The request seemed straightforward enough. As part of an initiative called ShabbatUK, would I be prepared to effectively opt out of modern day living and switch off my computer, iPad and any other piece of electronic wizardry for 24 hours, starting on a Friday afternoon?
Inwardly chuckling, I responded that it would be a challenge but I was sure I could come through it (how were they to know that my limited computer skills earned me the dismissive nickname of ‘Pentium’ at a previous broadcaster where I once worked?).
Then it became apparent the TV and radio would have to be silenced, and there would be no recorded music permitted. Although it was getting a little tougher, this was in no way, shape or form insurmountable. After all, how hard is it to go without EastEnders on a Friday night?
Then a little more detail emerged. It would also mean a cessation of all phone calls, whether on my mobile or landline, and I couldn’t touch anything powered by electricity.
Now, you know how most husbands would raise their eyes if they were asked how long their respective wives spend on the phone talking to their mother, friends or even Ocado, but they’re mere beginners compared to me.
As a product of decades in journalism, much of my life is spent on the phone and while I was already getting ready to buy some candles to get round the lack of electric lights, I really didn’t think two tin cans and a length of string would suffice for the lack of a phone.
However, the die had been cast and therefore it was game on, and electricity off, as it were.
Let’s start by suggesting that, with the exception of an Apollo moon launch, rarely has a countdown been so keenly awaited. The importance of 5.25 pm on Friday was akin to the official launch of D-Day on the first day of the Normandy landings.
While there was no need to unplug my landline ( that phone only rings occasionally these days and it’s only someone offering to chase up my PPI anyway), the mobile was a vastly different matter. That was silenced and, for safety’s sake, put on the top of the fridge to move it out of the way of a sneaky peek.
And so, my self-imposed departure from the sometimes frenetic pace at which so many of us lead our lives, was complete. Intriguingly, the first thing I noticed was the overpowering silence. I realised that my life is continually accompanied by a noise of some kind. Whether it’s the news from the radio or TV, or a programme of a different kind, it provides the soundtrack to my life.
Fortunately, noise was to be forthcoming from a different source, as both my sons looked in on separate occasions. As I had warned them that if they needed me they’d have to call round (they live in postcodes adjacent to my home, so it was totally practical) they were probably checking up on how well
I was doing.
And the truth was, I was doing just fine. In fact, better than that – I was actually enjoying it. Untrammelled by the need to continually check my mobile, I was able to genuinely relax. The book I’d started on my summer holiday was finished and I found out who the killer was. A mountain of paperwork in the study was cleared and correspondence dating back to June filed.
Sleep came easily and the only hitch was in the morning. Would a power shower constitute a breach? As I couldn’t get online to check, I opted to take a hot bath instead, which just added to my growing sense of deep relaxation.
With the time up, I reached for my mobile and tuned back into my life. There was a list of outstanding texts and emails and a number showing the ‘missed’ calls. However, in truth, I’d really not missed them at all.