Night Visions, Radio 4, Friday
World Have Your Say, World Service, Monday

If a police helicopter can be romantic maybe Russia can be reborn

As a city-dweller it's difficult to think of police helicopters as romantic – not when you're all too used to the nocturnal din of rattling windows. That's from down here, though; up there it's a different story, and in the beguiling Night Visions, the poet Paul Farley took an after-dark trip in a police chopper. It conveyed beautifully his sense of wonder, and his out-of-placeness.

The programme consisted of two elements: sounds of the trip and his on-the-spot reflections, and a poem, "The Asset", lines from which were scattered throughout (the title comes from how one of the pilots referred to the helicopter). Prosaically, the helicopter is "an information-gathering machine, an airborne panopticon," but poetically it's also "perched like a dragonfly" before take-off, and then, in the air, "the devil's hairdryer" or "a harpie to the burglar on the roof of a Kwik-Fit at Wembley".

"Panopticon" is certainly the right word. Trying to spot a woman on a railway track, the pilots switch on their 20 million candlepower lights – "enough to jump-start the dawn chorus in a corridor of brambles through Enfield, where a night train sits stalled on the tracks". They're not allowed to shine them within 50ft of the ground – they burn the grass. Farley was with them as they observed a scene from more than a mile away, a couple on a balcony thought to have guns. They directed the police on the ground to the right flat, then listened in.

"We've got an IC1 male an IC1 female and a dog, talking to us at the front door," said a voice from below. "What, the dog's talking to you?" the pilot replied. "Sausages!"

The election of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency has not been without controversy, and passions were running high on World Have Your Say, the World Service's global phone-in. Elena, a retired professor from Moscow University, was scathing about Putin: "I personally know people who say, 'you see, he neither drinks nor smokes – I just like his personality'. I know such people among my relatives – not my friends, because I would never make a friend with a person who votes for Putin."

As well as listeners calling in, there was a panel of "experts" too, one of whom, John Laughland of the thinktank The Institute of Democracy and Co-operation, had no time for Elena and her ilk. "There's no point in coming on a show with your crazy theories," he chided in his somnolent voice. "This is the lunatic fringe of politics."

Laughland turns out to be quite an interesting character: his Institute seems to be little more than a PR firm for the Kremlin, and his views were, to say the least, basic: Putin's a great leader because he's won three elections – QED. And all the opinion polls are in his favour, so he must be popular. Elections and polls don't lie ....

Other callers stressed that Putin had pulled Russia around, turned the sick man of Europe back into the Great Bear, a country to be proud of again. Elena was splendidly dismissive. "This is pagan pride," she said, "a pride in how others are scared of us – we should be proud of how humane we are. I can be proud of Russia when old people get enough money to survive." I know whose side I was on.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory