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Last night I became aware of a regular noise which I could only describe as a ‘clicky whistling sound’. Our boiler had had problems firing earlier in the evening, so at first I thought it was the machinations of the boiler struggling a bit. Then it got more insistent, then it followed me into the study, then I started to think it was stalking me.

Chirrup, it went in a kind of unhappy and attention-seeking way. Chirrup. Cheep. Choo. Small and determined to make itself heard. It was annoying, just like when you think you’ve got rid of the hiccups, then a hic hits you out of the blue.

This auditory hiccup was driving me NUTS. The Bear, solver of all strange noise puzzles, said it was the smoke alarm needing a new battery, and he’d get a new one in the morning. That’s why it’s annoying and insistent, because a silent smoke alarm is a deadly one. What a relief to switch off . . .

I came home tonight and it was still beeping. The Bear had changed the battery and still it was beeping. He’d taken the battery out – but STILL it was beeping. After half an hour I could bear it no more and we buried it quietly in the conservatory where it can beep to itself unseen and unheard, the dying chirrups of a defunct smoke alarm, until blessed peace overcomes it and we can return once more to normality.

This reminds me of when I was a postgrad at uni and had to clear my room over the holidays. I packed all my possessions into a trunk and stored it with some friends staying over in their rented flat. Unfortunately, while carrying the trunk up the stairs, the stuff inside it must’ve moved, enough for my vibrating alarm clock to get knocked on . . . I waltzed off for the Easter vacation with the key, while my friends were woken up at 7am by a muffled but insistent brrmmm brrrrmmm brrmmmmm, which came on again at 7pm. It got so that twice a day, they were on tenterhooks, nerves a-jangle, waiting for the torture to start, and then to pass. When I turned up, to their credit, they managed a collective wan smile between them. Funnily enough, they never did offer to store my stuff again.

It’s karma.

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