Traveller's tales

Thursday, September 28, 2006

BBC Radio - the ultimate travelling companion

When I first came to work in a Muslim country, one of the hardest things to get used to, after the ferocious heat of the day, was the fact that Saturday was a working day - the equivalent of Monday. Being a football fan, I found it strange having to work on Saturday afternoon. I would have preferred to have been on the cold, damp, noisy terraces of Old Trafford or Boundary Park than teaching Dickens ' A Tale of Two Cities to a group of young lads who had never been nearer to those two cities than 11 degrees North.

The one thing I was thankful for on Saturday was the fact that Britain was three, sometimes four, hours behind, which meant kick off was at six rather than three.

By six o'clock, I had showered, rested and eaten and was ready to tune in my radio to BBC World Service to listen to the lads taking on Tottenham Hotspur or West Bromwich Albion or the like.

I would bring my bed out onto the broken earth at the front of my house, switch on the outside light - a bulb hanging precariously by its wire over the doorframe, and once tuned in, would listen with rapt attention as the game unfolded. At half time, Lilly Bolero rent the air and a summary of the news told me what was going on in the rest of the world.

After the game was over, the results would come in thick and fast on the device we used to call the teleticker or some such name. On TV, it was a little electric hammer tapping out the names of teams and their scores, but on the radio there was only the sound of the typing and then the voice of Renton Laidlaw to tell me what I wanted to know - that our nearest challengers had lost or drawn at home.

When it had all finished, I put the radio and my bed back indoors and went across the little town of El Meselemiya to drink some tea in the early evening and try out my Arabic on the friendly locals, who were listening to the BBC Arabic Service outside the cafe that looked out on the central marketplace of a town in Gezira Province in Sudan.

The BBC World Service was one of my lifelines in those hot days and nights. It has been my companion ever since.
Robert Leslie Fielding

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