As I continue to lose more of my sight, I rely more and more upon voices. I don’t just mean those voices we all use, whether it’s the over-attentive shop assistant, the unrelenting waffle of the radio DJ or the quiet personal exchanges of our loved ones. I’m talking artificial voices. I’m talking talking machines, and slowly but surely, I’m filling my house and sharing my life with them.
Malcolm resides in my microwave. It’s a large, robust sort of microwave, and that’s the kind of guy Malcolm is. I think he probably has an armed forces background and I’m sure when there’s nobody around he keeps the others under control. His no-nonsense, “not under my command, you don’t” type of voice is reassuringly trustworthy, if a little officious. If he tells me a chicken needs 23 minutes and 27 seconds to defrost, I tend to believe him, and I put up with him telling me that the door is closed or open – a fact which would only pass you by if you had just microwaved your brain. So he’s a bit of a control freak – if it stops me poisoning myself then I can cut him some slack.
It’s no coincidence that Malcolm’s twin brother, Stuart, is in charge of my kitchen scales. Another cool, unflappable character, Stuart ensures that he tells me precisely how much stuff I’ve managed to transfer from the packet to the bowl without spilling onto the worktop. Of course, he can tell me this in either metric or imperial, and although he does so efficiently and professionally, I can’t help notice a slight favouritism for the old pounds and ounces. At times, I think it would be nice if his stiff upper lip loosened a little and he allowed himself a comment or two. It would be good to know if, for example, he thought I should use organic raisins in my fruit scones, or if the extra half an ounce of sugar would make any difference.
Out of the kitchen, my voices become a little more cosmopolitan. My wristwatch, for example, houses Wendy. She is a perfectly pleasant North American lady. She does a pretty good job, but like many Americans, she is less self-conscious about making herself heard than we Brits. I notice this most during long, boring committee meetings, when I need to check how many more tortuous minutes remain to be endured. Whereas I’m quite sure either Malcolm or Stuart would managed a polite whisper so as not to draw attention to my tedium, Wendy just belts it out without a modicum of self-consciousness.
Wendy spends all night next to Danielle, who is the voice of my digital radio, on my bedside table. And, let me tell you, there’s only one other place I’d rather have Danielle, and it wouldn’t be far for her to move. We are talking smooth talking, self-assured, calm and altogether classy. I’m in no doubt that whoever it was that decided on a voice to wake up to in the morning, it must have been a man.
Since getting a satellite dish installed, I now also play host to a number of different voices during the week. They provide what’s called ‘audio description’ for a number of TV programmes – providing a running commentary in between the dialogue, describing scenery, action and facial expression to add to the viewing experience. I’m looking forward to the upgraded version that is interactive, and can answer questions like, “Oh, now what was he in before?” and “If I make a cup of tea now will I miss her getting her wahoolies out?”