Love Thy (Noise/Horizon Polluting) Neighbour

The 'Hood.

The ‘Hood.

Blessed and soothing silence.  For the first time in over a week, the only sound has been a plane taking off in the Harbour.  No chain saws, no lawn mowers, no weed whackers, no power saws, planers, or hammers.  Not even a dog barking.

We need Noise Days when everyone can converge on the ‘Hood’ and pollute the whole day with noisy tasks.  Imagine how much room that would leave for listening to nature.

Am I a curmudgeon?

It made me think of neighbours living in a small city, Sidney, B.C., a few years ago.  They booted a monstrous oil-rig-building-vessel, the Balder,  out of their waters.

“Horizon Pollution!” they cried.

At the time, I thought these mostly-senior folks who strolled the quiet streets of their retirement city were being very un-Canadian.  Horizon pollution? Come on! I was a tinge embarrassed.

The good captain pulled anchor, put the vessel’s crane between its proverbial platform legs and sailed to another location where their economic boost would be welcomed.

I hope my memory was correct...each platform leg is equivalent to 12 or 15 storeys.

This is the Balder.  I hope my memory is correct…each platform leg is equivalent to 12 or 15 storeys of a building.

The Dutch firm, Heerema, needed to anchor the Balder for a number of months in a location in the Pacific Northwest.  After finishing one contract, the next one was coming a year or so later on this side of the Americas.  It was too costly to move this vessel through the Panama Canal, park in Holland waters and return a year later.

After the formidable non-welcome from the citizens of Grey Power, the Balder found a patch of water further north – outside of Ladysmith.  They anchored outside the view of any center.  Not another murmur was heard.

Just so happened my friend, Julian, owned a marina very near the Balder’s new anchor spot.   Reveling in any marine life, especially when it enhanced economics, this ex-naval cadet jumped into his water taxi and roared out to the Balder.  He tied up at the foot of one of the 12 or 15-storey legs, received permission to climb aboard and introduced himself and his services to the Captain.

An agreement was struck to haul goods and people back and forth to the Balder.  Julian was to become very busy.

I had just finished a northern contract.  Julian needed help at the Marina for a few months.  He’d been diagnosed with Parkinsons.  To sustain himself through this new adventure, he needed regular, healthy meals to stabilize his condition.

As I drove into Julian’s beautiful marina, I saw this “platform” sitting on the horizon.  Suddenly, I understood the concerns of the folks from Sidney.  It looked like an off-shore drilling rig.  However, its job is only to build those rigs.  Picture the deck two football fields long.  It’s girth? Over one football field wide.  Living accommodations facilitated a full crew of 370 people – each unit complete with heating, of course, and air conditioning.  I wondered how anything so big could float.

After some time, the Captain invited Julian and me to HIS table for dinner – not only an honour, but also a welcome break from my cooking.  Since the Balder’s chefs ordered top quality grade food and massive amounts of fresh produce, I knew we were in for a treat.  I didn’t know, however, whether it would be Dutch fare or Indonesian since the skeleton crew of 40 men were largely from Indonesia.

Dying to dress apropos for the Captain’s Table, I remembered I’d have to climb the ladder on the inside of one of the platform legs in order to reach the deck.  I donned a trusty pair of black trousers and accessorized enough to make it “special”.

We sped over light waves toward the Balder.  I reveled in Julian’s ease and confidence on the water.   This man had given me so many marine experiences.  Many people born on the coast have not been so fortunate.  I wondered if he would share a glass of wine with the Captain.  Parkinson’s hadn’t prevented him from making the climb up and down the ladder, but imbibing may be foolhardy even coming down the ladder.

I silently wished the Balder’s crew would “pick us up” by the same crane and heavy netting used to lift supplies off Julian’s work-boat.  Then I remembered how the load swings back and forth, back and forth…   I swallowed hard.  I hated heights.  I had to stop thinking about the climb and just do it.  Thankfully, the Balder was only rocking a bit.

