radio review

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The Independent Culture
Lotta Erikson is, you would guess, the embodiment of the fantasies of a good many Englishmen: she's young, she's Swedish, she's blond, she likes talking about sex and - the clincher - her own fantasies revolve around Englishmen. Even as a child she had wanted to be married to an Englishman. Yesterday morning, in Lotta and the Englishmen (Radio 4), she explained: "I want to be English. I want to have had a school uniform, I want to drink tea and have kind and pleasant manners."

Lotta's attitude to England was, you soon learnt, not simply romantic but also loopy. England as defined by Lotta: "Colour: green, grey. Animal: frog, dog. Sound: things that can be heard but not seen - a horse neighing, mice squeaking, small talk." Well, I suppose she must mean us; I can't see anyone else in the room answering the description. But had she really thought through all the angles - the food, the politics, the one-way systems?

Lotta's romanticism, however, is built of tough stuff. Tessa Watt's feature mixed her thoughts and reminiscences, dreamily spoken and backed by soft music that hovered somewhere between sentimentality and eeriness, with footage of Lotta's careful sniffing of Albion's flower: five blind dates on consecutive nights with a variety of Englishmen, asking them what they felt about themselves and women. One of these dates was a trip to Romford dogs with a local lad. Drifting away from his small talk about betting, she noticed the grass verge around the track: "The first time somebody touched me down there was in England," she murmured. "On a slope like that." Not many people can be roused to sexual nostalgia in the face of a pack of greyhounds and an electric rabbit.

Looming over her conversations with men who turned out either shy or crass was the memory of her first English boyfriend, Robert, who threw her over cruelly while they were on holiday together. She remembered running on a Mexican beach, swimming, the flat they shared. The climax of the programme was their reunion - Robert evidently embarrassed to be digging over old ground. His memories were different, it turned out: he remembered looking for a hotel room with a double bed, and sex, "Because I hadn't really had a lot of it up till then."

Quite what this fragmented, disconcerting, unpredictable feature was getting at is hard to pin down. In the end, perhaps, it was a meditation - not profound, but not easy to shake off - about the futility of human relationships; and especially relationships with Englishmen. Thanks a lot.

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