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


Replicate a previous silence precisely. Technically, it was well into the wrong day but since I hadn’t been to sleep I’m not worried about midnight as an arbitrary date changer . The bed was the same and the layers of bedding – but nothing else as it turns out. This  time I fell swiftly into worn out sleep . Woke later to the now familiar alarm tone of my galaxy note II as it heralds a silence end.
sleepy 2The Silence Experiment
Silent: Just Me
Site: My bedroom, Richmond Road
State: Trying to fall asleep
Surprises: I did.

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

L’s silence is full of whispering. She has Bear-bear’s foot for stroking and I have my purple stress bug to play with. He bulges in all sorts of directions and L wants to destroy him. Fortunately nothing hurts him though when you pull his arms and legs and let go it makes a loud noise. Bear-bear is sleeping even though she could have been awake. We are warm and cosy in our blankets. L helped write this.

Livi The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Livvy
Site: My bedroom, Richmond Road, Bristol
State: Relaxing on the bed
Surprises: Whispering feels like a natural part of silence

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

Odd, the things you do when following your own rules. I adapt Monday’s pose, kneeling in front of B’s bedroom window that looks out at the lights of Bristol suburbs, with my arms clasped at my ribcage. I wonder if it feels a bit like praying before you go to bed. I wouldn’t know. I thought I would be watching the city but am distracted by my own reflection. My shellac nails are dark against my skin.

mosaiced night skyThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me (Ben falling asleep behind me)
Site: Ben’s room, Dunkerry Road, Bristol
State: kneeling and still with arms in almost prayer position
Surprises: wooden floorboards hurt my knees a lot

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!


This silence slides easily into an ordinary evening. Fireplace, sofas and pages of The Guardian (weekend section) scattered across the living room. Supplement swapping is necessarily less collaborative than normal so slightly more effort is involved, but not so much that it disturbs the lazy warmth. It is telling that at the end of the silence we continue the activity, without change. I gather a growing awareness that my starting concept of silence is marked by wordlessness.

fireThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Doreen
Site: Mum’s living room, Windermere
State: Reading by the fire
Surprises: I almost forget I am in the process of the experiment

This is a proper greasy spoon. You can tell by the mugs on the counter, the vat of hot chocolate powder and the quality of the sausages. This is noisy silence. At least three other tables of customers and irritating women with facile opinions prattling on the TV.  We manage to chew quietly, but I can’t help choking on cheap HP sauce, and D is caught out by the universal ‘I needed that cup of tea’ sigh.

sausage egg and chips

The Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Dan
Site: Cafe on the A38, Birmingham
State: Eating lunch
Surprises: 7 minutes doesn’t even consume half our plates. There are a lot of chips – or maybe silence slows eating?

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

I haven’t seen K since her wedding seven years ago, but our ritual comes from earlier than that. From the moment I first pull the brush through her hair I am bursting to tell her what I discover. Shorter, neater, darker, and no longer tangled by a few snatched hours of sleep in a damp tent her hair is as deceptive as it used to be. Surface smoothness conceals knots and I must temper vigour with care.

b/w messy shot of hairThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Kate M (and Lisa)
Site: Kate’s kitchen, Reading
State: I brush Kate’s hair, Lisa watches
Surprises: talking afterwards, neither of us can remember quite how the ritual began

The self-conscious making sensation of being sketched is amplified by the fact that I am eating. Eating toasted malt loaf. This is wrong for two reasons. Malt loaf shouldn’t be toasted and chewing it gives me hamster cheeks.  I have been told it is fine to move, but I’m still reluctant to lift my coffee cup. Instead I watch the steam rising from it, and check to see whether R’s coffee is doing the same. It is.

faint sketch in a sketch bookThe Silence Experiment:
Silent: Me and Rob
Site: The kitchen, Rob’s house, Bristol
State: Evening sitting at the kitchen table – 1 sketcher 1 sketchee
Surprises: Being drawn. Rob chose the kitchen, I expected to unpack dishwashers or other chores.