Did you know that Big Ben is falling silent early next year?
Or that the bongs that lead to the six o’clock news are recorded live every broadcast?
Thanks to Phoebe Hanson, an 8-year-old who wrote into BBC Radio 4 expressing concern, we all do now.
Big Ben will be undergoing renovations costing £29m on the clock’s hands, mechanism and pendulum for the first major works in 30 years, marking the beginning of a three-year project.
The young listener penned a letter to the BBC offering her services to shout ‘BONG’ just before the news every day.
And Roger Sawyer, Editor of the PM show wrote back to her with the perfect response.
Phoebe’s dad shared Sawyer’s letter, calling it ‘priceless’:
The letter reads, in all its glory:
Re. Big Ben's Bongs (lack of).
Dear Miss Hanson,
Thank you for your letter and your very imaginitive idea about what to do when Big Ben falls silent for repairs early next year. Some of the cleverest and most important people at the BBC are scratching their heads, wondering quite what to do.
Once before, when Big Ben fell silent for repairs, we played different birdsong every evening. The listeners loved that. Then the people behind Tweet of the Day (that's on each day just before 6 in the morning) stole our idea... so we can't do that again.
I must say I was very much taken with your idea... and we have passed it on to those who make the decisions. As you know, the Bongs are live... and (you may not know this) the beginning of the Westminster Chimes (the bit that goes BimBom BimBom BimBobBimBom before the first BOOONNNGGGGGGGGGG!) is always at a slightly different time (which is why you sometimes hear someone accidentally talking when they start). It depends on things like temperature and atmospheric pressure and stuff like that.
So it would be quite a task for you, doing the Bongs: you'd have to rush in after school each day (and at the weekend), rush home for tea, homework, a bit of chillin', then a quick sleep. And then - here's the hard bit - you'd have to rush back again at midnight, because there are live bongs again before the midnight news. That's an awful lot of work for someone who is still quite young. I know I wouldn't like to do all that.
Thank you very much for writing to us. I'm very impressed that you listen to Radio 4. I wish my two children did.
Have a spiffing Christmas and a stupendous and lucky 2017.
Editor: PM, Broadcasting House, iPM - BBC Radio 4
As for how Phoebe would be expected to fulfil her duties, her dad Jon said in a comment that “She thinks I should drive her up to Broadcasting House and back twice a day.”
Phoebe was "absolutely stunned" to get a reply and was so proud that she'd taken the letter into school to show all her friends.
Remember when you used to show off with Pokémon shinies? You neanderthal.