Radio Ga-Ga

If it’s ok with you, I’d like to start this week’s column by quoting a relevant song. “On the radio. Woah-oh-oh-oh, on the radio.” You guessed right - I’m going to talk about radio! (That’s the wireless, for the more autumnal among you, and ‘blank telly’ for the yoof). 

Apart from once choreographing a dance to the Archers theme tune, which I would make my dad perform with me in the kitchen in the gleeful rustic manner I imagined they did it down the Ambridge disco, I never really used to be a radio person. There was a brief phase where Terry Garoghan’s Last Bus To Whitehawk on Southern FM was compulsory listening for everyone in Year 10, but largely, radio was just back-up TV.

You imagined if there was ever a crisis in which all the telly in the country was turned off (as, I don’t know, a punishment from the government or a Dalek invasion), the family might be forced to gather round a radio, acting out the scenes for each other to make sure our eyes didn’t grow bored and stop working. It was quaint, that radio was still A Thing.

But then, as I grew older and began the inevitable and increasingly speedy transformation into my mother, I started to understand radio. It’s like a nice friend. The radio is the busy person’s refuge, and the lonely person’s companion. Unlike telly, it doesn’t demand all of your attention – it’s content just to waffle away in the background. And like a real mate, sometimes it annoys you and sometimes it plays rubbish music, but you still refrain from kicking it in the head.

In fact, there’s something morally noble about the radio (bear with me). The way I see it, it’s less selfish than simply putting your own music on, because you’re being forced to share with the rest of the nation – and thus get to feel smug and self-sacrificing afterwards. “I don’t even like Keane. But what did I do? I listened to it anyway! I’m basically a modern day Joan of Arc.”

Having made you sit through this much, I may as well announce now that I’m a BBC Radio 2 listener. Does that disgust you? Are you still there? I realise in radio terms it’s like saying you’re really into Vienetta, or Amazon gift vouchers. It’s a populist choice. But it has musicals and classic pop and jazz and Chris Evans and Moira Stewart and an organist and GOSH DARNIT, it makes me feel cosy inside.

In fact, we’re a Radio 2 flat – especially since I started turning them all on at once in an effort to ward off the mice. Sometimes I’ll shake things up with a little bit of 6Music, or enjoy a session of late night Magic FM with a silent cab driver – but it’s to R2 that my heart belongs. Even when they play the same Amy MacDonald track every hour for a month. Even when Jo Whiley’s on.

I imagine eventually I’ll start blending in a bit of Radio 4 too, to supplement the quality chat with some worldly knowledge. Besides, it would be nice to crack out that dance routine again.