Hear that? Not any more, you don’t

Blue cap milk bottles

We just started getting our milk delivered by a milkman again. This is ruinously expensive, but saves the 7am misery of discovering it’s black coffee and biscuits for breakfast.
But – and who knew? – milkmen (aren’t there any milkwomen?) don’t deliver in bottles any more. It comes in those massive plastic cartons. This is more convenient and keeps the milk fresher but just isn’t as nice.
The sound of a milkfloat clinking down the street at 5am is a sound you don’t hear anymore, as is the lovely glug of washing-up water as you rinse the bottle out before putting it on the front step for the morning.
You don’t read about sounds in history books, but they chronicle our age. How weird is it when there is a power cut and the house isn’t filled with the constant background hum of a dozen electrical appliances? Or those odd times when you are out at 3am and you can’t hear a single car?
OK, I’m not reminiscing about hearing the whinny of horses instead of engines or the town crier instead of the BBC (I’m not quite that old). But there are so many nearly dead sounds out there – cue list:

  • Bells – you don’t hear real bells much any more. I got a new telephone system thing and there are dozens of plinky-plonk ringtones but not one of them even tries to imitate an actual bell. Similarly, the church in our village has a tape that it plays every Sunday, because ringing the real bells is in danger of shaking the church tower to bits.
  • Telephone bell ringing on the street from a call box, or on a garage forecourt.
  • Segs (or drawing pins) on the bottom of boots (usually Dr Martens) – the clacking sound the cool boys wearing them make as they walk down the bus.

    Oh, the happy hours...

    Oh, the happy hours…

  • The eerie chimes of the PlayStation One starting up, and the pause and hum when you meet an important part of the gameplay and the game readies itself for a new level or a major battle. (I’m talking about the first appearance of the Licker in Resident Evil 2 **shivers**).
  • The long toneless tone after Closedown at the end of TV pogrammes, usually around 20 past midnight, after the National Anthem.
  • Car alarms going off down the street after a heavy thunderstorm/high wind/a sunny day. Car alarms were a new thing in the 80s, everyone had them fitted and they were a bit rubbish.
  • The swish of garden sprinklers in the 70s. Like car alarms in the 80s – everyone suddenly bought one.
  • Radio Luxembourg fading out to French programmes.

    old school blackboard rubber

    Fond memories of the day mild-mannered Mr Woodford hurled it across the English classroom

  • The soft whoosh of a board rubber on a blackboard. It’s all whiteboards now. Whoever owned the blackboard rubber factory must have gone bust.
  • A real alarm clock – ticking and then going off. Still makes me shudder with memories of getting up for school.
  • Rotary dial phones. Took ten minutes to dial a number, but it sounded good.
  • The cranking on of a camera film. Impossible to explain to anyone brought up with camera phones.
  • Typewriter keys. A right bloody racket when there were half a dozen of them being bashed away in a newsroom. And nothing has replaced the pain of jamming your finger down between the keys.
  • A ticking, chiming clock. Back to bells again.
  • A cash register. Like typewriter keys followed by a telephone bell chime. Double joy.
  • A ding-dong doorbell. People don’t do doorbells anymore. They text to say ‘I’m outside the door’.
  • Dustin lids being banged together or blowing off down the street, or the general noise and clanging of dustbin day.

    Old fashioned ring pull on a pop can

    The misery when the ring bit broke off and you couldn’t get to your drink

  • The sound of a ring-pull being carefully pulled off a can of pop.
  • Tin cans blowing down the street. Don’t know why this doesn’t happen any more – you don’t get people kicking cans down the street either. Are they all being recycled?
  • A china teapot pouring into a cup. Alright, I know people still have teapots (myself included) but mostly it is a bag in a mug.
  • A whistling kettle. Followed by the desperate pounding of someone hurtling downstairs, or in from the back yard, to grab it off the gas before it boiled dry.
  • The satisfying but slightly soft click when you manually unlock a car door from the inside by pulling up the knob.
  • The whoosh of flame when you light the grill or the oven or the gas fire in the lounge with a match because the ignition broke years ago.
  • A school bell being rung by hand.
  • A video cassette rewinding. Whirr and clunk. You still can’t convince me that DVDs are an improvement.

    TDK cassette tape

    TDK tapes – gone but never forgotten

  • Playing a cassette tape into your car – the plastic rattle as you miss the slot then push it in and it clunks into place.
  • Newspaper sellers shouting “Ler Fer” (Late Final).
  • The crackle of the needle hitting the record, the soft thunk through the speakers as it engages.
  • Rag and bone men, on horse-drawn carts, yodelling “Ergeeeeeeerrrb!” and giving you a balloon if your mum came out with an old toaster for them or something.
  • Dial up internet. It got so you could tell from the noise whether it was going to connect or not.
  • Whistling. No-one whistles anymore. Thank gods.