WHAT YOU'LL FIND ON THIS BLOG

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Reasons why Fran is currently hiding in her front living room with the door shut



I like general noise. I work best when in cafes, surrounded by the hubbub of gossip, coffee machines, the clink of cups. At night, I often drift off to sleep with Radio 4's Book at Bedtime murmuring in my ear. Silence worries me and makes me restless.

However, there are some noises I can't tolerate. Let us talk about them.

1. My husband using the pressure cooker

My husband makes stock if we have chicken bones left over or sometimes puts a soup together with all the root veg from his allotment. He likes to use the pressure cooker but he knows to warn me before it starts the hissing phase.  I have to know the exact time because I hate to be taken by surprise by that hissing: it makes me want to slap people. Maybe it's some kind of primal warning system of danger - a throwback to long ago (hissing serpents ... temptation ... No, Eve, don't DO it!) but that hissing noise crawls under my skin. I've typed 'hissing' several times now and it's recreating the tension in my chest; my heart is beating faster. When the pressure cooker is h ... making that noise it makes, I go to the other end of the house and turn a radio on, hoping it's not this song that's playing.






2. Clicking pens

Some years ago, I began a new teaching job. A class of fourteen year olds resented having a different teacher and one way they communicated this was by clicking their ballpoint pens on and off in the lessons. I won't judge them too harshly and perhaps it was cosmic justice; I was a pain in the butt to teachers as a fourteen year old and clearly remember humming at the back of the room or tapping a ruler, just to rile the poor man or woman doing their best to teach me about coastal erosion.

My Year 9 class must have googled 'Things that will drive Mrs Hill crazy-crazy' because they were spot-on. It would begin five minutes into the lesson. Click. Click. Click-click-click. Clickety-click. They did it under the tables, but gradually I isolated the noise to a group of girls on the left-hand side of the classroom.

'Someone is clicking a pen,' I'd say, trying to stay detached despite every nerve ending in my body screaming RESCUE ME FROM THIS TORTURE. 'In fact, several of you are. Stop it now, because if I find out you're doing it on purpose just to be disruptive, I will dangle you from the classroom window until you beg for mercy  put you into a detention in which you will complete exercises on the semi-colon.'

The only thing that stopped it was, sure enough, to catch someone at it and keep them behind, however much they protested that they'd 'done it by accident'. This, combined with some jokes of mine they found vaguely amusing, and a few bags of Jelly Babies, saw an end to it. We got on with some Shakespeare instead of reenacting High Noon with stationery items.

But it's like a trigger. If I hear a pen clicking, my toes curl up like a jester's. That posse of mutinous girls psychologically damaged me. One day I will talk to a therapist about it, if I can find a way of starting a conversation about penclickyphobia.

3. Our new boiler

Let me introduce you to our new boiler. We are calling it 'The Moaner'.  Our landlord kindly put in a new central heating system for us just before Christmas but it involved taking away our old boiler (whom we are now calling Our Old Silent Friend). Our Old Silent Friend was in the kitchen and provided warmth and a listening ear should one have had no one else to talk to about one's problems.

The Moaner has been installed upstairs in an airing cupboard. It's in the bedroom I use for my study. This is the Moaner's daily itinerary:

7-10.30 am - Switch on. Get on with business without causing too much disruption.
10.30 am -  Start moaning, quietly at first.
11.00 am -  Build up the moaning to a crescendo, hitting the top note (werewolf) at around 11.30.
The rest of the day until the heating goes off at 10pm - keep the werewolf impression going, but make him sound hungrier and hungrier.

Have we had the gas man round? Yes, three times. Has he mended it? Yes, each time he says he's mended it. Has he really? No, despite his best efforts and we're most grateful (if you're reading this, Jason). What's going to happen now? Someone from the boiler company is coming this Wednesday.

Since the Moaner moved in, my study has been off-limits. I have a spacious pine desk by a window overlooking ancient trees and it's my favourite place in the house now. It's where I read, write or mark when I'm not in cafes making a cappucino and a free biscotti last four hours. The Moaner, of course, knew all this. Maybe he also Googled 'Things that will drive Mrs Hill crazy-crazy.'

