Listener's Guide

A Few Articles Written For Short Wave Magazine

We remember a long-gone radio journal and our contribution to it.

Radio Days

I'm sure Woody Allen won't mind if I borrow one of his film titles for this little piece.

Like Allen reflecting on his native New York, radio for me has always been a thing of wonder, mystery and magic. Something special, your closest friend and yet somehow out of reach. Growing up in a Midlands town, the first radio I can remember was out of reach. It was screwed to the ceiling.

To live in Derby in the early sixties meant that Dad was a Rolls Royce man, so could turn his hand to anything. We lived close enough to the engine test beds at Sinfin to have their constant roar as a backdrop to everything we did. Just as you were getting complacent, one of them would playfully fire a loose bolt through next-door's greenhouse. It kept you on your toes.

The radio had probably been a bargain. A marked cabinet, perhaps. For a few hours, the test beds came a poor second to the sound of manic carpentry from the pre-fab garage. The new cabinet had a front, but no sides. It was nothing more than a large baffle board the width of the back door, a system of chains holding it at jaunty angle between the top of the door frame and the ceiling.

To this day I can't work out where it got its power from. All I can recall is that when Mum stood on a chair to switch it on, the reassuring glow of the station glass was followed by the strains of The West End Celebrity Orchestra with the theme to Housewive's Choice in the Light Programme of the BBC on fifteen hundred metres on the long-wave from Droitwich. Station names like Daventry, Warsaw and the other country that was West Region hold memories for all my generation, more so when to read them meant dragging the kitchen table, a vision in yellow Formica, over to the back door then, from a chair placed on top of it, listening could begin.

Minor adjustments could be made by leaning out fron the work surface, a route only attempted after scaling the north face of the Aga. What wonders were held frozen the station glass. Reading across you could find the results of early European Cup matches; Hilversum I, Sottens II, a sad day for Hilversum fading in extra time. I could find Prague in the school atlas, but where was Athlone?

Tuning to Saar-Louis only got me the news in Welsh, writing to the External Service of the BBC only got me a terse note from the Board of Trade telling a six-year-old that grant-in-aid funded broadcasts in the Empire Service are not for domestic consumption. Tell a boy he should not be listening and you have a listener for life.

As the family settled down with Perry Mason, the scaffolding would be erected in the kitchen for the evening session. News from Moscow had to wait until I knew the winner of Have A Go and the eight o'clock repeat of The Goon Show. Moscow and AFN played cat and mouse across the dial agreeing only when Cuba became the perfect holiday home for nuclear missiles. We stood at the brink of war, but as long as Sunday lunch brought me Round the Horne, The Navy Lark and in the grey afternoons of winter, The Clitheroe Kid, The Billy Cotton Band Show and Much Binding In The Marsh, that was a problem for the grown-ups.

My only problem then was Sam Costa. As the days went by he was getting fainter and fainter. Dad said one of his valves was going and we could sort it out at the weekend. This would mean missing Saturday Club but it would be worth it. The radio was taken down from the altar above the back door and dusted. Each valve was removed with a true sense of ceremony, wrapped in newspaper, its position noted on the back of a fag packet.

You had to queue in a radio shop in those days. An earnest young man in a white coat took our newspaper parcel into the back room. What ever he did in there, he had to do it alone. A man's relationship with his valve tester is a personal thing. The worst part is the waiting. After what seemed an age our hero returned and told me to be strong. "It's the rectifier. Gone low emission. I'm very sorry."

Not as sorry as Dad. A new 7Y4 would set him back fourteen shillings. On the journey back, he moaned about paying for new technology. These all-glass valves are bound to fail because you can't seal glass against the metal pins. They never had this problem with International Octal.

The new valve was fitted in an atmosphere of relief and resentment, depending on which one of us owned the wallet, normal service being resumed just in time for Two Way Family Favourites. After Dad had a chance to mourn the passing of fourteen bob, he decided to turn his loss to my educational gain by breaking the glass of the old valve to explain to me how it worked.

It was obvious to me it could never have worked. I'd been making circuits with batteries, bulbs and switches and had learned that if you want it to work, there must be a circuit across positive and negative. The bits inside the valve aren't connected to each other. No wonder it don't work. I know better now, of course.

As I finish this listening to Classic FM on a fully synthesised wireless, I realise just how far we have come. But where is the magic?

