Sounds of an English Summer

The sounds of the English summer are changing.

For as long as I have been alive, ice-cream vans have only been able to play their chimes for strictly-regulated short bursts every three minutes. The law is being relaxed, however, and they will soon be able to play for slightly longer twelve second bursts every two minutes.

I do not know if this is good news or not – the sound of an ice-cream van is repetitive, annoying, a jingle; but it means a Mr Whippy is just around the corner, and on a long, very hot Sunday afternoon (as for example yesterday) that signals a welcome diversion.

***

I have written elsewhere of the dawn chorus and how it can disturb sleep (I was kept awake a couple of days ago by an irritable goldfinch). No one can shut the birds up, but it seems that a milkman has been banned from whistling while he delivers his milk at the crack of dawn. (There’s a video of him whistling here, and to be honest I think his customers may have a point).

***

The sound of summer at OISE Cambridge, old and current students will recall, is the ambulance siren dopplering down to Addenbrooke’s hospital – one of the largest in the region. With the windows open, we have the occasional not entirely unwelcome interruption.

I used to work at a school near St Mark’s Square in Venice where, in the summer, we were similarly forced to accommodate the passage of the gondolas on the canals beneath the window, with their cargo of tenors singing Neapolitan (?!) songs. Most were pretty awful, but there was one individual with an Elvis quiff who had a belting baritone. My students and I would smile indulgently at one another as he glided past, reminding us that life, barmy or otherwise, goes on outside the classroom.

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