Seen But Not Heard

My friend’s wedding in London has left me completely speechless: Not speechless in the ‘awestruck’ sense (although it was a ruddy good do); I mean speechless in the ‘I’ve completely lost my voice and can only communicate through exaggerated hand gestures’ kind of way.

The day had begun like all wedding days do for the husband and I: immensely stressed and late as ever. The husband spent the morning haring around the city centre on an ill-advised and futile mission to seek out some tan-coloured shoes to go with his new suit, while I was anxiously checking my watch every five minutes as my hair was laboriously blow-dried into a Betty Draper bob.

Flustered and out of breath, we both convened at the train station, only to find that the 10.45 to London had been cancelled. We never mean to be late to weddings but circumstances always seem to conspire against us.

After much stress, involving further rail-related delays, attempting to get dressed in a poky train toilet cubicle (note: avoid at all costs), and a convoluted taxi ride through the back streets of Marylebone, we miraculously managed to arrive at the venue five minutes ahead of the bride – a record for us. (At the last wedding we attended, we missed the ceremony altogether and had to lurk in the bar before merging seamlessly with the exiting guests and enthuse convincingly about what a beautiful ceremony it had been).

But as soon as I opened my mouth at the reception and released a hoarse ‘hello’, my friend Ellie said, ‘Oh my God Palms, What’s wrong with your voice? You sound like Marge Simpson!’

She was right. I spent the rest of the reception croaking my way through conversations, while people visibly recoiled, hoping not to catch my laryngeal lurgy.

By 4pm, my Marge Simpson rasp had been reduced to an inaudible whisper. The people on either side of me at the wedding breakfast table had long since grown tired of having a one-sided conversation with a mute – and ceased communication completely.

I attempted to converse with a friend’s husband opposite me but midway through my miming act (I think I was attempting to explain my preference for stilton cheese over brie using lots of thumbs up – dull by anyone’s standards), his eyes glazed over and he simply turned around and struck up a conversation with someone else.

That left only the husband, who was forced to carry on my tiresome game of charades through marital obligation rather than any genuine desire. I tried to mouth, ‘How’s your chicken?’, while flapping my arms in what I thought was a good impression of a chicken. The husband looked baffled. After three attempts, I ended up typing ‘How’s your chicken?’ on my phone and passing it to him. He peered at my message curiously and then said, ‘Good’. It seemed like an awful lot of effort for a one-word reply.

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By evening, I had become nothing but a silent witness to the continuing celebrations. All I could do was smile like a simpleton, while making over-the-top throat-slitting motions and shrugging in a slightly demented manner if anyone ventured near me.

My friend Al, never one to pull any punches, summed my predicament up as this: ‘You’re the muted old woman who gets plonked in the corner. No-one wants to speak to you. You’ve basically become… irrelevant.’

Thanks Al.

It had been a brilliant day but by 10pm, I was too poorly and weary to continue. I signalled to the bar manager whether he might be able to order a taxi for me (luckily, there’s a universal signal for telephone – it involves holding your hand to your ear and arranging your fingers like a receiver).

But before I could say ‘Marcel Marceau’ – let alone goodbye to anyone – he had hailed a black cab with one click of his fingers and bundled the husband and I out of the fire exit and into the pouring rain (probably relieved to see the back of me, after I kept requesting mugs of hot water for my Lemsip).

Tucked up in bed back at the hotel and sipping my tenth Lemsip of the day, I was unable to utter a single syllable.

The husband, meanwhile, had never looked so happy.

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