Sunday 16 March 2014

Noise Noise Go Away

As I enter my later years, the idea of spending it in peace and quiet appeals. I  have never been big on noise and at my age even minimal consequential sound rubs me up the wrong way.

Let me explain my predicament.

A chronological time line in a day in the life of a phonophobic. 

I live in a middling suburban area 4 miles from the town centre as the crow flies or in this part of the world, the egret. 
The houses are very close together and are generally made out of plywood or similar material. Being in the tropics and in a poorer part of town, ( no air conditioning ) the windows are always open to let whatever cooling breeze there is do its  job, so hearing the neighbours’ slightest movements or conversations even 2 or 3 houses down is common place.

The house I live in is half way down the street.  Most dwelling here have dogs.  Not the pet type per-say, but the so called guard dog variety.  The idea apparently is that the dog will warn the owner of an intruder and save the day.  Great in theory but… From 3 am onwards, 3 times a week the local garbage collection takes place.  This street is a dead end and the truck is reluctant to drive down it in a normal manner stopping at each house and emptying the refuse in the back.  Oh that would be too easy.  Two men are dropped off at the top of the street and walk down emptying the bins along the way and dragging the contents to a central location for collection.  This process takes about 5 or so minutes, a time when every dog in the street goes mad wanting to tear these men to shreds. 

 These dogs are never walked, never leave their yards, so have a lot of pent up territorial frustration.  Believe me, it’s like the Hounds of the Baskervilles. The funny thing is these dogs at times don’t react to more suspicious activities such as roaming packs of local youths walking by. Go figure.

To the left is a place where maybe a dozen plantation surveying workers reside.  Generally, they are fairly quiet apart from the period between 5.30 and 6 when they are getting ready to go to work and sit outside waiting for the companies vehicles to pick them up. On most days, a rather rotund man with outlandishly oversize shorts and workman’s singlet sits on the outside of the house adjacent to my dwelling, sawing and whittling away pieces of wood to make into surveying pegs.  This process starts at 6 am and finishes maybe midday when the sun has finally reached that side of the house.  Constant chopping and gnawing away on wood is the most irritating noise known to man; well at least this man.  These workers also have a tendency to shout at each other, even when they are standing 2 feet apart.  Either they are deaf or insensitive, or both. 

 Just as this is going on, my mother-in-law for reasons unknown to all but herself wants to sing renditions of P. Ramlee’s classics at the top of her voice.  Oh how I long for the morning chatter of the songbirds and the gentle mooing of the cows as they walk towards the milking shed.  Ahhh Bliss.

Turning to the other adjacent house, lives an old couple whom I would have expected to be longing for a quiet peaceful existence.  No such luck.  I might get myself into trouble saying this, but what the heck. The old man is deaf, so as most deaf people do, shouts at the top of his voice when he wants attention.  As luck has it, a mere dozen times a day.  The lady, I call her in my fits of annoyance a fish monger’s wife. My own wife gives me a dirty look when I state this bleeding obvious fact.  For I can’t imagine a better proponent of the art of shouting out “ Fish for sale tuppence a pound . Cum and get ya fresh snapper ‘ere. Cook the old man somefing fresh for din din’s.”  In the most high pitched irritating squark possible… Well - she would, if she could speak English, but you get the point. 

By early afternoon most days, the gas cylinder exchange truck barrels along the street honking its horn incessantly; nothing subtle about its message.  The double advantage of being on a dead end road - get to hear it twice in 30 seconds!

The area opposite the house is owned by the Girl Guides association even though I never see them there. The hall is rented out for various functions or activities, bamington in the evenings ( only hear the occasional grunt ) and mainly weddings that can occur any day but mostly on the weekend. If I am really lucky it’s twice a day, a constant ear splitting band belting out local favourites at 80 decibels, with a singer who thinks they can sing screaming, sorry - calm down now, blood pressure up -  I mean, hitting high notes, a little off key.

To top it all off as evening approaches the local discotheque, which is 300 metres away, revs up to terrorise the neighbourhood until 3 am. Pure bliss, sandwiched between a wall of noise. 

Not all is lost though. You know how I said I longed for the sounds of the country, the neighbours 2 doors down have procured a rooster. This kindly animal allows a brief respite from the disco music and doesn’t offer a cock a doodle doo until 4am.  I now have company in the mornings when the garbage truck doesn’t come.  

Now dear reading you might be thinking all this has everyone around here tearing their hair out in frustration, but I can assure you, no such thing.  It only bothers me. Yes, only little old me is going grey through the battle ground of the sound waves.

I have only one more thing to say before I sign off. 
Are there any decent ear plugs in Sandakan?

Monday 10 March 2014

The Long Thin Line

A crack in the curtains allowed a sliver of light to penetrate the otherwise dark room. A pair of eyes followed the illumination to its final destination, a threadbare crumpled bedspread.  

