Ken Bruce signed off from Radio 2 on Friday.  I was – am – a fan, so I listened to his last show right through.  I performed dismally as usual on Pop Master, but fortunately the last ever contestant scored a creditable 27 out of 39, and then solved “3 in 10” in approximately 1.5 seconds!  Ken told him he knew his stuff.  Always cheerful, witty, unfailingly courteous.  He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music, and I noticed that he always identified the name of the songs he played, and the artists who performed them.  Well, maybe just once he didn’t, but that was for his last song on Friday.  He chose the last three tracks of Abbey Road which the Beatles perform without a break – Golden Slumbers, Carry that Weight, and – suitably enough – The End.  Maybe you don’t need to identify the Beatles.  I love Golden Slumbers, full of yearning for the past.  McCartney at the height of his powers.  

The show reminded me of other Radio 2 swansongs.  In 1984 Terry Wogan bowed out, albeit temporarily, to concentrate on TV.  He had, as usual, a bit of banter with Jimmy Young whose show followed Wogan’s.  I seem to recall Wogan saying, “If you spill coffee over the controls you’ll never hear the end of it.”  Jimmy Young said, “I won’t wish you luck because you won’t need it.”  Wogan said, “Who doesn’t need luck?”

Then it was Jimmy Young’s turn to go.  He wasn’t happy about it; definitely was pushed, rather than fell.  He kept saying during his last outing, “This isn’t my idea, you know!”  He might have listened to Wogan who once said that one of three things can happen to you as a DJ.  Either the management will get fed up with you, or the audience will get fed up with you, or you will get fed up with yourself.  Wogan once said that he liked going to parties, but never stayed till the bitter end.  Similarly, he said that he would pack his tent and go in his own time. Which he did. 

But after TV he had a reincarnation on Radio 2 and then it was Wogan – Bruce banter that we got at 0930.  Wogan could be hysterically funny, but there was another side to him, opinionated, acerbic, that perhaps only came through in his writings, particularly for the Telegraph. 

On Friday Ken received a lot of accolades, which he mostly deflected with admirable modesty and tact.  Recently a Pop Master contestant said to him, “Such an honour to speak to Radio 2 Royalty” to which Ken replied, “You must mean Richie” (the travel man).  Ken said people from Scotland, particularly Glasgow, didn’t like to receive praise.

Glasgow!  I seem to have spent a lot of time there this week.  After a gap of nearly half a century I have re-joined a private swimming club near the city centre.  It was originally a Victorian spa for the Glasgow gentry.  Moustachioed gentlemen could be seen in waspish swimwear swooping across the pool on rings and trapeze.  Pictures of them might have been used as an advertisement for Bovril or Woodbine.  There were Turkish baths, a gym, a reading room, and snooker tables.  What’s not to like?  I was lured by a notion at least a century old of “going up to town and relaxing in my club”.  But not without some trepidation.  Returning to the past is always a bit of a gamble.  I remember getting a panic attack when I went back into my medical school’s anatomy lecture theatre after a gap of forty years.  And I never even made it across the entrance to my old school. 

But in fact my first visit to the baths was reassuring.  I felt (in a good way) as if I’d never been away.

On Thursday at the Goethe Institut we did a segment on Austrian German, so in preparation I asked an Austrian friend of mine for some typically Austrian idioms I could use. 

He said, “Hast du ein Vogel?”  Actually he said something more like, “Host du un Vogel?”  I said, “You mean, Hast du einen Vogel?  Have you a bird?”

Nein.  Host du un Vogel?  Are you mad?  Or, Spinnst du?  Similarly, are you mad?”  (Literally, I suppose, are you spinning a yarn?)  And then something about an imaginary border that separates Austria and Bavaria from the “Hochdeutsch” north – “Die Weißwurst Grenze” – the white sausage border.  So I went to my class, suitably briefed.  But of course, as so often happens in a conversation class, none of it came up.  We ended up talking about the current trend of editing out politically incorrect material from classic novels.  First Dahl, then Blyton, and now Fleming.  I said, “Ja!  Doppel null sieben!”

And again on Sunday, another visit to the big G, for lunch, a walk, and a private piano recital.  It was a lovely spring day and it was a joy to see the crocuses, some daffodils, and some early spring blossom on the trees.  I believe it is my favourite time of year.  The gradual fading of winter (not done yet), the lengthening days, and the growth, are tonic to the soul. 

Then, on the drive home, a darkening of the sky, the sun low on the horizon, some rain, and then the appearance of the most remarkable rainbow I have ever seen in my life.  I first noticed a segment of it somewhere abeam Kirkintilloch, and it occurred to me that I had never seen a rainbow so broad.  By the time I reached Cumbernauld, there was a huge multi-coloured semicircle encompassing the sky, horizon to horizon, and outside it, its inverse reciprocal, hardly less intense, complete in itself.  I have never seen that, in such entirety, before.  The colours of the second rainbow are in reverse order: Vain In Battle Gave York Of Richard. 

There is a rainbow mythology, that its appearance is a reassurance that the Almighty will never again inflict the flood upon us.  I hope it’s true, but I don’t think we should risk complacency.  If the sea levels rise much more – and I believe the computer modelling is not reassuring – then the number of people across the world seeking higher ground is certain to increase, exponentially.  The Prime Minister may wish to deport illegal immigrants immediately from these shores, but if these shores start to vanish, then maybe we too will find ourselves washed up on some distant land, craving asylum.                                              

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