Living on a council estate, regardless of any estate agent hype, inures you to a lot. If you were to retain the carefully nurtured middle class sensibilities of leafy suburbia with its attendant serenity, you’d never get a night’s sleep. You have to get sleep when you can, just like a soldier at the front. Once the noise stays below a particular level, you can retreat into peaceful slumber. Once that threshold is crossed, though, it’s like being jarred awake.
It was the roar that woke me, the roar of a human voice. On Saturday 20th January, 2007, I woke up in the darkness to this roar. What immediately struck me was that this was no ordinary roar: I’ve heard enough of those. This one was different: it was just so loud. Maybe I should say they were loud because there was a succession of roars: I must have been woken by an early salvo. Right below my 3rd floor bedroom window, left open for ventilation, there was a whole lot of roaring going on. Now, from that very bedroom and that very bed, I’ve heard all sorts of displaced noises over the years, some good, some bad and some where the jury is still out. You develop a feel, or should I say, an ear. The roars below seemed harmless, apart from being very loud – and waking me up. It sounded like there were two guys messing around on their way back from the bar (I’d figured it was about 1:30). Maybe one had pushed another into a puddle and the newly wet was making an exaggerated song and dance of it – the reciprocal of the exaggerated extra loud laugh, that laugh that tells everyone you’re having a really good time! That seemed the most likely explanation: I just hoped these inconsiderate hooligans would leave me in peace, like now. The roars slowly went up the hill, whereupon they faded out and I faded back into sleep. I didn’t realise at the time that I was actually hearing someone die!
I did realise it the following morning when I went out to find the place crawling with cops: I was questioned three times and I had no alibi either. Gradually the pieces came together. For a start my estimate of 1:30 was wildly out. It was actually closer to 6:30 though there was no difference in the darkness. It was all night-time. I soon found out why the roars had faded out: the victim had got as far as the next block, Hart House, where he could roar no more, a tent now marking the spot where his corpse was discovered by a passer-by.
The incident actually began in Poulet House on the Deronda Estate about 100 metres away, not on St. Martin’s as has been erroneously reported. It was the old story: a row over drugs had escalated into a stabbing. Themon Djaksam, from Chad, who lived in the flat above the stabbing site, told me the row, an extremely loud and rapidly escalating row, reminded him of the war in his own country and that was indeed bloody. 29 year old Michael Edwards, mortally wounded, and possibly realising the end was near, now tried to get back to his mother’s flat in Hart House and fell for the last time on the pavement outside.
Bouquets of flowers soon marked the spot. One bore the poignant message “You promised you would never leave me but now you have”. Another life had ended before its time.
Another Kind of Noise © Stephen Kearney January 2016