A Different View

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.

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Discovering Shortwave

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.

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Trying Again

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.

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Approaching Christmas

So, only six days left until the big day.  I hope that you are all set.  I think I am, as much as I can be.  Christmas for more was always a time to scan through the Radio Times to see what was being offered on the radio over the festive season.  Of course back in the seventies we did not have the choice that there is today.  Indeed, if you were a lover of pop music all you had was Radio 1, Radio North Sea and Radio Luxemburg and the few commecial stations that were starting to appear around the country.  But, I spotted a little piece in this week’s edition of the Christmas Radio Times that made me remember that back then when television held little interest for me, the radio produced some very entertaining material.  Of course there were always the Christmas specials for popular shows like The Navy Lark and then there were classics dragged out like Hancock’s Half Hour.  But, as a teen, and a music lover I was looking for festive goodies that I would be keen to listen to.
     One of the short lived Christmas joys were the similcast Christmas Concerts on Radio 1 and BBC1.  I can only remember two, Elton John and Queen but, I am sure there were more.  Elton’s was the first one.  I had to argue long and hard to get my mum and dad to let me watch it and listen to it on the stereo radiogram that we had.  But, it was worth it.  Obviously the festive season brought the introduction of the Christmas singles.  Many of which are still pulled into the playlists even today.  I know that even I have loaded a fair few of these into my computer’s playlist for the next couple of weeks so that I can have a backdrop of festive tunes as I go about writing my cards and getting ready for the big day. 
     But, on the Eve of the big day, a twiddle round the dial found all mannor of festive things.  From the traditional, Carols From Kings, to the Radio 1 Christmas Party and Capital Radio’s ‘Nothing But A Houseparty which in those days was the fore runner of the much cursed automation which so many stations rely on so much today.  But, in South London, for me, the best part of Christmas was thestart up of some of the regular Sunday pirates that came on air for the Christmas period.  Radio Jackie of course was first and by far the most consistant.  Followed closely by Radio Kalidescope.  I can well remember getting back from midnight mass, having a drink with me mum and then running upstairs to get the radio out to scan the medium wave to see what I could find.  Then it was a case of how long I could stay awake.  Usually not long.  But then they were there all over Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  An alternative to Radio 1, and Capital Radio.
    I hope you manage to find something good to treat your ears to over Christmas.  There is so much choice now, it should not be that hard.  But, for me Christmas starst with the Carols from Kings on Radio 4 at 1500 GMT on Christmas Eve.  I believe it is on BBC World Service as well.  www.bbc.co.uk/radio4
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Settling In

It is Mothering Sunday; well that is what it used to be called until somehow it was changed to Mother’s Day.  And I hope that all mums had a great day.  Sadly mine passed on in April 1981.  I was with her until the end at the Hospice in South West London where she had chosen to spend her last few weeks.  She slipped away peacefully, as her sister, my Aunt Mary, poured Holy Water over her head and prayed for her.  It is also sad that today I am typing this after hearing the news that reality star Jade Goody has now lost her battle for life.  She slipped away in her sleep at around 0315 GMT.  I hope she is now at peace and I wish her husband Jack, and her children well for the future.  It cannot have been easy for them all, being in the media spotlight.  Now, maybe they can be left to grieve and continue with their lives.


Last week I mentioned how my radio was my trusted friend at school.  Indeed, at times, it felt as if it was my only friend.  I first went to St. Vincent’s School for the Blind in Liverpool in September 1970.  I did not settle well.  I was ten, and it was my first time living away from my parents.  I have to be brutally honest and say the first half term was hell.  I was forever in trouble because I would not conform to the new order that was a Catholic boarding school.  But I also want it to be known that my time there did get better, and I was happy and I did eventually enjoy it.  Without the education and support that I got from the Nuns and teacher and childcare staff there, I do not think I would have been able to have been employed by British Rail for 18 years.


I could nearly always be found with my radio at any time when I was not doing school work or other chores that were required of me.  Saturday mornings, after dusting, polishing and hovering the dormitory I would either be outside on a bench or in some corner of the play room with my radio listening to either Radio 1 or Manx Radio, which ever was playing the better music.  But I will always remember the mad dash after dinner during the week to get the radio out so that I could hear Johnnie Walker and Pop The Question, or, on a Tuesday the chart rundown and the brand new number one.  Yes, in those days, the new chart was announced at lunchtime on a Tuesday.  There were in those days two main charts, the official one, which the BBC carried, and the Luxembourg Chart which was announced each Tuesday evening on the Peter Stiverson Chart Show at 2130, usually hosted by Paul Burnett.  Of course, as commercial radio developed in the UK a number other local charts came along and so the Luxy chart lost its appeal, especially as it was on a station that faded in and out so listening was trying, to say the least.  But it was not just music on radio that captured my attention in those days.  No, I was more than happy to tune in to some of the English programmes from international broadcasters. 


