(As you probably won’t have noticed, this site, like the rest of my life, is elaborately categorised into two: No Recipe Stuff and Other Stuff. The following definitely belongs in the latter category.)
What do writers do in their spare time?
Based on my own experience, they listen to the radio. And they write – also to the radio (or rather, to its presenters).
BBC 6Music is a wonderful thing. It soundtracks almost all of my work time and much of my non-work time as well. The thought that it came so close to extinction still makes me shudder. In a parallel universe, I might be sitting here listening to Radio 2 right now. Or, more realistically, I’d never listen to the radio at all (except for Test Match Special, obviously).
What’s so good about it? Well, it’s introduced me to a number of superb bands I might never otherwise have come across, such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra and the much-missed Pete and the Pirates. It seamlessly blends the old with the new and the (relatively) mainstream with the utterly obscure.
And its DJs interact brilliantly with their listeners, giving the station’s output a community feel that means it rarely feels like a one-way conversation – even though any radio broadcast (other than the hideousness that is the phone-in) essentially is.
Actually, that last sentence could be more briefly paraphrased as follows: “If they’ve got time, they’ll read out any old guff.”
A recent email clearout caused me to stumble upon some of my contributions that presenters have surprised me by reading out to the nation, or at least the more discerning part of it.
More for my entertainment than yours, here are three of them.
To: The Radcliffe & Maconie Show, 12 February 2013
At this time, Mark Radcliffe was particularly exercised by some of the more ridiculous, sub-Alan Partridge concepts that Channel 5 had commissioned as series or one-off documentaries, including Extreme Fishing with Robson Green and, rather brilliantly, McFly on the Wall.
Fortunately, my fictitious academic background left me ideally placed to provide some additional context. Mark was most grateful for the input of such an “esteemed academic from an august academic institution”.
As a qualified Channel 5-ologist, I’m currently undertaking a major research project to work out the formula used by the channel for creating its never-ending stream of generic fly-on-the-wall docu-dramas.
Most common is the “attack” formula, in which an ostensibly non-threatening animal or household item is used as the subject of a suspense-filled hour-long documentary. Examples include “When Moles Attack”, “When Toothbrushes Attack” and “When Bluebottles Attack”.
Almost as popular is the formula that places common household pets in military or correctional institutions, in such hit shows as “Puppy Prison”, “Hamster Barracks” and “Goldfish Borstal”.
The “rescue” theme is highly popular at present, but is unlikely to last much longer, as Channel 5 is rapidly running out of places or situations for people to be rescued from. Next month’s series of “Climbing Frame Rescue” and “Out Of Town Shopping Centre Rescue” may well be the last ever examples of the genre.
And as you correctly observed, the “uninspiring tranformations” category has recently risen to prominence. As a case in point, next Thursday’s entire schedule is being devoted to a programme called “Breathing Live”, in which members of the public attempt to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide using only their noses, mouths and lungs.
Should my future research uncover any further genres, I’ll be pleased to share them with you.
Professor Tom Wheeler
University of Leith
To: The Gideon Coe Show, 30 October 2012
This email was sent in relation to an upcoming food and drink special on Gideon’s show. A listener had previously suggested Frank Zappa‘s “WPLJ” (White Port and Lemon Juice), but Gideon was doubtful whether it could be aired due to a particularly filthy burst of Spanish language swearing at the end. Despite not speaking any Spanish, I nonetheless took it upon myself to do some research.
Intrigued by your mention last night of the Spanish language profanity in Zappa’s “WPLJ”, I decided to do a spot of research on the subject today, and the combination of a popular online translation tool and some keen lateral thinking has led me to the following conclusions.
1) I agree that you probably should think twice before broadcasting it to the nation, although I’ve a feeling there’s a live version without the fruity Spanish bit.
2) While I don’t speak any Spanish, I’m not convinced that the final line really does translate as “Puncture, alas!”
Anyway, if it doesn’t make the cut for the food and drink special, you could always throw caution to the wind and theme a three hour programme around foreign language profanity in song?
Tommo in Leith
(He didn’t take up my last suggestion. Or at least, he hasn’t yet.)
To: The Marc Riley Show, 1 February 2012
This one is largely self-explanatory. Marc introduced it with the observation that “there’s always one, isn’t there?”, and concluded by saying that he’d checked with the relevant bands, and the second of the three singles did indeed have two backs. So there.
Was listening to yesterday’s show on the old Aye-Player, and I heard you introduce a run of three songs “back to back”.
Now, I don’t want to go all Mike the Pedant [regular Marc Riley correspondent] here, but if you put two songs back to back, it’s logically impossible for the third one to go back to back with either of them, because they’re already back to back with each other, leaving only their fronts exposed.
Unless, of course, one of the songs has two backs rather than a back and a front – like The Man With Two Brains, say, but with backs. But I have to say I find that scenario a bit unlikely.
Therefore the third song would instead have to go front to back with one of the others – or even front to front if you preferred. And thus the songs might be better described as “back to back to front” – though even that would not fully convey the true complexity of the situation.
Anyway I’ll stop there, because it’s not noy-noy Radio 4, is it? Any Phantom Band on the hard drive tonight? [There wasn’t.]
Tommo in Leith