A friend said to me the other day that they really liked the sound of light aircraft passing overhead. I wasn't convinced, so nodded politely. Admittedly this was in a rural setting, so I can understand the implicit romance of a Tiger Moth wing-waggling over a crowd of waving peasants, growling and whining its way off over the hills to a faraway landing strip on a deserted beach, with an eagerly anticipated assignation at the arrival (see Robert Browning, 'Meeting at Night' for the back-story) ... But come to urban Reading.
Just after I've poured the first drink, the helicopter arrives. I know what's going to happen. It's going to circle and hover over my house for as long as it can. On top of the traffic in the road, the high-up but nonetheless incessant drone of the flightpath to or from Heathrow, the trains at the bottom of the garden (which I don't really mind since I got the secondary double glazing) and the distant rumble of the M4, I find this intolerable. Noise perturbs my brain. When I was about six, I was taken to the station to see off some relative, and the hiss of the engine releasing steam scared me for months. The first time I ever visited my relative L's house, we were sitting in the garden at lunchtime, sipping a Pimms, when all of a sudden this plane (they live right under the Heathrow flightpath on bad days) screeched over, so low you could see the bolts, you could see the tyre treads (to quote Joni Mitchell). I covered my ears: but they just carried on talking - they were so conditioned, they didn't even hear it, let alone react to or against it. That's probably why they're all mad.
I once phoned the police to enquire politely what this helicopter was there for (even though I knew the answer - nice evening, let's go for a joyride). I was politely informed that they were looking for a missing child. I pointed out that it was dark. They responded that they had heat-seeking equipment. I nearly went on to point out that there might be more than a few heat-emitting bodies in the Oxford Road area, but then I couldn't be arsed (LWON please note the demotic).
My latest technique is to go into the garden, staring up at them with the mobile in my ear, whilst mouthing vehement complaints and pointing at the sky. Not actually phoning anyone, you understand, that's a waste of phone credit points. Anyway, it seemed to work this evening - they spotted me and immediately boggered off to terrorise Caversham instead.
Some noise can become music in the right ears. But not all of it.