Every now and again, I discover a book that captures my attention and imagination. The experience is intense and joyful, like falling in love.
I experienced one of these literary eureka moments on holiday last week. And the identity of the author of this rapture was, for me, an unexpected one: Libby Purves.
Purves was one of the voices of my teenage years. She was one of the presenters of Radio 4's Today programme, which was the soundtrack to my waking hours, rather than Tony Blackburn on Radio 1. I used to enjoy the silky tones of John Timpson and the urgent northern stridency of Brian Redhead. By contrast, Libby was earnest and heavy going, epitomising the more stodgy side of Radio 4.
Yet this worthy sounding broadcaster has written a book (Radio: A true love story) that is pure delight, like a cold beer at the end of a scorching summer day. She describes how she, an arts graduate, gatecrashed the dawn of BBC local radio, turning a lucky opportunity into a 35 year career. She captures brilliantly the intimacy of speech radio, and how it shuffles politely into everyday lives.
In an age when the BBC is often accused of dumbing down, Purves reminds us of how a Seventies Radio 4 Controller carved up Today, inserting an abomination called Up to the Hour in the middle of the programme, complete with fairground theme tune. It lasted just a few months. It made the later, equally notorious, Anderson Country sound positively intellectual. But the 1970s Today wasn't as serious, and as seriously political, as today. This, after all, was the decade when Des Lynam was a presenter!
Libby describes how she grew up on the Home Service and Radio Luxembourg. Radio memories last - I still remember the ads for Cuticura Mildy Medicated soap on Radio Luxembourg after a summer's late night listening after my A levels in 1982!