How Long is the Night?

How long is the night? Anyone who has done shift work will know the night is very long when you are night duty and very short when you have to get up for early shift. Depending on your circumstances, late shift may provide a blissful interlude. In a previous incarnation, when we lived by Heathrow Airport, I would wake up after a late shift when Concorde took off at 11 am. I did not always get a lie in; in a house of several shift workers a shrill alarm would go off at the other end of the house, waking us up, but not our son. Cyberspouse would say ‘Just leave him, it’s up to him to get up.’ He never did, the alarm would penetrate our brains and one of us would always end up going to rouse him, perhaps a common scene in lots of homes. One morning my friend wondered why she couldn’t wake her son up, until her daughter reported that he had only arrived home ten minutes before.

Whether you have a clock radio that wakes you up for work with Farming Today or you are an insomniac trying to get back to sleep by listening to Farming Today at 5.45am, the radio is there to see many of us through the night. I have never had a television in the bedroom, but as television is renowned for sending people to sleep, I can understand why insomniacs find themselves keeping up with the adventures of an Australian vet in the middle of the night. Or perhaps you prefer Escape to the Chateau or Britain’s Fattest People when you can’t get back to sleep.

But it’s radio that does its best to soothe us to sleep. On BBC Radio 3 you can listen to Night Tracks, usually relaxing, followed by Through the Night, basically back to back concerts till 6.30 am when a new day starts. Let’s tune in to another station. BBC Radio 4 knows exactly how long the night is – four and a half hours. Today in Parliament at 11.30pm should surely send you to sleep. Midnight, more news, perhaps not, but at 12.30 am it’s Book of the Week, a nice bedtime story. In my recent blog ‘On The Radio’, Ellen commented that she would like to know the fascination with the shipping forecast.

Whitby

At 12.48am the shipping forecast comes on, preceded by the soothing / dreary tune Sailing By, which is not to send those of us tucked up in bed to sleep, but to alert mariners to be tuned in. The shipping forecast is produced by the Met Office and broadcast four times a day on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The waters around the British Isles are divided into 31 sea areas. Of interest to writers – the forecast has a limit of 350 words, except for the 0048 broadcast, which has a 380 word limit. The unique style attracts many who have no intention of putting even a foot in the sea. It is just fascinating to listen to, even though, or perhaps because we have no idea what most of it means. We like to imagine far flung mysterious islands and wave swept rocky headlands.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, BBC’s Zeb Soames was asked to read the shipping forecast to a worldwide audience of over a billion. Soanes says: “To the non-nautical, it is a nightly litany of the sea… It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past. Whilst the listener is safely tucked-up in their bed, they can imagine small fishing-boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170ft waves crashing against Rockall.”

There are warnings of gales in Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, and Fair Isle …   Humber, Thames. Southeast veering southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Thundery showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

There are weather reports from automatic weather logging stations, such as “Channel Light Vessel Automatic”; these are the coastal weather stations. More familiar sounding to those on land is the inshore waters forecast that rounds off the broadcast. The inshore coastal areas of the United Kingdom are 15 fixed stretches of coastline used in weather forecasting especially for wind-powered or small coastal craft. Each area is mentioned in the same order, clockwise round the mainland starting and finishing in the north west of Britain. You can follow places you have been on holiday or that lighthouse you visited.   North Foreland to Selsey Bill, Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis. When you hear  Adnamurchan Point to Cape Wrath including the Outer Hebrides, you know you’re back  to the beginning,  with a quick trip further north to the Shetland Isles…

If you are still awake the National Anthem is now played and BBC Radio 4 closes down for the night, but you will not be left alone, BBC World Service takes over, with all sorts of interesting programmes until 5.20 am when it’s the shipping forecast again. At 5.30 am Radio 4 is back with News Briefing and Prayer for the Day.

Many radio stations all over the world broadcast through the night; if you tune in what are your favourite stations?

On The Radio

What can any blogger write that doesn’t involve mentioning Covid, Brexit, The White House or the fact that a new year has started? Let us retreat to where most of us are at the moment, home. Home comforts, or what I now call Covid Comforts are keeping us going. If you are reading this it is unlikely you are in a refugee camp, an intensive care unit or a war zone; for that we should be grateful. If you look around your home I wonder how many modern wonders provide your life support system? The internet obviously, books, television, central heating, on line shopping, computer games. Before any of those was The Word, okay so radio came quite a while after the beginning of the Old Testament, but the first modern invention in my life was the radio, long before I could read, even before I could walk or talk music was seeping into my bones thanks to the BBC. Before I was born my parents were listening to programmes that are still being broadcast; The Archers, Desert Island Discs and Woman’s Hour.

