The Privilege Of Transcribing

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Today is the first anniversary of the day my children’s aunt, and my very good friend, was murdered in South Africa. The world is most definitely less colourful without her and a day seldom passes without her surfacing, in some way or another. On the day it happened, I was working for McGowan Transcriptions and Joe McGowan was completely understanding when, at very short notice, I took time off to grieve this senseless loss. It is regrettable that through experience of friends of hers, the news was not as alien to her as I hoped it would be. Everybody knows somebody whose life has been affected by violence in South Africa.

When I felt strong enough to take on work, and not a moment before, I received my first digitally recorded interview. It was a depth interview lasting roughly an hour. The interview was about a certain drink and how the respondent felt before taking that first sip. On this occasion, initially, my emotions raw, I felt anger and cynicism and in my mind, shouted, ‘Who cares?’

But slowly, as the moderator probed further and further, into the psyche of the respondent, my anger subsided. By the end of the hour’s interview I felt very genuinely privileged to hear the circumstances under which the respondent talked about having that first sip. They talked about friendship, mostly, down time, and the release of tension after a long, arduous day. If these small moments are not to be savoured, enjoyed, anticipated and remembered, then what is life about? I thought of my friend and the moments we’d shared that first sip of anything from hot chocolate, out of a bowl, in a farmhouse in France, to Cava drunk straight from a bottle on a beach.

Then, there was the occasion when I was whisked, under her considerable wings, right into The Savoy, for a gin and tonic. Neither of us necessarily belonged in that world but, for that magical moment, I was happy to transcend my self-imposed limits, as a single mum, to enjoy a glimpse of another world. That was over a decade ago, my purse felt the hit! But I am no poorer for having done it, just richer for following her lead. It is a memory that will live with me, forever.

There are innumerable occasions when in our jobs, as transcribers, we are momentarily transported from our immediate worlds into others’ worlds. Nobody sees us; we are the invisible observer. And yet, our typed record of what is revealed, becomes the indelible evidence of what someone, somewhere feels in respect of some aspect of their life. I feel very privileged to accompany these small journeys which seldom fail to move me in some way. I am especially grateful for being reminded of the very small things in life which we often take for granted.