Sleepless Near Settle: Sleeplessness And My Childhood

Or: Why the creator of this blog is very much a night person

SV and a Chaser: Sleepless Near Settle caption.

You will be wondering “why on Earth is The Chase’s Ann Hegerty in an East of the M60 article?” Well, the story behind this picture takes us to December 2014. After meeting her with (Tremendous Knowledge) David Rainford at The Water House in Manchester (in early 2013 after a Poetica event in City Library), I had finally got around to joining a local quiz team. Since the close of 2014, I have been involved in the quiz teams for The Wheatsheaf and The Lodge Hotel. Regular readers of this blog would know for sure the two pubs are in Dukinfield.

My break came when I was invited by a family friend to The Wheatsheaf’s team. The rest they say, was trying to answer questions on Greek mythology. The public house on Birch Lane is the source of our photograph. Ann was at the time of this (and is still involved in the) Lowes Arms Refugees quiz team. They are an unstoppable side; its other main player is David Rainford.

Yesterday, my present team (the Lodge Hotel) lost to 28 – 16 to them at The Lowes Arms. With Dave. Both the Edwin Taylor’s Extra Stout and the Hopster beers were on equally great form. The buffet, chips with chicken and vegetable casserole, was gorgeous.

So, why has this post on sleeplessness covered an Egghead and a Chaser? In the former, this is partly due to my inability to sleep before midnight in my teenage years. I also have Marconi and James Stannage to thank for this: yes, the wonder of radio. On James Stannage’s programme, he used to invite (in his words) Tremendous Knowledge Dave into the Piccadilly Radio studios.

From 10pm to 2am on Bank Holiday Monday, Piccadilly Plaza was bombarded with quiz questions to the fellow. He was unbeatable on football, popular culture, and some other more obscure gems. Some would ask him totally stupid questions like “Which Manchester City player was formerly a go-go dancer called Vanessa?” (suffice to say we never found out). In spite of the fact I had a school or a paper round to go to, I still listened till 1am. Or 2am, using a dependable Decca clock radio, with headphones of course.

“Spend the heart of your night with Nightbeat…”

In my formative years, no amount of hot chocolate, hot milk or the end titles of Coronation Street were a suitable cue for bedtime. This fellow didn’t need an iPad or a bedtime story. He had a radio. This is partly why I remember the Piccadilly Radio jingles so well, especially those composed by Sue Manning Music and Alfasound Tapetrix. After about a couple of hours, I would fall asleep after that night’s programme.

As the radio was part of my bedroom routine, it wasn’t unusual for me to wake up to what station I enjoyed at the time. As I listened to Piccadilly Radio in the taxi to the Ewing School, my bedroom radio was tuned to BBC Radio One on some occasions. At 5.30am, I used to enjoy ‘waking up’ to the station’s start up routine – a selection of jingles by JAM Creative Productions. Then I went back to sleep after hearing Simon Mayo or Mike Smith, and I rose at 7am.

Before starting Ewing School (yikes, 30 years ago at this time of writing), Piccadilly Radio was my main station of choice. Whilst I woke up in the small hours for a few minutes, this meant catching the fag end of Piccadilly Nightbeat, the start of Pete Baker’s show, and The Bradshaws. The young S.V. loved every one of Buzz Hawkins’ creations back then.

On each occasion, the radio was kept to a low yet audible volume. Back in 1984, the signal on 261 am was pretty clear. Better than 275 and 285 metres in the medium wave on Radio One (well, being close to Piccadilly’s transmitter in Ashton Moss did have its advantages). Then again, you didn’t have the same interference issues you get from WiFi hotspots nowadays.

2017: not so sleepless near Settle

Today, I appreciate catching some extra zeds till the following day. Like my younger self, there’s no chance of finding me asleep at 9pm. Or 10pm. In exceptional cases, I might choose to nod off at 12 midnight. With work, I now need to rise early to avoid the worst excesses of the Manchester traffic. Cue coffee and a strategically chosen Metrolink tram for a quick nap.

When I was between jobs, I was fine with going to bed late (about 1-ish) then rising just before midday. Cue a more creative Stuart. On the very odd occasions I get a lie-in, nine hours is perfect. Eight hours is good. It has been said that the average teen should have nine hours sleep a day and a later start. At 15 years old, yes. For a 37-year-old with a high functioning form of autism spectrum condition, pretty good.

