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
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
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
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

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: Data Entry Administrator

    £10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

    £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

    £29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee