‘I listened to them fade away till all I could hear was my memory of the sound.’ Ken Kesey.

05 Jan

I was fifteen when my mum and dad decided that the family should move back to England to live.  (When I say ‘back’,  I mean that mum and dad were going back, my sisters and I were born in either Australia or New Zealand and had never been to England.)  That was nearly 45 years ago (gulp—that’s a bit scary when you say it out loud) and the world was a different place then.  England was all the way over on the other side of the world (well—it still is, technically) and, although many English people had relatives in Australia, if was so far flung that the average person didn’t really seem to know all that much about it.  (These was the dark ages remember—no internet, no social media, no skype.)  All they knew about Australia was from old movies or reruns of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.  As you might imagine, my sisters and I attracted a lot of attention . . .

I remember being ‘the new kid’ at school and forever being asked to talk about Australia.  Tell us what it’s like . . . (Er, well . . .)  Is it always hot?  (Well, yes, in the summer.)   Have you ever seen rain?  (Me—lost for words.)  Did you have a kangaroo in your back yard?  (We lived in the city—so no.)  Are the spiders really all that big? (Bigger.)  Does everyone talk funny? (Excuse me, could you repeat that please.  I can’t understand a word you just said.)  Do you know my Auntie Ethel?she lives in Australia . . .  (sigh.)

I never really got comfortable in England (or any other country I lived in really).  I missed Australia.  I missed all sorts of things about it—the warmth (damn it gets cold in England), the people, the colours, the trees, the tim-tams—but when I really thought about it, I mean really thought about it, what I missed most were the sounds.  The inevitable dawn chorus (the magpies, the cockatoos, the kookaburras—which, by the way, can often start their songs long before dawn!), the sound of motorboats and jetskis on the water, the interminable drone of lawnmowers (not quite sure why I missed that, but I did)—and the cicadas . . .

OMG the cicadas!!  Why on earth did I miss the cicadas??   Somewhere along the line my ‘memory of the sound’ must have muted their continuous ear-slitting roar to a gentle hum—it’s the only explanation!  Well I am certainly not missing them now.  All the planets must have recently aligned because we certainly have had a ‘bumper crop’ of them this year.

Cicadas are the loudest insects in the world and there are more than 200 species in Australia. And (wouldn’t you know it) Australian cicadas (specifically the ‘green grocer’ and the ‘double drummer’) are amongst the loudest species on earth.  (BTW, I had no idea cicadas has such cool names—Black Princes, Floury Bakers, Yellow Mondays  . . . )  At close range these cicadas are noisier than any lawnmower chainsaw or jackhammer (in excess of 120 decibels, which is approaching the pain threshold of the human ear.  Don’t I know it!)  Apparently it is only the males who ‘sing’, which is probably just as well because if all the females were singing as well all of humankind would be deaf within days . . .

But, you know, I’ve decided I’m not going to be too hard on them.  Most of their lives are spent underground and for some species this can be for a period of up to several years.  And then, once above ground, many of them only live five or six weeks.

When I look at it that way, if I had dragged myself up out from under the cold dark earth into the bright sun and clear air, I’m pretty sure I would want to sing my little heart out too . . .


Posted by on January 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

8 responses to “‘I listened to them fade away till all I could hear was my memory of the sound.’ Ken Kesey.

  1. Judy

    January 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Almost 26 years ago we had a January garden wedding and the cicadas completely drowned out the ceremony…nice to finally know they weren’t just dastardly critters spoiling our special moment but perhaps Keats, Byron or even Coleridge waxing lyrical for us!! 😂👍💕


    • sallyinthehaven

      January 6, 2018 at 6:16 am

      I can only imagine how frustrating that was at the time! But yes, it is nice to imagine all those wonderful poets watching on (and voicing their opinions . . .) 🙂


  2. Vee

    January 5, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    We are truly living in the best country in the world Sal. I love all our noises we wake up to.
    The bonus is we at least wake up to hear them another day…..
    P.S. Our cicadas have a lot of competition with the frogs here at the moment 🙂 Vee


    • sallyinthehaven

      January 6, 2018 at 6:17 am

      Poor old frogs aren’t getting a look-in here at the moment . . . 😦


  3. stevetalbot51

    January 5, 2018 at 10:33 am

    And see this link too for info about the 17 year thing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. stevetalbot51

    January 5, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Nice one Sal, that’s a very interesting quote at the end. I have also been wondering why this year in particular they seem louder and more intense – and there IS a scientific explanation (see link below). Who knew they had a 17 year life cycle???

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joneen Troup

    January 5, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Great holiday reading thanks Sally. I love the cicadas (mmm the sound of Summer) especially now I know they could be poet souls. They are especially loud this year! Jon

    Liked by 1 person

    • sallyinthehaven

      January 6, 2018 at 6:19 am

      Those poet souls were up before the sun this morning (5:08am to be exact). Happily they seem to be having a bit of a rest now . . .



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: