Speeches in pursuit of the unspeakable

the week in radio

Josie Russell doesn't much like being interviewed. Her father tries to sympathise when she announces that she won't be co-operating with the latest invasion of their privacy. "I can understand why you don't want to ..." he begins. But she flashes back: "No you can't. You can't read my mind."

That was the saddest moment of Shaun Russell's audio diary, Living with Josie (R4), though there was plenty of competition for the melancholy distinction. Having to identify his murdered wife and younger daughter in the mortuary, for instance; or waiting for days, in a pulsing flood of adrenalin that kept him constantly trembling, until the jury reached their verdict on Michael Stone; or going to an intensive care unit and recognising the battered, shaven but - astonishingly - living Josie, only by the freckles on her nose.

He vowed at that moment that, whatever state she was in, he would devote his life to her. But the child had suffered such damage to her brain, had been so severely traumatised by her unspeakable experience that she seemed frightened even of him. "I guess," he guessed, "that there was some aversion to contact with a grown man - even her dad." She no longer wants to hug him, "or give me a kiss or do any of the warm, touchy-feely stuff that she used to give freely ..."

Determined to be rigorously honest - and perhaps comforting himself - he remembers that, even before the attack, she had been pulling away a little, growing up and slightly apart from her parents. Perhaps it is natural. But if nine square inches of her skull have had to be replaced by a titanium plate, who can tell what is going on under it? No, he can't read her mind.

But he can use a BBC tape-recorder. Such intimate, autonomous talk speaks straight to the heart, and, you desperately hope, might also help towards recognising glimmers of progress in the surviving Russells' recovery. Radio is the least invasive of the media: Shaun Russell was free to record what and when he wanted, to express and illustrate the slow and tentative return of his daughter to something like normality.

Yet she still won't talk to him about the attack and he doesn't press her, though he yearns both to know and to shun every detail: he believes she is trying to protect him. Sian Parry Hughes narrated and Jeremy Grange produced the sensitive, poignant threnody.

If that was the very best to be heard this week, there is no doubt about the worst. It was Tommy Boyd (Talk). By whatever is the opposite of serendipity, I have heard this man too often lately. He is always stupid and aggressive but on Wednesday he was revolting. Prompted by the suggestion that the football results come a little later on Saturdays because the interval is longer, he concluded that this is because more women go to matches these days and they take longer in the lavatory. He then spent the best part of an hour trying to convince his listeners that women should urinate in stalls, as men do, to save time.

The really awful thing is that people respond to this misogynistic twaddle and try to argue with the moron. One pathetic woman agreed to a "wee-wee race" with Boyd, who left his desk for the purpose. I hesitated before writing about this. Why should you be insulted by such rot? Might the loathsome Boyd even, God help us, be encouraged by such attention? But his show was frequently - provocatively - interrupted by fanfares for "prize-winning Talk Radio". There are good arguments for listening. But this is, definitely, not one of them.

Nicky Horne is better. Suzanne Vega was in London last week and Horne's Access All Areas (Talk) got to her first. The established technique of many of Talk's presenters is to say exactly the same thing several times, like primary school teachers, presumably in the hope of persuading listeners to call in with some relevant conversation. Vega was at first mystified, then audibly amused by this approach, but she co- operated with good-humoured charm. Besides, Horne clearly knew his stuff and was familiar with the landmarks in her career.

She is a mesmeric singer-songwriter, hard to categorise, whose best work tells strong, poetic stories about the isolation of city life. She spoke of her childhood, when she was adopted by a Puerto Rican family. Determined to be part of the culture, she enrolled in an exuberant performance group called "The Alliance of Latin Arts", but she is slight and pale, with a pronounced streak of weltschmerz and didn't quite belong. In photographs taken in those days, she said, she looked like the ghost of Emily Dickinson, beamed in from another planet.

She sang a couple of songs for Horne but they didn't come across too well. You could hear the difference when Suzanne Vega in Concert (R2) came, on Saturday night, from the BBC Radio Theatre. Her lively fingers slid squeakily across the strings of her acoustic guitar and every careful word was audible. Between numbers, she talked about a summer when she was employed as the Folk-Singing and Disco-Dancing Counsellor at a "sleepaway" camp in the Adirondacks. She fell for her Liverpudlian opposite number in the boys' camp - a balding, deaf Dadaist artist who admitted to a passion for Leonard Cohen.

All through those warm nights she would hold her in his arms and rhapsodise about his other passion, the Full English Breakfast. On a whim, as the season ended, she refused to give him her address. He produced a lofty put-down: "Well, I'd like to say I'll never forget you, but you never know about these things." Her song for him, delivered with Baez-like clarity, proved that her own memory, at least, is pretty sharp.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


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

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

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

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions