STATION TO STATION (4)

The final moments of the BBC Home Service took place during the final moments of Friday 29 September 1967; David Dunhill, the announcer, made reference to the soon-to-be Radio 1 DJ (and soon-to-be disgraced) Chris Denning having just appeared on BBC2’s ‘Late Night Line-Up’ wearing a T-shirt bearing the words ‘Death to the Home Service’, yet Dunhill assured listeners that the process of rechristening the following day would be akin to being ‘like a bride on the eve of her wedding; we go on being the same person, we hope; but we’ll never again have the same name’. It was a fittingly cosy analogy and one that seemed entirely in keeping with the image the Home Service had in the public imagination – one that typified everything antiquated and irrelevant about BBC radio to the generation tuning in to the pirates.

It wasn’t merely the addition of Radio 1 to the mix and the rebranding of the established three stations that spelt the death-knell for the Home Service; the imminent onset of BBC local radio would also rob it of one of its traditional functions. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the BBC had merged its National Programme and Regional Programme radio stations and the result of the marriage was the Home Service, based in London but peppered throughout the day with regional opt-outs from either Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow or Belfast – depending where you were listening. This hallmark of the station survived the birth of Radio 4 until the countrywide spread of local radio made it redundant; the last such opt-out on Radio 4 was in Devon and Cornwall as late as 1982.

After the war, the reorganisation of the BBC’s radio network that saw the arrival of the Light Programme removed many entertainment shows from the Home Service, though the station continued to host the likes of ‘ITMA’ as well as ‘The Goons’. In fact, for all its reputation as a carrier of serious news programming, the Home never entirely lost its entertainment elements, with adventure serial ‘Dick Barton’ especially appealing to young listeners who had their own show in ‘Children’s Hour’; sitcoms such as the long-running ‘All Gas and Gaiters’ and ‘The Men from The Ministry’ even lasted into the station’s incarnation as Radio 4. Factual mainstays that could also be classed as entertainment like ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ and ‘Desert Island Discs’ survived the transition too and are still with us, as are news and current affairs institutions such as ‘Today in Parliament’, ‘The World at One’, ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ and, of course, ‘Today’.

As we have already seen with Radio 2 and Radio 3, many of the changes that occurred when the BBC stations were renamed were essentially superficial. For one thing, daytime Radio 4 was lumbered with its most unwanted inheritance from the Home Service during its early years, BBC schools broadcasting. Glancing through the musty pages of a Radio Times issue from November 1969, just two years into Radio 4, the station’s morning and afternoon schedule has schools programming from 9.20am till noon, then following ‘Listen with Mother’ at 2.00 there’s a further hour of it – an arrangement that’s all-but inconceivable to a modern-day R4 listener. This state of affairs frustrated more than one Radio 4 controller, though the schools service ironically provided my main contact with the station in the 70s.

By the beginning of the 1973/74 term, schools (as well as adult education programmes) had switched to Radio 4’s VHF wavelength; at a time when most in long pants were still listening on Medium Wave, it freed-up the schedules at last and facilitated the transfer of ‘Woman’s Hour’ from Radio 2 to what seemed to be its natural home. The next big change came in November 1978, when all four national stations shifted around the dial; Radio 4 swapped places with Radio 2, moving from Medium to Long Wave. The change also marked the beginning of 4 as a truly national station with the end of all-but a tiny few regional variations and the debut of the late lamented ‘UK Theme’ to open proceedings every morning; meanwhile, the Shipping Forecast sailed into a more conducive harbour at the same time.

It had taken a decade for Radio 4 to emerge from the long shadow cast by its predecessor, but it appeared to have finally managed it; by the 80s, more listeners were beginning to tune in to FM, which accelerated the relocation of schools broadcasting to the new Radio 5 in 1990. Perhaps the last lingering legacy of the Home Service remit had been dispensed with at last. The FM and LW versions of Radio 4 only temporarily go their separate ways today with ‘Test Match Special’ and ‘Daily Service’.

For my generation, and the generations after, names like the Home Service, the Light Programme and the Third Programme have a quaint, monochrome magic to them, belonging as they do to a lost, post-war 50s world that disappeared before our time. Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, on the other hand, have always sounded contemporary. All four stations predate me by just a couple of months, so it’s no wonder. Of the four, I cannot deny Radio 4 is my preference and has been for around a decade, though I acknowledge it can be far from perfect.

There’s a tendency to over-egg the ‘right-on’ pudding on occasions; equally, whenever those hideous words ‘The Kardashians’ threaten to gatecrash the environs of ‘Woman’s Hour’ or ‘Front Row’, I switch to Radio 3. Radio 4 produces many superb programmes on pop culture (Saturday evening’s ‘Archive on 4’, for example), but there are already enough – more than enough – media mouthpieces for the afterbirths of Reality TV without R4 following suit. It’s supposed to provide an alternative with a brain rather than half of one.

After Radio 2, Radio 4 is the most listened-to station in the country, which is impressive considering what a radical counterpoint it can be to the overabundance of what the Americans refer to as Top 40 stations. The thought that the erudite interlude of ‘In Our Time’ can attract more listeners than some waffling wanker on Crass FM – the sort of white noise that serves as the in-car soundtrack of taxi-drivers – gives one hope that all is not lost. Fifty years old today, Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 appear to have provided a cradle-to (not quite) grave listening experience for my entire lifetime; and that lifetime would have very been different without them. Many happy returns.

© The Editor

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RED DAWN?

Anyone tuning into the Labour Party Conference on TV this week may have been forgiven for coming to the conclusion they were watching a party of government celebrating a recent General Election victory; the same euphoric images of a triumphant Jeremy Corbyn could be seen on the telly in the days following the actual General Election in June. There were sour, sober faces from the likes of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, despite the two women in question still being in charge of their respective countries, while the reaction of Labour MPs and supporters suggested a win against all odds. In a sense, the remarkable performance of Labour on June 8 was against all odds, but it still didn’t end with the party in government. Not that this heroic failure has dissuaded believers in Brighton, convinced government is within their grasp. Far from it.

