Friday, 29 June 2007

Ephemeral sounds of childhood


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.

8 comments:

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

I remeber hearing and seeing the rag and bone man with his cart in teh street where my grandmother lived, also the clear image of the coalman emptying coal sacks into the cellars one dark winter afternoon.

Soemthing odd too which I could nto work out! We have a stunning fluffy black kitten adn from teh mometn she was born everytime I see here I see an image from a book and the word dog. I could not understand why until this morning my son brought me a very old ladybird reading book form my childhood called puppies and kittens and there is our kitten..and on the page next to it is the word dog which can see in my head after 44 years!! Wow heh!

Cait O'Connor said...

How have I missed your blog lately?

I grew up in South London and I remember the hollering of the rag and bone man with his horse and cart. Any Old Iron? I remember ice cream vans and there was a factory near us which played 'Workers Playtime' on the radio in the mornings.(music). The whole street could hear it.

I envy you your rural childhood, a house in a wood, no leccy and 15 cats owls, trees,only the sounds of nature, all would have been like heaven for me as a child.
You sound very like me in that people think me aloof and standoffish at first when really I am just thoughtful! I can also be bossy and self-opinionated and hate being the centre of attention. Are you an Aries by any chance?

Crystal Jigsaw said...

You have wonderful childhood memories. So much makes me think of my own childhood. Tastes, smells, noises. Everytime I peel an apple for Amy I always think about my dad. I must have been about 8 yrs old when he peeled one for me and cut it into quarters. He asked if he could have a piece and I said "no"!! I never ask Amy now, just in case she says no! After eating that apple, I remember feeling terribly guilty and wondering if my dad was hungry because I hadn't given him a piece.

Crystal xx

Suffolkmum said...

When I was reading this I was going to say the rag and bone man in the streets of Newcastle, but everyone's beaten me to it! I also remember, from when we moved down south, all the wood pigeons, but they never scared me, they soothed me and made me think of summer. I was quite scared of the owls though, although I love them now. I also always think of 'Listen With Mother' when I htink of being a small child.

Faith said...

What a thought-provoking blog. I remember the sound of my mother's sewing machine. She was always sewing - a lot of the time making us dresses, but I didnt like her doing it because her machine was facing the window and away from the room, and therefore she had her back to me. I remember her singing me lullabies every night. The first thing I heard in the mornings was my father, a heavy smoker, coughing his guts up. It was disgusting. I'm amazed he lived as long as he did.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

The music to Woman's hour ..my mums favourite, the dinner hooter at the food factory across the fields, my grandad singing, owls, bonfires crackling at the top of the garden and the milkman

Pondside said...

I really enjoyed this blog, lampworkbeader. It has been a long time since I thought of the sounds of my childhood. I've never heard a rag and bone man, and wonder what he is. I do recall the summer sounds of crackling bonfires at Ben Eion and the murmur of parents' voices in the night. One memory that I love is of my parents chatting quietly in the front seat of the car as I slept in the backseat on long journeys - is there any greater feeling of security? I would like to hear more about your childhood. Is that a photo of you as a little girl?
A mimosa is a mixture of Champagne and Orange Juice. Yummy!

mountainear said...

I love the sound of wood pigeons, to me it's gentle and comforting.

I can't think of memorable childhood sounds - maybe The Archers music, maybe school children singing.

Smells though are a different matter. Quite odd smells transport me back - especially things agricultural - the washed down milking parlour, they are the smells of home and childhood. Old village halls - dust and stacking chairs. School dinners - a sort of stale roast dinner smell. Wet washing - pre fabric conditioner. The smoke from a coal fire on a November afternoon.

Lovely thought provoking blog.