I lost my first job as a reporter when the small weekly newspaper I worked on folded. I was 23 and about six weeks away from getting married. Try to contain your tears.
I wrote to every media organisation in the region asking for work, or work experience to prove my ability in advance of any jobs coming up. This was necessary because I was professionally unqualified. My former bosses were due to pay for my NCTJ certificate course the following September.
Regular readers of my Liverpool Daily Post column will be unsurprised by my timing.
But I included in my quest BBC Radio Merseyside. This took some gumption, because I have always had a lisp. Yes, glasses and a lisp – I had a great time in school, let me tell you. I couldn’t see how I would get on in radio, sounding, as I did, like Freddie “Parrot Face” Davies, but maybe I could work behind the scenes, as a researcher or producer. And, anyway, I was assured by various loved ones that my lisp was hardly perceptible.
About 30 seconds into my interview with the station editor, she stopped me dead and said: “You’re never going to get on in radio with that lisp.”
“Oh,” I said. “Not even researching? I could…”
“No, you’d have to do some broadcasting at some point.”
“Oh,” I said.
Since then, I have declined every request – admittedly not very many – to speak on radio, reluctant, as I am, to make people think their speakers have too much hiss. I have avoided public speaking for much the same reason.
Also, when I become aware of my lisp, it gets worse, in some sort of horrible lispy feedback loop. Essentially, Old Snakey Voicebox has held me back socially and professionally. I am embarrassed by my lisp and I hate it and the fact that I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue is of little consolation.
One of my New Year resolutions was to just get over myself. I did a few – mostly disastrous – stand-up gigs to get over the “standing up in public and talking thing.”
And about two months ago, I swallowed hard and started to record my Liverpool Daily Post columns on Audioboo. This was huge for me – HUGE. I cannot adequately express how huge this was, so imagine the biggest thing you can imagine. See that? That huge.
And some nice people who I already knew on Twitter said it was all right, and, honestly, you can’t hear the lisp.
But I could.
And then I thought you know what? Stuff it. That’s what I sound like. It is my voice – possibly a bit deeper than my everyday voice, but my voice nonetheless. So I’ve carried on, broadcasting to a small, if incredibly intelligent and sexy, audience.
And today, Audioboo put my column on its front page and told me it was both “new” and “interesting” – not my words of hyperbole, chums, their words. It is a reflection of my pathetically low self-esteem that I am both delighted by this and telling you about it.
Anyway, if, after all this, you are desperate to hear a man in his late thirties pretending to be on the radio, you can find me at http://audioboo.fm/garybainbridge. But I am not worried if you listen or not.
Because I don’t think I care about my lisp any more.