Sorry, I am late with this update to the blog. No real excuses here, I simply was not in the mood on Sunday. It has been so wet and wild and windy that I could not concentrate. The wather can do a lot to your mood and I am always happiest with a sunny day and a clear blue sky. Never bothered how cold it is, as long as I can see the sun. I remember at school, sitting in our classroom which got the sun in the morning, peering out across the frost covered fields and thinking how wonderful it was.
Last time I told you how a six days spell in bed with flu brought me into contact with shortwave radio for the first time. In July 1972, when Argos opened in Croydon, I bought my very own radio that had shortwave. I think, looking back, I did not really appreciate how influential shortwave broadcasts were. Not just to those who were away from home, but in countries where freedom of expression and media were not available.
Radio Tirana sticks in my mind. Who can forget that haunting set of notes played on a trumpet at the beginning of each broadcast. Again, at the time, I was probably too young to understand the significance of it but Radio Tirana had a very narrow and by today’s standards, warped outlook on life and the way it reported events. For example, the dreadful events of “Bloody Sunday” were reported as the British occupying forces killing innocent civilians supporting the Irish Freedom Fighters of the IRA. They also refered to Londonderry as an Irish city, forgetting the fact that it is in Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. But, for me, that was the sheer beauty of shortwave. You could hear how other countries viewed the world.
Today, with Internet, satellite and instant 24 hour rolling news, we tend to forget that back in the seventies, sometimes shortwave was the only way to get hold of independent and impartial information on the news. This was especially so for those in countries that were then behind the “Iron Curtain”. Oh how things have changed.
The last week seems to have gone by really quickly. I do not know whether it was because I have been out on a few days or whether I have been busier, in any case, for whatever reason; last Sunday only seems like a few days ago. On Saturday, 29th January I celebrated my 52nd birthday. I got four cards and a fair few ‘Happy Birthday’ messages on my Facebook wall.
I am sure you know how it is, another birthday comes, and you get thinking of times in the past. Well, a strange anniversary, but it was 40 years ago, when at boarding school in Liverpool that I went down with a really bad attack of the flu. I was in bed for 6 days. My House Mother, Sister Bridget was not the most sympathetic of people but for some reason she took pity on me and lent me her rather large radio to listen to during the daytime. I was actually supposed to listen to the schools programmes on Radio 4 but soon discovered that the set had shortwave.
This was not long after I had got my own little radio at home. But I had never listened to shortwave before. I extended the set’s long whip aerial and started slowly to tune from one end of the dial to the other stopping at anything that had pop music on it, or was in English. In those six days I discovered the stiff sound of BBC World Services. The ideological monologues of Radio Berlin and Radio Tirana. Along with the interesting sounds of Swiss Radio International and Radio Netherlands. There was also Voice of America with its news in ‘special English’ whatever that was meant to be. Those brief encounters made me want to save up and by a radio that would let me listen in on the world. Of course, shortwave had other curious delights, Morse code stations, which, as I did not know Morse meant little too me even if it was interesting to hear the clear message, and then the faint reply. There were other strange sounds, voices that were unintelligible or the noises that I was later to learn were jamming signals being used by the USSR and East Germany to stop Western stations from being heard
In July 1972, I bought an Ecko 324 De Luxe and had my very own shortwave radio. When I told my Science teacher of my love of shortwave, he told me all about his communications receiver with its fine tuning, tuneable antenna and all manner of other things to make receiving easier, and more fun. Of course today, with Satellite and the Internet shortwave is dying out as a medium for listening to broadcast radio. It is a shame, because for me it had a kind of mystical magic. The thought of radio waves coming from far off transmitters and bouncing up and down off the earth made it all the more fun and magical.
I have let another long period lapse between this and my previous post. I did not mean to but things just got in the way. Now, that may sound as if I am making excuses but honestly that is not the case. First, I could not find where my previous blogs were as Windows Live was migrating users to WordPress and I had also forgotten my Windows Live login information, which got things of to a bad start. When I did get sorted, I forgot to save the WordPress front or home page into my browser favourites and as a result lost where I was, again.
I am not really that good at online stuff, but frustratingly for me, I do enjoy writing. Well, when I was at school my English teacher seemed to be happy with most of the stuff I presented to her. Thank you Mrs. Molyneux you taught me so much. Now, I feel that I want to share with you my thoughts and some of my memories but getting to grips with online services such as WordPress is not as easy as it may seem. Not least because sometimes locating the links and buttons can be quite a challenge if, like me you have poor eyesight. I just hope that I get my head round this soon.
Anyway, I really am going to make sure I come back next Sunday and add to this blog.