communication

Not Lost in Translation

Do you speak more than one language?

Maybe you're multi-lingual or, like me, English is my 'mother tongue' and I only speak a smattering of other languages.

A little French - that's about it. I have a few words of Kiswahili, learned when I was a child in Africa. I can say 'good morning' and 'thanks' in a few other languages but not much more than that! I can't converse in any other that the English language. 

Although many people do speak English across the world, for which I'm very grateful, there are times when we go places and we find ourselves in need of help ... we may need a 'translator'. These days there are apps on our 'phones and tech devices that can help us to translate what is being said, but also there are those clever people who make their living translating from one language to another - helping others to communicate.

Today, believe it or not, is International Translation Day  - a day for recognising translation professionals.

But  why today - September 30th?

Well, today is a celebration of St. Jerome,  who is considered the patron saint of translators.

ThursdayJerome lived in the early part of the first century - born it's thought around AD342 or AD 347. He died on this day - September 30th - in the year AD420.

Jerome was a Christian priest, theologian and historian. He is best  known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) but he also wrote other commentaries on the whole Bible. He was also known for his teachings on the Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centres such as Rome in his time.  Interesting point -  he often focused his attention on the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This came about because he was close to several female 'ascetics' from affluent families. 

His contribution to Christianity is so appreciated that Jerome is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Today is Jerome's 'feast day' and also ... since 2017 ... a date set aside by the United Nations as the day when we recognise the role of professional translation and translators in connecting nations.  Apart from encouraging us all to celebrate their contribution, the United Nations today also stages an annual St. Jerome Translation Contest for translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German.

I first saw translators in action when I lived in Africa - people translating sermons in church services without notes, just responding to what was being said from the pulpit! I've also seen translators work at conferences and that's amazing. They have to be so quick-thinking and alert, and the ability to listen to one language and simultaneously translate into another is a wonderful skill.

Helping others to communicate, to break down the barriers between nations and peoples, is an important contribution not just to relationships between individuals but also to peace and understanding in the world. 

Sometimes we think, arrogantly, that those who don't understand or speak OUR language must be somehow lacking. And I'm not just talking about French, Spanish, English ... or Swahili or any other 'lingo'! We expect them to be like us, act like us, fit in to our agenda - to 'speak our language' in lots of respects. And that means we may miss out on the diversity of difference. When we don't try to understand where people are coming from, let alone their actual words,  that's a shame.

So today, as we celebrate those brilliant people who help to actually translate conferences, and meetings and correspondence so that everyone is aware of what others are saying and thinking and imagining,  let's also ask ourselves whether we are making the most of our personal communications and interactions with others. Are we deliberately not attempting to understand others? Or is it just we're not paying enough attention or can't be bothered to put in the effort to see another person's viewpoint? 

If we are in danger of our relationships getting 'lost in translation',  let's determine to be better communicators, to work harder to understand other people's viewpoints.

Language is very important. Let's use our words wisely and understand the impact negative sentiments may have on another person. Positive words and actions can make us and others feel great and that sort of positivity is contagious. 

And if you do fancy learning another language ... well, why not give that a go as well?

What language might you learn?

Now that's a question.

 

 

 

 


Speak Think Do

Here's a brilliant thought to encourage us this Tuesday!

I Love it! 

Let's keep positive people around us ... and try not to let the negative influencers impact on our happiness.

Let's try to think positively and healthily ... negative thoughts will only bring us down.

Let's try today not to jump in with cross words and negative sentiments which will only upset others and ruin their day,  and make us feel bad for making them ... feel bad.

And let's all try to do something today to help another person.

Reach out the hand of kindness ... just because we can!

Tuesday positive circle


Wellbeing Wednesday

How are you feeling today?

Is this a Wellbeing Wednesday for you?

I'm reminded that for a few years when I was the presenter of the BBC Radio Jersey Afternoon Show, an hour every Wednesday was devoted to subjects related to our  health and wellbeing. It was a really interesting hour, with different subjects and guests talking about all sorts of issues.

We covered physical as well as mental health, and explored alternative medicines and measures that people employ to keep themselves well. I learned a lot.

