April, 2013 – Graham Miln


There have been more than a few disturbed nights since moving to Lyon. Noise from the street or neighbours disrupting my much needed quiet.

I have learned to love silicone ear plugs. I can not sleep well in them but they let me rest, sleep for a while, and come out as soon as possible. I recently tried wax ear plugs but they did not match the noise blocking or comfort of the silicone equivalents.

What surprised me is the cause of noise. Obvious noises of a party I expected: chatter, occasional shouts, and music. What caught me out, and continues to leave me wondering, is the singing.

The locals, at least here, like to sing in groups in the early hours. We first heard them singing in the bars near our temporary accommodation. Older men singing in drunken unison. Powerful voices singing timeless songs.

That seemed endearing. A group of older men getting slowly tipsy during the night and then joining as one for a song before ambling home.

What then of students singing.

Graffiti covered doorway near Croix Rousse
Graffiti covered doorway near Croix Rousse

Our peace is broken by the odd party next door – or somewhere close by in our apartment building. Young students throwing a party that starts too late and goes on until shortly before the sun rises. Suitably unrespectable hours by all measures.

They started sining the other night. Without obvious reason or trigger. But not timeless classics; they sang the words of recent dance music favourites. It was both brilliant, hilarious, and captivating. Funny partly because the words were English and occasionally the group would fade as the lyrics became too difficult to sing but returning with force for the chorus. Captivating because the group split the roles by gender. In some songs the girls sang one part, the boys another part.

I think at least one song was older and taught to them as children. The university students sang this song particularly well.

I struggle to imagine a mixed group of students bursting into song at a party in Australia or UK. Too self aware or too constrained to risk making a fool of themselves. Drama students – absolutely. A group of female friends – absolutely but maybe not in a pub, club, or larger party.

Something charming about the singing but I wish it would not intrude during the earliest hours of the morning.