We shall we wait to see how the Conservative Party Conference shapes up next, but as far as the Labour shindig on the South Coast is concerned, the Tories are perched on the precipice of collapse, courtesy of a lame duck leader and an ineffective Brexit strategy. The Labour faithful might be right; the Government certainly has look of an administration in its death throes, with backstage jostling for a challenge momentarily on ice whilst David Davis fannies about in Brussels, and the sense of counting down the days before the knives are really out for Mrs May unavoidable. But the fact is that the opposition bench remains red and could well do so for another year or two.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. The Labour Party certainly didn’t seem so when the Prime Minister caught most by surprise when she called the snap Election; Jezza’s undisciplined army were trailing embarrassingly far behind in the polls, with endless questions still hanging over the leadership, and predictions of electoral annihilation threatening to surpass the Annus mirabilis of 1983; of course, this was one of the reasons why May took her calamitous gamble. Since that memorable evening in June, however, Labour has been on permanent Election alert. Were it not for the PM buying time by buying the favours of the DUP, not to mention a certain ‘European issue’, the likelihood of another outing on the hustings before the end of the year would have been an odds-on cert, and Labour has consciously armed itself for a campaign it will be ready to fight whenever whichever Tory then occupies No.10 gives the green light.

Jeremy Corbyn strode onto the stage for his big end-of-conference speech with the familiar ringing endorsement from his fan club echoing in his ears. They’ve greeted him as a conquering hero from the minute he was elected leader two years ago, but this time round they had his surprising performance in June as an added impetus to their fanatical devotion. When last year’s Labour Party Conference took place, Jezza had just survived a challenge from…er…oh, yes, Owen Smith (wasn’t it?), yet to anyone outside the Corbyn bubble, even brushing aside a challenger only a year into his tenure as leader didn’t appear a sign of strength, merely an indication of Labour’s lacklustre talent pool. Twelve months on, however, Jezza has never looked more secure in his position.

His speech was delivered by a man oozing enough confidence to try to reach out beyond his hardcore audience to the wider electorate. He managed this to a degree during the Election itself, and the Labour manifesto when looked at closely contained a good deal that many non-Corbynites found themselves in agreement with. Yesterday’s speech followed the same path, and I have to admit I was quite impressed. Corbyn now knows there are people out there who may well vote Labour who wouldn’t have done so this time last year, and he knows he needs their votes to win – particularly the elusive inhabitants of the New Towns. Confounding the pollsters has been achieved; now he has to build on that by taking it to the next level. The speech seemed a determined effort to begin that battle.

Corbyn’s sermon veered off-topic a little when venturing into international affairs, and the party’s Brexit plans must have caused the odd drop of froth to gather on the lips of many a Brexiteer; but when sticking to a domestic agenda there was a fair bit in there that was hard to disagree with. The absence of any reference to the ongoing controversy of anti-Semitic elements within the party was a notable omission, and Tory-bashing was a given; but June’s events have imbued Jezza and Labour as a whole with the conviction they really can do it. The atmosphere in Brighton seemed to reflect this, though it would be wise not to become too confident too soon; there’s still a lot of work to be done and still a lot of people that need persuading. But Labour believes it can successfully launch itself into the next Election on the back of the unexpected gains in the last one; the Conservatives at the moment don’t exude that self-belief.

There have been accusations of further behind-the-scenes machinations to keep the left ruling the roost in Labour, and there remains a very narrow representation of party views in the Shadow Cabinet. When compared to the variety (and extremities) of opinion around the table of Harold Wilson’s 1974-6 administration, Corbyn’s chosen few seem very much in the Corbyn mould; by contrast, Wilson picked the best men (and women) for the job, whether or not they were in absolute agreement with him. It’s testament to Harold’s superlative man-management skills that he was able to keep the chalk-and-cheese likes of Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn on the same side for so long, yet it’s almost impossible to imagine Jezza doing the same because he won’t select anyone who isn’t ideologically aligned with him; and if somebody in his team dares to express an opinion that goes against the Corbyn line, they walk the plank. Just ask Sarah Champion.

There are many members of Corbyn’s crowd I shudder to think of holding a Ministerial post, yet when I gaze at the Government equivalent, I see Chris Grayling and wonder how someone so stupid can even put one foot in front of the other, let alone run a department. But it’s a truism that parties in government for longer than five years tend to acquire bags around their eyes, and it’s undeniable that the public gradually get fed up of just seeing their tired old faces. That’s when they turn to a new model, and no amount of further chopping and changing at the top of the Tory Party can alter the fact that any man or woman who grabs power will be doused in the same jaded odour of knackered familiarity that currently clings to Theresa May like the sorry scent of stale farts on a Sunday morning.

© The Editor

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STATION TO STATION (3)

Those of you who take note of the time of day these posts are dispatched will by now have gathered I’m prone to burning the midnight oil; living in a household where neighbours are a thin wall away, however, requires a degree of tact in terms of background sounds. The usual routine has always been to leave the World Service on come the Radio 4 closedown at 1.00am, though the volume is so low that what the voices are saying is generally inaudible. Of late, I’ve been switching over to Radio 3 to soundtrack my jottings in the wee small hours instead. As an alternative, it’s refreshingly soothing, comprising piano pieces in the Erik Satie mould, string quartets or choral music. They’re loud enough to absorb, but quiet enough not to disrupt anyone else’s slumber; I only wish my recently departed ‘Club DJ’ neighbour had considered a similar course of post-midnight audio action.

As a child, Radio 3 was the national radio station I knew the least about; Radio 4 was almost as alien to my ears, though I do remember my dad regularly listening to ‘Brain of Britain’, from which he no doubt sourced questions and answers for the pub quizzes he organised. In old-school terms, Radio 1 was for the terminal working-classes; Radio 2 was for the working-classes whose social mobility scooters had steered them away from the backyard privy; Radio 4 was for the middle-classes; and Radio 3 was for…well, who? The aristocracy? Pipe-smoking dons in tweed jackets? It had an enigmatic mystery to me because I never heard it, though no doubt its previous incarnation as the Third Programme would have been just as mysterious to ears weaned on Tony Blackburn.

It’s a measure of how much of a special case the Third Programme was that when BBC Radio underwent its great rebranding shake-up on 30 September 1967 and added Radio 1 to the long-standing trio of stations it was really only the daytime Music Programme, occupying the Third’s frequency since 1965, that became Radio 3. In the evening, it was business as usual with the Third continuing to provide cultural riches as well as Network Three’s educational ‘Study Session’; the station also retained its Sports Service strand on an afternoon (which included ‘Test Match Special’). As far as Radio 3 after dark was concerned, however, the impression given was that the station remained a highbrow night-school behind the various doors of which were numerous means of self-improvement; it was still the worthiest of broadcasting endeavours.

