BBC Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland

Andy Garland on milestones, siblings and the Listening Project

ON THE MIC …

BBC Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland on milestones, siblings and the Listening Project

I’m musing on siblings…

It won’t have escaped your notice that Kent Life was 50 a few issues back. Coincidentally my big sister Pam, Pamela, or if you want to really annoy her Pammy, also marked that particular milestone a couple of months before.

She was born in an age when the Dansette was king, when recording anything off the telly meant holding a microphone up from the reel-to-reel machine plugged in halfway across the room. Hell, she even pre-dates cassettes and colour TV and now she’s 50.

How can someone who used to give me ‘backies’ on her blood red Raleigh Chopper possibly be closer to 100 than birth? To find out what she was feeling, we talked. My family never talk by the way. My mother, sister and I can watch a whole football match exchanging no more than the occasional groan, shout of annoyance or excitable yelp of a near miss. We don’t speak often, or text, email or tweet and if we do they are perfunctory communications about some task or get-together.

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I had just returned from Manchester where I was attending a briefing on an initiative between BBC Radio Kent, our sister stations in Sussex and Surrey, BBC Radio 4 and the British Library called the Listening Project.

The aim, to record intimate conversations between loved ones, friends, family members or those who share some sort of bond and not only broadcast them, but store them for future generations in the British Library’s sound archive.

My mother, sister and I can watch a whole football match exchanging no more than the occasional groan, shout of annoyance or excitable yelp of a near miss

A conversation untroubled by the travails of everyday life, a conversation where you say what you’ve always wanted to say, ask what you’ve always wanted to ask, tell what you’ve always wanted to tell.

So we talked, and to understand the context, you need to know that my brother John died before I was born, that my eldest sister Linda drowned when I was two, and that our dad died after a third heart attack a few years later.

We talked and I learnt for the first time, that Pam was woken by an aunt to tell her that I had been born, that she and Linda had wished for a baby brother or sister and she recalled the dawning and gross realisation that our parents in their forties were still doing that thing that often results in said younger siblings appearing.

And how such a horrible part of our past changed her from a ‘little hellion’ (her words) into someone who wanted to achieve good things to give mum and dad some joy. As she succinctly put it, “…so what if we don’t constantly phone or text – we don’t need to do we? You’re there for me and I’m there for you”.

I picture her on the phone, geographically so many miles distant on the outskirts of my West Country hometown, yet emotionally, still, after nearly 20 years apart as close as kin should be and I wish  that the MP3 recorder were running and that I still possessed the silly reel-to-reel recordings of our childhood.

To take part in the Listening Project go to bbc.co.uk/listeningproject or email simon.furber@bbc.co.uk.

Andy Garland presents Sunday Gardening from 0800 on BBC Radio Kent email: radio.kent.gardening@bbc.co.uk, call 08459 811 11