Monday, December 05, 2005


Radio 4 is on the blink. There was a long silence after the end of Four Corners, so long that you begin to wonder if something terrible has happened. What could possibly take the BBC off the air? Then the continuity announcer's soothing tones announce a technical fault and introduce some Mozart. A string quartet starts up, beautiful, delicate, precise. You wonder how long it will last. Like a break in the weather, a sunny spell in the middle of winter, a sleeping baby. The music swells and dies away. Every quiet passage makes you hold your breath and wonder if PM is suddenly going to break through the impromptu concert.

The music fades out and the announcer is back. Is order about to be restored? No, the fault is still ongoing. An orchestral piece starts. Will the ensembles get bigger as time passes? If this goes on, will you end up listening to Mahler's symphony of a thousand, or the music of a giant gamelan comprising every musician on earth?

The orchestra plays on, soporificly. You are being lulled into sleepiness, you don't need the news, never mind what's happening in the world, here is calm and peaceful.

Suddenly, the music ends abruptly. We're rejoining PM, the quotidian order is restored.

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