My phone startled me out of my work on Sunday. There was a young Frenchman on the line who made an effort to pronounce my name correctly, and politely requested five minutes of my time for a survey to establish which radio stations the French population enjoyed. As I was working on a Sunday too, I felt sorry for him. I decided to break my vow to reply “Bugger off and find yourself another victim”, and said “yes”. (nb: Kathryn, I did you proud! )
I think he was surprised by my answer. We are not on the same wavelength about radio stations in my family, leading to regular fighting over the twiddler on the radio. (Yes, I know that word doesn’t exist. Or didn’t. It does now.) We don’t listen at the same volume, either. (I thought that it was older people who needed to turn the volume up high, yet the opposite phenomenon occurs in our home).
NRJ is the kids’ favourite radio station. I can’t stick listening to it most days, although I would maybe admit after a few G&T’s, breathing in a balloon full of helium and sticking a 40 denier stocking over my head that Manu does makes me laugh in the morning.
PF listens to classic FM. This transforms a short family car trip into a long torture session. For my offspring, it is the auditive equivalent of having cocktail sticks slid under their nibbled teenaged nails. The boys whip out the teenager’s equivalent of musical earplugs for instant relief, whilst Little My wrinkles her nose and rolls her eyeballs in despair.
The last time PF did it, we were on our way out for the day. The tinkling piano music in the car deadened my senses and made me feel like I was in an airbus rather than a Citroën. My enthusiasm for the day waned as I saw myself transmogrified into a kind of Alice-banded member of the Parisian bourgeoisie, twin-setting her way across impoverished Provence in her private plane to show little Charles-Henri how lucky he was to be born with a silver ladle stuck up his Burberry-clad rear end.
I tried very hard to resist, but on arrival at our destination, I cracked. Pinching my nose closed, I held my mobile phone skew-whiff in front of my mouth with my little finger sticking out sideways, and launched into a loud Air France trolley dolly announcement. Imagine Pam Ann with a French accent, and you’ve got it (there’s a video for you at the bottom).
“Lay deezeuh andeuh Dgenteulmen. We ‘ave landeed een Lamaloueuh-les-Baings hairporteuh. Ze wezzeur eez fiyn. Pleeaseuh reemaineuh een yor seets unteel ze haircrafteuh ‘as stoppt mooveeng, andeuh be kairefool when openeeng zee over’edd lockeurs. Sank yio fore flyeeng MM hair-lines, an we ‘opeuh to see you agin soon”.
PF tried to look unimpressed, but the laugh escaped along with his opinion that we were all Philistines.
If I’d been alone, I would have tuned in to local radio. Here in the South of France, my radio is set on “Radio Badger” as soon as the kids leave for school. I call it “Radio Badger”, because the first time I came across it, the announcer had run all the words into each other, and combined with his strong accent, “Radio Bleue Hérault” turned into “Radio Blaireau”: “Radio Badger”.
Radio Badger is the bee’s knees for anyone who enjoys observing human nature. The phone-in competitions are hair-raisingly nerve-wracking. Two housewives, both entrenched in the organza-curtained living rooms of their Wimpey homes, clutch their receivers in sweaty, manicured hands as they battle to the death to win one of two prizes. These are usually a Radio Badger watch or a ticket to see one of their geriatric French idols crooning through his false teeth at his last concert in Sète.
What is important to them is to win, because all their friends from the knitting club are listening in and they don’t want eggs Benedict on their faces for the next WI sale. The clock ticks as they hesitate before breathlessly delivering their reply, whether it is the name of the river running through Pezenas or how many Front Populaire strikers enjoyed boeuf bourgignon every Tuesday back in 1935.
This week, both candidates were disappointed. Alice lost the game as she wasn’t able to say who dubbed Columbo’s voice in the French version of the series. Régine won, but she didn’t want the Radio Badger radio because she had already won one a month ago. She didn’t want the latest CD of Maxime Le Forestier, either. She grumbled and said that she would have preferred the Gypsy Kings (no doubt desirous to twirl around her kitchen in her 1950’s pinny, using a pancake pan as a guitar and the washing-up brush as a microphone).
The man organising the competition was a born negotiator and moderator. He suggested phoning back again on another day when she could maybe win what she wanted. After twenty years negotiating with disappointed Languedoc housewives, he could no doubt settle current discord in Turkey by distributing complimentary Radio Badger oven gloves to all concerned. Radio Badger rocks. Before we go back to the studio for the news, here’s Pam Ann, complete with PF’s airbus music.