I can sometimes seem a rather contradictory person, at one time funny, witty and charming and at ease with people and another withdrawn and quiet. I feel with some trepidation I will tell you why.
I have a gift and it is the ability to mimic the speech and mannerisms of others. There are very few people who know I can do this as for me it’s something private that I use for my own amusement being able to talk in many voices and creating impossible conversations between characters that would never meet. Unfortunately like all gifts there was a price to pay and my payment in full was that at the age of 9, I picked up a stammer from a friend. It took an afternoon to acquire and 9 years of debilitating and increasing severity before I managed to all but eliminate it. Its legacy however was that it killed me socially. I was left in my late teens crushingly shy with no social skills. I would be well into my 20’s before I went on my first date.
So how did I get shut of the stammer?
I was about 17 when I woke up one morning and laying there in my bed had a light bulb moment. If I had acquired the stammer through mimicking someone all I needed to do was mimic someone else who did not have a stammer – blimey obvious eh?
What I needed was an example of a clear speaker that I could listen to for long periods of time. At that time we had just bought a Sony C7 video tape recorder and showing on television was the series “Brideshead Revisited” which I set about videotaping. I then set about choosing a character to mimic which was Charles Ryder played by Jeremy Irons.
It took about three weeks. My mother was delighted the stammer had all but vanished. There was just one problem. My original speech was a light Liverpool scouse and now I spoke as if I had been to Oxford University and from the posh set. The worst of it was my few friends John and Martin who found the transformation absolutely hilarious every time I opened my mouth.
Ultimately I kept the voice but lost the posh edge to it so now its sounds pretty ‘normal’ if that’s anything to go by. Seeing people suffer from stammering I always wonder if the ‘solution’ I came across could work for others for them to in effect re-program their speech. It maybe though that its just specific to me because of my ability to mimic.