RADIO / In the beginning was the bang

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The Independent Culture
GEORGE SMOOT is just the man to Start the Week (R4). In fact, he knows how the world started, and, yes, it was with

a bang. This modest, eloquent American spent 20 years observing the wrinkles of space-time and has worked back to the first second of creation. We'll have to read his book to grasp what that means, but it sounded fascinating and even comprehensible. Melvyn Bragg himself, a self-confessed innumerate, seemed quite excited, and that great guru Stephen Hawking has generously moved aside to hail it as the scientific discovery of the century. In the 10 minutes or so of space-time that Bragg gave him, Smoot offered fascinating hints of a universe vaster than we had ever imagined, almost certainly containing other forms of life and quite possibly begun by a creator.

In response to Whom, two people have changed their lives on Radio 4 this week and told us all about it. One became a vicar, one a nun. For Taking the Plunge, the vicar made an audio-diary of his journey

from computers to the pulpit, but he made the enjoyable mistake of letting his four-year-old daughter Isobel loose with the microphone.

She is a subversive type, concerned rather more with how her cat, Geoffrey, was taking the change - he nicked a whole tin of catfood while they were at church. But she loved her Daddy, she said, because he was so silly. In the closing moments, her soon-to-be-reverend father chose to express his innermost thoughts over a tape of a blues singer performing 'Hootchi-cootchi man'.

The poor nun had a far from 'hootchi-cootchi man' for her father. On The Nun's Tale, Kay Toogood was revealed to be too good for her parents, who were the most appalling pair. They seemed never to have liked her much, they spoke of 'grief in the soul' about her decision, wondered who would look after them if they were ill, said they would need a period of mourning to get over it all and announced that they couldn't wait for her to go. She sounded so nice, I hope she didn't hear it in her convent. The nastiest interview came after the party she was given when she left her job. She had clearly had fun but, boy, did her mother make her pay for it. How dare a future nun go boozing it up? She hadn't sounded exactly plastered at the party, but she did laugh inordinately when asked by the office wag what you call a nun who likes toffees. The answer is a caramelite.

We are living in the age of philtrum government. The philtrum is That Furrow Thing . . . (R3) above your top lip that is the most prominent feature of both our Prime Minister and the Queen. George Hill delved into its significance and proved it to be a lost, if minor - sorry Mr Major - erogenous zone, celebrated in ancient poetry and used as a vital acupoint by Chinese doctors. If you faint in China, the cry will go up 'Press his philtrum' and you will revive. This could be vital information both for St John Ambulancemen and for those responsible for our leader's image. Wouldn't you faint for that enormous philtrum?

Finally, just a taste of Miles Kington's delicious new series It's a Funny Old World (R4). It began in Ireland, where Dilly Keane gave him her all-purpose put-down. 'How do you make love to an Irish woman? You don't know? And you say Irish people are stupid.'