Episode One

Prick up your ears and click here and you can listen to the first episode of Hooting Yard In The Electro-Magnetic Field, a brand new show from ResonanceFM.

As I write, boffins in a top secret research laboratory buried somewhere beneath the Swiss Alps are trying to calculate just how this show can be differentiated from the much-loved Hooting Yard On The Air. Initial measurements would seem to indicate the answer is “not at all”.

The Latin Mass

I am old enough to remember – albeit dimly – the Latin Mass. For younger readers, and non-Catholics, I should explain that until the mid-1960s, throughout the Catholic church, Mass was conducted exclusively in Latin. The priest would deliver the liturgy in Latin, and the congregation, when required to voice responses, would do likewise. The change to the use of the vernacular came about when Pope John XXIII instituted various liberalising reforms. There remain a few recalcitrant diehards – notable among them being the father of Mad Max star Melvin Gibson – who cling to the Latin Mass, although I understand this is much disapproved of by the Vatican, and may even be illegal.

On the council estate where I grew up, there were many Catholics but no Catholic church. To save us from having to trudge a fair distance to St Bede’s, the parish church, an arrangement had been made that a pub on the estate would host our Sunday Mass. Thus every week we would troop into the Moby Dick on Whalebone Lane. We used the main bar area of the pub, with chairs temporarily aligned in rows, though I cannot recall what served as an altar. I do remember that towels were draped over all the beer pumps at the bar. After Mass, a goodly proportion of the congregation, and probably the priest too, would remain in the pub waiting for opening time. My parents were not drinkers, though, so we were herded home.

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Around the same time as the introduction of the Mass in English, the service itself was moved to a new community centre on the estate. Thus passed a particular, and in retrospect profound, part of my childhood.

I stopped attending Mass when, as a nincompoop teenager, I turned my back on the faith. Then, and for many years afterwards, if I thought about the Latin Mass at all, it was as a prime example of the stupidity of religion. How preposterous, for people to gather together to listen and respond to what for most of them (and certainly for the infant me) was a babble of incomprehensible gibberish!

It is only recently that I have realised the significance of this early experience. One must bear in mind that for the vast majority of people, there was nothing remotely swinging about the 1960s. Particularly on my council estate, it was a dull, pinched, grey (or beige) time yet to emerge from the austerity of the immediate post-war years. We had no television, telephone, refrigerator, central heating, or other home comforts. Life was uneventful and devoid of any but the most paltry excitements. (I now look back with nostalgia for the peace and tranquility.)

There was thus something quite magical and passing strange about those Sunday mornings. We gathered in the gloom of the pub, while a man dressed – improbably – in often colourfully embroidered raiment stood, with his back to us (as the priests did in those days), intoning a litany of words, and always exactly the same words, which we did not understand, and bore no relation to anything we heard elsewhere, in any circumstances. Indeed there was nothing about it that had anything whatsoever to do with the world we inhabited the rest of the time. It was baffling and bizarre, but, by dint of weekly repetition, comfortingly familiar. And it was deeply, deeply serious.

It has now dawned on me, at long last, that, in my own faltering yet determined way, I have been trying to recreate this numinous childhood experience by babbling, once a week, in Hooting Yard On The Air on ResonanceFM.

Empty Your Wallets!

May I remind you that this week is fundraising week at Resonance 104.4FM? The finest radio station in the known universe, and indeed in several parallel universes, urgently needs at least part of the contents of your bank account, plus any loose change you have scattered about your hovel. If you wish to continue listening to Hooting Yard On The Air, and plenty of other tremendous programmes, then please give generously.

Go to the Resonance fundraiser page for more details, or head directly to the donation zone. You know you will feel a warm glow in your collywobbles when you have done so.

Episode N

Here is yesterday’s episode of Hooting Yard On The Air, which features Mr Key reading sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose. The show is approaching its thirteenth anniversary, in April, and I rather regret that it never occurred to me (nor to anybody at Resonance) to give each episode a number. It would be pleasant to be able to say “This is Hooting Yard On The Air, Episode 666”, or whatever number we have reached. I suppose there might be a frighteningly fanatical listener out there somewhere who has kept such a tally – if so, I hope they would get in touch and enlighten us all.

Further Plums

Yesterday’s Hooting Yard On The Air on Resonance104.4FM contained further plum-based radiophonic frolics. Listen carefully. I expect there will be yet more of this next week, until I have exhausted plums and turn my attention to another fruit, or even a completely non-fruit-related topic.

And don’t forget that the lines are still open for our 2016 Christmas Appeal, and will remain open untll 24 December.

Plums On The Radio

Fruit-lovers among you will be delighted to learn that I devoted the first Hooting Yard On The Air of the new year to plums. That is, all the pieces I read on the show made mention of plums, in several cases plums of the Carlsbad variety. This was received so well by listeners that I am seriously considering taking a plum-based approach to next week’s show too. It is rare in the history of radio broadcasting, I think, for a single type of fruit to be granted such prominence in a programme not otherwise fruitcentric, or not ostensibly so. Should any fruiterers wish to give me a free bag of plums in recognition of my efforts, please do not hesitate to approach me in the boulevards and thrust a bag of plums at me.

You can listen to the show here. If by chance you are allergic to plums, or simply abhor them, preferring, say, peaches or persimmons, you may wish instead to go and lie down in a darkened room with cotton wool stuffed into your lugholes. It is entirely up to you.