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Alex B Cann column: 'What sounds get your goat'

I wrote recently about the fast pace of life, and the subsequent risk of burning out. We also live in a pretty noisy world. Whenever I go for a walk, I'll more often than not be listening to a politics podcast, or an audiobook. It's fairly rare I'll sit in actual silence.

The reason I mention this is that Boots Hearingcare have done a new study into sounds, and come up with a list of the ten most irritating. Let's have a look at them in reverse order, in the style of the Sunday afternoon Top 40 countdown from yesteryear.

In at number 10, it's sniffing and coughing. Since the pandemic, I feel really uneasy in the cinema when someone starts coughing and spluttering. My instant thought is 'I wish I had my face mask with me like those times when it was mandatory in 2021'. Whilst there are precious few positives from the pandemic, one is that I'd say it's now socially unacceptable to bring a stinking cold into the office. Nobody is going to congratulate you for being a snotty hero, selflessly spreading your germs around the communal kitchen as you wheeze into the dubious shared coffee and work fridge crammed full of wilted lettuce and half consumed items. Keep your sniffles at home, thanks love.

At number 9, slurping. Some people seem incapable of sipping a brew without doing this. Same for an alcoholic drink in the pub, or even a bottled water. Theatrical slurping definitely gets my goat, as does the fact some people put the milk in first when making a brew. Stop it at once.

At 8, barking dogs. Fair enough, but as I get older, I think people annoy me a lot more than animals, on the whole. My loud neighbours can occasionally be heard through our walls, and they have no consideration for the late hour when making their racket, so I do occasionally do a retaliatory clatter in the morning when I'm putting the bin out. Small wins and all that.

At 7, sirens. I wonder what Droylsden resident Raymond Fricker thinks of this one! You might recall we reported back in late December that he planned to see in 2024 with his fully functional air raid siren.

At 6, it's a new entry for chewing and mouth sounds. Fair enough. I think this might have been higher for me. Noisy eating from others is a fairly good appetite suppressant, to be honest.

At 5, it's babies crying. I do have sympathy with parents who can't stop their little ones from wailing, even though I'm not a parent myself, so I think this one might be a bit harsh. Fair enough if the baby is ruining a good film though. I once dropped my Revels during a really quiet scene in The Reader, starring Kate Winslet. As the coffee cremes went skittling down the aisles, I quietly cursed my clumsiness.

Anyway, back to our rundown, and at 4 it's snoring. Luckily, I never snore. Well, that's what I tell my wife anyway. She might have a different account.

We're into the Top 3 irksome sounds, and at 3 it's drilling and construction work. I'd imagine this is the worst sound to hear after you've checked into a hotel, and you sit down on your balcony, only to discover the hotel hasn't been finished yet. I do quite a lot of radio shows from home these days via the wonders of technology, and someone firing up their lawnmower or hedge strimmer is the thing I fear the most in the summer months.

At 2, it's car alarms. I find most people ignore those going off, to be honest. My Mini's used to sound occasionally and, with the benefit of hindsight, I'd have been better doing an Italian Job and throwing it down a ravine. Would have saved me a fair few grand.

And at number one...drum roll...it's nails on a chalkboard. It is certainly not a pleasant sound, a bit like Cilla Black's Greatest Hits, or a James Corden monologue.

For the record, the noise of waves has been voted the most relaxing, followed by rain on a window. With that in mind, I must book a trip to the seaside soon before it gets busy as the season begins. I love the coast in the winter when you have the place to yourself, and you can sit in a nice cafe watching the high tide as the rain lashes against the glass panes of the windows. Perfection!

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