The above item on CNN today set me thinking. This barrier island town in South Carolina has actually banned singing in public. “Outrageous and absurd!” were my first reactions. “What killjoys and control freaks” were my third and forth. After that, I read the article, and although it really doesn’t elaborate much on the headline, other than what you might have predicted, I found myself nodding in agreement. The reason is this.
Not so long ago I lived on this quite pretty waterfront, which is the harbor in a small village here called Los Abrigos, this photo was taken from my little balcony.
Even when we first arrived on the island 20+ years ago this fishing village was transforming its economy in the face of dwindling fish stocks, and almost all of the harbor side properties had been turned into restaurants – very basic, fish restaurants, supplied by the local boats, some family businesses supplied by brothers and cousins who still took out the boats each day. Over these years it has been smartened up by the local authority, so that the rough, cobbled street alongside the harbor became pedestrianized and sanitized, but in a very pleasant way. One of the restaurants was sold, and reopened its doors as a very chic and upmarket establishment. The Promenade was just a sufficiently short stroll before or after dining. Although behind the waterfront what they call “cement” here went up, these waterfront buildings remained more-or-less the same. I was delighted when I was able to rent a spacious apartment over one of the restaurants, with this view snapped sitting in the comfort of my sofa.
For some months it was idyllic, every bit as peaceful as I’d imagined. Then it seemed that a bar next door to the restaurant over which I lived changed hands. At least, it changed its image, and became a late-night drinking spot. Several nights a week my dream bedroom, where white gauze curtains fluttered in the gentle evening breeze, and the swish of waves filtering back into the ocean through the tiny, pebbled beach lulled me to sleep became a nightmare room, where I tossed and turned seeking elusive sleep as laughter, loud voices, singing and sometimes fights roused me every time I dropped off. I can be fairly tolerant, and I tried very hard, for a long time to acknowledge that people have every right to laugh, sing, argue and even fight if they want to, and, yes, I do still believe that…..I just don’t want them doing it under my bedroom window! So, I moved. One of the brilliant things about renting, over owning property, is that you can do that.
What I think now is that, yes, we all like to make noise in some form or another, whether it’s cheering on our team (certainly wasn’t quiet around here last night when Argentina were playing!), playing rock ‘n’ roll or letting our kids run around shouting as they splash in the swimming pool (when that gets too much for me I shall move on from here too!), but that there should be places where we can be quiet.
For years in my youth, I debated whether I was a city girl or a country girl (it seemed important back then that I stuck some sort of label on myself), and my final answer, as I grew up, was that I am a bit of each. I love the buzz and energy of cities, but I also love the tranquility and peace of the countryside, and I think that we should preserve the latter. A couple of weeks ago I came across this blog post, which was featured here on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed front page
http://newurbanhabitat.com/2010/06/14/in-search-of-silence/ Do click on the link to that Gordon Hempton article which is fascinating. Basically, apparently, there isn’t a square inch of Europe which is free from noise pollution, which means, I think, that even on top of Mont Blanc you will hear planes passing overhead.
I suppose that post started off the train of thought which has brought me here today, still musing. What I really would like is to be able to choose, to be able to turn noise on or off, but that isn’t really practical. Even if this apartment block was declared a noise-free zone, there would still be noise from down the street, we are so many now in the “civilized” world, and we live cheek by jowl, even on these islands, where perhaps one day we may run out of space! So the more I think about it, the more the thought of living on Sullivan’s Island appeals to me! Of course, if I were wealthy enough to live there, then I could always nip up to New York from time to time for my share of hustle and bustle.