RADIO: The delicate art of repeating yourself

I have made a wonderful discovery, which I would like to share with you. You know how some people, desperate for advice or consolation, claim they can turn at random to the Bible, Ulysses, or the Bhagavad-Gita and find something useful? Well, you can do the same with any decent-sized collection of Ogden Nash.

I realized this when I found a couplet which applies directly to the life of a radio critic. Not that I was looking for one, because you don't. Life teaches you that much. But there it is, kicking off "This is my Own, my Native Tongue": "Often I leave my television set to listen to my wireless,/So, often I hear the same song sung by the same singer many times a day, because at repeating itself the wireless is tireless."

All right, it's not one of his best, but that's not the point. The point is that the battle to fill airtime with different things all day long was as lost in 1952 as it is in 1999. And, funnily enough, it's not just the pop music stations which suffer from this. Due to a programming glitch on Radio 3 last week, you could have heard two different versions of Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No.1 being played on the same day - one live, as part of its evening concert, the other a repeat of its previous week's appearance in the Composer of the Week series.

Blow me, I can hear you saying, I never realized life could be so exciting. Yeah, yeah. What I liked about this moment was the way it had been allowed to happen at all. It showed there is still room for it, even in the new- look, bean-counting BBC. I imagine the scene thus:

Nervous Underling: Um, I've just noticed we're going to be playing Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No.1 twice in one evening.

Nervous Underling's Superior: Wonderful. Played by different "ensembles", of course? (He pronounces "ensemble" in a poncey French manner, cf. the way he mispronounces "Munich" with a German-sounding "ch".)

Nervous Underling: Well, yes, but ...

Nervous Underling's Superior: I see no impediment to the flow of art. Would you care for a Fox's glacier mint? Oh, that reminds me - we've only played Strauss's "Four Last Songs" three times this year, and it's already March. Look into it, would you, dear boy? Pip pip.

What I hope did not happen was that a purple-faced controller stormed up and down the corridors of Broadcasting House, screaming that heads would roll if anything like that ever happened again.

Thinking about nicely muddled moments on Radio 3 reminded me that it was time to listen to Classic FM again. I do this with a heavy heart. You get the impression that captains of industry love nothing more than listening to Classic FM in traffic jams (apart, of course, from sacking people for the sake of their dividends). I am also told that if you prefer Radio 3 to Classic FM then you are a snob.

Well, I listened to Classic FM again and lawks, imagine my surprise when my snobometer went into the red. Again. What was interesting this time was that I heard both R3 and CFM playing the same piece within minutes of each other - in this case, Stravinsky's "The Firebird". When it ended on R3, the announcer told an amusing story about how Debussy reacted to it: "Everyone's got to start somewhere," was what he apparently said, and he had a point. And what did the presenter on Classic FM say afterwards? He said, "The FIREbird!", in a tone of screamingly insincere enthusiasm, the way you say "spinach!" when handing a child, who is not at all sure he likes spinach, a plate of spinach.

What is it with people? Why do they prefer to have their intelligence insulted by the moronic cosiness of Classic FM? Why do they like to have ad breaks which are longer than the snatches of music played between them? Do they really like to hear radio adverts for PEPs, mobile phones, and (most desperately of all) radio adverts? I have a horrible feeling they do, especially the ads for PEPs. All this says to me is that if Classic FM is really the preferred listening of our captains of industry, then this country is never going to hover very far above the pan.

Meanwhile, in Borsetshire, the black-hearted, twisted scriptwriters continue their sadistic mission to vex us with annoying characters. Last week George Barford, Yorkshireman, ex- copper, gamekeeper, and general pain in the neck, was trying to get poor William Grundy to stay on at school. Grundy, who has not yet discovered drugs but is getting by on surliness, made the mistake of referring to an unspecified "she". Which meant that George got to use one of those lines which have done more than Elvis to drive a wedge between young and old in the West: "Who's she? The cat's mother?"

You would have thought George had more sense than to say something like that. The last time he gave a young person a lecture - Clive Horrobin, as I recall, the subject being the difference between mine and thine - he was thrashed to within an inch of his life. As this really is the only language he understands you would have thought the lesson had sunk in. But no.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

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

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • 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.

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England