Dire emergency situation here this morning, leaving the household shocked, traumatised and probably in need of ‘closure’ or similar psychobabble codswallop. On booting up the laptop before breakfast as usual I got a message telling me that ‘Radio 4 is unavailable at this time’. Horrors. Radio 4 continued to be unavailable, despite attempts to log in from alternative locations and click on the ‘listen again’ options.
Listening again to Clare in the Community (Monday mornings, in case you didn’t know) isn’t quite the same as getting this morning’s Today programme, but it’s better than a Radio 4-less breakfast. Good grief, I might have to talk to my husband. (Though when I think about it this isn’t really an option, since he is permanently buried in some video game and wouldn’t notice if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse rode through the living room.)
Radio 4 is the emigrant’s lifeline. Imagine how isolated you could feel without regular updates regarding the current state of play in the vicinity of German Bight. And where else are you going to get vital information such as how much water a herd of 400 cows drinks or what Alan Billings thinks about prostitution? (Though to be honest I still have no idea what Alan Billings thinks of prostitution because I tend to use Thought For The Day as my cue to get on with the daily chores, but that isn’t the point.)
My only beef with Radio 4 is a) Sunday and b) The Archers. I am at a loss as to why The Archers attracts such a fanatical following. I swear there are old biddies out there who have listened to every single one of its 16,000 episodes. I can’t quite see how you get through so much as five minutes of it before nodding off, though this might be because the theme tune was referred to as ‘the bedtime music’ when we were small enough to be going to bed at seven o’clock, and I still associate it with sleep.
But you underestimate the importance of The Archers to the British radio-listening public at your peril. The BBC itself is well aware of the programme’s pre-eminence in the schedules and will move heaven and earth to keep it where it is. After last month’s general election, when we were all waiting on tenterhooks to find out whether or not the country might possibly have a government of some sort at any point, the powers that be paused their wall-to-wall news coverage just so that The Archers could go out in its regular slot at precisely two minutes past seven. Everything else got shunted around willy nilly – the News Quiz, Front Row, you name it – but The Archers stayed resolutely where it was. This confirms my long-held opinion that the bulk of its audience consists of gaga old trouts unable to cope with the idea that it might be on a bit later than usual. Had David Cameron chosen that moment to announce the abolition of parliamentary democracy and establishment of an anarcho-syndicalist tyranny, no-one would have dared interrupt The Archers to mention it to us.
On the plus side, the programme generally only lasts for 15 minutes at a time, meaning that if you wander off to make a cup of tea and do a spot of ironing there’s likely to be something more interesting on offer when you get back. On Sundays, however, they re-broadcast the whole lot and the bulk of the morning is blighted by a blanket Archer-fest. In fact the only way to get any value out of Radio 4 on Sundays is to get up at six in the morning before they start in on the God-botherers. There’s a brief window of sanity with Broadcast House a bit later on, but then they embark on this marathon hour-plus of rural soap operetta, at which point I lose the will to live and am forced to get out in the fresh air.
But these are minor gripes. On the whole, Radio 4 is a corner of intelligent quirkiness tucked away in a world of inane middle-aged DJs pretending to be teenagers, morons droning on about sport and undereducated children speaking in that bastardised faux-Jamaican pseudo-patios which is so popular at the moment. Innit.
Gosh, is that the time? Have to go, I’m missing Desert Island Discs.