Heard but not seen

The Archers radio soap doesn't use live animal actors, sorry, pig. Picture: KATHERINE DALEY

The Archers radio soap doesn't use live animal actors, sorry, pig. Picture: KATHERINE DALEY - Credit: citizenside.com

Any fool can press a button... even this fool

There comes a point, and this is confirmed by people of a similar age, when doing more than one thing a day looks like an overcrowded diary.

A dentist’s appointment in the morning, followed by my annual check-up with the optician in the afternoon, seems an exhausting prospect. When a friend rings to arrange coffee and a natter, I go through my diary... “No, sorry, can’t go out at lunchtime on Thursday because I’m out in the evening.”

This is, I know, a bit pathetic but I do find having a nice time extremely tiring and the more I enjoy myself, the more exhausted I am.

Over the last week, I have been involved in my husband’s theatricals. I am doing the sound for his production of a Tudor play which, as I’m sure you will appreciate, involves a lot of virginals and a fair number of galliards, plus some FX noted in the script, such as rainfall, thunder and dripping water – yes, it is set in England; how did you guess?

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From the age of 10, when I was in the Lobster Quadrille in a small production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with the Co-op drama group, I have been hooked on the theatre. But this was my first time on sound. Normally I am not trusted with anything technical because I have a special gift for mucking things up. It isn’t deliberate... at the dress rehearsal I inadvertently leant my elbow on the computer keyboard and played three sound effects at once – something they thought couldn’t be done.

In one scene we hear the sound of a horse galloping. It was tempting to skip the cue and use a couple of coconut shells instead. If you have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you’ll know how effective this can be. I envied the sound FX people on The Archers when I was young. I expect they used recordings but I always imagined there was a person with a table on which was the bell for the last orders at The Bull, a doorbell to ring, a box of gravel for approaching footsteps, two pieces of wood with squeaky hinges for the barn door and, in the corner of the studio, visiting guest artist and animal impersonator Percy Edwards for the livestock.

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Today, everything is available online - all the sounds you could possibly think of. I’m liking the idea of “alien nest with swarming noise” and “underwater laboratory with bubbles”. But my most extreme noise was probably the soft plopping of a gentle row across the Thames. The job was to follow the script and, with everything cued up in the right order on the laptop, press the space bar to play the relevant effect. It requires a great deal of concentration... not my strong suit. But it is a very important role. Press the wrong thing and who knows what might happen. You could end up with a funeral bell tolling during jollity round the maypole.

After three performances, I was utterly whacked. You know you’re over the top when you have a sudden yen to watch The One Show. I was probably hallucinating. Some of it was down to hunger. I was too nervous to eat before the show, and by the time I got home at around 11pm I was too weary to eat, but the adrenaline-rush from the performance meant I was up until 1.30am. Eventually I went to bed, fell asleep immediately and woke up at 4.30am, having a hot flush. I blamed menopause until I realised I hadn’t turned off the central heating.

Having a social life plays havoc with your sleep patterns.

For the rest of the week, I was a zombie. A nice, inoffensive zombie with no compulsion to bite into human flesh but with a zombie-like unblinking stare and a shuffling gait. I don’t think anyone at work noticed. (You looked exactly the same to me, Lynne. ED)

When I was in my 30s, I could go to work all day, perform in a musical in the evening, go to a cast party, get home and have a couple of glasses of wine, roll into bed, sleep like a baby and be up for work, fresh as a daisy, the next day... I may have misremembered how energetic I was in the eighties.

Also, I’m sure that I used to lose weight when I was involved in the dramatics. Not any more.

I still love it, I really do; it’s just that burning the candle at both ends is no longer a viable option. Nowadays, burning it at one end is quite a challenge.

n A headline on the front of a national newspaper’s daily supplement read: “Men, do you really need instructions from your wives?” I’m not sure wives should be answering this but I would say, yes, I’m afraid men do need instructions because it saves them having to do it all again. If a husband checks with his wife before he undertakes a household task or buys a present he stands a much better chance of getting it right first time.

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