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Podcast Bonus Episode 2 – The Mirror

The Mirror

Sophie Vohra (Strand A post-doc) shares her encounter with a peculiar mirror in a bathroom at a writing retreat she attended with Strand B post-doc, Charlotte Slark, noting its various descriptive and evocative, sensory features. She associates the mirror with cultural references, including Harry Potter and spiritualism, and expresses a mix of fascination and unease.


Speaker’s vocal description

Sophie speaks in a clear and considered way, with a lyrical, soft and lower vocal tone… and occasionally some loud laughs! Putting on her more ‘formal voice’, here she speaks with a ‘non-typical’ north-western accent (aka suspend your disbelief that everyone there sounds like they are from Liverpool, Manchester or Bury), with dropped ‘a’s and stronger enunciation. She often wonders if her different code-switching voices that make up critical parts of her identity (day-to-day, Macclesfield, Yorkshire, academic/telephone, British Indian, Spanish) come through.

Notes on transcript style
  • Punctuation is used to indicate the way the content was delivered, rather than necessarily being grammatically correct. Please try and read it with these pauses (or not as the case may be) in mind.
  • Words in square brackets and in italics, [like this], indicate delivery types (e.g. softly; animated), audible occurrences (e.g. laugh; sigh), and sound differences (e.g. quieter delivery) in the recording.
  • Ellipses (like… this) indicate a short break between sentences.
  • Italicised words (like this) indicate emphasis placed more heavily on the words as they are delivered.
  • Quotation marks (“like this”) mean we are suggesting this is something someone might have said (e.g., she said, “oh, that was weird”, and I could see why)
  • Whereas quotation marks (‘like this’) mean we are emphasising it as a useful term (e.g. ‘the fourth wall’).

Descriptive transcript

[The podcast starts with The Sensational Museum audio logo: A conspiratorial female voice says “The Sensational Museum”. Lower in volume, almost distant, people are chattering excitedly in a large, echoey space. A warm, major chord chimes and fades out]

[Echoed voice bouncing off of all the hard surfaces in the bathroom] So you’re catching me in the echoey space that is the bathroom that myself and Charlotte have been using, at this gorgeous writing retreat, we’re up in, like, the top, [voice moves further away from the recorder as Sophie scans the space visually, moving her head around] which is delightful. [abruptly moves closer to the recorder again and the volume of her voice gets louder] But even more so than that is the fact that there’s this [small chuckle] this absolutely bizarre mirror. I say bizarre, it fits absolutely with the aesthetic of the house. [voice moves further away from the recorder as Sophie puts it closer to the wood that she is about to brush her hand over] But it’s this giant mirror that’s got erm [pause as Sophie brushes her hand back and forth over part of the frame of the mirror, hearing and feeling a grittiness to the wood as it comes into contact with her hand, and continues over the next sentence] kind of wooden, wooden frame, part of it’s like semi polished. [quicker brushing of her hand back and forth as she touches the slightly rougher grained, less polished wood, which has a very slightly higher pitched sound than the semi-polished section] And some of it is a little bit rougher on the edges. [stops brushing her hand against the wood] With these two kind of like [short thinking pause] they remind me of those like Twizzler, Twizzler [she meant ‘Twister’] lolly shapes, like [very ‘plosive’ p on the next word] pillars, that are holding it up on to the very, very large and ornate base. [short pause to scan what they look like] Which the front and the back are in like a moustache shape, sort of parallel along the sides. And then sort of a big, beautifully-carved, symmetrical, [sounds unconvinced with how she is about to describe the following shape] ovalish shape with cut-outs at the bottom. [bends down to see closer and touch the base she’s describing, and her voice gets closer to the recorder] Which is kind of adorable, because it’s covered in like, [starts to gently stroke the wood, which is quieter in the background to her voice] this is definitely more varnish. But it looks like there’s been like water dripped on it, which means that, it’s got kind of [a few short, sharp, back and forth rubs of the same bit of wood] watermarked, or things have been sat on there. [voice gets further away from the recorder, and more echoey as she stands up again] And [small breathy chuckle] the most interesting part about the mirror, [small sniff up – her hay fever was in full force] is the actual mirror itself, so it’s like, it reminds me of something out of like a spiritualist, 19th-century kind of spiritualist space. [Small knock, and excitement in Sophie’s voice]

