I CONFESS / Susie Orbach tunes into Radio 4

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The Independent Culture
I hate trivia radio, but if I didn't write or see patients I would have Radio 4 on all day. Tuning in first thing in the morning has become a great secret pleasure. For the past 20 years, I have lived with someone who doesn't understand Radio 4. He's American, and it just doesn't seem to translate. It's cultural. I grew up with it and learned how to listen. He goes apoplectic at the first bars of The Archers theme.

Within my daily life I never have much time, but wandering in and out of the kitchen around breakfast time I manage to listen. And having children means you wake up at the more ridiculous parts of the day when Radio 4 gives you access to whole areas of other people's lives. I have a particular fondness for Farming Today.

As a Londoner, clearly, the programme is not made for me. None the less, I find it simply delicious. It's not just vicariousness, it's more wholesome than that. You rarely hear people talk about work in that way; they tend to just flash what they do at you. But the programme actually conveys the real texture of people's work and lives, from cosy stories of farming families to coping with EEC directives, organic farming, feed companies, the nutrition of animals - the whole gamut.

It also came as a great shock to me to discover that I like the two-minute early morning God slot. For someone as atheistic and secular as I am, I find my pleasure slightly puzzling but, in a way, it represents something about the best of British from my childhood. It's about creating a consensus about how one might understand the meaning of life.

The Sunday morning God hour tells you about clerical controversies of terrific passion and struggle. Despite a purely academic interest, the programme has also given me a lot of respect for the huge political dimension of passionate clerical controversies. It makes sense of devotion and new theologies.

I know Radio 4 is considered middlebrow, but I love it. My partner and children may be very unimpressed by 'that noise'. But then maybe their disapproval only hypes up my pleasure.

Susie Orbach, psychologist and author of 'Fat is a Feminist Issue', was in the confessional with David Benedict.

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