Early Days - Online Radio Over Dial-Up

Back awhile, I wrote of the impracticalities of owning something like a RACAL RA17 due to the space it took up.

My personal boatanchor classic

I justified it by saying that a fairly standard PC takes up about the same space, only to find my eye drawn to the thing all the time. There can be nothing uglier in the house than the switched-off PC. Or do I mean powered-down? Unbooted?

Anyway, I now know why husbands justify the home computer by shopping online for her and surf the Web for him.

I can't think of anything worse than the Tesco van backing up your drive taking the one branch off the ornamental cherry that supports your long-wire aerial and delivering unto you five litres of bleach when what you really wanted was cling peaches.

The PC has gone now. I have a laptop. Why they call them that I'll never know, you have to be deformed to have it on your lap. The sheer weight with the special long-life battery pack will require a steel pin in each knee - that phrase long-life obviously does not refer to me.

To write this piece I have a groin-top computer, a printer, power supplies everywhere, a modem to inflict digital tedium on a distant Editor who has never done me the slightest harm and a tray with tea and Hobnobs. I think that's what we ordered.

I wonder what you get if you put hobnob in a search engine? Anyway, my station now takes up the space of a decent train set or a couple of RACAL's with perhaps room for an 18 SET at the end.

And all these cables? Back in the quondam days of a radio youth, you could grab a wire and if it did not knock you through the serving hatch into your luxury diner with 1400 volts on the way to the most linear PA ever made, you could say what it is for.

The PA is linear is because I designed it and who will be listening at the seventh harmonic anyway? I digress.

All these wires seem acceptable on the PC but back in the shack, you'd be high on adhesive fumes, tripping over MDF off-cuts boxing them all in.

One chum who has given up on our hobby has gone all out on SKY and DVD, refers to his inter-connects as his little power station. His wife calls it something shorter.

Another chum used a printer cable as a towrope. It gets out of hand.

It's radio for me. The AR7030 is the smallest wireless I have ever had, its installation comparatively wireless. The SKY chum says I can do Internet Radio on the PC and I have tried it.

Pages of stations are listed when you click the RADIO folder, click on one of them and you already know all about it before the audio loads. You can read that WXXX is LA's foremost FM rocker, playing yesterday's hits tomorrow.

No sound yet? Ah, yes. That's because the Real Audio player has gone off somewhere else to get an update. It now tells me it can handle embedded test messages and so to a distorted rendition of Don't Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, a little box comes up to tell me that WXXX is LA's foremost FM rocker, playing yesterday's hits tomorrow and anytime I'm in town, remember to call The Krazy Kow Diner for all I can eat for 6.99

That audio. When it's good, it can be very good. Most of the time it either drops out or sounds like a Dalek singing in the shower. Add that to the poor quality of add-on PC speakers and its back to short wave for me.

Turn the dial and the usual suspects are broadcasting on the same channels they have for years. Old friends. Turn the dial through the channels in between and you have no idea what will come up.

As I write this, Africa No 1 is romping in, some zipping guitar stuff a bit like Bert Weedon on acid. I had no idea it was here even after forty years of listening. SWLing is about serendipity.

You choose your Internet station on the PC. On the radio, the ionosphere makes the selection - the station chooses you. All you need is an open mind to take on what conditions bestow upon you.

The cost! My brief flirtation with Web Radio was done over an 0845 dial-up which Lycos said was free. I have just paid the phone bill.

For the same price, I could have flown out to LA, taken a cab to WXXX, married the DJ who promised yesterday's hits tomorrow, divorced her in Vegas and made off with half of our CD collection, flown home in tears and still had enough money to bore the locals in the pub on how fickle DJ's can be and CD's are cheaper over there anyway.

One day we will have the bandwidth to allow good radio by modem. One day, a Telecomms firm will forget its OFTEL membership and give we Children Of The New Frontier 0800 rates.

Until then, I think I'll delete the dial-up connection on this PC, pack up the cable spaghetti if I can get it all in the case, then it's back to radio for me. Apparently we need the table space for something called lunch.

One last modem call, the one that mails this in. They have got to pay me for this one; its cost me 0.43p to get it to them.

The Listener's Guide Book

In thousands of shacks across Britain and Europe hides an unregarded little yellow book. Its thickness lends itself to being wedged beneath the leg of the workbench to take out the wobble that spills tea on the logbook. Many have already found the paper is not absorbent, so it has no function as a mop. Some folk even read it.