When you are working on a daily show, I soon discovered that to sustain the programme day in and day out, I needed some sort of  'structure'.

Planning ahead is vital. It can be unbelievably exhausting if you arrive at work every day with no idea about what is going to happen and how you're are going to fill your programme. If every day of the working week is a struggle to fill space, it's just so stressful! Andin the long term, that's certainly not good for your wellbeing! Putting a little plan together can actually keep you well!

It's also depressing if you keep getting knock-backs and disappointments, but the truth is ... ringing possible guests and contributors at say 10am asking them to chat to you live on the radio at for example, 3pm, can result in constant refusals. Believe it or not people have lives and work, and not everyone can just drop everything to have a chat with a radio host, not unless they have an urgent need to do so.

Yes I'm aware that lots of media people think the world revolves around us ... why WOULDN'T everybody just pause their lives to be on the radio in half an hour's time? But the truth is, life is not like that! We have to work around others. 

Yes, there's always flexibility, of course, because it might be something happens that day that you need to respond to during the show. But mostly you can plan most of your guests and subjects in advance and work around them if you need to.

The trick when you're working on a long running production - and I have worked for many years not just in radio but in (live and recorded) television so I think I know what I'm talking about - is to have a plan and even a 'schedule'!

You can look ahead and see if one day in particular is an important date or anniversary  in the calendar ... you could book guests to reflect that. You can source guests who might have an event planned, and you can think of ideas for what we call 'stranding' - subjects which pop up regularly which you can plan in advance, featuring issues you think might interest your listeners. These can be pre-planned.

This 'stranding' also means that people tuning in to your show may feel that they have an 'appointment to listen' if they want to. They know that a subject may be coming up at a certain time, on a specific day of the week. If you're running a 'series' you may want to run it around the same time every week so that people know to listen in!

I know what you're saying ... 'well you can always play another song or run some sort of survey or competition where it's mostly YOU chatting'?

Yes, that's true, but BBC local radio in the UK is supposed to be predominantly 'talk' and based in the community, featuring local conversations which interest local people. Well that was the original intention and aim anyway. The BBC is not a' commercial' station or set of stations which rely on mostly music. 

Anyway, although I loved playing music on the radio, when I was presenting I'd much rather chat to someone else who is far more interesting than me rather than just wittering on into the microphone about myself, the things I've been up to, the people I've met, the places I've visited or are connected to and the things I'm interested in. Giving a little of yourself is important, but not too much I always think!

We can all  be rather self-centred, it's true, and we would often rather talk about ourselves than let others speak. Maybe many of us would rather push our own ideas than listen to the other person. If you're at a party, how often do you find yourself chatting about what YOU are up to, or YOUR opinions on a matter, rather than being quiet and letting others talk and finding out about what they are doing? It's all part of the skill of  'Active Listening' which I was blogging about last week.

And as I said at the top, apart from anything else, when you talk to different people, you learn SO much! 

And I believe it's never too late to learn!

It takes a lot of work to put together an interesting radio programme every day, especially when you're working either alone and producing your own show or working with a very small team. Researching subjects so you can ask sensible questions is important, I think.

Some presenters don't do that. They go into an interview rather unprepared, relying on stuff they 'think' they already know,  and so often it can become more about pushing their own thoughts on the issue. It's more about THEM than the subject and the person they are talking to! 

Wellbeing Wednesday acrosticAnyway, back to Wellbeing Wednesday on the radio!

This acrostic reminded me of it and today I share it with you ... and hope you will be inspired.

Wellbeing Wednesday on the radio wasn't MY idea, rather it came from a fabulous young producer who I was working with at the time - Emma-Jayne - and she did most of the legwork on the series, booking guests, compiling those all important notes, introducing me to some of the wonderful people in Jersey who are part of the 'wellbeing' community. 

Of course, lots of people choose to concentrate on this issue in the middle of the week ... which for many is also called 'Wellness Wednesday' ...  so it was a great fit.

It was a lovely time for me, working with EmJay ... what a privilege to share office and studio space and ideas with someone so fabulous!!! We bounced off each other and it was glorious!

