"Hello geezeerrr! Blah blah, anyway, whatever, whatever, gig tonight. Anyway! Yeah, yeah . . . anyway! Get them out fer the lads, whatever!" That's what Zoe Ball on Xfm and Sara Cox on Radio 1 sound like. They do. I have the radio on in my car all the time, so I know. No wonder "Coxy's" show has haemorrhaged over 430,000 listeners in the past three months. More surprisingly, Classic FM's target 15-24 audience has grown rapidly. I'm bucking the trend, though. Because, however obnoxious drive-time DJs are on the "yoof"-oriented airwaves, anything (anything) is better than listening to Classic FM.
For a while, it used to calm me down. You need something to calm you when you're a mum behind the wheel. In the early days, the channel could be relied upon to play back-to-back relaxing sonatas or uplifting waltzes, with only the occasional jingle to remind you that it's a commercial station. Now, it's a victim of its own success. Trying to blend "the ambient melodies of the 1850s" with the screeching style of ads for mobile phones or Blockbuster's latest video release is not working. Every link is as clunky as the worst moment from TV sport I ever heard: ". . . sad day for Hillsborough," said the presenter, followed by a cheery smile and "Now squash . . ."
We get a bad (but fair) press, mums-on-the-move. I can understand why - I hate some women drivers, too, especially Range Rover Rachel. She's got shiny hair, shiny bracelets and a shiny tan. Her shiny kids sit in the back of a shiny all-terrain vehicle that's never been parked outside overnight, much less driven across any "terrain". Her kids pull shiny faces at other drivers as Mummy cuts us up at the traffic lights.
One of my happiest driving moments ever came courtesy of one of these universally hateful bitches. On Golders Green High Road - notorious for the double-parking antics of mothers as they shunt kids in and out of McDonald's - a woman threw her door open and left it open. Then she threw one of her eight rear doors open to usher one, just one, plastic-munching brat inside. A bus approached what was now a two-lane, quarter-mile traffic jam. I was sitting behind the bus. It slowed down. The woman climbed into her seat and then, then (ooh, feel the fury!), this woman left the door open as she tuned her stereo! The bus driver lost it. He momentarily braked, then suddenly accelerated into the door, taking the whole thing with him and leaving the mum with her jaw on the dashboard, red fingernails still on the radio knob. The high road broke into a cheer. I'm sure I should have waited for the police to arrive or something, but everyone was so pleased that a sort of motoring revenge had been exacted that none of us really cared.
Now, when the screaming voices of my back-seat tormentors (aged two and six months) urge me to drive off the North Circular flyover, I listen to hip-hop or ragga or Xfm. I play music as loudly as I did when I had the youth to carry it off. Alex sticks her fingers in her ears and pulls her floppy hat over her face. Other drivers stop to stare at me at traffic lights.
The other day, I had an uncomfortable experience. At a crossing, I pulled up next to a guy who was playing some of the best hard-core reggae I've heard in an age. I was blaring Punjabi MC with my window down. I looked over at what I expected to be a funky young bloke. Instead, I saw a male reflection of myself. The dad, though, was balding; he'd obviously dressed in a hurry and had baby-sick on his shirt. His car was dented. In the back, twin girls had their hands jammed over their ears and stared miserably at their little trainers. Seeing him spoilt the music, so I wound my window up quickly.
Teenagers are turning to classical music in droves because O-A-Teens like me have ruined good music. Dropping out now means turning on and tuning in - to Bach and Mozart.