Snuggle up with a good radio

30th April 2004 at 01:00
In my kitchen, sitting beside the green jars of tea, coffee and sugar (for visitors only), is a new digital radio. When I went to university in 1978, I bought myself a four-waveband, good quality set to listen to in my digs.

Only after 25 years did it finally develop a fault which meant that it was either too quiet to hear or too loud to use first thing in the morning before the rest of the troops got up. Though I am past the stage of keeping any old bit of rubbish in the belief that there could be something in it I could salvage and use as the basis of an interesting physics lesson, I could not bring myself to chuck out my old ITT.

We did the "life laundry" thing during the Easter holidays. A decade's worth of car magazines went to the charity shop and a loft full of cardboard boxes ended their days in the cowp. I was on the point of putting the old radio in the bin when I relented and placed it in the garage instead, where its volume control vagaries will be less of a problem.

If this sounds like sentimentality then that is because it is. I couldn't simply discard something that had educated and kept me entertained for a quarter of a decade.

More than that, it was a source of solace. There were the times when I was an unmarried, newly qualified teacher when I would lie awake at night going over the humiliations of the previous day in the class.

The BBC World Service was the insomniac's friend in those days. One night stands out. I'd been out on the town with some older colleagues from a school where I taught and where my younger sister was a pupil.

On the way home, someone told me what a rotten time she was having from fellow pupils who were only too keen to tell her what an arse I was making of teaching them. I had, quote, failed to be a bastard.

You are right if you think I've quoted that statement before. It has stayed with me, the fact that teachers were expected to be ruthless and nasty in the good old days. My old radio helped put me to sleep, eventually, the night the comment was made.

My new one helped put the good old days into perspective recently in an unexpected way. The source was the Radio 4 comedy panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

Chairman Humphrey Lyttleton was doing one of his fabulous introductions which included the line ". . . a gentler era when friendly policemen would give young tearaways a playful cuff round the ear . . . (perfectly timed pause) before dragging them screaming off to the gallows."

Those were the days, eh?

Gregor Steele recommends BBC7.

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