Brian Edwards Media

My Name is Brian and I’m not Paranoid

11217499_gal1Lunchtime today. I’ve made some lettuce and tomato sandwiches for Judy and me. (Mollenberg Swiss Bake sandwich bread, Heinz Seriously Good Mayonnaise, butter, salt, pepper.) Yummmmm!  And two cups of Bell tea. (I don’t feel alive till I’ve had it.) I take the sandwiches out and put them on the table that sits on the deck that overlooks our lovely Herne Bay garden. It’s a beautifully still, balmy Auckland day. I call Judy and go back for the cups of tea. Just as I take my first step from the kitchen onto the deck, one of the neighbours at the back of our property starts up his petrol-driven hedge trimmer. We retreat indoors and close the doors and windows.

If I were paranoid, the timing would suggest that the neighbour had been waiting for us to sit down with our sandwiches and tea and had started up his petrol-driven hedge trimmer at this particular moment as part of a campaign to drive us from the district.

But I’m not paranoid. My neighbour is almost certainly at work and has no idea that Judy and I are about to sit down and enjoy a quiet lunch in our lovely garden. And it  isn’t actually him wielding the petrol-driven hedge trimmer. One of an army of professional gardeners who make a more-than-decent living from servicing the properties in our street alone, is the source of the appalling racket. And our neighbour would have no reason at all to want to drive us from the district. We’re very quiet, responsible people. 

No, the timing of this event is more or less coincidental. I say ‘more or less’ because pure coincidence would suggest that the concurrence of lunch and some annoyingly noisy machine was rare. But in fact the odds of being forced inside by the operation of a petrol-driven hedge trimmer, weed eater, leaf blower, lawnmower or chainsaw, a vacuum cleaner (for long concrete drives), water blaster, skill saw, sander, nail gun, hammer or other house-and-garden-improving device, are such that 30 minutes is more or less the maximum time one can reasonably expect to sit undisturbed in a Herne Bay garden. I say ‘more or less’, but if you take into account barking dogs and the glass-shattering, high-pitched screams and yelling of small children, the window of peaceful opportunity is probably less than that.

If I were paranoid, I might suspect that not one neighbour, but all of them were part of a campaign to drive us from the district.

But I’m not paranoid. My neighbours can’t be out to get me, because the incessant noise of ‘power gardening’ and home improvement must also prevent them from enjoying tea and lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches on their decks and in their gardens as well. So why do they do it?

My conclusion is that gardens in Herne Bay are not for sitting in, quietly enjoying tea with lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches or canapés and chardonnay or even barbecued bangers and beer, but are for looking at through the kitchen window or showing proudly to one’s friends and visitors.

‘Beautiful garden, darling, it must take you forever.’

‘Not at all, my dear, we have a man come round. Three men, come to think of it.’

‘But doesn’t that cost the earth?’

‘Well, of course!’

In a previous post, I railed against the encroachment of the leaf-blower into modern city and suburban life. But I also suggested a way of reducing the noise pollution that has become  a by-product of gardening and house maintenance:

‘If everyone used their leaf blower – and their weed eater and their hedge trimmer and their lawnmower and their chainsaw –   at the same time on the same day each week, say Saturday afternoon between three and five, there might well be a danger of the earth moving a degree or two on its axis, but at least it would be quiet for the rest of the week.’

 But I was pessimistic about the chances of such a scheme getting off the ground. Kiwi men, I argued, were ‘more in love with their noisy labour saving devices’ than they were with their wives and children.

‘We’ve got a few in our street. I’m convinced they’ve got a roster to ensure that there’s always one leaf blower in operation during daylight hours and occasionally after dark.’

Just a touch of paranoia there perhaps.

Anyway, I’d really like to be able to enjoy the undisturbed peace and quiet of our lovely Herne Bay garden for more than half an hour.  It’s not that I’m paranoid. It’s just that I’m getting angry and upset with all this noise. Maybe I should  go to the video store, while there still is a video store to go to, and take out a nice, calming movie.

