Don't Leave Me Hanging On the Telephone

I’ve been filling in on BBC London 94.9 this week, a radio station that allows London to talk and get things off its chest, and my goodness how enjoyable it is sitting there listening, and occasionally contributing. Some want a conversation, while others need a soapbox. Either way it’s a hoot.

An 83 year old granny called in to tell me she was going to unveil something to her two grandchildren on Christmas day at the dinner table. A present? Well, kind of. She’s having her first tattoo done on Christmas Eve. Now that’s a Supergran.

Another caller rang in to talk about the cost of funerals. It seems that we’re no longer saving for our own burials any more, unlike our grandparents who paid in to funeral care insurance policies. My listener said he had a solution. He has been spending time in his garden shed building DIY coffins for him and his wife to save money. He’s just waiting for the right time to tell her. She’s expecting cupboards.

When I was on a couple of weeks ago, I had to threaten to cut two callers off as they were being uncivilised and insulting to each other, but the public loved it and rang in to say how much they’d enjoyed the ding dong. And that’s what’s great about radio phone ins. You never know what will be said or how it will be received.

Today, most radio stations sound the same, with presenters being forced in to speaking for a maximum of fifteen seconds, four times an hour, mentioning the station each time and throwing in a bit of showbiz gossip for good measure. You could script it. “This is Radio Blah with crucial tuneage and bangin’ beats. Let’s celebrate Kim Kardashian’s bottom drawer. According to Hollywood sources she’s now got five different ones in it.”

How much more interesting is it to hear a single lady call up on air to complain guys today have a new dating technique. Most now take out their mobile phones at speed dating evenings and say to her "would you like to see a picture of my willy?" You think I’m kidding? A girl really did call me up last month and said that live on BBC London. I refused to believe her, but asking some single ladies since then I’ve been convinced. It really happens in 2014.

Of course, for every great call you have to sit through some from people who feel everyone should vote as they do, detest all the people that they detest, desire a return to conscription, and ask for a referendum forcing anyone with tattoos down a mine with Ed Miliband and Miranda Hart. But even those calls can be fascinating.

One of the strangest calls I can remember on radio was back in Scotland where a lovely guy I know well, a long standing presenter, rang a girl to say she’d won a competition. She was surprised as she hadn’t entered, but then he dropped the bombshell “I think I’m your dad.” Now you can argue the rights (not many) or wrongs (lots) of doing that, but I couldn’t turn the radio off.

It has to be used responsibly, but I’d rather listen to something the public have said on air, something that people will be talking about for weeks if not longer, rather than how Taylor swift doesn’t have a boyfriend.

‘Phone ins can be compelling listening, and they’re bigger even than Kim Kardashian’s latest bottom.