Life, the great sage Billy Joel once noted, is a series of hellos and goodbyes. “I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again,” he then added.

Joel’s words would have been appropriate last Saturday when Claudia Winkleman sat down in the Radio 2 studio to begin her last show. As it happens, she opted not to play anything by Billy. But then she didn’t play anything by Billy McKenzie (the best Billy we can all agree, surely) or Billie Ray Martin either. Nor Billie Eilish. Billy Idol was also overlooked. Maybe Claudia just doesn’t like Billys as a rule.

Instead, we had such Radio 2 regulars as Elton John, ELO, Carly Simon and KT Tunstall making the playlist, with Oasis serenading Claudia out of the building.

Winkleman announced she was stepping down last December. She’s only been in the job since February 2021, which is a pretty short innings all told. Her predecessor Graham Norton had manned the record desks for 10 years. And Jonathan Ross was in situ for a decade before that (though his last years were rather overshadowed by the impact of that notorious prank call he made with Russell Brand to Andrew Sachs). But I guess when you helm two of TV’s hottest properties maybe you feel you don’t need to give up your weekends too.

The Herald: Frank SkinnerFrank Skinner (Image: free)

To be honest, it was all the Strictly and Traitors talk that tended to put me off when I did tune into Radio 2 on a Saturday morning.

But Winkleman’s show has been a very comfy, cosy, still-in-your-dressing-gown listen. The appeal was obvious. And it went out in the same way, albeit with an extra layer of teary messages from listeners, Sue Perkins and Winkleman’s fellow Radio 2 presenters. I guess you can make a big impact even in a short time (though to be fair Winkleman has been turning up in various capacities on Radio 2 for years).

There is something of a fin de siecle feel to Saturday morning radio across the board at the moment. It was also announced last weekend that Frank Skinner’s show on Absolute is coming to an end in May after 15 years. Not, it would seem, out of choice. It’s possibly a mark of Skinner’s distinctiveness as a broadcaster that you can’t quite imagine where else he would fit. He’s not an obvious Greatest Hits signing and he’s probably too old at 67 for Radio 2 (see Ken Bruce). With Absolute maybe it was the distinctiveness that was the problem. There’s not a lot of it in the rest of its schedule (though let’s qualify that by admitting I’m not a regular listener).

In truth, I tend to spend my Saturday mornings on 6 Music with Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie which is clearly designed for ageing indie blokes like myself. So, with apologies to Claudia and Frank, I’m a bit more bothered about the news that the former is taking a break from broadcasting for a couple of months.

I’ve been thinking about Radcliffe this week for obvious reasons. When he announced that he was taking a break a few weeks back he had to add that it wasn’t because the cancer he had been treated for in 2018 had returned in case people started worrying.


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Cancer. That word has a malignant power to it. And it’s been very present this last week with Catherine, Princess of Wales’s announcement that she was receiving treatment for the disease.

When my late wife Jeanie was told she had breast cancer in 2006 she was just 43. And like Catherine, Princess of Wales, we had young children. Quite frankly, the diagnosis wrecked both of our heads for a couple of years.

Whatever you think of the royal family it’s impossible not to feel empathy for what the family are going through. Back in 2006 I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to have turned on the radio to hear everyone discussing our situation, yet Catherine’s announcement was the first thing I heard discussed when I turned the radio on last Saturday on 5 Live.

The Herald: Mark RadcliffeMark Radcliffe (Image: free)

On Monday on Radio Scotland Kaye Adams hosted a phone-in about how to tell your kids you have cancer. That is a useful service, but I know if I’d heard it when we were still reeling from the diagnosis it would have been very triggering.

Royalty brings out the worst in the British media, a fawning obsequious and frankly creepy obsession which in turn inevitably brings out the republican in me. At the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever felt sorrier for those stuck in that institution as I do right now.

Listen Out For:

Free Thinking, Radio 4, 9pm Both Radio 3 and Radio 4 see a shake-up in their schedules this week and Free Thinking, a stalwart of Radio 3, has put in a transfer request to Radio 4. Fortunately, presenter Matthew Sweet has gone with it.