Editor’s letter: What does silence sound like?

I write this little note to you every week from my desk in the YOU HQ. I love my office. It’s spacious, light and I’ve filled it with vintage travel posters of my birth country, Australia. My employers have bestowed upon me the sort of square footage I’d assume was given to people with much more important jobs than mine.

Outside my four walls, things are a little less idyllic. Right now, as I’m typing this, I am being ‘treated’ to the sounds of a badly played saxophone wailing a dreadful attempt at (I think) ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. Or it might be George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’, or a unique mash-up of the two. What the saxophonist lacks in musical skills, he more than makes up for in lung capacity because we will be hearing this song – without break – for at least four hours, before someone (all right, it’s me) cracks and phones the council to shut him down. He will be back tomorrow.

He’s competing, constantly, with London’s very own soundtrack, Now That’s What I Call Road Rage 2022: blaring horns, screeching sirens, the endless stream of unprintable language being hurled about in the gridlock of Kensington High Street.

Somehow, I’ve found a way to file a lot of this to the back of my brain as white noise. It’s either that or get fired for never managing to get anything done. But if you enter my office and start absent-mindedly thrumming your fingers on my desk? That will rattle my nerves to the brink of tears. Similarly, chewing. Never mind needing to move train carriages, or cinema seats, because someone next to me is audibly eating, I’ve had to abandon relationships over it (yes, I’m aware this is a documented condition that is apparently all my problem, but what does science know?). Audible, ostentatious yawning can have me wanting to scream in silent rage, ditto the kind of sneezing that men are so fond of – you know, those preceded by a deafening kind of man scream that makes it sound like someone’s being murdered.

Yes, to some people this makes me an intolerant, unpleasant grouch; a good old-fashioned, garden-variety weirdo. But I’m not the only one. Am I?

So when our features director Anna Pursglove wanted to explore the phenomenon of ASMR for this issue (read it here), I was more than a little bit ‘eye-rolly’. For the uninitiated, it’s the practice of listening to specific noises that apparently give a person sensory pleasure – the popping of bubble wrap, someone whispering almost inaudibly (another thing that sets me off – if you have something to say, speak up!).

Sitting here right now, I can’t remember the last time I heard… absolutely nothing. Now, that’s a noise cult I can get on board with. I know that several of my colleagues – who, like me, can still hear that saxophone ringing round our heads when we lie in bed at night – would sign on.

Are there any noises that wind you up disproportionately? I’d like to hear from you in no order to help calm my suspicions that it’s just me who’s a bit weird. You know where to find me.

Editor’s Picks

A few things I’m coveting this week

red check dress

I’m ready for that summer barbecue now, thanks. Esme Midi Dress, £49, Nobody’s Child

blue blazer

Pastel perfection to top any spring outfit. Linen blazer, £89.99, Mango


That neckline makes this a chic and sexy evening option. Jumpsuit, £175, Iris