The Afternoon Show as originally envisaged (1-4pm) is now no more ... the schedules have changed, different people are in place. Actually the focus of BBC local radio is changing in some respects although I hope the 'localness' will never be entirely lost.

But I will always remember Wellbeing Wednesday with fondness and in fact the idea did gain another life, because until the COVID19 pandemic hit us, every Wednesday a group of  local wellbeing practitioners were setting up stall in Jersey's main town of St Helier, sharing their expertise and experience.  All under the 'Wellbeing Wednesday' banner!

And who knows, that idea might continue yet? I haven't given up on it entirely ... 

Maybe .... Watch this Space!

Meanwhile, if you have a moment,  I invite you to read the attached message. Perhaps read it a few times and feel inspired and motivated.

Have a Well Day everyone!

 

 


True Friendship

This week, as I said yesterday, I've loved spending time with a friend who I haven't seen for ages. We've chatted and laughed, and she's allowed me to talk.

She knows that the past six months or so have been really tough for me, what with losing my job and feeling rather unappreciated. Although I feel it was the right decision, ultimately, to walk away from a job which had been altered without any input from me or any option to negotiate, it's been good to talk it through and express some deep-seated emotions ... about lots of things actually.

My friend has shown me the love and kindness I needed, which is not surprising because she IS a very loving and kind person. But just being able to talk and feel listened to is an amazing thing. Really cathartic!

This week I've also talked about the skill of 'Active Listening', and looking back at the past week, I'm aware that I've probably done more talking than listening ... but it's been special circumstances really.

And so to my friend Chris ... I just say 'thanks' today ... for being a great friend, a true example of love and friendship... and a wonderful Active Listener!

Friends like this are worth millions, and we should not take them for granted!

May we all have friends like this. 

May we all be a friend like this to someone!

A friend



 


Fridayest Friday!

If you hadn't guessed it yet - I love words!

I saw this quote and it made me laugh out loud.

Fridayist Friday

'May Today be the Fridayest Friday that ever Fridayed!'

Don't you love that?

I wish I'd thought of it!

Because in my mind it sort of sums up what Friday should be about ... awesome, fabulous, a bit of a relief because we've come to the end of the week ... the 'Fridayest Friday' in fact!

This quote got me thinking about one of my favourite subjects - WORDS.

I'm fascinated by language and words actually and especially intrigued as to WHY certain things are called what they are called.

For the longest time when I was a kid I was obsessed by the English word 'cup' ... I know, that's a bit weird but it's true!

What kept spinning around in my head was this question ... WHY is that vessel we drink from called a 'CUP' ?

I have no idea why that word got me, but if you just listen to the word and try not to think about the object it's describing, it's a very strange sound.

CUP! 

Say it out loud and you'll get what I'm talking about. I'm sure there are other words which sound just as odd, when disembodied from the visual image of what it is describing. But it was 'CUP' that made me think endlessly.

The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins tells me that the word is from the Old English and comes originally from the Latin word 'cuppa'. But that doesn't help me really. WHO decided that the strange sounding word 'cuppa' was a good way of describing that sort of vessel? Whoever it was, I bet they never guessed that that Latin word would also make it's way into the English language.

I feel like a 'cuppa' tea just thinking about it.

There ARE some words, of course, that DO make more sense because they sort of describe how the thing SOUNDS. That's an example of what we call 'onomatopoeia'. I love these kinds of words.

SIZZLE .. it sounds like what is it!

HOOT ... I can hear the owls in the night-time  now!

SNAP, BANG, BEEP, POP ... I could go on, there are masses of these words. I'm sure you can dream up a list of your own.

But the thing I love about language is that it's always developing. New words are often being introduced into our (English) language as culture develops.

For example, when I was a kid we didn't have the words 'social media' or 'internet' or 'cell/ mobile phone', 'emoji'  - those techy terms just for starters. And the coronavirus/ COVID19 pandemic has also resulted in a whole new set of words we had never or hardly heard before early 2020.

If  you follow the Oxford English Dictionary's 'new' word trail you'll find that new phrases and words are constantly being added to the lexicon. In July 2020, for instance, the New Words section of the OED included now familiar phrases such as 'contact tracing', 'contact tracer', 'physical distancing' and even 'Zoom' as we all turned to the internet to stay in touch during lockdowns. They are all now in the dictionary.

