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Noise

Rants When you live in a city of the size and population density of Hong Kong you can expect a bit of noise. What I don't like is all the unnecessary noise which people either accept as part of life or have grown so accustomed to it that they seem oblivious to the bedlam that surrounds them. Despite having been here almost 30 years I still can't switch off to these irritations. I wish I could. So what sort of noise am I referring to?

Last Saturday I took the bus out to Pak Tam Chung which is on the edge of Sai Kung Country Park, when of the most scenic parts of Hong Kong. PTC has hills, trees, rivers, a few houses, a car park and a kiosk where you can buy food from a very pleasant couple who are consistently friendly and helpful. I like to go out there and unwind whenever I can. I buy a coffee and some very tasty instant noodles, set up a table and chair and sit down to enjoy the peaceful environment and knock off the daily Sudoku puzzle.

Unfortunately PTC is a convenient destination for coach tours. So there I was, happy as could be with noodles dribbling down my chin when the onslaught began. At least two coach loads of travellers from who knows where disgorged themselves into the area outside the kiosk, formed queues for the toilets and spoke very loudly, either amongst themselves or on their mobile phones. But while it destroyed my tranquility that was not the main problem. What really makes me cringe are the tour guides who wander round marshalling their troops, yelling instructions through portable amplifiers. Why? I don't understand why they can't give out instructions before the passengers get off and do they really need to say so much? You can see a similar effect whenever you give someone a microphone. Once they have the microphone they feel the need to say something - at length - as can be heard at many sporting events these days where every nanosecond gap in play has to be filled with shrill voices cajoling the crowd to be excited.

Another pet noise hate is construction work. I am sure other tools are available but my ears tell me there are only two tools, regardless of the size of job and they are the pneumatic drill and the metal hammer. I get home from a hard day's work and just want to relax for a while and someone in an indeterminate number of floors above me gets their pneumatic drill out of the bedside cupboard and starts to redesign their flat. I emphasised the metalness of the hammer. Whenever anyone hammers anything here it always seems to require a metal hammer to thump bits of metal with the accompanying high decibel results. In other places people might think of making efforts to deaden the sound using any of the obvious methods that could be employed but clearly that is not the way of doing things here.

Hong Kong building sites amaze visitors with their total reliance on bamboo scaffolding. The builders then clamber all over the scaffolding and peer inside your flat. Unlike the tour guides the builders are not wired up to amplfiers or other electronic devices and so communication up and down the scaffolding is carried out by a more traditional method - shouting.

Thinking of shouting, I had a pleasant trip to Lamma island a few weeks ago and on the return ferry I was able to enjoy sitting outside at the back of the ferry. Near to me was a group comprising of two or three families from the mainland and the group contained three children. The eldest was probably 8 or 9, a big lad who seemed to be the epitome of the little emperor syndrome that has come about in China partly as a result of the one child policy. The parents were keen to relax a bit and chat amongst themselves while the children watched the sea go by but while they did so they kept up a barrage of commentary with the eldest lad having outbursts of shouting which were ignored by the mothers. To give them their due they did start to notice the looks that other passengers were giving them and we were then able to observe the cringeworthy performance of mother trying to point out the error of the lad's ways only for the boy to shout even louder. For some parents the one child policy was far too generous.

But the noise irritation that is most prevalent and noticeable on a daily basis is the car horn. No laws here about not sounding your horn after 10pm or when there's an R in the month. No, you can sound your horn as often as you like and for as long as you like. If a car waiting at traffic lights hesitates for a second when the lights go green you can guarantee they will be honked. A delay of more than a few seconds will result in extended blasts with drivers leaning on their horns for minutes at a time. But what does it achieve? Are traffic jams cleared more quickly if people sound their horns. And who hears these rude toots, is it just the offending people who are causing delays? Of course not. As a resident of a flat on the main road through Happy Valley I can inform drivers that the noise they make in the street below carries very well up to my flat.

I can't expect everyone to be quiet to keep me happy but I can expect people to behave a little less selfishly and to spare a moment to think what effect your behaviour has on other people.