There had been more opposition to tinkering with the Third than accompanied the facelift of the BBC’s other two radio stations in 1967; it was viewed by many as an artistic oasis that deserved preservation. Even the ‘hit’ classical music composers like old Ludwig Van and Mozart were more familiar on the Home Service than on the Third, which revelled in the esoteric and uncommercial; there were also fears the station would lose its high proportion of spoken word programming when rebranded as Radio 3. Concerns that Radio 3 would effectively become Classic FM a quarter-of-a-century early were perhaps responsible for the compromise that kept the Third intact for another two-and-a-half years. However, the impact of 1969’s ‘Broadcasting in the Seventies’ report finally saw the Third vanish from the schedules in April 1970 and a full-time Radio 3 at last.

The station did gain ‘Choral Evensong’ from Radio 4 in 1970, with Radio 3 being a more fitting home for a series that has been on air since 1926; in return, political coverage became the exclusive province of Radio 4; any spoken word broadcasts on 3 would henceforth focus solely on the Arts, including plays and poetry. Many had worried the latter would be lost, as the Third Programme had been a major platform for contemporary poetry – virtually the only one in the field of radio. Periodical panic over Radio 3’s future wasn’t helped by the fact that the BBC’s monopoly of the airwaves was coming to an end; but there were few signs the ILR network (which spread across the country from 1973 onwards) intended to compete with Radio 3; as a consequence, its unique status seemed secure.

The station was an early beneficiary of VHF stereo broadcasting, something its playlist could have been designed for; its extensive coverage of the Proms and other major classical music events also often went hand-in-hand with simultaneous broadcasts on BBC2, which at the time was the nearest BBC TV had to an in-vision Radio 3. To the casual radio listener, the Third Programme may have had the reputation of being unfathomably intellectual, but Radio 3 retained the ‘elitist’ tag in the popular imagination simply by virtue of specialising in genres of music that wouldn’t threaten to gatecrash ‘Top of the Pops’. It’s worth noting, though, that Prog Rock would occasionally surface on the Radio 3 schedules in the 70s, paving the way for widening the musical scope that eventually encompassed ‘World Music’. Jazz has also been a key component from the beginning, as it had been in the latter days of the Third.

The arguments for and against the continued existence of a radio station with a relatively small (albeit passionate) listening audience are the same as those that surrounded Radio 3’s predecessor. One former managing director of BBC Radio had described the station as ‘a private playground for elitists to indulge in cerebral masturbation’ during its early years, while those to whom Radio 3 remains the same artistic oasis as the Third was before it are quick to protest whenever a new controller of the station implements ‘controversial’ changes, such as the arrival of Paul Gambaccini as a presenter in 1995; his presence was regarded by some as a populist move to prevent migration to Classic FM.

As we all – well, most of us – contribute towards the funding of the BBC, I think it only right some of that licence fee is diverted into niche broadcasting that doesn’t have the audience of a ‘Strictly’ or a ‘Bake-Off’. If we all pay in, we should all have our own tastes catered for, even if the tastes of the many naturally count for more in respect of how the money is dished out than the tastes of the few. The Third Programme or Radio 3 was never destined to be a ratings winner, but so what? Some things in broadcasting (and life) count for more.

© The Editor

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STATION TO STATION (2)

Being a notoriously dour Scotsman, Lord Reith’s famous proclamation that the BBC’s role was to inform, educate and entertain meant that the last of that trio wouldn’t have got much of a look in had Reith’s tenure as DG lasted way beyond 1938. His austere Presbyterian idea of entertainment would have driven a war-weary listening audience away from the BBC in their droves during the 1950s; they’d already turned to Radio Luxembourg for a lighter evening in front of the wireless before the war, and chances are they’d have continued to do so had not Reith’s successors at the helm reorganised the Beeb’s network when hostilities ceased in 1945.

Taking over from the General Forces Programme, the Light Programme debuted on the airwaves just two months after VE Day and quickly established itself as the most popular of the BBC stations for the next couple of decades. Whenever a documentary requires a piece of music to accompany footage of the 50s and wants to evoke a certain Home Counties ‘cosiness’, chances are the piece of music in question is the theme tune from a Light Programme mainstay such as ‘Housewives’ Choice’, ‘Workers’ Playtime’ or ‘Listen with Mother’. It’s also worth noting radio institutions like ‘The Archers’, ‘Woman’s Hour’ and ‘Pick of the Pops’ formed part of the Light Programme’s line-up along with a rash of memorable comedies such as ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ and ‘Round the Horne’. And then there was the music – fittingly light with soupy strings and melodies so unobtrusively polite they almost asked for permission to rent the airwaves. By the mid-60s, however, the music was the problem.

With the Beeb belatedly attempting to swing along with the rest of the 60s, the rebirth of radio on 30 September 1967 saw the teen pop offerings of the Light Programme shift over to the new Radio 1; what of Radio 2, though? How would it differ from the station it succeeded? Not that much, really, which I suppose was part of the strategy to hold onto the Light listeners. Amongst the offerings on Radio 2’s first day (a Saturday) were Pete Murray, Kenneth Horne, Max Jaffa, the BBC Midland Light Orchestra, Sidney Davey and his Orchestra – Light Programme veterans all. It seemed the only real change was the name.

Come Monday morning, though ‘Housewives’ Choice’, ‘Music Box’ and ‘Music While You Work’ had all vanished and the station shared the shows of Jimmy Young, Simon Dee and Pete Brady with Radio 1, ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’ (now ‘The Dales’) clung on, as did ‘Woman’s Hour’ – albeit considerably longer than ‘The Dales’. Musically, the presence of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, Frank Chacksfield, and the wonderfully-named Reginald Leopold and the Palm Court Orchestra suggested familiar fare. Dotted through the schedule of the first Radio 2 week were other stalwarts of the Light such as ‘Family Favourites’, ‘Sing Something Simple’, ‘Top of the Form’, ‘The Navy Lark’, ‘Any Questions?’, ‘Friday Night is Music Night’, and plenty of sport, which remained a fixture of Radio 2 until the launch of Five Live in the early 90s.

