Natural sounds

· life · travel ·

We’ve just got back from a week’s holiday in North Norfolk (I’ve posted a few photos here). In recent years, we’ve taken to renting a cottage in Blakeney, which is a bit unadventurous, but it has exactly what we need: the sea, huge skies, open spaces, and best of all, quiet. I think quietness is what we both crave most from a holiday destination, and it is the thing which is most difficult to find at home. We’re not looking for silence (that would be creepy — particularly in Norfolk if you’ve watched a lot of MR James adaptations!), but a predominance of natural sounds, particularly bird song.

There are birds in Birmingham of course, but their song tends to be drowned out by traffic noise and other kinds of urban racket. I have found this need for natural sounds and general quietness to be even more acute recently, as I have had severe sinusitis and accompanying pulsatile tinnitus for the past couple of months. Nothing seems to shift it, so I have to put up with ringing in my ears, phasing in and out with my own pulse1. Natural sounds and a quieter environment helps a bit.

There was one occasion, late afternoon, when Mr. Bsag and I sat in the garden, enjoying the last of the sun, when I was particularly struck by the wonderful mixture of sounds. He was sketching a portrait of me, and I was doing my usual bad job as a model, and irritating him by moving and changing position as I knitted2. Aside from our usual artist-model banter3, the air was full of gorgeous, quiet sounds.

In the distance was the quiet breath of the tide on the shingle shore, overlaid by the breeze ruffling reed beds. Closer at hand, the sweet, soft, pillowy calls of wood pigeons and collared doves filled the air. This was punctuated by an occasional, glorious blackbird solo, with woodpecker percussion on nearby pine trees. Finally, the tiny rhythmic scratch of Mr. Bsag’s silverpoint wire on his paper was echoed by the peaceful click of my wooden needles. The whole soundscape was so harmonious, it was like listening to a symphony.

I’m also glad to say that we heard dozens of skylarks this year on walks around the salt marshes. As soon as we had moved on from listening — enraptured — to one skylark, we moved into the song of its neighbour. It was wonderful, though it made for slow progress on our walk!

Now we are back home, and while I’m happy to see the cats again, I’m already missing the natural sounds terribly.

  1. Apparently my Eustachian tubes are full of fluid, so I am hearing my own pulse, as amplified fuzz. Fun. ↩︎

  2. Yes, I’ve started knitting to have a portable craft project — more on that later. ↩︎

  3. “Nooooo! Don’t take your sunglasses off, I’ve already started drawing them in.” “Sorry, but I can’t see what I’m knitting, you’ll just have to cope.” ↩︎