John Walker's Electronic House

by on Sep.09, 2004, under The Rest

I’m a bit overwhelmed. Thank you to everyone who linked to yesterday’s entry.

Back to normal now, I suspect, as I have now finally learned what “Blitz spirit” is all about.

Last night, while finishing off my Muppet eulogy (sniff) a horrendously loud alarm started screaming somewhere nearby. So I immediately sat where I was and carried on writing. And then, when it didn’t stop, and I realised that it was extremely nearby, as in, above me, I thought I’d have a look outside to see what was going on.

I think it’s school’s fault. Alarms signify nothing but an annoying noise that will interrupt us for a moment. Deliberate false alarms on a termly basis have ensured that the deafening wail of any warning bell is only met with grumbling, wondering if it will stop, resigning to the knowledge that it won’t, carefully putting your things into your bag, and then resentfully shuffling outside. The commands of “do not run” become laughably irrelevant by secondary education, as classrooms of students would rather take their chances in the imaginary fire than stand outside in the cold while a gym teacher has a rare go at calling the register.

We’ve trained ourselves to ignore every single alarm encountered. When did anyone hear a car alarm go off and think, “Oh my goodness! Someone’s car is being broken into. I’d best alert a passing police officer.” Instead it’s assumed that rippling air from the wing of a passing moth must have brushed against the surface of the vehicle’s paint, sending it into its spasms of screeching horror. Surely the way to break into a car is to pretend to be frantically fumbling in coat pockets for your keys whenever anyone looks over.

So it was with reluctance that I finally decided to investigate the source of this catawauling. And standing outside, shirtless as if having taken the noise seriously, was my new neighbour from downstairs. We shouted to one another over the racket, trying to work out what was going on. We spotted movement in the upstairs flat, and considered whether it was malicious or not. And then we introduced ourselves to each other. See, Blitz Spirit.

Eventually the main alarm stopped, revealing that it had been drowning out a second alarm, and then when that stopped, a hideous high-pitched whine that I at first mistook for tinnitus. As it turns out, like a Russian doll of sound, the tinnitus I heard later was being hidden under the dreadful whine. Because I’m brave, brave like an ox, I rang the doorbell of the top flat to see if everything was ok. Admittedly I’m not quite sure what my plan was if everything was not ok.


“Yes, I heard the alarm and wondered if everything was ok.”

“Well, you see we’re burglars, so I suppose not really.”


But as it turns out, it was the landlord, who hadn’t realised that the code for the alarm had changed. He then proceeded to tell me all about this, and then about how he was having to redecorate the entire apartment because of the previous occupants. They’d made a terrible mess, he told me, and they’d had to strip the kitchen and refit it. “They were Chinese.” He spat, as if that proved his point. And then added, “Grease.”

It’s hard to know what to do in such a situation. Setting the alarm off again seemed appropriate. I choose the highly honourable response of staring at him blankly, in shock. And then eventually, “Were they students by any chance?” He confirmed, and I implied that this might be a more appropriate prejudice. The stupid racist idiot.

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