Five consecutive singing weekends and multiple schools during the week has finally pushed my body to the limit, and my voice has now completely broken; by which I mean that I don’t have a voice, rather than I’ve reached some rare and advanced form of post-pubescent puberty that has caused my voice to drop yet another octave and my balls to drop to ankle level. If those two things did happen then it would certainly make my mouth-biting research pale into insignificance when compared to this remarkable and unusual transpiration.
Unfortunately my voice couldn’t hold out until the end of our fifth and final weekend, and it began to become apparent by Saturday morning that I was in trouble. But what to do when you’re hosting a singing weekend and you’re voice goes, but to plough on?
The Dollop aficionados among you – the hardcore Dollop brigade – will remember that in Dollop 295, (entitled, of course, Ill Eagle) I mentioned how often when I’m ill and I need to do a performance, I will get a surge of adrenaline and this will carry me through. The adrenaline surge can also make me feel rather delirious and a bit more hyperactive than usual, which gives the performance an interesting edge, which fortunately people seem to find funny. However, once the performance is done, my body will punish me big time and give me all the pain that it’s been protecting me from during the gig. This works fine when I only need ninety minutes of respite from my illness, but it doesn’t work at all well when you ask this of your body for days or even weeks on end. On Friday, my body gave me a massive adrenaline charge, and I was talking really fast and coming out with all sorts of random nonsense, but fortunately people seemed to find it funny. However, once the Friday night was over, it hit me hard. I tried to battle on through Saturday morning and afternoon, but I knew that I was pushing my throat beyond its limits and was maybe even risking more long-term damage, so I had no choice but to back off, which was frustrating.
The Saturday night quiz, therefore, which is usually a very shambolic affair, in a positive and funny way, with people shouting at and heckling me, had to be a bit more restrained, given that I just couldn’t speak above the noise. So it was a little more sedate and respectful than usual.
On the Sunday morning, we do another quiz which involves us acting out scenes from films and sitcoms. In this quiz I tend to be playing the angry, shouty characters, but by Sunday my voice had more or less completely gone, meaning that it was less of a shout and more of a weird, angry, squeaky whisper. This added an extra dimension of inadvertent comedy to the whole thing. The sound of my voice, mixed with the absurdity of trying to brave on despite having no voice, and the delirium from the adrenaline that my febrile body was still feverishly trying to pump out, caused me to frequently laugh hysterically at it all, a laugh that had a very peculiar shrill squeaky quality, due to having no voice, and the sound of hearing my laugh made me laugh even more. Fortunately everyone else was laughing as well, as it would have been a tad embarrassing if it was just me laughing in a weird hysterical screechy voice, while everyone else just sat there bemused, wondering what on earth had possessed them to pay for this experience.
At the end of the singing weekend, it is tradition for me to do a Sunday sermon, where I take on the persona of a vicar/priest and tell a story from my life which I then very loosely try and appropriate to some kind of worthy, spiritual moral. Today I told the story from Dollop 291, which Dollop nerds will remember was entitled The Gospel Accordion To David Eagle, which told the story of what happened when I got caught indecently exposing myself in a street in Hartlepool at 3am whilst wearing an accordion. If you haven’t heard this story before then you might be a tad confused; I’ll put a link to it at the end of the Dollop.
One of the reasons I chose to tell this tale was because this story was used for a secondary school assembly, at the school that I attended fifteen years ago. And the headteacher who gave the assembly used to be my headteacher back then. And this very same headteacher paid to come on this singing weekend and was sitting in front of me, while I presented my sermon to him and an assembly of others. It was quite odd to consider that fifteen years earlier I was sitting crossed-legged on the school hall floor, listening to him giving his sermons, and now here I am, delivering a serman to him, although I generously let him have a seat – maybe I should have made him sit cross-legged on the floor, just to show him how uncomfortable it is. I lead a very strange life.