You don’t realise how much your voice contributes to your personality and the way people see – or rather, hear you – until you lose it.
And losing your voice is not like losing the car keys. You can’t have a hunt around for it and find with some relief that you locked it in the garage or threw it carelessly into the dustbin with a piece of old kitchen roll and the potato peelings.
You can search all you like, but you won’t find it. It will return when its good and ready.
Mine has returned but in a different form. It’s quiet and too weak to sing, too weak to laugh properly, too fragile to do anything other than talk in a carefully modulated way. Any sudden reckless noise provokes paroxysms of coughing.
I all but lost it for a couple of days.
People looked at me funny because they don’t expect me to be quiet and they don’t expect to have to ask me “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.” They don’t usually have to make an effort with me. I project without thinking about it.
Mr Croft, my creepy but terribly complimentary English teacher said, rather too kindly I feel, that my voice was “sonorous.” That’s not quite the same as having “a bell on every bloody tooth” as my dad used to describe some of the boys I played with. Quite frankly, if I was a friend of mine, it’s the kind of voice which would get right on my nerves. I don’t know how they put up with me.
Anyway, this throat bug which has persisted for two weeks plus has taken me through a variety of broken voices from initial breathy whispering – which I have to say sounded particularly good when delivering pathology lab results.
“Yes Mr Robinson,” purred the Joanna Lumley/Fenella Fielding Soundalike “your swabs have all come back clear.”
That didn’t last, sadly. It morphed into the low slightly menacing tones of a 60-a-day Welsh coal-mining lesbian in a bad mood.
“Pay up there’s a good boy – or you’ll never see your budgie again.” That kind of thing.
It changed again into a version of my usual voice with no colour or variation and the volume turned down by 30%. I don’t like it. It’s not really me at all. Still, it’s something. It’s better than complete silence and ineffective whispers.
The kids were still young when I lost my voice completely for four days. I had to work the dog on hand signals only but somehow he responded. It was a combination of looking at him intently and making stupidly emphatic hand gestures; workable at close quarters but a complete waste of time if he took off in the opposite direction while we were out.
My lack of sound or fury was a source of much initial amusement for DT man and the boys who would giggle and roll makeshift ear trumpets out of newspapers as if that would increase their chances of hearing me, then lose interest and loaf about watching TV and spilling biscuit crumbs all over the sofa, knowing I didn’t have the voice to object.
It was a kind of purgatory in which I felt I lost my identity. It felt like I could only express a tiny percentage of my personality. I couldn’t laugh, couldn’t complain, couldn’t assert myself. It was like turning black and white and shrinking.
Losing my voice I lost all my colour. I was mostly ignored, except by the dog, who quite enjoyed doing the sit, down, roll-over, heel, wait, come, stuff on hand-signals only as long as there were still foodie rewards.
This time is nothing like as bad but I’ll still be glad when the voice is back properly. I have a feeling I might be able to tempt it back with theraputic doses of single malt. I mean, you have to try everything, haven’t you?