Friday, 20 January 2012

The Sound of Silence.

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.

21 comments:

Tom Stephenson said...

It's the smell of silence that gets me about rural life, Weaver - particularly during muck-spreading season. It must be hell on David Archer's farm at the moment.

I do agree though - 'Cider with Rosie' just could not be written these days, though 'Cider Down a back-street with Rosie' could.

Heather said...

Noise to me, is something which my ears don't like to hear. I don't think I would find all those farmyard sounds from years gone by, discordant. They would mean busy people caring for stock and the land and hopefully happy in their work. I'm glad if today's machines and technology make farming life easier but some machinery is not easy on the ear.
I can remember my Grandmother's dislike of new metal draining boards which replaced her old wooden ones. She couldn't bear the din that cutlery and metal pans made against them. As children we spent most of our time outside, weather permitting, and virtually lived in dens, played in the woods and generally ran wild. Happy days, and far more fun than being stuck indoors with computer games. Back then, Health and Safety hadn't been invented!

steven said...

a lovely telling of the story of sound weaver. i head into the woods for the kind of quiet that fills me up. steven

Elizabeth said...

We called the ball game "Sevens" and I was very good at it --(being rather a competitive type.)
I was also a whiz at jacks.
Now I like a video game called Same Physics where you zap adjacent balls.
Loved the description of the noises on a farm in days gone by, but whenever I start feeling nostalgic I think of Tess of the Durbervilles in her horrid cold field.

Gwil W said...

I love farmyard noises. The clank of the bucket the plaintive mooo from the stall, the tractor starting and so on. It's one of the reasons why I spend a week of B&B on a farm every year.

Pondside said...

It's completely silent here, on our road. Every so often there's the slipping and slushy sound of car tires on the road below. I can hear the flapping of the ravens wings as they fly above my head. I love the silence, but love, equally, the sounds of children playing outside, and one rarely hears that anymore.

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

Oh, you bring back memories...farming must be the same the world round. Sound was/is such an important part of rural living but I remember also the smell of the dirt. It smelled different in the area where I grew up. Working with my Father in the garden or riding along with him as he carved out country roads on the Cat he operated for the county, it's this rich, earthy smell of the earth as it is turned that I recall most. There were no chemicals added to the soils back then and successful farming meant crop rotation...wonder why they don't do that anymore? Anyway, thank you so much for making me remember. Lovely post.

angryparsnip said...

One of the reason I moved where I lived now is I wanted the quiet.
Living by the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach was a dream come true for me but with it came mass quantities of noisy and rude people at all hours of the day.
I had several choices when I moved to Tucson, of living in the city close to everything or move out to the foothills and live with less noise and people.
It was a hard choice but I love the quiet and of course all the wild animals.
Great post today.

cheers, parsnip

Everything Changes said...

Wonderful post. I was raised in Canada on a farm, and I share so many of those same memories. :-)

Titus said...

I spent summer holidays on my Uncle's Bob's farm, which had been Grandad's. Pig farm. Very, very, very noisy and I'm still deeply suspicious of geese.

And this very morning as I was sat outside the back door I felt like shouting, 'Shut up!'. The quantity of, and volume of the, small birds in my garden was incredible. Much quieter in the city. I was almost moved to a poem but it was too noisy to think.

ChrisJ said...

I love silence! It's good for my soul. Right now tyhe man of the house has gone out to buy a few things for around the house and now I can think clearly. Not that he makes such a great noise. I think I am just easily distracted.

Robin Mac said...

I think country places just have different 'noise' - I find it very peaceful, but I have had city dwellers visiting my sister's property and saying they can't sleep for the noises in the night!
We went off for the day as children and were even allowed to take matches to light a campfire to cook our sausage and potato for lunch! Workplace Health and Safety would have a fit today! We only had to be home by sunset - wonderful fun. Cheers

George said...

No one loves silence more than I. When I can't find it, I go someplace where it is assured. There's far too much noise pollution in the world.

Mary said...

I would love to hear the noise of children playing outside.....like we did......just so as I'd know they were getting exercise and fresh air!

Meanwhile, I now really enjoy quiet places and silence at home............I get satisfaction from just hearing the birds in the garden, don't even play music much anymore, except when in the car!

Dave King said...

We live beside a pedestrian square, so there are usually children playing out there, weather, school and homework permitting - though they don't seem to do a lot of homework. It becomes a nuisance at times with balls continually coming over the fence and the expectation that I am their unpaid ball boy. At the moment, though, we are coming to the end (I think!) of the scooter craze, so there have not been too may balls for a while. The younger children still play traditional and imaginative games (some of which have provided the material for poems), but the older ones are more difficult to divine.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for the comments. Glad to hear that at least children play out near to where Dave lives - although it would be nicer if they could go out into the countryside wouldn't it Dave?

sleepinl8 said...

A beautiful and sensory post. I am happy to say that, in the area I live, children still play outside constantly. Even into their teens, like me :) Although chasing kids around and getting pegged with balls doesn't necessarily appeal to me anymore, I do get outside when I can. Climbing trees, biking, hiking, and canoeing is more my outdoor style.

Grizz………… said...

I really enjoyed this post. In fact, I liked it so much I filched the theme and wrote my own take for Riverdaze. I hope that's okay. Let me know what you think.

The Solitary Walker said...

I really liked this post too, Pat. — effortless and compulsive to read. Thanks.

ArtPropelled said...

Your mention of the owl calling takes me back to our trip to England and several nights staying at a B&B in York. An owl woke us many times every night because we weren't used to the sound..... but I did enjoy lying awake listening to it.

Golden West said...

As children, we were great catchers of tadpoles, as well, only here we call them polliwogs. A few would make it to froghood and hop along, into my mother's garden, but most didn't make it that far - which was never a deterrent, by the way, to our intrepid ways. Good, simple times, remembered fondly.