There's a ghoul in my soup

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The Independent Culture
IT'S been a bad week in our house. Our old dog died and left a legacy of fleas, which feasted on us until we submitted to fu-migation; then the water board sent dark green mud through the kitchen tap, just as 10 gallons of soup were required for t he choral society's Christmas bash; finally Radio 4 was bedevilled by a phantom fax machine transmitting messages during its morning trail for Stephen King's Salem's Lot, a horrid vampirical saga. Radio 4 has been drifting towards the spooky lately, sinc e Mr Prop, a whining white witch, appeared on Today demanding planning permission for peculiar practices in Milton Keynes.

Thursday's play was the real thing, a new tale of the supernatural that could become a classic: Emily's Ghost was about "time twins", children born on the same day in different centuries. It began with the Edwardian Emily, haunted by her namesake from the future, who trespassed through Secret Garden country right up to Point Horror. A trio of luridly ghastly adults was led by Anna Massey as Rabstock the governess, satisfactorily routed by a rat named after Mrs Pankhurst. The denouement had all the satisfaction of a tidily trussed fowl - virtually every end tied up but still a hint of goose-pimples.

Liz Lochhead brought us heavily back to earth. She doesn't sound as if she weighs 14 stone, but that's what Weight Watchers whispered to her when she half-decided to reduce her Too Too Solid Flesh (R4). Lochhead's heart isn't really in it. She'd quite like to be thinner, but she's damned if she's going to become obsessive. Muttering "Dawn French is gorrrgeous" she bought a magazine for fatties, a copy of Slimming, a diet Coke and a Marrs barr, and professed herself hopelessly confused. She was, in fact, intelligent, perceptive and funny. What's more, she voiced the ambivalence about food felt by many women who are currently bracing themselves for the festive stove.

Reinforcing that unease, bathroom scales were the single most popular prize in the Green Shield stamp empire, beating the Gay-Grip Stewpan and the Emergency Ward 10 nurse's outfit by several million books. An over-excited Nick Baker, on The Road to Redemption (R4), told the story of the brief phenomenon of the trading-stamps war, when 75 per cent of British adults were collectors and women fainted in the rush for stamps in Tesco's. It sounded like greed gone mad, until you recalled the lottery.

Radio 2 celebrated two anni-versaries. One was famous: it is 50 years since the plane carrying Glenn Miller failed to arrive in Paris. By the end of The Real Glenn Miller Story, I wasn't sorry. Miller was, it seems, one of the nastiest men ever - greedy,ruthless and bullying. As played by a mahogany Charles Dance, he was also lifeless for longer than we thought, and certainly didn't deserve as charming a wife as Lorelei King's Helen.

And 200 years ago a Yorkshire blacksmith called John Hall died in the poorhouse. In Folk on 2 the avuncular Jim Lloyd interviewed Ian Russell, Hall's champion. Hall was a prolific com- poser of oratorios and hymns, but nearly all his manuscripts were lost. Just by being sung, however, his music lived on in the High Peak district, where 400 recently gathered to perform his simple, affecting carols. Russell had trouble with some tenors showing off, and he had to transpose the songs , because now that people are better fed their voices are lower. He should come to our village. Both our tenors need discipline and the soup won't deepen anybody's voice.

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