I’m not here.

I’m not sitting at my desk, a bit nauseous from the marriage between the smell of the neighbours’ burning meat party and the  after-effects of a stomach bug I had a couple of weeks ago (not to mention the vat of gin and tonic I drank last night during Ghana’s cruel defeat by Uruguay and the hand of god 2.0).   I’m in an Autumn forest.

Before that, I was back in New Zealand, in the rainy Waitakeres.  And before that? Standing by the sea.

Yes indeed, I have discovered ambient sound.  I was introduced to it when I went to stay with the lovely Dr Tara and her family. The have a CD of the ocean they use to get their toddler off to sleep, and the sound of gently breaking waves seemed to work a treat – on me, too.  I had one of the most restful nights I’ve ever had.  And I have long been jealous of the ideal writing situation described in Don Paterson’s ‘The Alexandrian Library, Part 2’.

I highly recommend ambient soundscapes and their ilk.  They’re great if you have trouble concentrating or sleeping, as I do and/or if you live in an area where there’s a lot of building or road works and/or if you have noisy neighbours, as I sometimes do.  Though I have yet to come across any soundscape like the one Paterson describes:

Buenos Aires, Early Evening, 1897,


At first, there seems to be nothing but tape-hiss

though it seeps imperceptibly into the white rush

of steam from a kettle of mate;

through the half-opened casement, a spatter of horse-trffic,

the shudders and yawns of a distant bandoneon;

from a bar on the opposite side of the street,

over the blink of small glasses, two men

discuss metaphysics, or literature;

from previous listenings you know, in an hour or so,

the talk will come round to the subject of women,

and then to one girl in particular;

and end with the phthisical freshing of metal

(you will whack up the volume for this bit),

a short protestation that ends in a gurgle,

the screak of a chair-leg on ironwood parquet

and your man spanking off down an alley.

(excerpted from ‘The Alexandrian Library Part 2,’ by Don Paterson.  In God’s Gift To Women, London: Faber, 1997, pp. 42-50.)


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