Diary

The Whistle

17 March 2018 | Diary

One of my as-yet-unmonetized talents, along with a creditable proficiency at armpit music, is the ability to whistle quite loudly and for an insanely long time.

I don’t mean the sort of whistle that requires fingers in the mouth like the wolf whistle issued involuntarily by a retired bricklayer on hearing the clip-clop of heels on the pavement outside. No, I mean the sort of properly tuneful whistle formed only by the pursing of the lips.

“You hum it, I’ll play it,” a skilled musician might say. For me it’s more a matter of “You play it ten years ago, I’ll blow out a loud and shrill cover version when you least expect it.”

I can whistle anything that happens to be lodged in my consciousness at a given moment. Their being inane to begin with, my specialties are television theme tunes and the music from 16-bit computer games from the early ’90s. You should hear my James Pond II: Robocod. But, damn it all, I can handle anything Phillip Glass can throw at me. I can do the entirety of Einstein on the Beach — on the inhale.

I can do all eight tracks of Trane’s Blues through the gap in my front teeth. I can do Robert Fripp, Brian Eno and Scott Walker at such a pitch as to call into service as harmonizers any dogs in the vicinity. In fact, the only artist to whom I seek not to pay tribute is Roger Whittaker.

But I’m not here now to boast about the range of my whistling, merely to remark on the improbable volume of it. I can go loud.

Today, while washing up some dishes, I found myself whistling the theme from Dallas (a favourite) at a very special volume. It may have also acquired a certain resonance in the metal kitchen sink.

Somehow, Dallas evolved into a particularly horrible circa-2001 Nokia ringtone and I continued to whistle this on an extremely tight loop, in a completely demented way. It was perhaps the most annoying sound I’ve ever made with my face and I was extremely proud of it.

This is what I do behind closed doors when my wife is out, and I can’t help but feel that this information has a place somewhere in the ongoing privacy debate.

Suddenly, there was a fevered banging against the kitchen wall and a man’s voice shouting, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

It had never occurred to me, despite congratulating myself regularly on the impressive volume, that the neighbours would have been able to hear my demented whistling.

How utterly embarrassing. It’s an unzipped fly, times a million.

As borderline-millennial precariat types, we move house quite a lot, and only now does it occur to me the trail of carnage I’ve must have left in our wake.

David Emily Berkowitz, despite his success as an Andy Kaufman lookalike, was driven to madness by the simple barking of a neighbour’s dog, turning him into the Son of Sam (like how a radioactive spider turned Peter Parker into that other guy).

The “Son of Rob” serial killers I must have created with my up-to-eleven, tight-looped, double-speed renditions of “She’ll Be Comin’ ’round the Mountain” do not bear thinking about. I’ve probably made serial killers who can only kill other killers who also have killed another killer (a double Dexter), so insane are they in their need for revenge upon society.

Why did no one ever bang on the wall before? I’ve been doing this for about twenty years.

I can also do impressions through a whistle to make celebrities sound like Clangers.