Saturday, 18 May 2013

Video killed the radio star

Maybe it did back in the 80’s, but not in this house, folks. We don’t own a telly, but we’ve got a radio. Last year when we stayed in the windmill on holiday there was a digital radio in the kitchen through which we rediscovered the joys of radio. It was great to jam to tunes whilst cooking--singing along to your favourite song using a spoon as a microphone and all that. Plus there was Radio 4 (think NPR for my American peeps) that had lots of cool  comedy programmes--many of them politically topical--a way to get the news and have a laugh. We often listened to them on a Saturday at the library on playback, but we missed more than we heard.

We came home from the windmill and really missed the musical mealtimes, so Reader--we did it. We decided to invest in a middle range digital radio/CD player with good speakers for the kitchen to sit atop the fridge freezer. A digital radio ensured we could FM as well as RADIO 4. We bought it and set it up. It didn’t get super great reception--we couldn’t get *every* channel we were hoping for (the all 80s station springs to mind) but it played. We enjoyed both FM and RADIO 4 comedy quite often until a few months ago. Then it happened. The thing. The bad thing.

We stopped getting reception. We don’t know why. It seemed to correspond  with workmen going up in the loft space in the stairwell and jigging about. We don’t know what they did, but after that the radio stopped working. Well, RADIO 4 stopped working. The digital part stopped working. FM was ok if you wanted to listen to JACKFM. But RADIO 4 went all crrrrkkk crrrrkkk crrrrkkkkk and you really couldn’t enjoy it. It was so loud and crackly it was liking being trapped in a car with Spiderman’s dad who was trying to listen to some far off broadcast of a baseball game. All you heard was static and the occasional cheer. We were super sad face.

We have contemplated what to do for several months. We looked into buying some sort of signal booster--the cheapest ones were £20-£30.  But where would it go? The space is limited atop the fridge. What if it didn’t work? Spiderman, being the amazing research librarian that he is, stalked the internet looking for comments left by others on what worked for them.

Eureka! He came home last night with some notes and we tried several suggestions based on ideas he gleaned from the internet. Some people said they got better reception with something metal behind the radio. We tried various pots, pans and baking sheets until we hit upon the perfect pan.


For whatever bizarre reason, if you prop the pizza pan behind the radio, making sure it touches the back of the radio, we suddenly get good reception.  RADIO 4 comes in like a dream--we listened to The Now Show  over our evening meal. Plus we get several more digital radio stations--sadly not the all 80s one--but many good ones. There was one I was really digging that played Good Times by Chic followed by Celebration by Kool and the Gang but Spiderman vetoed disco radio calling the bands Shit and Krap and the Gang, respectively. It all ended in a tickle fight with me trying to defend my love for disco while shrieking and hopping about.

I love how we fixed it. My dad Garry was a fixer like that. He fixed many-a- thing in our household when I was growing up with a bit of string and some ordinary household tape. He was like MacGyver. Remember him? Dad and I loved how he could disable a bomb or escape from a locked building using only a bit of lint he found in his trouser pocket, some dental floss and a spoonful of cat food or some other nonsensical combination of random ingredients. I can recall my Dad fixing the drain on our bathtub. There was a little metal peg that you pulled up to close the plughole and pushed down to drain the water. It was a nail that you moved up and down with an ordinary rubber band tied to some string. It sure was ugly, but it worked.   In my house we called it Garry Rigging. It was our version of Jerry Rigging. I can recall the term Jerry Rigging being used--and always used it myself--because it was preferable to the more common expression N*gger Rigging which I found abhorrent. I thought that Jerry Rigging wasn’t in any way racist. I was an adult before I understood that Jerry was a derogatory name for the Germans in WWII.

So we have successfully Garry Rigged our radio and once again, music and comedy can be heard in the Spider household. Tomorrow we’ll go out to Wilkinsons and buy another pizza pan for about a fiver. Spending £5 and knowing it works is way better than spending £20-£30 and it maybe not working. There is something cool about doing it yourself. Every time I look at it I’ll think of my dear old Dad.  .

And also MacGyver.



    A lot of people used to put alum. foil on the tv rabbit ears antennas to enhance reception back in the day. This seems to be the same principle.

  2. Ha!! So many times we have had to do the same! As for Disco, not a big fan, but...BUT we are going to go see KC and the Sunshine Band in August! They are coming to Busch Gardens!