We are a quiet pair living as we do down a lane and away from even village life. Our neighbours are equally quiet - I am deaf anyway - so there is little to disturb our peace. If the owls are calling when the farmer goes out with Tess late at night he comes in, tells me to put my hearing aid back in - and I go out to listen. But that is a beautiful sound in a silent background. I suppose you could say that there is a difference between sound and noise, although where one ends and the other begins is possibly a matter of opinion.
Reading Ronald Blythe over my morning coffee this morning (oh thank you Ronald Blythe - how often you provide me with a blog topic) I was interested to read what he had to say about farms and the noise there used to be. I related this to our own farm.
The farmer is one of six children and they were brought up to help and to do their share of the work - the boys outside and the girls to help with the baking, the hens, the making of the butter and cheese etc. I have to say that they have grown up to be very capable indeed - they put me to shame. (When I first started 'going out' with the farmer (we have been married for nineteen years and married a few years after I retired from inner city teaching) his mother remarked that she could see from my hands that I had done little work!!
So I thought back to what sound/noise there would be on our farm in those early days. They worked the fields with two horses, who were stabled quite near the house; they reared turkeys for the Christmas table, again quite near the house as this was a job for the farmer's wife; they had a dairy herd and the milking parlour is only a short distance from the back door; there would be machinery, animals, children shouting and playing, buckets rattling, turkeys gobbling, the sounds of the butter churn. I suspect there was rarely silence.
Now all that has gone and usually there is silence here. The farmer does a few jobs around the fields - mending fences, cutting the grass for silage and hay, looking after sheep etc. but all a long way from the house and its environs. When he is indoors we chat, we read, we play Rummikub, we do jigsaw puzzles, we watch some television, we watch the birds outside the kitchen window, we do the gardens - both front flower garden and back veggie garden - but all these are quiet activities. I sometimes think that the house must wonder where all that sound has gone.
And even in the village it is quite rare to see children out playing and making a noise. I suppose they are in and sitting at their computers. When we were children we couldn't wait to get outside. At home we would play various complicated ball games even if we were alone - they entailed doing various moves with the ball against a ball (I think it was called something like 'seveners' - anybody remember it?), we would have a hop scotch chalked out on the ground, or we would go off down the river bank, collecting tadpoles to bring home in a jar, only to have the poor things die on us year after year (still, hope springs eternal), we would make dens in bushes and climb trees and often we would go off for the whole day with a picnic lunch.
Does this kind of thing still happen? Is there still the sound of childrens' voices in the countryside? Or do parents consider this kind of behaviour too dangerous these days? Is it so or do we imagine it so?
I am not saying I don't like the silence. I love it. But I wonder whether our old house feels the same.