I jumped onto the small platform at the bottom of the ladder and held the line for Julian.  He’d have to secure it to the Balder.  “Do you want me to go first?” Julian asked.

“God no!  If I fall off this ruddy ladder, I want to think someone might be able to grab me!”  I took hold of the first rung and started the climb.  A pang of panic struck about a dozen rungs up.  If I had to chicken out, I had to do it NOW.  Julian was about to begin his climb.  I looked up, but only at the next few rungs.  I didn’t want to know how many were above or below.  One rung at a time…  A rhythm developed and I concentrated on the feel of rusty steel; my god-of-the-moment.

By the time I reached the crew member waiting for us, I realized climbing the ladder had almost become a lifestyle.  Stopping felt strange.  I stepped off the ladder with feigned dignity and refrained from looking down to check on Julian.  On that ladder, it was every man for himself!

After the Captain received and welcomed us, we were led to his Table.  The smorgasbord, arranged with colour and culinary expertise, seemed capable of appealing to any taste.  Indonesian servers quietly saw to our comfort and choices.  I was asked to lead the way and hoped my international travel would serve me well enough to refrain from any embarrassing faux pas.  I was relieved to learn the Captain would be right behind me.  He guided me through the elaborate choices.

After having had an Indonesian prawn appetizer, I chose Coquilles Saint Jacques as my entrée.  A little rice, perfectly prepared asparagus and a fresh green salad dressed my plate and stayed my hunger.

The Captain made a big fuss about Julian accepting “at least ONE glass of wine!”  I decided if Julian showed any sign of balance-challenge, I would insist that the Captain “crane” us down to our boat AND he would come with us!

Hours later, after dinner, tea, and a tour of the Balder’s facilities (games room, gym, etc.), the sun was close to the horizon.  Julian began his thanks and we headed toward the room where we’d find the ladder.  He hadn’t consumed the whole glass of wine so his balance was not impaired.

As I approached the ladder, Julian gave me a choice again, “First or second?”

“First!” I said boldly.  He knew I was petrified.

As I descended, I began to feel ill.  Nerves?  My stomach churned.  I felt hot.  The wind had picked up and the Balder rocked more noticeably.  I gripped each rung as if I might otherwise jump.  I stretched each foot downward keeping my eyes on the rungs.  Contact.  Relief.  Gasp and grasp.  I felt cramps.

Reaching the bottom, I checked Julian’s descent.  All seemed well.  The boat’s bumpers were well placed as the waves and the Balder rallied against each other.  I jumped in the boat.  Secure, at last!

Julian stepped off the last rung, untied the line, and jumped in to start the boat.  I joyfully pushed us away from the Balder.  Relief brought tears to my eyes.  I could finally admit how much of an ordeal this experience had been.

However, it didn’t settle my stomach.  Over the next few hours, I had all the symptoms of food poisoning.

Turned out, I can thank the Balder, a.k.a. “horizon pollution”, for my last feast of exquisitely prepared seafood.  I was diagnosed with a shell fish allergy.

So as I sit, this moment, in my silent neighbourhood, I look over tall trees and other islands without seeing a sign of another human being.  Hints of the odd house hugging the shoreline assures I’m not alone.  And I say thanks for their quiet, non-invasive presence.

Who wouldn't express a little Grey Power to have this invaded?

Who wouldn’t express a little Grey Power to have this invaded?

A Summit of Peace

A Summit of Peace

28 thoughts on “Love Thy (Noise/Horizon Polluting) Neighbour

  1. A great reminiscence! You’ve had such a colourful and interesting life — love reading about it. and, yes, you do seem to live in a little piece of heaven.

    • There is no way I’d do it today, Charles. Twenty three years ago- when this happened, I felt physically invincible. I trusted my body would do its job. Now, in addition to fear of heights, I accept that my body just might protest in some way…and then what?!

  2. what an adventure. I felt like I was right there climbing that ladder with you and just breathing. amazing how a memory can return filled with sound and sight and smell and the emotions of the moment. Shell fish allergy is so serious, glad you came through it okay. Enjoy the quietness my friend.

