Two years ago I featured a post on disgruntled residents living near St Mary the Virgin Church in Leigh, Greater Manchester (England). They wanted the church to soundproof the belfry because the bellringers were creating too much noise — one hour one night a week.

My response is that when you live near a church — at least in Europe — you’re likely to hear bells!

The same goes for residents along the Côte d’Azur (France) who move to charming towns and villages and buy or rent near a church.

It seems as if the complaints from these residents could be part of a concerted campaign. Could be. Nice-Matin reports that residents in four towns — Vence, Cagnes, Grasse and Villeneuve — have recently registered their discontent with church bells.

Church bells have been ringing in France for centuries. Parish priests of the churches responsible, along with at least one mayor, have made it clear that they will not temper the sound which complaining residents say is ‘too noisy’ or ‘too frequent’. I hope that the clergy and mayor will continue to stand their ground. Residents should count themselves lucky that they’re not hearing a five-times-daily call to prayer!

The late French songwriter and performer Charles Trenet featured church bells in his lyrics and musical arrangements. Trenet was also from the south of France and the bells reminded him of a gentler France, even going back some years. His 1934 hit, Boum, featured a variety of delightful onomatopeoia along with this:

et les jolies cloches font din, din, dong

(and the pretty bells go ding, ding, dong)

All it takes is one complaint. This is how the anti-Nativity display movements have been working since the 1970s in the United States.

However, it is not just Christianity which is under attack for aural or visual offence. England has also been known for just one complaint against animal sounds in rural villages. Just because people decide to move to the peaceful, charming countryside doesn’t mean there will be no noise. Some of it is inconvenient. One chap, new to a village, wrote to the council protesting against the cockerel at a nearby farm which started crowing at the crack of dawn. That’s what cockerels do. Fortunately, the village made such a defence of the farm and its animals that the man eventually backed down, but not before appearing in his local newspaper. Other news stories elsewhere have involved newcomers complaining about the smell from local farms. Too bad. That’s life in the country.

Before moving to a ‘peaceful, charming village’ it’s well worth asking the estate agent about the neighbourhood noise — and perhaps odour — level. The countryside does not necessarily guarantee a quiet or inoffensive life.