Belfast Telegraph

It's time to drum up some support to ensure we get a quiet life again

By Robert McNeill

Oh, to be free of noise! It has become the impossible dream. Even in the deepest countryside, you can find yourself assailed by the racket of farmers, fish farmers, and weirdos with guns, not to the mention the ruddy wildlife, with their endless roaring and squawking.

And don't talk to me about the suburbs. Here in these northlands, the first cuts of the year have been made to lawns, resulting in the usual weekend aural recreations of the Battle of the Somme.

Many people dream of moving to a quiet suburb, where the first thing they do is create a din. It's long been my view, albeit held hypocritically from time to time, that horticulture and electricity don't mix. Nothing more satisfying than mowing under your own steam. Better than vacuuming the lawn.

In the city centre, you expect din. It can even be comforting. It tells you that life goes on. But, preferably, it doesn't go on right next door to you. And not with the rhythmic gumbie beat of recorded music that gets in among your soul and sets fire to your mind.

But, from Dame Helen Mirren to Lionel Messi, ordinary people are fighting back. Dame Helen, as you'll know (see column here yesterday), stormed out of a theatre where she was performing and – dressed as Her Majesty, a queen, – told festival revellers with drums to "shut the f*** up", according to one report.

Less well known is the story of footer player Messi, who dealt with the problem of noisy neighbours in Barcelona by simply buying their house. Oh, if only I'd stuck in at the football!

To have that wealth and power – how marvellous. Critics compare it to behaving like a "boss" but Lionel is really a nice guy and besides, for peace and quiet, most of us would pay any price. Mr Messi shelled out a million euros for his.

Mind you, his neighbours were a right shower. Not only did they suggest the idea of buying them out themselves, but they played loud music to make his life unbearable otherwise. And they rented their house out so that folk could gawp at the superstar. Yes, I'm familiar with the problem.

It's one thing people making noise unknowingly, but deliberately ramping it up is aural assault of the earlobes. As with Dame Helen, Northern Ireland knows all about drumming enthusiasts noising up the lieges.

There are intimate connections between ignorance and noise, and between silence and wisdom.

Not that an entirely silent world would be wise. But all we're asking for is respite. Well, two things we're asking for: respite and consideration, since the first is dependent on the second.

That's particularly the case with noisy neighbours who, in any decent society, would have their electronic equipment ceremonially burned by the authorities.

Even Little Englander Max Hastings, usually the braying voice of the ignorant mob, has quietly added his voice to calls for peace. The Gussie Fink-Nottle look-alike notably fingers, among other things, "the screeching alarms on rubbish trucks" for wakening up the citizenry at unsociable hours.

All part of modern life which, as popsters Blur correctly noted, is "rubbish". Ironically, young persons often want to make a noise, as if to let the world know they've arrived.

That's good. Thanks for the heads-up, kids. Now can it.

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