RADIO / Safety in numbers

IN ANCIENT Egypt it was made of fine linen, in China of oiled silk, in medieval Ireland of a ewe's intestine - at least, Brian Boru's was. That old wolf in sheep's innards was discovered in a peat bog with all his effects intact: they included what experts agree could only have been his condom. The story of this small, useful piece of equipment was told on Radio 4 this week. Until quite recently, the very word was unmentionable. Salesmen, generally barbers, would enquire discreetly, Anything for the Weekend?

But, hey ho for the Nineties, anything goes, and now we know all about them. In the 17th century a condom appeared acting as a bookmark in the library of an archbishop. Later, the ageing Boswell, a model of indiscretion, recorded using one, still made of the guts of a sheep, but decorated with ribbons: mutton dressed up as lamb, you might say. Nowadays they are available on the NHS but most people prefer to buy them - condoms are free, yet everywhere they are in chain stores. Nick Baker trod a fastidious line between the smutty and the scientific. A sensible girl from Durex told us all about how they are marketed - 148 million are sold each year - and some creative people revealed how useful they can be. Apparently they make excellent blood-bags for gruesome plays, and nothing can beat them for silencing a noisy cold-water tank.

On to higher things. On Thursday, the soprano June Anderson sang the part of Ophelia in Ambrose Thomas's opera Hamlet (R3). Her voice is ethereal, fluttering and swooping over one of the loveliest arias I have ever heard, in a mad scene to rival anything by Donizetti. In the interval, Maggie Smith read Margaret Atwood's wickedly funny short story Gertrude Talks Back, in which the exasperated Queen addresses her errant son, saying that he's a fine one to talk about the rank sweat of her bed considering that he only brings his own laundry when he runs out of black socks, wishing that his father had been less of a prig so that he hadn't been an only child and furiously declaring, 'I am not wringing my hands. I'm drying my nails.' Brilliant.

Shakespeare was the subject of The Music Machine (R3) on Monday. Guy Woolfenden has now composed music for every single one of the plays. He seems to be able to command any dialect of musical language, but prefers to be given broad instructions by a director. Peter Hall once ordered a 'medieval fascist fanfare' which was just the kind of thing he likes. The Music Machine is a new daily series, introduced by Tommy Pearson, which aims to interest middle-sized teenagers in all kinds of music from rap to Rachmaninov. In our house, they liked it, and so did I. About to enter its third week, it has so far been stimulating, unpretentious and very wide-ranging. Wednesday's programme about troubadours was particularly good, tracing the influence of those old minstrels on love songs, from the time of the Crusades right down to the Pet Shop Boys.

If that's not what you expect from Radio 3, nor is Reading Music what you'd expect from Radio 2, but the gentle urbanity of Miles Kington is at home anywhere. This new weekly programme steps into an empty book-reviewing gap. Again, the field is wide and, since the books in question are all about music, the scope for illustration is enormous. Kington himself extolled Miles Davis, whose trumpet, he said, never lost its own piercingly lovely quality. Paul Jones got the blues and Marty Wilde gave an affectionate account of pre-Beatles rock music. The nice thing is that the contributors are well-chosen, have written their own scripts and speak in individual and, so far, impressively knowledgeable voices.

There has even been a change at Radio 1, but it's nothing to get hung about, as the Fab Four would say. You can now hear Steve Wright in the morning instead of in the afternoon. He's slightly better earlier in the day. This could be because the frenetic background jingles and trailers thunder on so relentlessly that neither he nor his fatuous posse have time to talk so much. What they say is the stuff of tabloid headlines: Cadbury's New Flake Woman Announced Today, Loch Ness Monster Discovered, Irish Cure for Mumps. It can't be long before we hear Condom In Plumbing Scandal.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence