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  • Writer's pictureAnn

EVPs, Daisy & "Tomato!"

Updated: Feb 21

In soggy old England, the sort of televisual comedies that get the most praise, slapstick ones aside (and often those with quite a niche following) are those observant, smartly-worded self-deprecating sorts, the like of which any other nation has yet to fully understand! They just can't. It's an inherently British thing. Something like the wondorously understated The Detectorists to name just one, The Office, or the more recent and award winning, This Country...

Based in the Cotswolds, it focuses mockumentary-style on two rather hapless cousins Kerry and Kurtan, young things wedged in a rural life where prospects are low and boredom is at an all-time high. It's an absolutely cracking watch. It's on BBC IPlayer as I write! Village fetes, scarecrow competitions, the long-suffering vicar, and dodgy tattoos and a dirty peeper. The dialogue is a joy, the deadpan deliveries pure gold.

The lead actress, writer and indeed creator of the series is none other than the riot of joy and talent that is Daisy May Cooper, who has perfected the rare art of delivering quietly observational humour of rare quality with a modest and delectable aplomb. And as for those little sideways glances to the camera as Kerry's devious side is subtly revealed, sheer class! So, armed with every deserved accolade, This Country went viral and won big awards and Daisy became a national treasure.

One evening I was perusing the box with the hubby Jack (I was fruitlessly trying to get him to watch The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, which is a marvel, no pun intended but he was having none of it), when we hit upon a casual favourite of ours; Taskmaster. One of the famous line-up on that first episode of that series was none other than Daisy May Cooper, so heavily pregnant that the poor woman looked like she might rupture on stage. However, she was never less than her fabulous flamboyant and hilarious self and we took to her in her natural non-Kerry state... but what stunned me , was her declaration of interest in EVP recording - and all of a sudden I didn't just think she was funny, I wanted,nay, needed (!) to get in touch.

Finding someone out there who doesn't think that all EVP enthusiasts belong in an asylum is a fairly rare and beautiful thing. Finding someone who is respected by the general populus and in the higher echelons of society is even more unattainable. The response from her peers on Taskmaster (and in the rags) to her admission of interest and indeed her own EVP captures, was quite typically greeted with a curious mixture of mirth and scepticism. I squirmed!

I had never dabbled with Instagram before, hell I'd only really just understood the purpose of Facebook. Twitter had passed me by, for I saw each as a fractured replica of the other and didn't really understand why the three co-existed at all. One's for words and pictures, one's for words, and the other one's just for pictures - but it turns out that all three platforms are for both words AND pictures! What do you know?! I managed to find Daisy on Instagram, and was thrilled on finding a messaging arrowy sort of icon, and I tapped out my message reaching out to a fellow EVP gal, and hoped sincerely that she didn't assume me to be a nut-nut.

Months passed, and not a thing, which surprised me not one jot, so I thought that rather than become a weirdo and message again, I'd shut up and just let fate do its thing as it so often has before. But then I sent another message, felt bad and deleted both.

I didn't really have to wait that long for fate to begin to wrangle things into action, for Shepton Mallet prison is used a LOT for filming these days which is fabulous, and Daisy's name became an almost mythical whisper on frequent basis with the staff. Who was filming? Rarely anyone knew, but the rumours were always circulating like ill-informed moths splatting themselves pointlessly against a bulb, and becoming crispy and worthless. After at least three false-alarms (no it's not Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner or Mel Gibson dammit!) is it Daisy May?! Yes! But no, well almost. It was the production but not herself in person. But the good thing was, that two members of said production saw something spooky whilst on site doing their thing, they told Daisy, and that was that. She managed to book herself and her partner Ryan onto one of the Haunted Happenings Saturday night events - and lo and behold, good old fate succeeded in getting us together and chatting at last!

The night began and there was no sign of our famous guest, Iain and Cash who were running the event that night had to begin proceedings at just gone nine, and it was just after our joint introductory speeches that Iain's phone alerted him to the fact that Daisy and her partner were lost somewhere around the outer wall. This is not a surprise and is a regular occurrence. Likely they were probably by the old and original entrance, which in some respects actually looks newer and more grandiose than the new entrance what with its pillars and steps, so you can see where the confusion may have come from. Indeed Jack and I spent a good ten minutes wondering what the hell was going on on our very first visit to The Mallet in 2017. It took us a while to clock that there were indeed two entrances, and off we trotted feeling foolish.

