Sunday, February 21, 2010

The secret Dizzyade drinker.

Radio 700 QSL card  952

Radio 700 QSL card  954

In case you were wondering what the strange document above represents, it is what is known as a QSL card; in this case for little known small scale German commercial radio station "Radio 700", which broadcasts easy listening music, news and sports results to Western Germany and parts of Belgium on FM from their studio in the small village of Kall - Krekel, a photo of the place is shown below - click for a larger view. For some unexplained reason, they also broadcast on 6.005 MHz shortwave, on the 49 Metre band. This 1kW transmission covers most of Europe and beyond to anyone with a suitable receiver. I picked them up just after the new year, and sent them a message via their website. Quite surprisingly in these web dominated days, they responded with a reception verification card (known in amateur radio terminology as a QSL card) which arrived on my door mat yesterday morning. You can read more about the operation of the Radio 700 shortwave service here. Of course it is far easier to listen to distant radio stations via the web with audio streaming technology, but it is just not the same. Anyone can go down to the supermarket and buy some frozen haddock, but it is not  nearly as satisfying as going out with a rod and catching it yourself.

Kall in Germany. Home of Radio 700.

After a day out to the cinema to see The Princess and the Frog, followed by a visit to Pizza Hut, then feet up with a cup of tea in front of the TV with Shirley and the kids, I was travelling home from Chatham by train on Wednesday evening, when a somewhat unsteady character boarded at Gravesend. Once the doors closed, he braced himself in the aisle between the seats and studied the train destination indicator with bleary and bloodshot eyes; it was readily apparent that he was suffering from a fairly substantial case of over refreshment. I watched him, and one could almost visualise the over lubricated cogs going round in his brain, as he slowly realised that he had got onto the wrong train. Predictably, he then turned to me (I was studiously staring out of the window, hoping he was going to ignore me, but watching his reflection in the glass). He then slurred "If I give you a quid can I call someone on your mobile to pick me up?" Initially I played deaf, but when he repeated his question I turned and replied that I did not have a mobile phone for him to use. Even though he was brim full of Dizzyade he responded "but everyone has a mobile!" "Not me - I hate the bloody things" I replied. He then tottered off and managed to persuade a couple of women to help him; fortunately he was a fairly amiable drunk, but nowadays you never know.

Never mind the dreary mess that is EastEnders, in my opinion the television event of the week was the Channel 4 documentary on Gypsy weddings. I watched it, as many others also did, expecting a car crash of chavvy poor taste, with the "more is more" attitude to things such as the huge and cartoonish wedding dresses, and indeed this was a substantial part of the programme. What also came across was the strong sense of community the travellers had. The documentary was very good PR for the Romany and Irish travellers, though after investigation I discovered the director was a former editor of a Traveller newspaper. There were no awkward questions asked - it was obvious that the weddings cost a huge amount of money (one bride arrived at the church in a helicopter), but other than a bit of casual labouring, none of those involved seemed to have much in the way of a steady income. Most of the girls seemed to be engaged in their mid teens and then married at 18, though having read comments from travellers on a few chat boards, it would seem the generalisations made in the documentary were far from accurate. I feel that an entire season of programmes could be made on this significant minority group within the UK. The differences between, for instance, the Romany and the Irish travellers, and their historical backgrounds and traditions would make interesting television. It would seem that Travellers are the only racial group that some people think it is still socially acceptable to discriminate against, on the grounds that "they are all thieving, dirty tax dodgers" and so on. I am sure some are, just as there are those in the general community who break the law, but it hardly seems right to paint all Travellers in this way. With that caveat, I would add that certainly almost everyone in the clip below is guilty of crimes against good taste and decorum - see what you think and feel free to post a comment below.

On a different note, I know that although Apple's iTunes has become the default media player for many Windows and Apple OS X users, and I know some are not happy with the program. I have found a free an open source, multi platform alternative which is even more polished and feature packed. It is called Songbird, built on the same platform as Firefox, Songbird acts like a specialised web browser for music. It sees the online world through MP3-coloured glasses - it looks at an archive of public domain sound files or a music store's catalogue, and displays available media for play or download.  You can visit the Songbird website here to get a free download for Windows, OS X, Solaris and Linux

Bongo Birthday bash.

After Bongo's surprise birthday party last weekend (see the photo of him arriving at the venue - Archangel in Kensington High Street above - he was genuinely gobsmacked); it got me thinking about famous friends and acquaintances. Mister B has the top trump of well known celebrity friends, as you can see if you click here. Not much is going to beat that in bragging rights terms! Personally, the only moderately well known figure that I can claim to have known is Canon Andrew White, Vicar of Baghdad. He is a well - known and respected figure in the world of international diplomacy and inter faith negotiations. I went to school with him, though he was a few years older than me. I recall that he was incredibly tall, and even as a youth he would tower over the teachers. He was a really nice bloke and quite a character; he had a of medical problems with his legs as a teenager, and he had to have several operations - he told me that on the way into the operating theatre he would recite the Last Rites to himself out loud in Latin as a way to wind up the nurses! I cannot say that I am surprised at how his life has turned out - he was always going to do something unusual.

Well the trailer for the re - edited version of "The Boat that Rocked", now entitled "Pirate Radio" has finally made it online. Somewhat predictably, it is this weeks' video clip - compare and contrast with the original. Feel free to leave a comment below - as previously mentioned, any comment you leave will not appear immediately; blame the Chinese spammers that now hit the Maggot Sandwich daily - I have comment moderation enabled to counter this.

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