My favourite listens – Radio, Music and Dramas

Reading this back, it’s very UK specific and I wonder how the rest of the world deals with the lack of the BBC! I imagine a life  at home in the thirties and it looks something like Celia Johnsons’s  house in Brief Encounter, with the husband reading a paper, the wife doing the darning and listening to the radio. BBC Radio 4 is a regular part of my life, as it was what my Mum listened to at home when I was a wee child. I could probably have hummed the Archers theme tune before I could read.  My Mum still has radios owned by my Nanna, from the 60s or 70s, from a company called Roberts. My Dad used to keep one in the bathroom and it coped with the damp and steam with no problems, even though it was made of wood. They are indestructible and I’ve discovered by searching for an image, that there are collectors of these things.   More recently I got into the week day 6.30pm comedies, my favourite being Just A Minute (and least favorite is I’m Sorry I haven’t A Clue, which is supposed to be a comedy panel game, but is scripted, which is cheating). Now I am also addicted to the great dramas and the newer digital Radio 4 Extra. To show just how much I love radio, this is the list of devices in my house. Bathroom – digital radio which is solar powered tuned into Absolute Radio 60s for boogieing while brushing my teeth. Bedroom – old fashioned radio alarm clock tuned to BBC Radio 4 to wake me every day to the serious news program the Today Show (though sometimes I snooze through it and wake up confused around the end of Women’s Hour). Living Room – vintage style Revival Robert Radio (below picture) which was a birthday present a couple of year before digital radio launched, tuned to Radio 4. Kitchen – a Roberts digital radio,  which has saved station buttons, so I have Absolute Radio 60s, Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra, 6 Music all saved. Come to think of it, my Mum gave me all the radios, except the alarm clock.

But I don’t even need a radio to listen, as there is BBC iPlayer. An lovely Aussie lady in my knitting group had been buying BBC Agatha Christie adaptations from Audible, so I was pleased to be able to share the BBC iplayer drama page, which collects all the dramas across Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra into one place, and is free to people in the UK. They quite often has vintage dramas from the BBC archives. I also recommend the Afternoon Drama, which is a  self contain play every weekday afternoon from 2.25pm. Programs you online as soon as they have aired and stay for a week (though they sometimes have whole archives of non-fiction programs, so you can listen to them anytime). They also have a new smart phone app just for radio. On both you can sort by type,  so I can cut straight to the crime.

I’m a big fan of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction and recommend a book if you are interested , called A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley, which tells the story of how something as gruesome and abhorent as murder, became the genre of literature everyone wanted to read. My own opinion is that I don’t read it for the crimes and prefer them without gore or psychopaths. I’m reading it for the adventure story element, but also because the crime is solved and everyone is safe at the end, order is restored to the universe. The idea that detection and thought from the sleuth will save the day and brain power from the little grey cells trumps all villains is what’s appealing.

On the BBC iPlayer, look out for the Paul Temple detective stories which began airing in 1938. The Temple dramas on BBC iPlayer are either originals as they were in the forties/ fifties or remade versions with original sound effects and music. Paul Temple is a suave author who is often called in my Scotland Yard for help. His wife Steve and butler sometimes get involved to. You’ll be surprised by how readily accepted it was to drug one’s wife, in order to stop her following you on a too dangerous night time crime solving escapade. You will also hear of the shock of seeing one’s staff drinking cocktails in  the same establishment as you (what horror!) and the old fashioned British accents are great. These are very dated, but fun.

On to some musical listens  For when you are at the sewing machine. I have two cds bought from the unlikely venue of the Bodlian Library Gift Shop in Oxford. They are presumably music to listen to while reading?  Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Cheek To Cheek. Amazon has them on cd (though they are tax avoiding gits, so buy from the independent sellers who sell through Amazon and support cottage industry) or for the Gift Of Music website. 1 Ain’t Misbehavin’ Fats Waller 2 Stardust The Mills Brothers 3 Falling in Love Again Marlene Dietrich 4 One Morning in May Al Bowlly 5 I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm Dick Powell 6 I have Eyes Bing Crosby 7 I’m on a See-Saw Harry Roy 8 This Year’s Kisses Alice Faye 9 Love Letters Ambrose 10 I Can’t Get Started Bunny Berigan 11 The Continental Lew Stone 12 Begin the Beguine ‘Hutch’ 13 It’s Only a Paper Moon Paul Whiteman 14 This Time It’s Real Ella Fitzgerald 15 Somebody Loves Me Bing Crosby 16 I’ve Got the World on a String Louis Armstrong 17 Marie Tommy Dorsey 18 Let Us Be Sweethearts ‘Hutch’ 19 Miss Otis Regrets The Mills Brothers 20 Dancing in the Dark Artie Shaw 21 Love in Bloom Bing Crosby 22 Goodnight Sweetheart Al Bowlly Cheek to Cheek is my favourite cd to sing along to while I sew. 1 Cheek to Cheek Fred Astaire 2 As Time Goes By Rudy Vallee 3 Mood Indigo Duke Ellington 4 These Foolish Things  Lew Stone 5 Lullaby of Broadway Bob Crosby with The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra 6 Pennies from Heaven Louis Armstrong 7 Sophisticated Lady Duke Ellington 8 Someone to Watch Over Me George Gershwin 9 The Very Thought of You Al Bowlly 10 Night and Day Fred Astaire 11 Isn’t It Romantic? Carroll Gibbons 12 June in January Bing Crosby 13 My Reverie Bea Wain with The Larry Clinton Orchestra 14 Once in a While Tommy Dorsey 15 Please Bing Crosby 16 A-Tisket, A-Tasket Ella Fitzgerald 17 Over the Rainbow Glenn Miller 18 The Glory of Love Benny Goodman 19 Deep Purple Bea Wain with The Larry Clinton Orchestra 20 Love is the Sweetest Thing Al Bowlly 21 In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town Ted Lewis


  1. Greetings from Nova Scotia! I’m a huge fan of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra. I listen to both on my smart TV or on my iphone if I’m not in the living room. My day is not complete if I miss the shipping forecast! When I’m not listening to that, I’m scouring YouTube for British dance bands from the ’30s and ’40s.

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