The Week in Radio

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The Independent Culture
ANNIE NIGHTINGALE helped a lot of people with their homework during the Seventies. The students' favourite she was, and her many grateful fans will be pleased to know that she's still out there doing it today. Her show, Annie Nightingale (Radio 1), goes out from 4am to 6.30am on Sunday mornings, with the aim of bringing the hectic goings-on of Saturday night to a gentle close. The station's first female DJ remains as charmingly amateurish as ever. This week found her enthusing about an exotic dance track, but unable to tell us what it was called because she'd forgotten to read the title before sticking it in the CD machine. Nonetheless, Annie continues to play only quality music, and she is well worth a listen. (The Independent stayed up late especially to bring you this information.)

Another way to chill out in the early morning is to listen to the Shipping Forecast (Radio 4). Devotees of the daily synopsis are indebted to one Captain Robert Fitzroy (1805-65), the pioneer of weather charts and gale warnings. Fitzroy was the first director of the Meteorological Office, but is mostly remembered as commander of HMS Beagle, the ship that took Charles Darwin around the world. Unfortunately, Fitzroy believed in the Creation, and in time he came deeply to regret his association with On the Origin of Species. Voyages of Descent (Radio 4, Wednesday) joined the troubled captain in his nightmare. Extracts from his journal showed the frustrations of a man with a self-appointed mission: to prove that there had once been a great flood or deluge of the kind witnessed by Noah. Instead he remained trapped for months in Plymouth Sound, delayed first by Admiralty dithering and adverse weather, then by an awkward sandbank that left him marooned like the Ark on Mount Ararat. The story of Fitzroy's descent into abject despair, finely written by Clare Seal, was told as a sound collage, intercut with sea shanties, Creation myths and a narrative poem about evolution.

"Spineless jellyfish and creatures with no backbone" were the first to emerge from the primeval soup, but these words could also describe the hero of For One Horrible Moment (Radio 4, Wednesday). Peter Bradshaw's surreal tale of an old boy's childhood in Cambridgeshire is performed by the author in strangled tones, sounding like the sort of person who would sit next to you on a park bench. The boy has little reason to be normal. He suffers regular torment from playground bullies, egged on by his parents as a character-building exercise. His father has a death chamber at the top of an escalator in the family home. His mother, meanwhile, idolises the Duke of Kent.

All this is rooted firmly in the Seventies, and you need an I-Spy book to spot all the references to Terry Jacks, "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" and pink transistor radios. Even the portentous bells at start and finish of each episode are unmistakably tubular.

Best this week was the boy's observation on entering the local Catholic church. "The priest is a man of some bearing, with a fierce face, hypnotic eyes and a strange resemblance to Roger Delgado, the actor who plays The Master in the TV series Doctor Who."

Bet he used to listen to Annie Nightingale.