Silence is a haven – especially if you live in a Greek Family

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The first time that I became aware that I really liked peace and quiet was when I met a friend’s Greek family. In this household social gatherings are conducted at full volume. Everyone talks at the same time and no one listens, but in the belief that someone is interested the noise escalates as people shout over each other to be heard. At the point where people are screaming you’d have employ the use of a megaphone to get your viewpoint across. I don’t bother with such devices as no one takes any notice anyway. I have found the best way to cope is to slip out to the garden, wash down a couple of paracetamol as a preventative measure for the developing headache or the hangover from drinking too much to get through the night.

This propensity for volume to the max was revealed at my first Xmas with the family, when the then boyfriend, who was also Greek and about 70, of his mother started to insult the British. The man was deliberately taking advantage of the fact that I was a novice at the game and far too polite to respond in kind. There followed a shouting down match by my partner and his mother on my behalf as I sat in stunned silence. The ensuing meal could certainly not be classified as a peace and goodwill to all men event.

Unlike Simon and Garfunkel, this family doesn’t like the sound of silence. If you walked into their house at any given time you would hear the tinny and irritating sound of a radio in the garden/kitchen/bathroom or bedroom and the background noise of the television in the lounge. There would be no one in sight because the culprits are in the spare room listening/watching the computer. 

Being a person that finds noise intrusive when trying to read, write or relax I’ve had to find ways to cope and if I ever get desperate there is always the possibility of using a hammer on the radio. However, no one prepared me for the difficulty of dealing with the noise generated by parents who are going deaf and are in denial. Take my father for example, who refuses to believe that he has a hearing loss problem and accuses everyone of mumbling. Thus we all end up shouting at each other normally in competition with the TV which is at full volume. It doesn’t take long before my head feels like it is going to explode. Luckily he has recently seen the light, or possibly his long suffering wife finally put her foot down, and is going for tests. Therefore, imagine what it must be like at already ear splitting Greek gatherings when the elder generation becomes hearing impaired? Two hours of that and you would need an aid yourself.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing that would block out the volume of noise generated by my friend and his family would be ear defenders – industrial strength. However, as I don’t know of anyone that can supply me a pair at a reasonable price I am resorting to the next best thing – ear plugs. They reduce noise to an acceptable level, are light and easy to wear, comfortable in bed and discrete so no-one knows you are wearing them. The only thing is that I can’t hear myself talk but then in the tradition of all Greek families they don’t let you get a word in edgeways anyway. So I just wave my hands around a lot, smile and shout a few comments such as “yes’, ‘no’ and ‘really?’ and they’re none the wiser.

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