When I was about 7, Radio Rentals took my mothers television back. Apparently, they were upset that she hadnt fulfilled the ‘rentals’ part of the bargain. And at this tender age, I was introduced to the longest, most fulfilling, sustained relationship, I will ever have.
Now, it wasnt love at first listen. Radio 4 when you are that age, really isnt that exciting. I did however learn to love the perky theme tune of the Archers, and was very surprised that you could listen to ‘telly’- even plays, game shows, and people being funny-even if I didnt quite get the joke.
The separation from telly, was a shortlived one. While I was intrigued by Radio 4, my mother was definitely an ITV girl. And to be fair, what was she supposed to point the furniture at, if there wasnt a telly? The gas fire?
I was given my first radio cassette player when I was about 12, and while I dutifully listened to Radio 1, and pressed play and record for the entire duration of the Sunday chart(when the tapes were played back, they were quite good, until the top ten, when you would hear nothing but me screaming for absolute quiet, in case I missed something..), I would sneak the dial back to Radio 4, when no friends, sister, or mother, were there to mock me, for preferring the occasionally very dark plays, and the joy that was Woman’s hour.
In my late teens, Radio4 became a ticket to cool- as 6th formers competed to show how grown up they were, and how cerebral they were, in preparation for university. Eschewing the pop of Radio 1, and the grandad cheese of Radio 2, to appear clever and urbane.
But still the television took pride of place, with its paralysing, apathy inducing blend of adverts and terrible drama- with the furniture pointing at it, and its dominance in conversations at work, about what we had done in lieu of having a life. The televisions got bigger, they were on longer, there appeared more and more channels, and the cost of keeping this habit going became more expensive, with a husband happily parting with cash to that icon of virtue and free media, Rupert Murdoch-in return for 24/7 football news, MTV for the kids, and endless repeats of classic american comedies. Any request that the TV be turned off, was met with incredulity-surely it must be something serious if we were to expect the box in the corner to turn black.
As a social worker- trying to get people to turn off their football pitch sized plasma screens(bought from the modern day cross between Radio Rentals and Shylock!), and choose to speak to me about the welfare of their children-was seen as the ultimate in the interfering nanny state. Yeah, take my kids- but god forbid I have to turn off the television.
As I got partway through my marriage, I began to resent the constant intrusion of noise and pictures. The effect on me(if the television was on, I could happily sit and watch absolute shit for hours, because the effort to change the channel, or turn it off was too much), the effect on my family(asking someone to do something to assist in the running of the household- when competing with Malcolm in the Middle-is just unreasonable)- and the fact that I would effectively spend evenings alone in the same room as my husband, while he watched the same match that he had seen every other day of our marriage.(The one with a green pitch, 22 blokes, in various colours of shorts and t-shirts, where the it either ends in a win/lose/draw).
I longed for peace and quiet- and when everyone was out, it would be turned off, and I would wallow in silence. Or switch on Radio4 and welcome back the calm, authoritative voice-which soothes and informs, but doesnt intrude, or prevent you getting on with your day.
When I moved out of our marital h0me- the fact that I hadn’t bought a television was of some concern to people. My stepson worried so much that I couldnt afford one, that he obtained a television for me. I accepted, because when you have a 20 year old being so thoughtful, you do not crush them by telling them you dont want it. The television sat there in the corner, gathering dust, apart from the Hollyoaks Omnibus on a Sunday morning(Cant stand the Archers…need something to stare at). By the time I realised I was paying my license fee to watch merseyside girls wear very few clothes, in in increasingly bizarre storylines, on a Sunday morning- I had had enough.
My relationship with Radio 4 has blossomed into a full blown marriage. From the righteous indignation that starts the day with the Today programme, through to the company offered by my beloved Women’s Hour, to the incomprehensible jargon of the shipping forecast, and the weird, dark, and wonderful plays, which outclass anything seen on television.
We take each other for granted, my spouse and I. I tune in and out, and get on with my life- occasionally paying attention, but mostly just treating it as soothing authoritative background noise. Occasionally, this partner, that I admit I take for granted, surprises me, outrages me, or makes me laugh hysterically. It is still identifiable as the same Radio 4 I was introduced to at 7, and if you looked at the schedule, you would see that aging has not changed it- apart apart from a few minor noticeable laughter lines, andvecoming a bit less rigid, to reflect the society it is in.
While I winced at the grief tourism and death for sale of Jade Goody, and Micheal Jackson, with funerals that should have been covered by OK. When Clement Freud or Alistair Cooke passed away, I nearly shed a tear, and felt there had been a loss.
And so here and now, as I have my radio off for the only time in the week(Archers again)- this is me saying thankyou, and I love you- to my oldest sustained adult relationship. Radio 4, I love you. (Apart from the Archers, and really, there should be enough digital channels now, so that you can stick that somewhere else…we could have Any Questions and Any Answers repeated on a Sunday morning…I might start a facebook group).