It was, in the true sense of the word, awesome.
The awesomeness came from the amount of concentration required to read one’s own words without trying to edit them; to focus on the actual words in the phrase without jumping ahead; to command one’s intestines NOT to digest the lunch that one has just eaten; to read the ingredients and methods of a recipe slowly and articulately without bursting out laughing.
Neil is a master at his job. He records the famous BBC production of the Dr. Who television series for audio books, as well as a host of books for publishers all around the globe. He kept me on track, slowed me down, reassured me that everyone’s “tummy” rumbles, and occasionally interrupted with “Is that REALLY how they pronounce it in America?” In a French Kitchen was his first cookbook and after each session he said he was starving. A higher compliment doesn’t exist!
Neil’s recording studio is a silent, climate controlled box within a box and entering it was a bit like entering the muffled atmosphere of a chapel. It was punctuated with the scent of fresh coffee that Neil brewed each morning, and the herbal drops he melted into boiling water to keep the air – and my throat – fresh. He was also armed with filtered water, jugs of jelly beans, fudge, and honey, for the five o’clock “sleepies”.
I read from an ipad because there is no sound of flipping pages as you go, beginning with black words on a white background which are, according to Neil, the easiest for the uninitiated. By day two, I’d graduated to white words on a black background, much easier on the eyes. By day three, I was reading with my eyes closed. (Not really).
The days were punctuated with running up and down the stairs when I couldn’t read another word, having lunches at a nearby café, getting back to my hotel early evening, then taking the train to London for dinner.
Except for night two. Once I got to the hotel neither love nor money would have encouraged me to leave. So I did what any sensible reader would do. I went to the bar and ordered a whiskey. The glass arrived slightly moistened on the bottom.
“This isn’t very much whiskey, sir,” I said to the bar man.
“It’s the regulation pour, Madame, it’s the law,” he sniffed.
I looked at it. I looked at him. And I promptly ordered two more, all to be poured into the same glass. This gave me approximately 1/2-inch of whiskey to sip, about the amount I’m accustomed to sipping on those rare evenings when nothing but whiskey will do.
I looked at the menu and ordered what any recording artist would – chips – because nothing else appealed. And that was dinner, because by the time I’d languorously sipped that huge glass and nibbled on those chips, I was good for nothing more.
By the end of day three the book was read, the pages closed, the experience over. Almost. Two corrections came in and we re-recorded them the next morning and called it good. All in all, it was a great experience, thanks to Neil.
But, I ask myself, will I have the courage to listen to the recording? I hope some of you will, and you can let me know how it sounds! I’ll make the high sign when it’s out.