Woman’s Hour has just had its seventy fifth birthday and received a letter from The Queen. When Dame Jenni Murray ( a national institution ) announced she was leaving after thirty three years, followed soon after by a similar announcement by Jane Garvey, who has been with the programme for thirteen years, my immediate thoughts were You can’t do this, not in the middle of a pandemic and my mother and husband have just died… As I have been listening at least since our first baby was born forty one years ago, there have been other favourite presenters, the programme will survive.  The modern mother can listen on her iPhone while breastfeeding in the dark watches of the night. Many men also listen and people of all ages can hear the programme in the car or when out jogging. Very different from the early days when it was broadcast at 2pm and mothers were presumed to be sitting down for a rest after lunch while their babies were having their nap. There is fun, but there are dark topics. I imagine there is no controversial issue that has not been covered on the programme, Woman’s Hour is where we first heard about FMG. The final quarter of the hour is a serial, there is always something for everyone.

Woman’s Hour: The Queen sends ‘best wishes’ to show on its 75th year – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55527576

In that 2020 strange sunny spring and summer of isolation, Cyberspouse listened to Woman’s Hour every morning over our leisurely breakfasts in the sun lounge. BBC Radio Four in the mornings is packed with interesting programmes and three different serials. Thanks to Amazon I bought two more digital radios to add to our collection.

There is much more to say about radio; such as why are we fascinated by the shipping forecast… but that’s for another blog. For now here is something cheery, one of my early memories that I just heard on the radio. Light music is what we all need at the moment and there have been memorable tunes composed on both sides of the Atlantic. This is one for writers by Leroy Anderson, though I don’t think he could have written a piece about computers…

The Typewriter Leroy Anderson Martin Breinschmid with Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=g2LJ1i7222c

What are your Covid Comforts? Do you have favourite radio presenters and programmes?

Advent Calendar – Sunday Twentieth of December

Today peep through the window to a traditional Christmas scene, carols from King’s College Cambridge. The choir are singing ‘The Angle Gabriel’ and you can see what happens to sweet little choir boys when they grow up in the second YouTube video.

The Angel Gabriel : Kings College, Cambridge – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pliqObTHxUQ&feature=emb_logo

You can listen to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast live at 3pm on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve, as it has been since 1928. Patrick Magee, the senior chorister, wrote casually of this first broadcast in his journal “Christmas Eve. Practice 10-12.45. Go out to dinner with Mum and Dad. Carol service broadcasted. Comes off well. I read a lessons and sing a solo in ‘Lullay’.” You can watch the carols later on BBC 2 at 5.30pm. This Covid year the choir will be socially distanced and there will be no congregation, I wonder how different that will look and sound?

Carols From King’s: How a tradition was made (theartsdesk.com)https://www.theartsdesk.com/books-classical-music/carols-kings-how-tradition-was-made

THE KING’S SINGERS The angel Gabriel – Basilica S.Nicolò di Lecco 2 dicembre 2019 – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdHcNkSe5W4

Locked Down or Locked In?

Like Japanese soldiers found hiding on remote Pacific islands decades after the Second World War, unaware the hostilities had ended, I fear I may emerge from isolation months in the future to discover everyone else has been out and about, holidaying and having fun. Scenes on the news of crowded beaches and beauty spots and anti racism protests, leave many of us wondering if we have missed a miraculous and sudden end to the pandemic.

One of my earliest memories is looking out of our upstairs window at sunshine and blue skies and feeling shut in. Until I was nearly seven, by which time my parents had a toddler and baby to cope with as well, Mum and Dad rented what they called a flat, but was really the spacious two top floors of a large Victorian terraced house. A quick glance on Zoopla reveals you would pay over a million and a quarter for such a house in that road today. But Mum had to lean out the kitchen window to hang the washing on a pulley line, suspended high above the back garden of the ‘wicked old lady’ ( mum’s words ) who lived on the ground floor. She never offered to let me play in her garden. But I certainly wasn’t a prisoner; my parents were always taking me down by the river or to Kew Gardens, Marble Hill Park and Richmond Park for fresh air and exercise. I feel so sorry for children literally locked into cramped flats because of the virus. Most children in England will not now return to school till after the summer holidays. While many are having fun and never had so many walks and bike rides with their parents, some children are isolated indoors because of their health or underlying health conditions of someone in their family.

We adults may grumble and some people have found themselves in dire situations, but we are not sheltering in a basement in a war shattered city. For writers, bloggers, artists and gardeners it’s just another day at home, an endless succession of days at home, but it’s okay. Obviously I could not survive without BBC Radio, books, music, the internet, television and of course chocolate.

