About Me

"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Thursday, 2 January 2014

An Ambridge too far: will Radio 4 be the death of me?

I suffer from what I believe is quite a rare long-term ailment.

I am addicted to BBC Radio 4, but I am allergic to its most popular show, The Archers.

The addiction goes back to the early 1970s, when, as a trainee house-painter with a Grundig transistor radio, I became hooked on the afternoon classic serial. That summer, it was War and Peace in 13 one-hour instalments.

Even now I feel distinctly unready to face the day without at least half an hour os so of the Today programme. Best of all are the wonderfully eclectic current affairs programmes such as From Our Own Correspondent, which can range from the quality of espresso in central Roman caf├ęs to attempts to abolish female genital mutilation in Sudan within the 45-minute span of one programme.

Nearly all the book adaptations are worth a listen - Book of the Week etc.  it is such a good way of keeping up with new publications. I find the news programmes increasingly annoying and rtepeptive yet I  still listen. Woman's Hour is a love-hate thing for me, all those splendid Oxbridge feminists and their very right-on guests, the earnest yet "ballsy" jazz chanteuses. It's a wonderful programme, including the cookery and the obligatory items on penis size, etc.

And then, twice a day, comes that dread sound - the most annoying theme music ever written. The Archer's tune must be solely responsible for the famous British glom. ANy nation exposed to that hideously jolly little shanty four times a day (at the beginning and end of each 15-minute episode and its repeat) for nearly three quarters of a century would be bound to be packed with seething depressives.

But if you really want to kill us all dead, play the Sunday Omnibus version, the bucolic accordion is even jollier and bouncier and would have me leaping off Beachy Head if it was within skipping distance.

The actual programme with its cast of ghastly well-off upper-middle home counties farming types and the chirpy, stinking stereotypes of every other socioeconomic group - well, that just makes one vomit, it is not truly dangerous.

SO, Radio 4, you're a heady drug all right. I got hooked when you were in a purer form, when you had true genius of the likes of the sadly missed, tragically late Ray Gosling, when it was Ned Sherrin doing Stop The Week, Robert Robinson on the quiz shows, and well before the rot set-in with poor John Peel (who i loved on Radio London) droning on Saturday morning live.

And yet I'm still hooked.

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