Those who live in the country will often claim that they could not stand to stay in London because of ‘all that noise’. But for a town mouse, the cockerel crowing at dawn, the cacophony of the dogs every time someone comes to the door, the roar of the combine harvester and the incessant chirruping of birds before breakfast is more disruptive than a collective of emergency vehicles responding to a call.
So I was delighted to hear about a £1 million, three-year research project to build a database of noises that improve the environment, to help architects create cities that will be music to the inhabitants’ ears. Good noise, apparently, includes the obvious (a baby laughing) and the far out (skateboarders in underground car parks). I have always found the swish of cars passing in the night rather comforting, and the music of ice-cream vans makes me feel wonderfully grown-up now that I no longer need to rush out and buy a ’99’ every time I hear it. At least in town you expect to hear noise, so it’s never particularly disturbing; but in the country, one is all too alert to things that go bump in the night. Boo!