Several ideas for articles to be published here occurred to me last week while I was writing the piece on Pirate Radio. This is the first.
Incidentally when people ask me how I come up with the inspiration for these items (and I’m sure they will someday!) – THAT’S HOW! As long as you make notes (which I do) or have a perfect memory (which I don’t) there is always a list of potential subjects or ideas to be tapped into. At this precise moment there are exactly twenty items on my list of things that I MIGHT write about one day. That’s not counting this one!
In the course of the Pirate article I mentioned the arrival, on Christmas Day 1963, of my very own personal transistor radio. What I did not mention, however, was that at the moment I plugged in the 9 volt PP3 battery and switched it on I DOUBLED the number of working radio receivers in the house!
Yes, it’s hard to believe in this day and age but before the little Benkson arrived the only way I could have listened to the feeble few minutes per day of pop music offered by the dear old Beeb was to fire up the mains-powered monster in the corner of the Dining Room and wait for the thermionic valves to warm up before tuning into a station became possible. This took probably only about two or three minutes but it seemed like an AGE!
I do not know how old it was when I first became aware of it but it certainly wasn’t new – I suspect my parents acquired it when they got married in 1950. In size and shape it occupied roughly the same amount of room as a seventeen inch Cathode Ray Tube computer monitor and the casing was made of Bakelite (that’s an old fashioned type of hard, brittle plastic, kiddies!) in a fetching shade of dark brown.
Aside from my futile efforts to tune into the early works of The Beatles and other classic ‘60s bands, the valve radio’s main raison d’être was to enable my father to listen to the Today programme on the BBC Home Service (now Radio 4) featuring the enormously popular political commentator, Jack de Manio, while he (Dad, not Jack de Manio!) ate his breakfast.
The radio had either suffered a valve-loosening knock in our house move in January 1964 or the signal strength was less at the new house. Either way, its location in the new place was chosen so that whenever the signal began to fade away (rather like Radio Luxembourg in the evening) Dad could deliver a swift, powerful thump to the top of the casing thus causing Mr de Manio’s mellow tones to fade right back in again!
Until, that is, the day in the late 1960s when the signal faded once too often during the same breakfast. The thump that Dad administered on that occasion was worthy of a Karate Black belt and he put his fist right through the Bakelite, cracking the case in two places. I think I got quite a telling –off for finding this utterly hilarious but no lasting harm was done. Dad’s hand was undamaged and the casing of the radio was restored to almost its former glory with the aid of a tube of Bostik. He DID have to find another way of hitting it to make the signal come back but found that a two-handed slap to the sides of the case achieved the desired result.
Fascinating though all of that personal domestic history is, let’s get back to the numerical significance of my “trannie”! I’m sure that the numbers went up again when my sister was given a similar device a while later but that’s still only three in a four person household.
I have done a count of the radios in my house at present. I am assuming, for this purpose, that Charity, my youngest took all of hers with her when she decamped for Carlisle about a month ago but it IS possible that some remain in her cupboards or boxes in the garage which could increase the total by three or four.
Leaving out, also, the radios in the three cars that currently occupy the drive outside the house, the total comes to……..(pause for long drum roll!)
Impossible? Not really – I’m sure that is perfectly reasonable given certain assumptions:
1. No-one tends to throw away a radio unless it has actually broken.
2. Over one-third (eleven) of the items were counted as radio receivers (because they CAN perform that function) but have other main uses. I count here 3 mobile phones, 2 MP3 players, 5 computers and the Virgin (ex-NTL) cable TV service.
3. There are all the various “novelty” items that get picked up over the years – credit card sized radios, special waterproof ones for use in the shower, that sort of thing. I even have a fishing hat with an FM radio built in!
Even now I’ve got a strange feeling I’ve missed some!
How many have YOU got?
PS. While writing the above you will be pleased to know that two more headings were added to my subject list. I’m afraid I won’t be going away any time soon!