My Military Voices project partner, Peter, and I are struggling to zip up the kit bag containing all the equipment we will need when we go to quiz our first victim - sorry, interviewee - on Monday afternoon.
It's like a child's anorak, I tell Peter who looks bemused at what obviously seems to him a somewhat random explanation. I, of course, know exactly what I mean; it's what happens when that annoying piece of lining material
gets stuck in the zipper and it jams. Oh, many is the anorak I have wrestled with over the years.
Considering how much valuable equipment we have to deal with, it is a trifle galling to be caught out by a
common or garden zip. Our Bag of Technological Tricks includes a recorder, complete with headphones, all the better to capture the voice of our veteran; and a tablet with associated clamp and tripod, all the better to film our interviewee. All this is wrapped
up in layers of protective bubble wrap (or "popping paper" as the Duracell Bunny calls it) secured with several elastic bands. It will take us longer to unwrap our equipment than to set it up. We agree that we will chat merrily with our interviewee while we
get set up, partly to put him at ease but mostly, if truth be told, to conceal our own nerves. It's good to be nervous, I tell my partner. Nervously.
Peter and I are both very conscious of the need to respect
each other's preferences. Neither of us wants to insist on one role or another, if by doing so we might disappoint the other or, just as bad, appear to be bossy. We skirt around the subject of "who will do what" for a while until we eventually arrive at a
resolution. I will set up the equipment, Peter will ask the questions. If, however, I get into a tizzy setting up the recorder, Peter will come to the rescue; while if I, listening in to his questioning, identify a follow-up question which simply has to be
asked, Peter will not object if I intervene. Next time - and, yes, we have been promised at Ieast one more interview - we will swap roles. We are a very polite and considerate team. Gentlemanly would be s good description. If I were a man, obviously.
We ask Mr B if he will stand in for our interviewee as we set up the tablet in filming mode. Emma, our Project Manager, has reminded us (gently) that the video recording is a "nice to have" rather than essential. What
is essential is the voice recorder. She doesn't exactly tell us not to faff about too much with the tablet, but we both understand her drift.
The clamp doesn't seem to hold the tablet too securely and the
whole thing wobbles a bit on the tripod. As She Who Will Be In Charge Of Equipment, this is somewhat worrying. Peter says he will have another practice over the weekend. He also praises my powers of recall of our training which he says are far better than
his where the use of equipment is concerned. Mr B regards him with barely concealed wonder.
We pore over the brief questionnaire our veteran has already answered and frame a list of questions which we hope
will tease out a good interview. Our veteran served in Burma, part of the "Forgotten Army". I am humbled to realise how little I know. This will surely be a Journey of Discovery for me.
We discuss other arrangements.
Peter says he will drive. I offer to make the phone call confirming arrangements for Monday afternoon. Everything is going swimmingly - till we start packing up and run into the Zip Problem.
that he could always place the kit bag, open, on the back seat of his car - but I am determined not to be beaten. Not by a zip, anyway.
Nor am I. Finally, after an unequal struggle, the zip gives in. I close
our kit bag in triumph. Peter looks at me with something like awe.
Mr B shrugs his shoulders and wishes Peter luck as he takes his leave.
I am not completely
sure why he thinks he will need it...