Sunday, 10 July 2011

I Can't Whistle

Never could whistle. Not to attract attention, not to accompany the hit of the day, nor to ensure Mary was aware I appreciated her latest choice in miniskirt. I don't think I've missed much because of this minor failure and certainly don't regret being missed by Mary, who probably ended up with a brood equally devoid of a personality.

Listening to an old radio drama recently I realised how the approaching whistle of an unidentifiable tune dated the production. Once the cheery (or irritating depending on one's viewpoint) whistle announced the imminent arrival of a tradesman - milkman, baker, postman, etc., as much as the clink of the milkbottle, whine of the electric delivery van, flick of the letterbox, or the sound of the front gate. The remainder of the broadcast was missed, interrupted as my thoughts wandered and I mused on whatever happened to the whistle.

No user of the ubiquitous ipod ever reveals their musical choice to the rest of the bus queue through pursed lips. Not that I recommend anyone do so, nor would anyone who can recall the release of the 'Walkman', which Sony failed to warn would render the user incapable of carrying even the most monotonous melody while decreasing the perception of their own volume.

And it's not only Homo sapiens whistle which has disappeared. The train whistle evokes a image of an engine belching smoke and steam which no two-tone hoot from the modern diesel or electric locomotive ever could. Watch PC George Dixon in the film The Blue Lamp, he and his colleagues alert one another with use of the police whistle - one long blast of which carried as much meaning as the veritable oratory now required over the two-way radio. The local bobby has returned to the bicycle in the twenty-first century so why not the whistle? Referees manage to communicate a surprising amount of information via the Acme branded whistle - yes it really is called the Acme. Two versions were produced by the Birmingham company Joseph Hudson, a higher pitch preferred by referees from the south and somewhat lower for those from up north.

And what about the dog whistle? Never hear of that in twenty-first century. But then humans never could.

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