There was a good deal of channel crossing between Radio 2 and Radio 4 in terms of genres and repeats in the early days, as there had been between the Light Programme and the Home Service; there was a distinct lack of identity where both stations were concerned, something that led to ‘Broadcasting in the Seventies’, the BBC’s far-reaching 1969 review of its radio output. As a result of the changes recommended in the report, the four networks began to morph into recognisably individual entities from the early 70s onwards. When Radio 1 transferred Jimmy Young and Terry Wogan to Radio 2 around the same time, the classic morning schedule had finally taken shape.

Although a few quizzes and comedies lingered on 2, along with a solitary soap (‘Waggoners’ Walk’), my own childhood memory of the station is of its playlist, largely derived from staying at my grandparents’ house in the 70s. For me, it presented a curious alternative to the pop diet of Radio 1 so familiar at home and served as an introduction to Easy Listening, Jazz, Big Bands and the song stylists of the pre-Rock n Roll era, none more so than Sinatra. By the late 70s, a combination of Simon Bates and Punk (awkward bedfellows, to say the least) had seen my dad switch his listening allegiance from 1 to 2, something the soccer coverage on the latter helped.

Aside from Wogan and Young, the voice I associate most with childhood exposure to Radio 2 is that of the superb football commentator, the late great Peter Jones; at a time when football coverage on TV was at a minimum unimaginable to today’s Sky subscribers, radio provided an essential service, and the theme tunes to ‘Sport on 2’ and ‘Sports Report’ respectively still evoke the old spirit of Saturdays for me as much as the sight of Tom Baker’s hat-&-scarf ensemble. When VHF – as FM radio was always called then – first appeared in our household, the wavelength was shared between 1 and 2, so any listen to a Radio 1 documentary in my teens was generally followed by a Radio 2 Jazz or Folk show.

The old joke about Radio 2, that it was a retirement home for Radio 1 DJs, is as relevant now as it ever was. Chris Evans, Jo Whiley, Zoe Ball, Sara Cox, Trevor Nelson and Simon Mayo were all still on Radio 1 twenty years ago, whereas they now comfortably slot in alongside ex-Radio 1 stars of a far older vintage such as Bob Harris, Johnnie Walker, Tony Blackburn, Paul Gambaccini and Steve Wright. However, the daytime playlist is usually geared towards listeners suddenly feeling nostalgic about their 20s for the first time, something that tends to creep in when people hit their 40s; therefore, the station’s presenters and musical selection reflect this for each generation. One thing Radio 2 has continued to do far more successfully than Radio 1 is to gently lower the average age of its audience every couple of decades.

In recent years, the blend of old and older broadcasters has helped make Radio 2 the nation’s most listened-to station and it appears to have finally shed its pipe & slippers image in the process. There does seem to be a worrying reliance on TV personalities presenting programmes, with Graham Norton, Paul O’Grady, Dermot O’Leary, Claudia Winkleman, Clare Balding, Craig Charles, Vanessa Feltz, Liza Tarbuck and the Partridge-esque Jeremy Vine all making the journey from television to radio; but former Radio 2 presenters who now reside in that great Broadcasting House in the sky, such as Terry Wogan and David Jacobs, also had a foot in both camps. And Radio 2 can still boast the archetypal broadcaster with a great face for radio, the indestructible Ken Bruce.

© The Editor

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MADMEN

Well, it takes one to know one. Kim Jong-un referring to Donald Trump as ‘mentally deranged’ following the US President’s characteristically blustering speech at the United Nations this week was at least a diagnosis delivered by someone who recognised the signs. The war of words between Washington and Pyongyang has accelerated again, although on the same day that Iran’s response to Trump’s criticism of them was manifested as defiantly launching a ballistic missile, the American Air Force decided to fly bombers across the fringes of North Korea’s east coast – upping the testosterone ante somewhat. There’s a lot of muscle-flexing and macho posturing going on at the moment, and though the sanity of the guilty parties is regularly questioned, I think sanity is probably one of the first casualties of power, anyway.

The actions of leaders on the world stage are often engineered to provoke the biggest impact back home, and there are suspicions that one of the ways in which the organised crime dynasty ruling North Korea is retaining its grip on the country is by overstating its global significance. The people of North Korea – or at least those not breaking rocks for the thought crimes of their ancestors – are force-fed propaganda on a daily basis that tells them how important their country is; to the North Korean people, footage of Kim Jong-un viewing missile launches and surveying the troops convey the image of a great statesman leading a great nation; if he has the nerve to repeatedly stick two fingers up at America, Kim Jong-un must be the man the media proclaims him to be.

Twice in the last month, North Korea has flown missiles over Japan, but in the wake of Kim Jong-un’s reaction to Trump’s UN speech, his foreign minister said that one option open to the great dictator was ‘the strongest hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific’. Last time an atmospheric nuclear detonation took place on the planet was in 1980, carried out by China; China’s nuclear programme from the 60s onwards had been underestimated by the west just as North Korea’s has been, and Kim Jong-un could regard such a potentially devastating test as a means of proving he means business if Trump’s confrontational rhetoric is to be taken seriously. Needless to say, the damage to not only marine life, but to the environment as a whole in the Pacific should this happen is scary. Even scarier is the thought of an accident en route. A missile carrying a H-bomb accidentally plummeting down and landing on Japanese soil could have unthinkable ramifications.

A few weeks ago I bumped into an acquaintance of mine who told me she was going away for six months – to Japan. Her son lives there, having married a Japanese woman, and while I wished her well, I couldn’t help but think there might be some safer locations in the world to spend the next half-a-year. Going by current standards, though, not many. Mind you, the lady in question has been around long enough to have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, so I should imagine she’s used up her quota of sleepless nights. The fact she’ll be residing in the same geographical neck of the woods as the world’s incumbent Public Enemy Number One also probably won’t unduly bother her; the alternative was returning home to visit her elderly mother, but as she’s American, that prospect doesn’t sound too appetising either.

For all the endless foot-stamping, placard-waving protest of Trump’s most vocal critics, the fact they live in a country where they can criticise their President without looking forward to ending their days in a labour camp is worth remembering. The ridicule Dubya received during his tenure in the White House looks like gentle leg-pulling in comparison to the treatment meted out to the Donald, though those meting it out are still allowed to do so free from fear of being carted off and never seen again. Faced with persistent provocation from North Korea, Trump is naturally going to respond; but Trump being Trump means this response will inevitably be in the style of an NFL coach bigging up his team on the eve of the Superbowl. Trump gave his adoring supporters exactly what they asked for when he spoke at the UN, whereas those on the other side were understandably appalled by his ‘come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ approach. Obama would have done things differently, but Obama hardly left the world a safer place than how he found it by doing things differently.