My favourite, and the one I listened to most when at school, was Radio Sweden.  It may be because it did have a strong steady signal.  Or it could have been the excellent feature programmes.  But I will always remember DX jukebox which aired on a Tuesday and The Saturday Show.  This programme was broadcast on Saturday evening, but, on medium wave was a two hour programme of good Swedish rock and pop music and little sketches presented by two English guys, Roger Wallace and Kim Lochlan.  It was through this show I found my first pen friends, a girl from Belgium and one from East Germany.  I had always liked letter writing, and this gave me the excuse to write some more.  Sadly the girl from East Germany stopped writing after a couple of months but the girl from Belgium, Bea, well we were in contact for well over three years.


Anyway, that is all for this time.  Remember, if you want to comment you can by sending an email to briwinter@hotmail.co.uk.  Thanks for reading and until next week, have fun.

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My Trusted Friend

That is another week gone.  Finally got all the paperwork sorted following the split from my partner so now I hopefully can pick myself up, and move on, all be it £50K lighter.  Still, I have got my house so that is one thing.  The have been lots of silly things in the news this week.  Lots of serious stuff too.   Raising the price of each unit of alcohol and the continuing woes of the banking industry.  Sort of all a bit beyond me.


If there has been one thing that has happened over the past six months it is that I have once again started listening to the radio more. Nothing too heavy, the odd play on Radio 4, and plenty of tunes from Magic 1170 on Teesside. It just reminds me that radio today is so different from that which I enjoyed so much as a teenager at school in Liverpool. My trusty little Woolworth’s Vesta V70 my constant companion during breaks from school lessons during the day, and my bedtime friend overnight.  In those days I suppose I was a little bit on the serious side being a regular listener to programmes like Today, The World At One and PM along with The World Tonight.  Of course, there was no where near as much choice back then, as there is now.  You had the four national networks, and if you lived in an area that had one, you had a BBC local, until 1973, on VHF only.  At least where I was, the were the National variations on Radio 4, for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which sometimes produced some good radio listening.  Radio Eireann  also had some great shows, like their top twenty show on a Saturday morning and of course their coverage of the Gaelic sports.  But at night, the medium wave came alive with other more interesting gems. Yes, Radio Luxembourg came booming, and fading in.  The only real source of pop music after Radio 1 joined Radio 2 at about 7 pm. However, there were other delights, Radio Northsea International was one.  They had a100 Kilowatt transmitter, on a boat somewhere off the Dutch coast. Reception was not brilliant on 220 metres but it was an alternative to Luxy.  It was later in 1973 joined by a weak Radio Caroline and in 1974 Radio Atlantis, which was even weaker. But there were also a number of International broadcasters that both entertained and informed listeners. Deutsche Wella, Radio Sweden and Radio Moscow to name but a few.  I always found Radio Tirana an interesting listen, if only for the politically polarised way that they reported news stories.  The IRA were freedom fighters, the British Coal Miners were oppressed workers of the British State. You know what I mean.  But, it was listening to radio that gave me the background to the news that I saw on television and talked about in our English and Geography lessons. It was also all that listening that made me really want to get into radio and be on the other side of the microphone. Oh I could go on.


That is it for this week though. Suppose I better cut the lawn. If you have a comment or you have radio memories, email me, briwinter@hotmail.co.uk.

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School Listening

So, I am back again.  Christmas and New Year but a distant memory now as we are into the second week of March.  All the Irish racing lovers now gearing up for the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival that begins on Tuesday.  I love watching racing on the television.  Not that I know much about it.  I would not know one end of a horse from another. 


I mentioned in my first post that I went to school in Liverpool.  A fine city.  Two great Cathedrals and two fine soccer teams as well.  I supported neither, but that did not stop me enjoying watching either of them play if they were featured on the television.  I was also fortunate enough to go to the Liverpool training ground.  That was arranged by one of our teachers who was a keen fan and obviously had some contacts with the club.  But being in Liverpool also gave me some interesting radio listening with my trusty Wollies transistor radio that I got back in 1970.  Obviously I could hear the four national stations.  I was also able to hear Manx Radio from the Isle of Man and Radio Eireann, as it was known in those days.  But in September 1973, just before the opening of commercial radio in London, the BBC started putting its local radio stations onto medium wave.  By the spring of 1974, Manchester, Merseyside, Stoke and Blackburn could all be picked up by my little radio in Liverpool.  Obviously Merseyside, being based in Liverpool boomed through loud and clear, but during the daytime, Blackburn was not far behind.  To listen to Manchester and Stoke, I had to side next to a radiator or near the TV aerial wire to improve the signal.  In April of 1974 Piccadilly Radio hit the airwaves on 261 metres and thankfully, that had a better signal than BBC Manchester so I could listen to that anywhere in the school.


Oh, they were such lovely times.  Yes, I was away from home and I missed my parents, and my brother, but, I had my radio for company so it broke up the boredom outside of school hours.  Unfortunately, it sometimes got me into trouble.  This was often the case after lights out as I would listen late into the night and sometimes one of the staff on duty would hear it, and have to come and tell me to turn it off. 


Well, that is it for today.  I am getting organised so I really am hoping my updates will be more frequent now.  And, I am going to look into trying to make my blog look more appealing.  Oh before I forget, thanks to Stuart Ashby for your comment.  I am only sorry that with all the stress of my relationship break up, and all the stuff associated with it, that I have not noticed it till today.  Please email me at briwinter@hotmail.co.uk

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