I’ve been keeping my windows open a lot recently. Having realised that my Victorian, stone, next-to-the-sea flat is a magnet for damp (shocker), I’ve become a big fan of air flow, after half-reading an article somewhere on the internet. I quite enjoy the breeze, apart from the fact that there are two seagulls living on the roof outside my bedroom and they love to sing the song of their people at five AM. But I’m used to the seagulls. I’d also have to be a little bit mental to move next to a Cornish beach and not expect to hear the odd squawk. In fact, I quite like it. It makes me feel like I’m on holiday.
What I didn’t expect to hear through the open window a couple of weeks ago was an air raid siren. I was just getting ready to leave for work, by which I mean I was running around manically trying to tame my hair while wearing one shoe and looking at the clock, when I heard it. I’ve never heard one in real life before. You hear recordings on school trips and in films, and every once in a while an old codger will whop one out on the Antiques Roadshow and give everybody an earful. But I’ve never heard one in the flesh.
Just as soon as the siren had sounded it went quiet again. Even the seagulls were quiet for a second before they started shrieking. I’d learned enough at school to know that you’re supposed to head for the shelters when an air raid siren goes off. I wondered where my nearest one would be. I’d probably just have to befriend my neighbours with the basement. For a few seconds I wondered if Kim Jong Un had finally pushed the button, and then I realised I hadn’t burned to a crisp, but I was definitely late. I ran out of the door and didn’t give it a second thought. By the time I got to the office I’d convinced myself I was hearing things.
It wasn’t until I’d been sat at my desk for a couple of hours that somebody idly asked if anybody else had heard the siren go off, and I realised I wasn’t losing it. After a bit of collective googling it turned out that a crane had collapsed. I might have heard the air raid siren, but I apparently missed an “almighty crashing and rumbling sound”. The whole place was evacuated. Fair enough. Good use of the air raid siren, Falmouth.
Since then, though, I’ve heard the siren more. They used it once to mark the end of a minutes silence (at least I assume that was what it was, or else it was stellar timing on somebody’s part), and it’s randomly gone off a couple more times.
But, I mean, there must be something else we could be using to let the town know something’s happening? Maybe something with a less dramatic past? I didn’t even know I had a reaction to that particular noise, but it turns out I immediately assume a megalomaniac world leader somewhere has finally lost the battle with his trigger finger, and i get to spend a few seconds imagining my fiery death because I am fun. And then it turns out it’s just part of some festival, or it’s being sounded to alert a handful of people to a workplace accident.
Has nobody heard of the boy who cried “wolf”?