15 September, 2006

Frequency modulation

Popular sentiment suggests that a reliable measure of increasing age, if not infirmity, is when you spot a policeman on the street who looks younger than you are.

The moment your local constabulary starts to resemble what appear to be pleasant, open-faced teenagers is the moment you know you've passed the full flush of youth and are heading deep, deep into adulthood.

I'd like to propose an alternative benchmark for the advancement of years. It is the moment you realise BBC Radio 4 continuity announcers are younger than you are.

The current edition of Radio Times features an interview with a member of the said profession who gives his age as a somewhat preposterous 30. That's a mere 12 months away from being a twentysomething. It's the same age as me. It's the sort of age you'd ostensibly assume was comfortably removed from the vocation of continuity announcer by a good couple of decades at least. Not anymore.

Popular sentiment suggest the folk who do "the bits inbetween" the programmes we watch and listen to are veterans of the broadcasting establishment - reliable, unflappable old hands who exude calm and authority, who would know what to do the moment any technical foul-ups or "gremlins in the works" reared their head, and who could handle even the imminent end of the world with noble stoicism and avuncular aplomb.

Now it turns out they're no more advanced in age or experience than someone that, like yourself, was still at school when the Berlin Wall came down, was doing their A-levels the time Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party, and had only just finished university when Princess Diana decided not to avoid driving into a brick wall.

There's something profoundly wrong about such a state of affairs. But then I would say that. After all, I'm now officially the age of the professional curmudgeon.


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