Sunday, 27 July 2008

Whistling The Planet Goodbye

The whistle of the Kärcher makes it easy to forget that the air is only just smelling like air again since all the barbeques and outdoor fuel heaters of the night before. The whistling hasn’t stopped for nearly three hours now. It’s an incessant tone like something dreamed up by the CIA for interrogating Iraqi shoe salesmen. I’m in the mood for talking. I’ll gladly tell them where the guns are buried if only to make that noise stop.

Not that the Kärcher is the only means of loosening my lips this fine hot Sunday morning in the middle of July. Babies scream, children shout, motorbikes are being revved by grease-smeared teenagers preparing for an off-road scramble across the local beauty spot. A guy across the road is fixing up his car, which is not so much a means of transport but a nuclear powered beat box with a bass unit in the back bigger than the engine in the front. It’s a strange inversion of purpose. He plays music light on lyrics but heavy in the amount of energy it pumps into the ground. The house’s foundations shake. I feel my teeth loosen. I grow a day older with each rhythmic intrusion. Judy is not happy.

The roads around here are thick with cars but the pavements are free of feet. Pedestrians are in the road, trying not to get clipped by the 4x4s. All the pavements are blocked off by Jeeps parked across the path. Woman push prams through the traffic because people with long empty drives don’t want to park their brand new cars in any spot other than where they close off the pavement. Straight across. Nose up to the garden gate. A six foot wall of selfishness, consumerism, and spite. A car completely blocks a mother’s path and I watch her push her pram across the verge, over the high kerb, and then down into the road to avoid the parked car. It’s her fault, I suppose, for choosing to walk, not having a car, or not having a 4x4 pram with beat box and intercontinental used nappy disposal unit.

As the sun begins to warm the day, tempers fray. A fight breaks out somewhere nearby. It comes to us on the light breeze like some black-winged butterfly bringing bad news. I welcome it as butterflies aren’t to be seen this year. All the gardeners have dug up their lawns and plants. They’ve cut down their trees. Gravel is this year’s grass and plants are twisted pieces of ironwork in the shape of a large heron bought from Homebase along with the patio heaters, the outdoor furniture, sleeping cherubs, decking, and solar lamps that burn throughout the night and deny me the darkness I need to see the stars. The world is being consumed by Homebase. It’s the name of the End. The Doom Bringer. The Destroyer of Worlds.

It’s coming up to noon and the trees now come into bloom; parasols in orange, green, gold. The neighbour comes out. His shirt is off, his large Christ tattoo indistinct against his brown tan of his sun lamped back. He climbs up to his decking with his can of lager, his oven-ready meal, his packet of cigarettes, and he takes command of his deckchair beneath his gold parasol. He mutters a few words about all the noise. ‘Terrible,’ he says. ‘You’d think people would think about their neighbours.’ He then fires up his radio to drown out the sound of the hundred others beneath their parasols and the Kärchers, the beat boxes, the babies, the bikers, the bad news butterflies.

England begins another selfish summer when you either join in or you suffer. The rule of the game is simple: make more noise that your neighbour, consume more power, burn more fuel, drive faster, drive further, park more erratically, shout more loudly, drink more, eat more, smoke more. Have fun as you whistle the planet goodbye.

8 comments:

Selena Dreamy said...

Gosh, Richard, I missed all that.

You’ll be shocked and scandalized to hear that I’ve been lying on my back all afternoon, under a shady oak-tree in a yellow field of wheat in balmy Hertfordshire, thinking of you descending to me through the clouds on a silver chariot like some Teutonic hero-god to the strains of Wagner...

Black Cat said...

It's been comparatively quiet here in steamy Hove Actually. It must be the heat and humidity making everyone feel as lazy as I do.

elberry said...

Excellent misanthropy, sir.

i'm lucky enough to live in a rich man's area, very quiet.

Dick Madeley said...

Selena, that's quite the powerful day dream. I hope you've recovered.

Black cat, ah to be in Hove. Actually, to be anywhere but here with the noise, the dogs, the neighbours. And I'm not even talking Ronnie Corbett. I mean the other neighbours.

Elberry, thank you. I wish I were in a rich man's area. It's why I love the winter. It sounds terribly miserable of me, I know, but this isn't a happy place to be when it's sunny and everybody sits out on the front drinking late into the evening with their patio heaters on full burn.

Black Cat said...

Richard, if preferring the winter means one is miserable, then I'm miserable! I'm sitting here with steam coming out of my ears counting the days until it might be cool again...

Dick Madeley said...

Black Cat, amen to that. I find it next to impossible to work in the summer. I have to get up early, scribble my nonsense as quickly as I can before the sun comes up. I then just endure the heat until dusk. I wouldn't mind but I've been enjoying the summer with all the cloud and rain.

Richard Havers said...

Sir Dick, I've found the best solution to scribbling in summer is to have a study on the dark side of the house, which living in the Scottish hills could be any and every side most of the time.

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