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.