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Tuesday, 2 July 2019


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. & @JoeCushnan

A sign on the library table where I am sitting reads thus:


We have had several complaints 
about the level of noise in this area 
of the library. We would ask all customers
to keep their conversation to a reasonable volume 
so as not to disturb other customers. 
Thank you.

In my head there is a vision of the sternest of stern Fiona Shaw facial expressions because I am in a noisy library, which is what they all seem to be these days and Miss Shaw reminds me of old school librarians back in the 'silence please' era. Fifty years ago, even the lowest whisper was like a dog whistle to a librarian's ears. Many a 'ssssshhhh' would emanate from behind a big desk accompanied by a stiff finger pointing at the sign on the wall. The shooshing kinda broke the rules too, of course, but no one would dare challenge stern Ms Shaw!

I am here because I thought I would gamble on some reasonably quiet hours to write the next couple of chapters of a book. The first ten minutes were okay but after that, four people plonked themselves down and started talking in normal volume about their lives. To the left, the sounds of babies crying, mothers chatting and cups and saucers rattling in the coffee shop. The library staff are noisier than anyone else. There is a shouting conversation across the room between two of them. Some lad is talking on a mobile phone or at least I think he has a phone because I am certain he could be heard on the moon without one.

I type on. I write a 'note to self' - Remember noise blocking earphones next time.

I know much of the world has gone to hell in a handcart as regards manners, behaviour and the simple rules of life, and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. To some, double yellow lines mean please park here and no smoking means feel free to light up, and libraries are seen to be hubs in which all noise is welcome.

I could rant on but WTF!

Oh, and as I typed that last sentence a woman approached. She was on her phone and talking loudly. I gave her the death stare but she carried on and headed for a chair by a window. She finished her call and had the good grace to apologise for talking so loud. At least that was something.

Just as I tend to do when politicians and other blah/blether merchants are on the TV or radio, at times I want to climb on the library table and bellow: 'Shut the hell up!!' One day, like Howard Beale, I might just be as mad as hell enough to do it.

p.s. When I say noise, I realise there is a spectrum, say, from the mildest of bird chirps to a fighter jet screaming over a mountain. I prefer the former or close to.

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