Iain and I found Daisy and Ryan by torchlight just by the pillars of the old entrance, and after intros and handshakes, we hastily legged-it back to the functional gates to get them initiated. I managed to mention my thing for EVP (and the two messages, oops), and so the seeds for the night had been sown...

Daisy could not have been more agreeable or vivacious, infectiously positive, happy thankful and funny. She made droopy-dull Annie here feel somewhat sparky and excited. That alone makes her a miracle, certainly after the week just gone, what a honker! So yes, a diamond! (Daisy not me, I'm more like one of those bits of old glass that washes up on UK beaches all scuffed, manky and skanky).

Ryan was a treasure, quietly and loyally going along with all things ghostly that night even though it made him rather uneasy. Apparently he has seen 'things' in Daisy's home (would love to know more about this), and so for his own good was tacked onto the group event that night. We discussed briefly how Hollywood likes to confuse poSsession and poltergeists, and that although all ultimately connected are not linked per se) hopefully allaying his fears at least a little bit. I probably shouldn't have mentioned that I had activity at home because of my EVP-ing, but hey, it pays to be honest in such matters otherwise it's verging on fraud. You work in a bakery, you get flour on you. Work with horses, get hairy. Dabble in weird stuff, and weird stuff may dabble with you!

After a few fun photos, the pair were taken off by Iain and Cache to join the tour, and I settled merrily into my corner of Visits to of all things, update my EVP catalogue. Thrilling I know.

It was on the first break of the night that the other guests began to cotton-on to who our late arrivals were, and it was good to see a polite group of guests chatting with Daisy and Ryan throughout. However my own chance to talk all-things-EVP with them came later on, just after midnight when we got a proper chance when the other guests were doing their vigils.

We talked of human-centric takes on reality, death, the loss of Daisy's friend, visions, apparitions, hospital EVPs and the possibility of an EVP podcast together. I listened to her recording made from a hospital bed, and it's a clear female voice. I was virtually itching to get it onto Audacity and trim the noise, amp it up a bit and get it all loud and crisp! Hearing other peoples' captures is strange like that. It's like whenever I see a nice juicy arm vein on TV or something, I just want to stick a needle in it. Blame the vet nurse training for that freakish urge. It's the same with EVPs... must indulge, must see that waveform on the screen! I played her some of my best ones. I believe we connected.

Unfortunately due to time constraints I was unable to show the pair around the site properly, noting the best EVP places to record, and to divulge some of the weirdest things to have happened here, there, everywhere. The reverse EVPs, the ones where two recorders captured two totally different things, where something unseen smashed by my head, and where the silvery boney hand manifested around my face in a photo... Hopefully this will be achieved another time. Fingers crossed...

Such happy inroads were made that it felt that fate hadn't just put us in the path of each other, but that it had been in the pipeline a while! And well, hadn't it? Ask and you shall receive, and all that. Daisy and I got on very well. Just prior to their leaving I made them frothy coffees and she procured a copy of my fabulous friend Dave Cable's book 'From the Inside', and the piece de resistance, allowed me to film her catchphrase from This Country for my Jack (currently floating around the coast of Holland), noneother than a marvellously tempestuous screeching rendition of "TomAAAAATO!".If you know, you know.... Fantastic!

The pair had to make a move before the official end of the night at 3am (I couldn't blame them, for the call of the duvet is ever strong throughout a night shift, certainly after 1am it's a constant gnawing need, no longer a trifiling fancy), we said our goodbyes and I realeased them from the prison out into the crisp night. Reconvening with the team, we felt that the night had gone pretty damn well, celebrity guests aside the action within the wings with the sprits of the prison accelerated as the night went on, so there were a lot of satisfied customers I think it's fair to say.

And myself? I can't thank Daisy enough for choosing The Mallet. Also to Iain and Cache, the delectably lovely couple who head the HH events, who make night shifting into the wee hours in this centuries old site fun, friendly, and in the true sense of the word, awesome. These two are troopers, and Iain has saved my scaredycat-bacon on several occasions now, what with godawful drunk women and gang attacks, so I'd like to thank him in particular for his calm policeman-like manner.

If the people make the place, then nowhere is this more applicable than HMP Shepton Mallet. Living or dead, it matters not. Every foot through those gates past or present, becomes embroiled in the living history of the site, every beating heart joins the vivid, pulsing memory of all those others who, during the 400 plus years, have all become a stitch in this intricate, most beautiful and brutal canvas. We've become part of her structure, of her legacy, of her soul. Shepton, you are quite something.

And Daisy - so are you! I can't thank you enough. Here's to many more EVP adventures....


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