When I got my hearing back, I wanted to keep being reminded of how sumptuous ordinary sound can be. Tweeting Great Sounds seemed like a good way of doing that, so every weekday for a year, I’d post a description on Twitter and people would either respond by liking them or they’d offer their own Great suggestions. The Sounds became a bit of a conversation, and it was fun seeing which sounds people most responded to – food and old mechanical things (record players, cameras, cars) seemed to be the most popular. One day, I’d love to find a way of posting some with the appropriate audio clip. But in the meantime, here’s an edited list of the best.
The pop and sigh of a winter bonfire
The rusty creak of a donkey’s bray.
The tick of a bicycle’s freewheel
The lacquered clack of snooker ballsThe muffled whoomph of the boiler igniting
The city song of a blackbird in winter
Hard rain on a cold tin roof
The tiny, live pause on the other end of the phone before someone says, ‘Hello?’
A cat’s purr
The fall and flow of melting snow
The alien-radio conversations of king penguins
The unwinding of orange peel
The scritch of pencil on paper
The thock of a dart into the board
Two robins having a row about twigs
The rattle of black cab diesel
The scritch and creak of winter trees swaying together
The impeturbable thrum of a lighthouse beam revolving
The flat wooden clank of ravens
The loneliness of American trains
The sea outside
The twinkle of ’70’s doorbells
The rip and flare of a struck match.
A scribble of swallows, returned
A baby’s snores
A page turning
The hush and draw of an incoming tide
The steady clop of flip-flops
The stripping sound of sellotape peeling off the roll
Dog’s tail against wood
The submarine churn of a ferry docking
British parenting: ‘That’s ‘give me my slug mamma PLEASE.”
Oystercatchers over still water.
The snap of raw carrot
The crinch-crinch of cut hair.
The plunk of popcorn bursting in the pan.
The voice at the end of 30 minutes of hold music.
Walking through buttercups in a pair of crocs.
The thick mechanical haul of swans taking off.
Corpsing: uncontrollable fit of the giggles at an utterly wrong moment.
Thunder, close by.
The gravelly scuffle of knife on toast
Scraping the bottom of the marmalade jar.
The uncork and roll of new lipstick tubes.
The pock and rip of shelled peas.
The low rich fizz of summer insects.
The grumble of New York cabs.
A summer of skylarks.
Stiletto on parquet.
The anticipatory crackle of vinyl after the needle is lowered but before the music begins.
The drain-cleaning up-straw slurp at the end of a milkshake.
40,000 people standing in a field.
The sling of distant trains coming through the rails
The drill of a woodpecker
A toast: the high chink of glasses
Elephant seals blowing raspberries
Land, heard from sea
The peep of fledgelings.
The peel of bicycle tyres on warm tarmac
The crinkle of sweets unwrapped.
The tick and bang of metal in the sun.
A stick trailed across park railings.
The muffled seashore roar of an England goal heard from half a mile away.
The slow scritchscritch of a pencil being sharpened.
The uneven rhythm of horses’ hooves down a city street.
Scissors cutting cotton.
Snapping floss out of teeth.
A shiver of glitter poured over a card.
Dog’s claws scrabbling for purchase on shiny floor tiles.
The quiet click of a domestic light switch.
The clink and flare of a zippo lighter.
Slitting open an envelope.
Bare feet dancing on a wooden stage.
Doing up the zip on a party dress.
The sulphurous chug of an old London bus.
The soft chewy clack of the door shutting on a 70s Volvo.
Grey noise from a hotel room – taxis and motorbikes, roadworks and radios.
That massive, operatic, minute-log intake of breath a baby makes before letting rip.
The deep roar of a twin-prop plane getting up to speed.
Rattling through a make-up bag.
Ten different languages on a London bus.
The rustle of an old-fashioned broadsheet.
The drunken buzz of a wasp in a windfall apple.
The rhythm and groove of suitcase wheels on hot pavement.
Tawny owl autumn hoot-out.
The Sunday chug of an old lawnmower near and far, near and far.
Popping bubble wrap.
Small child being chased, laughing too hard to run properly.
A sewing machine at full throttle.
White noise – the static of an old detuned TV.
The crick of the handbrake at the end of a long journey.
London breathing, after rain.
The closing thunder of the car-wash rollers.
