Cut Noise

Seeking the quiet life


Four mini blogs

So much for ‘Lockdown’ being different 

In a previous existence I think I was a mouse. Like mice, I scuttle away when I hear noise. Which makes lockdown an interesting experience. I’ve revelled in the quiet streets and the skies almost free of planes. But, otherwise, when I go for my daily walk, it is little different than normal. For years now I’ve walked past the shops, cafes and bars. With their hated loud music. It was as if they were shut to me. And now they are closed to everybody! I know by heart the few places that are free of the music. I can't wait to get back to them and be as quiet as a mouse!

To find a great list of venues free of background music check out run by the admirable Pipedown.


Buskers – the most arrogant breed in town

Buskers. Don’t you just hate them! It was OK years ago when they just strummed their guitars and sang their songs. But now they amplify it all with a loud sound system. Their noise – I believe they call it music – dominates the street and can penetrate the walls of the surrounding shops and offices. What arrogance to assume we want to hear their music! And, if we don’t, shouldn’t we be entitled to take money out of their collection hat.


Derail those train announcements!

They are over-long, over-loud and over-frequent. Stand behind the yellow line! - when there is nobody else on the platform. Take extra care in the wet weather! – as if we hadn’t worked out that for ourselves. Carry a bottle of water in warm weather! – you don’t say! Some underground, train and bus journeys have become an acoustic nightmare. There was a time you could get pleasantly lost in your own thoughts on a journey. Now you have no choice but to listen to somebody else’s words – repeatedly!


Those days the world goes quiet

First thing on New Year’s Day I always go to the laundrette. The walk from home is blissfully quiet. The revellers are sleeping off their hangovers. The parades haven’t started. Not a car on the road. Not a person in sight. Just me and my smelly socks. Sense - sational! Only a snowy day can match it. The moment just after the snow has fallen. Suddenly the cars are just creeping quietly by. Nothing can move fast or loudly. The people retreat into their homes. For a precious few moments the street is mine……and is silent.

Read (slightly) longer blogs on the next few pages:

Why 'guilt-free' flying must include noise as well as emissions

Why Scandinavia is a favourite destination…..and it’s not Greta!

Paris: a long way to go for a cup of coffee!

I’d rather he bought a sex doll than a leaf blower!

Why 'guilt-free' flying must include noise as well as emissions


When the UK Government published its Transport Decarbonisation Strategy last week, Grants Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said it would lead to ‘guilt-free’ flying.

That phrase worries me.

Not because I don’t want guilt-free flying. I do. But because it doesn’t include the other downsides of flying; in particular noise.

Maybe Grant Shapps was going for a catchy soundbite, but if people come to believe that dealing with emissions will usher in guilt-free flying, then residents under noisy flight are in for a difficult time.

In the current issue of The Spectator their columnist Martin Vander Weyer wrote: “Frequent flying will be no sin when it leaves no emissions behind.”

As it happens, I am all in favour of sustainable fuel, electric and hydrogen aircraft and a carbon charge to incentivise the change. Flying brings leisure and business benefits. They should be extended to the 80% of the world’s population that have never set foot in a plane.

But I worry that in 2050 a middle-aged Greta will be able to fly to America ‘guilt-free’ because the carbon problem has been sorted out but she will be disturbing the residents of New York since the noise of her plane remains disturbing. ‘Guilt-free’ must include noise as well as emissions.

John Stewart

Why Scandinavia is a favourite destination…..and it’s not Greta!


We hear a lot these days about ‘flight shaming’. Now I’ve got a confession to make. I couldn’t give up flying for the sake of the climate. Perhaps I should but I can’t. However, I’m not altogether a lost cause! Noise drives me round the bend. I don’t want it. And I don’t want to impose it on others. So my rule when flying (which, in truth, is not that often) is, wherever possible, to use the airports which disturb the least number of people. I’ve become a bit of an expert. If I fly from Stansted to Rome on holiday, I disturb over 250,000 fewer people than if I go from London City to Frankfurt. Scandinavia has become a favourite destination. They have had the sense to build out-of-town airports. Moscow is a no-no. And a lot of the big American airports present real problems.

'My rule when flying is, wherever possible, to use the airports which disturb the least number of people'

Madrid is preferred to Lisbon where the planes land right over the city. Don’t get me wrong, I do use trains. Paris or Brussels is always Eurostar. And rail comes in handy to reach a place I refuse to fly to. I fly to the nearest ‘acceptable’ airport and then catch the train or coach. And two things to remember for any of you who may want to follow my rather quirky habit. First, remember the numbers disturbed can bear no resemblance to the size of the airport. Glasgow, for example, disturbs more people than Schiphol. And, second, always try to go for a direct flight. I’d love you to join me. We could set a trend. Look where it got Greta!

Sue Thomas

Paris: a long way to go for a cup of coffee!


Paris: romantic; atmospheric; chic; a little bit naughty - it’s all these things but what grabs me is the peace and quiet of its cafes. Why do I need to cross the Channel to linger over a coffee without the noise of music blaring out? Yes, I can get coffee minus the music in London but only because I know where to find the places. In Paris, it tends to be the norm. In Brussels too and, from my fairly limited experience, in Germany as well. I can’t be sure about this but I wonder if it is something we have imported from America. As we have with the over-loud and over-long announcements on London Underground. They were introduced by the

"I can get coffee without music in London but only because I know where to find the places. In Paris, it tends to be the norm" 

American Tim O’Toole when he was head of the Underground. And yet even American friends remarked on the barrage of announcements on London Underground. So perhaps I’m blaming the US unfairly. But, whatever the reason, London’s cafes and trains are awash with noise in a way that is not the case in Paris or Brussels. My fear of course is that the rest of Europe will catch the British disease. I worry it is creeping in. I went to a Starbucks in Germany recently. There is was – the music. I hope these companies aren’t bringing their bad habits with them. I can’t believe the customers of the myriad of small cafes in Paris want their conversations interrupted by Kylie Minogue.


I’d rather he bought a sex doll than a leaf blower!


Calling me from B&Q my husband said something divorce-worthy. “The garden’s a mess,” he said. “I’m going to buy a leaf blower.” I tried to remain calm and replied that it would be fractionally less mortifying if the neighbours saw him bringing home a blow-up sex doll. And certainly less anti-social. I was totally serious. As he knows quite well because he’s heard the cussing to prove it, I detest leaf blowers. Hearing them in full throat is like getting aurally beaten up. Germany’s ministry for the environment has told citizens that they shouldn’t be used unless absolutely necessary because they cause pollution and are fatal to insects. One minister said not only were they deafening (some are as high as 120 decibels) but they harm soil biology and “insects and spiders are sucked up and chopped and plant seeds are destroyed”.

"I detest leaf blowers. Hearing them in full throat is like getting aurally beaten up"

Good man. Could whichever lot wins the election here make a similar edict? Because they are also fatal to good manners. It’s selfish for an able-bodied person to say “I can’t be bothered to wield a rake so your ear drums will pay”. My husband realised I was serious and has now asked a local gardener to arbitrate. “Use a rake,” he said, bluntly. Another good man. Raking is good for the grass and you also burn off calories. As you would with a sex doll, to be fair, but how’s that going to tidy up the garden?

This piece by Carol Midgley first appeared in the Times 25/11/19. Carol Midgley is a regular writer on the newspaper.