The Week in Radio: Moved by the memories of those who can't let go

 

"This is my life, I can't just throw it away," said an elderly woman in Radio 3's Between the Ears, the panic rising in her voice. She was in process of moving into sheltered housing, and the prospect of reducing her worldly goods was making her ill. She had, she explained, just spent three days in hospital.

It's just stuff, of course, this clutter that spills from our shelves and our cupboards and piles up on furniture and the floor. The day will come to us all when everything we have amassed in the course of our existence will be loaded into a skip, crushed to the size of a shoebox and become worm food in a landfill. I sincerely hope, when that day comes, to be worm food myself.

Television has turned the neurosis that can accompany parting with possessions into a spectator sport. Shows such as The Hoarder Next Door and Get Your House In Order invite us to gawp at other people's OCD, whether they're clambering through tunnels of stockpiled Tupperware or bedding down on mattresses made out of decaying back issues of Horse & Hound.

Radio demonstrates how these shows should really be done. Between the Ears followed three unnamed pensioners as they prepared to move into new accommodation. All were struggling with the concept of downsizing. Here, they weren't belittled at the hands of smug psychologists, or patronised by oleaginous presenters.

Instead, the programme let them tell the stories behind their belongings. There was the ex-cabaret singer and the brass lamp she had purchased in Rome with a well-known actor whom she had briefly dated, despite his being engaged to another woman. To throw this into a skip would be to throw away her best days. There was the 86-year-old clinging on to her late husband's silk shirts and her father's sweaters – "When you put them on in the morning, you can think of them all day," she explained sadly – and the man who'd had a stroke and who wouldn't be parted from his cupboardful of white polo shirts. He wanted to be ready for when he was called back to work.

The compulsion to never let go is in all of us. In my kitchen cupboard, I have a book on cake-making for children that my late father bought me. He never went near an oven himself, but he was keen for his 10-year-old daughter to get a taste for baking so that he might enjoy the spoils. The pages, dog-eared and stained, are still smothered in his spidery writing reminding me not to open the oven door until the cake is cooked. When the time comes for me to downsize they're going to have to prise this book from my cold, dead hands.

If it's hard to get a pensioner to part with their possessions, it can be even tougher to persuade them that they might find greater comfort in a care home, particularly in the light of recent scandals. In Radio 4's Thinking Allowed, Laurie Taylor reported on a new book comparing the residential homes explored by sociologist Peter Townsend's 50 year-old study The Last Refuge with current care homes. In the 1950s, residents appeared to have the freedom to come and go as they pleased, smoked to their hearts content and often pitched in with staff to help care for others.

Given that times are tight and the old are considerably older, it's not surprising to find that current care-home residents have their ciggies confiscated, stay indoors all day and are encouraged to sit around doing jigsaws. The sooner we're all worm food the better.

twitter.com/FionaSturges

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?