“I’ve always been interested in broadcasting,” he says. “I did a university course in it a couple of years ago and someone said: ‘You tell a joke well – have you thought about recording books?’ I decided to give it a go, and 35 books later, here I am.”
Broadcasting is a long-term love, and was his dream job when he left school in south London in the mid-1960s – although others failed to spot his vocal potential. “I went to a careers open day at the BBC’s Broadcasting House,” he recalls. “They took one look at me and said: ‘Wouldn’t you like to be an accountant instead?’”
Whether or not he’s joking, Freathy joined London firm Prideaux, Frere, Brown and Co (“the only accountants in Lincoln’s Inn”) and after completing his articles went to Swiss food giant Nestlé as an internal auditor. He stayed for 37 years, with promotions taking him to South Africa, Ohio, California, China and Switzerland.
“The Swiss job was the best in Nestlé,” he recalls. “I was in charge of the e-learning training programme, based in this wonderful mansion on Lake Geneva, which had the best restaurant for 50 miles. It was fabulous.” After his American wife Debra was offered a job in the States, Freathy took early retirement and the couple set up home in Dublin, Ohio.
“After years of postings, this is the first location we’ve chosen to be. It’s a wonderful place, we fit right in.” Indeed, on their previous stay in the 1980s, Freathy had done a little volunteer broadcasting at the local PBS radio station, so it is fitting he should be recording there again. “I audition for the audio book jobs, and some I get, and some I don’t. I’ve done novels, historical works, how-to books – my best-seller is apparently how to speak English if you’re French.”
The structure of the work appeals to his accountancy brain, says Freathy, now 72. “I’m very analytical so keep track of the time, and know how long it takes me to read so many thousand words. “I’m usually told what the finished (recorded) hours are likely to be, but with retakes it tends to take me around 66 minutes to record every finished hour.
I make mistakes, as everyone does, but the worst cause of them is bad punctuation in the writing. Then I edit them, on my Apple Mac, which takes more time.” He’s paid a share of the books’ royalties but it won’t, he concedes, make him rich.
“Sadly I won’t have to choose whether to spend the money on a Bentley Continental or a roundthe-world cruise. But that’s okay. I do it because I enjoy it – even if one of my friends did say I had a perfect face for radio!”