This was the kind of astute reader who would advise you should never turn a hobby into a job. When I applied to Lowe Electronics in the quondam days of 1980, I was hoping to get into their new PC business. I stumbled through the interview looking at all the gleaming radio gear wondering if they would rumble my lack of interest in input-output buffering. They did.

Taken aside by the legend that is JW, he asked, "How would you align an RA17?" I told him you don't, unless you have the kit and the knowledge. Before long the SWL poacher turned game-keeper becoming an ARSE (Amateur Radio Service Engineer, sorry) up at The Emporium. A dream job for an anorak.

Bill Lowe had a certain turn of phrase. His copy caught the mood of our hobby at that time, pre-Advertising Standards Authority. I tried to catch his spirit in various listening notes packed with every wireless. It wasn't long before it was decided they should come together in The Listeners Guide.

It was written long-hand, a page a day, proof-read over a cheeky white wine in the Main Office to howls of laughter. Were they laughing at me or with me?

The first edition with a yellow cover, now very collectible, was then updated with a technical supplement by John Thorpe under grey covers, made a print-run of over 15,000 copies. It got a tremendous response and is still used today. If you still have and, heaven forefend, still read that original version, do let me know.

Times changed, Lowe's changed and I was out in the cold in spite of the anorak. Like too many folk on their own, I surfed the web. I was at one with the feeling of poverty, so many of the young ladies there could not afford clothes. Lycos liked the idea of vanity publishing, so I took a web page for The Guide. Nothing happened.

Our hobby is based on the Laws of Physics which go back a bit so don't be too upset by Old School thinking. It's all in there, somewhere. Old meets new with live news and propagation reports.

As Alex Lester at BBC Radio 2 says, "You have awakened my inner nerd".

We all have one, so we might as well look after it.

Nipper The Dog Is In The Pub Again

That's the trouble with writing nostalgia pieces.

Two things happen. Firstly, you get letters from young limbs banging on about wasting space on boat-anchors, my least-favourite phrase to define classic wirelesses still revered by designers today. And secondly, if you write enough nostalgia, you must reach a point where you arrive at the present day. In the editorial offices of your soaraway SWM, the astute can hear muffled mutterings of, "That should shut him up, then". Not quite.

If you have followed this run of articles, you will now know that I have worked out the psychological problems caused by years next to the wireless by writing about it then inflicting it on you, dear reader.

Nipper The Dog

Up here in deepest Derbyshire, there is a pub near Carsington Water called The Red Lion. The landlord is Pip G8NOP, a rather odd surname, who has a model Nipper dog, the one that stared longingly into the horned phonograph on the HMV logo. I stare at it; it stares back at me, although I have to say there is more life in the model dog these days. If we stand side by side, Pip says he can tell us apart because in the dog's eye, there is a spark of humanity.

We are much the same vintage; we got our experience in much the same way. And, knowing he has the same radio bug as me, he avoids eye contact with Nipper. Last time I was in The Lion, mine host had the poor dog wearing spectacles slightly to one side in an Eric Morecambe style. Anything to avoid eye contact with the dog. Follow you around the room, those eyes.

In between pulling pints, Pip - not the dog - will shamble over to my end of the bar and in low voice suggesting under-the-counter dealings, come out with, "Did you ever use an EF50 as an audio pre-amp? Microphonic as hell and more hiss than a reptile house". With eyes more glazed over than the dog's, we will go on forever about the red ones being the worst and the trouble you had finding the locking rings for the valve-holders. We'll remember buying boxes of valves from Club junk sales only to find that about 60% of them were EF80's.

When I went to the Celebration Dinner for the Derby Club, all I was known for was the boxes of valves. The club has been around for ninety years and the room was packed. All of them to a man trying to avoid eye contact with Nipper.

Later generations feel the same about the EF86, the OC71 glass transistor and finding the extra few pence for the low-noise version of the 741. The OC71 was light sensitive so if you scraped the paint off, you could make a radio that only worked in the dark.

People are already getting nostalgic about the sound cards that came with first generation 386 computers. The hiss they remember is coloured with the gentle buzz of processor hash. Sometimes when a GSM mobile phone breaks through the radio, the sound reminds me of my early days going digital and why I don't bother anymore. There will come a time when today's Pentium 4 used to control a PC radio will be regarded by some with the same affection I have for an AR88. Today's tech is tomorrow's boat-anchor.

