Norfolk is just so noisy! I can’t even walk the Cromer clifftop in peace!
PUBLISHED: 14:11 25 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:29 25 October 2019
Keith Skipper says mobile phones and other modern trends are disturbing our peace
I approach the important topic of too much annoying noise in our time with due care and attention.
After all, I attracted a big pile of schoolday invitations to give my overworked larynx a rest outside the classroom while lessons continued inside. Talking to yourself is hardly fun when you get the urge to interrupt.
Even in offices and pubs where lively media chat could spill over into feisty babble, I picked up a reputation for soaring far too regularly above the rest. Just being shorter than most didn't wash as a reasonable excuse.
For all that, there's nothing more cringeworthy than observing an angry, blue-faced, foot-stamping adult screaming instructions at some hapless, tear-ridden youngster to grow up immediately, for goodness sake, and respect a surrounding world's right to peace and order, especially on that joyful path towards The Great Season of Too Much.
Such delicious irony even escaped some grammar schoolteachers who reclaimed their patches of blackboard jungle with Tarzan-sized yells of "QUIET!" when brighter sparks of my academic era set up impromptu discussion groups.
So, is it fair to accept we make a lot more noise than we used to - but we can't communicate half as well? I reckon such a leading question might have been posed before it became fashionable to blame an influx of newcomers to Norfolk for every unreturned greeting and sullen stare across a packed pub, busy post office or solitary parking space.
As a fully paid-up member of the communications industry with nearly 60 years of valiant service to local newspapers, local wireless and local gatherings, I feel fully justified in making a few observations.
That is notwithstanding a reputation deserved by many within the communications industry for failing to differentiate between the right hand and the left hand, let alone knowing to which body they are supposed to be attached.
I sat in on enough "planning meetings" to realise going around in verbal circles is an essential occupation for those with most to say and least to offer. A wise old newspaper colleague called them "all foam and no beer".
A couple of handy starting points for a new debate. More people and more traffic means more noise. And we stand accused of being far less sociable than in days when we went slower and were much quieter.
Let's stir deeper waters. Perhaps a significant part of the communications business is no more than a front for voyeurism. I recall Russell Harty, a leading television figure of the 1980s, freely admitting he asked people questions because he was downright nosey.
It may be called "curious" in more polished social ranks or "interested" if you are writing a sociological thesis. However, basic prying instincts are at the root of chat shows and the like with hosts excusing their own blatant nosiness by claiming they are only asking the kind of questions we would like them to ask.
It has been suggested chat shows and soap operas are used as a substitute by those who find it hard to communicate themselves. There is a vicarious trend, no doubt, but I hesitate to infer less-discerning television viewers are trying to live off the immoral yearnings of Emmerdale or EastEnders regulars.
Now for realism or romance, according to your point of view. The old-style live Norfolk "chat show" survives in a few quarters. The weekly market, where humorous banter can rise higher than any bidding is the most durable example.
Even so, what price any natural performer being left to entertain while television channels multiply faster than Lord Sugar's finger-jabbing frolics, social networks encourage more banalities than touchline interviews seconds after a big sporting fixture and phone technology threatens to take over the world?
Mobile phones are the new cigarettes polluting public places as addicts, some of them puffed up by their own importance, inflict their irksome habit on anyone within sight or sound. Even a clifftop stroll at dusk in Cromer can be blighted by such extreme exhibitionism.
I belong to a fast-dwindling minority able to take a dozen steps without resorting to any form of communication other than sharing the time of day with a smile and greeting for those I meet. Imagine my chagrin when I discover a good half of them are talking already to someone they cannot see.
I wait, probably in vain, for a total ban on these prattling phoneys.
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