I don’t eat breakfast. But I do listen to breakfast radio.
I like a bit of background noise in the morning. Unfortunately the noise that comes out of the radio rarely stays in the background, and as soon as it comes to into the foreground it makes me quite angry. I’m quite angry in the mornings anyway, so scientifically we can’t really blame radio for any of this.
There is a law about breakfast radio these days that the show must be composed of a quite shouty and not very funny man and a comedy sidekick or three. The comedy sidekick isn’t usually allowed to be funny, I think it’s ironic. The other members of the teams are just sycophants and are contractually obliged to laugh at everything that the not very funny alpha male in charge says. It’s very annoying to listen to.
This is not what I want to hear in the morning. I do not want to have unfunny jokes shouted at me by an unlikely gang. I like my breakfast radio presenters like I like my coffee. Extra strong, but with a lot of milk. And maybe some brown sugar. In other words Huey Morgan. Or Peter Serafinowicz in that episode of Black Books where he reads the Shipping Forecast. In an ideal world they would team up.
Sometimes, very early in the morning, before the official breakfast show hour and while it is still dark, a woman is allowed on the radio. It used to be Sarah Kennedy. She talked about cats and read stories out of the Daily Telegraph. But she never, ever finished the stories. Ever. Just started them off and then got distracted. Maybe someone else wanted the newspaper, I don’t know. But it was very irritating.
So we are back to the unlikely gang. They are quite old for a gang. No one ever mentions that.
Sometimes a woman is allowed to be in the gang. But only in a minor role. Normally their job will be to do The Weather or The Travel. On the radio in the morning The Travel is very important. Which is fair enough. We all want to have fair warning of broken down trains and massive traffic jams. But on national radio this doesn’t really work. There are too many roads. It’s impossible to realistically cover them all. So what actually happens is that people who drive lorries and are quite bored and give themselves names like ‘Wayne’s Dad’ or ‘Crazy Ned’ or ‘The Big Burrito’ and think that they live in America even though they drive quite a small lorry which is absolutely not a truck and is probably full of cat food or something not that life-threateningly urgent – these people who are driving from Macclesfield to somewhere else like that and imagining that they are in the film Convoy or possibly The Dukes of Hazzard – these people who long for a CB radio just like in the films – these people phone up the radio station and tell the nice lady in great detail about a jack-knifed lorry on the M6 that they have seen.
While they are on the phone doing this and not looking where they are going there are probably other lorries jack-knifing all around them while they swerve all over the road. So it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. (I don’t actually know what jack-knifed means but I hear it on the radio a lot. So it must be bad).
One of my worst nightmares is that I may be involved in a very serious accident and while I am slumped across the central reservation of the A41 some bastard in a lorry will phone up Radio 2 and my death will be reduced to one of their traffic reports. If the person who phones up is a man from Surrey wearing a bandana who calls himself ‘Trailer Tex’ or similar I shall be very annoyed.
Women are also allowed on the radio in the morning to tell you about The Weather. The trouble with being told about the weather on the radio is that they get about 5 seconds to tell you about the entire country. This is really not enough time to impart any useful information. And if there’s one topic that you want the instructions to be specific about, it is the weather. Otherwise why bother?
The other important part of breakfast radio is The News. It is illegal not to tell you the news on the radio at least once an hour. I’m not sure why, it’s not like that on the television. It might be in the mornings, I wouldn’t know. I don’t watch breakfast TV. I’d probably explode. Women are allowed to read the news on the radio provided that they have a husky voice or a silly name. Like Fenella Fudge. Brilliant.
For reasons of intolerance I generally listen to Radio 2 in the morning. I’ve always assumed it would be the least offensive. It’s got Chris Evans on it. I don’t hate him. I’m not really a fan. I’ve always been fairly neutral. But lately I’ve started to get tetchy.
The first straw was a fairly sycophantic interview with the billionaire owner of Specsavers. I didn’t find it that annoying to be honest, but it made my sister so angry that she rang up the BBC to complain. And then she rang me up to complain. And then my mother rang me up to complain about my sister. And it all went on for some time. And eventually I became annoyed by proxy. But I let it go.
And then one morning we had to listen to him going on about how difficult it was to mow his many acres of lawns. Fair enough, he has a big garden. Most of us don’t. It was a bit irritating, but I let it go.
Then there was a charity thing. OK it’s for charity. We must be nice. But it was basically a lot of people who could afford to give quite a lot of money and some people who worked for the radio station driving around in sports cars all day. We had to listen to the noise of the cars on the radio. And presumably imagine the rest. Now if you are a car fan that’s all very well. But I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the best medium for car enthusiasts might be the television. Where you can see them moving and stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I have no objections to fast Italians. Or Ferraris. But listening to the sound of a car going vrmmm, vrmmm, vrmmm does not good breakfast radio make. But I understood that it was for charity. And I let it go.
Recently there was a feature about shepherd’s pie. I have no idea why. In this feature a chef from London’s exclusive Ivy restaurant prepared three shepherds’ pies which were then eaten and enjoyed by Chris and the team. Now that’s good breakfast radio. Right there.
‘Mmm, this one tastes of mince. Mmm, so does this one. Mmm, some gravy’.
Two small points here. One, it’s breakfast time. No one wants shepherds’ pie for breakfast. Two, why in God’s name did anyone imagine that I might want to hear someone eating a shepherd’s pie on the radio? It’s not even a shepherd’s pie that I can go and buy if I want to join in with them, it’s from a very exclusive restaurant and I can’t have one. And three, (yes I know I said two but I’m ranting now), if I wanted to listen to someone eating food on the radio, at least make it something I can hear, something with a bit of crunch. Something noisy. Not mince and mashed potatoes.
I couldn’t let it go.
While I am still seething about shepherd’s pies Mr Evans goes on his holidays. And what do we get as a replacement? Richard Madeley. Now I have nothing personal against Mr Madeley. I’m not trying to be horrible. But he should not be allowed on the radio. He sounds too much like Alan Partridge, It’s not his fault. But he keeps telling us all the instructions. It’s insane. In 3 minutes we’ve got a weather update. In 8 minutes Fiona’s here. In 45 seconds I’m putting this pen in my ear. Why are you telling us this Richard? This is what’s supposed to happen in the background. Your job is to read out other stuff over the top and make it all look seamless.
One day I heard him say the word vasectomy. I switched off.
The next day he discussed gravy tips. Yes, tips for gravy. At 7am on a weekday.
Now I have nothing against the sharing of gravy tips for the Sunday roast on the radio if there’s really absolutely nothing else to talk about, but maybe you could share them on Sunday morning? When people might care about gravy a bit more? But please not during the week. Not before breakfast. Not after the shepherd’s pie incident.
And the instructions for the gravy tips were so complex. No emails, not recipes, just tips, just one line. So many instructions. I didn’t want to hear about gravy. I heard about gravy the week before. What is it with Radio 2 and gravy?
Bacon. Talk about bacon if you must. And coffee. Or tea. And weather. That’s all I want.
Please don’t tell me to grow up and listen to Radio 4. It’s boring.