Some of you may be wondering why this series of memoirs about my life in radio hasn’t grown since October 2009, after the second part was published. Let me reassure you that it will, and very soon now. But before I move on, here’s an explanation for the delay …
“Write about what you know,” the experts say. Which is what I decided to do when beginning this series of recollections. I know my past pretty well. Or so I thought, as I whizzed through Beginnings, and then Schoolboy Dreams, both of which dealt with my pre- and early-teen years. Then I found myself confronting a couple of problems.
First, the question of accuracy. When I cast my mind back to the 1970s now, it feels to me like it’s still not that long ago. But forty years have passed since those halcyon days, and I must confess to having a poor recollection of specific events and their correct chronology. I didn’t keep diaries, so it’s possible — probably extremely likely, in fact — that my memories have become embellished over time with an accretion of imagined scenes and wildly inaccurate conversations. This has worked fine while the memories have remained in my head for my own private viewing, but setting them down for public consumption has presented me with a dilemma: how accurate, how truthful, do I need to be, to ensure the integrity of these memoirs? Does it matter if I sometimes confuse the true and the real?
For example: I concluded Schoolboy Dreams by talking about my friend Bill’s makeshift radio “studio” being at his gran’s house. After I’d published the post, I thought again about this and realised that it probably wasn’t — I think now it was in the living-room of the 5th-floor flat in a tower-block where he lived with his mum. We often used to visit his gran, but the more I try to visualise the ancient, butchered radiogram with two BSR turntables balanced precariously inside its guts on wobbly polystyrene blocks and a microphone taped to a broom-handle in situ at granny’s place, the less I’m able to conjure it up there. Does it matter? To the wider world, probably not. But Bill might think so, if he ever reads that account.
Allied to the “accuracy” aspect is the question of whether I can safely identify the people I came into contact with all those years ago without causing some of them to squirm with embarrassment. Most of them are, as far as I know, still alive; I’m in contact with a few through Facebook and other social networking sites, but I’ve had no contact with most since leaving school, or moving on from hospital radio, or the various radio stations on which I later worked. Some of the things I remember (or think I remember) are quite comical in nature — or at least, they are to my mind when I think back on them now. They’d make good anecdotes, even if they are somewhat embellished.
Separated from the actual events by forty years, I like to think that all now involved in them would look back on those remarkable days with a wistful smile and allow me to recount them, from my point of view, without taking umbrage — after all, we were naive teenagers or in our early twenties back then, and so much water has since passed under the bridge that we’re completely different people now — but still, I worry that to use real full names might cause some upset here and there, and I’m not one to deliberately inflict feelings of embarrassment on anyone.
To take Bill as an example again: he might blush now to read my description of him then as being a “long-haired, unkempt guy” and having a “slightly wild appearance, short stature and puggish face”. (Let me tell you, I was no oil painting myself — gawky, painfully skinny, spotty, buck teeth, pudding-basin haircut and forced by Mum to wear short trousers to high school for several months, even though everyone else there had graduated to the long variety upon leaving junior school.) I’m sure Bill no longer looks anything like he did when he was in his early teens — although I can’t say for sure, as I haven’t been in contact with him for nearly thirty years.
In Bill’s case, however, his blushes have, I think, been spared, as he changed his name to something completely different by Deed Poll during the time I knew him. (I eventually changed mine to Bob Kingsley by Deed Poll, but many years later.) I doubt anyone in his current circle of friends knows his first name was once Bill, and I suspect only a vanishingly small number of my readers — if any at all — would be able to identify him today.
The point about my friendship with Bill, and why it will need to be talked about at some length in this recollection, is that I owe him everything. Aside from his early-teen rebellious flamboyance and cockney schoolboy potty-mouth (he swore like a trooper), aspects of his character which influenced me for both good and ill at the time, I want to say here and now that if it wasn’t for him with his ersatz studio and his willingness to let me play with it, I would probably never have got into radio at all.
So the debt I owe him is immense — and this is another reason why I don’t wish to cause him any undue embarrassment as I recount some of our schoolboy antics, which will necessitate expanding on some aspects of his unique personality. Although he later changed his name, I’ll continue to refer to him as Bill and hope that, if he ever reads these memoirs he’ll see that although my memories of our adventures together may be flawed here and there, my gratitude for what he did for me back then remains undiminished by time.
There are, of course, others in the early days who also greatly influenced me — none of whom, as far as I’m aware, went so far as to change their names by Deed Poll, though many had informally adopted “made up” names for their early, non-professional radio work, which a lucky few continued to use when they later turned professional. Still others stuck to using their given names; some continue to be involved in the radio industry in one way or another while others never got the “big break”.
After giving it much thought, I still don’t know whether I’m being overly cautious, but I’ve concluded the best thing to do, wherever it’s appropriate, is to use only the first names by which I knew them. I want to pass on my long-overdue and profound thanks to all of them for being part of my life and helping to shape what turned out to be, against all the odds, a wonderful and eventful life in radio. If they choose to identify themselves by posting comments — and perhaps even correct me when I’ve got something wrong — I’ll be very happy to hear from them.
To read part 1 of this series, see Radio Daze: Beginnings
To read part 2 of this series, see Radio Daze: Schoolboy Dreams
To read part 4 of this series, see Radio Daze: Bedroom Broadcasting
Cartoon credit: Allan Cavanagh, from Charlie Adley’s Double Vision blog