Instead of the radio, the digital tablet sends me to sleep. Yet the blue light from digital devices is supposed to suppress sleeping habits. The radio can be my ‘nuclear option’ if all else fails (especially on the medium wave frequencies when tuning into foreign radio stations). The one exception to this rule is on election nights. There is no better aid to sleep (or exacerbating any lack of sleep) than listening to radio commentary of an election. As I usually book the following day off work, this gives me carte blanche to listen till 4am or thereabouts.

As I set off for work early, I value my sleep more. With regards to performance at work, it is the difference between making no mistakes or several of them. Also the choice of snack or dinnertime option. If you have less sleep, you become more hungrier. Then you get fatter as a consequence. You crave nutritionally incorrect mealtime options and shun the salad for a Big Mac.

All of the above was stressed on this week’s edition of Panorama. I had never watched the long-running documentary series for a bit (of late, it has become more sensationalist). This week I had good reason: a vested interest. A fellow blogger’s daughter featured in the film with the Sheffield Sleep Unit and her school. She has written about how mobile devices can affect sleep patterns. Her daughter is just as tireless as I was.

Thank goodness for the fact that iPads weren’t around in the 1980s. In my dream home, the bookshelf will peacefully coexist alongside digital devices.

S.V., 09 March 2017.

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2 thoughts on “Sleepless Near Settle: Sleeplessness And My Childhood

Add yours

  1. Stuart – Brill!
    And there you were – only a few dozen yards away from me n’ mine n Duki – and staying awake for the same reasons.
    I’ve been meaning to blog about Piccadilly Radio memories for some time, so you have just spurred me on to doing this for my new-look blog.
    I think that we need to think more about ‘auditory sensory’ and processing of it for many of us.
    The little sleepless lass of mine you refer to in your blog and who was on Panorama – is – like you – and me – utterly captivated by radio. And oh… how we sorts remember jingles (“Tune into Timmy…He’s On Piccadilly…Unshaven and Skinny….He’s Out Of His Mind….Timmy On The Tranny…32 Days a Week…Heh Heh Heh…Timmy Mallet Shooooow!”) Yes – these kind of things are also imprinted on my brain.

    It seems that audio (non music) entertainment is booming. Witness audiobook downloads. And the healthy listening sway of most radio stations.
    It seems that radio reaches the parts of the sleepless (and hyper-busy-minded) noggins that telly and other mediums still cannot reach. I mentor several university students who express an interest in media – and find it so rewarding when I get them to look more into radio as a career – to see how much they immediately learn from simply listening more to the more talky and perceptive radio stations.

    One thing I learned from the help we got from the Panorama experts – is that as individuals, some of us are not as affected as much by ‘the typicals’ as others. However, even though that I might think that blue light and caffeine *feels* doesn’t have an affect on ‘Duracell individuals’ like us – these days I wonder… it might just be that we are little swines at overriding the mechanisms where we are supposed to STOP! 😉

    As you say… as we get older… maybe we get better at listening to this, a tad bit more.

    Any rate, as always – your most excellent blog provides much food for thought (as did the Panoroma prog on junk food craving and sleeplessness!) And I very much hope that if your pub quiz teams win the next biggies thanks to you – that Piccadilly radio gets much high-five thanks for it all. 😉

    (NB – my most notorious Piccadilly radio moment relates to calling in the station from the phone box outside The Albion in Duki. If you pay me enough I might spill the beans on that very naughty scam back in 1984!)

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  2. Hi Tina,

    Nice to find somebody else remembers the old Piccadilly jingles (have you inflicted them on Ruby, Ian and Gregory yet?). You may have come across a separate post on Piccadilly Radio jingles, with a history of the things and audio clips. As for non-music-based audio, I can see why a market for it is thriving. It utilises the best aspects of radio broadcasting: what is known as The Theatre of the Mind.

    This is why I prefer radio commentary to television commentary. Radio enables you to create a picture in your head of the situation or venue. Television and video clips deprive you of these abilities. With many of today’s commercial radio stations, the all-music-and-no-chat ethos stifles that as well. Hence the popularity of Podcasts and as to why BBC Radio 4 commands healthy audience numbers.

    With the “we are little swines at overriding the mechanisms where we are supposed to STOP!” quote, yes that can be true with me. Especially when drawing; sometimes whilst blogging. Thanks to the joys of work, I cannot carry on till the small hours. Hot Chocolate keeps me awake; the camomile tea I had at work today has chilled me out, though with enough energy to carry on till the witching hour.

    Before I go, I couldn’t resist this…

    “The Experience… Piccadilly… FM 103…”

    And…

    “Piccadilly Radio… Stereo Power… FM 103…”

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

    Like

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