My Heart Will Go On

This week I got to tick something off my bucket list.

If that sounds sinister, as if I’ve even drawn up a list of things to do before dying, well I really haven’t. But if I did have to, being a pirate would be somewhere near the top of any list I made up.

Now, I don’t mean that I want to dress up in breeches like some downmarket, fat version of Poldark meets Captain Pugwash, though a day dressing up is never a day wasted in my experience. You should see my super hero costume that comes out every wedding anniversary as I climb on top of the wardrobe hoping Debbie will remember that she once thought I was Superman. That was until chocolate became my Kryptonite and caused a  spread around my waist bigger than Batman’s utility belt.

So, anyway, I didn’t dress up as a pirate, but I did go on board a boat at Harwich dedicated to pirate radio, and I did do two shows as a pirate DJ. It was bliss, and you know why?

Firstly it was a reminder of my childhood days listening in bed to the signal from Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline drift in and out depending on the weather (any internet native will find that hard to believe, and assume I must have been listening to Moses broadcasting to his animals after the flood).

The second reason was that almost nothing worked. I’m used to BBC or commercial studios which are usually state of the art, digital, and instant. This one on the ship was held together by sticky tape and good will, and was wonderfully chaotic as we changed microphones or cables while talking.

Thirdly, I got to play vinyl again, something I hadn’t done since I first started in radio, and I loved all the hisses and crackles while watching the warped platter go round and round and reading the sleeve notes.

Fourthly, I never knew who would walk in while I was presenting. The public were allowed on board and to wander up to the studio while we were doing our shows. It’s not every day you try to link some records while posing for selfies with pirate radio anoraks. And no, I’m not being unkind. It was cold and they were all dressed in actual anoraks.

I met the first captain of the Radio Caroline boat, their engineer, and many of the presenters from the days when I was just a little lad trying to improve my handwriting so that I could enter competitions to win records in magazines, and getting all the answers from Radio Luxembourg or Caroline under the bed sheets so mum and dad didn’t tell me off for not sleeping.

Nowadays we’re used to perfection in radio. Songs don’t jump, presenters hardly speak, the station jingle is king. But wouldn’t it be great if personality came back alongside mistakes and technical glitches? Make the radio experience for future generations more interesting?

Perhaps this week, I went Back To the Future.