    • Yes…I blogged about going to a dim sum restaurant since the diagnosis. The waitress who spoke no English loudly repeated she had Poh Ball. I said, “Pork?” She repeated more loudly, “POH!” as she nodded. Turned out the doughy ball contained a tiny prawn and I had swallowed half of it. By the time we reached the island and drove off the ferry, my friend had to drive me to Emergency. Pfffft – what a pain. Thank goodness I spent some time in New Brunswick years ago and dined on fresh lobster every other night. I also really loved abalone, crab, mussels, etc. Now sea food, period, makes me nervous.

  3. Dear Amy,

    You have lived a king-size life haven’t you?

    To be able to link one of your life’s adventures ( reading the part when you go down the stairs reminded me of Alistair Maclean in “The puppet on a chain”) to a lifetime allergic situation is clever writing indeed.

    If I may venture to say, at the risk of starting a debate, it is only folks in rarified place like Canada that have the luxury of pushing away the ugly engines of economic growth out of sight. As did the good folks of Sydney BC when they booted out the Balder.But it is these ugly engines that provide the comforts and lifestyle that they so love to enjoy, do they not? But can folks in places like India and China do the same even if they wished to? Do we notice a self serving escapism here?

    Great post holding edge of the seat excitement. May I acknowledge you as a great story teller, Amy. May I also suggest you start penning a book containing your life experiences and exposures.



    • Your comments are always welcome, Shakti. Having the courage to make people think is a valuable gift; especially when one can present the “gem” with the skill you possess.

      Yes, we live out the conditioning of the economic culture in which we’ve been raised.

      As a kid, I saw ugly mechanized pumps sitting in fields in our prairies, pumping oil. The pumping units were the size of large tractors and we were well aware of them. People would say, “Oh, lucky them.” because it meant the land owner had received a handsome chunk of money for the mineral rights or perhaps a royalty. But we didn’t like the sight of them. Lately in the prairies, I’ve seen huge, sleek windmills in fields – dozens of them speckling the skyline. I find them a pox on the land, but since they are helping our planet in other ways, I readily accept and keep my opinion to myself.

      It makes me realize how, in Canada, long views are natural to our existence. I’m in my glory when I come over a hill and can see forever. Climbing to the tops of mountains near Yukon was my most profound experience of this. Many of us more-rural-folk feel bad for city people! Other than a mountain or forest, we’re used to space. Even mountains can be an anomaly for some Canadians. I used to hear farmers say they felt closed in when they had to drive through them. The rest of us see only beauty.

      I’m mentioning our prairie people because lots of them retired to Sidney.

      I suspect if that vessel had an economic tie to Canada, the oldsters would been more willing to help the good Captain come to his own decision to move . They’ve wrestled economics for years. But that view-blocker had no relation to the local, provincial or federal economies. Lots of rural people choose to retire in this little city because nature has been their world. Sidney is natural and unmarred by industry.

      The Captain made a much better choice in his relocation – to an area of less habitation. (Thankfully, Canada and Holland have a respectful relationship.) The people living in the second choice area are more ocean oriented. The water has been their home. They are typically more open, curious and interested in such a vessel. And the Captain accommodated that interest by inviting tours.

      Maybe to some people, Canada is hardly inhabited. Many of us are raised only knowing space and endless views. It’s part of us. And most of us have a healthy respect for the “other guy’s space”.

      I suspect that’s why the Americans tease us about being so polite. We respect space and our manners reflect that.

  4. Great post, Amy ~ what a treasure~chest of experiences you’ve lived through! I can ‘feel the fear’ you describe, because I identify with it. My ex served on aircraft carriers in the ’70’s and one time I received passes to take our small children to the dockyard, to welcome the ship into harbour. I donned my best dress, fashionable wedge heels, and saucy underwear, to surprise him. Imagine my chagrin when I arrived at the yard to be bundled onto a tug boat and whisked out into the ‘Sound’, where the huge ship was anchored. I then had to climb a long, wobbling ladder, followed by two young matelots, carrying the children. My embarrassment about them looking up my skirt completley overshadowed my fear of heights! I wore trousers every time I went to meet ships after that, just in case. LOL! Thanks for jogging my memory, so I could look back and laugh! 🙂

    • Oh, you made me laugh, Jaqueline. Isn’t it fun getting ourselves through some of these knots of decorum? Who knew you’d have to “go to him”? Yike, the wobbly ladder – in wedgies – sends shivers up my spine. Bet the kids loved it!

      I have a theory that men who live in that sort of environment as a livelihood have a terrible adjustment to life at home. Their world is made small due to space and shared quarters. Non-job related responsibilities are almost non-existent so when they come home, the wife is anticipating a break and he often takes little or no initiative to pitch in. When I was with a helicopter engineer who worked all over the world, he’d be away for months and then have weeks off. We worked out a plan to give him a full week of time-out…no demands, no social engagements, no family or friends. Just us…with me carrying on with my interests and commitments. That really helped. By the end of the week, he would have sussed out where he was needed and would step up to the plate without being asked.

      Then he, Wayne, went to Abu Dhabi. He and his chopper buddies were there to support the British work-crew who helped the Sheik reclaim land around his private island to make it bigger – in the Arabian Sea. Wayne and his co-workers lived in a compound that was like a luxury hotel and spent too much off-time imbibing. They were allowed liquor in that compound so he did little else but hang out there and drink! It did nothing for his nature, health, attitude or soul. It was easy for me to accept a contract that took me to Canada’s North.

      But I still have a huge soft spot for the man. I highly respect Canadian Helicopter personnel who certainly get experience working in harsh environments.

  5. What an adventure and thank you for telling it. Amazing where one’s mind can wander just gazing into the distance. Your horizon is unblemished and gives such a beautiful view. I felt like I was right with you climbing the rungs of that ladder…I have found that after climbing up, climbing down can be even scarier. What an unfortunate discovery to find you are allergic to shellfish, but how fortunate to have savored lobster from NB before you developed the allergy.

    • Yah, Georgette…that down part. I wasn’t surprised to find climbing up a mountain demanding energy and tenacity. I was blown away by my rubber knees when it was time to come down. Who knew?!

      When coming down that ladder, I just remember concentrating on not being ill. Once we were both in our little boat and on our way home, I looked over at Julian, the one with a condition, looking as solid and healthy as could be!

  6. What a story! Shakti has an interesting, profound and valid viewpoint. The NIMBY attitude should be changed to Put It In Someone Else’s Backyard. It’s human to want the best for our own little worlds. I definitely get that. You are a wonderful storyteller, by the way.

    • Hi beautiful artist! Yep…NIMBY! From bits and pieces of conversation that Julian had with the Captain, he realized that he was WAY better off with his second choice. He didn’t want to upset anyone; yet he needed access to supplies. It all worked out in the end because the crew found more to do in Nanaimo than they would have in Sidney where “night life” is often a stroll around the block after a light dinner! 😀

  7. Yup, lawns have to be mowed, bushes trimmed…and apparently grass clippings have to be mechanically blown from the sidewalks. No, I don’t have the ocean vessle to contend with. But I do suffer from the NIMBY syndrome, I adimt. I have my little piece of patio, my sanctuary. I’m not so keen on it being altered. I can outwait noisy neighbors. LOL. But when they changed the highway to add two more lanes, carved the landscape and tore up trees to shave off ten minutes of drivetime…*sigh* Oh, I remember when the closest neighbor was a mile thattaway. And when you could mow without noise….and still opted to do it at a time you weren’t disruptive!
    I carry on about the loss of virtues, period. Or the seeming loss.
    Ladders don’t bother me. Heights don’t scare me…and I don’t “do” shellfish. But the loss of what mattered once upon a time…does it to me every time.