One positive move amidst the rather tense atmosphere has come from China – still the one country in a real position to cut North Korea down to size without resorting to nuclear options; in response to the latest UN sanctions, China has reduced the amount of oil it supplies to its troublesome trading partner and has also stopped buying North Korean textiles. The latter might not sound much, but many of the clothes that have a ‘Made in China’ label sown into them emanate from North Korea, and the ban could cost the country upwards of £350m a year. As for the oil, North Korea purchased almost 2.2 million barrels from China last year, so that will hurt it too.

Kim Jong-un has no qualms over murdering members of his own family to ensure he remains in power, so flouting international laws and the authority of the UN probably doesn’t cause him any existential angst. And, ironically, there are enough of Trump’s own countrymen who regard their President as a dangerous idiot to find themselves in agreement with the Asian Ro-land’s opinion of the Donald. As Ray Davies once said, it’s a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world.

© The Editor

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STATION TO STATION (1)

A week from today will mark half-a-century since the day the nation’s stations received the most comprehensive facelift in their history; and, lest we forget, fifty years ago we only had three national radio stations. Yes, there were the pirates, though they – bar Caroline – were poised to sail away into the sunset; officially, the country had just the Light Programme, the Home Service and the Third Programme. There were no local BBC stations, and the Independent Local Radio network was still six years away. Once the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act sank the pirate ships, listeners were left with Luxembourg and its erratic reception if they sought an alternative to the BBC’s wireless output.

If one is to credit pirate radio with one thing it really should be giving the kiss of life to an ailing medium. From being very much the poor relation before the war, television had gathered pace with the arrival of ITV in 1955 and by the early 60s had usurped radio as the people’s choice. In response, all the BBC’s creative energies were directed towards TV and radio was left to its own devices, with only the Third Programme receiving special treatment courtesy of its high standing in the artistic community. Listening figures were plummeting and it didn’t help that, with Britain the epicentre of a pop revolution conquering the globe, BBC radio’s concession to the revolution was limited to the likes of ‘Saturday Club’ and ‘Pick of the Pops’.

Belated recognition that the BBC needed to reflect the changing climate on the airwaves led to plans being hatched for a new addition to the existing trio of national stations. But it wasn’t simply a case of the Beeb replicating what the pirates had done so successfully since 1964; Musicians Union rules over needle time meant the in-house BBC orchestras that provided so much of the light ‘mood music’ that had soundtracked the daily chores of the housewife for a couple of decades were not going to be disbanded overnight. A BBC idea of a pirate radio station risked being the aural equivalent of a pipe-smoking, cardigan-clad dad dancing around the living room to The Jimi Hendrix Experience or the Light Programme in a kaftan. Live music was going to be as much a staple of what became Radio 1 as spinning discs, though the fact this ruling eventually gave birth to the legendary Peel Sessions was pure serendipity.

With the new law enforcing the illegality of the pirates, the entire staff of DJs that had become household names to anyone under 25 were about to be made redundant; by happy coincidence, a new employer was looking for a workforce with their precise qualifications. So it was that the cream of the pirate crop sat alongside a handful of veteran broadcasting stalwarts to pose for a photo that used to be re-staged every ten years until the participants started dying or ended up in prison. Radio 1 had recruited almost all the pirate DJs, and when the new station went on air with Caroline’s Tony Blackburn on 30 September 1967 – preceded by heavy promotion in the Radio Times and its ‘swinging’ front cover for the week – the pirate model sufficed for the first ninety minutes. The second programme on Radio 1 was ‘Junior Choice’ with Leslie Crowther.

The wavelength sharing between Radio 1 and its new sibling Radio 2 was scattered throughout that opening day and this continued to be the case for more or less the whole first decade of the station. The recurring term ‘As Radio 2’ in the Radio Times listings for Radio 1 was a regular feature that meant any hip ‘n’ groovy listener either had to endure Light Programme leftovers for a couple of hours in the middle of the schedule or simply switch off. Mind you, it’s worth remembering that DJs we all associate with Radio 2 – such as Terry Wogan and Jimmy Young – were part of the Radio 1 line-up in the beginning.

The schizophrenic nature of the station, viewed by many as a pale imitation of the pirates at best and little short of a charlatan at worst, helped prompt 1969’s landmark in-house report, ‘Broadcasting in the Seventies’, that sought to rectify the problems. By the early 70s, however, a generation too young to remember the pirates had taken to the station as it gradually grew into the familiar form those of us old enough can still recall, and listening figures reflected this.

The ‘star’ DJs such as Tony Blackburn, Jimmy Savile, Noel Edmonds, Dave Lee Travis, Kenny Everett and ‘Emperor’ Rosko were all familiar faces as presenters of ‘Top of the Pops’, and the mutual appreciation society between BBC TV’s leading music show and Radio 1 benefitted both. In the 70s, the Radio 1 DJs were almost as famous as the pop stars whose careers they had the power to make or break – opening supermarkets, judging wet T-shirt contests, and drawing huge crowds when making prats of themselves on stage during the annual summer institution of the Radio 1 Roadshow. This was the heyday of the ‘Smashie and Nicey’ incarnation of Radio 1, though it also spanned the 80s; regardless of personnel changes, the mid-Atlantic accent, the bomber jacket and the cheesy persona had already been established as a mould, whether inhabited by Simon Bates or Bruno Brookes.

By the time of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s painfully accurate parody, the BBC was concerned that a radio station supposedly aimed at an audience in its teens and twenties had retained listeners of a much older age range that hadn’t followed the traditional migratory route to Radio 2. The call went out to Matthew Bannister and what followed was a traumatic period in which Radio 1 didn’t seem to know what it was (or who it was for) anymore. The old school were shown the door, and after the crash-and-burn era of Chris Evans, a semblance of stability returned to the station as it entered the 21st century.

I haven’t listened to Radio 1 for a good decade, so I can’t comment on its current state of health with any authority. Last time I tuned in, Chris Moyles was still the host of the breakfast show and Jo Whiley was still espousing all she regarded as ‘cool’ mid-morning. I stopped listening not necessarily because I found the music being played increasingly irritating, but because I simply couldn’t stand the prattling DJs. At the same time, I recognise this has always been a regular factor for the listener where Radio 1 is concerned, and probably always will be.