My copy of Studio Sound - I get it for the loose-coupled resonators on Page 3 - is full of the hottest digital techniques that will be old hat in less than a year. It may seem odd coming from somebody who used to warm his hands over a pair of KT66's but I feel so much digital audio streaming, either by PC or DAB, is a triumph of marketing over delivery.

Was it the great JT, designer of the modern-day classics such as the HF225 who said that Digital Radio was a streaming form of MP3 and will just about equal a well-installed FM radio for quality? Is it really worth the effort? Is it true that MP stands for Might Play?

Thanks JT for all the work you did on the AR7030. As I write this on the wettest Sunday afternoon ever, I am hearing AIR India on 10330 half way through the morning raga. When you are listening to the station and not for faults in the radio, you know you have got a good one. It is so wet today, I think I just heard Noah testing on 2182. That channel has been quiet for a while now. Another thing I can bore Pip with.

The AIR India I refer to is not the national airline but the national broadcaster. Listening to Shanwick Air Traffic Control on 6622, there is a genuine sense of relief in the operator's voice when an aircraft calls in for a SELCAL check. So much has changed.

On September the 11th, the TV went off, the short wave was switched on. Six hours after the tragedy, BBC World Service had a studio discussion asking who the winners can be after such an act; the Voice Of America was in news free-fall. Presenters could not understand how such a thing could happen on American soil.

The most balanced view came from KOL Israel. They seemed to see both sides. When called by a VOA correspondent concerned about their cool and collected reporting, they simply replied that Israel has been a terrorised nation for over forty years. This is the power of being your own news editor via short wave.

One voice missing was The Voice Of Russia. That economy has learned what it costs to run all those HF TX sites, so the once ever-audible Radio Moscow is only heard here with armchair copy in the evenings.

Even the military comms broke RT practice enough to let you know how they really felt. Time was when New York Radio on 10051 was a real live announcer. I'd like to think he sat in his best tuxedo in a studio at the top of the Empire State Building ready to tell a waiting world of falling dewpoints and the reassurance of NOSIG. Today he is a voice synthesiser. Perhaps with the emotion of that day, it's just as well.

One thing our hobby does is licence you to think. One day, when the laptop I am writing this on is the subject of a nostalgia piece for a computer magazine - it will happen but I won't be writing it - the question will be asked. Where were you on September the 11th?

I was sitting by the radio looking at Nipper looking back at me.

Do Try To Be A Bit More Modern

Why oh why do you insist on running features about boat anchors and the sad folk who insist on keeping them.

Surely our hobby should be about adopting the latest technology. Perhaps it should. And don't call me Shirley.

Those of you who have followed these nostalgia pieces will be happy to read that once you have run out of memories, all you are left with is the here and now. In the heap I call home, our hobby is finally under control. It has taken just forty years to achieve this. From radio rooms full of classic AR88's, HRO's and the groundbreaking backbreaking RA17 to just the AR7030 on the top of the bookcase.

I have even lost the aerial wire. Loops, Zepps and Inverted L's have gone. As have the days when I could stand a draughty shack, happy to wait for the Racal, a pre-synthesised AGA, to warm up to blood heat eventually doing the same for me. Creature comfort is the name of the game now. I can take my place in the snug of The Phase and Jitter and bore for Britain about double-glazing. Having had it done, there is no easy way to get the downlead in without voiding the guarantee. All my precisely engineered copper wire has given over to nothing more than the whip on the back of the AR7030. In fact, there is little around the place to suggest how the hobby once took over my life. It still does sometimes but listen, Doctor, I can handle it. OK?

Yes, I know. The whip is a compromise. Yes, I did work alongside JT and JW up at Matlock as an ARSE (amateur radio service engineer) in the quondam days of the HF 225 development. Yes they did ask me - little me! - to take the prototypes home to get the opinion of someone who had SWL diagnosed as a terminal illness. Yes, they did pack my Listener's Guide in the same box as their highly developed receivers without thinking it devalued the radio in any way. And yes, I'm using the whip when I'm supposed to steeped in antenna folklore.

It can't be all bad. When GBR celebrated 75 years on 16kHz with a Morse message, I did just hear it on my whip all of 0.00005333 of a wavelength long. Only trouble is I can't read Morse. And my maths is rather questionable, so I can save you a stamp if the decimal point is a few places out.

