Rosie and Jim: The instruments your neighbours are learning, ranked from pleasant ditty to audible hatecrime

This week, Rosie gives an eyeful to the neighbours she'd assumed didn't exist, while James gets an earful from the ones he can't get away from.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher — who have both, one way or another, ended up alone for the duration — are sharing slices of their lives.

So far they’ve mused over mysteries, shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows.

Devon looks spectacular. I’ve been making regular trips up and down the A303 for longer than I care to think about (before anyone comes for me with pitchforks, I have not been anywhere near the A303 since lockdown began), and the weather has never been better than it is right now.

It’s a sore point with my Mum, who is currently stuck elsewhere with my father (a headteacher currently trying to conduct a virtual, whole school assembly over Zoom) and my brother (currently working out how to pay for the oven that he successfully set fire to and blew up, over the weekend). Oh, and four very vocal dogs.

To make her feel better, I offered to do some gardening. My gardening skills are non-existent by the way, but how hard can it be to cut back a cherry blossom tree? I said I’d watch a YouTube tutorial first. The offer was hastily declined.

I then made the spectacularly rash decision to lie in the garden instead. Rash, firstly, because I am the palest person on Planet Earth with little to no ability to tan, and my skin views the sun with the same disdain that the British population view Dominic Raab trying to hold a press conference. Rash, secondly, because my neighbours decided to appear on their balcony overlooking my garden, at exactly the same time that I decided to lie in it, in little clothing. Read: no clothing.

Unlike James, I’ve had no struggles with noisy neighbours (do we know who Mungo is yet? Is Mungo having viola lessons?). In fact I assumed they weren’t there, given the total lack of any activity since lockdown began. All I could do in my confusion was clutch The Sunday Times ‘Culture’ magazine (I do hope their team don’t read this) to myself, and Swiss roll across the patio and through the door. I haven’t been in the garden since.

My cello lessons took place in a sound-proofed basement. The walls were covered in white plasterboard that was abrasive to both to look at and touch and in the corners and notches was foam of different shapes and sizes. The room looked like someone had covered a cheap sofa in glue and detonated it.

As a space, it was offensive, and it was necessary, because anyone who knows how to teach someone to play the cello knows that learning the cello is an audible hatecrime and the only people who should have to hear it is the person who is being paid to be there and the person who is paying the other person to suffer.

In unrelated news, it seems the folks of Battersea are keen to learn a new skill! This is good and in no way very very upsetting. Here is a list of instruments that your neighbours are learning, from best to worst:

  • Piano — Initial stages of piano instruction are nice little single key melodies, played softly due to a lack of confidence. They hang on the air, little butterflies in the shape of the Beatles’ With a Little Help from my Friends. Pleasant. I’ll allow it. Only progress to chords when you’re ready. Please.
  • Saxophone — Once the ability to blow through a reed is mastered, saxophone notes on a summer’s evening add exactly the right amount of melancholic ambience to a situation such as this. Before a reed is mastered, it sounds like a cat slowly and painfully deflating.
  • Flute — Too happy, in the bin. Next.
  • Guitar — So thrilled that the neighbour is a fan of Oasis, the less-good Britpop band. Wonderwall? Yeah love that song. Keep playing it. Play it all day! We never hear people playing Wonderwall on the guitar do we folks!
  • Harpsichord — What is this? Why is it even on this list? Must live in a castle to own a harpsichord, so definitely don’t have neighbours. Or friends.
  • Singing — Everyone is looking for the next Adele. It isn’t you, get over it.
  • Violin — Similar to cello, as described above, but squeakier, like a mummy trying to yell through a helium balloon.
  • Viola — Violas aren’t real. They’re just violins played by short people with confidence issues.
  • The drums — Worse than having your kidneys pulled out through your kneecaps. Proceed to The Hague (post-lockdown, of course) to answer for your crimes.