The poor old blog has been sorely neglected of late. The trouble is that there’s this pesky thing called work, a necessary evil that keeps me away from what I really want to do. And it’s nearly always at its most intense – sod’s law – in the summer. Before you all reach for your hankies, let me move swiftly on.
People who come to stay with us often remark how quiet it is here, compared with London – or indeed any part of SE England. Some of them even find it unnervingly so without the comforting sound of traffic, police sirens and other people’s music in the background.
A lot of people ask us how we stand it. Well, it’s not too great a hardship. And there is noise; it’s just different. We have cows mooing plaintively when their calves have been removed, tractors and combine harvesters – especially just now – chugging about, chainsaws and brush cutters droning not far away and mice and unidentifiable bigger creatures bickering and scampering about in the roof.
We are not immune from traffic noise from the route départementale, either, if the wind is in the right direction. And a lot of thumping and pounding sometimes comes from the military camp several kilometres away.
So much for the peace and quiet of the countryside, then. But if you take the time to listen – really listen – the other sounds come through. At our local writing group we recently did an exercise that involved walking around the village and using all our senses to get a rounded view of the setting. I found this very powerful and, since then, I have been far more aware of my surroundings.
Last night, after a walk down the lane followed by a last swim, we sat in the gathering dusk on the small terrace behind our barn. As our hearing tuned in, we noticed a wide range of sounds:
The rasping of a cicada in the tree above us.
The soft murmuring of owls as their fledglings called to them to be fed. These were probably Hiboux moyens ducs (long-eared owls). We once saw two fledglings sitting back to back on a branch squeaking so that their parents could locate them.
The jangling of a cow bell in the distance. I love that sound; it reminds me of the Auvergne, where we like to walk.
The strange churring of a nightjar. They nest on the ground and we once almost trod on one.
The puffing of a horse in the next field.
The whirring of a stag beetle as it sailed past, flying upright, which is presumably the only way they can get off the ground.
Scuffling in the undergrowth as a mouse or a lizard quested for food.
Barking from the neighbourhood dogs, none of them very close, fortunately.
The rumbling of distant machinery as the farmers harvested the grain.
Finally, the whining of a mosquito. I knew that it was time to go in, since I am their favourite meal.
So it’s never truly silent here. And thank goodness for that.
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