I'll tell everyone that I really don't get the time to listen around but habit forces the hour before The Archers on a Sunday to be lost dithering up and down 80m. I need my fix of G2CVV reading an ever-expanding GB2RS news bulletin in a time slot that has always remained the same. He must have done about 1700 of these since I first heard him as The Thinking Ham's Trevor MacDonald on AM via a John's Radio 19 Set.

Then there's the chap who has just bought the latest top-of-the-line all-bander who feels all that DSP technology will be vastly improved if he uses his Shure Triple Four, pronounced as one word. He thinks this as all the lads (lads?) on the net agree with him. Those flimsy mikes you get with a 3000 quid rig these days are not up to the job.

As I write this, I hear another chap who has only just got around to clearing away the dogs bowl, basket and lead after the poor beast went silent key last year. I really identified with this as so many people experience genuine grief over the loss of a pet. My heart went out to him until he said he kept the dog's clippers to do his own hair with. You can't write stuff like this. You can lock Galton and Simpson, Muir and Norden, Smith and Jones with Ben Elton as Team Leader in a darkened room and tell them to write a sketch like this and they couldn't. Nothing prepares you for life as it is lived. And there is nothing like life on Eighty.

The chap who proudly proclaims all his kit is home-brew, that is, he made it all himself, talking to the guy who only buys black boxes, that is, branded kit from a shop. Silence. Shop Bought Ham has nothing to say to Homebrew Man. Without brand loyalty, a dealer to have a go at or a range of Fascinating Mods to try over the bank holiday, there is no conversation. Shop Bought Stan will say, "Well er, good effort there, sounds really nice. Anyway, must sign this end. Phones ringing." I never heard it. Perhaps the TX gain has been knocked back by the end-stopping ALC produced by the phenomenal output of a shuretriplefour.

I have flirted with digital. I heard the recent DRM tests that gave short-wave mono FM quality. Hang on a bit. At the peak of the last sunspot cycle, VOA used 26.040MHz for a while. Sprain your wrist switching over to 13kHz bandwidth on the Racal or click WIDE on the R1000 of blessed memory and you got er, mono FM quality. I have been firmly corrected that the digital signal has similar bandwidth to current AM senders, but even if it has an ordinary wireless sees DRM as hideously over-modulated AM that upsets the AGC system causing it to appear over-loud and spread compared to the AM'er on the next channel, leaking nicely into the skirts of the AM filter, no matter how good it is.

More spectrum space for broadcasters - less of an issue as so much Utility is up on satellite now - and phase-locked detection provides all the quality you need for the next generation of listeners brought up on MP3 audio via computer speakers.

I thought short-wave wireless was meant to be cost-effective for the listener. That is, man in under-developed country listening on a Grundig Yacht Boy which has already cost him an unreal proportion of his monthly income. If he has a local ISP, will he really sign up for Internet Radio for the cost of an AR7030 based on UK prices? Will he be ready for the when it's good, it's very good - when it's average, it's pretty grim quality of downloaded audio? Will economies of scale kick in enough to put Digital in the Grundig price range? Is it true Grundig was going to introduce a lease-only receiver and call it the Rent Boy? It's radio, Jim, but not as I know it.

As the BBC pulls out of America and SRI trumpets its killing of short-wave as a real development, I wonder who its all for now.

It does leave a few clear channels, though. Channels that can fill with US Evangelists. No matter how bad a day I have had at work, Brother Stair has had a worse one. And it's all my fault. When the day comes and the faithful are taken up in the final rapture, I won't be among them. Unless I send my donation.

According to the good Brother, the computer Year 2000 issue was an Act Of God to get us all thinking. And all my fault. You can't beat this stuff. An hour of this puts a whole new slant on the news when you go back to Radio Four. And short-wave must be doing something right. I haven't bought a newspaper in ten years.

Making The Half-Century

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child. I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things.

Or not as it turns out. Don't worry, I haven't suddenly got religion, even though the 41m Evangelists I hear while shambling about in the early bright would like me to. Pretty clear they are too, as they smite my front-end even unto the third-order intercept point. And it was good.

No, pushing 50 from the good side, I came to the conclusion I'm as adult as I'm going to get and it was time to let our hobby go. Barely stifled cries of joy from the SWM Editor's office. Could this be his swan song?

