Poor Mr B couldn't get any attention from me this afternoon. I was totally engrossed, hanging on the every word of Another Man.
Okay, so the gent in question died more
than thirty years ago at the Great Age of 97 - but he had an awful lot to say that I was keen to hear.
Regular readers have doubtless guessed that my afternoon has been spent on the Military Voices project,
doing my best to summarise the interview with my Grand Old Man captured on tape back in 1983. You may (or may not) recall that I have listened once through to the CD supplied, gathering a broad sense of Sapper Richard Salmon's story, but it was now time to
get down to some serious listening, summarising and transcribing.
In order not to disturb Mr B's television viewing, I opted to use a rather splendid set of headphones which the Youngest of the Darling Daughters
and her family bought Mr B for his last birthday but one. This meant I could set up my laptop on the dining table, rather than banish myself upstairs. I spent an inordinate amount of time setting up, indulging in a lot of huffing and puffing when programs
wouldn't load, when the Internet decided not to work, when I couldn't get the disc drawer to open and when Mr B decided to sit up at the table next to me, turning up the volume of the TV and spreading the Sunday newspaper all over my notes. "What's the matter
with you?" he kept enquiring, solicitously, as the huffing and puffing increased in volume to match that of the TV. "Nothing at all!" I fibbed. Sometimes, you know, it's not worth sweating the small stuff.
not only Mr B and his television causing me problems. Half way through the taped interview someone starts vacuuming in the background. Vacuuming! Who was it, disturbing an old man's wartime reminiscences? Could he or she not have waited just 28 minutes and
one second until the interviewer drew the interview to a close?
I wonder if it might have been a daughter, or perhaps a carer. At one point the vacuuming stops for a few minutes and I can distinctly hear the
sound of tea cups being set out on a tray. Emma, who is the manager of the Military Voices project, tells me that on one of the veterans' stories she listened in to the whole interview was punctuated by a weird grunting and wheezing noise. Eventually she recognised
it for the sound of a sleeping dog. I can picture that dog, dozing comfortably on a hearth rug beside a cosy fire, both interviewer and interviewee blissfully unaware of the havoc the sleeping pet is creating on tape.
If all this was not enough, I then faced my biggest problem - timing. Not, as in, having the time to complete my task. Unusually for me I had allocated plenty of time for the job in hand. No, in summarising the salient points of the interview I have
to provide exact timings. So, for example, I have to indicate that Sapper Salmon's detailed description of life in the trenches was captured between 4 minutes 33 seconds and 6 minutes 42 seconds into the recording. I made those timings up by the way - try
as I might, I can't seem to get an accurate reading. I think it is something to do with being heavy-handed. I need to work on developing a Light Touch.
I am not good with machines or anything which could be,
even loosely, described as "technical." I, who have lots of patience with people (even Mr B with the TV at full volume) can lose it in a nano-second when faced with a Matter Technological.
likely to be even more problematical when it comes to the next challenge presented by the Military Voices project. On Monday week my Interviewing Partner, Peter, and I are visiting a veteran of the Burma campaign - a member of what are often called the "forgotten
forces" - to record his story. On Tuesday we have to collect the recording equipment. Neither of us can remember exactly how to operate said equipment, given that our training session was well before Christmas.
I am cunning I should be able to persuade poor, unsuspecting Peter that he should take first turn with the recorder.
For my part, I will offer my valuable services in dealing with any issues arising with vacuum
cleaners, tea cups and - of course - sleeping dogs.