Automated voices

· general ·

I've said it many times before, but Radio 4 is really a national treasure. The dramas and comedies are great, but I also love the little factual programmes about obscure but interesting things. Just last week I was sitting on the train at New Street station, listening to the automated announcements and wondering about the poor soul who had to say "I'm sorry for the delay to your journey" a million times until he got the required firm but sympathetic tone. Thanks to 'Cashier Number Six, Please' (a 'Sunday Best' repeat), I now know that the poor soul is Phil Sayer.

Memorably describing himself as a "gob on a stick", he also admitted that — as the auditory scapegoat for Railtrack's many failings — he's probably the most hated man in Britain. I'm sure that he got reasonably well paid to do it, but I'm still not sure that I would have the patience to read every single station name in Britain twice: once with a rising inflection (for the start or middle of a list), and once with a falling inflection (for the end of the list). It must also be weird when you're waiting on a platform and furious about the delay to your train to hear yourself apologising sincerely to yourself.

They also featured the voices of BT directory enquiries, in-car navigation units and of course, the queuing machines. One woman who was a "Cashier number five, please" said that she'd become quite a celebrity at the local Post Office. I was surprised to hear that this didn't involve her getting bludgeoned to death with parcels and pension books.