DO you wake each morning with John Humphrys? Does Thought for the Day set you up for the fray or have you lunging for the off switch? And have you ever wondered whether Nick Robinson is still in his Thomas the Tank Engine jim-jams when he speaks to the Prime Minister?
If you answer yes to any of the above then you are part of the seven million strong listenership of BBC Radio 4’s Today, which celebrates its 60th birthday this very day. And yes, that seven million tally includes those Yes supporters who only tune in to top up their BBC fury levels.
Today began bumping its gums on the morning of 28 October, 1957, when it launched on the BBC’s Home Service. Not much to write home about initially, it is now as in with the cultural and political bricks as Coronation Street and Big Ben. As Brian Redhead put it, “if you want to drop a word in the ear of the nation, then this is the programme in which to do it”.
Waiting to catch those words have been a presenting team stretching from Redhead and Jack de Manio to Sue MacGregor and Jim Naughtie and on to the current Humphreys-led crew. Like reading the rings on a tree, you can tell a person’s age by the Today presenter they first encountered.
Over the years the programme’s fame has grown to such an extent that its presenters sometimes find themselves in the news. Didn’t we all want to be a fly on the studio wall on the morning it was revealed that Sarah Montague was paid substantially less than her male colleagues for doing the same job? Wouldn’t you like to know if those rumours about sharp elbows at dawn over who does the big political interviews are true?
There is even a fascination with the presenters’ sleeping habits. Strangely enough, the same interest rarely applies to office cleaners or night shift nurses. 
As it happens, Justin Webb sleeps in a garden shed, albeit a fancy one, so he doesn’t wake the family when he gets up at 3.30am. (I used to work similar hours but was never so thoughtful: if I was up and suffering, everyone was up. Unless they happened to be sleeping dogs. It’s the law to let them lie.)
Sarah Sands, Today’s current editor, has raised a few manicured brows by bringing in guest presenters and a puzzle of the day (just what you need while desperately trying to find two socks that match), and with her determination to attract younger listeners with items on fashion and music, otherwise known as stuff to get Humphreys harrumphing.
Some things are set in stone, though, like the 08.10 showcase interview. Political parties set great store by a good Today performance. Like gladiators to the arena, ministers who can survive an onslaught of interruptions and full throttled questioning are cheered to the rafters on coming back to base. To be known as the Minister for Today is praise indeed.
Likewise, having a bad interview on Today can make someone as popular as nits. Not every day is a red letter day for the 8.10. Often it is two old bald white men and a comb stuff. But when it goes wrong for an interviewee, as it did in 2012 for director general George Entwistle when he was taken to task by Humphreys over the Newsnight debacle, a resignation can follow.
Here, however, is the news: not everyone listens to Today. Some folk won’t leave the house without a belt of Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Others, myself included, are flippers, switching between Good Morning Scotland and Today, particularly after the umpteenth item on A-levels or English councils on the latter. At its worst, Today can sound less nation speaking unto nation and more M25 chattering class braying unto M25 chattering class.
Even without straying into internet radio or YouTube there is a world of options out there with which to start the day, and what a person opts for can say a lot about them. One person’s catnip in the morning, however, can be another’s cat sliding down a blackboard. I have heard tell of couples where one likes a bit of Smooth FM or Chris Evans but their other half is afraid to miss Today. Youngsters are drawn to breakfast telly like moths to flame; others are driven mad by its endless drip of inanities. Sure, you could buy another radio or move to another room, but start-the-day routines are sacred. Love me, love my preferred choice of station for travel news.
Perhaps the only truly civilised way to start the day is with a quiet read of the newspaper, even if you have to get up before everyone else to achieve it. Wake up to Camley rather than Humphrys: now there is an offer you would be radio ga ga to refuse.


REASONS to be cheerful about 2018, part one: it’s Muriel Spark year, with the National Library of Scotland and Creative Scotland putting together events to mark 100 years since the then Muriel Camberg was born in Edinburgh.
Alan Taylor, whose memoir, Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark, will be published next month, says Spark was one of the world’s great writers, her talents recognised by Updike, Waugh, and Greene.  Too often, alas, she is more celebrated outside Scotland than among Scots. Taylor would like to see her on our banknotes no less, and we wish him well with that campaign. If it’s good enough for England’s Jane ...
My own Spark story shows me to be a very shallow creature, though in my defence I should say I have read a fair few of her novels as well. 
But the one thing that has stuck in my mind, bizarrely, was her typically no-nonsense diet advice: to wit, if you want to lose weight simply eat exactly what you currently do, but half it. I can heartily recommend it. With creme de la creme on top, of course.


HOW does a politician know they have arrived at the top of the greasy pole? Is it the sight of a red box on the kitchen table, or the clunk of a ministerial limo door?I reckon it’s when they have been Traceyed. 
Or Miked or Culshawed or Baldwined, or any of the other performers who impersonate politicians. Tracey Ullman, whose new show started on BBC1 last night, is well known for her take-offs of Angela Merkel, Nicola Sturgeon, and Theresa May, but now she has raised her game to a new level with an impersonation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He/she looks stunning. That’s state of the art make-up for you. But none of that would amount to much without Ullman’s spin on a character. In Tracey’s world, Mrs Merkel is a world class flirt and Scotland’s FM is a Bond villain complete with Mhairi Black as her henchwoman. 
As for Mr Corbyn, he must be delighted to be in millions of living rooms looking like some especially twinkly-eyed Santa Claus. Tony Blair once said he’d gone from Bambi to Stalin. Corbyn’s triumph is to go the other way.