If we sit in our downstairs back room directly underneath the airing cupboard where the Moaner lives, we can hear him, werewolfing away above our heads. I am sure our next-door neighbours can hear the noise. They are probably saying, right now, 'Do you think they've trapped a live animal behind a wall like that man did in that Edgar Allen Poe story The Black Cat? Should we call the RSPCA?'

No, I'd like to say to them. Call me a therapist. I'm going crazy-crazy here, almost crazy enough to say to my husband, 'Make a soup, for heaven's sake. We have to drown it out somehow.'

'The Black Cat' by Poe. A fabulous but disturbing short story. Recommended.
Warning: Do not teach this to eleven-year-olds without re-reading it very carefully.
They don't sleep for weeks.
I found that out the hard way. 



26 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I am touched. You feel my pain.

      Delete
  2. Your Moaner is a sibling to next door's borehole pump, the Howler.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You have your heating on ALL DAY????? We live in the frozen north and ours is on morning and evening unless we have guests. Your poor Moaner is just exhausted, and no wonder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is probably because you ARE from the frozen North that you are so hardy and stoic. We have lived for 25 years in London and now are in Warwickshire. This, to us, is the frozen North.

      Delete
  4. My crazy is your blog background. There are no titles on the books and I'm a person who will turn a lifestyle magazine 360 degrees to read what people have on the shelves. I am staring straight ahead now trying not to move my eyes in any direction and a moaner would send me right over the edge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'm sorry - they are kind of 'ghost' books, aren't they? Now you've pointed it out, I too am a bit spooked by it. Thanks for commenting, anyhow!

      Delete
  5. It's probably a lemon and needs to be replaced. With compensation for weeks and weeks of stress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, compensation ... that could solve a few problems.

      Delete
  6. That noise sounds horrible. Fingers crossed you can either get it fixed or get your silent friend back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, OSC. It is indeed horrible but is becoming a way of life ('There she blows ..') in a kind of 'war mentality' way in which you just begin to put up with disruption.

      Delete
  7. We had our chimney capped with one of those pepperpot things. Wheen the wind blows hard from the north, as it frequently does here, we get an ever increasing flute playing noise. Drives us mad at night as it's directly above our bed in our under-eaves bedroom. Though husband thinks it's getting more tuneful with practice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha - I really identify with this. My husband is a musician and he's identified its main note as an E. Sometimes it switches to F, he says, or even an F sharp at its worst.

      Delete
  8. I searched the house high & low for a noise I could hear which no one else could. I checked electrical appliances, looked out for farm machinery in the distance and I paced the house in the middle of the night. Then I came to the horrible realisation that the noise was mine only... in my ears - Tinnitus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arrgh, no! Tinnitus is horrid, horrid. I have friends with it. Was it temporary? *hopes*

      Delete
    2. I've got used to it now. I have just read The Black Cat you mention and am feeling rather disturbed !

      Delete
    3. Poe is the master of tension, but, yes, it is a disturbing story. I'm chuffed to bits, though, that someone read something I'd recommended. I try that trick at school and, more often than not, zilch.

      Delete
  9. Our boiler has three noises: woomph, tick-tick, and a steady hum. I've learned to block them all out. Good luck with yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your boiler sounds positively eclectic. Moaner's noise is not one you can block out. It is driving us bonkers. 'The man' is coming tomorrow. We place all our hope in him.

      Delete
  10. What a pity you can't put sounds in with your words on the written page...lol ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jinksy, if I had that noise coming out of my laptop as well I think I would actually need some kind of long-term treatment.

      Delete
  11. Ghastly ... poor you . May it be mended by tomorrow .
    I can be reduced to tears in moments by whistlers or sniffers ... though at least they can't be done simultaneously ( don't try , by the way . You'll choke .)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, now, I'm a whistler. I dare say nothing.

      Delete
  12. Lovely lovely lovely to find out that there are other people who have pet hate noises. Mine are the dripping overflow pipe and the hum of the strip lights in my classroom. I turn them off whenever I can. 'What do you mean you can't see the page? Natural light is good for you.' Love your posts :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, no, to humming strip lights. Who needs that kind of annoyance in a classroom full of small children?!

      Delete