The radio was the soundtrack to my life. But I turned it off a week ago – and may never turn it back on

I could handle the monarchism after the Queen died, but not the repetition. I’m getting my news from Twitter now

Up until now, I’ve never deliberately turned the radio off. OK, caveats: I’ll turn it right down if people are trying to talk to me, or if I don’t want to answer a young person’s questions about North Korean missile testing first thing in the morning. I’ll make a mad leap if the Archers comes on, to a different station, but I won’t turn it off. Radio 4 has been a lifelong susurration, sometimes so ambient I don’t even get annoyed by it, sometimes so annoying it’s like the permanent low-level siren in a nuclear power plant. And still I don’t turn it off.

Then, maybe eight days ago, I unplugged the radio and have lived in this cave of silence since. There was no final straw or particular anti-royal sentiment. I have nothing against fervent monarchism, sincerely expressed: it was merely the sound of people aping royalism, the performative respect, above all the repetitiveness. It’s such a fundamental principle of broadcasting, that whatever you say, you can’t say it twice. Even the rookiest DJ on hospital radio knows this, which is how they find themselves accidentally disclosing details of their personal life, just to avoid repeating the sandwich offers.

Six days ago, I gave it one more chance, only to find Today programme presenters trying to amp up the nation’s solemnity by talking more slowly. Honestly, the insult: we have to hear the same thing an apparently infinite number of times, but now it’s going to take much longer.

Here are the downsides: without Thought for the Day, there’s no longer a cue to have a shower, so my personal hygiene has taken a hit; I have no clue what has happened in the sports; I don’t even know if sports are still occurring; I don’t know what the weather is like elsewhere in the country. I’ve been going to Twitter for the news, so US politics has undue prominence but at least the climate crisis is at the centre of everything.

It’s possible that I will never turn Radio 4 back on, and the second half of life sounds completely different from the first. Or, more likely, I get sucked back in by Soul Music, and normality resumes midweek.

  • Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist


Zoe Williams

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