Sunday, 11 November 2012

Two Minutes

I don’t know why I seem to spend the Armistice Day two minute silence in my local Waitrose.  (Actually, that’s nonsense: it’s because I often go to Waitrose on Sunday mornings.)  But it seems to work.  If I were sitting at home, sure, I’d observe the silence – that’s easy around here – but doing it in a public place, especially one that incongruous, amongst an entirely randomly drawn bunch of people who’ve momentarily been transformed into a strangely unified community, can somehow focus my thoughts.

What would those thoughts be?  This morning, they were a bit scattered.  I’d heard on the radio that consideration was being given to the circumstances in which British forces might be sent into Syria.  Appropriate or not?  I fleetingly remembered church parades as a shivering ten-year-old Sea Scout – irrelevant, I had no idea what was going on, not really, I was just being dutiful.  The notes of the Last Post and Reveille dropped into my mind, as they always do, and echoed back.  I hadn’t noticed before the extraordinary range of gin brands Waitrose sell, fifteen at least … 

Twenty yards away, in front of the packaged fish, a woman was yammering into a mobile whilst her four-year-old son dashed between cakes and snacks.  Poor thing, she obviously hadn’t heard the announcement, didn’t realise what time it was or what was going on around her.  She wasn’t being loud, but she was audible.  I could see silent people getting embarrassed; what do you do?  You can’t say anything, can you, because …

Her boy got it.  I saw him suddenly stop hyper-acting, look around; possibly catch someone’s eye, and give his mother’s sleeve a little tug.  She bent down and he whispered something.  Obviously I couldn’t hear it, but it must have been “Mum?  Shut up.”   

The announcement came: “Thank you for observing the two minute silence.”


  1. We were out walking where, I'm afraid, the two minutes got swallowed up in wide open spaces. Our daughter told us, over lunch, that she and the family had gathered around the radio at 11.00, which produced mixed emotions on my part.

  2. Observant child.

    I discovered yesterday that when you're the one timing the two minutes with a stopwatch, it's interminable.

  3. I meant to say, but the phone rang and I'd forgotten by the time I put it down, that he observed but didn't participate. Or something like that.

  4. Did you stand still to be silent?
    People do don't they? Stop what they're doing to stay silent for the two minutes. Do you think people must cease what they're doing to truly contemplate the loss in war or the joy of 'freedom'? I'm thinking of them now, especially bomber command, but still squiggling this comment. So I was wondering ... Did you stand still?

  5. Yes, I did, staring unseeingly at the gin. And so did everyone else I could see, even the phone woman. Moving around would've felt weird and wrong. I guess 'silence' here is more than merely 'absence of sound'.