Radio – My Best Friend

Desert Island Discs: what items would I bring?  I can’t give you a comprehensive list, but I do know which luxury item I would bring: a radio.

I’ve always loved the radio.  My relationship with the radio goes back to the mid-70’s as a pads brat in Germany, listening to BFBS radio.  (As an  aside, besides the target audience of British service personnel and their dependents, millions of West Germans, East Germans, Poles and Dutch used to tune in.)  As for German TV, I never watched much, just Biene Maja cartoon series, Pippi Longstocking and The Muppet Show dubbed in German.  Instead, I used to listen to Dad’s Army. the yes-no game and Badger Bill.

If you haven’t heard of Biene Maja, Pippi Longstocking, or Badger Bill, you were never a pads brat in Germany.  Punkt.

When I was ten, my birthday present from parents was a transistor radio, not much bigger than my ten-year-old fist, with FM and MW.  I used to listen to the evening football and fall asleep, my radio on quiet, crackling as MW does, under my pillow.  Even at the age of ten, I was into news and current affairs, so I often used to listen to BBC World Service on crackly MW.  Even now, just thinking of it, I have that “Ohrwurm”, Liliburlero, running through my head.

Fast forward to sixteen and sixth-form days.  More late-night radio.  Nightowls phone-in show on Metro FM from Newcastle.  Scores of Geordies ringing up to say,

“I’m a first-time caller, so I’m a little bit nervous.”

All addictive stuff when you’re at sixth form, listening to Geordies:

  • moaning about their dole money being stopped because they’ve been working
  • calling for national service, capital punishment and the birch to be brought back
  • screaming for all immigration to be stopped forthwith with and for “them” to be sent back “to their own country”, etc

Listening to the show years later, I just thought “pub bores’R’us.”  Tastes change as we grow older.

Fast forward to my year abroad in the USSR/Russia, 1991-1992.  A ghetto-blaster, with tape recorder and:

  • FM
  • MW
  • LW
  • SW

I tried all the frequencies.  Local radio was sleep-inducing in Voronezh.  My fellow year-abroaders in Moscow had a far bigger choice of stations.  I gravitated to SW.  I discovered:

  • All-India radio (yawn…)
  • Radio Pyongyang (fascinating hearing about all the achievements under Kim-il Sung)
  • BBC World Service (decent signal was only there from 11pm till 4am)

A few mornings with bags under the eyes after listening to BBC during the weee small hours, when the reception was crystal-clear, without crackle and hiss trampling the news.

I remember writing in my diary during my year abroad:

Things I miss. from the UK

  1. Radio 4
  2. The newspapers

Fast forward to 1993-1994 and bedsit (WG) days in Saltburn, living on the breadline.  My fortnight treat: a copy of Private Eye magazine.  Entertainment: the radio, especially BBC North, where the late-night show presenter would finish off by wishing listeners:

“A very good night to you, especially if you are alone tonight.”

Fast-forward to today.  Praise be to internet radio.  I can pick up so many stations on my Kindle.

  • BBC World Service
  • BBC Radio 4
  • BBC Radio 5
  • Falkland Islands Radio Service (come on, you know you want to!)
  • BBC Radio Tees

Since moving to Germany I’ve made a point of listening to Radio Tees, especially the Sunday morning God-slot show, emailing the presenter and having my mails read out.  (I am one of The International Contingent, together with Kim in Arizona and Bill in Seattle.)

Do I want a pet dog as companion?  No, I think it has to be a radio – even after all these years.

Having a radiant day, won’t you!

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