Tuesday, 16 February 2016

How I got in to radio - Dave Harries

Glad to help, Paul but apologies for the length of this reminiscence! 

I started DXing when I was fairly young. My interest in radio was sparked by a chance discovery back in 1992 (IIRC) when I was 10. I was on holiday in a town in England called MInehead. I had a radio with me but it was not a shortwave one: it only had FM, Medium Wave & Long Wave. One evening, for some reason, I randomly put it on MW and did some tuning around. In the course of this, amidst a variety of languages I had never previously heard, I came across a broadcast in English which was not in an English accent. It turned out, as I discovered at the close of transmission, to be the evening broadcast from YLE Radio Finland on 963khz: the closing announcement from YLE's evening transmission in English back then began with the words: "You are listening to Radio Finland, the overseas service of the Finnish broadcasting company YLE. Thank you for joining us today. For listeners in Northern Europe we are now available on 558khz....." - I am not sure why I remember that but for some reason I have never forgotten it!

Anyway the evening broadcast of YLE remained my regular listening throughout the holiday that year. The following year, 1993, I was again on holiday in Minehead. By this point I had a later bedtime and my younger brother, with whom I had shared a bedroom the previous year, was elsewhere in the cottage. So I went upstairs and put the radio on. I was glad to find YLE still on 963khz at the same time as before. This time, however, I decided to tune around a bit trying to find the local BBC station on what was then its only frequency of 1323khz. However I went too far toward the right-hand side of the dial and, while making my way back toward 1323khz, came across another broadcast in English - again not in an English accent - which turned out to be an evening transmission from RVI with "Brussels Calling" on 1512khz. For the rest of that holiday, and the two after that (1994 and 1995) I found myself always tuning in to YLE and RVI, both when on holiday and not, and I rarely forgot to listen in.

Back in the mid-to-late 1990s the Radio Times magazine used to print the SW frequencies of the BBC World Service (it doesn't now) and I think this may have been what encouraged me to look into shortwave listening. Either way I eventually replaced my 3-band stereo with a Roberts R809 4-band radio back in early 1996. I think it may have been a present for my 14th birthday. It came with a "starter guide" called "A guide to World Band Radio" which was a small, rectangular and thin publication with blue covers. That was my starting point and the frequencies were mostly still valid. So when the frequency changes came every 6 months I would make a note of the new frequencies and start tuning in.

I was slow on the uptake with QSLs: I didn't get my first until Radio Romania International sent me one for a transmission of 14th January 1997 (2100hrs UTC, 7195khz) which shows that fairly ugly (IMO) piece of communist-style architecture that makes up the radio building. I still have the card in question and it is one of the 17 QSLs I now have. The figure of 17 QSLs, however, does not count one I was sent by RVI (Brussels) which showed a joint of roast chicken on the front: This card is sadly missing although I think I know where it is. But I think that, had it not been for my chance discoveries of YLE and, later, RVI on mediumwave, my interest in radio may never have started at all. Thank you YLE & RVI!

As an aside I spent several years after the demise of YLE Radio Finland's shortwave service trying, with no success, to find out what the piece was that used to accompany the transmission's close down. I remembered it being a jazz piece with strings and that was about it. However I posted my query to a DXing forum and received an answer from a former (by then) employee of YLE: I forget his full name but I think his first name was Juhani and his last name began with an N. Anyway he was able to give me the full title of that piece and also the composer so here it is. How many people on this group remember hearing it?

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