Radio: Wallis and Gromit, the new Simpsons

"Her dancing style is a cross between marching on the spot in heavy mud and milking a very tall cow." I managed to catch only one sentence of Monday's Short Story (R4) as I hurried out, but that line, from Ioan Meredith's Will You Marry Me?, was too good not to be scribbled down hastily, just in case it could be shoe-horned into this column. The radio is a tyrant and a tease. For every full programme I hear, there are a dozen jottings like that around our house: it's time to use a few.

Farming Today (R4) generates such notes almost daily. On Tuesday, I surfaced just in time to hear of another scare about the poor benighted cow. Did you realise that when cows are fed on silage, they ingest as much alcohol as if they consumed a daily bottle of Famous Grouse? No wonder they mooch about abstractedly and allow strange men to strap machines on to their udders.

And cows suffered yet another damaging slight in Monday's Advent Calendar (R3), when Bishop Jack Spong remarked that not only are no animals mentioned in St Luke's account of the Nativity, but there isn't even a stable. The Christian imagination has generated the tradition of gently lowing cattle from the one word "manger", which Luke does mention, twice. As we are learning, gratefully, to expect from this series, his remarks introduced a new (to me) and beautifully performed setting of a favourite carol. I was also reminded of my daughter's early, cow-free version of the second verse, which began: "The battle below him, the baby awakes ... "

Julian Pettifer was down among the ape-men this week, in Africa, seeking out the origin of our species. But, even by the end of the first part of Slaves to Nature (R4), we were still with animals. Homo had been robustus and become erectus, but was not yet sapiens, developing in tandem with another large and omnivorous creature, the pig.

Though Pettifer apologised for simplifying the story, it was still a lesson in anthropology that made heavy demands on your reviewer. I clung to a single clear fact: we can be confident that, apart from hairlessness, we have nothing at all in common with the naked mole-rat.

Cue for another snippet. What do the following have in common: Longfellow's tiresomely jog-trotting poem Hiawatha and that masterpiece of anguished, contemplative religious verse, the Dies Irae? Answer, courtesy of Jane Glover on The Heritage Quiz (R4): they are written in exactly the same octosyllabic metre. Think about it.

Now for the return of one of R4's best series, reinvented yet again. It was interesting to hear what Ben Pimlott was confiding to his Dear Diary (R4) while his biography of the Queen was being published, though it sounded a little bogus and contrived, especially when he began quoting rave reviews. With his family, he sounded nice, but unwise: first to let his children watch Silence of the Lambs, and then to try to justify such leniency. Things improved towards the end when he quoted other diarists' views of events, which was more like the old formula for the series. I wish they'd bring it back.

Oh, by the way (are you getting used to this?), do you know what they call hot flushes in Yorkshire? A listener told a startled Jimmy Young (R2) recently that they are referred to up there as "Tropic- al Moments" - isn't that nice?

While tuned in to R2, I could mention a new "nostalgic" quiz show about old pop music. But Wowfabgroovy is really so trite, and the teams so absurdly aggressive with their perishing buzzers, that I'd rather not.

Let's go back to royalty instead, and a tour de force by Stockard Channing as the Duchess of Windsor in Elizabeth Proud's three-part drama Wallis - the Life and Legends of Wallis Simpson (R4). One of the most enduring legends about the famously rich and thin Mrs Simpson is that she learned mysterious sexual tricks in the Far East, with which she ensnared her Prince. There was a naughty reference to this in a scene where her drunken first husband drags her off to the Shanghai fleshpots and then evilly cackles: "Still, you learned a thing or two, didn't you?"

She confided the secret of her charms to one man, who had the unenviable task of escorting her in her flight across France just before the abdications - but, alas, he was exhausted and fell asleep while she was talking, thus miss- ing the juiciest piece of Royal gos- sip until Squidgygate. What he did learn, however, was that the Duke was not, as she nastily put it, "heir-conditioned".

Channing dodges up and down the century, transforming herself from the pathetic old lady imprisoned by the fiendish Maitre Blum in Paris, to a wilful Baltimore teenager, a sadly disillusioned young bride, an impoverished divorcee and a bitter, ambitious Duchess, without ever losing her convincing identity or the listener's attention.

Sue Wilson, who did so well with the recent radio adaptation of Women in Love, directs the piece with panache, using bitter-sweet contemporary songs for period atmosphere and toying with the listener's sympathy as the embattled pair behave with increasing petulance, and even serious treachery. With Proud, Wilson and Channing all giving of their considerable best, and a strong supporting cast of lovers, courtiers, servants and society gossips, it makes for compulsive listening.

And it leads straight to the last eavesdropping for today, the moment from the eternally happy and glorious I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (R4) when Willie Rushton performed a verbal charade. He was asked to utter a sentence which would lead his opponents to guess the identity of the television cartoon series, The Simpsons. In an execrable New England accent, he enquired: "Surely she's not going to marry that dysfunctional upper-class chinless wonder from London, England? What, I ask you, was the matter with Gromit?"

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride