Tuesday 6 February 2018

Larkin on the Other Side: 'Tramping, not stopping'

Finding myself awake and unable to sleep early this morning, I turned on the radio, and happened upon a programme about EVP. Electronic voice phenomena are supposed 'voices' found on electronic recordings. Those inclined towards spiritualism take them for voices of the dead communicating with us from the Other Side.
 Before I knew it, on came a woman who, with her husband, had regularly serviced Philip Larkin's hearing aids. The couple were also keen spiritualists, and the husband liked to tune in to the spirit world by means of an old wireless set. Naturally, when his illustrious client passed over, the hearing-aid man was keen to get in touch with him and glean his impressions of life beyond the veil. His sessions yielded fruit, of a kind...
 Larkin, the hearing-aid man's wife explained by way of preface, was always 'tramping around graveyards'. Then came the recording of her husband asking Larkin to make himself known – and the sudden answer from the Other Side, a burst of static through which something like a Larkinesque voice can be faintly heard. What it is saying is not immediately clear, but the hearing-aid woman obligingly translates: 'Tramping, not stopping.' I couldn't make it out on first hearing, but listening again online (here – it's just after 7:30), it did sound very like those words.
 This was not the hearing-aid man's only success. He sent Larkin's biographer Andrew Motion three cassettes of material (of which, presumably, 'Tramping, not stopping' was the highlight, which isn't saying a lot). Later, after the biography was published, Motion received another cassette in a jiffy bag. In this recording, Larkin is asked what he thinks of Motion's book. 'Very satisfactory,' he replies, obligingly.

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