Art and design






Life and style








US news

World news

Train in pain: are noise-filled carriages bad for your health?

South West Trains have announced they are considering scrapping the ‘quiet zones’ on their carriages
End of the line ... South West Trains is considering scrapping the ‘quiet zones’ in its carriages. Photograph: Alamy

Seven years. That’s the minimum prison sentence that should apply to people on public transport who listen to music through their phone speakers (also known as “sodcasting”) – with two years for banal phone conversations that never end.

For many, the news that South Western Railways is thinking of getting rid of quiet carriages will not be music to their ears (but, probably, in the end, will mean precisely that).

Some people think quietness is overrated. They can focus come what may: screaming babies; thumping house music; people texting with keyboard clicks on (still? In 2017?). Why do some of us need quiet but others don’t? Is the world getting quieter or louder?

Psychotherapist and writer Philippa Perry suggests that we are becoming frightened of quietness, possibly as a result of technology. “Blocking out the quiet seemed to start with transistor radios, then Sony Walkmans, so that your whole life – if you wanted – could have a soundtrack. You’d walk in the crowd with your earphones on and feel like you were the star of your own movie.”

Now, there’s the added background buzz of message notifications, muzak in shops and 24-hour news. We exist in a soundscape of competing bleeps and pings and BPMs. There’s comfort to this, Perry says. “We are social beings and quiet means we are isolated and no one can survive alone for too long.”

But it’s also possible that too much chatter could be detrimental to our wellbeing. “Don’t we sometimes have to have our own thoughts and become aware of the swoosh of our blood and the rhythm of our pulse and notice our breathing? Do we need quiet to feel connected to ourselves, our themes and our moods and our thoughts?” asks Perry.

The healthiest type of noise, Perry suggests, could be the back-to-basics crunch of leaves underfoot; birds singing; the patter of raindrops. Nature. Or anything soothing. Certainly not Despacito on the bus during rush hour.

This article titled "Train in pain: are noise-filled carriages bad for your health?" was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for The Guardian on Wednesday 6 December 2017 04.45pm

Life and style

Terroir, natural wines and indie producers: how booze has changed since 2001

OFM began publishing in what now feels like a decisively different era for wine. It was a time when… Read more

James Haskell: ‘When I came to Wasps, I was eating six meals a day. It was horrific’

My first memory is being taken for Indian food at the Cookham Tandoori on the High Street – I… Read more

Nigella Lawson: 'We were always told we mustn't make a man feel bad about anything'

For Nigella Lawson, the #MeToo movement marks a departure from the bad old days of sexism. Speaking… Read more

The frill of it all: how chintz got un-chucked

“All hail the new chintz” announced the luxury (and certifiably hip) interiors brand House of… Read more

Seven ways ... to lower your heart age

Work out your heart age You may look and feel young, but is your heart letting you down? Heart age… Read more

My wife always climaxes during foreplay, leaving me feeling as if I am just servicing her

My wife schedules sex once a week. Foreplay is mainly spent on arousing her, and she will always… Read more

Laure Petiot obituary

My wife, Laure Petiot, who has died of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma aged 60, taught people how to make… Read more

I’ve been a barmaid and a waitress. I know exactly what late-night banter means

In the nearly 12 years since its publication, Bill Buford’s account of his adventures in the… Read more

A new Nigella Lawson cake for our 200th issue – and other recipes for a celebration

Nigella Lawson’s toasted marshmallow and rhubarb cake I had many run-ups to this cake before… Read more

From foraging to clean eating: how our passion for food has grown

The first Observer Food Monthly came out in April 2001. On its cover was an effortfully… Read more