Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Noise Action Day

Little known fact: Today is Noise Action Day. That's right, May 22nd, you've been hiding from the extensive press coverage, but I tell the truth. I found this out by seeing a Brent Council poster near Kilburn tube station.

Initially, I figured the implication of NOISE ACTION day was that we all had to try our hardest to make a lot of noise. On reflection (hard in Kilburn, you can't hear yourself think; there's always a lot of police cars going by any time of the day or night), I realised that it was an environmental health/noise programme. Noise is blighting our lives.

I've made a choice to live in an urban, noisy area, and the background buzz of sirens, drunks, cars getting smashed, articulated lorries rumbling by is the soundscape to my life. I feel surprised by true silence; last summer, up a mountain in Phongsali, the northernmost province of Laos (don't go there, believe me), I realised that for probably the first time in my life it was utterly silent. The sound of one hand clapping and all that.

There's internal silence and external silence. So I feel reassured by the sounds of my old fashioned technology; I hate how digital stuff doesn't make a noise. My wind-up alarm clock ticks, loudly. I like that. My new bakelite clock makes a reassuring low-key whirring sound. It comforts me. When my boiler comes on in the morning, it makes waking-up sounds that remind me it works and that I don't have to get British Gas men round in abundance to fix it, and I say I silent prayer of thanks. When I was a headhunter and we moved offices, we had lengthy conversations about spending £20,000 on buying some white noise, becuase we were all too English to make genuine office sounds.

And internal noise; I joke with T about meditation (he's heavily into yoga), and how I have 450 conversations going on in my head at any one time (random sample: "she's thin","did I pay the gas bill","does he like me","will I ever get a job","she shouldn't be wearing those trousers"). He says he's got his down to 175. But it's still noisy in there.

So. Enjoy Noise Action day. But be quiet out there.

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