Those of you who may have spent some time living in London will understand the overwhelming sense of anonymity one feels in a city that size. In a way there’s a freedom that goes with being able to get through your daily commute, or simply wander the streets, without meeting a single familiar face.
On another level there is a loneliness and niggling feeling of isolation as you perceive the scale of a city that size. Eye contact is rare. Despite the unnatural closeness of proximity to your fellow man on a packed tube journey, personal interaction is frowned upon. Keep your head down. Read a book. Whatever you do don’t look like you are willing to engage.
These were my feelings not long after I had moved to London in 2005. As I settled into the city one of the first and most important tasks was to become acquainted with the skills needed to cleverly manoeuvre your way across the sprawling London underground transport system. Seemingly the first accessory one must have to handle the chaos was a radio player and a good set of earphones.
|Terry Wogan – a broadcaster who became a friend to so many|
It was also around this time that I discovered Terry Wogan’s breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. Wogan’s wonderfully warm speaking voice, his easy broadcasting style and his neutral but identifiable Irish accent provided a comfort in the midst of all this newness. Once the earphones were in he made you feel welcome. He spoke as if it were just you who was listening.
One morning I stood on a platform in Wood Green station. Wogan was in the midst of delivering one of his series of inimitable ‘Janet and John’ stories. As was the norm he would break down into fits of laughter as he struggled to cope with the ridiculousness of it all. I couldn’t help but be carried away by his infectious laughter.
|Wogan during one of his many laughter fits during the Janet and John sequence|
Looking around at the hundreds of faces on the platform it was clear many were finding themselves in the same boat. Despite the fact we were strangers, those of us who were listening to Wogan felt a unique bond for that short moment. We were laughing and trying our best to conceal it for fear of being found out for being normal. The rest, those unlucky few, remained po-faced as they stared at the platform wall.
Terry Wogan was my companion during my London journey. I am certain that Terry was a companion to millions of others in a world where companionship is challenged by a societal tendancy towards solipsism. When he gave his final breakfast broadcast in December 2009 I listened along with so many others with a deep sense of sadness in my soul. The morning journeys would never be the same again.
Terry Wogan was a Limerickman who achieved so much. As he said himself, the city was good to him. I was just glad to have experienced his magic and am thankful for his company at a time when I needed it most.