Early bird

They're already doing their Christmas shopping on Magic.

Paul Phear
Magic 105.4

Saturday afternoon on Magic FM, and DJ Paul Phear is on the phone to Jessica, who's Christmas shopping. "Isn't it a bit early for Christmas shopping, Jessica?" he asks gently. "If I can only get ahead, Paul," reasons Jessica, and adds with longing: "My friend Clare does hers early."
Jessica is hoping to win tickets to see the musical Wicked. "Clare went and said it was absolutely brilliant," she explains. "Oh well, you'll definitely agree with Clare," nods Paul, "because I've seen it several times and I love it."

“Right," - he's settling down to business now - "we have a song that's become 'haunted' and we need you to identify it, Jessica."

She murmurs her nervous assent. There then follows a part-speeded-up, part-slowed-down reverse montage of Take That's "Back for Good" during which you can hear Gary Barlow explicitly articulating "Back you want, back you want,/Good for back you want" several times.

At its conclusion, Paul offers a rather stunning latent critique of the whole of Take That's oeuvre: "There is a song in there somewhere, Jessica, and I just want you to try and tell me the name of the artist." Jessica's considerable pause implies a confusion of emotions. "Wellll . . ." she starts, drawing disbelievingly towards the receiver. "I'm hoping for . . . I'm hoping that . . . it's 'Back for Good' by Take That?"

Cue the station's "success" jingle. "Yaaaay!" shouts Paul, thrilled. "Thank you! Thank you!" shrieks Jessica. "It's absolutely my pleasure!" yells Paul. "You're going to see the show with Clare, and we'll put you up at the Cavendish Hotel and even treat you to dinner before you and Clare experience a Wicked performance!"

“Oh, thank you! Thank you!" "And I wish you a Happy Christmas as well!" adds Paul, overwhelmed by the sensational nowness of this moment, reluctant to ease his grip and leave us walking the future's more uncertain corridors. He contemplates his power with delight. "Ahh. That was Jessica," he sighs - voice like cream pouring on to crumble. "She and Clare will be going to the show. And here's 'Sultans of Swing'."

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 November 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Israel divided