Eugene could not gather his thoughts.  The scene was baffling to his ever increasingly befuddled mind. Nothing made sense anymore even the primitive emotions that swelled up from the deep recesses of his once productive brain.

Fear, frustration and anger surfaced now and again with no meaning or substance to connect too.  They were just there hanging like the Sword of Damocles over his increasingly lifeless soul.  The fine thread would soon break; whether he lived or died, it mattered not to him.  

A fly walking up the wall, an inexplicable mystery.  The dots didn't connect, the picture was incomplete.  

The door opened slowly, Rosemary’s head appeared along its edge. 

“Hello, my dear, I hope I’m not disturbing you.  I’ve brought you some of your favourite cup cakes, you know, the ones you love so much.”

Eugene’s expressionless face didn’t change.  It didn’t show any acknowledgement to the woman he had been married to for almost 50 years.The face and the voice meant nothing. He momentarily gazed into that face, but the flame of recognition did not flicker.  

Rosemary for her part found it difficult to let go of this man. She was determined to remain stoic and show her love until the bitter end.  What she could see still belonged to her. It was still her Eugene, the man she raised 3 beautiful children with. The man who supported her throughout life's roller coaster journey. 

Yes, it was still him even though deep down she knew his earthly connection with reality was now lost forever.  His body no longer held the memories, his heart grasped no secrets they had once shared.  She alone held the key now.  He could never again open that door.

Rosemary sat next to him on the bed and held his long bony hand in hers.  Stroking his fingers, she talked incessantly for the next half hour, not pausing for a reply that was never going to come.  It was as much to do with her own sanity as anything else.  He was lost, but she still lived in a world of  memories. 

“How cruel; what was the point of all this,” she thought. 

A tear rolled down her cheek as it had often done during the last few long years.  Wiping her face dry, she whispered into his ear.

“ See you next week my dear.  Same time, I’ll be here."

Eugene stared blankly at that thinning slither of sunlight progressing up the wall.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Bedtime Story For Leela

It was time for bed.  

Leela and Jack cuddled Mum and Dad, gave them a quick peck on the cheek and quickly scampered up the stairs and down the corridor to their bedroom.  
It had been such a long, long day and both were so tired they kept rubbing their eyes.  
Jack jumped onto his mattress and pulled back the sheets to get in. 
Leela, being the good sister she was, tucked Jack in and gave him a good night kiss on the forehead.  
"I love you Jack." she whispered into his ear, but he didn't hear her as he had already entered dream world.  
Leela smiled and climbed into her own bed. 
She lowered her head on the pillow, closed her eyes and tried to think of all the wonderful things she had done that day.....

A strange sensation of soft silky bristles brushing her face and a sharp persistent sniff woke Leela up from her deep, deep sleep. 
She opened her eyes ever so slightly, but couldn't make anything out clearly except for a browny grey blob next to her nose. 
"Whaaat!" she shrieked.  
The blob moved back into focus. 
Startled, Leela sat up quickly, "Who are you? A rabbit?"
"Excuse me Miss, do you mind, I'm not a common rabbit, let me introduce myself. 
Harry Hammerhead Hornbill Hop along Hare the Third at your service, you can call me Houdini for short, and to whom do I have the pleasure?" the big grey thing stuttered and muttered back.

"Harry Hammerhead Hornbill Hop - Along The Third at your service"

Leela turned her head sharply left and then right, looking around. 
Where had her cosy bed gone, and her and Jack's bedroom? 
How strange, in fact to her astonishment she was sitting on the ground in a soft bed made of multi coloured hundreds and thousands. 
In front of her was a large grey and brown rabbit, um I mean hare, wearing a yellow tweed jacket that was too tight, and a baggy loose fitting pair of pink stripped orange shorts that fell down below his bony knees. Finally to top it all off, the most disgusting tattered old black running shoes you have ever seen.
Oh, did I mention he was standing up on his hind legs looking rather menacing with his long pointy ears and scraggly white whiskers?

"Well Miss, what's your name, I can't stand here all day waiting. 
I'm a very important hare you know, very busy, mustn't dilly dally, wasting time with drop in visitors wasting my time to dilly dally,dilly dally etc etc" mutter,mutter,stammer,stammer.
"My name's Leela of course."
"Ah! Not Princess Leela! Oh me, oh my, it's Princess Leela from the internet tree. 
I thought I recognised you, Oh! I can't wait to tell the others."
"Hey wait a minute," shouted Leela "what's an internet tree and besides where am I?"
"You're in Sparkle Dazzle Razzle land of course, as if anyone in this whole wide fantasy world wouldn't know that. 
Then again you might know it as Wonderland, the name we had before that awful Alice girl stopped us using it through the fantasy land patent office. 
Awful girl she is, simply awful, should have minded her own business,” mutter mutter stammer stammer.
"You haven't told me what an internet tree is yet."
“Oh that. It's where the mummies and daddies post all the photos and videos of their children. 
On every branch and every twig hangs an image, on a fine thread of gold. 
We have a great old time sitting around the ancient tree and seeing what the children are doing on the other side. 
I've seen you many times in your princess dress, wearing your sparkling tiara, posing in front of the camera looking all regal and grand.”

