Saturday, November 04, 2006

The joy of research is...

...what else you find on the way. I'm doing a feature for Radio Times that's involved researching back issues far, far further back than I'm normally supposed to for the On This Day column and it's, well, it's weird. The paper stock they used in the 1920s feels wrong, it's sometimes glossier than you'd expect yet the printing, the actual text on the page, sometimes looks like it was done on a typewriter.

And the attitudes, the assumptions that plainly went without saying then but are mysteries now or hopelessly innocent. There's going to be plenty of this in the final feature but I also kept finding things that are off the brief and though I can't use them, there is one I really want you to see.

The Radio Times: April 18, 1924 issue, p149, col 2
"Amongst Bournmouth’s distinguished listeners is Mr Thomas Hardy, O.M., the great Wessex novelist, who has not hesitated to give helpful advice concerning the station programmes."

Isn't that fantastic? Thomas Hardy alive and being a right pain in the backside to BBC Radio Bournmouth, or whatever it was called then.

What's "O.M."?



Danny-K said...

Hi William,
Sounds fascinating. Will look forward to reading that.

As to OM - If it's 'letters' after his name, then the only thing that comes to mind is the Order of Merit.

(Swivels round to bookcase) -

Bugger, you've started me on something now William - Yep! Says here he was awarded the Order of Merit in 1910, (something new I've learnt about him, time I read the books I own). Even whilst he was alive, he was held in high regard as one of the finest authors in the country, so don't think he would have written OM after his own name, that'll be the Radio Times showing due deference and minding its manners.

So none of that Hollywood romance of his genius only being recognised after his death, (4 years after writing that letter to the RT by the way). He knew his advice to The Radio Times would be given serious consideration.

By god his books are bleak and depressing. Watched the film version of Jude the Obscure recently. It induces depression where none existed previously.

Now that's what I call literature.

William Gallagher said...

Jude the Obscure is the only one of his I've read but it was overwhelming. I loved it. Must try others, when I've recovered.

Thank you for OM and yes, I'm sure you're right about RT doffing its cap. It used to do that to an embarrassing degree; one thing I like about writing for the mag now is that they're quite happy for me to mock Radio Times.

Usually what I see is an undercurrent of sexism or patronising BBCness (RT was officially propoganda for the BBC once, though fortunately blood would run to the faces the current editorial team if you accused them of that now) but there was also amazing, just amazing London bias.

This might make it into the feature, and if it does you'll see more, but I've got a quote from an RT feature in 1939 about a farm-hand letting his neighbours come round to see his newfangled television. I haven't got my notes here to say this exactly, but there was line like "they all seemed very impressed and talked about it in their strange Suffolkese."

Isn't it funny, I want to go re-read Jude now. You'd think I'd go on to another of his, but I've got a-hankerin' now.