A few weeks ago I had laryngitis and lost my voice completely for a few days. Obviously I couldn’t go to work but unfortunately I couldn’t do much else. I felt rotten and isolated and powerless. I couldn’t pick up the phone and talk to anyone and when on the third day I tried to ring the bank it was an excruciating conversation. The person on the other end of the line was most sympathetic but communication was difficult. Then it gradually came back-my voice that is- and I went back to work and it seemed all was all right with the world.

I forgot about it for a few weeks and then shock. I was in church and trying to sing. Now, I am well aware that I have a terrible singing voice but in church it shouldn’t matter. God gave me my voice so I am sure he doesn’t mind listening to it. Maybe the rest of the congregation but surely not He?

Anyway I opened my mouth, took a deepish breath and … nothing. A strange guttural sound based on ghhhr and no tune whatsoever. Nothing.

That frightened me. I like to sing, however badly.

So I went to the doctor, who, to my surprise, took me very seriously. Only he didn’t actually tell me how seriously. Within a week I was in Charing Cross hospital having a camera thrust down my throat in the oncology department. I am glad I didn’t know before or I’d have been really frightened. As it was I had been just a bit concerned, but with no thought about what might be wrong. The good news of course is that there was nothing wrong that rest and lots of liquid wouldn’t cure over time.

So this Christmas when people were singing carols I found I could join in too. Not necessarily the right notes but I could make some slightly more tuneful sounds.

But all this brings me to the thought of how important the timbre of peoples’ voices is to me.

I love fairly deep voices, especially in women. What we used to call gin voices, slightly raspy through the theoretical overuse of alcohol and cigarettes. Very alluring. I hate loud shrieky voices, the sort you get in some American comedy programmes. I am thinking about most of the people I like very much who all seem to have a low, fairly slow way of speaking, emanating a gentleness which is always comforting. I tend towards the shriekiness myself, and when I catch myself I can tone it down. But unlike Mrs Thatcher ( not that she is my role model! ) I do not do it often enough. Hence the laryngitis I suppose!

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