Jack and Princess Leela on the internet tree

Then Leela suddenly remembered something. 
"Where is Jack? I mustn't lose him! I'm his big sister you know and if I do lose him Mummy and Daddy won't be very happy." 
Just as she finished saying that, Jack appeared from behind a mulberry bush with a big smile on his face, and a large dollop of chocolate on his left cheek! 
"Oh me, Oh my, he's found the chocolate puddle!" 
A thoroughly exacerbated Harry Hammerhead Hornbill Hop along Hare the Third, or Houdini for short announced. 
"No chocolate before lunch, it’s the rules you know, mustn't break the rules, it just isn't done, no siree it isn't,” mutter, mutter stammer, stammer.
Jack rushed up to Leela and gave her a big cuddle, then nestled down into her lap.

Leela finds Jack with chocolate on his face

Houdini suddenly looked startled. 
“Oh, Oh, Oh, I almost forgot, to many distractions, I remember now. 
Thomas Toad is in trouble, I have to help him, Oh, I almost forgot,” mutter, mutter ,stammer, stammer. 
And with that he jumped up and hopped away down the path and into the forest without even saying a goodbye or anything like that. 
Leela looked at Jack and Jack looked at Leela. They were now all alone in this very strange world.

Fortunately soon after, along came, or should I say blew along, a large plastic bag full of other plastic bags. 
Two small beady dark eyes and thin puckered lips told Leela and Jack this was no ordinary plastic bag.
Just as it was about to roll past it jammed itself between a rock and a tree branch. 
"Oh my word, I'm stuck again," proclaimed the bag. 
Up until then he hadn't noticed the other two. 
It wasn't until Jack ran up and pinched the plastic very hard that it let out an anguished cry of pain and discovered it wasn't alone.  
Jack, startled by the noise, jumped back and looked for Leela's hand. 
"What are you doing little man, that hurts? Just because I'm a lowly Plastic Bag doesn't mean I don't have feelings. Anyway, now that you are here you can help me off of this branch."
Leela and Jack obliged and freed the plastic bag.
"Thank you, thank you so much, I now forgive you little man. 
Let me introduce myself, Peter Plastic esquire at your service. 
No job is too big or small with almost cheap rates."
"What job are you talking about." enquired Leela 
"What do you think!" snapped back Peter Plastic. "Rubbish disposal of course, can't you see I'm a garbage bag. 
I'm the only one in Sparkle Razzle Dazzle land and do a very fine job, even if I do say so myself. 
At this very moment you caught me delivering 40 delinquent shopping bags that have been blowing around our beautiful country side causing havoc and distress to our perfect residents. Yes, very much so, I have a very important job. 
By the way who are you?”

Jack and Leela meet Peter Plastic

Leela explained to Peter how she woke to find herself here but had no idea why or where she was other than it was Sparkle Razzle Dazzle land and full of strange things.
"Oh! one of those you are," Peter said knowingly, “we get them sometimes, escapees from the internet. 
Did your mummy leave the computer on last night? 
Oh never mind, to late, to late for a very important date..... Oh forgot, this isn't Wonderland now."
Peter had a little chuckle to himself, but Leela had no idea what he was on about. 
"Anyway, we need help to get home, can you help us please, pretty please, Mummy and Daddy will be so worried," pleaded Leela.

Before Peter could answer there was this enormous splash from the nearby forest. 
Leela ran, while Peter rolled over to where the sound came from. 
Low and behold there was Jack, waste deep in..... wait for it...... MILK! 
Yes milk, he was sitting in a creek flowing with milk. 
Jack, with a big cheesy grin on his face, was taking a sip. 
'Yummy," he said. Jack was a small boy of few words!
“Well I'll be," Leela looked in wonder at the scene. 
Milk in the creek, honey dripping off the pencil pines, and best of all, a small shop that made the most scrumptious honey milk shakes. (Or so the sign said.)

