No wind and a pale dawn sky as I walked along by the sea this morning. The only sound was the soft, insistent shush-shushing of waves breaking on the shingle - and of course the soft insistent ringing in my ears, which frequently accompanies me these days. No matter, it's just another of those sounds which I can block out most of the time, like the incessant cries of seagulls which used to wake me at 4 in the morning, or the chug-chugging of buses waiting at the traffic lights outside my front garden. Nowadays I seem to choose what I hear, like the birds singing while I'm gardening, and a couple of weeks ago it was the frogs croaking, very loudly, in my pond. They all turned up for the annual frogspawn-fest on the first day of Spring. There were at least 10 quite large frogs, not sure if they were in pairs, but there was an awful lot of frantic activity going on, which we watched in total fascination, and it has resulted in a pond full of frogspawn. Lovely.
I remember that as a child I used to lie in bed and listen to the train chugging (yes, it was a steam engine) along the single track "Pull and Push" railway which ran between Romford and Upminster, stopping at Emerson Park Halt along the way. To catch this train at Emerson Park we had to walk half a mile up Osborne Road, and as the road ran parallel with the railway line, we could guage the train times precisely, and knew when to break into a run so that we didn't miss the train. Going to Primary School also meant walking up the road, in the opposite direction, to cross the railway. There was a black cinder path which led up to the railway line, and a simple wooden stile to cross on either side of the line. Then we walked along a criss-cross of cinder paths and alleys to get to school. I can't imagine that those paths are still there today - it would be considered far too dangerous. But in those days we all did that walk and crossed the railway line at least twice a day. Of course a steam train was slower, much more visible and pretty noisy. And we knew that the train ran along more or less every half hour, so I guess we had the train timetable fixed at the back of our minds. In any case, I can't remember a single accident happening along that line in the 20 years we lived there!
We actually lived in Osborne Road and the line ran along the back end of our garden. The railway bank was a great place to go for having adventures, and Sister and I regularly climbed over the fence to explore. Most of the time, though, we just didn't hear the train - it was another of those sounds that disappeared into the background. But to this day I find the sound of a train comforting when I'm lying in bed. And, funnily enough, most of the houses I've lived in have had a railway line within (faint) earshot. In Cambridge we were backing onto the Botanical Gardens with the train station close behind, though not too close. And even here, in Hove, I can hear the train in the distance some nights or early mornings, when there are no other competing sounds. It's quite a way away, but I guess my ears are tuned to that particular comforting and familiar sound.
By the way, one thing I am listening to is Chris Evans in the morning (sometimes) on Radio 2. He has stopped shouting, and has made me laugh a couple of times. He's no Terry Wogan, but I need a bit of light-hearted banter and some music while I'm ironing. So I suppose I have capitulated - but anything is better than the non-stop bickering between the political parties that's currently wall-to-wall on Radio 4.