When I was in my teens, it was the pirate radio stations and Radio 1 much of the time, when I was in my room at any rate. Like many teenagers, I reckoned that I couldn’t concentrate on my homework if the place was silent, so it was music all the way. Downstairs – goodness, when did Radio 4 start? I remember the Home and the Light stations, though I’m not sure what programmes were on which. But the radio was on a lot of the time. All the stuff that’s still being repeated on Radio 4 Extra, from the Goons to the Archers, My Word to the Navy Lark. And music – I suppose a lot of people of my age remember Sing Something Simple and suchlike. H’m. I don’t remember thinking much of it then, have no idea whether it was as dreary as my memory recalls – it carried on for years so it can’t have been all bad? It must have been my father’s choice, because after he died the radio was played rather less, though my mother liked the comedy and quiz shows at lunchtime and early evening.
My father was the Archers fan, not she, though I listened to it from soon after I got married to a couple of years ago, nearly, when Nigel was arbitrarily killed off and I stopped – not because it was ruined without him as because the producer rather cynically killing off a favourite character to mark an anniversary of the show made me think, Alice-like, “But they’re nothing but a pack of cards.” Not that I’d ‘believed’ in them, but the courtesy of illusion and the suspense of disbelief was broken. I catch a bit of it sometimes, but it doesn’t engage me any longer and if any of the drearier characters is on, I switch straight off.
So, while the Sage was at work and I was a housewife at home – this is about 30 years ago – I had the radio on all day more or less and I really enjoyed it. But then he sold his partnership in his full-time auctioneering business and struck out entirely on his own, and then we moved here and we decided that he’d semi-retire and work as much as he needed to for enjoyment and income, but to have a simple lifestyle that didn’t need much of the latter. And I’ll come back to that another day, but stick to the point here, which is the radio.
Because, that almost finished off my radio-listening, except while I was cooking dinner in the evenings, because the Sage was mostly about – which also made me a much less efficient housewife, by the way, but that would also be a digression. Again, it didn’t seem polite to be engrossed in a radio programme (he wasn’t interested in it) when he was with me. In addition, and I wonder if anyone else has noticed this too, people don’t think it matters if they interrupt your listening. So, if I was cooking or ironing or whatever and listening to a programme, and the Sage or maybe my mother (who lived next door by this time) came in, they would start talking straight away – and how is it that this always happens at a crucial point? If the television is on, it is more of a presence in the room and people look to see if it’s a good time to speak, but music or radio is disregarded.
I could carry on about the peculiar things that happen in the name of ‘comedy’ on Radio 4 now, but I’ll only depress us all.