Thursday, 17 December 2009

Peace and quiet

The tranquillity of the countryside is somewhat of a myth. True it is not as bad as living on a busy road in Kentish Town NW5, which featured in many a Madness video in the 1980's and my home for over 10 years. There is a two hour gap in the cacophony in NW5, between 3 and 5 am, when the black cabs stop and the commute begins. You get used to it and, like picking out an individuals voice in a crowded room, you filter out the hubbub with the efficiency of a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Living in the rural idyll, that is North Pickenham, it was the bloody birds. Not just the wild ones either but a field of 'tame' geese who follow similar hours to the traffic in NW5, get spooked at the falling of a leaf and gaggle with great gusto. All background noise to me now. The only offenders that you can't ignore are the sugar beet trucks and the planes. In the rush to extract their sweetness before the hard frosts, the huge beet lorries thunder down usually silent single track lanes in a 24 hour operation. It's a short lived inconvenience and, like the first cuckoo or the arrival of the peewitting Lapwing, marks the passing of the year. The planes are a year long, if only a Monday to Friday, companion. On your way from the south you simply can't ignore the enclosed communities inhabited by the American air force. Pickenham is on their flight path to the North Sea but they are usually flying high and slow with the occasional dog fight above being a free personal air display. The boy is brought out in me as well when the local Tornado GR4s use my now defunct TV aerial as a beacon to their home at Marham, just the other side of Swaffham. Most alarming is when they make a direct hit. There is no preliminary rumble just a bed shaking, roof falling in, missile hit kind of experience. I love it. The standing down on the immediate threat of Marham closing then, as reported in the NEN, was good news not just for my selfish plane spotting but for the local economy. Four of the eight twelve plane squadrons the Royal Air Force has are based here and a strategic review next year threatens one or two of these, fingers crossed. They have avoided this RAF cull, let's hope they avoid next years wing clipping too.

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