Somewhat later than many of my contemporaries, one of whom now sits within sniffing distance of power in the outer rooms of 10 Downing Street, while another twirls a scalpel with nonchalant skill before practising life-saving surgery on the patient before him; not all are as successful admittedly, I have spent a little more time than normal searching for that expression of ability which I dream will catapult me and mine into a life of scones, leisure and sun-kissed holidays.
For many years now, I have toiled anonymously in the warehouse of a major vegetarian food retailer sharing my insights with pallet-loads of haricot beans, or caramelised artichokes, and maintaining my morale by sending off voice tapes to the larger mainline railway stations advising them that I was available for work as a voice artiste in the platform announcement industry, an ambition sparked by childhood memories of the rapt attention paid to their every word by other passengers as I stood at the station beside my father en route to school.
Night after night, until very recently, you would find me in a bedsitter of note (bathroom not included) hunched over a microphone and saying, “The train on platform eight for Rickmansworth, calling at a number of stations along the way, including yours most probably, which is now standing, or should we just say loitering, taking in the view or resting between engagements, will be leaving in two minutes, or at eight thirty two for those of you who struggle with maths.”
Such “Announcement tapes” as they are called in the business are key, I was told by some gent who claimed to understand these things, to obtaining a position at one of London’s noted stations, or even in a provincial capital for those not subsequently seeking to express their talents as an announcer in some theatre in the West End.
That reminds me that, in a moment of reckless euphoria when young, I had sent an announcement tape directly to a theatre in London which said something along the lines of “You there, clinging to your gin and topic and boring the man opposite you with stories of your courting triumphs, and all other persons engaged in earnest but meaningless conversations. The curtain will rise in five minutes and the actors look forward to giving of their best in a crisp and phone-free environment.”
Both these, and all other tapes, had elicited no response whatsoever in any shape or form, at any time, and now, after a delay of some decades, I am forced to look at myself in the shaving mirror and ask if I am barking at the wrong microphone. Have I mislaid my vocation under a pile of anxieties, diversions and life-draining marriages? In short, it is time to take stock of my life, get serious, and approach the coming weeks with a new realism.
To this end I have started to write a play called “A New Suit for Satan” which explores the themes of makeup and tailoring in the dissolute world of the provincial drawing room. Will this new endeavour finally propel me into the limelight I consider to be my destiny? Only time will tell: in the meantime, as they say in the surgical industry, “May the forceps be with you.”