No Smoke Without Ire

By Robin Pascoe

When you are a former smoker and a current insomniac there is nothing worse than being woken up by people on their balconies, smoking and having a laugh in the wee small hours, says editor Robin Pascoe.

What is it with today’s young folk who smoke? If you are going to take up smoking in 2019, when everyone knows it will probably kill you, do it properly or not at all. Chain smoke during dinner, drop ash into your laptop keyboard, and couple it with heavy drinking to boot. But what is it with these five-cigarettes-a-day habits?

Today’s young smokers like to pose with their cigarettes and then ban smoking in their own homes – making the addiction even more pathetic than it actually is. (And I say this as a former 40-a-day girl). Go to any office block and you will find the same swaggering group of young professionals outside the front door, flicking their ash onto the pavement, talking self-importantly into their phones, and ignoring the carefully-placed ashtray ordered by HR in a doomed-to-fail effort to keep the main entrance clean. Dropping in at the Provada property fair at the Amsterdam RAI exhibition centre a couple of weeks ago should have carried a health warning, such was the gauntlet of smoke that every visitor had to run to get in.

'Do I really need to know about the weird guy at their work and the festivals they are going to?'

My particular bugbear is the bright young things living around us who have no-smoking homes, but have no problem in going outside onto their balconies late in the evening with a cigarette, a glass of wine and a few friends. Not only are they noisy – do I really need to know about the weird guy at their work and the festivals they are going to? – but they seem to think it perfectly okay to drop their cigarettes, still burning, into our garden or into the street.

Of course, the midnight smokers are not the only ones who keep me awake at night. For a time, the worst noise we had to deal with was generated by the illegal holiday rental flat opposite our block. The owner had miraculously managed to get an Amsterdam council short stay licence just one day before the licence scheme was stopped and then proceeded to rent the property out to gangs of stoned and drunken holidaymakers. They filled the website review section with ‘great place for a party’ and ‘we had a wild time in Amsterdam’ comments – not really the serious business people short stay licences are aimed at, but there you go. Many complaints and a city council hearing down the road, the owner sealed up the back door so they could not get to the roof terrace to party and smoke weed anymore.

The drunken Brits on holiday are not the only ones to have kept us from our slumbers. There was the group in the top flat next door who had a loud and very noisy party which went on to dawn. We ended up shining a super-strength torch at the teenagers hanging out of the window with their cigarettes. Needless to say, their response to our complaints was to chuck a few beer cans onto the roof of the shed. It was with great delight the next day that I rang their doorbell for at least five minutes at 7:30 A.M., to be finally greeted by a very hungover sounding “Wie is het?” They did have the decency to drop round later in the afternoon with a bunch of flowers… bribery to stop us telling their parents, it transpired.

'We missed the gang of Dutch lads dancing naked on the roof of the fish shop one summer because we were on holiday'

Next door to the party brats and directly opposite our balcony is a roof terrace attached to a large flat rented out to ‘expats’. They are paying a small fortune for the place and are always keen to remind us of this when we complain about the late night dinner parties which become increasingly raucous as the evening progresses. The worst inhabitants of this particular flat were a bunch of extremely loud-mouthed young professionals who informed us, hand on hips, that they were from the Bronx, when we suggested that they were breaking the decibel limit for a major rock concert. There too we have booked a minor victory… the landlord has now removed the outdoor furniture so there may be a terrace, but nowhere to sit.

We missed the gang of Dutch lads dancing naked on the roof of the fish shop one summer at 4 A.M. because we were on holiday, but the neighbourhood talked about it for weeks. How often have we laid in bed waiting in anticipation for the sound of one of the young men drinking on the roof of next-door-but-one’s balcony falling off. Then there are the sun seekers who think it perfectly okay to roam the roof tops in search of a good spot to tan, no matter whose space it is… but then, at least they are not out at night.

Smoking is a bad habit I got rid of many years ago. A lack of sleep – where we live at least – is not quite so easy to eradicate.

Robin Pascoe is editor of