When it comes to making up words, however, in my experience the Champion of the World has to be the amazing author Roald Dahl who is best known, of course, for his children's books and stories, many of which are a bit surreal.

He often made up words including those that are onomatopoeic. Words like 'churgle' , which describes gurgling with laughter, and 'bibble', a perfect description of how water makes a soft gurgling sound when it hits ...  a giant peach! And how about 'scrumdiddlyumptious' - delicious!

Roald Dahl also made up words which sort of incorporate sounds and words we already know ... how about 'Giganticus' which  describes something ' Grand and spectacular'. Or 'Jumpsy; which is if you feel anxious and the slightest thing will make you jump. 

Dahl called his language 'Gobblefunk' and he apparently made up nearly 400 words - over 300 for his fabulous story 'The BFG' (The Big Friendly Giant). If you want to investigate some of his word inventions there are loads of website sites including The Wonderful World of Dahl: GOBBLEFUNK: Dahl Dictionary and Matilda Gobblefunk: A Dictionary of Roald Dahl’s Made-Up Words

Sometimes the writer just mixed up English words. One of his heroes is 'Esio Trot' ... Tortoise backwards. And if you've ever heard someone talk a load of old nonsense then you've experienced Dahl's 'Rommytot' - TommyRot!

But there are just bonkers words which Roald Dahl made up ... conjured out of his own imagination. 

My favourites include those that are written on the walls of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire in England ...see my pictures of the place below ..

"It is Truly SWIZZFINGLY FLUSHBUNKINGLY GLORIUMPTIOUS"

WHAT an imagination!

Many moons ago just as I was about to go into my final English exam at high school - my final 'A-level' exam - my teacher, who was standing at the door giving all her students some last minute encouragement, said to me "Cathy you ARE capable of getting an 'A' today ... but only if, just today, YOU DON'T MAKE UP ANY WORDS!"

Yes, I was well known even then, aged 18, for making up words. I often wrote a word which would, in my mind, sound right but which was actually a mixture of already existing words. It was something my English teacher picked up on, and although not discouraging me in my imaginative wordsmithing, was just reminding me that the examiners might not quite understand my brain!

And, by the way, on that June morning, I did resist confloberating a few words, and I did get an A in the English 'A-level'... top marks!

So, back to my thought for this day.

Have a Fridayest Friday!

Don't be a 'Grunion' (a grump) ... have a 'Phizz-Wizzing' (a brilliant) Day everyone! 

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre exterior 2

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre


*The Roald Dahl Music and Story Centre, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire 
(images by Cathy Le Feuvre)

Visit if you can ... it's 'Whoopsy-splunkers' - Fantastic!


Being Dennis (the Menace)

 

Dennis the menace

Who knows who this is?

If you were (or still are) an avid reader of  'The Beano' comic you might recognise him?

It's Dennis the Menace!

The mischievous little boy with, it has to be said, a bit of an evil streak. He gets up to all sorts and unlike many anti-heroes, he doesn't really get any better as time goes on. He is just Dennis.

Why am I remembering him today?

Well, it was on March 12th 1951 in the UK that the long running children's comic first featured the little boy with the devilish grin and the catapult. The comic came out a week later on March 17th ... but it was today that history began. Well,  Dennis the Menace history anyway.

I loved the Beano, and other comics actually, not just for the jokes but also for the cartoons - not just Dennis, but also 'The Bash Street Kids', 'Minnie the Minx' and 'Billy Whizz', with the fantastic quiff of hair.

And the great thing is that The Beano is still entertaining kids today. Published by DC Thomson in Dundee in Scotland, the comic first appeared on 30 July 1938 - it's now more than 80 years old but Dennis is still Dennis. Sort of.

His name of his cartoon strip has changed a bit over the years ... 'Dennis the Menace' to 'Dennis the Menace and Gnasher' (his dastardly dog) and now to 'Dennis and Gnasher'. By the way, did you know that Gnasher apparently is an 'Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound' ? No, me neither. You learn something new every day.

