Okay - so what's the deal with air conditioning in North American hotels? When I was in Calgary six weeks ago, it was chilly outside, but inside the Hyatt it was as warm as toast. And after a few days spent there, the dryness of that air conditioning did weird things to my throat. But that was nothing to spending Thanksgiving in Chicago at a Doctor Who convention - where the weather was not so much chilly as deliciously freezing (snow! blizzards! walking around in your shoes making crunching sounds on the ice! There's really nothing as wonderful as bad weather when it's pretty and it's Not Yours), and the hotel was not just as warm as *ordinary* toast, but toast that had just popped nice and crisp and steaming out of the toaster, but for some reason you thought still wasn't quite warm enough, and could take a couple of minutes' reheating in a microwave.
And my throat paid the price. Some of you reading this will have seen me at Chicago, so you'll know that what I'm saying is no exaggeration. On Thanksgiving I arrived bearing my Usual Voice - boyish, a bit raffish, dare I say it, light and charming. By the beginning of Saturday morning it had dropped an octave, and I was now growling with the voice of a man who'd been chainsmoking since his days in the womb, a voice so sharp it actually made me feel each time I spoke that I was chewing barbed wire. And that might have been fine in itself - I rather enjoyed parading my new voice around a bit, trying it out for size, realising I could now join a Welsh male choir. But I spent six nights in that hotel, and every morning I'd wake to find my voice had got even deeper. It was strange. I'd go to bed at night, and my mouth would be so dry that I twice dreamed I was being forcefed salt. And by the time I flew home, my voice was *so* low that the airline staff at the check-in desk couldn't quite understand me and scowled at me as I tried to secure an aisle seat as if I were talking a foreign language - I suspect by that point I was on a decibel level that could only have been easily understood by great whales or bricks.
I wouldn't complain. Well, I obviously am. A bit. But it happened twice in two hotels in two months... and I don't remember this happening in hotels before. (I was in a hotel in Cardiff inbetween, and nothing of the sort happened. Possibly because there was no air conditioning. There was no comfortable bed, or friendly service, or clean duvet either - but that's beside the point.) So is it something new to North America, some plot to make the atmosphere in all the hotels so dry that we're forced to drink lots at the bar, or risk losing our very vocal identity? Or is it - more likely - something to do with me getting old? Hmm.
I may have coughed a lot, and my throat ached a bit, but I didn't get a cold. I was very healthy, and ate lots of fruit. Oh no - I waited until I was back in London to get the cold. So now my voice is still very low, and when I talk to the cat, he acts as if he doesn't recognise me. Mind you, he is extraordinarily stupid, so may simply have forgotten in the week I was away that we ever lived together at all.
Enough of that. Lots of writing stuff going on, which I want to plug shamelessly.
A couple of months ago, rising pop star, and really very witty lyricist, Penny Broadhurst, wrote to me asking whether I'd consider writing a short story to go inside the booklet for her Christmas EP. I'm very fond of Penny's music, so I was immediately interested - and okay, I was shamelessly attracted to the idea of having anything to do with pop music, because that sounds so 'with the kids' and exciting and stuff, and I thought I might look a bit cool from the association. Penny sent me the lyrics to her new Christmas song, and it's funny and acerbic and poisonous and really rather brilliant - and I was inspired to write something of that nature back (without the brilliant part, but there you go). The CD is now available on Penny's website, and it's a limited edition - go to www.pennybroadhurst.com and check it out.
And the Doctor Who novel which I've had a part in - The Story of Martha - actually exists too! I've seen it! I've held the hardback novel in my hands. (I didn't stroke it with my cheeks, as I *would* have done, because I was shown it at a BBC party, and there were lots of people about so I'd have felt self-conscious.) It's technically out, I think, on Boxing Day - because, naturally enough, Boxing Day is the traditional time of the year when all the children want to raid bookshops and buy more TV tie-in merchandise, they won't have received anything like that in their stockings for literally *hours*. But there's a not unreasonable chance that the more enterprising booksellers in the UK, looking to flog it as a last minute stocking filler, will release it earlier than that. That'll be all of them then. If you see it, do handle it, and admire the way they've spelled my name correctly on the cover. And if you feel the urge, stroke it with your cheeks. And if you *really* feel the urge, buy it afterwards.
Something which doesn't yet exist, but from today is available on pre-order from Amazon.com, is my book of X-Files criticism, 'Wanting to Believe'. (Look, here's even a link! That's what the cover looks like!)
I was pleased to see they'd spelled my name correctly there too. Hurrah and stuff. So if you've ever lain awake in bed at night, wondering exactly whether Rob thought Scully's character was compromised by the ending of season seven episode 'Orison', or at which point during the second season of Millennium you can tell from Lance Henricksen's facial expression that he's no longer any idea what the series is about, or which is the *one* halfway decent episode of shambolic spin-off series The Lone Gunmen... well, now those anxieties can be put to rest. You lucky lucky people. (Although if it was bothering you that much, you know, you could simply have emailed me and asked.) No, no, really, it's a very insightful book about the development of a TV series which summed up the 1990s zeitgeist. And only partly an excuse for me to watch all my old DVD boxsets again, and pretend there was practical value in doing so.
I have finished my X-Files book, but most of it still exists in handwritten first draft form. Normally at this point I'd be typing away quite merrily, but this is rather a *large* book, with *lots* of words in it, and I'm really lazy. So whilst I was in Chicago I bought myself some voice recognition software, so that I can now read my scrawl into a microphone whilst wearing a really tight headset, and the words just magically appear onscreen. It's brilliant. It may revolutionise writing altogether. (Although it doesn't recognise the word 'Duchovny', and always interprets it as 'so cough me'. It's a bit of a bore having to correct it every paragraph, and I'm actively considering changing it to 'David So Cough Me' for the entire manuscript.) The only real worry I have is that the software tells me it's designed to adapt to my voice, and the more I use it, the more it'll recognise the unique way I sound. And yet at the moment I'm still operating on several octaves below zero, and best able to speak to the aforementioned whales and bricks. When my voice gets better, when I recapture that youthful, dare I say it, raffish and sparkling turn of speech I'm used to, the software might give up the ghost and reject me. And then there'll be no book after all.
...North American air conditioning. You'll be the one to blame.