Radio: The Week In Radio

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The Independent Culture
IF POLITICS has a grand theme these days, it is the primacy of choice. Right and left are now united in the view that the most important and desirable thing in life is the ability to choose things - schools, GPs, organic vegetables and so forth. The real problem is that so many of us have absolutely no desire to choose at all. What we really value is the glory of indecision, of knowing that all doors are open; choosing one would mean shutting all the others.

This was the situation described by Tim Parks in Adultery and Other Diversions (Radio 3, Tuesday). For the first of a series of interval talks, Parks discussed a friend, Alistair, who had carried on a long affair. Eventually he confessed all to his wife and they split up; and only then did he realise that the preceding 18 months of indecision had been the happiest of his life: what lay behind the affair was not so much passion, as what Parks termed "the frenzy of the choice unmade".

This seems to contrast starkly with the decisiveness of Sarah and Luke, the young couple featured in First Nights (Radio 4, Tuesday). They had met in church (where Luke had gone, he said, to "check out the local talent"), and had resisted lust throughout a three-year relationship, determined to save themselves for their wedding night.

You can't imagine that they would have felt much in sympathy with Alistair, or with Parks, who agreed with Alistair's Italian analyst that he was attaching too much importance to sexual fidelity: what he needed was a couple of quick, meaningless affairs to put the whole thing into perspective. But, at bottom, the two stories had a great deal in common: both were about the need to import some drama into life, to add a little oomph and pizzazz to the dull round of work, sleep and procreation. The distinctive thing about John Shuttleworth, Sheffield's maestro of the Yamaha, is his utter lack of interest in drama.

The boring man who longs for excitement is a staple of comedy; the boring man who is thoroughly content with his lot is rarer, and there are probably good reasons for this. The new series, Radio Shuttleworth (Radio 4, Tuesday), juggles the variables a bit - real-life celebrities (Leo Sayer, John Hegley) wander into the Shuttleworth kitchen to perform on his new radio station, and he does a bit of sub-Chris-Morris prank phoning; the crap lyrics and tedious tunes that John composes are still fairly amusing.

But after several years of this, the dullness of the Shuttleworth mind- set has started to become wearing. Given the choice, I would listen to something else.