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By Ashleylister @ashleylister
The pictures are better on the radio. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s based on, what to me and millions of others, is a reality. I can immerse myself in the sound and my brain creates an image that is my version of a story, news, documentary, sport, music. Anything you like.I have a mental image of, for instance, radio presenters that I have listened to for years and have no idea of what they look like – and don’t want to know. When I listen to Test Match Special I know exactly what Simon Mann and Alison Mitchell are like and I’ve never seen them.Radio sets me free. I don’t have to sit in one spot for an hour or more. I can be walking, cooking, ironing, painting, tidying or whatever while my mind is totally engaged on Desert Island Discs or the match at St Andrews. I am, of course, lying about me ironing.


Mullard MA247 (courtesy of LeFevre)

I’m free to make my own mind up about characters in a play or series. I bet my idea of Miss Marple is vastly different to what you and anybody else thinks. Who would deny that the radio version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is vastly superior to the tv version.I remember the thrill of first finding the pan-galactic encyclopedia late at night back in around 1979. I don’t remember what I was doing but whatever it was I stopped doing it immediately as the galaxy of Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent engulfed me. I can’t remember reactions like that happening in front of a television.By the by, there was a letter to the BBC from a listener who thought that ‘as a source of information it is misleading’.That listener was, in fact, from another country which leads me onto how radio is a universal ( well, worldwide ) medium. I’m just old enough to remember turning the dial of my radio trying to get coverage of the Ashes from down under. But things have changed over the last few years as digital radio enables coverage of stations from all around the world in crystal clear sound.There is an amazing website called Radio Garden in which your screen can be filled with an image of Earth with thousands of green dots on it. Each dot is a radio station and when you click on a dot you can listen to that station wherever it is in the world. There are no borders or boundaries. Each dot also includes choices of various radio stations in that city or area. It does feel a bit like the old turning of a dial.


Radio Garden website

Another aspect of getting your information from the radio rather than tv is that people being interviewed are more relaxed and forthcoming about what is happening to them. There is a difference between a single reporter with a tiny recording device that is discreet and the same reporter with a camera crew. It could be a matter of life and death.And talking of camera crews is there anything more annoying than a documentary about, for instance, Oliver Cromwell in which behind the presenter there are a couple of actors galumphing about trying to look like the New Model Army. Just give me the sound of Melvyn Bragg and guests on In Our Time.I have the same feeling when staying at hotels and over breakfast there is a tv with the morning news. Presented from a sofa. I remember being gobsmacked once when some bloke with a sheath of papers in his hand was sort of leaning backwards interviewing a Professor on a screen behind him about something very serious. It just made me laugh. Leave it to the Radio.I don’t often have the opportunity to reproduce this poem;
Pressing On
in space
radio waves
have the speed of light
by nine a.m.
on the 6th October 2008
electromagnetic waves
at a frequency of 103.2 Megahertz
generated by current
oscillating in a circuit
modulated by Sylvia Hills
slipped their way
through the rings of Saturn
by midday
we can’t be precise
due to the initial effect
of the earth’s atmosphere
on the speed of sound
the planet Neptune
could tune to Preston fm
there are no listening figures
as yet
so ignoring Pluto
and who doesn’t
that’s it, we here,
past the planets
6 trillion miles
a light year
we’re in the Oort Cloud
the edge of the Solar System
new listeners are on a planet
orbiting Proxima Centauri
just proxima enough
at 25 trillion miles,
give or take,
to first hear Sylvia
while we’re broadcasting
the next Preston Guild
(first published in Acumen, 21st May 2010) 
Terry Quinn
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