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Sounding off about a fine state of affairs

By Squinter

JUST 14 fixed penalties were issued by Belfast City Council in the past year, even though they received over 6,000 complaints. Most people reading this would be able to identify 14 people within a hundred yards of their home deserving of a City Hall fine.

Ironically, it’s the Council that is responsible for the noise pollution that’s getting on Squinter’s goat most at present. Those revving and grinding and rumbling and scraping sounds that you hear at 7am of a morning when the wheelie bins are being emptied are brought to you courtesy of the Council and Squinter rather doubts if they’ve ever served a fixed penalty on themselves.

Granted, the bin lorries only score a modest six out of ten on Squinter’s Growl-

ometer, the sophisticated mechanism inside his head that gives a precise reading on just how irritating those familiar noises really are…


Taxi horns. 11.30pm. You’re in a freshly-changed bed after a long bath with Classic FM playing on the bedside radio; your Spirit of Freedom T-shirt is freshly laundered as are your monks; you’re getting to the best part of a very good book. The eyes start to droop, you’re getting those pleasurable mini-hallucinations that signal the mind and body are about to shut down for the night when you’re yanked violently back to full wakefulness by the demented honking of a bloke who can’t be bothered to get out of his car and walk 10 metres. Rather than pull himself away from his heated vehicle and Cool FM, he has decided to make a late-night racket that in a built-up city area is going to be heard by a minimum of 300 people, most of them sleepy or asleep.

Growlometer reading: 8/10

Fine: Confiscate the mini-baseball bat he keeps down the side of his seat


Loud music. A glass of water on the mantelpiece is shaking like the one in Jurassic Park. The separating wall between you and next door is turning concave on the bass notes. The floor is shuddering like the HSS does it when it’s about to dock because there are dozens of people 10 feet away jumping up and down with barrackbusters in their hands. There’s a steady flow of taxis arriving but they’re not sounding their horns because they’re dropping people off, not picking them up. This should be a blessing but it is not, because even if the taxis were sounding their horns you wouldn’t be able to hear them.

Growlometer reading: 9/10

Fine: Calculate the time your neighbours’ hangovers are about to start and go get the lawnmower


Barking dogs. Ah, the weekend. Lie-in, fry, bookies, walk, pub. But first that lie-in with the Racing Post, a football coupon and a cup of tea. You’ve four pillows behind you and you’re about to apply pen to paper when that handbag dog up the street with the attitude problem decides it’s time to tell the world how much he hates it. The high-decibel yelp has the metal-piercing qualities of an RPG warhead and so mere bricks, plaster and glass are no defence. Then the goofy big dog up the street, which you quite like as a matter of fact, if only because it’s not a handbag dog, decides to tell Hate-the-World to shut up and so it starts woofing its indignation until there’s a demented falsetto/bass duel that would have won the war for the Brits in a week if they’d had a recording of it in Castlereagh.

Growlometer: 11/10

Fine: Tell it to its face how much you hate it when you’re hanging up bird seed/painting the fence

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