My mind’s gone blank. I’m sat here at my computer and I can’t think of a thing to write. That’s what happens to my head sometimes, long periods of tumbleweed where I can’t think of anything to say and then when I do say something, it turns out to be complete bobbins. As it goes, this is what also happens to me when I listen to myself speak on the radio. A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by the lovely Claire Carter for the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Breakfast Show – and this week it’s airing, every day, 5 mornings a week. Oh dear lord. ‘Who-hoo!’ screeches the youngest, dive-bombing onto our bed. ‘Ouch!’ I cry. ‘That was my stomach!’ Apologising, the youngest catapults herself in between me and my half-asleep husband and settles down for a listen. ‘Turn it up, dad. Mum’s on in a minute.’ ‘Whhaaaaaaaa!’ comes another yell, this time from the direction of the room of the eldest, the door crashing to the wall as she belts in and belly flops on the mattress. ‘Bloomin’ heck,’ mutters my husband, ‘it’s like WWF in here.’ Ignoring the fact that the coffee I am holding has just spilt all over the sheets, we turn up the radio and settle down to listen.
Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s something about listening to the sound of my own voice that I just find, well, cringey. I’m originally a Dublin lass, but when I was about 5, we sailed the boat to Liverpool and with my mum, dad, sister and new baby brother, we set up home in Leyland, Lancashire, and overnight, I became a fully paid up Northerner. Since my childhood, I have moved about a far bit. I went to University in Liverpool, mixing my voice into the melting pot of accents from all over the UK. Later, I worked in Manchester, moving down to Bristol with my Southerner husband, eventually settling in the Cotswolds surrounded by a mix of the Queen’s English on one hand and the farmer’s on the other. And so, when we sit in the bedroom and hear my voice, I am quite surprised. ‘Mum,’ says the youngest, ‘that doesn’t sound like you.’ We all lean into the radio. ‘She’s right,’ says my husband, sitting up, ‘it doesn’t.’ We all nod. ‘You sound nice, mum,’ says the eldest. ‘What,’ I say, ‘like I don’t always sound nice?’ The ensuing silence speaks volumes.
And so, each day this week, in the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot, I am hearing my voice on the radio talking about Gloucestershire. Some days I sound right northern, others I swear I could be from the south, but each time the things that I am talking about come across, well, okay, really. I return home later that morning and switch on the radio only to catch the second slot of the day at 8.45a.m. where they repeat my thought of the day from the earlier 6.45am slot. The thing that really touches me this time though is the presenter, Mark Cummings. Because, even though he doesn’t have to, when he introduces me he talks about my writing, mentioning my e-book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, by name. It makes me stop and think, about how nice people are sometimes and how, even when you don’t ask, they will do something for you, something that can help, something that can make all the difference.
‘Do you know,’ I say to my husband later that evening, red wine in hand, ‘when this week of radio interviews have aired, I’m going to send a thank-you email to Mark and Claire at BBC Gloucestershire. They’ve been so good to me, mentioning my book, tweeting about me, all sorts.’ My husband puts his arm around me and gives me a hug. ‘And they’re running your main book interview this week, too.’ My bottom lip wobbles. ‘Look,’ he says, ‘it’s because you’re so nice, honey, that’s why they do these things.’ I start to cry. ‘You okay?’ he asks. I nod and wipe my nose. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ I say, ‘if it all worked out and I really could make a living out of writing.’ He smooths back my hair. ‘What would you write about when you make it there?’ he says. I open my mouth to say something and then frown. I take a swill of wine. ‘What were you going to say?’ asks my hubbie. I shrug. ‘I’ve completely forgotten. My mind’s just gone blank.’ He sighs and we stick the telly on.
Catch me on BBC Radio Gloucestershire all this week at 6.45a.m. and 8.45 a.m. You can also listen to the Mark Cummings breakfast show on BBC iPlayer here
**Out tomorrow: “Thursday Thought”, where I post my local weekly newspaper column to the blog. This week: do we worry too much as parents today?**