This morning I listened to about 50 minutes of UCB breakfast. In itself that’s a revelation- it’s very rare to find anything other than Radio 4 on in Batty Towers. For years my morning routine has been governed by the timings on the Today programme: need to be in the shower before the sports news, leave the flat at Thought for the Day, etc (There is a direct correlation betweenme running for a train and Giles Fraser doing the God slot because I will stop and listen to him).
Business news is important, it’s good to know if any of my firm’s clients have featured and I work in the City so this kind of thing is relevant. And I want to know what politicians and leaders are saying without the interference of a newspaper’s editorial stance.
So you get the picture. Die-hard speech radio, cynical about mass Christian culture and triviality.
But, in the last few weeks I have realised I have become quite resistant to trying new things or changing my curmudgeonly routine, so after a bit of Twitter teasing I took the bait and tuned in. Problem #1: no sound on iPhone app for DAB so am restricted to listening via the TV. I rent a 2-bedroom flat and there are five radios…
First impression was not good. Discussions from listeners were on the topic of what their husbands say when they’re out shopping together – are men honest when they’re asked how the women look? Wrong for me on many levels- a bit stereotypical; a bit body image focused; a bit trivial and all about material consumption. Plus who are these women that take their husbands shopping and don’t trust their own opinion? As far as I am concerned, the correct answer to ‘does this skirt make my bum look big?’ is actually ‘yes, because you have a big bum.’ Anyway, I digress. It was pointed out that things on R4 (lots of items about babies alienate me too). Other chat and encouragement about school exams was less annoying. It reminded me what other people are facing outside my world.
The music wasn’t dreadful either – only one song I did know, two I quite liked (I know, I was surprised too) and the rest blurred into amenable listening. Interspersed with the music and chat were bits of bible reading and comment, one of which did make me stop what I was doing and sit down to listen.
What I missed was proper news. A few headlines don’t tell me much. I’m still cross about Radio 4 giving me an interview with Simon Cowell this week in airtime that could have been used to tell me about the situation in South Sudan, so they’re not perfect. But at least I know about the Sudanese secession. Or that having scrapped Sure Start, the government will be teaching parenting via text message – that is the kind of thing that gets me shouting at the radio. Or that Spanish banks have had their credit ratings downgraded. Yes. That is important. Santander is on our high street and infrastructure in the UK is owned by Spanish companies.
How do we live effectively in this world if we do not understand how it works? What our leaders say, or try to hide? What consequences their decisions have? How we affect other people by our choices and actions?
Yes, marriage, family and exam stress are important things. But they’re small, local concerns. It strikes me as inward-looking: my family, not my community. I fear for a world where people are cocooned from the crap that’s going on, safe in their cosy nests of certainty, consumerism and unchallenging, triumphalist Christian music. Yes, I think the show was cheerful, the music uplifting and OK, the scripture useful. I am prepared to concede that one in the face of my usual cynicism. Yet the cosiness of this kind of radio is at the expense of wider engagement. I think I prefer to start my day shouting at the radio because it gives me a sense of injustice, of unfairness, of needing to know more and do more to be effective light and love in the world.