I am a Radio 4 person; I almost certainly spend more time listening to Radio 4 than I do watching television, often now ‘on demand’. Television by its very nature is something that requires at least most of your attention, it’s the visual nature. Radio though is much more pervading and, for me, it has always felt like I am inviting presenters into my home, sharing my space with them while my life happens.
Presenters become an important part of life – you form a bond, a relationship, a friendship with them; you know it isn’t shared but that doesn’t matter, you perhaps spend more time with them that with real family and real friends. Their deaths hit you hard – I still remember the January over 20 years ago when both Brian Redhead (Today) and Brian Johnson (Test Match Special) joined the choir invisible, part of my growing up had disappeared and tears were shed for both.
I love the cornucopia of the spoken word of news, politics, arts and comedy that comes with Radio 4. Of the latter, my favourite is, without any shadow of a doubt, ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ – I can’t claim to have listened since the first episodes in 1972, but have certainly been listening off and, mainly on, since around 1978, when I recall my Dad tuning in to it on a massive ancient ‘wireless’ in our kitchen.
Just hearing the first few notes of ‘Schickel Shamble’ brings a smile – I know I am in for a treat, it is like being with a bunch of old friends – knowing all the in-jokes, understanding the ‘rules’ of Mornington Crescent, the making fun of the host towns, of the panellists and of the pianist Colin Sell’s musical ability, knowing what comes after ‘Hamish, Dougal …’ in ‘Sound Charades’, looking forward to Jeremy Hardy ‘singing’, sniggering at the Samantha-related smutty innuendos, and knowing that closing time will be called in a delightful and bizarre way ….
…and so, as we rapidly approach the bus stop of the Apocalypse, I notice that the Four Horsemen have all come along at the same time…
Like the demise of the two Brians, I shed a tear for ‘Humph’ (Humphrey Littleton, the first ‘host’) when the Goofy hand on his fake Rolex stopped ticking; I feared for the show and its ‘traditions’ but Jack Dee’s droll humour is perfect for ISIHAC and has re-invigorated a certain Mrs Trellis from North Wales. If you have never experienced the delights of ISIHAC, the stage show below (the final recording of ‘Humph’) gives some idea of what it is all about, but to fully appreciate the nuances, though, at least half a lifetime’s listening is required.