The Cabinet Maker and I had cause to be in a car for a very long time today: four and a half hours there, and then four and a half hours back.
On the way down, we sorted the world out in that part-outrageously-confident, part-hopelessly-indecisive way that men-of-a-certain age do. Matters as weighty as global warming, or as trivial as the merits of Starbucks chocolate chip cookies, were dealt with with decisiveness and dispatch. Even on the big news story of the day, the evening’s Brexit vote, we took no more than 10 minutes to reach a logical and workable solution, from which all mankind would have benefited had they but been given the chance.
Our business done, we turned for home, but the Radio station of choice for men-of-a-certain age was still rammed with the sound of white, middle class men banging on about backstops. Feeling that we had already added all we could to the pool of human well-being in that department on the way down, we started to frequency hop and thereby changed the course of both of our lives. Journeys will never be the same.
It started as a simple project: we would go down each different station available in the Cabinet Maker’s car, and listen to it until we heard the word ‘Brexit’, at which point we would move to the next one.
Undaunted by the fact that there are over 600 licensed radio stations in the UK, we kicked off with the BBC ones. Radio 1, (4 minutes: Sweet but Psycho by Ava Max followed by the news), Radio 2 (7 minutes: Long Time by Blondie followed by trailer), Radio 3 (lost signal, but somewhere between Beethoven’s overture to Fidelio and the headlines). At Launceston, we tuned into Radio Cornwall which was featuring an important 16 minute piece on Lucky, the winner of last year’s National Cat Award. Only when it had finished did the presenter ask a mystified Cornish MP how he was going to vote. He didn’t know, which was kind of refreshing. Over the county boundary around South Zeals, Radio Devon was running an upcoming events section which, in the event, only offered one: the Pinhoe Pantomime Society’s Beauty and the Beast, followed by a game of ‘Catch the Snatch’ (the latter word of which obviously means something very different today in Devon to what it did in my youth). We got 13 minutes out of them.
On we went. Radio Somerset gave us 3 minutes, so at Wylie we changed the rules. From now on, they would need a regional qualification, in Wiltshire’s case mention of the word ‘Honda’ as a wildcard. Counties take more than a few minutes to cross, so we started listening to other stations to fill in the gaps: BBC Asian network couldn’t work out whether to be more excited about the vote, or about Amir Khan’s decision to accept the challenge of Terence Crawford to fight for the WBO welterweight title. By Andover, we were into Classic FM, and by Sutton Scotney, Smooth Extra followed by Sunrise radio: I had no idea that so many stations existed, still less listened to them. Forces Radio took 5 minutes, Talk Radio (the overall winner at 25 seconds), Union Jack (9 minutes, somewhere in between 10CC and T.Rex) and Jazz FM (‘chill out, you cats, and forget the vote’); by now we were flying.
Both BBC Radio Solent (Winchester) and BBC Radio Sussex (Petersfield) seemed to be hosting their own festivals of camp, but both fell into the Brexit trap in less than 4 minutes apiece. As we neared Midhurst, we started to panic that we had ignored Gaydio (out of reach), Punjab (sadly in Punjabi, although we thought we heard a small child saying something that sounded like ‘Ber-exat’), and all the religious stations. The Cabinet Maker slowed the car to a crawl so that we could hear what UCB2 had to say (‘Amen’, mainly, to be honest) and then the cream of the crop, Premier Praise. We sat spellbound at the traffic lights in North Street, as Bishop Hezekiah Walker banged out his old standard ‘God Favours Me’ (even if the people on the pedestrian crossing looked at us as if we were nutters). We wondered what Bishop Hezekiah might make of the vote our MPs had to make during the evening, but he was silent on the subject; unlike the presenter, who interviewed a Christian MP, and then proceeded to ask us to pray for a Brexit ‘united by God’. We did, fervently if the truth be told, but if our prayers were heard, it sort of indicated a few hours later that God was about as enthusiastic about the backstop as Jacob Rees-Mogg and everyone else.
Never has a 225 mile journey passed quicker. Now for the next bit.
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