The Last Demo Tape

*Looking over my previous post I was reminded of the last time I submitted a demo tape and the consequences.*

I used to read The Stage newspaper religiously for the job advertisements and auditions that were going. I wasn’t interested in the Stage acting portion of the paper. I had two reasons for not even considering stage work: 1) It had been years since I’d performed live anywhere and 2) The only decent paying jobs were in London and I lived a good hour and forty minutes away.

The Stage did have ads for the telly and for film auditions; they also featured voice-over companies that were “desperate for new blood.” Despite the rather ominous tone of the advert, I rummaged around and found my last ever demo tape.

I generally checked all my “demos” before I sent them out; listening to them from start to finish. For some odd reason I decided to only listen to the intro and not the rest of the tape. Satisfied that all was well, I popped it into a cassette posting envelope and sent it to the company. I enclosed a short CV and a covering letter. With my current lack of response, I did not expect to hear back from them.

And I did not; at least for a long time at any rate.

Coming home from work one day weeks later, I noticed another cassette envelope on the table. It was addressed to me. I opened it and there was my tape and a short letter. The letter went something like this:

Dear Michael,

You sound like an incredibly talented man. I would recommend that the next time you send a demo out, you get it professionally done. When you’ve had a proper tape made, please send it to me. I am sure we’ll be able to find work for you.

Sincerely,

Blah-blah

I went mental. “Nobody,” I shouted, “Nobody sends the tapes back. How insulting is that?” I carried on in that vein for some time. I was furious. Professionally made? What did she think that was? Chopped liver? I’d spent a fortune getting those damn tapes mastered, reproduced, and packaging them for posting all over the place…

I grabbed the offending tape, envelope and letter and tossed them in a drawer in the wall unit. I did not look at them for over a year.

A friend that I’d done some scripting work for and the odd training and promotional videos rang me out of the blue; he’d lost my demo tape and wondered if I had another one as he had a client who was interested. I answered in the negative; I’d sent the last one out last year. Ringing off, I remembered the tape I’d gotten back the year before.

I searched for the damned thing everywhere, until my then wife reminded me about the wall unit.

Found it. I started to ring Phil when I spied the letter that had so offended me. I popped it into the player to see if it was alright. Sure enough 45 seconds into the tape it started messing up; skipping and dragging. It was uselessly buggered up and the only tape out of the entire batch that was.

I ripped the tape out of the machine and flung the damn thing across the room. So the lady from the company was not being rude or capricious, she meant what she said; the quality of the tape was not “professional” at all. And she’d left the door open over a year ago to send in another tape.

I sat down with a cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. I knew I didn’t have any other tapes left. I’d lost Pat’s number and he’d moved his studio a year or so back and I’d lost the address. Pat wasn’t “in the book” so I had no way of tracing him. I’d misplaced the Master DAT and to this day have no idea where it is. The reel to reel, which just took up space, was relegated to the bin.

As I sat there smoking and drinking coffee, I decided that anything that worked so hard against me was not an obvious career path. Despite my rave reviews from the AFN community (a few of the adverts I did for them won awards) and my doing little projects like fronting videos and training tapes; fate or karma or something really did not want me to succeed in this area.

The last thing I ever did was to read a magazine for the blind onto tapes produced and distributed by the East Anglian Daily Times newspaper. And that voluntary job, like all the rest, ended too soon; future magazines were read by a group of “lovie’s” from the local theatre group.

I decided to concentrate on my acting and signed on with two agents in Norwich for extra work. Suffolk was the location for a lot television programs at that time and I figured I could at least get my mush on the telly screen.

I mean, really; who wanted to set in an air conditioned sound-proof booth with a bottle of water and a script anyway. Who cared if it was “money for old rope?” No one got to see you and you weren’t acting anyway. In what seemed like a good sign, I got a call just one week later from one of my new agents.

I was to be an extra on Lovejoy and the filming location was just about a 45 minute drive away. It paid the princely sum of 75 pounds for a half day’s work and I’d get to meet Ian McShane and the rest of the cast.

Now this was more like it.

The Lovejoy original cast:
Chris Jury
Phyllis Logan
Ian McShane
Dudley Sutton

The Un-Friendly Village of Borley

About four years ago my daughter and I decided to have a look at some of the more “haunted” areas in and around Suffolk. We had a look at a cemetery that has been well documented as being haunted by apparitions and mists and floating lights. It is in between Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds and bit of a chore to find.