The idea of an archetypal naughty schoolboy who gets into all sorts of trouble and causes mayhem especially for the adults around him is, of course, a winner for a comic strip. It's what all kids want to do but mostly feel they can't - right? It's escapism, pure and simple.

Down the years, there have been TV shows and films about Dennis, but you might have noticed that usually the little lad is not the dark haired broody chap we know here in Great Britain, but an angelic looking blond kid, who is nevertheless as mischievous as our Dennis.

Dennis usaWell that's because in the USA, Dennis IS an angelic looking blond kid!

He ALSO appeared for the first time on March 12th 1951, in newspapers across the USA. Originally the comic strip was distributed by a company called Post-Hall Syndicate and today it's distributed to at least 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and translated into 19 languages by King Features Syndicate. It's why the cartoons and TV shows and movies generally feature the little blond version of Dennis.

But weirdly, although Dennis the Menace appeared for the first time on exactly the same day on both sides of the Atlantic, there was and is NO connection.

How spooky is that?

It seems that creative people on both sides of 'The Pond' were having almost identical ideas about creating a boy character with mischief on his mind, at the same time! Plus, the name apparently was independently conceived based on different personal experiences. Ok, so the word 'Dennis' lends itself to rhyming with 'Menace' but I still think it's a bit freaky that different cartoonists came up with the same concept independently. 

That aside, on this auspicious Dennis the Menace Day, I wanted to leave you with a quote from the boy himself.

I've no idea which version of the Menace this is attributed to or whether I need to say it in an English or an American accent, but when I looked online for 'Dennis the Menace Quotes' THIS is what popped up.

And I love it. 

A little while back I blogged about just being yourself and not being forced into anyone else's mould. and this quote in the same vein. 

Dennis is just Dennis, in the UK and in the USA (and around the world now). He's just Dennis, even though that's a bit naughty, disruptive and hilarious. And he works hard at remaining Dennis and not becoming someone else, despite the pressure - in his case, to conform and behave.

So this Friday ... I don't know about you, but I'm going to think about being the best ME that I can be!

 

Dennis the menace quote

 


Ordinary Miracles

I work at the BBC ... BBC Radio Jersey to be specific, in the Channel Islands.

I'm the Communities Journalist, so part of my job is to engage with our local community and help people to share their stories. Not just to contribute to 'news stories' but to share their life experiences and talents.  

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic BBC local radio stations across the British Isles have been highlighting the good that is happening in communities through a campaign called 'Make a Difference'.

Every day we hear about people who are making their world, their communities, better places. Initially it was just really a response to the impact of the pandemic and to highlight how people were helping those who could not get out, and those assisting directly in response to the pandemic restrictions we are living under.

Now it's extending beyond that and we love to hear from people who are just helping others in all sorts of ways, helping to make the environment better, coming alongside those who need help. We've had stories about fundraisers for charities that are struggling to survive in these Covid19 days. We hear about those doing beach cleans, we highlight jobs that are in caring roles. As well as the ongoing direct response to the pandemic - charities and individuals offering food parcels, clothing, and general day-to-day help to those who continue to be affected.

I'm sure I'll talk a lot more about this down the line ... but it has got me thinking about my life.

What do I do to 'make a difference' to the lives of others? I'm not talking about saving the world, inventing something that will change the course of human history or intentionally setting out to be an inspiration.

I'm just talking about the kinds of things that our 'making a difference' people do every day.

Reaching out a hand of friendship, caring enough to smile at someone (even with a mask on), picking up a phone to chat to someone, dropping them a message on social media, doing a little kindness that will bring a little joy to another. 

There's a song by the fabulous Barbra Streisand which, I think says it all. It's one of my favourite songs. I love the sentiment that we can all be 'ordinary miracles' just changing the world quietly, not drawing attention to ourselves, even by sharing our efforts and stories on the local radio station.

Enjoy and be inspired!

