In the summer with the windows open, all sorts of sounds drift into our house from our quiet little village of Uphill. If the tide is in there is the distant sound of the sea lapping the shore on Weston beach.
It’s early morning and as I sit and work I can hear a neighbour’s chickens clucking; already the other birds are up and about, seagulls screaming lazily as if they’ve only just woken, sparrows shouting like noisy children, starlings mimicking everything they hear… there is the occasional strange shriek of the local woodpecker who not only digs up lawns in search of grubs, but has the illusion that the concrete lamp-post is a tree.
If it’s a weekend, our neighbour Mr Amey might be kicking his mighty motorbike into life to go for a spin on the quiet roads before the holiday traffic floods into the nearby town of Weston. Three times a week there is a rattle of bottles as the milkman delivers our milk… yes we still have a milkman.
If it’s not the holidays, people are going off to work, their cars reluctant and slow, or if the driver is late, roaring away down the cul-de-sac. Little children jabber with their friends on the way to the primary school behind our house and their mothers and fathers gossip with each other behind them.
As the day grows older, towards mid-morning our Pakistani neighbours stand outside on the phone to friends and family at home, and the sound of Punjabi drifts into our garden, along with the delicious smells of the food Mrs Mohammed is preparing… that woman tortures us in the most delightful way with her spices! Her boys are fanatical sports lovers, the youngest one often knocks on our door to ask for his ball back.
If it’s Friday the scrap man comes round, calling out for old metal, anything, he’ll take it… he has a pick-up truck with a loudspeaker, in the old days he would have had a pony and cart and shouted, “old iron! Any old iron!”
We have had some gorgeous sunshine despite all the rain, and the little children next door love playing in their paddling pool and their laughter and silly childish chatter drifts on the air until their mother calls them in for lunch.
The birds by this time are really busy; there is a very aggressive blackbird who threatens anyone who comes anywhere near him… meanwhile his wife sneaks under the netting over our blueberry bush and steals the fruit. I distract her with grapes… I don’t want her babies to starve, but I’d like to eat some blueberries myself! Jackdaws stand around gossiping in a casual way, keeping an eye on what’s going on.
The day wears on into sleepy afternoon but the children aren’t sleepy; they call and shout to each other as they pass along the passageway beside our house. If people are having barbecues the smoke drifts around and it is as if it brings their voices to us, laughing and joking with friends, enjoying the prospect of sharing their meal and sitting out in the warm evening.
If there are cows on the hill they begin to low and there is the occasional yip which might be dog, or might be a fox. If there is a function the Victory Hall there will be the sound of music spilling out of open doors and windows, and the voices of guests laughing and talking loudly.
Nightbirds call, badgers grunt as they dig up our front lawn, latecomers from the pub call goodnight to each other, seagulls still scream… and the village settles down hoping for another lovely sunny day tomorrow.