Ian McMillan: All those anecdotes lost in ‘the noisy bit’

Sometimes when we’re on our own for a bit, not talking to anybody, we save up the things we want to say until a pair of ears wander in to listen to us and then the words flow from us like water from a burst dam; my mother was like that. Once we’d all gone out to school or work, she sometimes wouldn’t see, as she said, ‘a living soul’ until we trooped back into the house at teatime and then she’d give us both conversational barrels. There’d be news, shards of gossip, things she’d seen from the window, reviews of programmes she’d heard on the radio. We couldn’t get a word in and, to be honest, we didn’t want to.

I vividly remember one afternoon when I came in from school, dropped my bag on the floor and before it had actually hit the carpet she’d started to regale me with the epic tale of a bloke whose hat had blown off when he walked past the house. The only problem was that as she started on the overture to the story the workmen across the road commenced drilling.

They’d been drilling and digging a hole and filling it in for days and they chose this exact moment to restart. My mother paused, mid-sentence. They stopped. She started. They started again. She stopped. Her mouth kept opening and closing like a fish in a pinny. In the end, we had to wait until they’d packed up and gone home in their van before I could get the full glory of The Hat Blown Off In The Wind.

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That half-heard story came to mind the other day when we went to Cleethorpes for some lovely fish and chips and a bracing walk on the tops to watch the ships go by. (Definition of ‘bracing’: Your eyes weep uncontrollably and you lose all feeling below the knee.) We were rattling away about all sorts of things until we hit those sections of the A180 that stifle speech. Regular travellers to the East Coast will know what I mean; for people who’ve never experienced Road Roar, let me explain.

You drive onto the motorway; the chatting is going, well, chattily. Perhaps someone is approaching the punchline of a joke, maybe somebody is about to reveal the plot twist in the TV show they watched last night. The voices are pleasing to the ear; the lovely Yorkshire accents aren’t being bruised by having to be shouted.

And then you hit The Noisy Bit, henceforth in this column to be known as TNB. TNB is due to the surface of parts of the A180 being of a different quality to most roads. Somebody once told me that the water drained from it more quickly but I couldn’t quite catch what they said because the road was too flipping noisy. TNB cuts out any possibility of sensible discourse or deep and meaningful discussion. All you can hear is a loud drone like a set of bagpipes that are suffering from flu. Then the noise stops and you can start talking again, but after only a few seconds it starts again. You try to time your tales, pace your anecdotes, all to no avail. TNB sends you back into your shell, makes you like a hermit or a recluse.

Pardon? Can’t hear you! We’re on TNB!