Radio: What a boring bunch of bankers

DO YOU THRILL to the small firms loan guarantee scheme? Can you chant the minimum terms of a covenant? How much do you know about which organisations qualify for tax relief? How much do you care? Let's not always see the same hands. And please, whatever you do, don't switch off.

If I've lost you already, I've only R4 to blame. However they try (and oh how they try): teams of funky accountants and dingbat bankers exchanging their Tricks of the Trade are never going to be compelling lunchtime listening (or, you'd imagine, amusing to a studio audience - unless frog- marched off the street, doused in brandy and promised a fiver per laugh). What are R4 commissioners playing at? I'm sure Nigel Cassidy is charming but if his old Board Game was dire, why did they think it worth re-inventing in an even more frightful formula? However often Cassidy racily asks to see the size of accountants' assets or suggests that bankers seasonally adjust their figures, the enterprise is doomed.

Just as we were warily adjusting to the revised schedule, it changed. At least four new programmes have appeared without fanfare, and this second eleven is marginally worse than the first. Take Under One Roof (R4). Take it to Beachy Head and drop it off. This mini-serial has replaced Postcards, a patchy handful of doomy seaside sagas which in turn replaced the truly great Woman's Hour serial. It is, unbelievably, repeated every evening. It concerns three generations of women sharing a London house. The grandmother is plain horrible, the grand-daughter makes Kate Aldridge of The Archers seem like a sweet girl, and the long-suffering mother (whose voice is, unaccountably, much posher than the others) grumbles glumly on, loathing them both. It's not a patch on After Henry, though the formula is similar, and it makes this listener (as you see) very bad-tempered.

Happily the news is not all bad. While The Candidate takes a break, it is replaced by A Hard Act to Follow (R4) in which the excellent Diana Madill talked, this week, to Liz Allen, the young journalist who stepped bravely into the shoes of the murdered Irish crime reporter Veronica Guerin. The questioning was close but not intrusive, and Allen made it clear that, while she is distinctly different from her predecessor, she admires and defends her - and aspires to her courage.

And Who Goes There? (R4), replacing Quote ... Unquote on Fridays, made a good start, largely thanks to the benign influence of Miles Kington's relaxed serendipity. It's a proper unrehearsed quiz, depending on good humour and minimal showing-off, in which Martin Young asks contestants to identify historical characters by means of clues like pseudonyms. One of these was Emily Charlotte le Breton, which proved to be the real name of Lily Langtry. To everyone's surprise Francis Wheen, a panel-member, is descended from her. As Kington remarked, it's not often that a man comes on to a programme to learn something about his great-aunt.

It was preceded by What's in a Name? (R4), a delightful one-off by Lynne Truss. Geoffrey Palmer played a memorable hermit-crab in one of her earlier monologues and this time he brought the same lugubrious and aggrieved melancholy to the character of Hopkins, an elderly taxonomist. It was really an excuse for glorying in the exotic names bestowed upon various creatures, like the Satanic-Eared Nightjar, the Furtive Fly-Catcher and the Hawaiian 'o'u. Zoological nomenclature is, after all, the oldest profession, says Hopkins, quoting Genesis. In the end, the tiny arachnid he has been struggling to name becomes, gratifyingly, the Hopkins Tick.

This was the kind of programme you catch halfway through and wish you could re-wind. Theodore Zeldin would like someone to devise a radio that would do just that. He was imagining useful inventions on The Brains Trust (R3), the old Third Programme stalwart which returned last night. It was marvellous - civilised, intelligent and serious. Joan Bakewell took the chair with polite authority and the panel - Zeldin, Ben Okri, Angela Tilby and Steven Rose - did their damnedest to answer huge questions as honestly as they possibly could. Okri in particular was dazzlingly, poetically fluent in his response to "Can you know what love is without experiencing it?"

To descend at speed to bathos: the answer is yes, even if you're geriatric. I'm not sure what Prunella Scales was doing presenting Late-Flowering Love (R2), but she had trouble keeping irony at bay as she read stuff like this: "When we are 17, we go weak at the knee at the flutter of an eyelash or the flex of a muscle." Pass the bucket, as my daughters would respond. Ah well, roll on senile sex, but preferably without syrup and Sinatra.

The best thing on R2 was Fruit Tree - the Nick Drake Story, a thoughtful, touching tribute to a singer-songwriter who killed himself at 26 but who has - rightly - grown posthumously into a cult hero. And the best thing on the World Service - probably the best anywhere this week - was The Sinking of the Lancastria, about the worst naval disaster in British history, worse than the Titanic and the Lusitania, which left 5,000 people dead.

This vast ship was taking soldiers and civilians away from Brest in June 1940 when she was bombed. A survivor spoke of a huge mast, parallel to the water, from which he dived; others remembered the sickening smell - was it cordite? Oil? Fear? One man, a child at the time, had been dumped on a heap of corpses until his mother's screams persuaded the authorities to work on resuscitating him. Chillingly, at the end, Churchill's memoirs of the incident were quoted. He had not, he wrote, announced the disaster as the time, in the interests of morale. And later: "I had intended to release the news, but ... I forgot."

Suggested Topics
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
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
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
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

    Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

    £50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

    Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

    £50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

    Primary Teaching Supply

    £130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

    Year 1/2 Teacher

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

    Day In a Page

    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
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories