August 12, 2015

Horse 1957 - The Quiet Place

I think that it's safe to say that I will probably not be the next host of Top Gear, even after my fantastically amazing 30 second audition video that I sent the BBC (which was so fantastically amazing that no one in the world shall ever again see it). Having to do a piece to camera as opposed to writing a blog post, does instantly change your awareness of the environment around you and I'm sure that with better equipment, I could overcome many of the technical difficulties (such as getting a clean sound). What you do become painfully aware of is just how much noise there actually is... in the world.
On my journey to work this morning, I again turned my attention to the noises which I usually ignore and there are as many as there are varied.
There is the whine of powerful electric motors of the train as they pull us on, on and ever on towards the city. They remind me of some sort of stringed instrument except that there is no let up for a very long time. To play such a note upon a viola would require a bow several miles long and no person would physically be able to draw it across the strings. There is the light murmuring of people's conversations on their mobile phones; which are far more subdued than what I usually hear on the trip on the way home again but still as inane. There are the repetitive automated announcements telling us what the next station is, or reminding us yet again that if we feel unwell that we should seek help at the next station. This week is "rail safety week" as we are informed of for the sixth time on this journey and the recorded announcement is again telling us to remind children to remain behind the yellow line when standing on station platforms. There are the involuntary noises that emit from the humans around me such as sneezes, the sounds of coughs and sniffles and the shuffling of mucus; then there are subtle noises such as people's guts churning and reminding them that they haven't had any breakfast.
All of this is quite apart from the fact that people then choose to lock themselves away in their own personalised sonic bubbles with their ear buds, though somewhere off in the distance I'm sure that I can hear AC/DC's "Back in Black". Okay I can't hear any of the words but those same bass chords and riffs are on quick rotation.
It is really difficult to find a quiet space in the world. Maybe a hundred or so years ago, we would have heard the sounds of horses hooves as they carted goods around, on in the office we would have heard the frenzied mechanical clack of the typewriter as opposed to the less romantic clash of plastic on a computer keyboard. Factory workers  in ages past literally lost their hearing as they themselves were lost inside the tumultuous cacophony of machinery and labourers, bricklayers, plumbers, dockers and a whole army of workers heard the human voice.

But where does one find quiet?


Four hours after arriving at work, I find myself on my lunch hour; with no real mission and armed with an Opal Card which at this point in the week entitles me to free travel everywhere in Sydney, I caught two buses and just decided to enter a deserted building.
Curiosity which killed the cat and has been found guilty of conspiracy to kill Rollo on occasion, led me up a set of escalators and stairs to this group of offices and landing. According to the directory downstairs, there are no tenants here anymore. This place is spookily quiet; to the point that I can hear my own heart beat and the soft hush of my own blood.
I wonder as I stand in this place that humanity has forgotten amidst the hurrying din, why I find this place so mind warping. Has someone been murdered here? Are there spirits who wish to do me harm? Or could it be that I've become so accustomed to living in a world full of ignorable noises that their absence is unusual.
This place is so quiet that I cannot even hear the so-called white noises which you’d usually find in a building such as the gush of air through the air-conditioning ducts. With no tenants, there probably is no need to switch on the air-conditioning and with nobody visiting this place very often, the people who don’t come here are not concerned about the faint mustiness in the air. You cannot hear smell.
I am by myself. There are no other people here. There are no intrusions to my train of thought as it speeds along and no stops along the way either.  It is terrifying. Unlike being in places where the noise is so loud that you cannot hear yourself think*, in a space like this you can't run away from yourself or your own thoughts. They are front and centre upon the strange; free to tread the boards in front of the proscenium arch; in full view. The upside is that it makes writing something very easy as there are no interruptions.
Of course now that I have found my patch of calm, my own little oasis amidst the sea of noise and confusion, it would be foolhardy of me to divulge where it is. We can’t have every Hugh, Louis and Deward knowing about this place. This is a place where the phone doesn’t ring, where there are no emails to reply to, where there are no pieces of paper that suddenly land on the desk and where no one is demanding that something is done instantly.
There is also no real reason to stay here very long either. Just like a traffic refuge, you can’t hang out there all day if you have places to go to and things to do.

*See Horse 1951:

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