The radio story (extract)


This is an extract from Sequence magazine number 3, edited by Simon Payne, published by

I asked my friend Maurice if he had a radio story.

He lent me a 1950s wire recorder, having written on both sides of it in indelible ink: Minifon German wire recorder, property of Captain Maurice Seddon, Datchet Cottage, private museum of ancient wireless. With Maurice, aesthetics are irrelevant. He will drill a hole through the side of a wooden cabinet and thread wires through it, anything to repair a gadget or piece of sound equipment, with no regard for how it looks.

Would he have some nugget of information, something which might have happened at Gordonstoun where he made illegal radio transmitters during the war, or later when he was in the Royal Signals and his sister lived with Marconi’s daughter in Rome. “The Marconis were half Irish” he said.

We drove from his house in Datchet at the edge of Heathrow airport where the planes fly so low that conversation is difficult, to a large pub outside Old Windsor overlooking the Thames.

Clambering out of the car, clutching a red and white striped stick with his name and address written down the length of it, Maurice entered the pub, standing room only, to a soundtrack by Madonna. “No beer for me thankyou, my family were all alcoholics” and approached the ‘eat as much as you like’ salad bar, clutching a bowl, slowly filling it to excess with ten different salads to accompany Scampi and chips. “What is thousand island dressing?” he asked. “I don’t know” I said, as he laboriously piled on blue cheese dressing, honey and mustard dressing, vinaigrette dressing, yogurt dressing and of course thousand island dressing, attracting the attention of other customers as he caught his head on the glass roof of the salad counter, complaining loudly about the danger of this which must surely contravene health and safety regulations.

Seated outside, between the pub and the road under a vast parasol advertising something alcoholic, we talked through the sound of endless traffic, overhead planes, the chugging of passing boats, the chirping of birds, the banter of a waitress and a gameboy.