Radio: She's no lady, she's a Woman's Hour listener

The critics

Fifty tears ago, On This Day (R4), a man had just won pounds 40,000 on the pools. He was intending to buy a grand piano, a small helicopter and a yellow Manx cat; with silk cami-knickers costing four guineas a pair, resourceful women were making their own from off-cuts of crepe bandaging; the Evening Standard was suggesting that domestic help being so hard to find, readers would be well advised to hire foreign girls, who made excellent maids - the law permitted the employment of any nationality, except Germans of course.

And Woman's Hour (R4) was nearly a week old. They celebrated the actual anniversary on Monday by assemb-ling a group of 50-year-old women to take part in a quiz. It was mayhem. They all talked at once, the buzzers went on the blink and Jenni Murray couldn't shut anyone up. Mind you, these weren't just any old women. If you were to ask Clare Short, Edwina Curry, Diana Quick and Marina Warner to occupy the same village, there'd be trouble: one small studio barely contained what became a serious showing-off competition, with extra marks for interruption and name-dropping.

It proved a point: Woman's Hour has long been a stage for successful, articulate women. But it has also provided varied and heartening inspiration for the rest of us. On Tuesday women revealed how the programme had changed their lives. One had been ironing while Margaret Powell talked about getting an O-level in her sixties: eight years of study later, the listener was blissfully happy as a teacher and had, apparently, lost interest in ironing.

She is a far cry from the image of the contented housewife who was the icon of the early programmes, when tips about how to de-slime a face-flannel jostled with such beauty advice as: "If you wear a face, wear it always and never be seen without it." We are far less tolerant of complacent male attitudes than we were, too. Monday's quiz featured some of the choicer insults endured by women over the years: the one that caused most horror was Omar Sharif's macho remark: "Every woman loves the idea of a sheikh carrying her off and raping her in his tent."

By an unfortunate coincidence, Christopher Gable risked a similar reaction on Sunday's Celebrity Choice (CFM). Shamelessly plugging Dracula, his Northern Ballet Theatre's latest production, he said that ladies (oops, you can't call us that any more, Mr Gable) find the idea of being torn from the marital bed by a beautiful dark stranger rather a turn-on. This may be his fantasy, but, if it is shared by women, we certainly don't want any man saying so.

Apart from that, Gable was one of Paul Callan's better guests. His experiences with Margot Fonteyn and Ken Russell produced some great stories, and his enthusiasm for dance-drama was exhilarating. He is anxious that dancers should remember that they are primarily communicators and artists, not just athletes, and that ballet should never become be merely a display of physical prowess.

For one thing, striving always to leap higher and move faster leads to injury; dancers' feet are hideously distorted and they risk permanent physical damage every time they perform. Yet they choose to do it. So do footballers. On the Line (R5) presented an unusually weak case this week, when it argued for payments from the Industrial Injuries Board for professional footballers who develop arthritis. It was impossible to work up much - any - indignation about this, despite the irritatingly insistent style of the presentation. There is so much money in football that the Professional Footballers' Association could surely afford to help its invalids. Yet in the last sentence we heard that they are only "considering" paying for some research.

Arthritis is one of the commonest afflictions of mankind. They dug a dead climber, complete with axe, out of a Swiss glacier and he was found to have suffered from it too, even as he made his last climb, some 5,300 years ago. Andrew Johnston's fascinating new series, Bodies of Evidence (R4), describes the minutely detailed information that can emerge from such discoveries. Reassuringly, Tony Robinson presents it; nobody, hearing his innocently inquiring voice, could so much as shudder at the potential ghoulishness of long-delayed autopsy.

Still, let us escape from the morgue and into the caravan, where we could all be Kings of the Road (R2). "You can't describe what fun it is until you've done it," chirruped a vanner from his Challenger or his Sabre, his Meteorite or his Sprinter. Though full of arcane information about the thrills of hitching and coupling, I wasn't convinced. Whether top- of-the-range with power-shower and satellite dish, or little more than a stiff tent, it is driven by a man in a tracksuit and a Ford Capri and it is in front of my car. Is there one, I wondered idly, called a Sleeparound?

They travel enormous distances in these things, but they will never get to Bohemia (WS). That is the mythical land inhabited by the cast of Puccini's La Boheme. Phyllida Lloyd and Jonathan Miller, who set their productions in the Fifties and the Thirties respectively, discussed their perceptions of the opera and its source - a novel by Henri Murger, son of a bank- robber and a concierge, who used his royalties to ascend to the middle class, where he died of syphilis. Packed with information and ideas about nostalgia, freedom, idealism and poverty, this was a marvellous half hour.

Finally, just a mention of the most moving thing I heard all week. Simon Callow read De Profundis (R4) last Sunday evening quietly, as if he had written it, as if he had lived it. From his hard labour in Reading Gaol, picking oakum until his fingers bled, Oscar Wilde wrote: "I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine." Yes, and distilled it into piercing sorrow.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
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

    Year 1/2 Teacher

    £130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

    Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

    £140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

    Corporate Commercial Solicitor

    £45000 - £65000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Corporate Commercial Soli...

    Year 3 Primary Teacher - Dewsbury

    £110 - £155 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: An excellent, last minute opp...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam