Not your average travel blog
In early December, my cell phone (I’ve been taking some language classes) and I parted ways. I’m not quite sure how things escalated, but it was a sad and frustrating realisation after we must have had a boozy bust up and clearly a relationship-ending hullaballoo that evening. I regret having too much to drink and in her opinion, I neglected her as I spent maybe too much time on the dance floor with ladies who clearly didn’t have wayward, envious pocket-diallers to worry about. I sat on the bus at 2am on a cold Sunday morning and after leaving her in the city, possibly out of spite, I can only imagine she found new friends or possibly an exciting, intoxicating man who likely had the sex appeal of some famous, high profile thief.
I wished I had handled the situation differently at my good friends 40th birthday party and my phone and I could have at least spent Christmas together.
Accidentally, three days before Christmas, I stupidly neglected, mishandled and dropped my close friend and compadre down a flight of stone stairs. My music-packed iPod is now paralysed from the mid-section, his nervous system damaged beyond repair and he will, unbeknown to him due to his new mental condition, never recover. I don’t think he’ll ever speak to me again, biologically, not just because he blames me.
Although sleek and perfect in her younger years, in 2013 my laptop found a mid-life comfort level and now, no longer considers pleasing me. She seemed to gain weight in a world where techno-size-zero is a basic requirement by all that set eyes and light fingers on her. She continues to neglect my boyish, voyeuristic love of slim-line mechanics and now happily stays at home whilst I venture out, knowing I’m not missing her cumbersome heaviness whilst being titillated by new, lighter models to take on my adventures. It saddens me, but it’s the world we live in.
Technology has recently been the bane of life. Weighing up the costs, the desires, the need, the weight, the waterproofing, the safety features and the target I might become for keen thieves on my adventures has led me to the simple solution that less, will most definitely be more.
I don’t need an iPod, I don’t need a laptop, I don’t need power cables weighing me down, I don’t need a solar powered keyboard to type on, I don’t need to be carrying hundreds of dollars worth of equipment and the least dependent I am on electrical creatures of habit, the better.
In November, I was driven to seek out some cheap, mid-week escorts….to replace my devious, affair-arranging, luxurious, top shelf, moron-distracting, in-ear puppies; my puppies so to speak, were stolen from me. I fear for every man alive when his ear-worshipping, ecstasy-providing, aural bliss-gromits are thieved from right in front of him in a busy bar. I hadn’t even had three sips of my gin-mary before they stood up and left with a complete stranger. I don’t give up my serious love interests without a fight and after making the entire staff of the bar (including bouncers) check every nook and cranny (kitchens included), go over CCTV footage, turn out their pockets and then pester them for the following 48hours both in person and via email, the only conclusion was that the pleasantly-faced waitress hiked my ear nibbling beauties from my possession. Without proof, I was aurally alone. My sexy earphones left me, for a woman. I had no option but to get back on the wagon and as usual, was in no way able to afford an expensive lady.
Without being able to drown out external noise around the capital for over a month has been sleep-drepraving. I have honestly felt like scraping my ears off whilst on certain hikes around the metropolis. It sounds counter-productive, living in a city, london especially, but I don’t think the majority of people live here willingly. It has become a necessity that society has driven itself to. Nothing grates my ear drums more than the sound of ambulances, the droning of constant, revving of engines, vehicle horns, shop stereos leaking noise from their doorways, cyclists shouting at erratic and impatient van drivers, foot traffic scurrying and hurrying along crowded pavements, people shouting down busy streets over the other city sounds and possibly the worst of all noises, peoples smart phones playing tinny dance music as they carry it along the street or sit on the bus and refuse to wear headphones.
Maybe people become accustomed to it, but that doesn’t make it pleasurable. Some people will say they find it soothing and that it’s a comfort, knowing that humanity, that hustle and bustle is around them. Personally, the level of background noise has become ever increasingly hangover-inducing.
There are hundreds of interesting, accessible reference points to research noise; Noise frequencies, noise pollution, noise benefits, noise as a therapy, noise as a stimulant for out of the box thinking, perfect levels of background noise for being the most productive, white noise, noise volumes, noises for effective interaction, intelligence, thought processes and human efficiencies. The basic thing to realise is that various noises have varying effects. If we train ourselves to operate using certain noise, we will adjust and function. Whether or not its the best way to function is debatable. Change the noise, and you change the functionality. It’s an interesting topic that I’ve found intriguing the more I have realised how effected by noise I have become.
Over this last winter as I have been unable to block out noise so effectively and as a result I have repeatedly forgotten obvious things that I regularly carry on my person for my consistent commutes and walkabouts. Things I forget include keys, soap, underwear, socks, waterproofs, spare batteries and gloves, things I rarely leave home without. I have felt my stress levels rise, my ability to process thoughts quickly and clearly have worsened, anxiety levels (although still low on the grand scale) have risen and all because, I believe, the noises around me have had a negative effect (cue jokes about the noises in my head). It’s not hard to notice either. Think what a relaxed parent you would be if you reduced your young child’s noise level. Think how easy it would be to concentrate at work if you chose the music instead of the office nut that loves trance at 9am. Think how much you wouldn’t mind talking to certain customers if they didn’t have such an ear-piercing, droning, accented voice. Change your music in the car on the way to work to something you hate and see how it changes your driving, or even your mood for the rest of the morning. Change the noise, change the experience and change your efficiency of functionality. Not being able to control this noise around London hasn’t just been slightly annoying, its had awful effects on my typical functionality.
I like the city, I love what it offers but escaping it has become my vice. Realising why I listen to sounds that other people can’t hear and when I need them, has been enlightening and something which I have never thought about. I realise I don’t often listen to anything when I have my headphones in. There’s no noise coming from my devices. I dislike the noises on a commute and so block many of them out, or at least lower their volume.
The sounds of Billingsgate market, Brixton market, Portobello Road market, Borough market (ok, so I have an unhealthy love of markets), Spitalfields and “Ripper Realms” amongst what is now brimming with vintage markets, the antique dens across the East End and amongst the punk shacks of Camden, the Toffs of Kings Road and Chelsea and the sounds of the earily-vacant, nautical hub of Greenwich, even when its over run by families with pushchairs are all welcome, daytime aural pleasures. However, fighting on foot through the suburban masses during rush hour, in the bitterly cold, wet winter, amongst the hang-outs of the fast food-hoi polloi, without something to drown out the volume of the thought-draining mind-pollution, makes me look forward to leaving, rapidly and with extreme optimism.