About eight years ago, I googled ‘Best town in Britain’ in preparation for my move back to Blighty. Being a web worker, I was at liberty to move to wherever I wanted to. I had left the UK some 14 years earlier a happy single Londoner, and was to return an even happier family man.
Whilst the world’s greatest City has its undoubted attractions, I was looking forward to and ready for an altogether more peaceful existence. Hamburg and the Canary Islands had been good practice.
My search led me to a listing which ranked Winchester in Hampshire as the most desirable town in Britain. Since my best mate hails from there, I had the pleasure of visiting it on many occasions in the past. But that was the problem: I wanted to live somewhere with which I was not familiar. Somewhere quiet – but given the London-centric nature of the thankfully still United Kingdom, easy access to it was also an important factor in our decision.
After consulting the boss and having both checked it out both on and offline, we elected to relocate to number two on said list – the market town of Horsham, in West Sussex. It ticked all the right boxes: Good schools, low crime, and the relative tranquility it offered when compared with the big smoke with all that unwanted noise.
And so began the next chapter of our life. After having settled in, it was soon time to set up meetings in and travel to, you’ve guessed it, London.
I decided to break myself in gently, and elected to take the 10:20 train to London, the cost of which to me at the time seemed like a staggering amount of money for what was at best a mediocre service. With the passage of time, the shock receded and was replaced by latent anger which has since morphed into a state of resigned acceptance.
Whilst I was delighted that the journey on a good day takes just under an hour, my heart went out to those souls who had to do it every day. It still does.
At first, it seemed strange visiting the City which was my home for most of my adult life. I felt a tourist in which was once ‘my’ City. It was noisy when I lived there. Now it seemed like noisy squared, especially when compared to Tenerife which had been our home for the previous six years.
I would arrive home in one of two states: elated – for despite its din, I still get a buzz from the fact that the world’s greatest City is right at our doorstep. But sometimes I would arrive back in an emotional state more consistent with Samuel Johnson’s musing that 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.'
Whilst I did not have the Samaritans on Speed dial, I sometimes got back home utterly exhausted. What is more, something bugged me - but I was not sure what it was.
Some dozen trips to town later, the proverbial penny dropped: it was those darn pre-recorded announcements on the trains! First, there was the welcome message. Then there was the list of all the stations. Then there was the ‘Please note that this train divides at Horsham’ one. Any modicum of pride felt living in somewhat of a railway hub was soon replaced with a simmering latent resentment that this was the case.
Then there’s ‘Please ensure that you are travelling in the correct part of the train.
To make matters worse, train guards randomly inject with their version of predictable events, or worse still simply repeat what has already been said by their invariably more eloquent automated colleague.
So I started doing what our North American friends refer to as the math: there are six main stops between Horsham and London, and on a good day each announcement is only repeated once. So that’s 12 announcements for a one way trip, so 24 for a return journey. This equates to some 7896 announcements a year. When you factor in the usually unwelcome and unnecessary ‘human’ ones, the real number is probably nearer ten thousand.
Being told so many times to mind the gap between the train and the platform has had me considering making a beeline straight for it.
As a young man, I found the tranquility of my Father’s home town in East Anglia a bit unsettling. I wanted action. Now that the tables are turned, I enjoy the relatively peaceful existence afforded by an English Market town.
In keeping with my new found love of relative tranquility, earlier this year I started helping an American company who provide sound blankets, sound booths and acoustic treatment products for the voiceover, acting, audio recording, music & broadcasting industries.
They have been getting orders for the mobile soundproofing solutions from all over the world – but the cost of shipping the goods from USA would sometimes cost more that the item itself. As of next month, all items will be stored at a fulfillment center on the outskirts of Glasgow. So, soon UK customers can receive their orders the very next day, and avoid that horrible import duty!
There have been some interesting applications for their products: over and above the obvious ones, people have been using them in a variety of ways, ranging from the wedding photographer who wanted a 6x6 foot booth so that he can shoot his customers in relative peace, to someone who recently purchased our bestselling Producer’s Choice sound blankets to help reduce the constant, persistence and after a while irritating hum that computers invariably generate.
Not surprisingly, demand from all kinds of musicians has been strong, allowing them to do what they love and remain on good terms with their neighbours.
It gets better: whilst making less noise, customers get to hear less of it! No more unwanted siren, car, plane, trains or bird sounds for that matter. Customer wins twice.
I look forward to serving customers to help them cut down all that unwanted noise. I just wish we had something that could dampen or better still eliminate all those unwanted train announcements.
I’m sure it would be a bestseller if we did.
For more information about the company, visit www.vocalboothtogo.co.uk