I meant to listen to Singing Together yesterday evening but forgot, so I caught up with it on the iPlayer this morning. Singing Together is the reason I know so many folk songs. At junior school, we would all sit down in the hall, the wireless would be switched on and with the help of our booklets we’d join in the songs, presented by William Appleby. I kept all the booklets and was absolutely furious when my mother gave them away without telling me. These small bitternesses last a long time and a few years ago I bought just one booklet, shown here, on ebay.* The illustrations are by Robin Jacques. We also listened to Time and Tune, for younger children, and Rhythm and Melody.

In those days, broadcasting for children was about ‘improving their minds’. Singing Together was actually fun, though why the producers chose so many seditious Jacobite songs, I don’t know! Apparently, from over fifty years of programmes, only three episodes survive, because the broadcasting was live. Jarvis Cocker was hoping to find some archive from the seventies, when he was at school. After my time but the programme went on long enough to influence people like Lisa Carthy.

I loved this one:
Pleasure it is
To hear, iwis,
The Birdès sing.
The deer in the dale,
The sheep in the vale,
The corn springing.
God’s purveyance
For sustenance,
It is for man.
Then we always
To give him praise,
And thank him than,
And thank him than.

At the end of term we used to vote for our favourite song and the results would be sent off to the BBC. Finding no other hands go up for this medieval one, I was too embarrassed to admit that it was mine. I could still sing it. A fascinating programme, do catch it if you can.

*Edit: I see these are now going for at least £12.00 each!

In bed yesterday evening I listened to Counterpoint. So nice that Paul Gambaccini is back and so disgraceful that he was taken off. One contestant picked Bob Dylan for his special round and got every answer right. So did I. Not only that, I even guessed in advance what two of the questions would be!
I’ve written before about the excellence of Sue Limb, and in particular her radio series The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere. That was on so long ago that I have the whole lot recorded on cassettes. So I’m thrilled that she’s taken on another set of literary types in Gloomsbury. The series starts on Radio 4 next Friday morning, an awkward time for a radio date, so let’s hope it will be on Listen Again. It stars Miriam Margoyles as Vera Sackcloth-Vest and Alison Steadman as Ginny Fox. How can it go wrong? Margoyles was also in Wordsmiths, playing Stinking Iris. She’s brilliant in these character roles. If, like me, you find the Bloomsbury crowd a bunch of people who imagined they were forward-looking but were in fact self-obsessed, reactionary snobs, you may look forward to this programme as much as I do. You can read an interview with Sue Limb here.


I’m finding more and more often that BBC4 is my channel. Nothing on? There’s bound to be some quirky documentary to knit by and so it proved yesterday evening with The Picture Postcard World of Nigel Walmsley . The programme opened with an invisible man grumbling and I immediately thought, ‘I know that voice!’ Yes, folks, ‘Nigel Walmsley’ was Ed Reardon, aka Christopher Douglas. Ed Reardon’s Week is one of the very few radio comedy shows which actually makes me laugh (you can hear it now on Radio 4 Extra) so this was promising.

The premise is that Nigel receives an invitation to give a talk on Collecting Picture Postcards. As there’s dinner and a fee involved, he’s keen to do it. The problem is that he knows nothing at all about postcards and so he spends a week delving into the arcane world of deltiology. He meets collectors, dealers and, because ‘I need a tame media don’, Professor John Sutherland. As he puts the talk together, we hear the familiar tap-tapping of what must be Ed Reardon’s typewriter. For the collector, the interest may lie in old portraits, views of certain places, Donald McGill or motorway service stations. It was fascinating to learn that postcards were the Twitter of their day. A news event could be photographed in the morning, turned into a postcard in the afternoon and received in the evening.

This was a quirky, entertaining and informative programme which I enjoyed very much.
card pix )
Just a heads up for a programme on Radio 4 today, at 1.30. In Too Many Books Sarah Cudden meets people who have to get rid of some books and looks at how they choose which ones can go. There's also a visit to The Bookbarn.

I had to lose hundreds of books when I downsized so I know how hard it is. I'd still put myself in the 'too many books' category. I wonder if anyone will suggest that the answer could be a Kindle? Should be interesting.

Later: programme was a wasted opportunity. Annoying presenter and no one told her that Anthony Powell pronounced his name Poel, a pedant writes.

