Radio Days

The opening up of the Alistair Cooke archive on the BBC Radio 4 website puts a treasure trove in our ears. My Sunday mornings, as far back as I can remember, involved being shushed so my parents could listen to his Letter from America. Over time, it made me quite a fan of America.

Radio was the only medium during the war and for many years afterwards. I was allowed to stay up on Thursdays to listen to ITMA with the Liverpudlian comedian Tommy Handley and would often try to stay up on Mondays for Ronnie Waldman’s ‘deliberate mistake’ which I never spotted. No late nights were involved with Children’s Hour with the lovable Uncle Mac and, in Glasgow, Auntie Kathleen. I was so smitten I went for an audition and, in 1950, I read a story on Children’s Hour. That led on to another audition in 1953 for the Younger Generation Programme which led on to flying with the Women’s Junior Air Corp (honorary membership) and, in 1955, the chance to interview Françoise Sagan, the teenage author of Bonjour Tristesse. The teenage interviewer was suitably impressed.

Listening ranged widely from The Goon Show to The Archers, going via the Paul Temple adventures and Take it from Here with a teenage (?) June Whitfield. Participation culminated in a drama-documentary about the possible romance between Princess Marthe Bibesco, the Romanian novelist and socialite, and Lord Thomson of Cardington, Ramsay Macdonald’s Secretary of State for Air. It ended with the crash of the airship R101 in 1930. In the programme, Janet Suzman played the Princess.

Nowadays, I start with Today and then switch to Radio 3 for Essential Classics and their daily brain teaser. I was even mentioned for saying I agreed with Herbie Goldberg, the regular teaser solver, although I had no idea myself.

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