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Erika Owen
December 19, 2016

Big Ben's famous bells will go silent for a few months in early 2017 as part of a three-year repair plan.

The most forlorn of Big Ben enthusiasts may be eight-year-old Phoebe Hanson, who is very concerned about the radio station that uses the iconic bell bongs as its intro music.

Hanson wrote a letter to BBC Radio 4 offering her own voice to mimic the bells during live broadcasts to tide everyone over until the landmark is back in service.

The best part: The radio station responded, and the letter is a perfect combination of humor and genuine gratitude.

The letter reads:

Dear Miss Hanson,

Thank you for your letter and for your very imaginative 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 plated 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 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 afer 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 in 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 would like to do all that.

Thank you very much for writing 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.

Roger Sawyer
Editor: PM, Broadcasting House, IPM — BBC Radio 4

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