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
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
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: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003