We were radio listeners when I was a child. Our radios weren't so much 'audio equipment' as pieces of furniture; large, wood-veneered, highly varnished, with a row of teeth-like buttons and big no-nonsense dials, they took a while to warm up and had a rich tone well suited to the fruity accents of BBC announcers.
When I was about to leave for boarding school for the first time, my mother gave me this little transistor radio, gleaming in its blue and cream box. Such a thrilling present! I was 11, and the year was 1960.
I had no idea then that this little object was to be such a lifeline over the next 7 years. Like torches, transistor radios were forbidden. We had to listen surreptitiously in dorms after lights out; reception was often poor, and Radio Luxembourg came and went as we strained to listen avidly to our favourite pop songs, interspersed with tedious adverts (poor Danny Blanchflower, I hate you still!).
On Sunday nights, as silly 13-year-olds, we would fight to stay awake till 11 pm to spend a further hour listening to the Top 20, waiting for the Number One (such an odd mix in those days: remember The Tornados and 'Telstar'? Or the mighty contests between Frank Ifield and Elvis for the top slot?) and as a result, would stagger tired and underslept through Mondays.
Later, once we were old enough to move from dorms to twin or single cubicles, I listened, rapt, to weekly instalments chronicling the life of Chopin - soppily romantic to a girl of 16 or 17 - and learned to love his music. (Would that have been on the Third Programme, predecessor to Radio 3, I wonder? There weren't many stations to choose from in the '60s.)
In 1964, pirate Radio Caroline arrived. We didn't know what had hit us or our stifling, rule-ridden, cooped-up lives. For this thrilling and groundbreaking phenomenon we needed more powerful transistors, and even then reception had a frustrating way of dropping out through ferocious static hiss and crackle. Our meagre pocket money was spent on batteries, but oh, it was so worthwhile! (Only in adult life, with vastly-improved audio quality as standard, were we to find that the words of some of our old favourites had not been heard accurately through the dense interference.)
In the mid-'80s, I bought this old Bush radio from an antiques dealer as an anniversary present for my then-husband. As we waited for it to warm up, I joked with the shop owner that perhaps we would hear Lord Haw-Haw's voice. Slowly the radio lumbered into life; from its depths, to our surprise and amusement, came the unmistakeable tones of Winston Churchill delivering his famous speech of 1940: "...we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds...we shall never surrender...".
The radio was kindly given back to me by my sister-in-law after her brother's death, and it still works well. Sadly, the little transistor doesn't, but it served me well in its heyday. I can still hum the tune of 'Telstar' and I would still vote for Elvis over Frank Ifield any day.