Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Sound Of Silence 

You can always rely on some chump to trample all over the two minute silence on Armistice Day.

Charlotte, Bill Surname's loyal PA, had announced the start of the silence with a deep voiced and sombre Bing Bong, and everybody downed keyboards and looked into their laps.
Outside my window a bugle called and Bill Surname's retired army chums stood statuesque on the parade ground, stolid in their flapping trousers. All around Company X no phones rang, no mouses clicked, no sound sounded at all but the dull tick tock of the clock. You could have heard a pen drop.

Neil, my former team leader, blundered into the office and announced, with all the accomplished pride of the newly toilet trained, that Ken Dodd got arrested last night.
Nobody lifted their heads, nobody moved.
“I said, 'I see Ken Dodd got arrested last night.”
Still nobody stirred.
“Giving me the old silent treatment, huh? I knew I shouldn't have stolen those ginger nuts.”
Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader scowled and gestured wordlessly to shut the fuck up, we're paying our respects here, but in Neil's defense it was the same look she gives him on an almost daily basis, so how was he to know that this time was any different? Presumably they don't observe two minute silences on his home planet.

“I say 'Ken Dodd got arrested last night,'” explained Neil. “And you're supposed to reply 'Did he?' Come on guys, we practiced this yesterday.”
Stella scowled again, nodding her head and mouthing “Not now,” and then she scowled at the rest of us, like it was our fault.

We've been trying to teach Neil to tell jokes and have started him off on the basics.
“Hey Neil, my dog's got no nose.”
“Well, if you find it, Tim,” he replied, “pack it in ice and get to the vet's pronto. You'd be amazed what they can do nowadays.”

“Knock, knock.”
“Is that you, Mike? Come on in. I'm looking at porn on the computer.”

He's enthusiastic enough but his timing leaves something to be desired.
“Hey guys,” he tried again. “Did you see on the news that Ken Dodd got arrested last night?”
“Did he, Neil? That's interesting,” he replied to himself.
“No. Doddy!”
“Doddy? But Neil, who's Doddy?”
“You know, Neil. Ken Dodd. Doddy!”
“Oh right. I get it. What did you say he was arrested for?”
“Don't know, Neil. Didn't say.”
“Didn't he?”
“No. Doddy!”

Poor Charlotte must have become distracted – it's a difficult time for her , what with... oh, I'm sure you get the picture – because we waited and waited for the closing Bing Bong to chime but it never arrived.
Everybody looked at their watches and fidgeted impatiently in their seats, waving their mugs at each other and scribbling “Fancy a brew?” on the office whiteboard, and at four minutes somebody giggled, and Stella shusshed them, and some else shusshed her back, and on five minutes, Terry threw a crumpled piece of paper which hit Neil on the nose, and when he read what Terry had written it silenced him too.

“Ken Dodd's dad's dog's dead? Oh, that's a shame. Why didn't somebody say?”
“Sshhh! Didn't we?”
“Doddy's dad's dog. Dead." He sighed. "What happened?”
“Nose fell off,” whispered Terry.
“That would explain Doddy getting arrested then. Must have been an awful shock.”

Eventually the special Armistice Silence petered out and became boring old regular Everyday Silence, and people switched their phones back on and Mike stood up to fart then drifted off to the vending machine, and I dripped yogurt down my shirt while outside my window, Bill Surname's retired army chums folded away their flags and wiped their eyes and headed back to their encampment to drink hot toddies and tell stories of unbelievable courage, to remember the fallen and the sacrifices made, and life carried on as it always has and always seems to have a knack of carrying on doing, all by itself.

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