When we were having our medical dramas just before lockdown, there was another patient who seemed to be following Cyberspouse from ward to ward. He had no visitors because he had a frail wife at home and no family near. I knew this because I heard all his conversations to medical staff and on his mobile, but his greatest upset was not having anything to read and nobody seemed able to get him a newspaper. When any medical staff asked how he was he told them he was soo bored. He was reduced to doing origami with the paperwork they left behind. By the third ward I made sure I brought him a newspaper and he was overwhelmed with gratitude. Boredom can be a worse threat than a pandemic.

What things have been essential for your survival in isolation?

Thursday Terror Tale – Breaking News

BBC News 24   10.40 pm   Wednesday 30th October ‘The Papers’

‘With me tonight discussing tomorrow morning’s papers are the financial editor of The Guardian and a journalist with the Huffington Post. Shall we start with the rather bizarre headline in several papers that scientists have discovered the devil actually exists, James?’

‘Well this is one story my paper has missed Satan Certainty says The Sun people really do hear voices and it’s The Devil talking to them. Obviously this is going to be used by the Tories as an excuse to reduce funding for mental health services.’

‘Sarah?’

‘Or as a crafty way of diverting attention away from the Brexit Fiasco.’

‘Precisely and if it was true it would be more scary than Putin or North Korea.’

‘This is a team of highly acclaimed physicists, can we be sure it is not true?’

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BBC 1 Breakfast   7.23am   Thursday 31st October

‘…and the story breaking overnight is that a group of eminent scientists have proved that Satan is real, alive and watching us now. Joining us on the sofa we have an archbishop and a humanist. Let’s get straight to the point. Archbishop, hasn’t the church always claimed the Devil exists, so what’s new?’

‘Not as depicted in films. Evil exists, but not of course an actual devil; evil can’t be reduced to a person called Old Nick, anymore than we can perceive God Almighty as a person.’

‘Isn’t that what you claim Jesus was?’

‘Yes, yes of course, but…’

‘As a humanist I believe that people create both good and evil and these ridiculous ideas are going to harm a lot of vulnerable people…’

‘… let’s go over to the sports desk …’

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BBC Radio 4   9.am   Thursday 31st October   ‘The Life Scientific’

‘And my guest this morning is the scientist who led the team that has recently discovered, or claimed to have proved, the devil exists. Angela, when you were a child did you ever imagine you would become one of the country’s leading experts in such a field?’

‘No, no my parents were both ardent atheists and I wasn’t even allowed to go to school assembly or be in the nativity play, then one day I found a stack of Dennis Wheatley novels hidden in my parents’ wardrobe…’

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BBC 1 7pm   Thursday 31st October   ‘The One Show’

‘What do you make of today’s startling news that the devil has been discovered, or rather has at last been proved to be real. Our guest this evening claims to have met Satan. What did he actually look like?’

‘He can take many forms, that is why neither the police nor my GP believed me.’

‘So where did you meet him?’

‘On Facebook. Luckily one of my Twitter followers had also met him and Tweeted some advice, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.’

‘I believe you had a narrow escape.’

‘Yes indeed, I nearly sold my soul to Satan…’

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BBC2 10.30pm   Thursday 31st October   ‘Newsnight’

‘It is barely twenty four hours since scientists revealed that The Devil actually exists and while some academics are already arguing whether we write his name with capital letters or even whether we can ascribe a gender, for most of the world’s population it has not yet sunk in. Our guests tonight are a representative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and a member of JW.Org who believes some people have actually sold their soul to The Devil.’

‘We’re not sure of the numbers, it could be in the thousands.’

‘But isn’t it a scandal that these people were not helped sooner, before it was too late…’

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BBC News 24   11.40pm   Tuesday 31st October ‘The Papers’

‘Since last night’s breaking news, more and more people are coming forward to say they have met The Devil. To discuss tomorrow’s first editions we have a journalist from The Times and the cultural editor from The Sun.’

‘Our readers are saying why didn’t they come forward before, but the obvious answer is that nobody would have believed them.’

‘…and the sad fact is that they are still not fully believed, that they have sold their souls to Satan.’

‘Our editorial is taking this matter seriously, but we must realise there is a big difference between people in powerful positions, who have got there by selling their souls and vulnerable people who have been under Satanic influence.’

‘The Mirror has the most graphic front page with the headline

Satan to collect souls at midnight.’

‘Yes, midnight on Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve just before All Souls Day.’

‘…but that’s in ten minutes time…’

‘… er hmm… Stay with us here on News 24 with the headlines coming up at midnight.’

 

For tales of good and evil dip into Hallows and Heretics