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23 November 2016

A lunchtime in the life of Radio Norfolk

Antonia Quirke tunes into Treasure Quest Extra Time on the local radio station.

By Antonia Quirke

Treasure Quest Extra Time

BBC Radio Norfolk

Lunchtime on Radio Norfolk (20 November, 12 noon), and the presenter Paul Hayes has been asking: “Have you ever had anything named after you, or have you named anything else?” The usually equable Hayes seems a tad hard to please today, picking holes in any messages coming in. Cheryl mails to say that when her tortoise had offspring, she called the sixth one Huckerby (after Darren Huckerby), but Hayes only wants to know if she named the rest after ex-Norwich City players, too.

Someone else says they called a cactus ­after their mother, but doesn’t say what. And Millie emails to say that she gave her very first car, a B-reg Ford Escort, the name Boris, “after Boris Yeltsin”, but has “no idea why”. Hayes gives up and plays “Summer Sunshine” by the Corrs.

And yet the needling air is catching. Immediately, someone mails in to say that it’s November, and clearly not summer, or sunny, and can we please have music more appropriate to the time of year? But at a reasonable request for Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter”, Hayes narrows his eyes. “Is November winter? Or still autumn?” Rejected! Even when Mark suggests “Forever Autumn” from the War of the Worlds soundtrack, he grimaces: “It just wouldn’t be the same without Richard Burton’s smooth narration coming in over it.”

(On this point at least, I’m with Hayes. By the time Burton made that world-historical recording, released in 1978, he was over 50, and his had long been the superannuated, super-individual voice – bigger than him, almost separate from him. This was a voice very deliberately shaped with his drama teacher in Port Talbot, when he was a teenager, to sound a touch Welsh here, a touch transatlantic there, with little hints of BBC RP. Nobody would think to construct a voice as idiosyncratic (or nuts) as Burton’s today. Those sorts of voices in cinema are like dodos: gone for ever.)

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A regretful Hayes continues to turn down requests, including Guns and Roses’ “November Rain” – “about 13 years too long” – as the show unfurls hypnotically, part-smiling, part-peevish, towards the one o’clock news. The cactus, by the way, turned out to be called Sonia. 

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This article appears in the 23 Nov 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Blair: out of exile