I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the podcast Everything is Alive but I know I listened to the first episode about a can of cola and found myself oddly moved and disturbed at the same time. It’s not often something has that effect on you. The premise of the show is simple but weird. Our host interviews inanimate objects, except they are not as inanimate as you might think. They have voices, thoughts, past histories and philosophies, insights into the human condition as seen from a point of view I can guarantee you won’t have thought of.
So it’s brilliant and bonkers in equal measure and I recommend giving one or two a listen to see if they’re your kind of thing.
One other part of the show is that there’s often a little aside, a phone call to a human, that adds some history, some information or some other story that is tangentially related to the subject at hand. In the episode about a grain of sand, somehow the topic of the phone call was the voices that record the announcements at train stations.
Eleanor and her husband Phil are the voices of several London Underground stations, and Eleanor shared an insight that I would never have thought of:
They deliberately chose my voice and Phil’s voice because we’re very clear, very neutral and very easy to understand. And the other thing is, the way that we’ve done it, is we’ve always used the same studio, the same microphone, obviously the same voices and for consistency reasons we kind of find a contract to say that we would be available for ten years, you know, unless obviously anything happened. And actually, God bless him, Phil died about, you know, three weeks after that ten years expired. So, he did his time, but fortunately we’ve got enough of his voice on record that it’s never been an issue.
He was a good guy. You know, very lovely guy and I feel very privileged as a widow to have his voice. I don’t say that lightly because I know a lot of people who would give anything to hear their husband’s voice again. And mine won’t shut up. (Laughs) He never did and I’m hoping he never will.
I frequently travel to London for meetings and work and recordings and what have you and yeah, I hear him a lot. And it’s always lovely to hear him. And I actually quite like the fact that obviously nobody else would know that this is so special for me. And I just love the fact that he’s still there just getting on with life and, you know, directing people to where they need to go and just being part of the furniture of London.
But actually, hearing that he’s been taken off of certain platforms I know that he used to be the main voice at Waterloo until about a year and a bit ago and when somebody told me that he’d gone from Waterloo I grieved again as if I’d lost him. You know, it affected me that much knowing that his voice was just slowly being taken away.
Like I said, a range of emotions in this show. Intriguing, moving, disturbing all at the same time. I love it.