We listen in to a radio legend, at radio’s home for the showbizzed, and become strangely attracted to metal detecting. We all know Mike Read’s finest broadcast. It’s this one. But what’s Mike Read, yes, that Mike Read, doing on BBC Radio Berkshire?

Listened In is 2ZY’s weekly air-check blog. Every week we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

Mike Read Face Shot

Mike Read (c) Getty

WHO That Mike Read

WHAT BBC Radio Berkshire

WHEN 7 January 2013

1420

Mid-conversation with a metal detector enthusiast. Romans would throw coins into the water before they crossed a bridge for an offering to the Gods, apparently. So it’s a good place to look for stuff.  Mike says stinging nettles are a clue. And he’s right. Expert agrees that it’s a sign something is buried there. Old public footpaths are good. Mike’s dead into this. He talks about the River Wey and finding the lost manor of Windlesham!

In a nice bit of selling ahead, he talks about plotting to do a special show, seemingly digging up the grounds of BBC Radio Berkshire’s Caversham grounds. They discuss how to plan a recce, the role of the Berkshire record office, discover where outdoor events were held, how you cover a large patch etc.

It’s all strangely compelling. A lovely radio theatre moment when the expert goes off mic to retrieve his detector and makes it a satisfying ooo-eee-ooo noise when he turns it on. “There’s quite a lot of metal in here, Colin” says Mike drily.

It gets a bit pluggy when the expert suggests, “Go to Leisure Promotions in Newbury where Mick Turrell will be very willing to help you wth your choice and take you out to fields where you can use your detector.” Or indeed join the metal detectors’ club he’s a member of.

Mike re-sets. “Excellent, we’ll talk more in a moment. Talking archeology and metal detecting with Colin Hennell. 26 after 2. This is BBC Radio Berkshire”

1426 Gary Puckett & The Union Gap/Young Girl

1428 Segue into

ID: “BBC Radio Berkshire, Travel You Trust, As It Happens.”

Mike introduces Barry Lewis. He tells us the M4’s OK. M25 or M3 ok. CCTV in Reading and Slough say OK. Speed sensors in Slough say it could be a bit slow in one location. And the trains are all ok.

ID: “Get the latest travel you trust online, at bbc.co.uk/berkshire.”

1430

Mike reads the weather – with no inflected meaning whatsoever. He reads right through the commas, albeit in a lovely mellifluous tone, “Lows of 6-32 fahrenheit.” That’s pretty hot.

TRAIL: Andrew Peach Show. Clip of Martin in Bracknell about benefits and tax, “and tomorrow we’re live on the busiest train in the country.”

1431 The Searchers/Goodbye My Love

“BBC Radio Berkshire. The Searchers. Goodbye. Discussing the length of a note in there. Only 6 seconds. Seems like an age ago.”

Back to Colin “who’s brought a fine beast in with him” – his £400 metal detector, thankfully. That’s a lot of coins to find ‘to a depth of 8 inches’ to get your cash back. (That’s my thought not Mike’s.)

“Like they say with drink”, says Mike, “you should detect sensibly.” They discuss a gold neck ring Colin found which can now be seen ‘by appointment’ in Reading Museum. “Which era yields the least?”, asks Mike. The Celtic coin index has risen from about 300 to 20,000 records thanks to the 20,000 or so ‘metal detectorists’. Anglo Saxon stuff is really rare apparently. Mike is enthusiastic. “I was involved in the find of Anglo Saxon York.” Who knew?! It becomes a slight geek-off but no less engaging for that.

“So if we did a little dig here, would we find something Roman or Iron Age?” Mike is well up for this OB. And promises to get onto it, before thanking Colin and hitting the tune.

1440 Mavericks/Dance the Night Away

SUMMARY

BBC Caversham

Watch Out. Mike’s got a metal detector. Photo (c) Nick Garrod

BBC Radio Berkshire is a kind of Green Room in reverse. Due to its handy proximity to leafy Thames-side locales, it tends to be where people end up after they’ve been on the telly.

The music was a bit whatever. I wasn’t expecting Frankie Goes To Hollywood, obviously, but three separate BBC inquiries into life after Savile and still it’s OK to play Gary Puckett? Following it with what must be the Searcher’s worst tune made the music image very old. And the Mavericks? Even when we hear a song from 1998 it sounds like it could be thirty years older. Still, no Lighthouse Family, so thank goodness for small mercies.

The travel news seemed a bit pointless. If there’s nothing going on, do I need to be told there’s nothing going on, on a list of things on which there’s nothing going on? But Berkshire usually image this stuff as a real benchmark, so it was an unusual lapse. Dull dull dull imaging behind it, too.

Great tease line on the Peach trail. Who wouldn’t want to listen to a show live from the busiest train in the country?!

I thought Mike’s UKIP-loving, Betjeman-quoting, stalker-avoiding back-story may be a bit outre for a quiet afternoon show, but this was really engaging. Maybe I’m getting old. But I learnt something. Yeah, there were some Bates-era radio-isms. 26 after 2? There was a genuinely nice moment of radio treatment, some warmth and enthusiasm in the presentation (two qualities woefully missing in some listening elsewhere recently) and plenty of localness.

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