Monday, 12 March 2012

2 4 6 8 Motorway

How did Tom Robinson ever end up with that song as his biggest hit? Apparently there are allusions to gay truck drivers in it - but I just remember it as a piece of throwaway 70s pop - and from the guy who produced the sublime "War Babies" as well. He still performs it at gigs though - so clearly it matters to him.
Anyway, I was prompted to think about that song as I've spent much of the last week driving up and down our motorway network, including driving up and down the M6 twice. Once on Thursday was to take my daughter Alex to her first ever match at Old Trafford, where we were dispatched by a very good Bilbao side. I'd previously taken her with me to see United lose to Barcelona in the champions League Final, so I suspect she's become a bit of a jinx as far as United v Spanish sides are concerned.
There's a gap on the M6, you may have noticed, between where our stations end, just north of Jcn 14, and where the big North West stations start, around Jcn 17. I know it's the Stoke/Keele area really - but it always feels to me like a bit of no-man's land between the two great English conurbations. I think the West Midlands ends when Beacon fades out, and the North West starts when you can pick up Key 103. In between, none of the FM stations ever seems to have an RDS message because they're all "a bit far away." of course Signal does brilliantly well, probably simply because it's the only big station that is unequivocally for "round there." [It's the same with London isn't it - you think "I'm here" when you can pick up 95.8]
Anyway, driving up, once past the barren wasteland that is "The Potteries",  I was flipping between Key 103 and Capital 102 as I approached the M6/M56 interchange. It felt like both stations had wound their processors up too much in an effort to be ultra-competitive, and both felt very ad heavy. Nothing too wrong with that - unless you are waiting for traffic news, as I was, and getting closer to a potential hotspot as the break went on...and on...and on. There wasn't a lot of "big game night" excitement on either station - but that could have been them being a bit blasé about the Europa League - I imagine we'd be hyperventilating if two of our local WM teams were both playing in Europe on the same night - I'm actually not sure Tom Ross's heart could take the strain!
Driving back late at night after the game, I always find I've got to listen to speech radio to keep myself awake, so a combination of Robin Lustig on R4, Tony Livesey on R5 and Carloine (when I got into range) kept me going. I do find music much harder to listen to late at night - I'm sure it's something to do wiith needing to keep your brain active - otherwise I'd fall asleep whilst driving - with not very nice consequences.
Then on Friday I had to drive the comparatively shorter distance to Kettering and back at lunch-time. Luckily I was never out of Gem range, and sleep wasn't trying to overtake me, so that trip passed off without radio incident.
More interesting was my trip back up the M6 on Saturday morning. Again sport was involved - this time my son playing in a rugby 7s tournament in Macclesfield, but I took the opportunity this time to listen to Absolute, and the Frank Skinner show. I'm a huge fan of Frank's, and think Absolute have done a great job with him. If I was being ultra-critical, I think his team can take too high a role in the show sometimes (mind you, one tweeter did criticise one of his co-hosts, and Frank put him firmly in his place to much amusement in the Riley car!) This week the topic was tea, and you have to admire a man who managed to get at least 30 minutes worth of material out of doilies, teapots, tea bags, warmers etc etc.Probably not a Sony Award winning edition, but amusing enough for a long car-trip and that's all you can really ask for.
I was listening on AR80s, where his show was being re purposed in-between a steady diet of Tina Turner and Bon Jovi. I quite liked it, although I suspect Frank would have liked a bit more of The Fall. The same show was also being re-purposed on AR90s between Oasis and Blur - so if I inadvertently nudged the dial, I'd get the same link, slightly delayed, followed by a completely different song - it's the future!
My biggest frustration really with all this motorway driving is the lack of pre-sets on my car radio - you'd expect a DAB car radio to come equipped with hundreds wouldn't you, given DABs big selling point is lots of choice. But no, just 6 is all I get - and only 6 on FM too. For a man like me that's not far off torture!
If I did ever perish in a car crash, I expect the coroners report would state "Accidental death, due to reaching for another pre-set"
Happy driving.

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