Change can come on tiptoe 
Love is where it starts
It resides, often hides,  deep within our hearts
And just as pebbles make a mountain, raindrops make a sea
One day at a time change begins with you and me
Ordinary miracles happen all around
Just by giving and receiving comes belonging and believing

Every sun that rises
Never rose before
Each new day leads the way through a different door
And we can all be quiet heroes living quiet days
Walking through the world changing it in quiet ways
Ordinary miracles like candles in the dark
Each and every one of us lights a spark

And the walls can tumble
And the mountains can move
The winds and the tide can turn

Yes, ordinary miracles
One for every star
No lightning bolt or clap of thunder
Only joy and quiet wonder
Endless possibilities right before our eyes
Oh, see the way a miracle multiples

Now hope can spring eternally
Plant it and it grows
Love is all that's necessary
Love in its extraordinary way
Makes ordinary miracles every blessed day

 

 


Keep Left

We're fortunate here in Jersey.

Luckier than many parts of the world, we know.

Although during the Covid19 pandemic we've had some big numbers relative to our small population, and we have been locked down, with no family or friend visits, schools closed, businesses shut, cafes and restaurants and hotels not open, we are in a good place right now. Or at least, we're beginning to get there.

Numbers have fallen, people are being vaccinated and gradually our island is beginning to re-open. 

And that's why non-essential shops re-opened a week ago and we are beginning to see a relaxation of the restrictions. Schools are already open, next week we expect hairdressers to open their doors again and soon we will be able to go to eat out, indoors, at a very safe distance and with all the safety measures in place.

We've been here before. We were doing well last autumn until some people decided to forget that we were in the middle of a pandemic and organised parties, and then coronavirus numbers shot up and restrictions had to be imposed again. Everything closed on Christmas Eve and it's only now we are beginning to see things easing.

So hopefully this time around people are being more cautious. Keep left

It's been more than a month since I ventured into 'Town' ... Jersey's capital of St Helier ... but I had to do so this week and that's when I experienced the Keep Left system in the main shopping area - King Street and Queen Street.

I was, I have to say, rather disappointed that not EVERYONE was keeping to the  left, and lots of people weren't wearing masks outside of the shops, but I didn't feel unsafe. Because I was keeping to the rules, wearing a mask and even had gloves on ... woollen ones because it was freezing!

But it got me thinking.

We all need some 'rules' in life, don't we?

If we are living in community, we need to know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour. We can't all just do as we please because by doing that, although we might make life good for ourselves we risk making life unbearable for others.

Most societies have rules for living - laws - and mostly they are in place for the common good. Many of them are based not just on consensus but also have their basis in shared culture, history and even in religious/spiritual tenets.

Think of the Ten Commandments handed down to us from early Biblical times. The first few are about the relationship between humans and God, but most are about living in family (honour your father and mother) and living in community - you shall not steal, commit adultery, murder, lie against your neighbour or 'covet' what they have and you do not. It's just basic stuff, common sense really, but on this set of rules many laws of lands across the globe are based.

I understand there are some people who just don't like to keep to any rules. In political terms that's called 'anarchy' but most people who make a decision to pass on the rules set out by their community would not call themselves 'anarchists'. They might think of themselves as 'individuals' or 'free thinkers', but imagine if we were ALL just determined to do our own thing, regardless of others.

If there were no rules of the road, and we all just drove on any side of the track, there would be chaos, and probably some accidents. If there were no speed limits then people could just drive as fast as they wanted and risk killing people ... and yes, I am aware that speed limits are some of the rules that many many drivers tend to ignore! If we just took whatever we fancied from a shop without paying for it, knowing that we would not be changed with theft, what would that do to the economy?

Anyway, you get my drift.

Not that I want to live in a highly controlled society, but there is a need for some boundaries for our behaviour. And whether it's because you're a free thinker or just basically selfish and think only of yourself before others, one thing that this pandemic has taught us is that we DO all need to behave responsibly and follow the set out guidelines if we are to beat this virus.

SO - for all those in Jersey planning to do some Saturday shopping in Town.

Please ... Keep Left, keep your distance, wear your mask and sanitise endlessly.

Yes, I know I know ... lots of rules and some of us might be getting a bit bored of it all.

But if we don't do it, we could well find ourselves indoors, stuck at home, no seeing family members, with no retail therapy, or sports or eating out for much much longer. 

Not sure about you but I'm happy to stick to the rules if it means that I won't have to do so forever and ever, until the end of time!

Thanks everyone!

