I have a thing about ambient noise and modern life. I’m not a hippie-type but I do wonder if it’s possible to achieve inner peace without silence yet we’re surrounded by noise all the time. Right now, I can hear the hiss of pipes, the hum of the boiler, the gurgling dishwasher, the drone of an occasional car and the kids playing in the garden.
Okay, the kids were my choice but the rest of it comes from modern living and wanting all the conveniences of hot water, heating and transport, not to mention release from the drudgery of washing up.
I bought a house a few years ago and although I knew it was close to a motorway – very convenient for getting to work – I didn’t realise I’d be able to hear it from my garden on my days off. It was a faint but persistent drone and I steeled myself against getting het up about it – preferable to moving.
When I next moved, it was to the coast, two roads back from the beach road and at least a mile north of a four-lane A-road but when the prevailing winds blew in from the south-west, so did the noise of the cars.
Now, I live in a major town with the buses and the lorries, the shouty teenagers and rolling drunks, and the silencer-less motorbike that seems to circle the ring road endlessly. I prefer these differing sounds to a motorway drone, there’s a lyricism to it I enjoy, but where can I go for silence?
The parks and the woods are all near roads, as is the path along the river sandwiched between another A road and a railway line.
The beaches are so popular, even in winter, there’s no escaping the dogwalkers, cyclists, joggers, mums with pre-schoolers and the occasional nutter.
Even on holiday, now we go in school holidays, there are the ever-present hordes
of other families.
So last time, we booked the most remote secluded place we could find. A real retreat, an escape from it all. Three miles from the nearest village, fifteen miles from anything approaching a town; a lighthouse cottage in a row of six being refurbished, the only one to be finished so no other guests around, sitting on a headland surrounded by sea. A stunning location to escape the fatigues of modern life.
Only, what’s that I could hear? The waves crashing on the rocks below? The screech of gulls?
No, it was a definite hum coming from outside.
In the garden, I followed the source of the noise – the working lighthouse just outside the boundary was making a low vibrating whirr.
Obviously, I don’t want them to turn out the light but, please, for once, could we just keep the noise down?
PS. We prayed there would be no fog…