I hate my voice. Readers of this site may be surprised to hear the tortured croak these pages are being narrated in, or the terrible adenoidal whines I produce daily. Not only that, I have a tendency to mumble imperceptibly, letting my words fester away somewhere at the back of my throat. Listening to me is just not a pleasant experience.
About the only good thing you could say about my voice is that it is relatively accentless. Just by listening to me, people from Ireland can't tell what part of Ireland I'm from, and people from Britain can't tell what part of Britain I'm from either. Even in America, where people can tell I have an ac-cent (as my cab driver in Tucson said), they don't think it's necessarily a non-American accent. All of which suits my citizen-of-the-world ambitions just fine.
The only time I had something like a proper accent was when I went to school in Wexford, when I had a mild Wexford brogue, or 'Boker' accent as it was sometimes called (don't ask me why). I hated it at the time. In my teenage diary I moaned 'I hate my Wexford accent. I hate it! It's the first thing I want to get rid of when I leave school.' And indeed I did. Since then, however, I've acquired nostalgia.
A good Wexford accent is a rare and wonderful thing. Hearing the blanched Wexford tones is alone enough to make my day. On the ferry back to Ireland over Christmas, the captain made an annoucement over the intercom, and his voice was a classic. Pure Boker! I punched the air with joy as he described the fire safety procedures.
How to describe a Wexford accent? It's the pleasure of a dry stone wall, of old malt stores, of handmade blackthorn walking-sticks. The finest Wexford accents are matured over time to produce a rich, mellow, pipe-smoked croaking. If aged oak barrels could speak, they'd speak in a Wexford accent.
Accents of this calibre are rare enough even in Wexford; for a non-Wexfordian they are inimitable. It's been six years since I lived in the place, and I've totally forgotten how to reproduce one: I can imagine how difficult it must be for people who haven't spent seventeen years breathing Wexford air. A few years ago, BBC2 showed the plays in Billy Roche's Wexford Trilogy. The actors tried their best to do the accent, they really made an effort, but none of them came even close apart from one guy, who was clearly Boker through and through.
The voice I hear most often is the voice in my head: the voice of my thoughts, the voice I hear when I read things. The voice in my head doesn't have a Wexford accent. The voice in my head actually has a sardonic educated English accent, a bit like a cross between Edmund Blackadder and a BBC announcer. Oh hell, the voice in my head sounds exactly like Angus Deayton. Which may well be the most disturbing thing I've ever written.