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3 November 2016

I’ve found the new Richard Linklater – and she’s a DJ in the Scottish Highlands

Carol's reading of the community notices reaches almost Shipping Forecast levels of non-partisanship.

By Antonia Quirke

“The music world has lost two singers this week,” sighs Carol, an occasional presenter on the premier volunteer-run community station for the north-west Highlands. “They’re very different people, Pete Burns and Bobby Vee. Or perhaps they’re very similar.” Such a statement is quintessentially Carol. Her steering of the drive-time show Westering Home (weekdays, 5pm) is a masterclass in neutrality. Most presenters like to keep reminding you why they got the job, but Carol works on the principle that whether she’s discussing the revised regulations for crofting, or the Wester Ross Youth Football Club’s search for new players, placid enthusiasm is the one note to strike.

In a forthcoming documentary about Richard Linklater (who made Boyhood), the actor Matthew McConaughey says that he likes to think of the film director in a pick-up truck, listening to a radio that’s never quite tuned properly. It seems that this is Linklater’s most comfortable place – a radio on, but nebulously. Linklater would dig Carol. Her reading of the community notices reaches almost Shipping Forecast levels of non-partisanship, and she offers sympathy to listeners struggling with the 106.6 FM frequency with a realistically blurry, “Hopefully, it will be fixed soon.”

Coming thick and fast are the notices: Hector singing a selection of songs with a slide-show at Strathburn House, a nature walk along the headwaters of the River Ewe (“Meet at the Flowerdale Glen car park at 11am . . .”). And, most alluringly, a shout-out for “Bees and Beer”, having its last meeting of the year at the Aultbea Hotel.

You cannot detect which of these, if any, Carol might attend, even when she repeats the immortal line: “Bees and Beer – all people interested in bees and beer are welcome.” Carol’s image isn’t on the station website, nor is there a biography, so we’re left to imagine who she is. I picture her as a woman slightly isolated by her integrity, methodically going through the emails to the station as the season hardens. Today, Ivan from a rain-lashed Croatia says that he’s listening in, as he often does. “It’s getting dark outside now here, too,” Carol nods sympathetically. “It’s grisly, it’s foggy. It’s no’ very . . . nice.” 

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This article appears in the 01 Nov 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The closing of the liberal mind