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Our weekend rota, years ago, was shared among six doctors from three practices in adjacent areas. So, every sixth weekend saw me car-bound for hours at a time as I crossed and re-crossed a large part of South London — and, ever since then, Radio 3 and Radio 4 have been among my dearest friends.
Radio 3 meant music; I would get into the car and switch on to find myself in the middle of some piece I could not identify. I would play guessing games as I listened for some melodic or harmonic clue. Or, there would be performances of some great works I knew very well, and I would sing along loudly. All this sustained me as the hours dragged on. There were jazz programmes, too, and I can remember hearing the great Errol Garner play ‘I'll remember April’ with such ebullient bounce and humour that I had to stop the car in order fully to savour it and to laugh at the sheer pleasure of it. There were talks, there were plays — there was none of the passivity of watching television, for you conjured up images from sound as you listened.
I would switch between Radio 3 and Radio 4; between them they never let me down. If Radio 3 was broadcasting Stockhausen or Boulez, Radio 4 was sure to have comedy or something like Melvin Bragg being fascinatingly polymathic; similarly, if Radio 4 was overdosing me with show-business trivia, then Radio 3 would have Bach or Brahms or Bruckner to keep me happy. And it has continued thus, on car journeys; as I hammer away at my computer; as I try to cook, or as I just sit down to listen … Radio 3 and Radio 4, my friends for life.