The Little People Inside The Radio
When I was small I used to think that there were little people inside the radio who made all the music and sang all the songs. I was reminded of this recently when I found my Grandad’s old transistor radio at the back of a wardrobe. I remember vividly as a kid, staring at it and imagining the orchestra of mini-musicians inside being conducted by a mini-conductor (free joke for scientists there). It had a crackly kind of sound but this, for me, always added some charm, as if the sound picked up interference in being transported from a world where the mini-musicians were a normal size to this world where they were miniatures inside a radio.
I turned the ‘on’ knob but of course nothing happened. Nobody had used this for over thirty years. Probably the last time it was switched on was by my Granddad himself on the day he died. And probably either my mother or her mother turned it off for the last time later that day after he had passed away.
I got some fresh batteries to see if it could be encouraged back to life after all this time. I popped open the clasps and prised off the backing. And then I gasped in amazement.
For there, inside, was an entire orchestra of little people. Each of them in their tiny little tuxedo or black evening dress. Each of them holding a tiny but perfect musical instrument And I thought, “This is the greatest thing ever. There is still magic in the world”.
But then I looked closer. None of the little musicians were moving. I looked closer again. And now I could see that there was a sort of greeny-brown slime over them all. I got a magnifying glass and looked closer still. Now I could see that, wherever this slime had touched, it had eaten into them, through their clothes and even right through their skin and deep into their flesh. And now I could see that their little faces were contorted in expressions of total horror and anguish.
And I realised of course what had happened. The batteries had leaked on them and killed them all. Such a horrible ending to lives which had done so much to bring joy and beauty into the lives of others.
So search your home and find all the old little transistor radios your family used to have. Give them a little shake. If there’s a rattle, it’s too late. That’s the sound of the dead bodies inside. But if there’s no rattle, it might not be too late. Rip open the back. Yank out the batteries. Yes, they might be covered in sticky corrosive acidic rust, but there’s no time to worry about petty injuries to yourself. Yank out the batteries and whack in some new ones. Slap the back back on and turn the ‘on’ knob and wait and pray and maybe, if you’re very very lucky, after a little bit of time – faintly at first, but then growing stronger – you might hear some music. Just a little tentative note on a violin to begin with. Then some woodwind joining in. And then gradually all of the instruments coming to life and joining together to produce a full swelling sound of a sort that you won’t have heard for years. Sure, the music might be a little wobbly at first but, remember, these guys haven’t played in years, maybe even decades. But you can stand there and look at the little radio – maybe, like me, it’s one that your granddad used for twenty years – and say to yourself … “The sound quality is really shit actually. Much worse than I remembered. My phone is better than that”. And then you can switch off the radio and go back to listening to music on your phone streaming live over wi-fi and be grateful that nowadays there are younger, fitter, even smaller musicians playing in a tiny box called the internet floating above the earth far away from any leaky batteries.