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  • Judith Bareham

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

"Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin".

That was always an invitation from the BBC storyteller, for me to get comfy

and rest a while because it meant a lost hour of some other world was soon to be experienced.

Listening to stories be it around a dinner table, a fire-pit, even tucked up in bed, is a timeless tradition and judging by the amount of new titles which come onto the reading scene every year, isn't about to disappear soon.

Which is a comforting thing to know.

There is a plethora of material to be sampled on CD, via Kindle, or Audible to name a couple outlets and are a great alternative to reading in print. Especially for those times when you can’t sit down and read, your eyes are perhaps failing or you simply want the companionship of another voice, audio-books are simply brilliant.

I think this love affair with voice over started with story telling to be honest.

I wanted to bring words alive and I knew how important it is from the get go to entice the audience in.

I know within the first minute typically, whether I can partner with the narrator or back it goes to the library.

And having just narrated my first book this Spring I have whole new level of appreciation about what goes into the telling of a story, in audio book format anyway.

The stamina alone cannot be under-estimated - especially for some of the epic novels which run into hours and hours of listening pleasure.

From a listeners perspective, I can tackle any mountain of ironing when I am lost in a world of audio narration.

We have a fondness in our house for repeating lines from movies or stories at apt moments – does anyone else do this? It’s so endearing when we all catch on and play along for a moment.

And due to the books on cd over the years we have this short hand speak we all “get” referencing moments from stories.

Mrs Bennet’s proud words to her daughter Jane came in handy the day my daughter was preparing for her wedding…… we have the photographic evidence of that little vignette. But I digress……

The times our adult children recall most avidly are based around whichever audiobook accompanied a particular road trip.

Typically a vacation was the end point and the hours flew by as we were enthralled by the story

We didn’t have the luxury model van with the DVD player but I am so thankful for that now.

Everything on a waffle by Polly Horvath read by Kathleen McInerny, saw us travel to Vermont with Grandparents and we still coin the phrase whenever we talk about toppings or “everything” anything.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick read by numerous artists, is the telling of the Nantucket whalers of 1821, and this accompanied our drive to Prince Edward Island – all 10 hours of it.

I would never have had them read such a gruesome depiction of history at that age, but being in the car, lent it a less severe tone and we became lulled along into the story and they learnt a ton in the process and were none too phased by the realities of it.

There are a few we had to have in our possession they were that remarkable and that would be Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, narrated by Jason Hughes.

Framed has to be where I fell in love with doing the Welsh accent and I think this is probably our all time favorite. We again mimic the character Trevor regularly and his phrases stuck in our vocabulary.

That’s the thing with stories - they weave themselves into your memory and stick.

I was one of the few people who didn’t read a paper copy of the Harry Potter novels, so I listened to them all on CD one summer when I undertook painting the trim in our house. Never did such a dull task fly by so creatively.

I actually couldn’t imagine digesting the books any other way now and the voices Jim Dale created are of course legendary.

Frindle and No Talking also by Andrew Clements read by Keith Knobbs, has been a repeater over the years because it’s just the best for that middle age boy read. We can all relate and groan and laugh accordingly, because we have been there.

The BFG, by Roald Dahl, which is just brilliantly read by the now deceased Geoffrey Palmer, but he made that giant less scary and simply as his name suggests, friendly.

More recently as an adult, Victoria by Daisy Goodwin, read by Anna Wilson Jones, was excellent given the numerous male voices, but she made it clear who was who and given it was a lengthy novel this was no mean feat.

Victoria was my companion as I drove the countryside in my side job helping with flowers and décor at weddings. Watching the t.v series in addition meant I was saturated with Victorian culture for weeks on end.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, narrated by various actors, held me in terror and anguish equally and had me on the edge of my seat – sewing this time but that was a brilliant contender for audio narration.

Finally, Maeve Binchy's and Jan Karon’s novels and their depiction of Irish life and America's rural South respectively, is on my list for the fact that I fell in love with the quirky characters, and the way it felt as though I already knew the characters.

Maeve had and Jan Karon still has the knack for writing endearing, but not sappy characters. Both have read their own work and had narrators collaborate.

As I find myself in the narration world there are some books I would give my right arm to have the opportunity to read and record.

Maybe once I have a few more titles under my belt, I can save myself the messy amputation and find my name on a coveted title page.

For now I have Mathamagical by Colin Davies to my name.

I am proud of it because I know investment I poured in to creating the voices and I encourage you to go and listen to it very soon.

I hope it becomes a favorite of yours.

Photo by Logan Cameron on Unsplash

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