Saturday, 1 February 2014

Completed Challenge #21 - Silence!

I was struggling for when to do this challenge as I couldn’t do it during any work time. I decided to start it when I was suffering with a bad throat anyway – I thought this might make it easier but it didn’t!

The first thing I discovered was that my husband would take any opportunity to make wise cracks or get me to agree to things. “Stay silent if you think we should get a bigger TV.” “Stay silent if we can spend your tax rebate on the holiday”. “Stay silent if you don’t want any tea…”  You get the picture!
This was rapidly replaced by me discovering how hard it is not talking to the dog! I had not realised just how much I chat away at her unthinking, that all my instructions to her are verbal or that she would become utterly confused by my lack of sound. 

As I didn’t have any big weekend plans due to feeling poorly I thought it best to include digital communication in my silence. I didn’t want anyone thinking I hadn’t challenged myself. It pains me to say, this was just as hard as not speaking. So many of my friends and family are dotted around the world I felt bad for not replying or desperate to comment on something funny or cute on Facebook. This is such a sign of the times that I would have found silence more bearable if I could text and message and comment and like and whatsapp and Instagram. When it got to an hour to go and my husband was still out at the footy those were the things I thought I’d do first and that was a real eye opener for me.

The biggest problem with 24 hours of silence? That I’m northern and live in the countryside. I thought a dog walk would be a nice break. No possibility that I was agreeing to spending lots of money on TV’s; the dog knows the way so I wouldn’t have to instruct her. So the issue? If you meet on a dog walk it is social suicide to not talk to people. I chose to go round the quarry as it’s really windy and I thought it was highly unlikely anyone else would venture up there. 

Encounter No. 1: An elderly couple appeared from a small path in the bushes. I smiled, they said hello. I smiled again. They looked at one another confused. “It’s lovely weather” they said. I nodded. But we’re northern, a nod is not enough. “Have you walked this way before?” they tried and looked at me encouragingly. I gestured that I couldn’t use my voice and at the same moment must have turned so they saw my hearing aid. “Oh the poor dear”. I had inadvertently given the impression I was deaf and dumb. I smiled and continued. But the dog did not. She decided to follow these lovely talking people who would give her a big fuss. “No little doggy you’ve got an important job to do” they said. While I ashamedly pulled my dog in her ‘happens to be high-vis’ coat along with me.

Not following my gestures so I have to go back through the mud for her!

Encounter No. 2: We rounded the top of the quarry and on a very small path bumped into a solitary walker. “What a day!” she exclaimed. I smiled. “It’s going to get more blustery and wet though”. I nodded. “Oh my goodness is that a King Charles? I had one of those but it wasn’t well behaved like yours, it would run off”. I tried for a bigger smile and a nod together. She looked confused, then brightened “ah you don’t speak English, I should have known with the darker skin, don’t worry my dear bye bye”. 

Encounter No 3: We were nearly home and dry. So far I had survived both as each had found their own reason for my silence. We walked quickly down the steep hill to home. A farmer came around the corner – “harder going up than down duck, lucky you”. I smiled. I fained being out of breath to explain my silence. He laughed “can’t be a local if you out of breath going down!”

Just as we got to the door we passed the postman, “alrate” he said but kept walking. I sat inside wondering if I had performed the cardinal sin of annoying the postman who it’s important to keep on side. I wrote a note in case a neighbour popped round, to say I was doing a sponsored silence – I couldn’t think of breaking the last of the countryside etiquettes.

So although a ‘solitary’ dog walk was probably the toughest part of the challenge; it was the bit that meant the most to me. Because the truth is, there people in this country who could go days of silence. Maybe they live alone and no-one talks to their neighbours. Maybe they travel on the tube where everyone keeps their head down. But I live somewhere where no-one assumed I was being rude or I didn’t want to talk to them. Only a physical impairment or a language barrier could have been the possible reason I didn’t stop and chat. And I love that.

So thank you to Lesley for the challenge, thank you to the dog walkers and the northerners and the countryside folk who wouldn’t dream of letting someone have 24 hours stuck in silence.

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