Radio Review: The baby's coming! Boil water and pass the canapés!
Woman's Hour, Radio 4, Tuesday / Technicolour, Radio 4, Monday-Friday
At the births of my children I was certainly there, but I can't pretend I was in any way central to proceedings. I did what I could, did what I was told and tried not to get in the way. But for some dads that's not enough.
Part of Tuesday's Woman's Hour was devoted to fathers and childbirth. Jane Garvey spoke to a dad who'd found it all slightly unsettling. He'd dutifully done the classes and thought he was all set, but when it came to the crunch he was weirded out. "At the key moment, my wife is on all fours making very strange sounds … she's not screaming, it's not like TV, she's mooing, in rhythm."
But what really got to him was the feeling of helplessness, a common experience according to Dean Beaumont, founder of the support group DaddyNatal. As the sociologist Professor Tina Miller observed, it's all to do with men wanting to be in control of circumstances. We take inward responsibility for everything going smoothly, and when the birth plan goes out of the window we don't know what to do. One listener tweeted that her husband served canapés to the midwives, and that gave him a role. "I'm almost speechless, but not quite," said Garvey.
If I had to name my favourite Radio 4 time slot, right up there would be the 15 minutes between World At One and The Archers. It's usually home to a five-parter, Monday to Friday, with a dizzying range of subjects. In Technicolour, Tracey Logan explored the many facets of how we perceive and react to colour. On Tuesday, she explored how language affects colour perception, kicking off with the fact that where we see blue, Russians see one of two colours, goluboy or siniy, light blue or dark blue. Not two shades of the same colour; two different colours.
Logan took part in an experiment at Sussex University alongside Russian speakers which demonstrated that brains perceive a colour more quickly if there's a specific name for it. Other studies, meanwhile, indicate that babies distinguish colours before they acquire language. So, colour perception: hardwired or blank slate? Like every nature/nurture question I've ever heard, the answer is clear: it's a bit of both. QED.
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