Radio virgin at 54

Radio virgin

There is an old saying that if a job is worth doing it is worth buggering about a lot before you start (or something like that). At the tender age of 23, I got my backside in gear and got involved with hospital radio. I phoned in match reports from Elland Road, a tricky task at that time, trying to make the games sound interesting. It was also long before the advent of mobile phones (at least for me) so I had to use a pay phone in the back of the bar which meant constant interruptions. Anyway, my real job got in the way of my budding radio career before I even graduated to having my own show. I said I would go back to it once I had more time. Just thirty one years later I am back!

I left the world of corporate IT just before Christmas and said at the time it was a chance to do things I wanted to do rather than things I had to. Something in radio was secretly part of that list. But, if opportunities for a 23 year old in 1984 were limited, surely a 54 year old today has no chance? At least that is what I thought. However, while on holiday in Florida over Christmas I did a bit of a web trawl and the South Leeds Media site caught my eye. Formerly known as South Leeds Community Radio, these nice people offer radio production courses amongst other things. I fired off an email and, just two months later, got a reply. I told you there was no point rushing these things. Anyway, it turned out there was a course about to start and would I like a place? Yes please was the obvious reply and I was in.

The course

So, on a cold Tuesday night, six of us sat rather nervously in the studio in Beeston and wondered what we had let ourselves in for. (As did Phil – the technical brains of the outfit who was our tutor.)The course consisted of four sessions, each a couple of hours long. Week one was introducing us to the techie equipment – very different to 1984. We soon got to play with the mixing desk, studio and guest microphones, pc media players, CD players and headphones. We also got to look at the stuff we weren’t allowed to touch – compressors and clever stuff like that. These came under the heading of “if you don’t understand what these do – leave them alone” – wise advice in any working environment.

Radio virgin - South Leeds Community Radio studio
South Leeds Community Radio studio

Week two was devoted to the software to be used – RadioDJ to play the music and Adobe Audition to record and edit the shows. In true IT style, I scurried away to download the software at home and play with it there. Nothing scary, except that it is PC based and we have recently switched to Apple. Once I was comfortable with both packages, I realised that GarageBand would do a good job and the old laptop was mothballed once again – narrowly averting Ruth’s nightmare of a Houston style control centre consisting of multiple desktops and laptops.

By the third week we had lost a couple of the original group but gained others. The topic for the week was interviewing techniques. Portable recorders were explained and dished out and role playing chaos ensued. Remembering to speak into the pointy end before aiming the microphone at the interviewee is not as easy as it looks. Not swearing is quite a challenge as well. Making an idiot of yourself is fine – there is an edit facility. If only life were like that.

Radio virgin - Radio production course week 4
Radio virgin – Radio production course week 4

By week four, we were putting together a programme, all of us taking turns to present, interview, be interviewed etc. Hopefully, this will never see the light of day but good fun nevertheless. We were then invited back to speak to the station managers and pitch ideas for programmes. I went with a music show based on the classic era of soul music – early sixties to mid seventies, plus a bit of disco and modern soul as I see fit. They were happy with it and I have now recorded two shows with a third to come this week. I am still waiting to hear when they will be scheduled, maybe it is their way to wait until I have practised a bit before unleashing me! It is certainly a strange experience to sit in a room and talk to yourself. Strangely enough i did this quite a lot towards the end of my time with a certain bank so should have been good preparation!

I suppose it is a bit like passing a driving test. only by being allowed out unsupervised do you learn how to drive. My two attempts so far have certainly taught me things to avoid doing but, after thirty one years waiting, I don’t care if things are a bit rough around the edges. i am enjoying it immensely and, one way or another, I will get better!

The show

As a preview, I have uploaded show one to Mixcloud. Remember – it is not as easy as it looks!! Feedback and requests welcome.

Soul Man 1 by Roy Burgess on Mixcloud

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Wine – is a little knowledge a good thing?

Wine – is it worth learning the difference between grapes, regions and climates or just go for what is reduced or most expensive?

Most of us have had that moment of panic. You are with a group of friends for a meal; the waiter hands you the wine list and everybody says that you should choose. You have no idea what people will be eating – does it matter? Do you go for the house plonk and look cheap? How about the expensive one at the end of the list – too flash and bound to cause an inquest when the bill comes. My wife maintains that she has never had a poor glass of wine from a bottle with a nice label, but wine lists rarely come with pictures of labels – Livin’ Italy being an exception to this rule. Maybe somebody there works on the same theory. Asking the waiter to recommend something is fine in theory but, in practice is fraught with risk. They may be even more clueless than you and could easily push you towards that bottom end of the list – dangerous territory. The obvious cop out is to pick a red and a white at random from somewhere in the middle of the list and cross your fingers.

Wine - Go by the label?
Wine – Go by the label?

There is another way. Just a little knowledge can go a long way, the rest you can fake. So, you want to learn enough to get by, where do you start?

Whatever the subject, my first port of call tends to be the excellent Dummies series of books and, as you would expect there is Wine For Dummies. This covers all of the basics of wine varieties, regions and how to get the most out of tasting.

If you want something a little more sociable, wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends after all, why not try an organised class or wine tasting session? The Yorkshire Wine School run regular events at both the Radisson Blu in The Light and at Livin’ Italy on Granary Wharf. The Radisson sessions include lunch and introduce the world’s major wine growing regions and grape varieties. You will learn how to taste like a professional and where to buy. Best of all your tutor will guide you through tasting twelve wines As you would expect, two hour sessions at Livin’ Italy concentrate on the wines of Italy and how they pair with different foods. It is worth attending for the nibbles alone!

Wine - Livin Italy - The Deli
Livin Italy – The Deli

My advice with events like this is to drink water as well as the wine and take notes. The memory can prove a little unreliable after a few glasses. Some years ago, on a visit to London, my wife and I spent the evening at Vinopolis, described as a “wine experience” – they weren’t wrong. The huge building near London Bridge is a series of tasting rooms, each dedicated to a particular type of wine. After an introduction where you are taught the basics of tasting, you are armed with a charge card and let loose with detailed tasting notes. A swipe of the card and a machine dispense a small glass of your chosen wine. You then rinse and repeat as often as you wish, touring the worlds wines in the maze of arches beside the Borough Market. Afterwards, you can enjoy a meal in the restaurant and order any of the wines that you tasted earlier – very civilised. After starting out very seriously, reading the notes and comparing the warm and cool climates we started to sound as if we know what we were talking about. As the evening progressed, the notes seemed to be printed in a smaller font and unaccountably caused giggles. There was big talk of hitting the Absinthe room once the wines of the world were exhausted but for some reason we never made it. We did however enjoy a great meal and a terrific night out. We both remember to this day the difference between warm and cool climate wines but after that it is still a bit of a blur – remember to take notes!

If all this fails, you could always try buying what is on special offer at the supermarket! If this is your strategy, why not at least use an app such as Vivino to record your thoughts. It will help you remember what you like (and don’t like) as well as getting the views of others.

So, is it worth learning the basics? Yes, without a doubt. Just as you would with a sport, painting with oils or cooking. Grasp the basics and you open up a world of experiences.

As for that panic moment, with a little knowledge, you will realise that you can’t please everybody. Ask a few questions – do people want something light, fruity or powerful then set your new knowledge to work. If that fails – simply choose something that you will enjoy – the others can please themselves.


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