Category Archives: noise


Today I am, in a very minor way, a refugee.  Sitting in John’s sofa, with the laptop, hoping to get some work done.

Once again, there are building works at home.  Last Wednesday a gang of workmen arrived and erected a lot of scaffolding.  Right next door, on the side of the house where my office is located.

Then a different gang arrived and started working on the roof.  Banging, drilling, sanding, all the usual sounds of building work.  Including, intermittently, the worst of all: the ghetto blaster.  When it arrived on Monday morning I asked them nicely to turn it off, which they did with good grace, and the day was indeed free of that scourge.  But that was too good to last.  And the intensity of works seems to be rising: yesterday afternoon the construction symphony was accompanied by clouds of dust drifting across the window.

It’s not as bad as some works we’ve suffered in the past (three months of wall works, or the worst of the building across the road).  But with John now working from home, I have an escape I can beg.  Let’s see if I get much done from here.

Pavlovian Terror

Some time ago I had the misfortune to rent a flat and find myself with neighbours from hell.  Two of them, brother and sister.  Both of them would frequently turn the stereo right up at any time of day or night: thump, thump, thump, audible from ten (big) houses away.  And since they kept irregular hours, a quiet start to the night was no reassurance against one of them coming in at 2, 3 or 4 a.m. and turning it on.

My body (or was it my mind, or my subconscious) developed a Pavlovian reaction.  I’d be lying in bed, with all quiet.  The bedroom was at the back so the road was distant, but still I’d suddenly be aware if a car stopped or passed slowly outside.  It could be perfectly innocent: anyone other than the noisy ones, but it still struck fear into me.  I had become hypersensitive to the danger.

I’m happy to say that when I got out of that place, the fear and hypersensitivity instantly vanished.  That despite my next home being on a busier road with my bedroom at the front.  With no worse nuisance than a van that commonly parked overnight outside and whose alarm went off any time it rained or the wind blew, I could get back to a more normal/healthy state.

The current place has noise problems, though not so serious as those neighbours from hell.  I recently blogged about one such: the busker from hell.  This morning I again heard an amplified flute from the town centre, and was struck with dread of another miserable day.  It took some time to realise this one was actually different: still annoying, but less muzaked, a player who wasn’t totally devoid of ability, and I think I might even have found it tolerable for a while if I hadn’t been conditioned by the other one.  Take away the amplification and this one might be OK!

I had already planned supermarket shopping for today, and when I got back he’d packed up and gone.  I wonder how I’ll react now if I hear another busker on an amplified flute?  Will I be struck with instant terror, or will I be able to give it the benefit of the doubt until I’ve heard more than the sound?  Likely both!

Noise pollution

Tunes like the Londonderry Air or Simon&Garfunkel numbers may be inoffensive enough at first hearing.  Even enjoyable in a sufficiently fine rendition.  But when they’re muzaked to buggery and repeated hour after hour it becomes torture.

The amplified buskers appeared in town yesterday, inflicting exactly that on a wide area.  As a consequence the day was a write-off, and I’m attempting to catch up on my work today instead.  Worse, unlike a predictable nuisance like the yobs club it’s not something I can plan for ahead of time (for yesterday evening I had a ticket to see our local musical society’s production of Oliver, timed for Friday evening precisely because that’s always a good time to be out of the house).

About lunchtime I finally snapped and called Environmental Health.  They told me they’d had a word with this busker last time he was in town, but weren’t going to take any more action.  Also said that they’d had trouble talking to the offensive busker, because he didn’t seem to speak English!

For my part, I’m happy to see an honest busker down in town, but when they use electronic amplification to inflict themselves on a wide area it crosses beyond the boundary of acceptability.  Would it be too much to have and enforce a no-amplification rule?  It would have the side-effect of helping select for those buskers with at least sufficient talent to work without electronic aids: not a high bar, but much better than nothing!

Is there anything I as an individual can do when TPTB say too much work?

The perpetual roadworks

After upwards of three months of works outside, I thought they were over.  Repeatedly.

With a bit of luck, they are indeed over.  So instead, the identical stretch of road has just been dug up by contractors for the water board, who are now doing something with subterranean pipes and valves.


Tavistock at war!!

There seems to be a lot going on this evening.

First a band starts up.  That is, an outdoor-style band.  I thought a brass band, but later heard something more like the drone of bagpipes played without a discernible tune.  Whatever else may have been there was overwhelmed by the relentless pounding of a big drum.  Ouch!

Next up, the tinny sound of something like an ice cream van on steroids, playing the most inane of tunes: “oh I do like to be beside the seaside” and “we’re all going on a summer holiday”.  When I say on steroids, I mean no ice cream van I’ve encountered could’ve been quite so loud.  It was playing concurrently with the pounding drum: indeed, the two seem to be in competition.

