And up the hill and down the dale…

Now Downpatrick isn’t exactly at the centre of the universe. Well, what of it? I don’t want to be at the centre of the universe, and I don’t think I ever did.

When I lived in London and I had a bike I thought I was lucky to live there. I could explore the city at my leisure without ever having to worry about the rising cost of public transport.

But as much as I loved whizzing around the city I found exploring the countryside around London even better. And before long I got to know all the little country roads like the back of my hand. I explored the remote parts of Essex, the side of the county that is almost never seen on TV. I cycled right across Hertfordshire, taking in Ware, Hertford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead and dozens of villages along the way. And, of course, Buckinghamshire, especially the Chiltern Hills, was by far my favourite part of England. And the Chilterns on a warm, sunny summer’s day was, to me, the best England had to offer!

The problem was, getting out of the city. It took more than an hour by bike from Walthamstow to get out of the suburbs. I would have loved to have a place in the country, ideally in or around Chesham, along with a steady job, but I just couldn’t afford it and I had no real connections out there.

But now I’m in Downpatrick in Ireland where the countryside is within a fifteen minute walk, where I have a whole house to myself (compared to a cramped bedsit in Walthamstow) and where I can go anywhere I please by day or night. This is the centre of my universe.

And now for a Trade Test Transmission featuring test card ETP-1

Among the things I’ve been doing to establish myself in Downpatrick is build up a new collection of music. It can be Irish trad music or rock or classical or jazz and it can be brand new or it can be music I knew from the first nineteen years of my life, before I moved to England. In fact I’ve been downloading a lot of new songs from onto my mobile phone.

And here’s something remarakable. I discovered on YouTube just yesterday a lot of videos featuring the Channel 4 test card from 1982 to 1986. In those days Channel 4’s programmes didn’t begin until well into the afternoon. So in order to make up for a whole morning and early afternoon of nothing, Channel 4 broadcast a test card and some fine music to go with it.

This happened at a time when I was losing interest in pop music and had stopped following the Top 40. Out of sheer curiosity and to create a little background atmosphere I switched on Channel 4 at a time when I knew there would be no programmes. Now I would be grossly exaggerating if I said I was “blown away” or thought “Wow! This is the next big thing! Move over, Duran Duran and whoever else just happens to be in the Top 10!” No, I gradually warmed to the music to the extent that I regularly recorded bits and pieces of it onto a lot of C-90 and C-60 casettes. I found the instrumental music is better for listening to while reading, studying and idly doodling. Music with English vocals really distracts me.

I also noticed that the total music lasted six hours and, for example, if I missed some track at 9:30am I would almost certainly hear it again at 3:30pm. If I had enough patience and enough tapes I would probably have recorded the whole lot in one session!

But at some point around about the summer of 1985 I got interested in jazz and I reappropriated all my tapes to recording jazz programmes off the radio. And all the instrumental test card music was lost. Well, I was only 14 at the time. I just didn’t know any better.

And now, by heck, here are all those anonymous tunes coming back to me even as I type this entry! Thank goodness for YouTube and people like “cwilliams1976”!

Interested? Here’s a link to YouTube to get you started!