When I was first invited to present a show on ResonanceFM, way back in 2004, my immediate enthusiasm was tempered by a certain anxiety. I was fretful that perhaps I did not have a “radio voice”, and that, as soon as I was stuck in front of a microphone, I would screech like a screech-owl. Listeners would lunge towards the off-button, desperate to stop the hideous caterwauling and lapse into blessed silence. So before accepting the offer, I took myself off to an elocutionist.
Miss Blossom Christsblood’s establishment was on the top floor of a tall and ramshackle and quite possibly condemned building in an insalubrious part of town. It did not enjoy a lift, and by the time I had lugged myself up the stairs I was breathless and panting. Before she even said hello, Miss Blossom was intent on exacting payment from me, in cash, for my first lesson. I emptied my pockets of coinage, which she immediately squirrelled away in what looked like a battered tobacco tin.
I was given to understand that my lesson would begin when I stopped panting, which I duly did several minutes later. During this time, Miss Blossom paid no attention to me whatsoever, but busied herself with her birds, innumerable birds housed in innumerable birdcages hanging from innumerable rafters. I am no ornithologist, but I think at least one of them was a screech-owl.
Eventually my lesson began.
“When speaking aloud,” announced Miss Blossom, in a screech, “The most important thing is the formation of the vole sounds.”
It was at this point I decided to cut my losses and leave. Over a decade has passed since that unfortunate episode. In that time, I have continued to present Hooting Yard On The Air every week, with the occasional lacuna, and I do not think that at any time I have found it necessary to imitate the sound of a vole, nor a beaver, nor a shrew, nor even an otter.
A stoat, perhaps?