‘Hi, my name is Brian and I’m not paranoid. Do you have a copy of Falling Down?’

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31 Comments:

  1. It is not just Herne Bay; it is everywhere. The days of peace and quiet no longer exist. Apart from garden machinery and dogs, we also have stereo systems, youths on motor bikes, cars with noisy exhausts and all this in what is supposedly a quiet residential area.

    When one goes out one’s ears are assaulted by music in shops. You cannot even go to a restaurant without having to endure background music or if the restaurant is really upper class some creep playing the piano.

    If one goes to a cinema, concert or the theatre there are mobile phones, sweet wrappers and animated conversations.

    Most people nowadays have no conception of peace and tranquillity. They are only happy when their ears are assaulted with noise even if it is the sound of their own fatuous voices. No, you are not paranoid. There is a conspiracy to drive those who value peace and quiet, insane. My one wish is that when I am told I have only six months to live that I can take an AK47 and obliterate some of those who create the noise, in the knowledge that I will only have to spend a short time in Paremoremo. When this happens, will you come and visit me?

    • My one wish is that when I am told I have only six months to live that I can take an AK47 and obliterate some of those who create the noise, in the knowledge that I will only have to spend a short time in Paremoremo. When this happens, will you come and visit me?

      It will not be a visit, Ben. I will be in there with you, endlessly replaying Falling Down on the prison DVD and screaming (very quietly). I told you so. I told you so.

  2. You’re wrong, Brian. The universe is carefully constructed with the sole purpose to bedevil and spite me — get over yourself. :)

    • You’re wrong, Brian. The universe is carefully constructed with the sole purpose to bedevil and spite me — get over yourself. :)

      This is not a paranoia competition, Craig. But remember: Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

  3. Incidentally just to demonstrate that the lunatics really are in charge you have the cretins living near Karori Wildlife Sanctuary complaining about being awakened by the song of the Tui, a most beatiful sound, presumably after a late night party when they have kept the neighbourhood awake with their blasted stereo systems.

    Bugger the lawn mowers; just poison the wild life!

  4. You’re, neither, being rational nor reasonable; not withstanding the pressing issue — that, a freshly-made “lettuce and tomato sandwich” waits for no one.

    Part of enjoying a “nice garden”, is maintenance. But of the practice of garden upkeep, occasionally, involves something a bit more heavy-duty than pruning shears and a trowel. You are living in the ‘burbs (a very nice one at that, too), not in the bucolic surrounds of the rolling countryside. Where the soothing ambient sounds of cicadas, bees and birds, can sometimes be rudely punctuated by a cow moo-ing, wanting to be milked.

    Rather, than see the functioning of a petrol-driven hedge trimmer being an auditory assault on your senses; maliciously, calculated to inflict maximum discomfiture upon you — by disturbing the sererenity of enjoying your rabbit’s lunch — you ought to be grateful that your neighbours take as much pride as you, in maintaining their gardens to the level of your impeccable standards, too.

    Maybe, if you slotted a few cold-cuts in between the lettuce/tomato and mayonnaise — it might just might fortify you to withstand the pain for the 30 minutes or so. The “Falling Down” DVD is no panacea for your percolating rage: your — maniacal — craving for a AK-47, is stark testimony to that.

    • You’re, neither, being rational nor reasonable; not withstanding the pressing issue — that, a freshly-made “lettuce and tomato sandwich” waits for no one.

      Hmmm. I can’t see their gardens. Most Herne Bay residents have their properties fenced like fortrresses. And seeing the results of the noise pollution they have subjected me to would be no consolation.

  5. Sob!! I commiserate. My neighbour cuts his ENTIRE lawn with a weed-trimmer. Takes hours.
    I can recommend you hire this from your nice DVD man.
    It is called ” Noise” and stars Tim Robbins. A bit repetitious but it had me cheering. Check this review.
    http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2008-05-15-noise_N.htm

    • Sob!! I commiserate. My neighbour cuts his ENTIRE lawn with a weed-trimmer. Takes hours.

