Last week I returned to my home town for the first time for nearly three years. It’s a smallish cathedral city with Roman origins like many in England and Wales. Since my last visit the Library had moved into a brand new Arts Centre with theatres and cinemas. There was a children’s performance in the foyer the day I visited. Now all that is fine but I was a bit surprised to also hear piped rock music. When I used such places as a child many years ago libraries were places of silence. No-one was supposed to speak unless it was absolutely necessary and even then only in a whisper.
Times change. I seem to recall that piped music was introduced into restaurants to prevent diners listening in to the conversation on the next table. It has long outgrown its original purpose. Nowadays people seem frightened of silence but sometimes it can be so soothing. Trains often have a “quiet coach” where passengers (or customers in today’s parlance) are requested not to use their mobile phones. That’s fine except that the train company takes no notice of its own diktats. There are constant messages over the sound system. We approach every station with a message and we leave it with another one welcoming the newbies on board. We are told where the refreshment car is. And of course there are regular loud messages in the quiet coach reminding us that it should be quiet.
By Ian Craine