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Opinion

An idiot’s guide to observing a minute’s silence at St James Park

9 months ago
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Silence please.

A year ago, after the Watford game at St James Park, I was moved to write a piece for the Mag complaining about the inability of some of our crowd to observe a minute’s silence.

A year on, here we are again. Last Saturday I (along with the majority of the crowd) had to cringe as some among us failed once again to understand the simplest of instructions.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we would ask you observe a minute’s silence…”

There is a big clue in there if you look. It’s the word “SILENCE”…

Silence is an absence of noise. In order to remain silent you don’t speak, or shout, or sing, or clap your hands, or shake a tambourine, or blow a trumpet. You don’t do any of those things.

Now ordinarily I wouldn’t get too hot under the collar about what happened last weekend. I’m not altogether sure that it was really appropriate for the crowd at St James Park to be asked to observe a minute’s silence because five people who had no connection to our club died in an accident.

It’s bad stuff – but there’s bad stuff happens to our own people every week. Do we have a minute’s silence because Geordie from the East Stand dies in a car crash, or Billy from the Gallowgate has a heart attack?

Anyway, that’s besides the point. The thing is that this coming weekend is a serious memorial. Before the Bournemouth game there will be a minute’s silence to commemorate 100 years exactly since the end of the Great War.

Whether they know the details of it or not, almost everybody in that crowd will have lost a family member in that war. For some of the younger ones, there will be 4 or 5 generations between them – and sometimes as the generations pass, things get forgotten. But if they looked they would find that most of them had great-great-great uncles who were blown apart, or burned, or drowned.

I’m not unusual. I know about 3 of my own who were killed by the Great War. There are only 2 generations between me and them, so maybe I know the details better than some. A great-uncle in the Durham Light Infantry died on the first day of the Somme. Another great-uncle died in the final advance in October 1918. And my grandfather was gassed in the Ludendorff offensive of early 1918, and eventually died of the damage to his lungs nearly 20 years later.

I’m happy to spend a minute remembering them at the weekend – but for pity’s sake, there’s nothing to applaud.

So if you’re at the match this coming Saturday, turn your phone down and keep quiet. And if the person next to you starts clapping, it wouldn’t be a bad thing (politely or otherwise) to suggest they stop.

The minority who can’t keep silent make themselves look like idiots – but they make the rest of us feel like fools as well.
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