      As do council maintenance men all over the city, the same council maintenance men who clear tonnes of leaves each autumn with leaf blowers! Thanks for the DVD suggestion.

  6. I found it hard to love the tui in the Devon St gulch what mimicked a cell phone ringtone Ben. Quite difficult at times.

    • I found it hard to love the tui in the Devon St gulch what mimicked a cell phone ringtone Ben. Quite difficult at times.

      There isa bird in a tree outside or bedroom which starts making a loud bell-like call at around 5.30am. I hear it, smile, turn over and go back to sleep. Natural noises, with the exception of barking dogs and sreaming children, don’t bother me.

  7. Just out of interest, Brian, how do you maintain your garden? Do you add to the mower orchestra?

    For myself I use an electric lawn mower and trimmer both of which are substantially quieter than their petrol driven counterparts. In fact I have never been able to understand the fascination with the petrol lawn mower. My brief acquaintance with one was somewhat frustrating with three hours starting it and one hour mowing the lawn. I have a reasonably large lawn and find an electric mower performs the task very well and with less noise and aggravation.

    Merv; you are being unfair on Brian. I am the homicidal maniac with the craving for an AK47.

  8. Sorry, Brian. I, wrongly, attributed the “AK-47″ remark to you, when, in fact, it was the rabid sound-adverse, “Ben”.

    You just know — that, with his remark: “…or if the restaurant is really upper class some creep playing the piano”, his nirvana can be achieved by being cloistered away in a blacked-out anechoic chamber.

    • You just know — that, with his remark: “…or if the restaurant is really upper class some creep playing the piano”, his nirvana can be achieved by being cloistered away in a blacked-out anechoic chamber.

      Sorry Merv, I’m with him. Restaurants are for eating, talking to friends or lovers and socialising. I don’t mind a little quite background music but too often it’s impossible to hear yourself think.

  9. No, Merv, I am not ‘sound adverse’. I am adverse to having others inflicting their pollution on to me. I enjoy music but I do not insist that my neighbours listen to it. If my dog barks I immediately bring it inside. I have made a deliberate choice to use electric gardening tools because they are quieter and cleaner.

    Like Brian I love natural sounds such as bird song. The sounds of children playing do not bother me. However I am adverse to the many selfish and stupid people who inhabit this planet who believe that they can do as they damn well please without regard for others.

  10. Well, I can highly recommend my neighbourhood here in Birkenhead Point. There’s a minimal presence of petrol-driven machinery noise – except when the wind carries the noise across the water from Herne Bay ;)

    I guess unless you want to relocate into a peaceful pocket such as ours, you might just have to put up with the noise, at least until age related hearing loss requires you to wear a hearing aid – which you can then switch off once you’ve made your lettuce and tomato sandwich!

    Who knows, your neighbours might be doing you a favour already by speeding up the process. So, perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to sit next to the leaf blower …

  11. I’m of two minds here: on the one hand, I’m genuinely impressed (with both of you) by your consideration towards others, sound-wise. But, on the other — I recoil, with the insulting use of the epithet, “creep,” for the guy/gal playing dulcet tones on the piano. Said pianist has been engaged by the restaurateur — so, why does he/she become the target for your churlish invective, when it comes to that establishment’s discreet ambient music?

    I swear, there are rude and inconsiderate boffins, everywhere. And, more often than not, they tend to congregate in restaurants; where their raucous guffawing and carry-ons, assail all and sundry. But, that was never the crux of the original topic. The issue was the noise being created by homeowners/contract gardeners/landscapers/ council workers etc, going about the business of maintaining and beautifying homes and gardens, council-owned berms and trees, during the course of the day. It was about the impertinence of despoiling a much-eagerly anticipated culinary event: the consumption of a tomato-and-lettuce sandwich, no less.

    • I’m of two minds here: on the one hand, I’m genuinely impressed (with both of you) by your consideration towards others, sound-wise. But, on the other — I recoil, with the insulting use of the epithet, “creep,” for the guy/gal playing dulcet tones on the piano.

