A Word in Your Ear with Jon Rhodes - 17/2/2011

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IS nothing in life sacred?

First they made Wagon Wheels smaller, scrapped Football Crazy crisps and killed off Oxo gravy granules.

All that, and they grounded Concorde, banned smoking in pubs and took Test Match cricket off terrestrial TV

The list goes on.

Bob Dylan got it right all those years ago – times change.

This was long before the speaking clock went from being at the cutting edge of what you could do with a phone to being more expensive than a chatline – so I’ve been reliably informed.

There are a few things which have stayed loyal. Nothing warms the cockles better than a plate of your mum’s scouse, or stew if you happen to be from the Wirral side of the Mersey.

I watched a programme the other night, celebrating 50 years since The Beatles first played the Cavern Club.

I marvelled at how, back in 1973, not even the Fab Four stood in the way of progress as Liverpool City Council put a wrecking ball through the club where fans proudly told you: “It all began”.

Back then nostalgia was in short supply. The club had served its purpose, it was outdated, so the council decided to fill in the famous old wine cellar so it could drill a service shaft for the new underground railway. Can you imagine that happening in Liverpool now?

Not on your nelly, or is that Aunty Nelly, who incidentally once kissed Paul McCartney? Yeah, I’ve two aunties who claim that. Now just how many women did Macca snog between 1961-63?

Anyhow, nostalgia. I read with shock this week how New York’s famed wailing police sirens will soon change to a powerful whooping noise.

It stopped me in my tracks.

New York is, without question, my favourite city.

I love the hustle and bustle, the fact there are relaxed bars on every street corner, and I love looking up in wonderment at the fact man built a place so big and so bonkers.

An unmistakable part of the ‘atmos’ is the police siren – from Hill Street Blues to NYPD Blue, it’s as much part of the cityscape as over easy eggs and yellow taxi cabs.

But now the ‘Rumbler’ siren has arrived – a lower sound, with a vibrating rumble pedestrians and drivers ‘can feel’.

Robert Martinez, head of the NYPD’s vehicle fleet said: “It actually reduces noise.”

In a city of eight million Americans how is that possible?

But it seems nothing stands in the way of progress, not even something as iconic a racket as a screeching NY police siren.

I know it’s not a warm, comforting kind of nostalgia – not like Last of the Summer Wine or Des Lynam’s dulcet tones on Grandstand – but it’s a totally identifiable part of the Big Apple.

It seems like only yesterday we replaced our own ‘nee nah’ panda cars with something a little more American. Given the spending cuts I doubt we’ll be able to splash out on a Rumbler of our own.

Still, we’ve still got Wagon Wheels – smaller, but we’ve still got them.