Reasons not to over-analyse events

Today, for me, has been about sound. It has been an underlying theme, and I like this. Underlying themes are good. They get double ticks in the margin and a few extra marks on the final grade. So I approve of them. And to find them running along nicely in my own life is somehow very gratifying, as though my existence is itself a Proust novel or a Mansfield story without me knowing it. Just think: I'm running around, teaching, writing, having meetings, and all the time, the theme of sound is bubbling underneath like a mountain stream, a forest brook, the gentle fall of a fountain in the market square, a burn in a Scottish landscape.

Ah, what crap I give out.

Let me tell you the facts. The theme can speak for its flipping self. I'm fed up of it now.

1. The sound of the answerphone.

A few days ago, one of my daughters left a message on our answerphone. 'Oh, never mind, it's OK,' it went. 'I'll try your mobile.' I couldn't work out which daughter it was. I texted the younger one. 'Hi, is everything OK?' She came back. 'Yeah, fine, just eating a peanut butter sandwich. Why?' (This can be roughly translated as: Not my paranoid mother AGAIN! Can't a person eat junk food for dinner in peace?') I texted again. 'Did you call home?' She texted back. 'No, why?' (Indeed. Why call home? They're only my parents, blood relatives, closest kith and kin, who conceived, gave birth and cared constantly for me for 18 years, after all.) So it wasn't her, then.

I texted the older one. 'Did you call home?' No text arrived back. So, I guessed that meant 'no', roughly translated as 'Stop trying to pretend you think I called home just as an excuse to contact me and ask me for a minute-by-minute run-through of my day, feelings and inner motivations.'

So, I'd puzzled about this message for days.

Then, today, (oh yes, you think, you were telling us about today about half an hour ago ...) I listened again to the answerphone.

Then I realised. It was me.

I'd rung Husband from work that day to see if he was in. It had taken only the hour between my ringing and my arriving home for me to forget that I'd called.

Very, very worrying.

2. The sound of breaking glass.

7pm tonight. We've had dinner. I'm marking Steinbeck essays. Husband is undergoing a procedure he calls washing up but which I call 'far too much fuss with rinsing and washing and rinsing again and drying and wiping and not letting things drain naturally'. I keep out of it. I'm in the other room, with the door shut. I can hear him rinsing and it makes me want to call a solicitor.

Then, there's a massive crash and that splinter-splinter-splinter sound that goes on for eternity and foretells a long, long session with the vacuum cleaner. In the ominous seconds of silence which follow, I manage to make two acerbic comments about someone's lack of punctuation. Then, the plaintive cry: 'Can you come and help? I'm in here in my socks.'

This is one of those sentences which needs a pragmatic interpretation. What he really means is, 'I'm BEHIND the broken dishes in my socks' which is, of course, quite a dilemma. I pad through, also in socks, and we both stand there, in socks, having a cosy 'oh, we're both in socks' moment, before I spring into action like a ... like a ... spring ... and hand him his shoes from the hallway, and a broom. Then I go back to my marking. At least, for a while, I'm not having to listen to the rinsing. Even the sweeping of broken glass (which we only bought on Saturday) is an improvement on that.

3. The sound of live music - and envy.

7.30pm. Sister texts. (Thank goodness my phone flashes, 'This is your SISTER texting, DUMBO' or something similar, because I could have mistaken her for anyone the way things are going.) 'We're in the pub listening to live music,' she writes. I text back. 'I'm marking Steinbeck essays and listening to live smashing of casserole dishes, live cries of despair and live vacuum cleaner noises. You think you've got it good?' That's the thing about jealousy. It makes your voice oily with sarcasm, and on a text, it sounds even worse. When she got the text, I bet I sounded really bitter and twisted. Texting is very bad on intonation. You can text, 'I love you' and someone can read it as 'You spineless dork, don't ever come near me again'. Anyway, she texts back with, 'Enjoy!' which I think is Textish for 'Whoops! Bad time to let you know I'm having a great time!'

So, as you see, it's all been about sound today. Now, if I were a good English student, and not just an English teacher who doesn't have to actually DO the stuff any more, just teach it, I would be able to link all these underlying but sadly disconnected themes together and force them artificially into some kind of intelligent conclusion about life.

But all I can think of is: 'So, my conclusion is that all these underlying themes of sound mean that my day was all about sound.'

Which wouldn't get me a double tick.


  1. Sounds like Miss needs a few hours of Golden Silence. (Note: all I can hear right now is the breeze and the birds - lovely.)

  2. Oh this is ABSOLUTELY (note the big shouty letters)tremendous. Your husband rinses dishes (properly) too? There is something deeply primordial about rinsing dishes. Watching the detritus wash away and then... oh rapture... then the gentle rinsing away of soap and sudsy water. Yep, can't beat rinsing them dishes.
    Oh the sounds thing? No, sorry can't help you find any link there.
    Need an extra hand for those dishes?

  3. I'm still laughing about the chocolate muffins. I'll just be walking along minding my business and then the words "chocolate muffin" pop into my head and I laugh out loud. I'm so glad I am invisible. It would be embarassing if I weren't.

  4. It's true that we don't give the attention to sound at all until it grabs us around the throat. This is a visual society and. For instance, suppose you had opened the door during the crashing noises, and there stood the most handsome man you had ever seen. What then, mon cher? The count has lost most hearing in one ear and has to look where the sound or speaker is. Visual and audio! The count is going to be off-blog for the next week or so because he has to have a spinal-fusion operation Friday. Be back on blog after that a lot during recovery. My best. Count Sneaky

  5. Yes, Mark, I do. Any ideas where this miracle of Golden Silence can be found?

  6. Spilt Ink - thanks for your comment. I didn't know there were others in the world who found such pleasure in rinsing. You must come and wash up with the Husband sometime and indulge in your hobby in a companionable fashion. I'll be in another room, if that's OK.

  7. CJ - glad to be of use in brightening up your day with a muffin thought here and there. I can't quite get over the event myself yet either. There are just some things one wishes one had never said.

  8. Handsome or not, Count ... In his socks, holding a dishcloth? Forget it. Your upcoming op sounds painful. I wish you a speedy recovery.

  9. Such an interesting observation...I go through the day hearing sounds all day too, but I don't pay attention.
    Nothing made me sit up in bed faster than hearing one of my kids when they were little wretching (throwing up!) I would bound out of bed and barely touch the floor and get to them!

  10. As Count Sneaky says, Fran, it's a visual society. And there's the problem. I remember reading somewhere that the sense of hearing is slowly eroding in humans. Anyway, some of us are indeed sensitive to sound. As for where silence can be found - oddly enough in my neighborhood it's often in the middle of the afternoon. A lot of the humans are at work and their dogs are sleeping.

  11. I could excuse you for thinking you were me, cause we do apparently sound very similar on the phone (even your best friend addresses me as "hello Fran!"), but, well, no.

  12. Retired One, I used to move pretty fast when I heard my kids being sick, too. It didn't take me more than a nanosecond to push Husband out of bed so he could deal with it.

  13. Can Husband get round here pronto, we've got loads of washing up? Too busy enjoying ourselves at the pub while you're marking. Ah, but on second thought, I like my glasses whole. And tell him he'll have to wear socks. Can't abide men's feet, even in socks. Although if he has big feet, it may help to clean the floor whilst he's at it if I spread the dirty dishes around the kitchen. Oh wait, Boyfriend has already done that bit...

  14. Will send him round, Sis. Don't give him your favourite giant delicate wine glasses. He'd only have to breathe on those and there'd be shards everywhere.


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