We finally did find it and while we did not see any apparitions or mists or lights, damned if it didn’t look haunted. Overgrown and forlorn with an equal share of stinging nettle and blackberry bushes; if you weren’t avoiding the nettles you were having blood drawn by the thorns in the bushes. Not a lot of fun.

As we were stumbling around the almost hidden gravestones, my daughter Meg was saying what a shame it was that Borley Rectory had burned down and wouldn’t it be neat to have a look at the village of Borley? She was overjoyed when I revealed that I just happened to know where the village was. I had driven past it quite a lot when I worked at the East Anglian Daily Times as a newspaper delivery van driver.

We decided that our next port of call would be Borley Village where Borley Rectory had stood and been declared the most haunted place in England.

Now of course, with the Rectory having been burnt to the ground in 1939 there is nothing to actually look at apart from the Borley Church which is said to be haunted as well. You can, if you’re determined enough and lucky enough to have read the “right” books about the Borley haunting, you will have an original map of the area that can be used to find landmarks of where the original rectory stood.

Paranormal investigator Harry Price (b. January 17, 1881 d. March 29, 1948) was a rather well-known investigator who, although he would later be accused of trickery and a lot of his “recorded” events debunked, investigated the haunted rectory for the Mirror newspaper. Price would go on to write two books about Borley Rectory, The Most Haunted House in England: Ten Years’ Investigation of Borley Rectory 1940 and The End of Borley Rectory 1946.

I had just finished reading Borley Rectory: The Final Analysis by authors Ted Babbs and Claudine Mathias and was keen to go there with Meg and find the site of the Rectory and have a walk around the village. Not to mention the church and grounds which are still reportedly haunted.

I will not go into the events at Borley Rectory or of the church itself. There are plenty of articles on the net and an overabundance of books on the subject. I will mention something though that not a lot of books will tell you. Borley Village does not like visitors.

When you arrive at the village (which is not clearly signposted I might add) you will find no place to park your car. The church has a car park but it is chained up and locked, presumably they do unlock it on Sunday mornings as it is still a “functioning” church. The shoulders of the roads through the village have large stones (or small boulders) placed in such a way that you cannot park your car on the side of the road. If the rocks aren’t blocking you, logs and other items serve the same purpose.

Borley Village Church.

Despite this slight set-back we managed to park over a quarter of a mile away near a public footpath. The weather was typically English in that it was drizzling rain. Not enough to drench you quickly but just enough to make you feel damp all over. The ground was saturated and muddy. The weather did provide one bonus. As it was so nasty out, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We wandered as close as we could to the site of the Rectory and had a wander around the church grounds.

Apart from the odd curtain twitching, no one bothered us. But the atmosphere of the place was horrid. Meg and I both remarked that we felt un-welcome. The feeling was so palpable that it almost felt like you could hear the occupants of the houses, with their twitching curtains, muttering savagely, “Get out.”

Finally we decided to call it a day. Cold, wet and not a little spooked by the feeling of the village, we left. It was decided that we would come back when the weather was not so miserable and we would make sure we brought a camera.

We did go back. It was a warm sunny day without a cloud in sight. This time the postage stamp sized car park at the village church was not chained up or locked. I quickly pulled the car in and Meg and I got out to look at the church’s cemetery first. Incredibly despite the inviting weather the village and the church still had that “get out” feeling.

It was worse this time. The last time we had been there the horrid weather had kept most folks inside their houses. This time they were out (although not in great numbers) and even though they were not approaching us, they stared. Not the stares of the curious or friendly, but, hostile stares. Borley does not welcome visitors.

Even though the events of Borley Rectory happened a long time ago it seems that the village resents anyone visiting the place in search of spooks or just to look at where all the kerfuffle took place.

With an atmosphere that stops just this side of hostile, you don’t feel comfortable being there. Despite the great warm weather, we left very quickly. In fact we left so quickly we did not take any pictures, even though we had remembered our camera.

If you have very thick skin and don’t mind feeling like someone is going to run you out of the village on a rail, after they’ve tarred and feathered you, go and have a look at the village that was once the home of the most haunted place in England. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled though, it is not clearly sign posted. But as you are driving to Long Melford on the A134 (from Sudbury) there is a tiny road just before a car sales place.

If you wind up in Long Melford, you’ve gone too far. The signpost at the top of this article is missing one thing though. I am sure that the residents of the village would have put up just after ‘Reduce your speed’ another line stating ‘Leave.’

Borley Rectory before it burned to the ground.