The ball-and-chain has gone a couple of years without taking any sick leave from work and his company, after a failed prize draw scheme, decided to give everyone with a clean record a small pile of vouchers every year. Actually, they gave everyone points to use in an online purchase-with-points service, but the points are virtually worthless there so we opted for the less convenient but actually valuable real-life vouchers.
Vouchers never work very well for us. I get my Co-op divvy in the form of vouchers that I never remember to take with me to the Co-op. Sainsbury's notice I never remember to use my Nectar card, so send me chivvying-along vouchers I never remember to take to Sainsbury's. Vouchers for money off things I buy often (booze, for instance) come through the door, then sit on the breakfast bar until, like all vouchers we get, they expire, unloved and unused.
But this is ??250-worth of vouchers. That's an awful lot of money to let expire in a drawer. The voucher scheme doesn't encourage you to use the vouchers, using the tried and trusted method of having them only work in places you'd never think to shop at. Debenhams yes, John Lewis no. Comet yes, Currys no. T J Hughes (RIP) yes, Argos no. Some creativity is therefore required if you want to spend them.
A few months ago, we set out to get a Blu-ray player. After much too-ing and fro-ing, we gave up on finding one in a shop that took the vouchers that could be reached without a car and instead went into HMV to spend the money on DVDs. That's where we bought the Blu-ray player. Yeah, who knew HMV sold hardware as well as software???Yesterday, we did the same thing with plans to get an internet radio – tried everywhere else first, then went into HMV and bought a Pure EVOKEflow
for ??100 of vouchers and ??29.99 of drawings of the queen's fizzog.
I'm in love. This radio is truly a great one. There's a ridiculously high learning curve and the designer of the user interface deserves to have his fingers broken and be put back on to emptying the bins, but the radio is great. It's got FM, revealing the ropiness of FM around here; DAB, with the BBC's many stations and independent radio's single-playlist-with-multiple-names services; and internet radio. Oh, it will also stream the music off of your computer but I'll be fucked if I can be bothered to set that up. The sound quality is mindblowing (but I'm partially deaf, so don't buy one on that??recommendation).
I worried about the internet radio bit, suspecting that it would either be something where you had to enter the URL ?? o n e ?? l e t t e r ?? a t ?? a ?? t i m e ?? into the radio (grand total of stations you'd ever set up: 3) or something that was controlled online through a really clunky interface that allowed you to painfully enter one station at a time or chose from a tiny and out-of-date list of North American and South Korean stations. It was the latter, but whilst the web interface (ridiculously branded "The Lounge
". Yeah, fuck off) is indeed remarkably clunky, slow and counterintuitive, the list of stations is vast, worldwide and only three or four months out of date. Kudos to Pure for that one.
I immediately went looking for our favourite station, KCEA
. This tiny school-system-owned FM station broadcasts from Menlo Park in California and plays non-stop big band, swing and jazz from the 20s, 30s and 40s. It's lovely. I expected it not to be there – the website streams the station via iTunes, which is always an indication that something is odd – and that I'd have to settle for WKHR
, which plays the same stuff but with presenters (who are all in the cwilliams1976
school of ace presenting skills). "The Lounge" did indeed have KCEA on it (yay!) but not WKHR (less yay). It also had the interesting French jazz station TSH, which plays modern versions of the swing stuff until 7pm, when it drops the music and starts interviewing the jazzmen instead. In French, obviously.
The greatest joy of listening to KCEA, by the way, is that the station gives a list of the music now playing online, complete with recording dates. Joy and rapture: this comes up on the radio's bright yellow screen. Every song from them lists the orchestra and the recording date!????bercool. If only it had the name of the record label too… still, the best is the enemy of the good. Thumbs up to KCEA, and other broadcasters of older material: take note.
This morning I had more of a play with "The Lounge", seeing what they meant by "On Demand". Basically: access to most BBC radio podcasts and some BBC radio iPlayer shows. You search for a show that you often miss, add it slowly and painfully to a folder and it appears on the radio as an automatically-updated option to listen to whenever you want. On went Desmond Carrington
from R2 and What The Papers Say
from R4. Lovely.
The designer of the interface, as I've said, is an idiot. A 'back' button should operate as a 'back' button; an 'up-a-level' button always and reassuringly as an 'up-a-level' button. Making the 'back' button sometimes go back, sometimes go up is just confusing. It makes it impossible to know where you are in the tree of options and thus you can't learn how to use the tree. The quixotic decision to keep FM, DAB and internet all in hermetically sealed places away from each other is probably caused by the technology – there's a Pinteresque pregnant pause when you switch from internet radio to DAB or back again – but I'd rather have my favourite DAB, FM and internet stations all in the same place rather than 25 steps apart down a windy tree of menus you can't get back up again. Also, and this may just be me, if separating the three methods of broadcasting doesn't make sense, making you put 'On Demand' shows in with the broadcast internet radio shows makes even less sense – there's a natural divide between recorded and broadcast-live material that the radio doesn't respect, even while it insists that the non-differences between FM, DAB and internet radio are too great to lump them together.
Still, the radio is worth every penny, despite the interface issues, especially if you like music or other services that the UK broadcasters don't cater for (and we're crying out for a 'BBC Radio 3 Extra' that plays proper jazz, but can't have it because Jazz FM and Smooth FM would be damaged… although neither of those stations plays any decent jazz whatsoever. Fucking capitalism). Twelve points from the Wirral jury.
By the way, if ??129.99 is scary, there's also the??Pure ONEflow
, which appears to be almost exactly the same only (a) it's ??40 cheaper and (b) it has a rubberized finish that's both extremely unpleasant and likel
y to start to peel off if you ever for any reason touch the bloody thing.