I'm not sure what happens to you when you pick up a paintbrush. Before you lift that cupboard off the wall to paint behind it, you get an overpowering need to see what stuff you can chuck in an effort to make it lighter. It must be the paint fumes.

There is my copy of the Brimar Valve & Teletube Manual No 6. I bought this new back in the Sixties as Engerland Swung Like A Penderlum Did according to Roger Miller – a smile, a song and a speech defect. The only thing I turned on in that permissive era was a radio. And it was ages warming up, just like me these days. I digress.

Turning the pages, I remember your output valve of choice was a 6BW6, chosen on no greater technical merit than in Class A it offered 8% distortion when you thrashed it, whereas all its chums offered 10%. This was hi-fi, and a concession to miniaturisation as the Ham around the corner says it's a little 6V6, the valve you used for just about everything as the rally season had left you with a garage-full of the things. Looking to your elders and betters, you note that making a 6BW6 happy calls for a 240-ohm cathode bias resistor. As a pedant, you think that working to the nearest Preferred Values of 220 or 270-ohm is an unacceptable compromise and what are Preferred Values anyway?

Well, I like them, ripostes the Elder and Better. Oh, how we laughed. Or, how he laughed. I'd join in to show I was one of the lads.

This copy of Higher Electrical Engineering by Shepherd Morton & Spence can go. It can't go on the jumble sale circuit (electrician's pun. Time to hold your sides again) as there is a hardback edition been appearing in the Community Centres of the three surrounding villages for over two years now. I wonder if the chap who owned it – it would have to be a man as no self respecting woman could get hot and bothered calculating copper losses in 11Kv power distribution – ever used any of the skills it imparted to him. I never got the chance to stall the dinner party conversation before the pudding with my anecdote about dielectric stress on the super-grid. They didn't go for the output valve gag either. The willowy blond I've been chasing for years has never heard of a 6BW6. Oh, what I'd give for a toss of those curls and a purred "I'm a 6V6 girl". Size matters. And I'm at last learning why I don't get invited to dinner-parties anymore.

Mr Shepherd, Mr Morton & Mr Spence, no doubt each to a man a gas at dinner-parties, got me that HND. I never used it. The book came in handy as the crack in the spine reminds of how it held open the shack door during The Summer Of 76. The Mullard Semi-Conductor Manual takes me back to my attempts at going solid-state – the thermal runaway contributing to the heat.

My junk box is in here. Time was when junk boxes were tea chests lined with cigar boxes lovingly labelled with such things as RESISTORS, NON-INDUCTIVE. These would get used in the PA of The Linear To End All Linears. Remember those power cuts in North America a while back? This project would do the same for The National Grid. Did I mention I'm the one to book for after-dinner speeches on insulation losses? Better hurry, I've got a gig in April 2015.

The junk box is now a shoebox and not even full. There are a few non-inductive resistors in here along with a Bulgin 3-pin power plug and a 100Kc/s crystal out of the RA17. Can't throw them away. You just don't know when you are going to need them.

In the end, nothing gets thrown away. You just can't. I've held onto my last three EF80s in some vain thought I can knock up an IF system better that the one in the AR7030.

I thought I'd even sidelined the receiver. Just as I set it up in the farthest corner, out of sight, out of mind, we go to war in our capacity as The 51st State of these United States of America. Every European broadcaster lines up against us. Not reported in the press, you need dear old short wave to hear this. Anyone who used the wireless to do a media scan during the war will know why we got null point at The Eurovision Song Contest.

On the utility side, hearing them going into Baghdad brought it all home. Holiday time in the UK means Search & Rescue Monitoring time. A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman commented, "This sort of thing is all too common".

And we G8s can stop HF listening and start talking at last! I can't resist a morning trawl across 80m to hear the new voices being put in their places by the old ones. Nothing changes. I remember the local G3s telling this new G8YQL that he wasn't a proper Ham even though the day job was up at Lowes.

But as I say, I'm giving up on childish things if I can get over my fixation with BBC7. The reason I'm holding this paintbrush is to upgrade as the estate agent suggested. He looked about twelve in the suit his mother bought him. He reminded me of the sketches Spike left in the margins of Goon Show scripts. Bluebottle to a tee.

He tells me I'm sitting on a goldmine. That must surely help with soil conductivity and a better earth. So I'm staying put, nothing done, nothing thrown away, listening to the radio. And don't call me Shirley.