Tuesday, 29 August 2017


Is it my age that makes me exasperated by how polluted our lives are becoming, not least, by noise? From souped-up Fiestas playing ear-crushing rap music to restaurants where you can’t hear your companion’s conversation. Even friends who left the city for the unpolluted tranquillity of the countryside are fleeing back to escape the terrifying sound of sheep bleating in the night, the screech of rabbits being dismembered by predators and the deafening 4.30am dawn chorus.

I find I’m not alone. People converse eagerly about acoustic separation and the sales of ear plugs are booming. In Darlington residents near Darlington Cricket Club have complained about the grunting of the bowlers and the terrible sounds of leather on willow which they claim sound like a rifle shots.

John Cage composed a conceptual work 4’33” (that was how long it lasted) in which no note was played, no instrument touched. He claimed at its first performance:

“There’s no such thing as silence. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

Even sounds like the throaty roar of a high performance car have lost their allure. I recall with pleasure Ian Fleming’s description of James Bond’s Bentley’s exhaust “bubbling fatly in its wake”. That sounds rather like me after a fine lunch. Age again.

But apart from being unmoved by their sex appeal my overall attitude to cars has changed. I am beginning to wonder if the automobile may not be the cigarette of the 21st century. July 1st 2007 was when cigarettes were banned in workplaces in the UK. I had long before that stopped smoking - it seemed old fashioned, smelly and odd. And now Jeremy Clarkson, having smoked, according to his own estimate, 630,000 cigarettes in his life has given up. It’s a historic defeat for BAT and others.

Cars are beginning to seem similarly old fashioned, smelly and odd. My Jaguar is due for replacement. It has a Diesel Particulate Filter, which clogs up with polluting gunk and which I’m advised can be safely blown out by accelerating on a motorway and presumably blitzing the unfortunate cows grazing dreamily in nearby fields.

I’m glancing at car ads for brands I used to revere like Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Jaguar. But my car libido is unstirred. They’re just expensive (£135,000 for the BMW below) pollution machines which will be illegal in just over 20 years from now.

Until I see Tesla, the trailblazing electric vehicle. Its market capitalisation greater than Ford, it’s just opened a state-of-the- art showroom in Stuttgart, car capital of Germany. It defines the future.
So it’s helped change my thinking. More head, less heart. I am looking at the Prius which seems rational, clean, quiet and relevant - a car to make me feel better and more contemporary.

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