Listening to Life

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So here I am, I’m around four or five years old, settled back into an armchair in front of a blazing fire, the sound of my Grandma washing up in the kitchen and, over there, on the shelf next to the fire, sits a transistor radio the size of a large shoebox. I’m waiting for Listen with Mother…cue piano music…and the soft tones of presenter Daphne Oxenford ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…’

I was hooked on radio from that moment on. Progressing from Listen with Mother, on what used to be called the BBC Home Service to….well, next image…here I am, I’m around fifteen or sixteen years old…snuggled up under my blankets and on the shelf next to my bed, a small, lemon-yellow transistor radio that I have to turn regularly to pick up the signal of….Radio Caroline. Or, if the signal was better, Radio Luxembourg. The excitement of listening to a Pirate Radio station far outweighed the inconvenience of the constant fade-out of the signal. In fact, you almost felt that you were out there battling the waves, and battling the BBC with their monopoly on broadcasting, alongside the presenters (‘This is….Emperor Rosko!’)

Radio, in one form or another, has accompanied me througP1010319h the years and across the channel to France. And what a faithful friend it has proved. Whether it’s music or words, there is always this other world waiting, a world that you can step into in order to escape from or to enhance real life.

Music obviously has played its part, but for me, it’s often the stories that draw me in. A hangover from Listen with Mother, maybe? So the new technology…online radio and podcasts…puts me in seventh heaven. And not just me, apparently. A study carried out by scientists on podcast listeners, using an MRI scanner, (reported by Benedict Carey in a New York Times article ‘Your Brain on Podcasts’ from 2016) revealed that the action of listening sparked a ‘kaleidoscope of activation’ in the brain. The study referred to a whole range of ways that listeners experience the words in these spoken stories.

The podcast used for the study was ‘The Moth Radio Hour’ which just happens to be a favourite of mine and which features real people recounting real-life stories. (My other favourites are ‘Stuff to Blow Your Mind’ and ‘All in the Mind’. Yes, I know. It takes all sorts.)

If you’re in the mood for research, a study dating back to 2011 (reported by Liz Thomas in a Daily Mail article ‘Why Listening to the Radio gives us more pleasure…’) maintains that, out of a range of media available, ‘radio had the most mood-enhancing effect’.

So is it any surprise that I find myself in 2017 co-presenting a radio show where people from all walks of life….and I’m talking actors and authors, chefs and engineers, come on and tell us their stories? If you’re looking for ‘mood-enhancing’, that’s what we’re all about. The guests’ stories, stemming from real-life experiences, inform and entertain, make us think and make us laugh. If you’ve listened to Gwen, Liz, Dave and myself on Girls Do Coffee, you’ll know that laughter is an essential element – a recent guest, Sacha Dench who followed the migratory flight of swans in a microlight, commented that she had done many media interviews before but that our show was ‘by far the most fun.’

It’s a privilege to be allowed into someone’s life, even for just an hour or two, and I am extremely appreciative of the invitation. I know that I’m a listener for life when it comes to radio, but I consider that I’m also a listener to life when someone opens up their world and invites us in.