Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Radio Ga-Ga - Why the BBC Matters to Me

I have always loved the radio, from the thrill of taping the Chart Show using the 'play' and 'record' buttons on my old Steepletone radio / cassette recorder, to the joy of appearing on Zoe Ball's Breakfast Show in the '90s and winning - yes winning - tickets to an England vs Cameroon friendly at Wembley thanks to my bizarrely detailed knowledge of Stavros and Mrs Merton.

Photo courtesy of clearanceaisleltd
- yes you can still buy these!
Imagine my delight then when a man appeared at my door a couple of weeks ago asking if I wouldn't mind taking part in a radio survey.  It turned out he worked for RAJAR (the radio version of gaydar?) who were conducting a survey on listener habits.  I wondered if it was at all linked to the recent announcement that Apple is 're-inventing radio' and the push to change the BBC and signed myself up.

Ritual de lo Habitual

What I discovered is that I'm a creature of habit when it comes to 'tuning in' and also a massive fan of the BBC.  Radio 2 is the first thing that goes on for its family-friendly start to the day and tunes that remind us that the music we once believed to be 'cool' is  now considered retro... 

Once the kids are packed off to school it's over to 6 Music for a dose of hip-hop, indie and rock that makes me wistful, joyful and causes me to either leap, rock-out or do the running man in the kitchen - I mean, what else were kitchen floors made for?  

Four play

If I'm in the car, then I'll probably tune in to Radio 4.  Oh Radio 4 how I love thee..... I initially started listening when I worked at Microsoft as a means of genning up on business news courtesy of the Today Programme and James "Knock-er-tee" Naughtie - why won't he pronounce his name as it is spelled?  Imagine how much more fun his life could become!  After a while the incessant baiting of, and arguing with, politicians became too much but I have stayed loyal to the channel, thrilled at the ability to hear the most incredible feats of human endeavour and some of the most thought-provoking stories thanks to Prof Jim Al-Khalili's Life Scientific and Jenni Murray and the Woman's Hour team.  

Radio 4 has taken me into the cab of one of the very few female driving instructors in India, introduced me to the awesome Prof Kate Jones (leading bat scientist and funniest guest I have heard), helped me understand (a bit) financial markets, and most recently, made me cry at the moving conversations captured between ordinary people by the Listening Project.  

Perfect Peace and a children's mosh pit

When I really need to concentrate, Radio 3 goes on - no lyrics to invade my work, just interesting music that lulls and stimulates my brain.  I was inspired to give it a try after visiting my childhood next door neighbour's house - we were a bloody noisy family to live next door to; too many children spread across too great an age range in too small a space.  As I stepped inside with my then newborn daughter I couldn't believe the tranquility.  In Yvonne's kitchen was a crossword on the table and classical music coming from the radio.  It was amazing - I'd always envisaged soundproofed walls to keep out our din but no, here was a light filled space of calm just a wall away from the equivalent of a children's mosh pit.  Classical music is magic.

Trumpets and tonguing

But what of Radio 1?  I left there long ago, turned off by Chris Moyles and music that I found too kiddie-pop for my indie tastes.  But then I happened to tune in randomly to Scott Mills one day and discovered Innuendo Bingo.  It was featuring a clip from a Radio 4 programme about trumpet playing - with a particularly emphasis on the optimal tonguing and fingering technique - I spat water across the dashboard as his studio guests spat water over one another.  Puerile?  Yes.  Funny?  Absolutely!  I have been back more than once since and the Greg James "Going Home Song" is now a family staple.

The BBC has something for every aspect of who I am: curious, serious, focused, passionate about music and every now and again (ok, very often), downright childish.  And as a parent I love the fact that not only are their stations advert-free, but when it snows, I can share the joy with my children that is tuning in to your local station to find out if the school is closed - oh the suspense as Andrew Peach from Radio Berks reels off the list of schools and oh the shrieks of joy as ours is called out!  Whatever happens with funding, I sincerely hope that BBC Radio continues in all of its current brilliance - life would be much poorer without it.


My radio love affair - in true Craig David style we did it all day Wednesday!

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