I’ve stopped buying the Radio Times, as the happy half hour or so ticking everything in the radio listings I fancied listening to just became too frustrating, as there is never enough time to listen to all the good stuff that’s broadcasted weekly - an embarrassment of riches if ever there was one!
My alarm clock is set to Radio 3, and on Sunday morning I leapt up from bed to increase the volume on Gavin Bryars’ marvellous Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me. I first heard this a few years back when I was ironing on a Sunday evening and my son was doing some homework. We looked at each other after a few minutes and said “What is this?”, as the theme endlessly looped, going on for over 25 minutes (the original goes on for 74 minutes). But we were captivated, and still share a love of it. Bryars based the piece on a recording he made of an old tramp, living rough, who sang the hymn for him.
Another long-time Sunday evening ironing-time favourite which featured in Tom’s childhood was Alan Keith’s 100 Best Tunes. Tom would listen from his bedroom upstairs to "that man with the nice voice". Alan Keith carried on until he retired, at 94 years old, and died a couple of weeks after that. I have just discovered, to my amazement, thanks to the internet, that he was the brother of David Kossoff, one of my own childhood favourites. You learn something every day!
One of the things I love about BBC Radio 2 is the way that many presenters carry on into old age, their output still pleasing their listeners - currently including Desmond Carrington’s groovy Friday night The Music Goes Round and Brian Matthews’ Sounds of the Sixties. When I was heavily pregnant in the early 1980s and suffering sleepless nights on the sofa (not wanting to interrupt my husband’s beauty sleep with my endless trips to the loo!) it was the friendly comforting voice of Radio 2 that helped me through, reassuring me I was not alone in the night with the unknown prospect of labour looming.
There’s not enough room here to go into all the glories of Radio 3 and 4, but I particularly value all the documentary content, eg the wonderful From Our Own Correspondent, and am really looking forward to Neil MacGregor’s new series Germany: Memories of a Nation. It’s typical of the kind of programming that American friends envy, and which we should never take for granted. The only station I have never been a fan of is Radio 1, which launched on this day in 1967. Even then I found it too much of a vexation to the spirit, and they didn’t play the kind of cool hippy tunes (think Incredible String Band) we favoured at Hayter Towers!
Harold Nicolson, the husband of Vita Sackville-West, once said that "one of the minor pleasures of life is to be slightly ill". I would add "and to lie in bed all day with cups of tea listening to Radio 4"!