There were a couple of lesser contenders, but I can’t even bring them to mind any more (at this moment, there’s something including competing tannoys with shouting voices and other crap).  Probably just as well the mind has swept some of it away!  I think if I head up the road away from town, I may be able to escape it.  But the usual yobs club is due to start up at nine, too, so darkness won’t end the crap.



I thought we had some peace and quiet during the daytime, and my productivity had begun to rise.  Now the works are back, with a range of powertools, and the wall+road acting as a sounding-board to send it all straight up at me. 😦

Seems someone’s got a big works budget.  It’s not just the perpetual wall-works, but also the roads all around are getting some kind of resurface.  Well, all except the stretch of Mount Tavy road that could really do with resurfacing.  A lot of the roads now have loose surfaces, leaving one at risk of a skid, or of a stone thrown up into the eye from someone’s wheel.  The scariest stretch I’ve done is coming down Pork Hill: it’s normally steep and fast (and the surface was perfectly good), but now with the half-arsed new surface it proclaims a 15mph speed limit – about 40 below what one would naturally do by just letting go and freewheeling.

Oh, and I can confirm observationally that dartmoor ponies are rather brighter than people in town centres.  That is to say, when one of them was standing blocking a small bridge, she reacted a d*** site faster to a polite ‘scuse me please than humans blocking a narrow way are capable of.

It gets worse

I’ve complained before about noise from the works outside the window.  Now they’re filling my flat with diesel fumes:

An exhaust pointing upwards is presumably designed to protect the workers from being poisoned by the thick clouds of diesel.  But it doesn’t help when you’re looking down from two floors up (and yes, believe it or not, that’s not steam in that plume – just diesel fumes).  Perhaps we should require the exhaust to point downwards, so that the workers’ interests (health and safety) are aligned with the neighbours.

I suspect that’s also why the wires on the far side of the road have got that orange cladding on to protect them (it was put up last week).  The powers that be don’t want to risk the infrastructure, but I guess their responsibility ends at the door or window to private property.  Hmmm, no, that still doesn’t explain why the owner of the wires was warned while we weren’t.

The machine is noisy too, though not quite as bad as some of what they’ve had.  I suppose I should be grateful none of them are inflicting a ghetto-blaster on us.

Should’ve stayed in Ireland


The works outside had become a lot quieter since about Easter.  Now it’s back to a level of major physical pain, even with earplugs and closed windows.

Should’ve stayed in the Wicklow mountains and had some fun.  Would’ve worried about work, but being here right now is worse than nothing.  Can’t even think enough to write.


Last week, a couple of men appeared outside to do some minor works on the wall across the road from here. They were announced by signs warning that things would be happening for two days. OK, I can live with that, and as it turns out they weren’t a major disruption: no more than a little noise; no clouds of dust and fumes.

But having cleared the wall of the vegetation that was holding it up, they discovered that having stood for hundreds of years it was in imminent danger of falling down.  So next day there’s a surveyor looking at it in detail: if the wall goes, the road and the houses are at risk!  Evidently he too concludes that it’s falling down, because the powers-that-be move with lightning speed, and this monday new contractors appear to fix/rebuild the section of wall.  I spoke to one of them, and he told me they had an emergency budget granted by the council in record time to get on with the works.

These new workmen are the Heavy Gang.  As I write, my earplugs and closed (aaargh!) double-glazed windows are utterly ineffective against their equipment.  If I open a window, the dominant aroma is petrol fumes.  And having spoken to one of the men, I understand they’ll be here for a long time.

Ouch!  I think I’d rather let the road take its chances 😦

I should perhaps add that this is no ordinary roadside wall.  We’re on a hillside, and the far side of the wall is a big drop.  If you look over the wall, you look down on the roof of the newly-built three-storey apartment block on the far side, and recollect how those building works shook the whole surrounding area including road, houses and (presumably) wall.


View from my window

Hearing the wildlife

On Tuesday night, staying in a guest house in Camberley, I got a taste of Surrey’s good side.  The guest house is situated in parkland, with some major sources of noise and pollution at a distance.  From my bedroom, I could hear the M3 and the Heathrow flight path, but both were no more than gentle background noises.  I could also hear an owl, and later the dawn chorus.

Tonight, too, I can hear an owl here in Tavistock.  I think my night in Camberley must have sensitised me to the sound.  But normally I just don’t notice it, as it’s very faint compared to some of the less pleasant human-generated noises.

It just goes to show, in terms of wellbeing, what matters most is the immediate surroundings.  It can be in-town or in the country, but if it’s sufficiently peaceful it’s nice, whereas if it’s exposed to too much pollution it’s stressful and nasty.

I guess that’s heavily reflected in house prices.  Maybe I can get somewhere quiet by paying £200/month more in rent.