Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Little tunes

Diana said yesterday that she enjoys listening to secular Christmas music all year round. Coincidentally, I had been having a conversation at work earlier in the day about the little tunes that you would hear daily when I was working in China, prompted by a colleague talking about the annoying beep that her washing machine emits to let her know it has finished its cycle.

There was the water truck that came round in the height of summer to sprinkle the roads and keep the dust down - the tune that it played constantly as it went to warn people to get out of the way was a medley of 'We wish you a merry Christmas', 'Jingle bells' and 'Santa Claus is coming to town'. The same medley was played, all the way through at breakneck speed, by my friend's doorbell every time it was pressed. After a while, she used to beg people to knock rather than ring the bell! (My own doorbell wasn't a simple 'Ding dong' either, but a speaking alert which said "Ni hao - qing kai men" - "Hello - please open the door".)

A lot of the little ditty-making factories seemed to have been infiltrated by Christian missionaries. So, for instance, I had a ridiculously cheap watch with an alarm on it. The tune played by the alarm was 'Jesu, joy of man's desiring'.

Our washing machines were twin tub affairs - it took forever to do the washing, but since you could fill the washing tub with water at one time and then run the wash cycle at another, the machines were very practical in a situation where we very often had either water or electricity but very seldom both at the same time. When the water situation got very bad, the washing machine was a great place to store water for daily use.

Some of the smarter models would play a tune to alert you when the washing cycle was finished, so that you could drain the water out and transfer your clothes into the spinner. My favourite of these was another friend's machine, which played 'Onward Christian soldiers'.

How boring we are in the West, having machines that just emit a monotonous beep or buzz to let us know they've finished...

4 comments:

Ambrose said...

Ooh ooh. There was this kid's pirate ship ride, a little 2 kuai ride slightly larger than the ones you see outside of Chinese pharmacies, at Lizhi Gong Yuan here in Shenzhen that played Nirvana's "Heart Shape Box" in that carnival-ride orchestration. THAT has been my favorite!

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

interesting!

diana said...

I love it!! (you knew I would!)

We had a doorbell play My Country tis of Thee and everytime it went off my daughter screamed and shrieked. I thought it was cute but she hated that thing!

newhousenewjob said...

LOL! I actually brought my talking doorbell home with me, along with an alarm clock that spoke the time in Chinese when you pressed a button on top. Sadly, I wasn't able to remove the doorbell from my London flat before I moved house last year, so there's some confused chap living there now wondering what his doorbell keeps saying to him. I hope he hasn't thrown it away...