A ROCKY PENINSULA IN NORTHERN IRELAND (PTA) — There was a stove in the kitchen, a stove in the living room, and a stove in the bedroom. I kept all three constantly fed as if I was following the Jewish tenet that you feed your animals before yourself, which is not because of animal rights, but rather because you need to protect your future more than your present. And yet still the air was so cold that only one afternoon was our breath not visible inside.
Words and Photos by Nan Pincus
With the inside of this cabin being only a little warmer than its outside, the sun setting a smidge after three o’clock in the afternoon, the phone and internet connection being wooly as my ovine neighbors who voyeuristically stalked the window, and the nearest town both empty and far, I looked for companionship the one place I’ve always found it, on the radio.
The cabin on a rocky peninsula in Northwest Ireland might not have had all the letters for its Scrabble set or a microwave, but it did have another marvel of 20th century technology. It was a little CB/AM/FM radio crouching behind a box of matches on top of a kitchen cabinet.
I decided to put the switch on FM and started swirling the dial. As soon as I heard a lilting woman’s voice underneath a sheet of static, I began carrying it around the tiny room while adjusting the rabbit ears.
Now the signal was as clear as the peat-rich water was brown, a farmer was being interviewed about the economic downturn. It was a quick piece — just some brogue-ish assurances that one doesn’t choose agriculture for an easy life. Then came a trio playing an Irish ballad, and then came North West Hospice Bingo: a bingo game that allows listeners from across the broadcast range of Ocean FM’s two regional frequencies to play bingo, including the residents of the hospice.
I’d bundle up for walks outside where the wind was loud, blustery, and sacred. The ocean crashed against the rocks in a way I never conceived as being real outside of movies. But when I was inside, the radio might as well have been a Soviet relic with only a volume control and no tuner because I simply couldn’t touch that dial. I learned the schedule quickly, timing walks and firewood runs so that I’d be back in time for Country Jamboree, a boy-girl-boy-girl style line-up of Irish and American country tunes.
As I’d stand by the wood-stove, taking off my cold wet socks to put on the toasted, at time singed socks that I’d been roasting, I felt the fulfillment of the promise of radio. I could hear Fessenden making history with the first radio broadcast of music, Oh Holy Night transmitted on a rocky coast on Christmas Eve of 1906 and heard by ships at sea.
Occasionally, I would call in and talk to the announcer and make a song request. The only one they ever played was by The Beach Boys. Rather fitting.
About the Author, Nan Pincus
Nan is a graduate of The University of North Carolina and Duke University. She writes about audio culture and analog technology of all kinds. She DJs FM radio, operates ham radio, and got her first job in high school to save up for a belt-drive turntable. She works in classical music and theatre, but she often puts down her work to drop the needle on Scriabin’s Preludes and dream in technicolor.