Phantom Sounds

As a kid I used to lie awake at night and listen. The night is never silent. If it were summer a mosquito would announce itself with its alarming buzzing. The old Westinghouse Fridge would drone endlessly into the night. Behind my closed bedroom door I would hear the KEEEWOOOOSH as someone from the family flushed the toilet. There would be a constant VROOOOOM as cars passed the house. Occasionally the more deep throaty chugga chug of a lorry would rumble by. I would drift off to sleep with the cricket’s chirruping endlessly into the night.

In the morning those darned sparrows would awaken me with their incessant chirping.  The more irritating and sinister squawking of crows could be heard in the distance. Out the front the rubbish man would announce himself with the clanging of tin lids for these were the days when rubbish men were among the fittest people on earth. They would run along behind the truck lifting and then emptying heavy metal rubbish bins into the garbage truck. As they did so you might hear the barking of an annoyed dog because the rubbish man had dared encroach on his territory.

I would be summoned from my bedroom by my mother calling up the hall that breakfast was ready. I would sit down in the kitchen eating my Cocoa Pops as my mother bellowed her instructions for the day. I was not to be late. I was not to forget my book, I was to clean my teeth and brush my hair. She would yell these instructions from all corners of the house – the lounge, the bathroom or the bedroom – as she set about getting herself ready for work. Occasionally my father, who had been on the night shift at Holden’s, would bark at us a plea to be quiet so that he could sleep.

As I ate my breakfast the radio would be blaring in the background. My favourite song that I listened for everyday was Daddy Cool and their Eagle Rock – “Hey Hey Hey good old Eagle Rock’s here to stay, I’m just crazy ’bout the way we move, Doin’ the Eagle Rock”  The Beatles were soon to break up and the radio stations played Get Back annoyingly and constantly – “Get back, get back, Get back to where you once belonged, Get back, get back, Get back to where you once belonged, Get back, Loretta , Go home” At the end of a song the announcer would announce the time reminding me that I needed to hurry up and get ready.

Before leaving for school I would sit and watch Veronica and Fat Cat. These were the days before we were bombarded with news from the time we woke up until when went to bed. Roger Ramjet was my morning friend. I loved that each episode the narrator announced– “As this episodic episode begins…” And then of course there was Roger’s catch phrase … “But that’s Impossible …”

As I watched Roger the chattering of children at the front of our house would build to a crescendo as they excitedly made their way to school. I would listen for David and Peter as they passed my house. This would be my cue that it was time to go. Occasionally I would hear the squeal of brakes as an inattentive child attempted to cross the road, many were the times that the wail of an ambulance would follow soon after.

As we walked there would be inane chatter.  We would talk about The Brady Brunch. The episode the night before had been about Marcia’s braces. Peter had an annoying habit of copying the mannerisms of this American family. I particularly loathed it when he used the term, “You did too …”  as he accused his brother of some misdemeanour at home. We would chat about the Big Match excitedly, particularly if our favourite team had been shown the night before. I have particularly fond memories of Brian Moore and his excitable commentating – “Moore, Brooking, Robson – Out wide to Dowell – He crosses – IT’S IN THERE!!” The distinctive theme music of the Big Match – Da Da Da DADADADA  –  has never left me.

School would start with an assembly. We listened as the students read their stories, announced their sports results or played the dreaded recorder. The recorder was, for some unknown reason, the instrument of choice. It sounded horrible and the students would all roll their eyes as some would be virtuoso launched into a rendition of Once a Jolly Swagman. As all this happened friends would be whispering to me as to what was to happen at recess time. We were to pick teams for the usual soccer match, it was my turn to be goal keeper. Dave had brought his brand new ball to school that he had got for his birthday.

And at the end of the day we would head on home. We would watch endless repeats of Get Smart, Gilligan’s Islands and the Brady Bunch. The theme songs of the latter two occasionally, in quiet moments, even now play endlessly in my head…. “ Theres Gilligan, the Skipper too, a millionaire and his wiffffeee …. “ Over dinner the family would share stories of their day as we listened to Alex Macaskil read the 6.30 news on Channel 7. Occasionally, my inquisitive young mind would seek clarification of the stories of the day. My father was always willing to provide me with an explanation.

I am now deaf but these sounds have never left me. When I see children walking to school my minds ear still hears their boisterous chatter. As the lorry passes by the deep throaty rumble can still be heard deep in my memory. I fancy as the sparrows sit in the trees that their chirping still wakes me as it did before. As the repeats of Gilligan’s Island commence the theme song plays its jaunty tune in my head. There is never silence.

Phantom sounds alive and as loud as ever.

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4 thoughts on “Phantom Sounds

  1. Well that takes me back to the days when I was moderately deaf in one ear and severe in the other whereas now I am profound in both ears due to a skydive. We must be similar ages cos I can relate to most of what you wrote 😀 I enjoyed reading that – a blast from the past 🙂

  2. I agree with Ant, Gazza. Very nostalgic piece of writing. In my case, I had the clatter of trams chugging along our road. I could never hear the sound of cars as the engine is too low for me to hear.
    When/how did you lose your hearing? 😕

  3. I had an illness when young … Lots of infections … Just sort of faded between the gas of 8 and 10 … Theory is the antibiotic ear drops played a part … Who knows except the doctors were baffled.

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