Tuesday night we drove home from Birmingham in a hire car with no radio, in fact no means of playing music to its occupants at all, the car didn’t have an aerial for the radio and our Ned had removed his CD (singular) from it before we set off – I’ve told you he is not as intelligent as me haven’t I ?
It was strange to sit in a car for two and a half hours without any music, I even resorted to playing the ringtones on my mobile phone for entertainment.
And we spoke of the times before cars had radios fitted and of how normal that was, of how we’d sit in the back of our Dads car and have to listen to him sing in the style of Frank Sinatra all the way to Scarborough on a hot August bank holiday afternoon and of the times when even he would tire of singing and decide to risk the battery on his precious transistor radio for a while.
Have you ever tried to get a transistor radio to play inside a car ?
Its not easy being that you are basically sitting in a metal box trying to get a pathetic little aerial to get a signal from outside, we found that it helped if you opened one or more windows, “To let the signal in” our mother explained as it was always her job to try and get the transistor radio to work while our dad drove.
Our mother had a strange understanding of science and the natural world and opening windows and doors to let invisible things in or out of the house or car was quite normal for her, whenever we were in the house during a thunderstorm she’d have to open both the front and the back door “To let the thunderbolt out if it comes down the chimney” she explained and once when we were on holiday and staying in a caravan we slept all night with the caravan door wide open during a thunderstorm despite the fact that there was no chimney in the caravan, presumably the door was open to let the thunderbolt IN.
She’d sit fiddling with the transistor radio in the car for ages with our dad progressively losing his temper and the only way they could ever get a signal was to hold it high up against the windscreen and move it in a circular motion every time the car went around a corner.
Eventually our dad would stop the car to take off his trouser belt and tie the transistor radio to the sun visor, fiddle with it until he got a clear signal, and then set off again only to find it fade around the next corner.
Even my first car didn’t have a radio in it, the Austin 1300 Vanden Plas was too old even in 1975 to suit any of the modern car radios, it had the wrong earth or so I was told and I nodded like I understood, “Don’t fit a normal car radio” said Peter Perfect (real name) the man who sold it to me, “or it will blow up, here, I’ll sell you this shitty old radio for £20 its so old that it will work in that pile of scrap metal that I’ve just sold you” and it did, a car radio that looked like something Fred Flintstone would have recognised, no auto-tuning, no fancy buttons to press, it didn’t light up when it was switched on, it just had a volume knob and a tuning knob and a green screen upon which were printed the names of radio stations that hadn’t existed since the war but it was mine and its tinny old speaker, just a speaker cone on the parcel shelf, no housing for it, just a speaker cone, blasted out Radio One and Radio Aire so that I could just about hear it above the engine noise – perfect.
Even that was better than the hire car that Ned drove us home in last night, some idiot at the hire company had decided to remove the aerial. it hissed nicely though in tune with our singing the Sinatra songs of our father.
Just one more thing – on the motorway we stopped at Trowell Services for a cup of coffee and a bun, my bun was £1.95, for one bun. As sat eating it I reminded Ned of the streets of our childhood, those rows of terraced houses in Burley and especially the old bakers shops where their display windows would contain not blueberry or banoffee muffins like the ones we were eating but more plain baking. jam tarts, iced buns, gingerbread men and suchlike – and I said to our Ned, “Can you imagine what our grandma would say to the baker if he put a bun in his window with a price tag of £1/19/6d ?”, she’d probably have fainted on the spot.