The Infinite Monkey Cage, Radio 4, Monday
Take one boffin. Mix with comedy writers, and hear them gently fizz
Sunday 21 November 2010
It's my fervent hope that my children become scientists, because if we're going to get ourselves out of the mess we're creating, the boffins are going to be the most important people on the planet.
And people like Brian Cox, pouting physics superstar, are vital to get people thinking about the real world, and not some spurious afterlife.
If the Mayans are right, though, none of it will matter. There was much talk about the end of the world in Cox's The Infinite Monkey Cage, back with the comedians/writers Robin Ince and Andy Hamilton to put a smile on the face of science.
The Mayans' 144,000-day calendar runs out in 2012 – meaning, as Cox observed, that London might be hosting the Apocalympics. But there's no actual prophecy – it's just that time stops. So that's all right, then. Oh, and there might be a coronal mass ejection, which is the Sun basically farting, but with very bad effects indeed. Oh, and we might get hit by an asteroid, unless we can get up there and paint one side of it black. So we should be fine.
It was the kind of show on which Danny Baker would be the perfect guest. For three decades he's been tickling the airwaves with his warm-hearted, oddball mix of stories culled from life's curious byways, whooshed along by a flood of fascinating facts and a humour that's often bracing but never cruel. You'll always come away from a Baker programme with your appreciation of the world enhanced.
So it was distressing to hear him announce a few weeks ago that he'd be taking a break to undergo treatment for cancer. He'd be filling his time, he said, watching Tommy Steele films. On Tuesday, in fact, he returned for a couple of shifts on his Radio London show doing what he does best – asking people to send in photos of their tatty LP covers for the website, talking about the fact that he's not allowed egg sandwiches, or shellfish – "I've become a Jew while I've been away" – and discussing Eleanor Bron's wardrobe in Help! Long may he keep gassing.
There are an estimated 300,000 French people living in London – most of them in the environs of the Indy office in Kensington, it seems – making it the sixth biggest French city, smaller than Nice but bigger than Nantes. So the launch of French Radio London – nothing to do with the BBC version – makes perfect sense.
On Thursday morning, it was all pleasant enough, French pop with a dash of the unexpected, served up by Frank McWeeny, whose French was impeccably clear. Ingrid Betancourt was scheduled to be interviewed last night, so they clearly plan to provide more than comfort food. Bonne chance to them – and to Baker, too.
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