When I was younger air raid sirens seemed to be quite commonplace in one form or another… whether wailing from cathode ray flickers via documentaries on government civil defense / Protect and Survive plans, in black and white fictional stories broadcast via the same boxes in the corner of the room or literally on the shelves/worktops of where I lived (see Two Brown Bakelite Boxes and The End Of The World on the About page).
Now, they don’t seem to be a part of everyday life, the worry and concern about Cold War conflict and attacks has subsided… these portentous mechanised banshees have quietly wandered away from day-to-day life.
I went on a bit of a forage recently to see if I could find any imagery pertaining to the just mentioned Brown Bakelite Boxes but what I stumbled upon was actually details of the forgetting of these banshees, particularly this story here.
Which is curious, as if you’re of a certain age/experience, it’s quite deeply ingrained what the banshee wail of a public siren means; something quite serious – quite possibly the impending end of things.
Occasionally the wind will carry the sound of sirens to me – I think they are ones to imply a controlled explosion at quarries – but they are but wraiths in the air, almost dream like, floating in and out the edges of consciousness; one that was trained to think that the ultimate conflict was about to commence (and end almost as quickly due to its ferocity).
(As an aside, in amongst documentation relating to a subcultural/briefly overground creative practitioner – of whose work almost no source material still exists – the idea has been mooted that it was actually quite a lot for populations to take in that their countries foreign policy planning was based on various forms/threats to themselves and their enemies of quite possible and sudden complete destruction.
Which I suppose it is – it is an almost overwhelming thing to live amongst and under if overly focused upon personally and/or by society at large; and so the hardwiring of responses to it amongst those who lived through such times is not all that surprising, nor the cultural/creative expression/outlet and indeed balm of such hardwiring/portents via elements of what has come to be called hauntological culture.
Although I don’t tend to refer to it all that directly, such Cold War dread is one of the things that underlies/underpins much of this particular year in the country and its “searching for an expression of an underlying unsettledness to the English bucolic countryside dream” – again see Two Brown Bakelite Boxes and The End Of The World.)
And so, back to the fading of banshees: apparently the more contemporary communication plan is to inform people of such things is to use radio stations and somewhat bizarrely send text-based messages to the mini pocket/hand-held computers that are somewhat ubiquitous to the modern age (boxes that contain “modern-day magic on a monthly tariff” to quote The Eccentronic Research Council).
The second of which plans is just bizarre, as it assumes a constant modern-day surveilling of the devices to receive those brief sets of characters and puts one in mind of almost farce like/funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-serious scenarios where people are catching up on the twitterings and natterings of much of modern-day life and inbetween “I fancy some soup for dinner” and “Bought these nice new shoes” etc will come “3 minute warning: end of civilisation as we know it quite soon.”
Anyway, before I assume full bah, humbug, curmudgeon mode, I feel I should step away from such things (although while still shaking my head at “modern” ways).
Earlier pathways to such portents (tread gently)
Day #114/365: Waiting For The End Of The World and havens beneath our feet.
Day #302/365: Ms Delia Derbyshire on such banshee wails as electronic music.
Day #306/365: Documentation of earlier preparations; a journey from a precipice to a cliff edge, via documents of preparing for the end of the world, a curious commercialism, the tonic/lampoonery of laughter, broken cultural circuits and quiet/quietening niches…
Reflections on reflections contained within this dybukk’s dozen re Cold War dread/hardwiring; it’s the juxtaposition/contrast/setting of these particular portenders and what they portend that often intrigues me – they might well be expected to be found amongst the edgelands (or even the brethren of a time traveller’s transmogrifying transport) but its their dwelling next to the country pub, the pleasant sunset and nature’s aviaristic creatures that seems out of kilter. And so back to that particular hardwiring:
“Another major contributor to such things was a science fiction short story I read sometime around the early to mid-eighties, wherein there is a lead up to a devastating attack/war, during which birds are noted as sitting on the telephone wires around and about… when the attack arrives, the central (human) character rushes to his fallout shelter, only to find it crammed full of birds and animals, with no space for him: the birds had actually been listening to mankind’s communications via the telephone lines and knew that the attack was coming and where to hide.”
(See Day #46/365: Threads, The Changes, the bad wires and ghosts of transmissions; English horror indeed.)
As has been mentioned before, the ether is a place which allows for all kinds of niches and expressions of interest in what could be considered to be accidental art via utilitarian objects. This day/page could well be considered to be one of such places.
Here are a few others…
A gathering and binding of an appreciation of the encasements of audiological utilitarianisms.