You and Yours, Radio 4, Tuesday
London Soundscape, Radio 2, Monday
Nature: The Ghost Roost, Radio 4, Tuesday
'They always did what they threatened – no messing about'
I'm ashamed to say that my first reaction to the breast-implant crisis was to think, "Karma! Serves 'em right." It's all too easy to ascribe the desire for bigger boobs or a different nose or a rounder bottom to simple vanity. But the evergreen You and Yours demonstrated with its usual quiet efficiency that that's a simple-minded view, and that the pressure to conform to unattainable norms can be irresistible.
There was much thoughtful discussion in the phone-in, conducted by the impeccable Julian Worricker. There's not much new in it, of course – one Roman surgeon specialised in restoring Jews' foreskins, and there are Sanskrit texts regarding plastic surgery for injured warriors. I say "not much" new, but I doubt the Romans stretched to the latest height-increasing treatment: don't bother with that leg-lengthening palaver! Simply have a 5cm silicon cap implant inserted on top of your head.
That made me side with the woman who averred that plastic surgery is basically a denial of death. I'd like to think it's all a craze, but there were plenty of satisfied customers ringing in, and it's not difficult to foresee a time when we visit our cosmetician as often as the dentist.
There has been something of a glut of aural collage programmes recently, of which London Soundscape is the latest, with Mick Jones (formerly of The Clash) and the conductor Charles Hazlewood piecing together an absorbing aural history of the capital in the run-up to the Olympics. I'm all for the impressionistic approach, but there's a conflict for anal types such as me: we want to know what music is being played at any given minute, as well as who's speaking, who the interviewer is, what the programme was, when it went out and on what channel or station. Jones and Hazlewood provided little of that, and I found myself Googling furiously.
But there was some nice plundering of the archives. The barrister Nemone Lethbridge, who defended the Kray twins (and married a convicted murderer, as it happens), talked about what made the criminal pair the market leaders. "Fear played a large part," she said in her magnificently cut-glass accent, "because they always did what they threatened and there was no messing about."
There was another soundscape offering in Nature: The Ghost Roost, in which the celebrated sound recordist Chris Watson revisited a project he undertook on Brighton's West Pier a few years before it was all but destroyed by fire in 2003. Thousands of starlings used to roost in the shell of the concert hall, and, with the improbably named sound designer Thor McIntyre-Burnie, he recorded the astonishing noises they made.
There was a splendidly poetic spokesman from the West Pier Trust, who described the starlings' murmurations as "a rapidly moving amoeba gyrating in the sky". But it all hung on the extraordinary sounds captured by Watson and Thor M-B. No Googling necessary – merely the capacity to be thrilled by the living world.
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