Simon Dring was with them for the first five weeks of their six-month tour. His experience made us, too, Pity the Peacekeepers (R4), though they certainly don't pity themselves. Last week's news of three men killed when they hit a mine is a harsh reminder of the mortal danger hidden in Bosnian soil, but lesser irritations include boredom, cold, frustration and the loneliness of every soldier far from home. Dring went everywhere with them: on a route march up Mount Igman; with a convoy through a nervous checkpoint, when language difficulties make it hard to distinguish friend from foe; even into a phone box as Corporal Grimshaw, "a bit of a dribbly" about his family, sang happy birthday to his little daughter. Dring recorded the Geordie voices of the men as they sang the "Bosnian Blues", or teased their new young officer, the "Filofax from Basingstoke", or admitted that they'd really enjoy some action, though they know that if they return home without having fired a shot, it will probably be a job well done.
This was a ringingly authentic, surprisingly moving documentary about skilled pro- fessionals, made by skilled professionals. More than you could say for Jeffrey Archer as a Radio 2 announcer. Why do they let these wretched political sorts loose on the air? Surely he doesn't need the money? Melodies for You was dreadful. Archer introduced Judy Collins singing "Amazing Grace" with the remark that it was the only known arrangement of the tune - eat your heart out, you Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Then he added, incredibly, "I'm told that's the finest translation of the piece." Dear oh dear. He sounded like a savage RSM trying through gritted teeth to be benign and cultured.
Years ago such a programme would have included Kathleen Ferrier's famous recording of "What is Life to Me Without Thee". When it came, towards the end of John Steane's beautifully constructed tribute to this gorgeous singer, your critic found herself becoming a bit of a dribbly. On Wings of Song (R2) included Sir John Barbirolli remembering her humour and immense courage as she faced a painful death at the age of 41, in 1953. She had just performed Orfeo at Covent Garden, and a critic had praised not only her marvellous contralto, but also her physical grace - "and me, could hardly move me ruddy legs", she had laughed.
This week saw two excellent documentaries on R5. The first was called Kids For Sale, and was about the child-sex industry in Thailand. It was horrifying. One girl had come into a treatment centre with appalling injuries - broken ribs, scarred face and hideous internal damage, all caused by a group of carefree holidaying Englishmen. Left with HIV, she was quite unable to return to her community: she was just 19. David Prosser's impassioned report argued strongly that we should call these men to task in our own courts for such grisly behaviour, as 12 other Western nations do already. At the time of writing our Government was expressing a different view. We heard Prosser being offered, openly on a Bangkok street, the virginity of a pre-pubescent girl for $250. At the end a group of teenagers, rescued from brothels, were sitting in a suburban garden being taught to knit. They were the very few lucky ones.
R5 has also been Taking Drugs Seriously. In this fine series, Marianne Henry is tackling the whole murky business clearly and cleverly. In previous weeks we have heard about the failure of prescribed methadone as therapy, about the alarming increase in crack addiction across all ages and classes, and about the plight of MS and cerebral palsy patients whose suffering would be relieved if they were only allowed can-nabis. Acquiring it illegally leads to random punishments depending on local practice: pot luck rules.
This week exposed another dangerous anomaly, the abuse of over-the-counter and prescribed drugs. One man had been drinking up to 90 bottles of cough mixture a week, driving to thousands of chemists to buy his poison and, over 15 years, systematically destroying his life. It is surely time to allow people like Clare Short to lead a proper public discussion of such issues.
Finally, it is wonderful Miles Kington's turn on Voicebox (WS), the series about quirks of language. This week he was talking about the odd way we use words - like mean and wicked - to mean their opposite. He was challenged by a reader to find a word that still meant the same when prefixed by un-. Defeated, he was told that the word was loosen, which means the same as unloosen. Yes, and in the supermarket the other day an old man asked me if stoned olives were the same as unstoned ones. Well, they were probably not hallucinogenic, anyway. Sorry, Miles, I don't mean to make you feel bested - or worsted.Reuse content