Every so often I receive requests from listeners asking me to give a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the weekly live recording of my radio show, Hooting Yard On The Air, on ResonanceFM. That, I should explain, is the subject of today’s essay, which I suppose ought better to have been phrased as “On On The Air” or “On Being On The Air” rather than just “On The Air”.
There will be some of you, no doubt, expecting to find Mr Key’s Forensic Scalpel o’ Prose slicing into the topic of that invisible mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, which together constitute the major gases of the atmosphere, and which we call the air in which we live and breathe and have our being. Alas, you will have to wait for another day for me to turn my attention to that. Quite frankly, I do not know enough about it to write anything informative, or enlightening, or indeed scientifically accurate.
Consider but a moment and you will spot the howler I have already committed. I said that the mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon we call “the air” is invisible. That is clearly not always the case, as you will soon discover if you stumble out of doors into the thick of a right old peasouper, or loiter in the vicinity of a marsh on a misty morning, or if you simply exhale on a nippy day. You will see the air all too clearly in those circumstances. Though, in my ignorance, I am not sure if the air’s visibility on those and related occasions is due to the presence within it of gases and substances other than the aforementioned nitrogen, oxygen, and argon. My spies tell me that one can also find, in the air, traces of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone, as well as dust, pollen and spores, sea spray, and volcanic ash, not to mention various industrial pollutants, such as chlorine (elementary or in compounds), fluorine compounds, elemental mercury, and sulphur compounds such as sulphur dioxide.
Obviously it is a hell of a lot more complicated than a scientific dimwit like me thinks it is. It really isn’t good enough for me to state blithely that the air is invisible and to leave it at that. So I apologise. I would certainly not wish to misinform my readers nor to hobble their understanding of something so important as the air, without which, not only would we be dead but we would never have come into existence in the first place, a state of affairs that doesn’t bear thinking about. Well, I don’t like to think about it, but some people do. Quite a number of our green tree-hugging eco-brethren and sistren seem positively thrilled at the idea of a world without people in it, or at least not so many people, and those few who they suffer to live besandalled cranks like themselves. Such a world would probably be even more unbearable than one with nobody in it at all. I for one would not relish the prospect of being hectored and lectured by a beardy self-righteous git every time I lit a cigarette or waxed enthusiastic about plastics. It is not that I often extol the glory of plastic things, you understand, but I would like to think I could do so without attracting looks of reproach, while having a snack of nuts and roots foisted upon me by an eco-wanker.
Now, I should press on with today’s essay, but before I do so there is something else about the air that I think we ought to clear up while we are on the subject. You might occasionally hear somebody say they are “walking on air”. Do not take them literally. They are walking in air, yes, but not on it. To be able to walk on it would suggest the person is some kind of amalgam of human and hovercraft, a being that does not exist outside the realms of science fiction. Again, I have not read nearly enough science fiction to know if the genre is riddled with human-hovercraft hybrids or whether there are only a few of them scattered here and there in magazines and paperbacks. Either way, the point is that they are fictional, not real, even if the claim of some science fiction writers is that they are foretelling things that shall come to pass in the future. Well, maybe, maybe not. I am in no position to judge, being stuck fast in the temporal present, with no purchase or leeway on either side. It does make me wonder what sort of rapprochement would be reached between the eco-doomsayers and the half-hovercraft persons of a possible future. Would they find a happy medium or would there be war? There might be a blockbuster to be written on the theme. I shall put my mind to it.
Anyway, what I was trying to explain is that when somebody says they are “walking on air”, what they mean is that they are elated or euphoric. You might find yourself wondering, as I often do, what on earth could make one so happy in this vale of tears. Hugging a tree doesn’t work for everybody. I know that to my cost. The same eco-person who harangued me and offered me nuts also suggested that I go and hug a tree, so I did so. I just ended up with a bark-grazed jacket and beetles in my bouffant, and as I trudged home I certainly did not feel as if I was walking on air, particularly when I trod in a puddle.
There is one thing, however, guaranteed to provide euphoria, and that is to listen to Hooting Yard On The Air every Thursday at six-thirty p.m. on ResonanceFM. It will certainly put a spring in your step, such a spring that you will feel you are hovering a few feet off the ground, like one of those science fiction half-hovercraft persons, walking on air.
I seem to have run out of space for the promised behind-the-scenes account of the show, so that will have to be put in the “pending” basket. As a sop to the eco-moaning minnies, I have had the basket hand-woven by a Third World orphan, using fair trade organic fibrous material, wholly eschewing the use of plastics.