I have come to the conclusion that noise is the one thing that will destroy all relationships in life.

We’re all more or less sensitive to it; but for some it is the element that pushes us over the edge and causes rational beings to snap.

Case in point: how do you have a vital village without having the noise associated with businesses? Everyone wants to be able to walk outside and get their bread every morning, or run down the street to the butcher shop to pick up something for lunch. But having businesses means that you’re going to have noise.

Bakers bake in the middle of the night, their machinery is loud. They have “things” that run with loud motors. If you happen to live right next door to the bakery, the sounds are gonna get you. Especially during the warmer months when people want to keep their windows open. So, which is worse: being hot inside or having the noise of the bakery coming through your window?

Same thing with the butcher shop: commercial refrigeration units have powerful motors. It’s impossible to keep the food cold any other way.

There are also the people who come to shop in their cars, stop in the middle of the street without really parking and leave their engines running while they make their purchases. That makes for a powerful combination of noise and pollution.

But what about the neighbors? I think it’s really a dilemma without an answer. Personally, I’m not bothered by either of these things (well, the badly parked cars with their engines running are annoying), but I know people who are. Not being able to get a good night’s sleep because of the noises makes people go a little crazy I think.

During the day, the worst noises in any village, in my opinion, come from the hideous little motorbikes that the kids tinker with to make them even noisier than they are to begin with. If you have them circling a village where the sound is trapped between old stone walls creating an amplifying tunnel, I assure you that you dream of knocking them over with a big stick. If you are trying to watch television or talk on the phone, you have to actually stop what you’re doing because it is impossible to hear anything.

Now that, unlike the motors of the various businesses, is actually illegal. The problem is that you can’t have a police force dedicated to doing nothing but give tickets to noise offenders. All of these things depends on individual civility and a certain sense of neighborliness.

Also, when you have village houses that share walls, you are also faced with shared noises. I know of a case where an elderly neighbor swears that he hears the people next door to him doing construction work in the middle of the night, which they swear they do not do. My guess is that the wooden stairs amplify the volume of their footsteps and that is what he hears and misinterprets. Because he has health and insomnia problems, this has seriously impacted his relationship with these people. It has now become an insurmountable issue and they have, understandably, given up trying to make nice.

Unfortunately, what happens is that the “offended” party becomes angry from the noise and then lashes out either verbally or otherwise. Things tend to degenerate from that point. My guess is that there are feuds in every village in France (and elsewhere) that have started and lasted for years because of the issue of noise.

So, can we do anything to resolve this? I don’t think so beyond a certain point. JM and I have changed our television viewing habits: moving the TV away from the wall, making sure the sound is not too high, not watching (most of the time) after a certain hour. Our neighbors also make an effort to not be overly loud.

But we all have to live, as does the village. If we wrap ourselves in cotton wool, we miss out on more than we gain and we will all be the poorer for it.

Ciao for now.


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3 thoughts on “Noise

  1. people who live in villages/towns/cities often fantasize about moving to the country and living The Quiet Life. i am here to disabuse them of that quaint notion.

    we live on a small sheep ranch in oregon, about a mile outside of the nearest town. sounds idyllic, no? peaceful? quiet?

    our place fronts on a road that is the main artery between several lumber mills and logging centers in the mountains and the larger towns and cities where the wood goes for shipping. lumber trucks and logging trucks — enormous dinosaurs rumbling and whining and belching exhaust fumes — thunder past day and night. even “sound deadening” windows do little to quiet that.

    the people on neighboring farms are constantly SHOOTING. at what (or at whom)? maybe best not to know. but that tends to set off our LGDs, Livestock Guardian Dogs, who are ever on the alert for anything that might bring harm to their sheep. the LDGs begin barking up a storm when they hear the shots. the Border Collies, who live in the house with us, hear that barking and assume something is going on; so rather than be left out, they set up a racket as well, just to show that no one is putting anything over on them.

    sirens go off now and then: field fires that get out of hand, county sheriffs in hot pursuit of evildoers (speeders, mostly, though they never seem to catch the speeding logging trucks), ambulances. and what do dogs do when they hear sirens? right, they harmonize. a chorus of howls begins as soon as they hear the siren, which is usually long before i hear it, and continues until they get sick of howling or i go out roaring CEASE! CEASE THIS HOWLING!!!!

    and last but not least, the chickens! usually they hang out around the barn and in the fields near the barn, no problem. but this summer two of the hens and one rooster decided to take up residence in the front yard, most often right under our office and bedroom windows! they cackle, they cluck, they warble and practice scales and make sounds that no other hen ever makes. and the rooster, well… let me just say that he feels his job is not limited to sexual harassment of the hens and the announcement of dawn, but he has generalized to crowing pretty much all day, just to keep in practice.

    want to move to the nice quiet country? give it a little thought first!

    • You are so right, Rave. It actually IS noisier in our village than it was in a suburban neighborhood in L.A. most of the time. Yes, there were gardening implements and the occasional helicopter flyover or space shuttle landing, but usually it was pretty darned quiet.

      However, I wouldn’t trade a minute of our noisy life here for the quiet of suburban L.A.!

  2. Yes, we all have our noises to bear, don’t we? Still, here in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles, our worst noise is the leaf-blowers and the helicopters. But in the twilight, we hear grey owls hooting, the screech of the red-tail hawks and the gentle murmur of the canyon breeze through the pines above our hill. (Coyotes also add their yipping periodically). Being in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is heaven for us. Our bakery is less than a mile away as well as groceries, but we hear none of that. Just more of a walkto get there!

    Now if we can just survive the water bill hikes, the never-ending fire season and the general cost-of-living increase (recession has hit area hard), we have no reason to leave!!

    As Paul Simon put it, “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”!!

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