Quiet, isn't it?

When urban life redefines 'quiet'...

Huw Williams | 23:10, Saturday 20 October 2012 | Turin, Italy

I had to catch two trams this morning. First there was the familiar and famous Torino number 13, old, ugly and orange and full of character, it clatters and grumbles its way around the city and onto many a picture postcard (‘cartolina’) of Torino. Then I had to change onto a different route, served by a smooth, modern, bright plastic-seated thing which glides effortlessly and silently around its particular circuit. I’m not becoming a tram spotter (at least, I don’t think I am) but what struck me as I left the noisy old number 13 and entered the air-conditioned world of number 10 was how quiet it all was. I mean how really quiet it was. A tram full of people, and no-one said a word to each other the whole time – probably from the fear of being heard.

I frequently find myself bemoaning the lack of peace and quiet in modern life.

I was on my way to a funeral, another occasion of quiet where people have nothing to say – probably for fear of saying the wrong thing. People shuffled awkwardly about the church, greeting friends and acquaintances quietly in stunted conversations and leaving the building behind with visibly relaxing body language.

There are times when it is good to be quiet, I frequently find myself bemoaning the lack of peace and quiet in modern life. And sometimes having nothing to say can be a good thing, (I am reminded of Heaney’s The Peninsula - ”When you have nothing more to say, just drive / For a day all round the peninsula“) But I am also reminded of something I remember hearing John Drummond say as he reflected on his time at the BBC, “What we have today is superior technology and an inferior message…”

In among all the crowds of people with ears stopped with white earphones, tapping away on smartphones or just staring blankly out of reinforced, tainted windows, I am sure there are hearts aching for a superior message.

Document Actions