura – notes which clash with the melody to create a dissonance – that make us cry when we hear Adele, Coldplay or Snow Patrol (it's that or the fact we're all really, really sick of Adele, Coldplay and Snow Patrol).
I doubt, however, it was the wealth of appoggiatura that caused Mark Sigston's neighbours to shed a tear, rather his obsession with power ballads such as Angels by Robbie Williams, Celine Dion's All By Myself, Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh and George Benson's The Greatest Love of All, all played at high volume.
Sigston, of Kent, was given a noise abatement notice in February, ignored it, had his stereo impounded by Medway Council and – when it was returned in July – was caught having a loud party just days later.
After admitting three charges of breaching a noise abatement order, Sigston had his CD players, mixers, amplifier and speakers taken away and given a conditional discharge for 12 months.
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The cost to Sigston of being taken to court? �1,100. His neighbours being given a reprieve from Celine Dion, Chris de Burgh, Robbie Williams and George Benson? Priceless.
It reminds me of the dark days when I left the comfort of the family pile in Old Costessey to strike out on my own (technically with my boyfriend, but he was as much use as a handbrake on a canoe) in the first home I paid rent for in Liverpool.
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A stone's throw from Anfield – and many stones were thrown, particularly on derby days – it was a charming two-up, two-down with a patio garden ringed by a high brick wall scenically covered in barbed wire and shards of broken glass.
It had a twin-tub, what looked like cress growing in the bathroom and storage heaters that, on full power, couldn't have melted an icicle. None of this, however, held a candle to the neighbours.
On one side there was a terrifying family who mimicked our fey southern accents every time they saw us and who regularly shot birds – and possibly children – with airguns from their back window.
On the other side was a woman whose colourful love-life suggested that she was either terminally unlucky in the romance stakes or that she was running some kind of half-hearted, non-aspirational knocking shop. Separated by a single-skin wall on both sides, we became prisoners to the lives going on next door to us – the screaming rows, the slammed doors, the energetic couplings, the inappropriate conversations about the heritage of people from Norfolk and, memorably, an entire weekend of listening to Madonna's Crazy for You on repeat at high volume.
For this, I had tirelessly toiled over entire books about the drainage systems of the Roman empire, learned entire sections of hateful Chaucer and endured Emile Durkheim's seminal monograph 'Suicide' which is, very possibly, the most depressing piece of literature on the planet.
It wasn't quite the dreaming spires of Oxford or Cambridge although to be fair, I could have been dreaming amidst the spires had the then love-of-my-life not been so thick he could only get a place at Liverpool. I'm not bitter about it (I am).
By the time my neighbour went away leaving Madonna safeguarding her property, the novelty of making toast for every meal had worn off as had the thrill of actually having to pay for really dull things like electricity and water.
We had no money, were prisoners in our own hovel and had begun to despise each other.
I'm not sure at what point we realised that Crazy for You was never, ever going to stop playing – perhaps it was when the terrifying family on the other side practically broke down our front door to demand we turned down the music, perhaps it was when I prayed for death as a viable alternative to ever hearing the lyric 'swaying on as the music starts' again.
One thing is for sure: had I had the other neighbour's airgun, I would have lain in wait for the tone-deaf harpy responsible, gunned her down on her return and no court in the land would have convicted me: I would have become a heroine in Liverpool. No one would have laughed at the way I pronounce 'roof' ever again.
As it was, I did nothing. I stuffed cotton wool in my ears, rocked like an inmate in a Victorian asylum and waited for my mother to telephone my incoming-calls only phone so that I could beg her to lend me the deposit for a flat in Liverpool that wasn't next door to Satan's own DJ.
There is a moral to this tale, although I'm not sure what it is. Don't play terrible music too loudly in case you live next door to me and I describe you in a column in years to come as a possible lady-of-the-night: that'll do.