Since 1972, when I began to travel in earnest, I have been exposed to, endured, enjoyed and sampled some of the best and worst of air travel experiences in many countries. In no order other than how I recalled them I offer you these snapshots.

I have shot dangerously through the air on Garuda Airlines, notorious for several if not hundreds of I.A.T.A. safety infractions, as several hundred of my fellow travelers lit up their ‘Kretek’ (clove cigarettes) in the laughably misnamed nonsmoking section.

I have been asked for twenty dollars American money for an unnecessary immunization shot on arrival at Manila via Philippine Airlines, whose flight insignia, PAL, was at the time regionally construed as ‘plane always late’.

I have flown almost upside down on approach to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian Airlines. But the weather may have had something to do with that.

I have been kept waiting in a glass cubicle in Cairo airport for an hour until a senior Egyptian immigration policeman could spare the time to confirm that I was indeed as harmless as I had already claimed to a series of his subordinates.

I have been similarly held incommunicado for hours in Portland, Oregon because my green card was ‘too near’ its renewal date.

Also in Portland, my whole family was delayed by a TSA inspector who was flummoxed by my carry-on Christmas Pudding. Supposing it to be plastic explosives of some kind after I had told him it was ‘pudding’. The TSA definition of pudding assumes it is a liquid, and of course no self-respecting Christmas Pudding is ever less than a whopping sixteen ounces. Far in excess of the three-ounce limit!  I had to reveal my family recipe to him before he re-scanned it and let us pass. Curiously he did not use the mass spectrometer which would have identified explosives. And so, I could have actually gotten a device aboard hidden in my pudding.

I was warned that my welcome to Djakarta might soon disappear should I not apply for a very expensive business visa available only today and from this particular immigration officer.

My first journey to the United States was on a Dan-Air charter flight. The Boeing 707 was unable to make it from Heathrow to Kennedy without stopping in Gander to refuel. If you are familiar with Gander you may know that it is in the rugged North East of Newfoundland. After refueling the pilot taxis to the other end of the runway and revs up the engines for what seemed an unnecessary length of time. With a lurch, we shoot off. But for whatever reason we are unable to get airborne, and come to a halt at the far end. The pilot comes on the squawk box, and in that laconic tone so practiced by generations of British pilots, tells us that he didn’t like the way the engines felt and is going back to “give it another try”. The atmosphere in the cabin is tense, and you can imagine the relief as we do indeed manage to get airborne and gaze down upon the hills where we might have become permanently installed.

It was only by spotting our bags being thrown into the hold of an ageing Nepal Airlines BAC Viscount that enabled me to run shouting at the plane on the tarmac to wait for me and my wife and two-year-old child en-route to Pokhara and actually catch the flight. On which flight they actually handed out barley sugar candy as an antidote for air sickness.

A hotel desk clerk in Mexico City informed me that he had no room at his hotel, despite my waving a confirmation in his face printed on the hotels own stationary. But that is not an air travel story!

I was the unlucky, or shall we say, lucky person who informed the flight attendant that our Delta flight to Cincinnati had a serious air leak from the malfunctioning rear door. We returned to Syracuse immediately.

Apart, perhaps, for the air leak, none of these were life threatening and at worst caused me a delay, loss of fractional stomach lining and temporary irritation.

It must be part of the human character that we often seem to remember the worst things that happen to us, and not the best. And when we do hear of acts of kindness, or good service, or friendly staff and trouble free travel, we are always dubious and skeptical. We wonder if the person relating these positive experiences has their head screwed on or is perhaps just boasting about the level of service he or she actually expects rather than having actually tasted it.

So, I shall tempt your credulity with a few examples of more positive, or at least revealing, travel experiences.

While People Xpress shuttle flights between Newark and Boston in the eighties could barely manage to sell and serve coffee and peanuts during the flight, Singapore Airlines served free drinks and a simple dinner en route from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. A journey of about the same duration.

Arriving late and breathless from Syracuse at Cincinnati after running for my connection to Portland I smiled at the Delta gate agent and said, “I am exhausted, I need an upgrade!” and she said, “Of course, why not?” and lo I was soon quaffing my free whiskey and soda at the sharp end of the plane.

