Alone, for once, on the motorway, which admits no learners, I was stuck in the mother of all jams, listening to the whole subject being thrashed out on Radio 5. Sex Drive discussed the differences between men and women at the wheel. Frustrated by immobility, all around me drivers were scratching, picking their noses, talking urgently into car phones, idly shaving, eating sandwiches, checking their make-up, fuming. I was writing notes on my lap. Here's what I wrote:
Women are safer drivers: it's proved by the fact that the RAC offers us lower insurance because we have fewer accidents. Road rage is firmly linked to testosterone: women have a stronger survival instinct and tend to apologise more. We are better at concentrating on several things at once. Eighty per cent of all car purchases are made by or influenced by women, yet the market stubbornly refuses to accommodate that influence. Mrs Damon Hill doesn't want to drive like a man, if it means having to become more aggressive.
Now, gentle reader, this may not be a fair assessment of the programme, but unfortunately the traffic began to move and while I was scrabbling about in my purse for 90p to use the Dartford Tunnel, I managed to lose both an earring and my concentration. Sorry about that. Oops. Damn.
The Bank Holiday prompted another effort in this direction. Traffic Jam (R4) seemed designed to inspire utter despair. Irritatingly interlaced with irrelevant reports of old tailbacks and multiple pile-ups, it boomed out gloomy statistics about how many cars could fit end-to-end on enormous imaginary international highways; about the 20 million vehicles stationary all over England; about the fact that the Los Angelinos drive 100 million miles every day - where on earth are they going? Doesn't everyone jog in California? One clever chap observed that driving is stressful, and suggested that you'd be safer to play soothing Vivaldi in your car, rather than Bat Out of Hell. Thanks very much for the tip. And a woman displayed unexpected and, we must assume, unfeminine aggression about parking, saying, "If verbal abuse has to be done, then I'll do it."
Yet without such fighting spirit, we'd probably still not even be able to vote. One of the courageous band of suffragettes who fought for the privilege actually died in the attempt, trampled under the king's horse in the Derby. Who Was Emily Davison? (World Service) told her story. Rose Tremain's play was set in the dark land of Emily's subconscious, as she lay dying and, apparently, remembering. It was full of dark portents, of fluttering birds trapped behind glass, of the child Emily holding solemn obsequies for a fly, of her mother's grimly foreboding dreams. The piece was lightened by a stirring performance from Miriam Margolyes as a brisk and bracing Queen Mary, stiffening the sinews of a wimpish, whimpering George V, whose pet parrot Charlotte had escaped. (Margolyes also took the part of Charlotte, with even more verve - indeed, such was her gusto that she probably played the yappy little dog as well.) The king was eventually soothed by his stalwart wife reading to him from Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach", but she faded out before reaching the line about ignorant armies clashing by night.
Despite the brave, liberating efforts of Davison and the Pankhursts, women are still widely responsible for dishing up family meals, a task that can become tedious. When it began, I hoped that Sophie Grigson's Curious Cooks (R4), a Gardeners' Question Time for cooks, might revive the imagination of the flagging provider, but it doesn't. This is not a series to send you skipping merrily back to the kitchen, longing to nourish people who might still have to sport L-plates. Marguerite Patten, the Queen Mother of cooks, does her best, though she gets carried away with confused anecdotes about the butchers of Brighton. The rest of the panel are pretty dreadful. Four dreary questions in half an hour included one about how to disguise the taste of pasta. This was a real dud, but they chose to discuss it for a full 10 minutes, before lamely suggesting that pasta could be chopped up small. Apart from that, the only handy hint they could offer us was that there's not a lot of point in trying to melt white chocolate. Now honestly, would you really want to?
A "quickie" at the end invited the panel to name an organic vegetable they'd like to be reincarnated as. (Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true.) They enthused about the rotundity of the squash and the glow of an aubergine: this listener preferred to think of them as instant mash.Reuse content