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Ford Ka rather than my old ratty Skoda. Last time I drove the Skoda up to the midlands, we ended up being towed home, which produced much hilarity from Steve, my Mum’s boyfriend. I did try to explain to him that my transfer of a Chinese dragon and the Chinese writing that means ‘power’ on the bonnet is actually supposed to be ironic, and that I’m taking the pee out of myself in hanging an air freshener in the shape of a pair of pink boxing gloves from the rear-view mirror. Steve spends so much time being heavily sarcastic that he doesn’t actually notice when other people are using mild irony. So I was in the Ka, which is lovely to drive. I spent the whole time driving out of Cardiff trying to find a radio station that I wanted to listen to. The only time I listen properly to radio is when I’m driving. At home I’m on the internet with the TV on in the background, the radio is generally hit-and-miss because there’s no saying what’s scheduled for the time that I’ll be travelling. I usually listen to Radio 4 when I’m in my Skoda, and when the politicians drone on too much I switch to Classic FM. As it’s not my car, I didn’t have my usual set buttons and I couldn’t find either so hit the scan button and got Radio 2 which I noticed was playing some music I recognised. When we were kids, my sister Jennie and I used to laugh at my Dad’s choice of radio whenever he drove us anywhere in his taxi or if he hired a car when we went on holiday. We used to beg and plead for Radio One but he always listened to Radio Two. We used to call it the Oldies Radio, because it was what Dads listen to. Let me explain that my Dad was quite a young dad, only about 23 years older than me. But at the time, obviously, I thought he was old. I figured that he was middle aged. If you die when you’re seventy – which you’re supposed to as it’s three score years and ten – then thirty-five is the middle of your life, which means that at around thirty-five you’re middle aged. I don’t feel middle-aged right now, I feel like I’m still young. Except on a Monday morning before my first cup of tea. But I’m thirty-six so by my juvenile reckoning, I’m an oldie. Do I care? I try not to, but I can’t help thinking that if I worked this out when I was a kid, then my boy must have already decided it about me. I was driving along the A48, nearly at the M4 and it struck me that I had become my Dad. I was listening to Radio Two in the car. Radio Two was playing music that I like to listen to. I haven’t listened to Radio One for a good few years because the music they play is trash and the talk is nonsense. So. I am my Dad. But actually not, because most of the time I do listen to Radio 4 and Dad never did that. I listened to a comedy show ‘Out to Lunch’ on Radio 2, which was hilarious and I must remember to listen again if ever I’m driving on a Saturday lunchtime. Then turned over to Radio 4 and listened to Arcadia, part of the Tom Stoppard season. Fabulous. I didn’t care about the weather and the long journey. In fact, I pulled over before I got to my friend’s house so I could listen to the last five minutes of the play.
Now here’s the thing. I’m so used to the ‘on demand’ nature of the internet, listening to podcasts and stopping them when I need to, going back later etc. that I find listening to the radio in the car quite frustrating. I often switch on in the middle of a programme. I get interrupted by the traffic news, I get to my destination before the programme is finished. None of this used to bother me years ago, that was just the way it was. If you missed something then, well you missed it. If there was a power cut in the middle of something you were watching on TV then you found the candles and sat around playing cards. I do wonder how we would cope now with the power cuts that we had when I was growing up in the seventies. I imagine that the level of public outcry will be a lot greater. And I’m not just talking about young people who will always find something to amuse themselves in the dark, I’m talking about people of my generation who’ve got used to the convenience of instantaneous communication. Our mothers and grandmothers had the spirit of the blitz and would battle on through, pulling together, making cups of tea and casseroles for each other and generally being annoyingly gleeful whenever a disaster happened. I wonder about the women of my generation, who are already pushed to the limit as far as work, housework, keeping the home together is concerned, and already have to put a brave face on it every morning. I can’t see many of us rolling up our sleeves and tying our hair up in headscarves, mucking down to the dirty work of creating a community in time of need. What we get now when there’s a disaster is people complaining that it took the government more than a day to mobilise aid. We expect everything immediately, and behave like frustrated toddlers when it doesn’t just magically drop out of the sky for us. I blame this on the fast food culture. I sometimes feel like saying, if someone is angrily demanding immediate service, ‘Do you want fries with that?’ I have been thinking about getting an iPod, I’d love to have one. That way I could listen to all my favourite shows without having to lug my laptop around. But what happens when the inevitable power shortages come back? Because they will, you know they will. Oh, we’ll kick against it but when there’s no more fuel, there’s no choice. We’ve got a wind-up radio, excellent invention. I’ve been wondering if anyone has thought to invent a wind-up iPod? Anyone know of something like that? You could have a little turning key at the back, it wouldn’t need to make the thing much bigger. Then there’s the solar powered iPod. Or how about wind powered? You could wear a hat with a wind turbine attached and then run a line down from that to your earplugs. Better be careful in a storm though, because you wouldn’t want to be struck by lightening. But seriously, something one of my friends talked about this weekend made me stop and think. She said that the method of producing solar panels is toxic and creates its own environmental problem. So the net effect on the environment is false because the process outweighs the benefits gained by using solar panels. This reminds me of the problem with driving your recycling to the recycling centre. The fuel used by taking a journey specifically for this purpose outweighs the benefits of recycling. So unless you have roadside