 

 


Time to think about Time

For many years my working life was dominated by The Pips!

Any idea what I'm talking about?

Well it's that series of 'pips' ... five short and one long tone ... that are broadcast by many BBC Radio stations at the top of each hour. 

Why am I talking about this today? Well, it was on February 5th 1924 that the BBC Pips ... the Greenwich Time Signal .. was first broadcast.

Bbc-history-task-pips

As a radio presenter, for many years I had to ensure I met the 'Pips' cleanly at the top of the hour. No talking over them, no crashing into them. They were sacrosanct.  It could be a quite a pressure but you got used to it.

Only a few BBC radio stations continue to run the Greenwich Time Signal now to give us the precise start to the hour.

Some might think that's a shame, because those pips were a way we could check that our watches and clocks were spot on. These days digital time pieces are so accurate we perhaps don't need the Greenwich Time Signal to keep us on track of time.

Back in 1924, the idea for the Pips came from the Astronomer Royal of the time, Sir Frank Watson Dyson, and the head of the BBC, John Reith.

I'm not going to to go into the technical details of this because I don't know them and it might be rather boring. If you're so inclined, there are plenty of websites which can give you that information.

But what I've gleaned is that the Pips were originally controlled by two mechanical clocks in the Royal Greenwich Observatory which had electrical contacts attached to their pendula. These sent a signal each second to the BBC, which converted them to generate the distinctive beeps of the pips. By the way, just in case one clock failed, two clocks were always used and years later an electronic clock was deployed.

Until 1972 the pips were of equal length. Confusion reigned. Which was the final pip? How did we know it was actually the top of the hour? That was when the last pip was extended. Five short pips, followed by one long.

In 1990 the BBC started to generate the pips themselves via what I read is an atomic clock. Wow.

The Pips were at one point featured on BBC TV but that was discontinued in the 1960s, yet the Greenwich Time Signal seems to remain synonymous with the nation that is Great Britain. It was the first sound heard in the handover to the London 2012 Olympics during the Beijing 2008 Olympics closing ceremony. To celebrate the 90th birthday of the pips on 5 February 2014, the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 broadcast a sequence that included a re-working of the Happy Birthday melody using the GTS as its base sound.

These days, if you want the reassuring sound of the Greenwich Time Signal, then the best place to go is BBC Radio 4, which uses them at the top of each hour. Sometimes when I can't sleep and I'm listening to the BBC World Service radio I also hear them as well. There are similar time signals used by radio stations in lots of other countries, but I guess the BBC Pips are the most famous.

But what you may not know is that the GTS is available not just on the hour but also on the quarter past, the half past and the quarter to the hour. When you're presenting in a radio studio there's a GTS stream you can fade up on your desk to give you the Pips, and if after the top of the hour you forget to fade that stream down, it'll automatically pop up at those times as well. I have to say, that only happened to me just the once!

The thing about the Greenwich Time Signal, and those Pips, is that they remind us that time is fleeting. Time is passing. Time is short.

Perhaps we don't like being reminded about that. I know I don't. 

But if there's something we need to get done ... maybe we need to be just get on and do it, before we run out of time. And although there may be lots of things that we need to do just because we need to do them, it's also important to use our time wisely.

And on that point ... there are masses of quotes about time on the internet but there's one which I'll leave with you today ...

“Always make time for things that make you feel happy to be alive.”

(Anonymous)

 


A Friday Thought

I have to admit, I'm a bit of a summer person.

I like the sunshine. I feel energised in the warmth of the late spring and summer but in the winter months I sometimes struggle to motivate myself, especially first thing in the morning when it's still dark outside at about the time I have to rise for work.

But on THIS day of the week there is one thing that gets me going ... and that is knowing that tomorrow ... the weekend will be here!

Bit tongue in cheek, but here's a little poem I penned ...

 

FRIDAY MORNING

I woke today

As I usually do

About the time

My clock told me to

 

And though my heart

Was filled with dread

As I thought about

The day ahead

 

There was one thought

That made me smile

That gave me joy

For a little while

 

And what is it?  

Just one more day

Until it will be

SATURDAY!!!

 

Cathy Le Feuvre