Over the next seven days, I intend to profile all four stations that arrived on our dials fifty years ago this week, so stay tuned for Radio 2…

© The Editor

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STREET OF SHAME

When it suits some, the Brexit factor is certainly a convenient one. It’s surfaced as an excuse of late in a handy round of pass-the-buck that covers a few questionable tracks. Local councillors and business leaders in Staffordshire haven’t blamed the decline and fall of their high-streets on the sunshine, the moonlight, the good times or even the boogie, but on the Brexit. Unhelpful city centre parking facilities, extortionate rents for shop premises, out-of-town retail parks and internet shopping all pale next to the Brexit factor – at least according to the good burghers of Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent; there’s also the small issue of the demise of the town’s world-famous industry, one that enabled places like Burslem to thrive and prosper, and how it hasn’t been replaced. But blame it on the Brexit.

We’ve seen this before, of course. Britain’s traditional heavy industries – whether the mines, steelworks, or the potteries – employed the communities that sprang up around them; when the industries died, the communities died with them. What’s left behind is a sorry shadow of what once was, and Burslem is officially the country’s premier ghost town when it comes to commerce; the shop vacancy rate there is thrice the national average of 12.2%, standing at a dismal 31.5%. One in three empty shops does not a busy town centre make, and Burslem is home to 11,000 people who are being so poorly served that they drive to neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme or Stoke itself rather than circumnavigate the maze of double yellow lines or cough-up for an hour’s worth of parking if they actually find a space when they might only want a packet of fags.

The Local Data Company compiled their depressing survey by visiting 2,700 towns and cities and found a trail of abandonment that was hardly unique to Burslem; it just happened to be the worst. In fact, I have it on good authority (i.e. from someone who lives there) that our very own City of Culture – AKA Hull – has its fair share of boarded-up shop fronts that hardly exude the spirit of a bustling commercial hub, let alone a cultural one. This all predates Brexit, but Brexit will suffice as a reason when councillors are confronted by the casual neglect of town and city centres that stretches back years. There is now probably at least one generation that has never associated the shopping experience with the high-street; theirs has been shaped by the mall.

For the traditional high-street, the mall was a monster it couldn’t compete with. As the big name stores gradually vacated their cramped old premises and moved to expansive new locations in the mall, town centres slowly embarked upon an agonising descent into dereliction, losing the motorist as a customer and leaving the pedestrian shopper with an increasingly limited choice. The remaining high-street supermarkets resorted to desperate measures, expanding their value own-brands, loudly promoting the ‘Buy one, get one free’ special offers, and introducing the most contentious development of all – maximising the sale of cheap alcohol, something that helped fuel the craze for ‘binge-drinking’ and also undercut the already ailing local public house.

The cheap booze policy may have kept several supermarkets in business, but the high-street of the 21st Century, peppered with bargain basement pound-stores and charity shops, is a depressingly uninspiring location. Gone are many of the familiar old supermarkets and gone are the old all-purpose stores like Woolworth’s, whose once-unique selling points can now be found in a dozen different shops under the roof of the mall or in the retail park warehouse. At the dawn of the economic meltdown that the 2008 banking crisis spawned, dear old ‘Woolies’ went to the wall, the first in a series of high-street names to vanish from the landscape in a matter of weeks, including furniture giants MFI, bookstore chain Borders, and Zavvi, the short-lived record shop chain that had purchased the old Virgin stores – all of which left the high-street more decimated than ever. What replaced them hardly instilled the high-street shopper with confidence.

The multi-purpose nature of malls also dealt a blow to other long-standing town centre fixtures. Many old picture houses, having survived the popularity of television and home-video by the skin of their teeth, finally succumbed to the changing climate when massive multiplex cinemas began to establish themselves as key ingredients of the retail parks. These glaringly impersonal and aesthetically unappetising arenas of artifice were nevertheless the ideal environments to showcase the merchandise trailers masquerading as movies that Hollywood has invested in from the 90s onwards.

But throwing all retail eggs in one basket can have catastrophic consequences for the towns that gleefully discard their high-streets, as has already been shown across the Atlantic. There have been several cases in America where malls have actually closed their doors for good, becoming so-called ‘dead malls’, whether due to changes in the social demographic of the residential areas surrounding the mall or because the owners of the establishment have decided to relocate their operations elsewhere. When this occurs, a town that had allowed its former high-street to decay as all leading business had decamped to the mall is suddenly left without any notable shopping areas for its citizens; although this has yet to happen in the UK, the recession that descended upon Britain in the wake of 2008 suggests that such a devastating event is not beyond the realm of possibility, and looking at the ghost towns many British high-streets have become in recent years doesn’t auger well.

Perhaps hope for the high-street lies with those who have chosen to set-up shop in Britain from foreign climes; just as Asian immigrants saved the corner-shop from extinction in the 60s and 70s, maybe the migrants from Eastern Europe who have colonised some British high-streets with cafes and bistros that specialise in their own exotic cuisine point the way forward to a future in which the high-street can be reborn as a cornucopia of choice that even the mall can’t compete with. And why attempt to compete, anyway? Make the high-street a separate entity, a true alternative to the mall, and maybe it’ll build up a clientage unique to itself.

© The Editor

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ANOTHER HOMAGE TO CATALONIA

Bombs couldn’t do it in Basque Country, and now it seems the ballot box can’t do it in Catalonia. So, where do Catalans go from here? Mind you, it’s not as if they haven’t been here before. The regular redrawing of the European map over the past millennium – reflecting wars, rising and falling empires, revolutions, repressive dictatorships, and territories swapping hands – have all played their part in the grievances of Catalonia. The unification of Spain in 1492 took place much earlier than the similar joining of independent dots that created Germany and Italy several centuries later, thus giving the Spanish a crucial head start in conquering the globe; Catalonia’s position as a principality was rarely a comfortable one.

The Iberian Peninsula changed hands from Visigoths to Moors to Franks before the counties that became recognised as Catalonia were united under the Crown of Aragon in 1137; during the Franco-Spanish War of 1635-59, Catalonia declared itself a republic, though in reality remained a principality, only this time under French protection. The end of the conflict saw the Catalonian counties of Roussillon, Conflent and Vallespir ceded to the French by King Philip IV of Spain; but it took until the end of another European bloodbath – the War of the Spanish Succession – before Catalonia was reduced to a Spanish province in 1716, belatedly abolishing the Crown of Aragon.