Ooh, if I turn it [creaking of the joints of the main mirror attached to the ‘Twister lolly’ pillars as she rotates the top of the mirror towards her]. [Even more excitement in her voice] Ooh, so the back is like covered in a, what I’d say is like [she is largely unconvinced with the fabric description she is about to give, but she gives it anyway] an 18th-century, kind of, patterned, Jacquard, erm, kind of border, lined with, [speaking very fast from here] it’s not really lace, what would you call it? But bordered. So this is kind of like a beautiful pink, and then the boarding is kind of like goldish, and they’ve kind of studded that into the back of the mirror [she meant nailed but couldn’t think of the word fast enough], but [finally takes a deep breath in] the [and a deep breath out, and slows down], the front of the mirror [pause] erm is kind of wearing away [getting in close to the mirror and the recorder, as she studies the glass visually very closely]. I can’t tell whether it’s the front piece of glass, or it’s the, [her voices becomes more distant now as she cranes her head around to glimpse at the back of the mirror] the one that’s behind that. [stands back from the mirror as the recorder as she gets a broader view of them item] But it looks like, it’s been rubbed down so much, in really curious places as well, that some of the mirror is kind of like dulled, some of the reflection is dulled. And you can see there’s this [extends this next word to express her love of it] beautiful kind of like sparkly like glitter [pauses briefly, as she was thinking of a reference to ‘What we Do in the Shadows’] on the inside. It’s weird, almost like [her intonation puts pressure on the next two words as she says them] pressure points. [voice becomes more distant and echoey as she moves to look at the back of the mirror again] But. And I think it’s definitely on the backside, so I wonder whether something on the back has caused it [short pause] on that piece of glass, but. It feels very kind of [pause and breathy chuckle] kind of like spooky, maybe we’ll have, erm [pause, and speaking more slowly here] use it for like [pause, and the next s is very hissy] speaking to ‘the Beyond’ or [pause] one of those like scrying mirrors, you know, sort of lose your focus in it and [deep breath in, and voice moving away from the recorder – quieter and more echoey] tune into, different planes of reality. Sort of 19th-century style.

[suddenly speeds up her speech] The other thing it really reminds me of is in Harry Potter, the first film, or the first book, where there’s the, erm, [exasperation as she can’t remember what it’s called] ahh, I can’t remember what the mirror’s called, but the mirror that’s in that, where he sits and he sees his parents. [deep breath in] And the things is like well, you know, it shows you what you really want. And I think there’s kind of a, [gulp in, probably from talking so fast] it’s the quality of the actual [stumbles over this next word] mirror material, the stuff that’s mirroring back that gives me that vibe. It’s hard to [short pause] particularly when I talk about Harry Potter these days, as well, it always feels very, erm [short pause to find the right word] twitchy[?], as JK Rowling [drawn out, staccato delivery of the next few words] is on a TERF tirade, [starts to have a notable softness in her voice from here] perhaps is the, the way to put it. So Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, and I think, I don’t know for other people, but for me, it certainly tainted my perception of [pause as she considers and battles with this in her head] Harry Potter, the books, my memories, the films, all of those things, which is such a shame. And I think that can often happen with, sort of producers of culture, that, you connect to so deeply with their content, but not who they are as a person, erm, which is a sidestep, but it just means that things like this, when I see mirrors like this, I suddenly realise there’s kind of a twinge of, [laboured pause to find emotions] I don’t know unhappiness? Angst. Anger. [another laboured pause] All associated, out of a mirror that reminds me of something [short pause] that was created by somebody, who, I don’t agree with. [scoffs with disappointment at this thought]

But aside from that, it is, a beautiful [very ‘plosive’ p on the next word, which is more noticeable as her voice has remained soft, as she finds the word for what the mirror ‘is’] piece in, in a space that’s very familiar, a bathroom, and it was the first thing I noticed as I walked in, so. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed, this little [short pause as she finds the right word] tour of the piece [little chuckle at her description of what she called this recording] and of my associations with it. And hopefully I’ve given you something of a description to understand this kind of beautifully dark-wooded piece of furniture, very imposing piece of furniture.

[The podcast ends with The Sensational Museum audio logo: A conspiratorial female voice says “The Sensational Museum”. Lower in volume, almost distant, people are chattering excitedly in a large, echoey space. A warm, major chord chimes and fades out]