recycling, or you regularly pass the centre, don’t bother to recycle. The other thing that you find is that people put their old newspapers, glass and whatever in the boot and drive around for days or weeks before they go near the recycling place to drop it off. The added weight in the car over that period of time will cause more fuel to be used. Then I heard that a certain famous fast food restaurant chain who are desperately trying to improve their public image as a happy, healthy, environmentally friendly, charity-giving company, are going to start using biodiesel in their delivery vehicles. The old cooking oil is going to be collected from each of their thousands of outlets, taken to a processing plant where food particles will be filtered out, then that will be taken to another processing plant where the oil will be converted to bio-diesel, and then that will be used in the delivery vehicles. My question here is: what fuel is going to be used in the vehicles that will be doing all this collecting and transporting between the restaurants and processing plants. Will the net benefit actually make any difference to the environment or is this a shameless marketing tool and also convenient method of getting rid of the old oil rather than dumping it? When the delivery lorries are driving around, pumping out the smell of burgers and fries in the exhaust, they will get more free publicity than the usual picture on the side of the lorry. Cynical, aren’t I? Well when it comes to these large corporations, I actually am very cynical. I can’t believe that they will do anything other than for their own good. Of course, what you could do, what you could do to raise awareness of environmental issues, is stage a massive festival, huge high-profile music festival, which uses huge amounts of energy in the sound systems and the lighting, inviting thousands of people to travel there, and all the energy that they will use up by travelling there. Not mentioning the chemical toilets and all the environmental damage that they will do, and all the knock-on effects of having huge festivals, and local environmental effects as well as global environmental effects. Not just pop stars flying in on their private jets but the thousands of people who travel from miles around and how they’re gonna get there. You could stage one of these huge festivals in the name of environmental issues. And that would raise awareness. That would raise awareness of environmental issues, I’m sure. Now that’s what I call irony. On my way home from my literary weekend, I listened to Radio 4 again, and found a programme featuring Germaine Greer talking about her book The Female Eunuch. I cheered in the car. This is what I call the serendipity of random radio. I may complain when it’s not ‘on demand’ but generally I can switch it on and there will be something worth listening to. I have a great affection for this book as it is the same age as me. It was published in 1970, the year I was born. I was eighteen when I first read it, and I was twenty-one when I read it for the second time, the twenty-first anniversary edition with a new introduction. After twenty-one years Germaine said how ironic it was that when she wrote The Female Eunuch, she was saying women should have the right to say yes to sex, and now twenty-one years later women were fighting for the right to say no. She said something of a similar vein in this show, and
also how sad it was that her book was still relevant now, how we haven’t moved on in thirty-seven years and we’re still arguing about the same issues. Later, and continuing with the Tom Stoppard season, I was delighted to hear that Fifteen Minute Hamlet was scheduled. I saw the fifteen minute Hamlet at a festival years ago, and I loved it then. I studied Hamlet at A Level so I’m well aware of the play, but the fifteen minute Hamlet is something for newcomers as well as old hands, and it definitely beats sitting for four and a half hours. I see this as a joke at the fast food culture, and I think this was Stoppard’s intention. Who is going to sit for four and a half hours to watch a story that could be told in fifteen minutes, really? It’s fun to listen to, but better to watch because you get the frantic scenery changes as well. I was also interested in finding out whether the one-minute Hamlet at the end was in Stoppard’s play or if it was an addition from the theatre company I saw perform it. So I was just coming into Wales as Hamlet and Laertes are about to fight, I was on minute fourteen or so. And the radio started to get fuzzy in the reception, which happens around there. At some point you have to switch frequencies, but as this wasn’t my car and I’m not used to the radio, I couldn’t figure it out. I scanned this way and that way, and swerved around the suddenly curving roads. I got Classic in one direction and BBC Cymru in the other. “Mae’n debyg fod na cysylltiad rhwung Glyndwr ag…” No! I want Hamlet! I might be interested in hearing about Owain Glyndwr after Hamlet has finished. I pressed scan, scan, scan. Viking North Utsire South Utsire Forties: East or southeast 5 or 6, Nooooooooooo!! Cromarty: Southeast 4 or 5, Radio 4 why do you do this to me??! I wanted Hamlet, I don’t want the shipping forecast. Fitzroy Sole Lundy Fastnet: Showers. Moderate or good. Nooooooo. Oh no. I’m becoming cyclonic. Southeast Iceland: Northeast 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8. Moderate or rough, occasionally very rough . Rain or showers. Moderate or good. See more and listen to the full show at www.castingpods.co.uk
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