Whenever countries are created by strong regional states (Prussia in Germany, Castile in Spain) assembling often reluctant junior partners under one unifying federal umbrella, the lingering legacy of former independence survives as an inherited collective memory. All nations born this way have their ‘problem people’ (Yorkshiremen, for example), but Spain has had to deal with the explosive Basques as well as the Catalans. Franco had his own ways of dealing with perceived sedition, which is why the rather physical response of the Spanish Government to the planned Catalonian independence referendum this week has provoked such anger.

Catalonia had been granted status as an autonomous state within Spain in 1932, but within a couple of years autonomy had become insurrection and was crushed. Although the region had a resurrected autonomous status during the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s victory saw him impose increasingly repressive measures upon the Catalans, banning the native language and abolishing their independent institutions. The post-war growth of Barcelona as an economic powerhouse as well as a major tourist attraction fuelled further separatist ambitions, and the 1975 restoration of democracy in Spain at least granted the region a degree of independence; for some Catalans, however, this has never been enough.

An unofficial and non-binding self-determination referendum took place in 2014, which was branded illegal by the Spanish Government; it’s estimated 80% of Catalans who took part favoured independence, though the Government of Catalonia claimed it was merely testing the waters. This warm-up for a ‘proper’ referendum gave confidence to the most stridently separatist members of the Catalonian Government and a date has been pencilled-in for 1 October for the real deal – even though a recent poll stated 49% of Catalans were opposed to independence, with 41% in favour.

Spain’s well-publicised economic woes since 2008 haven’t affected Catalonia as badly as some regions of the country; it remains relatively wealthy in comparison to those more badly hit, though Catalans say they pay far more into the national budget than what they get back from Madrid. Limits were also set on Catalonia’s independent ambitions by Spain’s Constitutional Court on 2010, which further angered separatists. The referendum plans have pressed ahead, but with less than a month to go, the Spanish Government has delivered the strongest warning yet of how it will react to the result, something the Catalonian Government has undoubtedly provoked by announcing it will declare a state of independence within 48 hours of a Yes vote.

Yesterday, local government offices, ministries and private companies organising the 1 October referendum were swooped on by Spanish police, with 14 Catalan officials arrested and detained during the raid. They confiscated documents, computers and upwards of 10 million ballot papers. The determination to hold the referendum is viewed as a direct challenge to Madrid’s authority and Madrid has seen fit to enforce that authority; indeed, Spanish police enforced it rather brutally to break-up a protest outside the Catalan economic ministry in Barcelona, their tactics reviving those of Franco’s storm-troopers for those old enough to remember. The division of the Spanish police force dispatched to Barcelona were the militarised Guardia Civil, which made the authorities’ intentions pretty evident from the off; they anticipated trouble, and they got it.

The prospect of virtual direct rule from Madrid and the curtailing of Catalonia’s autonomous institutions is one threat that the National Government can impose if Catalans insist on proceeding with their plans for 1 October; however, when even one of Catalonia’s most revered exports, Barcelona FC, throws its weight behind self-determination, a Government faced with little option but to react to constant demands that contradict a constitution at the core of its existence may have to rely on force. This story has a long way to go yet. Adiós.

© The Editor

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THE SPIRIT OF SIR FREDDIE

Alas, poor Freddie; we remember him well. The Freddie in question was Sir Freddie Laker, whose dream of affordable air travel for the masses was the kind of entrepreneurial concept that would have received the Thatcher stamp of approval had he not attempted to implement it before Mrs T was in her full flow; as it was, he famously went bust just three years into her premiership, and his era predated her. He’d initially made money as a war-surplus aircraft dealer during the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948-49, flying supplies into the besieged enclave of western influence on the fringes of the Iron Curtain; but his most celebrated venture, Laker Airways, first appeared in 1966.

After wartime restrictions, overseas travel resumed for Brits as the 50s beckoned, but when it came to flying, this remained the province of the wealthy. These were the days when couples actually dressed for air travel as though they were out for a night at the opera; the exclusive glamour of this most elite form of transport was also reflected in the sleeve of Sinatra’s 1958 LP ‘Come Fly with Me’ as well in as the much-coveted occupation of air hostess, promoted as a dream job along with that of a ballerina by girls’ comics of the era. In some respects, flying to a foreign destination was as remote to the average Brit as Dan Dare’s regular jaunts into outer space. Freddie Laker was determined to change that.

In 1971, Laker submitted an application to the Air Transport Licensing Board to launch an unprecedented low-fare, no-frills service between London and New York, charging what was then a remarkably cheap one-way fare of £32.50 in the winter months (£37.50 in the summer). Laker’s ambitious scheme came on the eve of the package-tour explosion of the early 70s, when Spain established itself as the alternative to the traditional pleb holiday resorts of Blackpool and Butlin’s; the swift turnover of travel agencies that sprang up to cater for the sudden appetite the working classes had acquired for overseas vacations was a precursor to the dot.com bubble of the early 2000s, but Freddie Laker had his sights set on bigger prizes, despite the pressure from established airlines.

It took until 1977 before Laker could finally get his Skytrain project off the ground. One-way from Gatwick to New York cost £59, which is roughly the equivalent of £335 today; it was an immediate success, and Laker’s flair for publicity ensured even those for whom £59 was too much knew who he was. The cartel of airlines whose dominance was threatened by this flash usurper responded by slashing their own prices and doing their best to undercut Laker at every turn. Laker’s success proved to be his undoing as his rivals employed every dirty trick to cut him down to size while he expanded his fleet of aircraft; the fall when it came was spectacular.

The final flight of Laker Airways took place on 5 February 1982, the same day as the firm went bankrupt, in debt by £250 million. However, the spirit of Sir Freddie was an undoubted influence on the no-frills airlines that followed in his wake, as well as on the likes of Richard Branson; the bearded wonder even went so far as to name one of his own aircraft The Spirit of Sir Freddie. Indeed, the actual spirit of Sir Freddie has continued to inspire other rich-boys with a fancy for owning their own airline ever since; many have also inherited Laker’s showmanship, becoming recognisable faces within the media in a way that the heads of more traditional airlines rarely are.

