The Week in Radio: Accent U8 the positive

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The Independent Culture
RADIO 4 ran a vivid report last month on the toxicity of caffeine - the pre-disposition of drinkers to heart disease, stroke, and so on. Just to see if it was possible, I cut out not just exotic coffee, but friendly old tea as well and, like Phillip Marlowe struck with a cosh, a black pool opened up beneath me and I dived in.

In a daze of caffeine cold-turkey, I now hallucinate beverages everywhere - thus Anna Massie scrumptiously annunciating the phrase "rump Parliament" on the daily segment of This Sceptred Isle (R4) conjures up Earl Grey and bone china, with a palpable macaroon in the saucer; Martin Jarvis, reading Just William - The 80th Anniversary (R4) with his familiar gravelly disdain, treats the listener to freshly ground old Java. Nicholas Parsons in That Reminds Me (R4), looking back over his career, is the very essence of that 1960s standby, Camp coffee.

The Archers (R4), ever a smorgasbord of accent, class and public service announcement, continues to offer characters who evoke everything from toffee-hazelnut-mochaccino to PG pyramid teabags. The actor Jim Broadbent said recently that The Archers was one programme he could be relied upon to get up for - in order to switch it off. A Pleasantville with problems, Ambridge plays host to the banal and the apocalyptic in deference to the new Reithian spirit of globalisation - panto, adultery, vegetarianism, bovine tuberculosis, illegitimacy, genetically modified crops, and death - Joe Orton re-written by James Herriot.

Ambridge is still, just, virgin territory to one millennial Leitmotif - Salman Rushdie, or "Salman Rushdie, a writer", as he described himself after the first Reith Lecture (R4) on "Globalisation". Admittedly Rushdie followed such hands-ups as Michael "ex-Cabinet Minister" Portillo, Shirley "Also an ex-Cabinet Minister" Williams and John "ex-UK Government Member" Redwood, the C3PO of All Souls. But as Rushdie is virtually in the Coca- Cola league of brand awareness, this seemed to constitute backing into the limelight on his part.

This year's lecturer, Anthony Giddens, had stated that Globalisation should not mean Westernisation, which is fine, but was unable to allay the suspicion that it can only really be Generalisation, in every sense. This was, though, very much a curtain-raiser, with the emphasis on the wood rather than the trees. As one journalist commented, the failure or success of globalisation will be determined by the one third of the world's population who live in India and China. How to bring this about, Giddens has four more mission statements in which to specify. For the moment, he is all miso soup - nourishing but cloudy.