Loud and clear

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 July, 2004, 12:00am

Do you remember a time when you could hear birds sing; what someone was saying to you on the phone; your partner talking from a metre away? No? Then I'm guessing you have young children.

It's impossible to imagine, in the carefree years of newspaper-strewn duvets and brunch in SoHo, that one day you might relish the opportunity to sit on the loo for a moment's peace and quiet. I yearn for those lazy, indulgent mornings of my past life. I have two children now, and the last time I tried to read the paper in the morning they stood on either side of me and competed for attention by shouting at the top of their voices.

They've each mastered the art of noise in their own special way. From our three-year-old daughter we're treated to a roller-coaster ride of world-is-ending sobs, bossy shouting followed by slamming of doors, and eye-watering renditions of Ariel's ascending scales from Disney's The Little Mermaid.

Our 16-month-old son climbs to great heights then performing spectacular dives and falls, followed by ear-piercing screams that would register on the Richter scale.

Until recently we had a couple living below us and cringed at the thought of their suffering the thump of balls on the walls and the clack of Barbie shoes on the wooden floor. Now we've moved to a flat with a terrace and the noise we make sails up for all the other tenants to hear. I dread to think what they're privy to; our children playing raucous games with their friends would be the least of our worries. I used to live above a family who threw their doors open year round in happy oblivion to the rest of the block listening in on the minutiae of their domestic life.

What can you do though? I grew up being forever hushed by my parents lest the neighbours should hear. I felt repressed by it, always aware that someone was listening, never fully understanding the concept of consideration for others. What was the point of having a garden unless you could run and jump and shout? So unless I want my children to live in a permanently hushed state, I have to allow them some freedom of expression - with apologies to the neighbours, of course.

Still, it would be nice to have some peace myself.