They changed trains at Shrewsbury. An evocative line for me, as it’s the sentence which begins (in 1943) the long series of Lone Pine mysteries by Malcolm Saville. I’ve just been listening to Clare Balding on Ramblings (spot the typo on this page) as she accompanied members of the Malcolm Saville Society on a literary walk in the Shropshire hills. Malcolm Saville famously set his stories in real places and at the start of each book explained how readers could explore them for themselves. Each book has map endpapers ‘drawn by David Morton’ (one of the main characters) in which real places like the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, the Devil’s Chair and Clun are mixed with the fictional Witchend, Dingle’s Farm and Barton Beach. The farmhouse at ‘Witchend’ and ‘Dingle’s’ were based on real places where Saville had stayed with his family, and the radio walk took them in. Listening to Clare Balding, who is both younger and fitter than I am, puffing and panting on the climb didn’t encourage me to go exploring that particular area, which always seems to me in the books to be rather forbidding.

Most of the Lone Pine books are set in Shropshire but three, including my favourite The Gay Dolphin Adventure are set in Rye and Romney Marsh, one on the Yorkshire Moors, one on Dartmoor and the one with the best cover of all, Lone Pine London just where you’d expect. The books are still so popular that they are being republished by Girls Gone By Publishers. Click on the ‘Malcolm Saville’ link on the left of this page for an excellent site. For a balanced account of the books, explaining how they were ruined by paperback abridgements, see Reading Series Fiction by Victor Watson. Ramblings is available now to Listen Again.

The words of a chap who’s still a fan after all these years.
I missed a programme on Radio 4 yesterday and just caught up with it on the iPlayer. It’s called Falling for Françoise and describes how John Andrew and other teenage boys (Malcolm McClaren, for example) fell for Françoise Hardy in the early 1960s. Andrew sets off down memory lane, meets other fans (not all male, I’m pleased to note) and even gets to interview his heroine. Bob Dylan was apparently also an admirer and sang Just Like A Woman and I Want You to her in his dressing room; you need to hear her tell the anecdote. One of those amusing and interesting little programmes Radio 4 does so well. And Françoise sounds so nice.

Or, in which I show my age.

Even my dislike of Sue MacGregor didn’t stop me listening to The Reunion on Radio 4 yesterday morning. I’ve written before about my admiration for Laurence Olivier. In this programme some very famous actors reminisced about the early days of The National Theatre. It was fascinating for me because when they mentioned the ‘iconic’ production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun or the landmark Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, I could think, ‘I was there!’ As a schoolgirl I was theatre mad and I saw just about every production at the National Theatre when it was still at The Old Vic. Read more... )

BBC Rant

Apr. 5th, 2009 08:58 am
I've just been lstening to Sunday Worship on Radio 4. I'm rather a traditionalist and this was the kind of service I would normally expect to dislike; instead, I found it inspiring. So I wanted to find out who the preacher was who spoke so well, and where the service was taking place. Naturally my first port of call was the BBC Radio home page. There followed several minutes' frustration and some **!!%%&&** quite inappropriate to my Palm Sunday mood.

Every time I look at this page it has changed and for the worse. At one time you'd go to the Radio 4 home page, see programmes A-Z, find your programme and the information required. Now, the whole thing is geared to Listen Again and podcasts. Worse, when I clicked on today's programmes, I was told, 'Sorry. No programmes are being broadcast at the moment.'! It took me any number of clicks to find what I wanted (here) and that was from an external link.

I could write to Feedback with my complaints but having heard the patronising response poor old Roger Bolton gets from the BBC producers and execs. to whom he puts listeners' complaints, I don't think there's much point. For this I pay my licence fee.
Milton Jones. Hurrah for something in the 6.30 Radio 4 comedy slot that I actually find funny. I tend to like the wordy, densely scripted programmes like Clare in the Community and Ed Reardon. Another Case of Milton Jones is available on Listen Again through the link I've given.

Elsewhere on Radio 4: wasn't Brian sweet to Peggy this evening?
I’m beginning to wonder if I dreamed hearing Roger Bolton say on Radio 4’s Sunday programme this morning that churches are being encouraged to include at least one hymn by Ralph Vaughan Williams in today’s worship, to celebrate this year’s centenary. The programme was looking at how an agnostic came to write such great church music. I’ve since searched in vain on Sunday’s useless web site for any more information. I thought Songs of Praise might be joining in but it seems they’ll be in Spain singing Shine, Jesus Shine, poor things. So if you know any more about this jolly good idea, do let me know! Meanwhile here’s Come Down, Oh Love Divine and Let All the World in Every Corner Sing on You Tube.

I meant to read Girl, Fifteen, Charming but Insane when it came out but somehow never got round to it. There are now several books in the series and I grabbed Girl, Nearly Sixteen, Absolute Torture when I saw it in the library the other day. Teenage Jess lives with her divorced mother and her granny. Jess has acquired an utterly charming boyfriend called Fred but has neglected to inform her mother. ‘She wasn’t a man-hater, exactly, but she only ever let men into the house when the washing machine wasn’t working.’ Fred forks out for festival tickets just as Mum tells Jess that she is taking her and Granny on holiday to St Ives to see Dad, taking in plenty of culture, history and gardens on the way. This is Jess’s absolute torture.

