Anna Chen – 17 May 2010
I finally got all my links done for my Radio 4 programme, Chopsticks At Dawn, which goes out at 13:30 on Tuesday 8th June.
This was no mean feat, hobbled as I was by a bad bout of bronchitis brought on by hanging about in enclosed spaces with dear friends who love their smokes and will fight to the death for their right to indulge. Even if it’s someone else’s death. Thank you Roy Castle, wherever you are, for campaigning for smokers to keep their evil weed to themselves even as you were dying of cancer, the most famous passive smoking victim in the world — we wussies with weak lungs salute you.
A decoction of Chinese herbs twice a day seem to have held total vocal breakdown at bay. (I’ll spare you details of the morning ritual of clearing my chest of gunge. Suffice to say it involved Loved One playing me like a pair of congas.) I sat there getting through the studio’s stock of Twinings lemon and ginger tea with a big dollop of honey, relieved to find my chest and sinuses opening up under the influence of hot gingery goodness.
Fearing a croak might replace my usual warm, rich and resonant tones, I’d done plenty of vocal exercises and used the time before my studio slot to quietly declaim how Peter Piper had picked a a peck of pickled peppers whilst wondering if Peter Piper had done such a thing, how many pecks would Peter Piper now possess. Whatever a peck is. A fraction of a bushel, I’d venture.
A timing mix-up meant I was there nearly two hours early. So by the time I was sat behind the microphone, trying to avoid spraying the pop-shield with germs, I practically knew the script by heart. Pretty good considering I’d taken it to the wire and only finished the script in the early hours of the morning. Ending with a joke. That’s always a good idea.
Breaking off only to cough in the ladylike manner which befits a BBC presenter, I did occasionally have to warn the studio to turn the speakers off at their end as I was about to vesuviate the contents of my thorax into a wodge of tissues in the manner of the volcano wot we can’t pronounce. Attempting to actually pronounce ‘Eyjafjallajokull’ would have ended up with my innards decorating the sound booth.
I trust the pop-shield was removed with sterilised implements and ceremonially burnt. The Terror Of The Tongs.
Oh, you might be interested in the content of my latest magnum opus. (There have been several and will be many more.) It’s about orientalism in Western music and I get to have a go at all those toons that were the bane of my young life with their Chop Suey riffs. Yes, about as authentically Chinese as a Vesta Chow Mein and almost as tasteful.
Chopsticks At Dawn is written and presented by Anna Chen with Dr Jonathan Walker. Produced by Chris Eldon-Lee and Culture Wise.
Broadcast 13:30, Tuesday 8th June 2010
BBC Radio 4
Also featuring Derek Scott (Leeds Uni), Rachel Harris (SOAS). Plus the fabulously talented Sarah and Liz Liew of Chi2, Ben Chan (Big Yellow Band) and Jane Ng
See also YELLOWFACE