Many of you know already that Phil died on Thursday. Though the news couldn’t be surprising, somehow the reality is shocking. We mourned the man we knew and enjoyed spending time with: the family man, a husband, father, grandfather and uncle. We remembered his wit, his generosity, his Sunday roasts, his techie skills and strongly-held opinions. We wept.
Knowing that he’d been on regional radio and TV back in the ’70s and ’80s – before we knew him, Malcolm and I thought he’d qualify for a mention in the local press.
I first heard he’d made the national news when fellow-blogger Agnes Ashe told me. I googled him. Over the next hours, articles from the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Daily Star tumbled into the search engine. Then Spanish media. Then sites in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, even the USA.
And all because this was the man whose voice any visitor to London will know. The voice that admonishes you to ‘Mind the gap’ as you step from the platform onto the London Underground.
Ten years ago, just as Ellie was giving birth to their twin boys, the couple’s voice-over business won the contract to do a huge number of station announcements for the London Tube, with Phil’s deeper, masculine tones being required for the all-important ‘Mind the Gap’.
Phil followed this up by winning contracts to do similar announcements for South West Trains, the Southern Network and Northern Rail. As we take the train on journeys through the UK, and in London, we’ll listen out for Ellie’s voice, or Phil’s, and excitedly text our friends when we hear them. In the early days, when it was all very new, I accosted a porter on Wimbledon Station on hearing Phil’s voice announcing the arrival of the next train. ‘That’s my son-in-law, that is’.
So though he was never spotted in any visits to London or as he travelled round the country, his voice was known by millions. That’s why he made the cut in the BBC Radio 4 and TV national news, and on BBC One’s North West programme yesterday, as well as further afield.
And just for a while, I found that my pride in his achievements, and the knowledge that his work would live on as a memorial for Ellie and the boys cut through the grief and brought a smile to my face.
Finally, for a bit of fun, here’s why Ellie and Phil are sometimes dubbed ‘Britain’s most apologetic couple‘
Irritatingly, both German and Dutch reports use video of the only station in London, Embankment, that does not use Phil’s voice to advise people to ‘Mind the gap’. This is in deference to the widow of the previous ‘voice’ who regularly uses this station.