Silence Is Silver - Barry Hill

Silence is Silver


Being blind, my primary sense is hearing, but it’s a double edged sword to have good hearing.  Yes, it’s great to use when I need it, but I can’t turn it off when I don’tIt would be so useful to have a switch to turn it off at inconveneient times.  Next door’s dog barking incessently? Click.  Baby in your favourite café crying piteously? Click.  Wife nagging? Click.  Still, I’m mostly resigned to the fact that I have no option but to hear in constant surround sound, but I feel that our green and pleasant land has got much, much noisier in the past decade or so. 


I know there’s more traffic on the roads, but it’s not ‘traffic’ as a whole that bugs the snot out of me; its individual vehicles that I take issue with.  There was a time when you took your car to the garage if it was making a terrible noise like there was a hole in the exhaust the size of a dinner plate, but Clarkson and his mates on Top Gear have made the roar of a car engine fashionable.  Like a male lion on the Savannah it seems that the louder the roar, the more the driver believes that he is king of the urban jungle.  Incidentally, why do they call the lion the king of the jungle?  They don’t live in jungles, they live on savanas.  Perhaps it’s reputation.  The tiger heard about this other big cat and thought, “I’m not messing with that ‘ard bastard”.


I can’t deny that on TV it sounds great when Clarkson goes flat out in a Ferrari down a runway, but the only people impressed by a grunt engine on wheels cruising around the town centre on a Saturday afternoon is the Smug arse-hole driving the massive carbon footprint.  I don’t agree with big game hunting, but I do wish for an elephant gun to shoot the car dead.  Roar… kaboom… wheeze… sob sob.  When I here loud bangs as a car roars down the road behind my house, I do get my hopes up on a regular basis that someone else has had the same idea and is taking pot shots at some arse in a sports car. This road comes off cobbles and goes relatively straight for about half a mile before hitting the bend under the bridge.  “Bang bang, bang” it goes.  Either it is someone who is a lousy shot (the car always seems to get away) or it is popping and banging that happens when the fuel isn’t all burned up in the engine and instead ignites in the exhaust.  So, even if the elephant gun doesn’t get ‘em, I can hope that an exploding exhaust has a chance of cutting down that particularly annoying gene pool to a claim that would pay for some insurance brokers next holiday in Florida.


To add to the cacophony of growling engines, we have the boom-boom of music blaring out of open car windows as they cruise the town centre regardless of the weather.  


Note to arsehole: Let’s make it clear: WE DON’T WANT TO LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC.  You might want to crank up the volume until your ears bleed and ruin your hearing in middle age, but I’d rather not.  If I wanted to listen to that sort of music, I’d sit next to a washing machine with boots and cutlery in it on a slow spin whilst listening to shite poetry at double speed.  Actually, I don’t mind some rap music, but that wouldn’t be funny.


There also seems to be a recent fashion for motorbikes with an engine the size of a small house that sound like a 747 taking off.  The size of those engines mean they can only be ridden by someone who wouldn’t be able to stop a pig in an alley.  What’s the point?  Surely big enough is, well, big enough.  Anything else is just like putting a balcony on a bungalow.  You could use it, but there’d be no point.


The worst offenders for the howling machine on wheels are quad bikes.  What the hell are they doing on the roads?  Surely, amongst the apparently strict criteria for a vehicle to be road worthy there should be some sort of regulation on noise output.  Are you listening Edwin Poots?  Mr Poots MP was the Environment Minister at the time of writing.  Never heard of him?  Neither had I until I looked him up.  I bet he’s not pestered by quad bikes.  Actually, there is good news on this front.  Well, a hint of a glimmer of some small hope at least.  The Government have been carrying out trials with sound cameras to snap noisy vehicles in a similar way to speed cameras.  I can live in hope.


It’s not just traffic that spoils the tranquillity of a sunny day.  Ok, looking outside now you’d think that the summer was a distant memory, but you know what happens as soon as the sun comes out.  Let me paint an audio picture.  I’m lying in my deckchair taking in a few rays on a sunny Sunday morning.  The birds are singing and I can hear some children playing merrily in a paddling pool some gardens away.  Ah, bliss.  All of a sudden, the peace is shattered by my neighbour starting up what sounds like a Harrier Jump Jet.  Ok, perhaps the hover mower he uses isn’t that loud, but it’s certainly not pleasant and conducive to an idyllic Sunday morning.  Now, I’m old enough to remember when the strum of a hand mower being pushed up and down the lawn and the clip clip of garden sheers on a bush just added to the idyllic summer sounds.  But now, when the sun comes out, so does the electric lawnmower, strimmer, hedge cutters, and untold garden power tools.  


I suppose I could hide away from it all in my own home, shutting my doors and windows … you’d think.  

Like most people, I enjoy relaxing in front of the TV now and then.  I set the volume to a comfortable level whilst I watch repeats of Top Gear on Dave.  All’s well until the adverts come on then the sound seems to rocket up to full volume.  Perhaps it’s so we can hear them while we are in the kitchen making a cuppa or upstairs on the toilet, or up in the attic looking for the elephant gun.  I scrabble for the remote control to hit mute then get distracted.  By the time I’ve remembered that it’s on mute the programme has started again and I’ve just missed what happened following the pre-advert cliff-hanger.  Thank goodness for live rewind.


In most aspects, I’m dreading going deaf in old age but at least it would give me some bloody peace.


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