Seeking quiet during a pandemic

With most places closed and the majority of the population confined to their homes, I thought the world would be quieter. How wrong I was.

After the initial stress of a world waking up to a pandemic and the UK introducing lockdown, the first week or so of being confined to my home was quite pleasant. The Disney+ launch meant a Marvel-a-thon, my Kindle felt heavier with all the books I was downloading, and I had time to write. An introvert’s heaven. But then everyone else got bored. No longer could they just go to the shops, gym, cinema. Visiting friends and family was an absolute no-no. And looking at other countries that had entered lockdown before us, it was obvious we were going to be in this situation for some time. So, what could they do?

Those lucky enough to have a garden suddenly developed ultra-green fingers. Seed websites crashed. Lawns were mowed shorter than a lockdown self-haircut. Gorgeous, pollinator friendly ‘weeds’ were yanked up with abandon. Lawnmowers, strimmers, chainsaws (who the f*ck needs a chainsaw in a suburban Wiltshire garden!) wailed out across the towns and villages from dawn until dusk (and sometimes earlier and later than that). DIYers (DIY is the number three British summer hobby after getting sunburned on bank holiday weekends and mixing copious amounts of Pimm’s with random veg from the fridge) dusted off their drills, saws and hammers and whirred, screeched and pounded away the frustration of the long lockdown days.

The noise has been incessant.

These are unusual times and extreme circumstances. Everyone has done the best they can, and it would be wrong for me to criticise them out of hand. I guess all I’m asking for is some consideration. And not just for me. In our street we have NHS workers who work shifts – although I’m sure they are absolutely shattered and are asleep before their head hits the pillow they could also do without the constant banging, drilling and mowing.

But this isn’t just something that happens during lockdown. Every weekend during the summer is a cacophony of motors whirring and ripping up nature. We’ve started to leave our garden a bit more au naturel – the birds and insects love it. And it means we can hear the chirruping, humming and tweeting as our little visitors pop in for a drink of water or a beak full of mealworms. Sounds that I am thankful to hear.

My grandparents live in France and there are rules in place to stop noise pollution – such as no power tools or mowing your lawn on Sunday. How wonderful it would be to have something similar in the UK.

So, perhaps the newly enthusiastic gardeners and DIYers could take a pause and consider the time of day. Do you really need to strim the hedge at 8am? Perhaps you could save the drilling until after mealtimes? Maybe you could just leave the grass and ‘weeds’ for the birds and insects to enjoy?

A little bit of quiet.

There is a positive ending to this (hopefully not too ranty) post. Yesterday I discovered the gardener’s nemesis – heavy rain! So, I sat out in our garden, hiding beneath our large parasol, with a pot of oolong tea and book, listening to the gentle patter above me, and enjoyed the quiet. Fingers crossed for a traditionally wet English summer.

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