RADIO: A finger pointing the way towards hope

A fog descends on my brain when words like 'molecule' and 'hydrocarbon' emerge from the radio

IF YOU'VE read this column before, you might well have deplored its shameful dearth of informed wisdom on the subject of science. A foggy curtain tends to descend on your reviewer's brain when words like "molecule" and "hydrocarbon" emerge from the radio, but encouragement from a dear friend who also happens to be a wizard immunologist prompts greater efforts, and this week immunology is news. So here goes, at least for a paragraph or two.

Science Now (R4) included an item that offered a beckoning hand to idiots. In fact, it was a finger, the Zinc Finger: this useful digit is part of a recognised pattern of proteins with specific DNA-binding properties. I'm afraid they lost me again in the details, but it seems that this finger might be pointing the way to establishing a means of immunising people against Aids, which was an encouraging thought for World Aids Day.

And by chance it was the power of fingers that Manuel Patarroyo used to describe his own progress in the field of immunisation, this time against an even bigger killer. Patarroyo is The Malaria Man (R4). A colourful - he calls himself "flambogiant" - Colombian, he has used an empirical approach to create SPF66, a synthetic vaccine made from off-the-shelf chemicals. It is still the subject of much scepticism, but although not yet totally effective, the vaccine has no harmful effects and has significantly reduced the incidence of this horribly malevolent disease. Patarroyo isolated the demon that latches on to blood cells and lopped off its fingers so that it couldn't get a grip. Well, OK, once again it probably isn't quite that easy, but his dextrous analogy filled this simpleton with enthusiasm.

Rita Carter went to see Patarroyo and came back with an exhilarating account of the excitement generated by such research. She clearly relished the excitable company of Colombia's great new hero. So important is he to that country's national pride that when he was kidnapped recently, and the terrorists realised who their victim was, they asked for his autograph and removed their masks to pose with him for a group photograph before releasing him. Patarroyo is a name we will hear again.

So is Purcell, and no apologies for returning to him. To have heard Sunday's Don Quixote (R3) and not to have mentioned it would be unforgivable. It was based on a work by Thomas Durfey, a prolific, hugely successful playwright, raconteur, actor, singer and plagiarist celebrated earlier in the evening in Daniel Snowman's The D-D-Drunken P-P-Poet (R3). Pope described Durfey as "the merriment of our age" and he seems to have been the kind of happy man who had no enemies. Given that he was famous for his fearful stammer, it was odd to have him portrayed without it in Don Quixote, but that is my only quibble with a superb piece of broadcasting.

Don Taylor's enormous, compelling play had Durfey, Purcell and Betterton putting on a production they had supposedly cobbled together out of Cervantes' masterpiece. Paul Scofield's wonderful, heroic Don quavered with romance, thrilled with daring, rang out with idealism - and was splendidly matched by Roy Hudd's earthy, pragmatic, immensely likeable Sancho Panza, surely the part he was born to play. Add to that the piercing beauty of the voices of Emma Kirkby, Lucy Skeaping and Evelyn Tubb singing some of the loveliest music you could imagine, and a sparkling script that sped, simultaneously, towards the bitterly tragic early death of Purcell and the mournful demise of the heroic Don, and you have a work that would surely fill any theatre, or even cinema. It must have been an expensive production, but one that was worth every penny.

The music covered every genre, from operatic aria to bawdy ballad. A similar kind of range was essayed in Kit and the Widow's Sound of Music (R4), a new quiz show which got off to a shaky start. Kit and the Widow, with their Rupert Brookeish voices and mannered delivery - "Welcome, you happy housewives, lighting up the Belling at the sound of the Sunbeam on the gravel" - are very funny, but their manners slip when things get sticky. A round of Musical Hangman was so dire that Kit snapped at his producer "Patricia, get over here and put that fag out!" but, poor thing, she probably needed it. The audience was indulgent and, luckily, quite knowledgeable, but maybe they were glad to be in out of the cold. Still, it was fun in parts, and it could get better.

Another quiz show currently making a rather better start is Booked! (R4), a literary frolic that relies heavily on the genius of its panellists. The likes of Roger McGough and Miles Kington play with words as if they were Lego, identifying books from misleading descriptions and producing their own alternative versions of great classics. The star was Dillie Keane, who produced a tour de force in a superb, eternal sentence beginning "The nocturnal journey to the inferno of the paternal taverns in Smyrna and the earnest concern discerned through the Colonel's epergne."

It was certainly better than Frankie Howerd with a bad script, but then that is true of almost anything. Why R2 should have chosen a particularly limp 1966 programme as Howerd's moment of glory in Comedy Classics beats me. Harold Wilson was featured cosying up to Kosygin and an uncomfortably macho Howerd was unable to pay an enormous restaurant bill of pounds 18 and ended up, guess what, ho ho, doing the washing-up. When you remember how terrific he was later on, it was embarrassing to hear him trying to raise a laugh with this stuff. Ooh, Missis, we could scarcely manage a titter.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own