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Malaga during Semana Santa Salvador Salas
Noise will be noise

Noise will be noise

Peter Edgerton

Friday, 5 May 2023, 14:52

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When I first arrived in Malaga, right around the time that Dan came down the river, there were many of its characteristics that struck me as quite splendid: the vibrant outdoor atmosphere, the endlessly evocative architecture, the idiosyncratic bars and restaurants (sadly, all much more generic these days) and, most of all, the light.

My word, the late autumn evenings bathed in tones of amber and mauve were - and are - enough to stop any sentient soul in his tracks. All of these qualities made this city quite different from anywhere I'd ever seen before. However, there was one other outstanding feature of the town which was somewhat less appealing to the casual observer - the noise. Holy moly, the decibel levels of everything from coffee machines to the most idle of chit-chat were simply off the scale. I think I spent the first six months of my time here with a semi-permanent migraine.

Malaga has had, as far back as I can remember, a complex and wholly contradictory relationship with noise. On the one hand, neighbours will quite happily chuck pails of water over anyone talking a bit too loudly on a cafe terrace at ten in the evening and yet not blink an eye at the street cleaners crashing through town at three in the morning, revving engines and yelling their opinions on the relative merits of Messi and Ronaldo at decibel levels more readily associated with a Motorhead festival performance.

Similarly, in the week following the noisefest which is Semana Santa, various street musicians were fined and had their instruments confiscated by the police. I'm not sure how that's in any way justifiable unless they were all accordions, of course, in which case it's hats off to the coppers.

Some things have undoubtedly improved over the years, though. A crackdown on mopeds which once were as cacophonous as they were ubiquitous has been a godsend to anyone who vaguely appreciates the value of a healthy tympanic membrane. The largely pedestrian city centre has also reduced decibel levels immeasurably since the days of full-on traffic and the very intelligently achieved reduction in volume of church bells has made Sunday mornings far less aurally challenging.

Some things will never change, though. I'm not sure the time-honoured adage 'If you want to be heard, speak softly' will ever be taken on by the town hall as Malaga's city motto but, then again, it's partly that very trait that makes the place feel so alive. You can't have it all.

Anyway, must dash - it's nearly twilight out there and only a fool would miss that around these parts.

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