Radio Test match not very special

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The Independent Culture
AH CRICKET! - lolling in the outfield, idly making daisy-chains, while strong young men exert themselves in the distance - it's perfect, and it doesn't much matter to us unsporty types that by the time we hear the applause we've missed the action. On the radio, of course, you can hear the action as it happens, but it's not always what you think. Last Sunday, the rather desultory Test Match Special (R4) chat was just about to lose a listener when the crowd suddenly roared. This time, it was not a catch but a streaker delighting them, and not, apparently, for the first time. No wonder an enterprising producer is advertising in the current Radio Times for streakers' memoirs: tabloid cricket is already on air.

Witnessing Sunday's larks was a sports reporter on the gallop, Gerard de Koch. He went from rugby in South Africa on Saturday to Wimbledon 95 (R5) on Monday, popping into Lord's for a quick flash in between: life on the touch-line, or on the Centre Court, or at silly mid-something. I don't think there have been streakers at the All England Tennis Club, but then nor is there much chance of the all-English victory we are supposed to crave, only an adopted Canadian for John Inverdale to fantasise about. The old gang on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (R4) put it succinctly. Asked to provide some Things People Never Say, they suggested Pete Sampras confessing, "It's the British players who worry me". Heavenly Willy Rushton's contribution to that round, by the way, was Rasputin saying, "Mine's a Babycham".

British to the core was the BBC's quondam religious-affairs correspondent, Gerald Priestland, the subject of this week's Radio Lives (R4). This marvellous series reveals the submerged BBC icebergs whose visible expanses were once welcoming and familiar. A good nine-tenths of Priestland had stayed underwater until Thursday. He was the only child of distant parents who sent him off to boarding-school at eight, confirming in him a lifelong sense of isolation. Colleagues tried to be nice about him, but the inescapable impression given was of a hard-drinking, angry depressive, determined to have his own way: he was, as even his devoted wife admitted, often very difficult company. Yet to hear his slurred voice describing his partial recovery from a severe stroke was to remember again how inspiring his dogged courage had been to millions.

It is easy to get things wrong. Today's zealous Greens owe a lot to a between-the-wars movement discussed by Patrick Wright in a well-constructed, fascinating programme called The Tyranny of the Picturesque (R3). Longing to restore the rural balance between beauty and industry, people like Robertson Scott and Sylvia Townsend Warner tried to re-introduce "real" culture to prettified villages. They did this by offering them Edith Evans reading about the death of Socrates, and Communist-inspired dances, at which people were urged to wear their working-clothes and get very hot.

The hopelessness of such artificial grafting came to a head in the figure of Rolf Gardiner, who turned a corner of Dorset into a Hitler Youth camp, full of organised community singing and lugubrious archaism. Ultimately discredited by their dangerously naive politics, these people might today be hailed as heroes for their - albeit futile - efforts to prevent the countryside from becoming a land in which people, as well as pastures, have been set aside.

But nature is full of surprises. On The Natural History Programme (R4) we thrilled to hear of a lonely pallid harrier finding bliss with a hen harrier on Orkney, a coupling outclassed only by a Shetland albatross who thinks he is a gannet. This is rich soil for the likes of Sid Kipper, expert on that orgiastic vegetable group, the Green Peas movement. He is broad Norfolk and wonderfully funny. His new series, The Lateral History Programme (R2), was this week airing fish - "Which doan't day um a lotta gud, as they breathe wa'er, no' air." He used daft folksongs to underline his point, whatever it was. One such song was, he said, written by the vicar, the Reverend Call-me-Derek Bream, known in his village as Call-me. It was an anti- whaling song, full of lines like "You can poison slugs and spray greenfly; you can eat live yoghurt but whales mustn't die" - though Sid is confused. He wonders why, if whales are so clever, they don't just duck.

We left Sid tottering off to the pub. He'd given us the recipe for the roes water he'd dabbed behind his ears (take a fresh cod's roe ...). That smells horrible, he says, but it do get you a place at the bar.

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