I like R’s photo’s and R which outweighs ‘I don’t like photos of me and will feel uncomfortable being photographed’. So I was looking forward to this. The room was warm, the hot chocolate thick and the armchair wing-backed. Before we started R had moved things about to de-clutter the background. I think perhaps it was that which set me to giggling. Almost constantly. Because I couldn’t hear myself above the bar noise it felt silent nonetheless.

camera cartoon

The Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Rachel T
Site: Fino Lounge, Whitchurch, Cardiff
State: Photographer and model
Surprises: R wondered if it would feel intrusive taking photos silenty it didn’t particularly for either of us


We’d grown the fascination earlier in the day, talking about characters who use knots not writing to record histories. Silently C and I knotted from two ends of the same string. With the sounds of talking and playing drifting down the stairs we both added small metal, tying with bunny ears because that was easiest. The dual decision to pick metal from the array of tat we had to choose from wasn’t telegraphed or specified – it flowed.


The Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Camilla
Site: Cam’s Living Room, King’s Heath, Birmingham
State: Knotting
Surprises: Cam talked about road noise after – I hadn’t heard it


Soup at The Crown. A rich leek and potato with good bread. G and I fill the silence with hungry tearing and dipping – no audible slurps. Unusual for us to be silent, words are the work we share. I focus on the food and on the laughter of a gaggle of girls out of sight,  assuming it is a hen night, then realising that’s unlikely mid-week and wondering why I think laughter suggests a special event.

Geoff at the crown

The Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Geoff K from The Challenge Factor
Site: The Crown, Tiddington, Stratford Upon Avon
State: Eating
Surprises: Having to gesture at the bar man checking everything was ok

St Andrew’s Park had been sledged to within an inch of its life. Shallow slopes to start with, now mixed ice scraped away grass and treachery against boots supposed to be made for walking. B and I tried to share the bucket swing. We didn’t fit well but it was fun until a passing parent applied passive aggressive conversation with her child to persuade us to move. The solo swings went higher and we both felt seasick.

dreamy image of a swingThe Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Ben
Site: St Andrew’s Park, Bristol
State: Swinging in the park
Surprises: Adults are supposed to give way to children in matters of fun. During the daytime at least.


H challenged me to a working silence (we both have procrastination issues). I wonder if I can use it to bypass the usual hours of dithering over price, quantity and paper when sourcing print. Not easy, because I am tempted to watch the changing faces of H’s silent working, but the internet draws me in. The quote I find, I reject post silence in a discussion on FSC  v Recycled (FSC wins), but still a vast improvement.

printThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Heppie
Site: Heppie’s table, Somerset Street, Bristol
State: working on computer
Surprises: For 30 seconds I find Hep’s ticking pomodoro deafening, then stop hearing it altogether

It’s a cheat, right? At least a stretching. But I like that. I’m fascinated to see how people define their silences. So I was completely happy to spend 7 minutes talking to M on facebook instead of by voice. Rather less happy to discover the amount of that 7 minutes that was taken up with me working out how to drive the various bits of Facebook on my new phone. Amused that people were confused by us.

phoneThe Silence Experiment
Silent: Me and Mab
Site: The Yurt at Milgi’s, Cardiff
State: communicating via Facebook
Surprises: a 7 minute conversation had only a tiny number of posts to it

I have not armed myself well for this challenge, wine gums not being legendary for their suckability. My opponent has made a better choice of a multi-flavoured milkshake lolly. I am convinced O is going to lose when I hear early crunching, but he was just gnawing off the edges. I concentrate on the lime green rug and blanket and the animal wall map and make my wine gum last – but start chewing 30 seconds too early.


The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Oscar
Site: Oscar’s Bedroom, Kendal
State: sucking sweets
Surprises: Even with the added aid of silent concentration and seven minutes of flavour release, I cannot identify the flavour of the wine gum I put in my mouth!


Flyering becomes much easier when silent. The shifting from foot to foot, waiting for customers to finish then trying to catch someone’s eye and the sheepish ‘is it ok if I leave some of these here’ all condensed to a wave of the bundle of flyers and a nod in the direction of the shelf. Easy too, to plan our movements. M and I nod to select targets, the silence pinging us back together – gentle elastic.

story festival logo

The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Martin M.
Site: Stokes Croft, Bristol
State: Flyering for Bristol Storytelling Festival
Surprises: Martin says the silence makes him more patient when waiting for traffic lights to change

With mouths shut for vocal silence ears open to every tiny kitchen sound. It is almost like listening to an effects library – kettle whistles, water glugs into a mug, plastic bag scrunches, pages of a book lift and land. Even untangling clothes from the washing-machine makes a noise. L points out faintly ridiculous pictures in a book on bodybuilding that is lying on the table following my failed trapeze classes. We manage not to laugh out loud.


The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Lucinda
Site: The kitchen, Richmond Road, Bristol
State: Pottering at kitchen chores
Surprises: Fabric can be very loud

S has a Big Issue in her bag and so the crossword (quick, not cryptic)becomes our silent task. The bar is Spanish themed and so we drink sherry that tastes of Christmas, pinging incongruity bells in my brain because my crossword loving Grandpa only ever drank pale dry. With turn-taking suggested before the silence began there is less need for gesticulation and pointing than I anticipated and the activity is strangely solitary until we can speak again.

2 glasses of pedro ximenezThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Sarah R
Site: A bar whose name I didn’t notice, near Borough market
State: Solving a crossword puzzle by turn
Surprises: Such a small number of clues solved in the 7 minutes