Farewell, old girl

As you grow older, you start to yearn for the familiar. In an ever changing world, that's a real challenge.  Wouldn't it be nice if some things never changed. A fixed beacon in the cauldron that is the world ? Alas that can only be a pipe dream as there is nothing that is impervious to the passage of time. And so, when something that is long standing , finally succumbs to Father Time, it is time to shed a tear. Especially something that has stood for 71 years.

When I first went to London, there were two places I HAD to see immediately. The second of them was a trek to Tunbridge Wells in Kent to stand on the hallowed pitch where in 1983, one of the greatest cricket innings of all time happened - Kapil Dev's 175 that launched India on the path to World Cup victory. But the first, even above that sainted place, was for me, Bush House, the home of the BBC in the Strand. You can't enter the building, unless you are an employee, so I contented myself with gazing at its majestic facade in awe. And a visit to the BBC World Service shop, which you can enter, of course.

Bush House, for 71 years stood for something special. As the home of the BBC, it was virtually the centre of the world. Right through the decades , until about 15 years ago, BBC Radio was the window to the world for most of its population. I grew up before the internet era ; actually even before the TV era had really established itself. I became a global citizen thanks to the BBC. My education was 50% at school and 50% thanks to BBC World Service. Fiddling a small short wave transistor radio, and trying to listen through the static and crackle, and there would come the magic words - This is London.

The BBC is shifting homes and abandoning Bush House to move to fancier (and presumably cheaper) quarters in London. The logic is impeccable. Bush House was never made for the digital age. Its old world rooms and corridors are a positive nuisance for a modern office. And yet, and yet .......

The BBC itself has changed of course. World Service Radio (at least on the short wave) is more or less dead.  TV has taken over. Budget constraints are taking their toll. But then the BBC is not going away - its only Bush House that's retiring. So why the nostalgia ? Especially for a building that I haven't even been inside. I can't explain it, except that, at my age,  it seems to be the passing of an era.

In four days time, at precisely mid day in London, the last World Service news will be broadcast from Bush House.  From the next hour onwards, the News will still come bang on time, but from the new quarters. Its the same BBC. Its the same news. Its the same anchors. But, surely, it will not be the same. The world may perhaps not notice. But I will heave a big sigh.

One more familiar sight in the world will go down.  Farewell old girl. Here's a big hug. You will always be one of a kind.

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