Don’t be put off by the glittery cover; this is a very funny book. Sue Limb is as good at nailing the middle classes as Posy Simmonds is, and that’s saying something. ‘Freya was at Oxford studying maths and sex appeal’. I enjoyed the descriptions of the journey south with its detours to Clouds Hill, Hardy’s cottage and other well known (to me) Dorset spots. There is a plot of sorts and all ends happily. Jess’s mum reminds me very strongly of someone; I think it’s me.

Sue Limb first came on the scene for me with Up the Garden Path on Radio 4, which starred Imelda Staunton as trollopy teacher Izzy. Unusually, I preferred the book version and its sequel Love’s Labours and have re-read the two quite often. The books were also adapted for television, less successfully (they went Too Far in the end) although I loved Nicholas le Prevost as Michael.

Then there was The Wordsmiths at Gorsemere. An Everyday Story of Towering Genius which also started on Radio 4. This is not only very funny and brilliantly cast (Simon Callow, Miriam Margolyes) but also perceptive literary criticism (the relationship between William and Dorothy is particularly well done). I’m not the only one to take it seriously. Richard Holmes includes it in the bibliography of the first volume of his wonderful biography of Coleridge. Both Garden Path and The Wordsmiths are often available on BBC 7.

Back in the 1990s Sue Limb wrote a column for the Guardian called Bad Housekeeping by Dulcie Domum. This was at first printed anonymously and I felt extremely smug to have spotted early on who the author was. She is one of those writers (Jean Ure is another) who haven’t had quite the recognition they deserve, in my opinion. I’ll certainly read more in the Jess series.
Last week’s Woman’s Hour drama was The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, which was first published in 1962. This is from the BBC web site:

The Golden Notebook is one of the great novels of the 20th century. It portrays the complexity of one female writer's experience of life in the 1950s, as well as the bigger picture of a society on the brink of massive social change.
Anna is a writer, divorced and bringing up her daughter in London in the mid 1950s. She spends a great deal of time with her close friend Molly, also divorced, also raising her son. The two women are negotiating the difficult territory of Britain in the post war years, when many women were beginning to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of marriage and domestic bliss.

The introduction to each episode described the novel as ‘iconic’ and ‘shocking’. It’s many, many years since I read The Golden Notebook. I failed then and still do fail to see just what is so wonderful about it. More shocking than A Taste of Honey (1958) or The L-Shaped Room (1960)? More accurate in its portrayal of women’s problems than The Weather in the Streets (1936)? The divorced heroine is always hanging on the phone waiting for a call from her married lover. (I would like to line up all the real and fictional women in this situation in front of an enormous billboard and force them to read: He Will Never Leave His Wife, You Fool.) After the failure of that relationship (he doesn’t leave his wife) Anna starts to crack up but is rescued in the end; by a man, of course. As I see it, there is nothing remotely feminist about the novel, which is why I’d be very interested to know what young women think of it nowadays.

Of course, the structure of the novel, in the form of the different notebooks, is what makes it ‘literary’ and gives rise to the critical acclaim. The radio adaptation did the book no favours as it couldn’t use the same format and went for straight narration. Listening to it, I was strongly reminded of hearing Barbara Pym’s Jane and Prudence in the same slot earlier this year. Which says it all, really.

Radio Daze

Aug. 26th, 2008 12:47 pm
People who like Flanders and Swann as much as I do would enjoy For One Night Only, where Paul Gambaccini looked at the recording of At the Drop of Another Hat, produced by George Martin. Not enough of their songs to please me but very welcome comment and analysis from Kit Hesketh-Harvey of Kit and the Widow.

George Martin popped up again on The Record Producers, which this week was about Brian Wilson. This was really excellent because it took the music seriously. Someone recently referred disparagingly to my love of what he called ‘harmony pop’ but just listening to this programme would convince anyone that there’s more to Brian Wilson than that. True musicos think that Good Vibrations and Smile are his greatest achievement but for me the two best tracks he ever made are Wouldn’t It Be Nice/God Only Knows. (That’s a link to a youtube video but LJ, it seems, is too unpopular to get a direct link.) There’s to be a producer’s cut version of this programme on 6 Music next Saturday, which promises in-depth analysis of how God Only Knows was put together.

