Sunday, 18 August 2013

Still lost

It was at one time axiomatic that postmen, milkmen and delivery people of all sorts whistled as they walked the streets.  No longer is that so.  So much is that now not so that it is rare to hear anyone whistling.  Even the wolf whistles from building sites are notable by their absence.  I have a dim recollection that at one time there was a variety entertainer known as the Whistling Postman who would come on stage and entertain the audience with his tuneful whistling.  He even made a recording.  There was also Anna in The King and I who would, "whistle a happy tune so no-one will suspect I'm afraid".

I lost my whistle sometime before Christmas in 2011.  There I was, walking the dog in the park or Stanmer Woods or somewhere, I pursed my lips to call Fern (the dog) to heel, and what came out?  Nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  It sounded a bit like a miniature steam engine, a very miniature steam engine, in fact, a mouse-size steam engine letting off steam.  A piccolo compared to my previous trombone blasts.  Since then my whistle has remained lost - until a few weeks ago.  Once again I was walking Fern - this time across the fields - when I decided to try a tune.  I think I opted for that one of Anna's, I Whistle a Happy Tune.  And it worked!  My whistle was back!  For three bars.  After that, zilch.  No more happy tune.  Indeed, no more tune full stop.

I do still call Fern by whistling, but I now use a different technique.  There are, basically, three different techniques one can employ to produce the type of sound known as a whistle.  Most people purse their lips as if they are readying themselves to plonk a kiss on their nearest and dearest and then proceed to blow air through the lips, minute alterations in the shape of the lips and the position of the tongue being employed to vary the notes produced.  This is, generally, the most tuneful form of whistling.  Strangely, it is something that very few girls or women seem able to do.

Then there is the blast produced by putting one finger of each hand - usually the index finger - in the mouth to pull back the lips.  I am most envious of people who can whistle in this way as it is a trick I have never mastered.

My method of whistling involves placing the top teeth forward above the bottom lip, pressing my tongue up to the roof of my mouth, and blowing.  As with the standard form of whistling, the note can be varied by changing the positioning of the lips and/or tongue, but tuneful whistling is extremely difficult.  It does, however, suffice for calling Fern to heel.  And that's all I want, really.


Yesterday I showed a picture of Beachy Head and its lighthouse.  That lighthouse was built to replace one, the Belle Tout light, on the top of the cliffs on the next headland to the west.  built in 1832 and the location of the lighthouse was carefully planned so that the light was visible for 20 miles out to sea and that the light would be obscured by the edge of the cliff if sailors were too close to the shore.  Over the years, erosion of the cliff reduced the effectiveness of the lighthouse and in 1902 Belle Tout was decommissioned when the new lighthouse built at the base of the cliffs came into service.  In 1999, due to continuing erosion threatening the future of the building, the lighthouse was moved 17 metres (56 feet) back from the edge of the cliff.  The current owners provide bed and breakfast accommodation.