Wednesday, 21 February 2018


In 1965 and 1966 it really kicked off along the British coast. Although because of my studies in Ghent I had somewhat less time to monitor the goings on at stations like KING, 390 and Radio Essex, the start of Radio Scotland from the Comet and the moment when Swinging RadioEngland and Britain Radio rocked up on board the Laissez Faire did not go unnoticed.
In Ghent, after lunch in 'De Brug', a handful of us would hang out at the Blandijnberg talking about the music of the day and about offshore radio. Often, when we had an hour to spare, we went to the closeby 'kot' of Jos Borré to listen to Radio Caroline. During lessons we even 'pestered' one of the assistant professors, McCauley, with tales about the pirates. So much so that, for our benefit, the young Scotsman later included a question about the offshore stations in the written English exam.
In the day Germanic philology still consisted of the study of three main languages: Dutch, English ànd German. For me listening to the offshore stations had been a great help to get a good grasp of colloquial English. That came to the fore when one day, during a talk about the poet Keats, professor Willem Schrickx (1918-1998) told a joke in English and in a packed auditorium I was the only one who laughed. Which made an unhappy professor comment in his native Antwerp dialect “d'er is er ier mor ene deen Engels kent”.
At university my German didn't quite match my knowledge of English. But it wasn't too bad either since for a number of years I had been obsessed with Franz Kafka. In fact I had read every single word this Jewish author from Prague, who wrote in German, had ever committed to paper. 
By sheer coincidence my professor German, Herman Uyttersprot (1909-1967), had written extensively about Kafka. Uyttersprot was good fun in spite of the fact that he stood before us making jokes whilst dying of throat cancer. One of his last bits of fun was teaching us a new German word to describe the French scantily clad film star Brigitte Bardot. He called her “eine Nacktrice”. My time in Ghent was not always plain sailing, especially the Logics course proved somewhat of a nightmare. But in spite of a very heavy workload every night I tried to hear at least one hour of the Johnnie Walker Show on Caroline.

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