An inconvenient neighbor

I was about to record the twentieth and last chapter of my current audio book project. It was late morning, all seemed quiet. The kids were at school and my husband was gone at welding school/work. I had just come back from exercising; I was awake and my voice too. Outside, nobody was mowing their lawn or building a garden shed (thank God, lawn enthusiasts and garden builders are finally cooling down — literally) , and the train and its many whistles had just passed the crossing. I closed the window and the door to my home studio.

All set!

Toc-toc-toc!

What the…?

Toc-toc-toc!

The knocking came from behind my wall, the outside corner that faces the backyard and the park. Sometimes I can hear the squirrels climbing the wall and the roof, but they don’t stay long. That one kept knocking on my…

Toc-toc-toc!

I replied with all my rage by knocking on my side of the wall as if it was a very inconvenient neighbor. BAM-BAM-BAM. Get awaaayyyy!

Toc-toc-toc!

Nope, didn’t work. I opened my window, couldn’t see a thing because of the the bug screen, took that off too, and came face to face with a… A bird! No way, such a pretty bird pecking at the wall! We watched each other, stunned for a couple of seconds. When I finally thought I should take a picture (so pretty!), he hopped on a branch and flew away.

Another day he came back.

I was ready. (Camera ready, wrong lens — oops)

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Noise levels

The noise level here in Canada is nothing compared to what we had to endure in Brazil : the constant barking from the neighbors dogs every time someone walks by in front of their house, the noisy motorcycles, the vendors announcing loudly what they’re selling by yelling or playing their jingles on loudspeakers from their bike, car trunk, or pickup truck (eggs, cheese, bread, sweets, or gas canisters — they all came around at least once a week if not everyday) and, of course, the neighbors who honk the horn when they leave (to say bye?) and when they arrive home (to have someone open the gate for them). Those were the daily, constant, background noises. There were also the occasional days when a neighbor decided to a party and every one else, many streets over, had to enjoy whichever loud music was being blasted through (again) loudspeakers, for as long as the party was going. Brazilians are just loud people. All the time. I don’t think I ever got used to it.

During our last year in Brazil, we were living in a dead end street in a relatively quiet neighborhood. But even so, in contrast, when we arrived in Canada, here in the house where we currently live, which is not even in a dead end street, it was shockingly quiet.

And yet, when I started recording, I became aware of the many noises that I would unconsciously tune out: the train that blows his many whistles at the railway crossing some streets away on one side, the ships that blow their whistles too when they pass by the river (as they pass under the bridge, I think) on the other side, the neighbor that mows his lawn in the summer, the occasional airplane, etc. The house makes many sounds inside too: the fridge, the water pipes, the heating system, even my laptop fan makes a small humming sound!

So I had to find the quietest room in the house, which was surprisingly not upstairs where the bedrooms are, because I could hear too much noise from the streets (cars passing by), even with closed windows, but downstairs in the basement… Yes, the dungeon of the house. Small windows, very little light : not necessarily the most agreeable space, but indeed the quietest.

Besides, as I would learn soon enough, producing an audio book is : 10% of the time recording and 90% of the time editing. I absolutely need to have the best recording booth possible (which should ideally stay in the same condition during the duration of the whole project), but once I have the raw recording, I can bring my laptop/headphones/mouse upstairs with me and do the editing wherever I want in the house.

I don’t know why I can wax lyrical so much about something so… ugly? ordinary? boring? Maybe because to me, even if I had to set it up in the basement where it’s cold during winter and humid in the summer, my recording studio is functional, extra-ordinary, and far from boring (the job I get done with it is not boring to me anyway).

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The desk with the bright light (it’s my light therapy lamp — I had to lessen the intensity for the picture) and the microphone is where I record. The surrounding soundproofing is done with moving blankets. The structure holding them are 3 clothes racks (1 at the back  that I found for $5 on Kijiji, and 2 better ones on each side that I bought at Ikea), topped with a piece of plywood that was lying around the house and some cardboard (to prevent sagging), all topped with another layer of blanket. D was thinking of building me a real solid wooden frame, but it would have been heavier and harder to take apart when we need to move again.

