I have to say, I love radio. I think, with some soul-searching, I actually prefer radio to television. I realise this is an enormous cliché, but I genuinely feel that the pictures are much better on radio. And, the weird thing is, given just how important music is to me (always) I don’t really like music radio. The sort of radio programming that appeals to me most is the wonderful, human, enticing spoken word.
Many years ago I fell in love with BBC Radio 4, the ultimate in informative, enquiring and thought-provoking radio. And I’m delighted to say that it has a little brother in New Zealand, National, which I spent a lot of time listening to when I was there. Some time ago Radio 4 became a bit intense though, just as the wonderful BBC decided to launch a rolling news and sport radio station called Radio 5. I switched to Radio 5. After that, 5 rebranded as BBC Radio 5 Live, and that is the station I listen to day and night, in the car, in bed, in the morning and in the bath.
Five live is broadcast on medium wave, and I like that. I like the crackles, the slightly off-station fuzziness and the fact that it kicks against modern trends just a little.
But, about a week or so ago disaster struck. Suddenly my medium wave signal consisted of only a dull, continuous, impenetrable interference. In my head it was dark brown in colour. (As yet, I can’t decide whether this is part of a much bigger and more serious issue still to be sorted which happened at more or less the same time and which has seen my broadband keep crashing, or if it works at all, it does so at a slug’s pace.)
I tried retuning my radio, and generally fiddling about, but it made no difference. It was still fine in my car, but every radio in the house was affected in the same way. In desperation I switched to FM and found BBC Somerset.
I listened to Somerset’s own radio station for a couple of days, but it was dire and showed no signs of improving. I’m sure it’s not the case with everyone; I’m sure there are people who love it, but to me, it seemed the most pointless waste of time and effort. BBC Somerset is unedifying, uninteresting and excruciating.
Again, in desperation, I came to the realisation that this couldn’t go on. Something had to be done. I love Somerset, but its BBC radio output was rapidly doing my head in. I made a drastic decision. One day last week, Thursday I think it was, I made a detour on my way home from work and bought a DAB radio.
I work in a very digital world, there are moves afoot to even include the word ‘digital’ in my job title. But I have to admit, here and now, that I’m not a particular fan of digital broadcasting. Perhaps it’s because I have little affection for television at all, but when we had the digital switchover here, I was reluctant, felt slightly persecuted and didn’t like the idea. Presented with a situation that meant it was going to happen whether I stayed up to my thighs in mud or not, I bought the set-top box and put up with stuff. Of course, it’s given me access to a few more interesting things, but on the whole it’s given me access to a hell of a lot more crap to wade through.
I haven’t fiddled with the tuning on my new DAB radio. I just found Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra, Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Sports Extra and then stopped pushing the buttons altogether. I know when I’m happy, I know when I’ve got enough to be going on with and I know when I’m beaten.
Now, I suppose I should turn my attention to what’s causing problems with my broadband. I just hope it wasn’t my router that zapped my medium wave. I hope it wasn’t my medium wave zapping my router, I don’t think it’s the router itself, but I don’t know whether it’s the phone line either. I hate this stuff.
Dab, dab, dab
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