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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ssssssh!






We tell people that we now live in a quiet residential area as opposed to the tourist ‘centre’ of Castelldefels in which we lived previously.

As far as it goes that is indeed correct, but it leaves out all those elements which make living here a much more complex audio experience than living in an overtly noisy area.

Here it is amazing just how noisy doves can be. Their incessant cooing is enough to drive anyone to wakefulness and, as there are trees directly outside the bedroom their perches mean that we have a reliable alarm clock. The monotony of their call is only soothing for a matter of seconds before it gets irritating.

The trees on which these obstreperous doves hang out are pines. Pines have pine needles. Needles which fall and create a springy layer of vegetation – a layer I understand which was the surface on which the original Scandinavian joggers ran, the cushioned effect counteracting the deleterious action on the knees of that unnatural form of running. And no, it has not given me any ideas for emulating our northern neighbours.

Fallen pine needles look rather picturesque to me but they are obviously anathema to others around us. This is because we are in a ‘high pool density’ area and pine needles do not go well with gentle exercise in the chlorinated pool. They therefore have to be cleared up. Most people in this area pay a community charge to ensure that the pool person also clears the extraneous needles. They do this not by the restful swish of an old fashioned brush but rather by using a hand held wind machine which blows all the needles into piles so that they can be collected easily. The noise that this machine produces makes the silence when it is turned off eerily unnatural and creates an almost unbearable tension as you wait for the noise to restart.

Then there are the circular saws. At some point during the early morning someone somewhere will start up one of those intrusive machines. By the length of time that it is used and the shrieking of metal on metal one has to assume that the reconstruction of a whole dwelling place is being attempted. But again the silence at the eventual end of the operation is something to savour.

Traffic is traffic and apart from those Neanderthals who remove the silencers from their motorbike exhausts it is reasonable. The refuse collection in the early hours of the morning however is not. These lorries are specially designed to wake up even the most profound of sleepers. And, if you can sleep through the throaty roar of the machine itself then the accompanying bangs as the refuse containers are hoisted into position to deposit their rubbish and the health thwack of the containers against the lorry designed to remove the last vestiges of filth from the inside will ensure that as they depart you are fully awake.

The gates in the immediate vicinity of our house are specially designed in two parts so that there is a necessity to give a forceful push to release the gate from the rest of the structure to facility your egress. This gives movement to the other part of the gate which emits metallic clunks as it sways from side to side.

The clunking sounds usually stir to action the barking instincts in the ‘dogs’ by which (my choice of pronoun) we are surrounded. You have to understand that the noble genus canus has found its most degraded forms in our vicinity. The deranged nightmares which masquerade as pets in this area are worthy denizens of some of the more extreme paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. The stick limbs barely supporting a virtually hairless body surmounted by a goggle eyed head flanked with ragged bat ears (which is a fairly common description for most of the beasts which are lovingly carried by doting owners in this area) make a mockery of their shared derivation from the wolf! And their ‘barks.’

The monotonous baying of some sort of hound or the full throated bark of a real dog would be a positive delight compared to the various forms of emasculated squeal that pass for dogs’ warnings in this part of Castelldefels. Two dogs at the end of our street scream when other dogs pass; a solitary creature yaps for minutes on end for no particular reasons and there is some life-form near us which reacts with a sort of abbreviated dog cough to any extraneous sound.

Sometimes I can even believe the Disney fantasy of dogs talking to each other across the city when one emasculated ‘bark’ triggers of another and so on until we have an unholy chorus of the damned. And who can blame them if they ever get a chance to see themselves and realize that they are the denizens of the Island of Doctor Moreau come to horrible life. I would slaughter the lot of them – and probably the owners too for choosing to perpetuate the debased race of rat dogs by buying these monstrosities and encouraging breeders to produce ever more grotesque ‘flat-friendly’ noisy monsters to infest our streets. And don’t get me started on their tiny but disgusting poos which litter our streets!

But it is the humans who provide most of the intrusive noise in this area. I know that humans are the ones opening gates and operating chain saws and driving trucks and molly-coddling rat-dogs but it is the way that they communicate that irritates me.

Spanish people, as I have mentioned before in what must seem like a racist generalization, do not listen. This means that when they speak they are not listening to anyone else so they see no need to modify their contributions by creating an area of silence for a reply. So everyone speaks at once. Television chat shows are oral anarchy and are best avoided. As no one listens to anyone else and as everyone is trying to speak above everybody else as well you can imagine the level of pure noise which is generated.

What goes for a game show goes for domestic ‘conversation’ as well, so very often it is difficult to tell is having a pleasant conversation or arguing to the death: very confusing for the well brought up Briton to tolerate.

In the summer, given the heat many families like to transfer their domestic living to the outside. In houses this is fine as there is space to have a summer kitchen, barbecue and chairs. In flats it is a little more diffi8cult but balconies can be fitted out quite satisfactorily with the requirements for refined living outside the house. The only thing which is not catered for is the noise which is produced.

Our neighbours on the left (as opposed to the discrete Frenchman on the right) obviously think themselves and the heart and soul of our area and celebrate nightly with raucous delight in the area under their house. Here they have installed a television and the area is enhanced by sofas so the whole family can ignore an over-loud television while trying to impose their voices in a cacophony of competing contributions. The daughter of the house is a ‘popular’ girl and has a large coterie of devoted pimply admirers. She does not seem to have many girl friends. Her voice is heard well into the small hours and she sleeps late as we can clearly hear her loud voiced parents (whom she treats with undisguised contempt) pleading with her to get up in the early afternoon. Their friends, relatives and acquaintances are as noisy as the nuclear family so the only thing that is keeping us going is the scrap of information they have given us that they only live here for a few months of the year. Roll on their return to the city of Barcelona!

I have bought a bike. Again. I have reasoned that it is pointless to harbour boiling homicidal resentment against those avaricious, selfish, criminal bastards that stole my last bike so I forked out another 300€ for another bike exactly like the one which was stolen by people who I hope have been crushed into the asphalt by lorries of many axels leaving only a shapeless mess on the road they were defiling with my stolen wheels. But I credit myself with not wasting time by feeling bitter towards the mindless, opportunistic low-life that imperilled their immortal souls by taking that which was not theirs. No, I remain serene only regretting that I do not follow the path of The Prophet which might have given me the opportunity to issue a fatwa against them or to proclaim jihad against the larcenous youth of Castelldefels.

So, the new bike is of gleaming silver (Hi! Ho! Away!) and this time I have noted any number which looks remotely significant so that I have solid documentary evidence to convict the filth that dares to take this one.

On a more practical note I am also going to get household insurance – something I was meaning to do but, alas, left it too late to be effective.

There is a lesson there.
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