Monday, June 10, 2013

Parrots of the Caribbean (noise pollution)

“Noise pollution” is a common complaint in society these days, isn’t it? Neighbours can be taken to court for rowdy parties, and for too-loud domestic arguments. Most take-offs and landings at city airports have to be scheduled outside specified hours, in order to allow residents to get a decent night’s sleep. Even here in this tiny Caribbean island.

Our house is a couple of hundred feet underneath the thrice-a-day “bombing runs”, when most of the Island’s flights arrive. Planes land and leave against the prevailing wind, so we don’t get the racket both ways, but still... All conversation has to stop for thirty seconds during each pass. We’ve gotten used to it, though, and we don’t get too many visitors around those times of day.

The neighbours’ yard-dogs are more of a noise-pollutant, and they really do bug us. Those hypersonic 9-volt gizmos don’t work for all types of barking. The big black dog’s deep baying falls away to a whimper, but the Alsatian’s high-pitched yelping persists until I use the hand-held hypersonic whistle – and that’s not convenient in the middle of the night. So I yell at it (the dog), which doesn’t help with the noise-pollution problem much at all.

Some of our local wildlife is silent, some not. Snakes are silent, and rats, and lizards. Stray roosters aren’t. The hens and their chicks have all learned not to cluck and cheep in our yard, which is interesting. Silent, they can scratch around in Linda’s gardens and compost-heap without being noticed. Why didn’t the roosters learn too? It’s they whose crowing brings me striding out to shoo everybody away. Further evidence (as if any were needed) that females are smarter than males, regardless of species.

There’s supposed to be poverty in Cayman, but you wouldn’t know it from the number of stray hens wandering about. And they’ve all got chicks, so nobody’s even stealing the eggs! Filipinos barbecue the odd bird, but not often. Latinos eat iguanas, but not enough. I’d like to see more Chinese and Korean migrants, because of their dog-eating propensities, but no such luck.

Wild parrots eat some parts of our trees that the iguanas pass up. The parrots – usually vivid green or vivid blue – must be the most beautiful parrots in the whole Caribbean. Yet they have the ugliest cackle in the world, when they’re feeding on the nuts up above my bedroom window in the early mornings. Beauty and ugliness – nature’s balancing act.

I was brought up with quiet, in the bush. Sheep don’t make much noise, and sleep all night. The cows begged loudly for relief at milking time, but they were too far away to wake us kids up. We had dogs, but Dad’s ear-splitting whistle (hypersonic?) was enough to send them into their kennels without a murmur. If I could whistle like Dad, I wouldn’t get so upset by our local yard-dogs, I guess.

We all have our favourite hates. My friend Bob once shared a London bed-sit [studio, for American readers] with a fellow who ate grapefruit in the middle of the night, in the dark. The audible eating was bearable, just, but Bob swore he couldn’t relax until the ritual was fully complete. Only then could he drop off again. The climax occurred when the chap finally gave a huge sigh of satisfaction (Aaahhh!) and reminded himself in wonderment, “God, I love grapefruit!” Every single time, every single night.

Speaking of pet hates... It’s a Sunday afternoon as I type this, and the wretched ice-cream van has just begun its standard twenty minutes of driving up and down the neighbourhood while playing an incredibly annoying five-second jingle. On the whole, I’d rather listen to the bloody parrots.