On a British Airways flite from Brisbane to Singapore via Sydney, the pilot invited me and one other passenger in Business Class to join him on the flight deck to watch him land his Boeing 747-400 at Kingsford Smith field manually, with no automation, as he was periodically required to do. This after a short seminar on how he preferred four engines to two and scoffed at the thought of flying across any ocean with only two. In addition to his standard BA uniform he wore a flat peaked hat, giving the impression of a slightly irritable but competent gentleman farmer driving a very large tractor. I am sure he, and the Chief Steward, contravened several IATA and company regulations with passengers in the cockpit, but I was delighted. And yes, we landed safely.

Flying on July Fourth is often a good plan. Going from Newark to Los Angeles there were fewer than twenty of us on the whole plane. Two bored flight attendants sat with me and chatted about their work and we celebrated the national holiday with United Airlines champagne. Well, I did. They had juice!

I discovered one of the best chicken recipes I have ever enjoyed on Japan Air Lines Tokyo to Beijing service. It was in the English language version of their in-flight magazine.

In the nineteen nineties domestic air travel in India was not always an airborne delight. But one morning in Vadodara I had a deep inexplicable sense of calm as I stood with the other passengers on the tarmac under a shade tree waiting for the arrival of an ageing Air India Boeing 737 to take us to New Delhi. Our baggage stood with us on an old flatbed horse cart. There was no horse, just the airport staff heaving away. It fitted the ambiance perfectly at an airport that closely resembled a converted railway station of a previous age.

The Varig flight from Mexico City to Rio de Janeiro had to stop at Manaus to either refuel or take on passengers, or even a new engine. It was not explained. There was no jetway and the door was left open allowing the fragrance of the Amazon forest to seep into the cabin. I have never smelt anything like it. A confusing mixture of life and death. Combined with the odor of kerosene fuel and my nascent jet lag it felt wonderfully hallucinatory.

I don’t travel anywhere near as much as I used to and sometimes I miss it. But a recent transcontinental trip to Boston on a plane seemingly designed for midgets but loaded with elephants was all it took to discourage thoughts of more frequent journeys.

IMG_2579Recording audio books is acting to an invisible and silent audience. Closeted inside a sound proof box it is just you, the text and the microphone. Every emotion, meaning and nuance written on the page before you, ever character, every ambiance intended by the author has to come from you and your voice. Not only are you the actor(s) you are the theater.

It is not just about understanding the authors intention or hopes for the work. It is also about what you can add as an actor to what is perhaps an already interesting or fascinating piece of art. And if it is not, you have to work even harder to add that interest.

So of course, I read the book, carefully. I record some pieces of it and ask for feedback. I record again and often the author will want a different emphasis, a different pronunciation, a stronger accent. Then we get into editing a track which is so long you don’t want to rerecord for one or two words needing attention. Thank goodness for modern recording software cut and paste tools. Even so, for an hour of recorded material there is usually at least another hour of editing and audio processing.

And then there are the special challenges. A book I am currently recording for Amazon and Audible.com is heavily larded with Hebrew words and phrases, and Israeli Army slang. Suddenly I am learning a new language. The author and I talk a lot about the book and his hopes for it and from this I get an inspiration of how to project those hopes through my voice.

And we voice actors do all of this in a small sound proofed closet like room. Acting to an invisible and silent audience. It is a serious challenge and I love and relish it.

My next audio-book is now available on Amazon and Audible.com. ‘The Private Life of Michael Foot’ is a biography of the leader of the British Labour Party in the 1980’s. The author, Carl E. Rollyson, is professor of journalism at Baruch College in New York City. He is the biographer of Marilyn Monroe, Martha Gelhorn, Susan Sontag, Dana Andrews and many others. He has been called ‘A Serial Biographer’.

If you have a book, a documentary, an announcement that needs a professional voice, I would be delighted to help. Listen to my demo tracks on my website and give me a call. The number is on the home page.