Silent night

It's quite common for people who are looking for a bit of peace and quiet to move to the countryside in pursuit of their goal. What could be more tranquil than a house in the country? The early evening breeze tickling the delicate autumn leaves; the birds serenading you as you potter about aimlessly with your secateurs, whistling the theme tune to The Archers; arms-aloft salutations to the neighbours tramping back from the fields with their hands full of carrots. How marvellous. Except it doesn't always quite work out like that, I'm afraid.

From the incessant noise of farm machinery from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, to dog owners letting their pets bark into the wee small hours without a care in the world, to the AirBnB party house a stone's throw away from your new gaffe, the pitfalls involved in seeking a peaceful country refuge are many. I've known more than one case personally, where people have given up on their dream within a year and returned to the city where there's lots of noise, obviously, but it's somehow more palatable because, well, it's only to be expected in a city centre.

That's why in these extraordinary lockdown days in Malaga city centre, the sepulchral silence is quite unnerving. As I write, I can hear my own inner ear wax jostling for position in my lug holes (apologies if you're partaking of croissants). I can't remember witnessing such a degree of silence at any time, anywhere, in all my born days.

It's a well-known fact that places where we're supposed to be quiet like libraries, end up in some kind of whooping cough extravaganza, once the first person has held forth with a harrumph, giving a kind of tacit permission to all assembled to cough their lungs out at will.

There are places like sound-proofed music studios but the whole point of those is the silence within provides a blank canvas to superimpose whatever kind of racket you see fit. Nobody builds a music studio to sit and listen to their own heartbeat.

No, in the modern world, genuine silence is as rare as Manchester United supporter from the city of Manchester and for that reason, I suppose, we should cherish it while we can. Trouble is I'm starting to hear voices. Oh, no - sorry, left the radio on.