Nepal went into lockdown around the same time as the UK, in March 2020, and Kathmandu became quieter. That was better for the recording I was doing but still I had to confine myself to a bare room with the windows closed. It was only then that I thought of adding some truck horn-honking to the soundtrack but by this time there were no trucks on the streets.
You can’t win.
Recording was slow but going well – mostly. There might be a creak from my chair or a stomach rumble – or worse – at a crucial moment of tension. Or a phone call. Or a neighbour shrieking at a child. A surprising amount of sound penetrates closed windows. Then sometimes it was just too much to sit in a stifling room as the heat was building. Some days I’d get seriously stuck on a word or piece of text or get the giggles and would just have to walk away. Sometimes I’d stumble over a word a dozen times, and then it was difficult to keep the frustration out of my voice as I repeated it over and over and over. I certainly stuttered repeatedly over some Nepali place names.
I didn’t help myself by using words like colourlessness (try saying that while supressing your silibants or even sibilants) and unintelligibilia. My oldest son Alex, often says “You can’t just make words up, Mum,” to which I respond, “I can – and do!”
Plenty of mistakes and malapropisms snuck in. I made mention, for example, of a seven-metre-long caterpillar, a monster indeed, until I added a “centi” before the metre. And referring to my favourite mountain I described it initially as having a summit like the "uptailed turn of a fish".
April came, the air quality deteriorated badly due to forest fires and the pandemic felt ever more threatening. At very short notice, we managed to secure two seats on the last evacuation flight out of Nepal organised by the British Embassy; it wasn’t cheap but it was efficiently organised.
While I’d been in Kathmandu, I’d deliberately tried to read chapters where any extraneous noises matched the action in the book. Now back in an English spring, new sounds intruded: my neighbour running a bath, loud conversations on mobiles, idling cars, someone hammering, the sound of big trucks announcing Attention! Vehicle reversing.
Mostly the change of scene proved fortuitous for my recording though as it meant I could add delicious blackbird song to the chapters that were set in Cambridge. I hope others love this sound as much as I do and that this makes a fine contrast with the brainfever bird calls and crazy wedding music that introduce and end each Nepali chapter.
The audiobook – complete with a new updating chapter – launched in December 2020.
| Recording Glimpse must have taken several hundred hours (photo by Simon Howarth)
The first part of this blog post is here: A New Incarnation
The link to listen to the book is here: Glimpse audiobook