On Radio 1's Early Breakfast Show, we meet Pete "the Bread"

All presenters try to get the best from the public - but it's harder at 4am.

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“Good morning to Andy, milking cows. And Jason trucking down the M4. Hello to lovely Lawrence in Somerset, and to Jimmy the party animal . . .” It’s 4am on Radio 1 and DJ Adele Roberts is reading her first texts of the day, which also come from “Dave the loader driver, Gaz the flower guy from Chester, Graham the nutter trucker, Ryan in Carlisle, and Ben travelling back from Batman v Superman in Tring”.

Roberts sounds like she’s ticking off a list of pupils in class, or possibly even detention – there’s an air of “Ah, you again” to the First Text of the Day competition, which this Good Friday is won by Pete “the Bread”, delivering in the pre-dawn for a bakery in Dudley.

Roberts’s voice goes very milky and warm when Pete (no less than a third-time winner of the prize) comes on the line to talk – her attention devotedly fixed on his every muttering, like someone snipping a lock of hair from the nape of the person they have become blindly enamoured of. All presenters do this (even those on other stations, employed to mock the person calling, in a triumphalist way): at some point everybody reverts to super-clubbable gratitude. Especially at 4am. “I’m not carrying any hot cross buns,” Pete the Bread confesses, ashamed. Why on Earth not? Our caller pauses. “It was something I had a word with the boss about yesterday. I don’t think he can be bothered with the effort.”

Roberts makes a few procrastinatory gestures with the fader on her mixing desk – music surging up and then back down again, perhaps hoping to coax Pete into a more ebullient mood. She wants the Pete the Bread who raises his hat to the rosy-cheeked milkman and to the young mum deliriously pacing at her front-room window with her newborn, not this bunless employee of some kind of miser-depressive, who insists that his only desire for Easter is “having a sleep”.

There’s a palpable air of disapproval until Pete’s plans are revised. Possibly, he cedes . . . there will be “a lamb dinner, followed by a lamb curry on Monday”. Kindness floods Roberts’s voice. Her work this Paschal Triduum is done. “Oh, that’s my boy! That’s my boy.” 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 31 March 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The terror trail