The other morning I just caught the end of a radio programme about disappearing noises, milk floats, the ching of cash registers, police car sirens and the like. That set me thinking about what sounds played in the background of my childhood.
When very small, and not allowed beyond the bounds of our garden, I remember the sound of my Dad’s circular saw working in the tiny sawmill next to our cottage. He worked as a forester for the National Trust and I can also remember the whine of chain saws coming from the woods. I wasn’t scared by these sounds, they were just the background to everyday life.
The noise that scared the wits out of me was the spooky coo of wood pigeons. And the woods round our house was just full of the wretched birds. (Just like my allotment, D **n them!)
My big sister, who went to school and therefore knew everything, told me they were witches calling to each other. The first soft hoot would have me banging on the back door to be let in. I never told my Mum what the matter was and she never thought to ask.
Later we had a golden retriever who could hear my Dad’s Landrover a long time before it came into the lane. We’d know he was on his way home when she ran to the door with her ears pricked up. Sure enough Dad would arrive minutes later. It just gave us enough time to get out our homework and turn the record player off.
Sounds are so ephemeral, with so much noise about nowadays I wonder what modern children will remember. My home was on its own in a wood. I was so used to natural sounds that I often took them for granted. I think that’s why the noise of the saws are so prominent in my memory.
What were the sounds I liked best as a child? Foxes barking in the woods or and owl hooting overhead while I lay snug in bed were nice, but best was the wind whipping the plum trees until they nearly touched my bedroom window. As I type I can almost hear them now. Even the thought sends a delicious shiver down my back.