My first experience of a barbecue, many decades ago, was not enjoyable – food which was not very satisfactorily cooked, served in a muddy park with nowhere to sit down. So I have never seen the attraction of this activity. Since I have lived in Rivermead, I have had several unpleasant experiences of being on the wrong end of someone else’s barbecue and over the years I have come to loathe barbecues heartily.
A good many years ago, possibly as many as twenty, or even thirty, someone set up a barbecue in the garden of the house next door (11 Uxbridge Road) and, since there was a south-westerly breeze that day, the fumes drifted into the flats on the south side of Block B. Although the weather was warm, I shut my balcony door and my windows in order to prevent any build-up of fumes inside the flat. I hoped they would never repeat the event, but decided that if they did, I would have to get in touch with them to persuade them never to do it again. Well, it never did happen again and I hope it never does.
A more worrying, indeed frightening, incident occurred some years later, probably in the early 2000s. The then subtenants of the ground-floor flat below mine set up a barbecue on the lawn, between the rowan tree and the driveway. It was a very hot, still day and I had my door and windows open to try to get a draught going through my flat. The fumes rose from the barbecue, cooling all the while, and ran out of steam more or less level with my flat. The draught I had created picked them up and brought them straight into my flat. The stench was appalling. For a short while it is mainly the smell of the accelerant, which is rather like that of a paraffin-wax candle which has just been snuffed, but lasts rather longer. Then the more dominant smell is an unpleasantly dry one reminiscent of badly burnt toast. However, the worst was yet to come. I quickly found that I was suffocating. No doubt the charcoal had taken most of the oxygen out of the air passing over it. I guess the result was carbon dioxide, but if there had been any carbon monoxide, I could have been poisoned as well as suffocated. I quickly shut my door and windows and retreated to my bedroom, where, fortunately, there was clean air. The next day I dropped a note though the door of their flat and received an embarrassed apology.
Thereafter I thought the fad had gone out of fashion, and so I was rather surprised to receive a complaint in late 2006 from a resident of Block A that people had been using barbecues behind that block, in a position where I could not see this happening from my flat. The resident wished to propose a motion banning barbecues at the 2007 AGM. I promised that I would support a motion for a new regulation, and indeed I did and the motion was carried. Generally speaking, I am loath to support motions to vary the lease, but in this instance I did so enthusiastically.
However, this was not the end of the story. On one occasion a subtenant lit a barbecue under the balcony of the same resident. They complained to the perpetrator, who refused to comply with the regulation, and so I had to deal with that matter. Since then barbecues have been lit on the lawn of Block B on two occasions. One perpetrator refused aggressively to comply with my request and I decided that if the offence were repeated I would require summary eviction. In the other case, the subtenant involved complied immediately and apologetically.