CAN. You. Hear. Me? You can? OK, thanks. Just checking. I thought perhaps you might not be able to hear me over the racket. You say: “What racket, ya muckle eejit?”

That is a good question, well put. I refer, madam, to the racket that is all around us, on the streets and in the air, inside our houses and even in our gardens. If that sounds rather parochial, consider that we don’t just have a problem with global warming. We have a problem with global noising.

This week, a study by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found that noise pollution could kill off more than 100 species, including amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles. In the sea and on land, the beasties can hardly hear themselves not thinking, which disrupts their own gentler communications for mating and dining out (as they generally do), and presumably also prevents them hearing bad critters creeping up on them to give them a fright.

Dr Hansjoerg Kunc, of Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Noise must be considered as a global pollutant, and we need to develop strategies to protect animals from noise for their livelihoods.”

So much for the flippin’ fauna. They’re always getting it tight, and are too dense to do anything about it.

But what about us, homo sapiens (wise man, ha-ha), top dog, big-brained beastie of the concrete jungle? Ships’ engines don’t bother us much, unless we’re trying to sleep on board, though speed boats and the like can irritate and discombobulate if you live near a sound or firth.

Roads bother us, as they do lesser species, but this news just in: it’s us who make the noise. Oh sure, you might get narked by a blackbird waking you at dawn, a dog barking at a stick, or a herd of sparrows tweeting in unhinged unison. But they ain’t at the races when it comes to racket.

Few houses, even in the country, don’t have a road nearby, and the cars never stop. The road near us leads three and a half miles to nowhere, and there’s a vehicle along every 30 seconds. It’s uncanny.

You cannae get peace anywhere. Even in remote villages, it’s a rare day when someone isn’t making a racket with electronic equipment that sounds like a hundred dentists’ drills. Everybody’s building extensions or blootering something, oftentimes in that little haven of peace: the garden.

In villages and city suburbs, you hear aural re-enactments of the Battle of the Somme. I should say I do my bit in the conflict. For a while, I tried using only non-electrical horticultural equipment. But the mechanical lawnmowers were all hopeless, jamming up every two or three steps; and the electronic hedge trimmers just made such a neater job in a quarter of the time.

So, to get away from people like me, I go for a walk in a 40-acre forest, but you can’t hear the birds tweet because the foresters always have loud chainsaws on the go. Sometimes, even in the countryside, you just feel exhausted by it all.

It is, of course, worse if you live in a city flat. If you’ve ever suffered from noisy neighbours up or down stairs, you’ll know that, even when it seems temporarily quiet, you sit on edge waiting for it to start again. In days gone by, you could escape to a quiet public library, but these don’t exist any more.

There hardly seems anywhere to go. A botanic garden or ned-free park, if you’re lucky. You can go online, of course, where people watch viral videos from silent places, such as those by the wonderful Jonna Jinton in northern Sweden, which attract over a million views from folk worldwide yearning for quietness.

But back in your real world, earplugs are the order of the day. Of course, some noise is inevitable and necessary, for building and maintaining and improving. But there just seems so much of it now. Perhaps it’s time to bring back quiet Sundays. And, at sea, for the beasties, perhaps we could find ways to dampen our engines.

All of which is just my way of saying to the human species: shurrup!

++++ HA, as it were, ha. Snooty supermarket Waitrose had egg all over its face this week after an item in one of its food deliveries had an Aldi sticker on the back.

The item was a £2 portion of Mediterranean roasting vegetables, mysteriously similar in weight and contents to Aldi’s Mediterranean Roast, which costs £1.29.

Anyone who’s ever shopped in Waitrose will know that every item you put in your basket seems 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 80 pence dearer than similar stuff at your normal supermarket. You don’t think much of it until you get to the checkout, and the collective bill leaves you clutching your chest and struggling for breath.

It doesn’t matter much to the waxed jackets and jumbo cords who shop there regularly. They won’t even notice. But to decent ratepayers it’s an outrage to be fleeced like this.

The husband of the couple sent the item with the budget store label said he paid “for the privilege” of shopping with Waitrose and added: “No disrespect to Aldi or their customers but if I wanted their products I’d go to one of their stores.” Key word: privilege. Key advice: go to one of their stores.


FUNNY thing about Bonnie Prince Charlie: he seems to have left bits of his heid all over the place. No sooner had I returned from a museum talk that referenced a lock of his hair in an artefact than I read in that Herald newspaper of more of his follicles going up for auction next month at Sotheby’s.

This small section of his barnet is presented in a snuff box, the inside lid of which features a photie of the top Jacobite before he met his Waterloo at Culloden.

Poor Charlie, though. He must have minced around with great chunks out of his barnet. It’s no wonder he wore a wig. David Macdonald, of Sotheby’s, said the snuffbox and whatnot were “a way of getting his image out there” before the days of Instagram.

Not only that but people couldn’t leave rude or unsupportive comments, with the usual spelling mistakes, such as: “House of Hangover [sic] is the best!”; “The Duke of Cumberbatch is gonnae get ye!”; or just “Rangers for ever!”

Such a lot of shampoo: everyone knows that Bonnie PC stood head and shoulders above his opponents (metaphorically speaking), and that he’d more than enough hair to spare.


IT’S been a bad week for Lib Dem leader Joseph Swinson. Not only, according to a poll, did her popularity wane the more people saw her. Not only did she make Cruella de Vil look like Mother Teresa when she said she’d have no hesitation in incinerating millions of children.

Not only did her tedious, undemocratic mantra – “Stop Brexit!”– have decent ratepayers retorting: “Oh, shut up!”, but her interview after the ITV leaders’ debate had the nations wincing at her mangled vowels.

A classic among Scotch folk who go to London on the make is to say “You now” instead of “You know”. But Jo had many more peculiar pronunciations, including “debite” (debate), “thowse” (those), “bowth” (both), “cheinj” (change), “saie” (say), “mowst” (most), “sauw” (so), “plise” (place), “lau” (low) and “vowt” (vote).

Oddly enough, even the Englishwoman interviewing her didn’t pronounce the same words this way, and it’s well known that the English usually cannot pronounce English (“faw” for four; “eh” for air). That is part of their charm.

But charm isn’t a word you’d associate with Jo who, at her party’s manifesto launch, said she would not leave our children with “a boh-owling [boiling] planet”. Or indeed any planet.

Read more: What price Boris Johnson, the working-class hero?