I covered the table top with a small blanket too and I put a carpet on the floor to absorb as many little noises as possible.

The white desk is where I usually put my laptop, a bit further away from the microphone to avoid picking up the hum of the fan (very small noise, but the less sounds I need to edit, the better).

Livreiros

My main criteria when looking for furniture is:

I want real wood. And by “real” wood I mean no MDF, MDP or other modified substances that include pressurized wood chips and glue. Those pieces of junk may look presentable when they are new, but said looks don’t last. The humidity in the air alone make it bloat, add some water action due to cleaning, or the accidental water spilling, or a bit of rain (shit happens), and you have very ugly bookshelves in your kitchen (applicable to all sort of ugly pieces of furniture that I’ve had over the years, including my digital piano that works fine but is starting to show its years — and its many moves). 😦

Plus, let’s admit it, real wood looks so much better.

Unfortunately this criteria alone makes it very difficult to find what I’m looking for. Most stores where we used to live (and here too) are only carrying for the lowest budgets so I am given the choice between MDF, MDF and… MDP (maybe? — I’m still not sure of the difference between the two). Oh, and nobody has bookshelves. Who reads books nowadays, right?

So I’ve had to order online. The only problem with online shopping is that you rely on the description on the website, you can’t really check the quality of the product beforehand, and you need to wait between 4 to 8 weeks for delivery. Oh, the anxiety. After we came back from vacation back in November, and after 5 years of not seeing my books out of their boxes, I had finally decided not to wait any longer and ordered some bookshelves online.

A couple of weeks after the deed was done, we learned that we would be moving. (%$!”*&?!)

So I waited anxiously for our furniture to arrive, hopefully before our change of address. One of the three arrived on time, but after a couple more weeks of waiting, I was informed by email that the shipping  of the two other ones would be delayed due to “unplanned I-don’t-know-what“. So in the mean time I started packing and planning the logistics of our move.

… stress… pray… wait… (I can’t begin to tell how much I pray for silly ordinary stuff since I live in Brazil : please God, help all these guys to do their job the way they should. Amen).

One week before leaving, months after ordering my things, I received another email informing me that one bookshelf would finally be delivered THE SAME WEEK OF OUR MOVE and that the other one was simply discontinued. Argh!

Thankfully after some frantic emails the whole mess was settled : I was given vouchers for the same value to order the stuff again later from my new address. Phew.

(Brazilians keep saying that we need a lot of patience when something is not working out the way it should… I think they should have less patience with incompetence and do their jobs efficiently. Our daily lives here would be much less stressful!!!!)

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Isn’t she a beauty? *heart*

I found this cristaleira (china cabinet) in a store here. There wasn’t any choice in stain color or any other model, but I liked it so I bought it. It was delivered the same day. Miracles do happen. The next few days were spent oiling the wood and finally lovingly unpacking all of my books. Yet another miracle (pinch me I must be dreaming): they all fit in. The pretty books behind the glass doors on top, the not-so-pretty dictionaries and language manuals behind the wooden doors below.

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Top : Grove dictionary of Music (20 volumes) and Music History; Middle : English fiction; Bottom: French fiction + some Spanish and Portuguese fiction too.

In the days that followed its arrival, I was spending a few minutes every morning and before bed at night just looking at my shelves, rearranging, picking up a book, reading a few lines. Big sighs of happiness.

These two smaller ones were ordered online. The one with the door has the music books (voice, piano, theory) and the other one had the kids’ books (in Portuguese, Spanish, French, English and exercise books).

I realize that if we were living in Canada, we would probably patronize the Public Library. So I wonder if we would own more or less books at home. On the one hand there would be no need to own the books (the ones in English at least), but on the other hand books would be much more affordable, and I surely wouldn’t be able to control myself in the second hand bookstores. Over here there are no Public Libraries and bookstores are rare. I am so glad we have family and friends from North America and Europe who are always willing and wanting to send gifts for the children. (Books make much better gifts than toys or clothes, I always say).