As a child, I flew for the first time at the age of ten; the airline was called Britannia, something I naturally recall due to the novelty and thrill of the situation. Our nation’s guardian was displayed prominently on the side of the aeroplane. Today, first-time flyers are often barely out of the womb and perhaps the magic of air travel has now been devalued to a degree, though this is inevitable the more people use it. Unfortunately, the higher demand and the expectation of cheap air fares has resulted in the kind of competition in which corners are cut and more purveyors of the no-frills rhetoric have taken the practice to new and potentially dangerous levels. Air travel may today be less of a fantasy form of getting from A to B for the masses than it once was, but stories of exhausted air crews and pilots falling asleep at the controls as a result of the clamour for an increase in flights demonstrate the dangers of reducing it to the standards of a bus service.

Despite being the butt of mediocre jokes and regular criticism, Ryanair, perhaps the most visibly successful successor to Sir Freddie’s ideal (it was formed two years after Laker Airway’s bankruptcy), carries more international passengers today than any other airline in the world; it is also the largest in Europe in terms of scheduled passengers flown. Its success has reflected the changing perception of air travel since Sir Freddie’s day; were he around now, he’d probably be spared many of the problems that plagued his pet project during his time. It may not be the most comfortable journey imaginable (flying cattle-trucks spring to mind), but as many have said in relation to Ryanair, you get what you pay for.

The latest bad news day to afflict Ryanair has been glossed over by the airline’s chief executive and Sir Freddie figure Michael O’Leary; although he’s yet to say sorry, he hasn’t hidden from view, facing the press and reckoning he should be applauded for admitting his mistakes. The airline has cancelled 40-50 flights a day for the next six weeks, apparently due to ‘messing up’ the planning of staff holidays and therefore being left with a shortage of available pilots; and though compensation payments estimated at around at least €20 million are promised, that’s probably little comfort to those still on holiday who are wondering how they’re going to get home. But I suppose if we want air travel to be as cheap as it has become, there’s a price to be paid for it.

© The Editor

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AFTER THE FLOOD

It’s an old question – ‘What would you take with you if your home was on fire and you had to make a dash for it?’ For years, my answer to the question was the same: my cat and my memory stick. I sadly no longer have my cat, so it’s just the memory stick now. Touching wood, I’ll never be faced with that dilemma; but it’s not just fire that can provoke a swift and sudden flight. Hurricane Irma’s trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean and the southern coastal States of the US has forced people into giving their own answers to a similar question. Unfortunately – and, to me, inexplicably – many of them didn’t regard their pets as being top of the list; some didn’t even put their pets on the list at all. For such a God-fearing country as America, it’s amazing how many Americans failed to take a leaf out of Noah’s book.

Living in Blighty, we tend not to experience such extreme weather conditions. Yes, we’ve suffered some terrible floods in recent years and there have been the odd occasions in which Michael Fish has had to regret not taking a can of Mr Sheen to his meteorological crystal ball; but by and large most of us have no concept of having to make a rapid exit in the knowledge that the Big Bad Wolf will probably huff ‘n’ puff and blow our house down in our absence. Having said that, knowing it was coming would enable us to hastily gather our loved ones together and get the hell out of there quick. Nobody but a complete bastard would leave their children behind, so why would anyone abandon such significant family members as their pets?

Wind speeds of 135mph, a storm surge of 10 feet, three inches of rain every hour – that’s what was predicted when Irma came to town, and the people responded accordingly, by packing away all essential possessions and running to the hills; a pity pets weren’t regarded as essential possessions. The sad fact is that animals kept in the home are no more important to some people than disposable and replaceable items like furniture; there might be a hurricane coming that will more than likely condemn the poor beasts to a certain death, but hey, we can always get a new one once we rebuild our wrecked nest, just like we can a widescreen TV set. The mind boggles.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen several heartbreaking videos online of admirable animal rescuers travelling down residential streets transformed into the residential rivers of JG Ballard’s ‘The Drowned World’ in search of pets left behind; and they found plenty. In Florida’s Palm Beach County, the first 48 hours of Hurricane Irma saw Animal Care and Control officers come to the rescue of 38 dogs and two cats that their owners clearly didn’t view as worthy of joining them on the journey out of town. With the saddest of ironies, such a socially gregarious animal as the dog appears to have received the worst of this careless cruelty from its best friend.

Despite the fact that there were many evacuation centres accommodating pets along with their owners, some still chose to not only abandon their animals, but in the case of several dogs, to leave them chained up to poles or in kennels; the dogs couldn’t even make their own escape as a consequence. In Polk County, four dogs were mercifully saved from a watery grave by members of the public; the rising water level in the kennel they found them in was apparently as high as the dog’s chests and the grimy pool was also swimming with horrific-sounding fire ants. It’s worth remembering too that the Animal Care and Control officers have to deal with dogs whose bewilderment with, and fear of, their predicament in such a situation can be manifested as aggression, making their lifesaving work all the more heroic under the circumstances.

Flying debris can be as big a danger as flooding in the conditions that descended upon Florida; experts said as little as a single grain of sand in winds of 100mph can cause a serious injury. The image of confused dogs tethered to immovable objects when Mother Nature is inflicting such a violent onslaught in the vicinity is one that should haunt the guilty parties forevermore; but if they had a conscience, they wouldn’t have left their pets to face it alone in the first place. Some simply dumped animals at shelters before fleeing and probably believe they’re somehow more responsible and humane than those who didn’t think even think their pets deserved that much; but they still left them.

In Palm Beach County, chaining dogs outside a property if the owner is absent is actually a felony offence, so doing so in a hurricane means some stiff penalties are imminent. Returning home, these ‘victims’ of Irma for whom it’s difficult to have much in the way of sympathy can look forward to fines and even prison sentences for their callous actions. The maximum sentence, incidentally, is a mouth-watering five years. The State Prosecutor for Palm Beach said, ‘This is a prime example of animal cruelty. We will find you and we will prosecute you.’ The Animal Care and Control Captain of the same county added, ‘The animals should be a valued part of your family and they should be part of your plan.’

Those who may well receive time behind bars will also not get those pets back and will be banned from owning any pets ever again; meanwhile, those who dropped their pets off at animal shelters before hot-footing it out of town will be placed on a ‘Do Not Adopt’ list; they too will not be reunited with the animals they rid themselves of. Sure, none of us on this side of the pond can picture the nightmarish scenario that people in the path of Hurricane Irma found themselves in; but that’s still no excuse for the cruelty some of them exhibited towards animals in their care. I hope their new homeless status lasts until at least the next storm. Serves them right.

© The Editor

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