The problem with saying nice things about the BBC

THEY'VE HAD quite a good idea on Radio 4 this week. At 9.45 every morning, they have dug up a column or essay from a half-remembered American writer, or American-based writer, and got someone to read it out. That's it. Five different American essays, just simply read out.

One was on the flu epidemic of 1919, and it was very good, too. The one two mornings ago was all about going fishing in the north-west mountains of the USA, and trying to catch steelhead salmon. I find it hard to get interested in fishing but I really enjoyed this piece, especially as it was full of such nice ideas as: "the ripples spread outwards in the water, like a hub cap sinking." Nice image. The piece was written by Jonathan Raban, or, as the Radio Times called him, Jonathan Rabin...

A touchy reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, Ah ha! I see what you're up to! Is this going to be one of those articles of yours where you store up a few misprints in the `Radio Times' and then use them as a basis for saying that the BBC is rotten to the core?

Certainly not. I was going to say some nice things about the BBC, as a matter of fact.

A suspicious reader writes: Is this some kind of a trick?

Not at all. I only wanted to say how much I had enjoyed seeing a return to something as old-fashioned as a radio talk. Some of the best radio ever has been provided by one man reading out a script. Dylan Thomas did it now and then. Rene Cutforth did it often. James Cameron did it, too. But nobody seems to do it any more. Except Alistair Cooke.

A mistrustful reader writes: I hope you've spelt THAT name correctly.

Well, it's the way they spell it in the Radio Times. Of course, that doesn't mean it's correct, does it ?

A terse reader writes: Yeah, yeah. Get on with it.

I just wanted to say that there have been some very good things on BBC radio recently. Did you catch a thing before Christmas called Kailyard Blues?

A startled reader writes: Who, me?

Yes, you.

No. What was it about?

It was a serial about a travelling jazz band in Scotland, who have just welcomed their accordionist, Homesick Ferguson, played by Bill Paterson, back from prison, where he's been inside on a drugs charge. Another member of the band is a Scottish nationalist terrorist. It was very funny, quite dark, mostly comprehensible.

Sounds weird to me. Who was it by?

A poet called Don Paterson.

Is that spelt correctly?

I think so.

They've got POETS writing sitcoms now?

Well, apparently the Edinburgh producer Dave Batchelor saw a one -page poem about a drunken jazz accordionist by Mr Paterson and liked it so much that he thought it would make a six-part drama serial. So he talked him into it.

How do you know all this?

Research. Gossip. Listening at doors and windows.

Hmm... Look, I've got a poem I've written somewhere. Do you think if I sent it to Mr Batchelor...?


Right... Do they actually have jazz accordionists in Scotland?

Sure. They even have jazz bagpipers.

You're joking! Name one...

Hamish Moore.

Who's he?

He's a jazz bagpiper named Hamish Moore. From Dunkeld.

I see. Right...

In fact, jazz has done pretty well out of the BBC recently. The weekday 11.30 slot on Radio 3 called Jazz Notes has become a damned good programme, with the newly appointed Alan Shipton in the chair. They've also got a wonderful history of jazz going out in 52 weekly parts, called Jazz Century, written and narrated by Russell Davies, who is one of those broadcasters who sounds very wise and yet down-to-earth, a bit like James Cameron and Rene Cutforth...

I thought you said there wasn't any of that stuff on BBC radio any more.

Well, not much.

Wasn't Russell Davies recently dropped from the Radio 4 programme about films, `Talking Pictures'?



I don't know. Maybe he's too good for Radio 4.

Ooh - now we're getting acerbic again! I thought you were going to be nice about the BBC?

Well, I was being nice about them...

Then let's stop before we get nasty again, shall we?

OK. Suits me.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?