The woody crash of skateboards on concrete.
The racing song of a livestock auctioneer.
A printer, malfunctioning. Atonal.
The faint flat tick of knitting needles.
The boom of an unfurled sail catching the wind.
Football against a wall.
The pop of chips frying.
The rustle of popcorn in a darkened cinema.
Squeak of a cork coming out of a bottle.
The pure open hiss of skis on fresh snow.
The plock of a hole punch.
Blowing ghosty noises across the top of bottles.
A buzzard’s mew.
A tree falling in a wood.
The showman shuffle of a deck of cards.
Tchock of tennis balls bounced against walls.
The beat of your own heart.
The dangerous end-of-evening laughter of old friends.
The slow pop of a Sunday fry-up.
A child monitor, silent. Occasional small snores.
The placid white sound of a power shower.
Boring drug conversations.
Rolling up posters.
The warm fleshy pull of kneading fresh dough.
The sticky rip of shoes on a beery pub floor.
A tent door unzipped.
The rip of a skate’s blade on fresh ice.
The click-smack-click rhythm in peeling potatoes.
Deep whale-song rise and fall of football crowd three streets away.
Cutting into the crust of fresh warm bread.
Slop of thick winter soup.
The querulous trumpeting of wind through UPVC glazing.
Flat tink of halyards in a winter boatyard.
Twizzling Christmas ribbon with scissors.
The hysterical rise of a blocked hoover.
The Doppler droop of a passing siren.
The shuffle of overtrousers rubbing together.
The livid roar of Christmas parties.
A fan oven’s weary exhale as you open the door.
Wrapping paper unwrapped at speed.
Breaking glass – crashing bagfuls of empties into the recycling bin.
The underfoot crunch of plastic toy components.
Dog pulling hard on lead, panting like an axe-murderer.
Uneven rumble of a luggage carousel.
A splurge of fireworks.
Frosty leaves underfoot.
Arguing with the satnav man.
Stapling things, executive-style.
Footsteps in an old stone church.
A high waterfall.
Foxes barking in the dead of night.
Popping open bags of crisps.
Grandstanding phone conversations on buses.
The impeturbable drone of the House of Lords.
The heavy thwack of helicoptor rotor blades.
Shuffle and lick of a roll-up being shaped.
The key in the lock.
An eternity of Oxford St Hare Krishnas
The plasticky creak of Central Park starlings.
Church bells on a winter evening.
Smashing the top off a boiled egg.
The mechanical whirr of wild swans above.
Old car windscreen wipers: plik plok, plik plok …
Shop shutters rolling up.
The shiver and thwack of stones skipped on ice.
The frizz of a stir-fry.
The lurid shrieks of London foxes.
Snapping raw spaghetti.
The squeak and pinch of party balloons.
The farty end of the washing-up bottle.
Whispering in a gallery.
The splash and haul of small-boat oars.
Crickets and cicadas – the sound of heat.
Rain on leaves – like running footsteps.
The papery hush of an old library.
A quack of Indian scooter horns.
A perfect touchdown. With applause.
The ‘bing!’ of new mail.
The steady bashing rhythm of nailguns on ply.
Lying in a boat, listening to the sea lapping on the hull.
Bonnet click on an old VW.
The singing of wind through taut telecom wires.
Station announcements heard from a distance – a little bit Brief Encounter.
Kicking the photocopier.
The crunch of an apple.
Cat, confronted by dog, making a noise like a deflating bagpipe.
Handsawing a plank, dropping slowly down the scale.
The witchy boilings of spag bol sauce.
A dive into still water.
The circular crackle at the end of a record.
A dollop of honey.
The specific crunchiness of the small burnt chips at the bottom of the carton.
Morning: a thousand uneven bleeps at the Tube ticket gates.
The rubbery creak of tulip stems.
Oceanic billow of sheets on the washing line.
Brushing out long wet hair.
Cracking the chocolate on Easter eggs.
Unspooling new film to load an old camera – the snick of the back, the ratchets catching …
Digging: the blade of a spade in new earth.
The well-bred sigh of expensive packaging.
The deep-earth drum of racehorses approaching.
Scottish football results.
The lift of a curlew.
The sea sounding through a shell.
Changing room chat: ‘Nah, not your colour. Not with the hair.’
Trolley-surfing into the crisp section.