      I think it was someone else who used the word ‘creep’. But yes, restaurant patrons can be as annoying as restaurant music. Worst and loudest offenders – groups of tipsy women. They leave boorish men for dead.

  12. I’m now one of those “…professional gardeners who make a more-than-decent living…” that you refer to. Hmmmm…except, by the time I fork out for equipment & vehicle maintenance, accountant, GST, ACC, IRD, business loan etc., there IS no “more-than-decent living”! Sure, I’m my own boss, but my own boss is BROKE!
    Lawnmowing contractors are on this earth to do the gardens of those who dash off to the office to earn the “…more-than-decent living…” to pay for the garden that we’re maintaining.
    Some might say we’re a necessary evil. At least we save others from the heat, humidity, rain, cold, sweat, scratches, blood, fumes, insects, dirt and – lest we forget! – facefuls of dog-shit of their gardens’ reality!!

    • I’m now one of those “…professional gardeners who make a more-than-decent living…” that you refer to.

      My complaint wasn’t about people being employed to do gardens. If I had the money to do it, I’d probably employ someone myself. My piece was about noise. Let me give you a small example. There are several very long drives quite close to our home. On a regular basis, about once a week, “gardeners” remove every leaf and every speck of dust from these drives by ambling from the bottom to the top with a leaf blower. The ‘journey’ takes about an hour. So that’s two hours a week of leaf-blowing and we’re only talking about two drives. My question is: is it really necessary to keep a drive as clean as an operating room floor; and, if it is, have any of these gardeners heard of a rake?

  13. Oh dear, re-reading my comment I realise I might have just made a prat of myself. It doesn’t sound light-hearted or humorous as it was intended!!
    Now if only there was a delete function …

    • Oh dear, re-reading my comment I realise I might have just made a prat of myself. It doesn’t sound light-hearted or humorous as it was intended!!

      Relax, Sylvie, I wasn’t at all offended by your comment.

  14. No need to backtrack, Sylvie, my sweet. A bit of mirth and irreverence, is just what the good “doctor” prescribes for his blog.

    • No need to backtrack, Sylvie, my sweet. A bit of mirth and irreverence, is just what the good “doctor” prescribes for his blog.

      Correct.

  15. Lazy people, Lazy minds , Lazy attitudes, the scourge of our society, people who are so “time poor” they cant possibly do their own garden. My view is that if you can’t look after it then you don’t deserve it. Be it gardens, children, pets or houses.

  16. Oh, man! After reading PhilBee’s heart-rending and punishing travails, you just gotta feel for him.

    And, there just has to be a salutatory lesson for Brian: Next time, while slaving away in the kitchen (preparing his famed tomato-and-lettuce sammies), and he hears the toiling sounds from a neighbour’s garden, be sure to make a few extra. I’m betting, they will be received with all the solicitous grace, that the gardener can muster.

  17. “My view is that if you can’t look after it then you don’t deserve it. Be it gardens, children, pets or houses”.

    Right on, Top Bloke. Whether you’re aged & infirmed, crippled, sick, elderly, blind, deaf and dumb, overseas on a long holiday — it shouldn’t make a bit of diiference. Just get off your fat, lazy arse and do it yourself.

  18. Eric –
    My point was directed at the so-called “time-poor”
    A euphemism much like “Quality time”
    eg. “I’m so busy I only spend an hour with my kids each night – but it is quality time”

  19. After reading all your posts it reminds me why I left the city and retreated into the mountains above Golden Bay, where all day long the only sounds are cicadas, birds and the occasional sheep. If only we could equip the possums with slippers instead of hob nailed boots we’d sleep easier! lol

  20. Man, really, really interesting reading about all this theological stuff.
    Hey, for a real buzz, can we move on to Jewish liturgical rites, straight after this?

    • Man, really, really interesting reading about all this theological stuff. Hey, for a real buzz, can we move on to Jewish liturgical rites, straight after this?

      Sorry, Merv. too controversial. But I might consider something on the influence of Soren Kierkegaard on Franz Kafka with special reference to Abraham and the burning bush. Whadya think?