    • At the risk of being an intolerant…

      Lawn mowers operate at a decent decibel. And there’s a predictable end to them. It’s the high-pitched gismos that get me – especially by the 3rd or 4th day. For some reason, it’s their rev, idle, rev,rev,rev, idle, rev, idle – that whole erratic on/off, up/down, that puts me on edge. At the other end, some things have a low rumble that reverberates. That sound actually vibrates my house and I move to different rooms to get away from it.

      For some reason, the whole Hood picked last week to hire people to (hopefully) beautify their homes, yards, vehicles and trail bikes! (A neighbour’s pressure washer really tunes my rib cage! The person using it on his bike doesn’t even live here.)

      It’s back to usual amounts of noise. Since I worked all my life, I probably don’t know what is “normal”.

  8. Whew. All’s well that ends well. You survived the climb up and down and the dreadful shellfish! Woe, to be allergic to shell fish, how sad. And to have peace and quiet. How lovely. There is a constant din where I live.Traffic, air-conditioners, jet airplanes, helicopters. I forget what silence is. . . till I get to the mountains.

    • Wow, Linda, I wonder if our bodies are free from the effects of noise after a while. Boy, I sure notice my body’s reactions to some of the noise. Many days, I spend hours in the house without even a radio. Yes, mountains… Overall, I think my ‘hood is wonderfully quiet, but then my walk buddy and I head out on a trail and I am reminded of real quiet!

  9. It is a very beautiful view, Amy. Here on our north west coast at Southport, an oil rig makes the odd appearance; but the coast is generally so mundane – with Blackpool Tower only a small stick on the horizon – that the locals -grey power included -love to watch it 😀

    • I just checked out the Blackpool Tower. Its photo taken at night looks very attractive.

      There’s a large lumber mill located on Vancouver Island to the west of us. At night, with all it’s lights, it looks like a huge silent ship sitting and reflecting on the water. It’s actually quite beautiful and now very neighbourly. It used to chug out terrible waste – into the water and air. Islanders when wild and it now works without all that pollution. Proof that it can be done.

  10. I love the way you tell your stories, a wonderful life of adventures you have had. When I leave the mountains to go home to Wichita, the first thing I notice is the noise, especially at night. It is so very quiet here except on the days when Holloman airforce is flying their jets for training, then if we get a sonic boom, it makes you jump out of your skin.

  11. This is my first visit to your blog home and I enjoyed the story. I often wondered what it must be like to be assigned to one of those oil rigs for an extended period of time? Did the people on the rig seem lonely at all?

    • This was a vessel that builds rigs – it’s not a rig unto itself. So the requirements of duty are a bit different. I don’t know about loneliness. As is part of Marine life, the Indonesian crew didn’t mingle with the Dutch officers to my knowledge. During dinner, they sat amongst themselves, speaking their own language. At the Captain’s table, the conversation was largely about locations, jobs, challenges and humourous times – no mention of personal issues. I learned that the Officers were relieved and therefore able to go home for periods of time, but I never heard of a crew member going home.

      I suspend judgement because I know that some of the crew find life on these ships very cushy compared to conditions in their country. Plus they really love being able to send money home to their families.

  12. Wow- what a great story Amy… so many different layers, from trousers and fear ,to the shock or discovering you can’t eat shellfish ! And how I sympathise with the problem of noise ! Neighbours who arrive from town at the weekend to tidy up their beach house can be a menace – at least we have the weeks to ourselves !!!

    • Surprising how we become so used to OUR sounds in neighbourhoods. Some sounds just become noise – like an orchestra playing off key – and the volume seems intense and invasive. We’re revving up for a long weekend and the ‘hood has lots of company. New teen voices exclaim over a frisbee game on the street. New dogs bark. New vehicles driving too fast for our street. Incessant chatter across the street as visitors pick all the ripe blackberries from our “supply”. And one sound that I almost forget to hear. A neighbour, a chiropractor, is doing an addition on his office/house – after hours and weekends (ugh!). But after many, many weeks, there are periods of his carpentry being somewhat muted.

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