Finally, a touching little programme on Radio 4 yesterday evening, Once Upon a Time on the Front Line. Hearing a Daddy voice reading, ‘Once there was a little girl called Sophie and she was having tea with her mother in the kitchen’ brought a tear to my eye.
To listen to today
The Radio 4 Classic Serial. Starting today, a dramatisation of Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time. I'm half way through a sporadic re-read of the whole series; perhaps the broadcast will get me started again. Corin Redgrave narrates as the older Nicholas. The Radio Times has a photo of him looking spookily like his father playing Barnes Wallis in The Dambusters.

To read
I had a very disappointing time yesterday. First, no books at the market. Next I went to a village church boot sale which is usually very good and has a book sale in the church. Nothing again but I was pleased for them that the early morning rain gave way to sun. Obviously someone's prayers were answered. Lucky, then, that I got all these

at the Citizens' Advice sale on Friday. I don't know why I keep buying all these Katie Ffordes, as I'm not very impressed with the one I'm currently reading. Probably it's because they cost 50p each and I won't mind giving them away again. The book that is gripping me is on the top of the pile: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. Hurrah, it's one of those books you don't want to put down. Definitely more on this later.

Domestic (boring)
Decided the cooker was in a disgusting state and must be cleaned. While I was doing it, a panel light at the back of the cooker, a light which hasn't worked for years, suddenly came on and wouldn't go off again. I tried switching off the power source briefly but the only result was that of course I had to reset the ovens. Now the wretched light is flashing constantly in a very distressing (to me) manner. I guess I'll just have to wait for the bulb to go.
Update. This evening I concluded sadly that I would never eat again because I couldn't stand being in the kitchen with that awful flashing light. I gave the panel a thump; the light went off and stayed off. A lesson in how to treat recalcitrant inanimate objects.
To knit
I have three projects on needles at the moment. Surely I could finish one of them today?
I grew up in a wireless household, and we’re not talking internet access here. Listen With Mother and Children’s Hour got my total concentration but there was a whole lot more that was just on, and which I took in without really listening: Housewives’ Choice and Music While You Work, Woman’s Hour, In Town Tonight, The Archers, Two Way Family Favourites and, most evocative of all now, the Saturday teatime football results. "Queen of the South: One. Heart of Midlothian: One." How romantic the names sounded. What this meant was that before starting school I absorbed a whole lot of British light music without being aware of it: Coronation Scot, Elizabethan Serenade, The Knightsbridge March and so on.

In my teens I totally despised all that. It was Beatles or Bach for me and I hated light music, even poor old Tchaikovsky, as much as I hated Frank Sinatra and any song that sounded like a ballad. Older and perhaps wiser I came to appreciate the artistry of Sinatra and the craftsmanship of the composers of the Light Programme music. Now, one of my favourite CDs is the Classic FM Essential British Light Music compilation. So I was pleased to hear a programme on Radio 4 yesterday about Eric Coates, The King of Light Music , which is available on Listen Again. I can’t explain why hearing The Dambusters now brings tears to my eyes but I do know that Eric Coates is a better composer than he used to be given credit for.
I hate these programmes: Something Understood, Farming Today, On Your Farm, News Briefing.
The entire World Service.
If I am hearing these it means I am awake when I would so much rather be asleep.
Seeing that Dr Who is on this evening reminded me of the above very funny (I thought) joke on this week's The Arts and How They was Done by the National Theatre of Brent. This episode, about the Brontes, was the best in the series so far. If you missed it, why not Listen Again and give yourself a treat?
I have just been listening to the Radio 4 six o'clock news. I spent some time wondering why on earth or indeed, how, people would steal badgers. Then I realised the badly spoken reporter was talking about badges, as in stealing people's disability badges out of cars. Why people complain about the lovely Jamaican accent of Neil Nunes I can't imagine, because I never have the slightest difficulty understanding him.
Listening to Poetry Please this afternoon I jumped up, as pleased as if I had just heard the start of a favourite record on Sounds of the Sixties. I'd heard the first words of a poem I'd forgotten about, Milk for the Cat by Harold Munro. I daresay there are poetry snobs who dislike a programme featuring 'my favourite poem' but I almost always find something to enjoy. The programmes devoted to just one poem or aspect of poetry can be very good indeed. After the prog. I scanned my poetry shelves but I've had so many purges, particularly of anthologies, that I couldn't find this particular poem to read again. So I googled for it and it's after the cut for everyone who loves cats. Read more... )
[profile] cybersofa caught part of Saturday Live on Radio 4 this morning and rightly told me I would be interested in it. Daisy Goodwin told Fi Glover how knitting helped her through depression and how her husband bought her a knitting cabinet, whatever that is, because he was fed up with her yarn stash taking over the house. It's easy to Listen Again to this as it's only about one minute and fifteen seconds into the programme. Some listeners may recognise certain of Daisy's symptoms...



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