"This is Wonderland, Oh I mean Sparkle Razzle Dazzle land, how beautiful."
"Yes it is, but we need to help you get home, but how is the question?" 
Peter looked up with those beady eyes and puckered his lips even more so. 
If he had hands he would have rested one under his chin... arrrh if he had one. 
Anyway you get the picture. 
A picture of concentrated intelligence focused on the problem. 
"Aarrh I have it," Peter said with a knowing look on his plastic face, “we will go and see Mr. Thomas Toad, he knows all the answers in the whole wide world."
"Isn't he the one with a problem right now?" asked Leela. 
"Yes, yes I forgot I'm supposed to be helping him, I forgot silly me, too much plastic on my mind. Come, let’s go and find him."

So off they went, deep into the sweetie smelling forest to find Mr. T. Toad.

Mr. Thomas Toad was of the horny back spotted variety. 
He was big with leathery brown skin that had zillions of bumps and lumps. 
This gave the impression he was tough and mean, but really he was a big happy softy who would help anyone in need. 
Everyone loved him, or so he thought. 

When Leela, Jack and Peter finally found him sitting under a toffee covered rock, he was looking very miserable.  
Leela, before saying hello, asked, "What's wrong with you?"
"What's wrong, what's wrong, the worst possible thing, that's what wrong. 
My toadstool has been stolen and I have nowhere to sit. What's a king without his throne I ask you?" 
He then let out a deep sad croak.
"It was just in front of my favourite toffee coated rock last night, but was gone this morning.  Who could do such a thing? 
How can a toad in my position sit on the cold milk covered ground. 
I mean to say, I'll catch a dreadful cold or something."  

Thomas Toad not looking very happy!

Everyone looked at each other and felt sad for Thomas. 
(Well, not really but they were good at pretending!)

Just then an email arrived on the back of a huge lumbering tortoise. 
"Out of my way, express delivery for Thomas Toad. Move it."
No one had to "move it" because tortoise was so very slow. 
Leela thought to herself, ‘How can an email be delivered without a computer! Then again, anything’s possible in S R D land.’

The back of the tortoise glowed red and the golden coloured words shone out, it said: 
‘Dear Mr. Thomas, Help! I have been kidnapped by a pack of mushrooms that I suspect have  bad intentions, save me as quickly as possible. 
Your favourite seat always, Toadstool xx 
P.S. you can find me down in the cookie and cake playing field, next to the second rainbow lollipop tree on the right.’
"Oh, we must hurry," announced Thomas, and with that they all dashed off down the lane, past the milk creek and over the gingerbread mountain till they reached the playing field.

" Out of my way, Email delivery"

To their astonishment they found Toadstool surrounded in a sea of Mushrooms.

"See here," snapped Thomas sharply. "You just can't take my comfy seat and get away with it. It’s just not right you hear. What do you have to say for yourselves?"
The Mushrooms were stunned. 
They looked at each other, formed a ring and muttered to each other in a high pitched squeal like only mushrooms can. 
After a while one stepped forward, with his head bent so low it was almost touching the ground. Then spoke in a very squeaky voice.
"Sorry sir, we know we have done wrong. You must understand we became so jealous with envy.   
You see Toadstool here is so tall and straight with the most beautiful red skin dotted with green and yellow spots. On the other hand we are just plain Janes, dull grey and uninteresting."

Leela then thought how much she preferred eating mushrooms to toadstools but decided it was best not to say so. 

A tear rolled down the stalk of the mushroom. 
Upon seeing that, Thomas became all soft and jelly like inside.
"Oh! Not to worry, no real harm done as long as you have learnt your lesson. 
Jealousy is a waste of time and energy. 
Beauty is only skin deep and in the eye of the beholder and all that." 
(He read it in a book once but didn't really know what it meant!)
"Oh thank you, thank you," all the mushrooms shouted out at once. 
Before you could say mushroom pie, they had formed a circle and proceeded to dance around Miss. Toadstool, singing and laughing. 

Toadstool in a sea of mushrooms

Everyone was now happy and Sparke ,Razzle, Dazzle land was back to its Wonderland best. 


In the distance a deep rumbling sound could be heard, and it appeared to be moving towards them! 
Houdini lifted his nose to the sky, took a deep sniff and froze for a moment.
"Oh! It's the Giant Green Bowl of Jelly who lives deep underground: he's on the move, take cover."
Everyone darted this way and that. 
Leela and Jack were left alone in the middle of the field as the ground began to shake. 

In the next valley over grew the Internet tree. It also began to shake and quiver. 
All of a sudden the photos of all the boys and girls started to fall off the branches and twigs, and smashed to the ground. 

Leela felt something brush on her face. "Stop it Harry, I don't like it."
"Harry who?" whispered Mum
Leela opened her eyes and let out a shout. "Mum, you are back."
"I haven't been anywhere," she laughed. 
Leela quickly looked at the bed next hers and saw Jack there, sleeping peacefully.

Only a dream or...

In the corner of the room on top of the highest shelf was a stuffed toy... a toad sitting on a toadstool with a smile on its face...