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It wasn’t just life at work that was on the unpleasant side. With my emotional landscape full to overflowing, I also had a crazy neighbour. And I was nearly arrested…

Crazy Cathy

Cathy was the bain of my landlord’s existence. She’d chased away more than one of my landlord’s tenants with her made up complaints and harassment.

When I applied to rent my flat at the beginning of 2005, I’d been warned about Cathy, but I’d thought – I like a quiet home, I don’t do many loud things or have parties. I’m clean, I’m hospitable… what complaints could she have about me?

But when you’re married and unintentionally childless, when you don’t work and have very little to do with your time… its easy to become a nutter if you have no other frame of reference except your own self-involvement.

Finding things to complain about turned out to be her forte. She claimed my cat’s hair transferred from my washing to hers on the shared washing line. My music (on my small Logitech iPod speakers) was too loud. That my clock radio was too loud. I left my washing on the line too long. I didn’t park my car properly. I left my rubbish bins in the wrong spot.

Some of the above may or may not be true. Mostly it wasn’t. But instead of dealing with me directly she would complain to the real estate agent or my landlord.

I deflected her crazy claims as long as I could. But eventually it was affecting how I felt and reacted, and I didn’t like it one bit.

The carport wire

When I came home from hospital after my bone graft surgery, Cathy had manifested a whole new kind of insanity.

She’d strung a wire up on the posts that separated her carport and mine – she claimed when I opened my door I’d hit her car and damage her door. Never mind that I was driving a fairly new car, and hers was an old bomb that would look more at home in a wrecking yard. None of it was true.

The wire meant I could no longer use the carport, as I couldn’t get the door open enough to get in and out (see pic). Even when I wasn’t walking on crutches like I was when I first came home.

Impossible to open the door enough to get out

I asked her to remove the wire but she wouldn’t. I talked to the landlord, the body corporate, police etc. To no avail. Technically she’d put it up on her side of the post and she apparently had a right to do whatever she wanted.

I had to park my car on the street.

Prank calls

A month or so later my landlord told me Cathy was now claiming she was getting prank phone calls and she thought it was me. I was amused more than anything.

Mum called on a Sunday night in April ’06 saying she’d had a call from the police. This was no joke. Cathy had the cops put a trace on her phone and apparently the calls were coming from my parents’ home number. The cops were convinced I was behind it. Not that I’d heard from them myself – they were calling the landlord, my mother… everyone but me.

Deciding to take the bull by the horns I called the police myself, utterly mystified at what was going on. The policewoman had that tone in her voice – the patronising, slightly abrasive one they reserve for speaking to a guilty person.

She asked me a lot of questions. I told her I definitely had nothing to do with the calls. I explained Cathy’s general behaviour and suggested perhaps she had managed to make it look like the calls were coming from my parents’ place. That was the only explanation I could think of.

I was asked to go down to the station the next day – a public holiday – to give a statement. I was freaking out.

When I called my parents back, Mum suggested I come over to their place in the morning and we’d go down there together. I agreed, and after a sleepless night I rocked up at my folks’ place.

To receive a confession apparently.

My mother had been making the calls!

And around the time I was having surgery, my sister suffered a miscarriage. It was a tough time for Mum with both her daughters hurting. Then the carport wire issue came up. I think, Mum used Cathy to channel her anger at and decided Cathy was a bully who needed to get some of her own medicine back!

She found Cathy’s name from one of the emails I’d forwarded to her and looked up her phone number. Thus began my mother’s war on Cathy.

According to Mum she never said anything threatening but Cathy claimed she was receiving death threats. Between my mother’s insanity and Cathy’s, I doubt I’ll ever know the truth of what was said.

Mum had finally told Dad what she’d been doing, and he insisted she tell me. I was furious.

Do you realise Mum, that prank calling is a Federal offence? You can go to jail for this sort of thing? There are countries you can’t travel to if you have a Federal conviction!!

No. She didn’t realise any of that stuff… Clearly she couldn’t see, either, that she was making my life more complex at a time when I least needed complications… She looked mortified at her own behaviour. And to be honest, I never would’ve guessed my mother could do such a thing!

So we went to the police station and Mum confessed. The cops decided not to press charges. The female policewoman was friendly now, and she claimed to sympathise with Mum. No doubt in part, due to her own dealings with Crazy Cathy…

It all came to nothing. Except I was now in a really bad position. The cop said she’d sort it out with Cathy. I had to tell my landlord and real estate agent something. So I explained via email:

I went to the police station yesterday and it appears that they didn’t really have any evidence. I didn’t have to give an interview, and the officer told me she didn’t expect me to be so sane based on what Cathy had said about me. Suffice to say the police are satisfied that it wasn’t me making calls to Cathy.

Cathy now tormented me whenever she could with claims that I had my “mummy” do my dirty work. I had no comeback.

When I returned from my trip to Bali it seemed Cathy and her husband were away somewhere too. And mysteriously, around that time the wire between the carports vanished!! I have no idea what happened to it! 😉

There were complaints about that of course, and she reported me to the police about the ‘theft’ of the wire. I offered my passport to show I’d been away and that I’d simply assumed Cathy had taken it down. I had no way of knowing any differently. Ahem.

And I was able to use my carport again.

This relatively one-sided war carried on for a few more months. But the more I tried to avoid Cathy, the more she tried to get in my face. Physically, in the end.

Time to go… again

Eventually I admitted to myself that I had to move.

So around November ’06 I was facing yet more packing of things into boxes. Another round of shuffling my possessions from one location to the next.

I really struggled to pack, what with depression and being stressed at work and in my home. When my family arrived to help me move, they had to do a considerable amount of packing themselves. They said nothing, and just worked.

There it was – clear evidence I was falling apart.

And my family was happy with the usual avoidance of the elephant in the room.

I had one minor bit of revenge on Cathy. When I was cleaning my old flat, I took my iPod and speakers and played a song by an Aussie band – Jet – as loudly as I could. The song? Cold Hard Bitch.