These fishermen did nothing but eat - Rosie, wife of one and mother of another, fried them a vast breakfast, then sent them off with a boot full of baguettes, buckets of bait and instructions to bring home some large bass. Twenty minutes later they were back, asking for coffee; it was too rough for the boat so they had to opt for the shore. This meant different bait, so Rosie, heroic provider (or lobotomised slave, depending on your sympathies), found a huge bag of frozen cockles, with which they hoped to tempt the odd mullet. In their dreams. Jocularly, Rosie said she'd settle for a flounder, which seemed a likelier prospect, given her men.
Next, we were on the harbour wall hurling not warmish, microwaved cockles, but mean-looking Thames Estuary ragworms out on to the tide. At this point came the only piece of real piscatorial advice in the whole mystifying half-hour. Pay attention please. You should thread your Estuarine ragworm all through the hook or you could lose your rag with the inertia. Now that I could believe.
It began to rain. Our gallant crew repaired to the pub but the presenter, one Mr Fisher, was determined to take home some fish. He went to a stall and bought, guess what, blooming cockles. I suspected, glumly, that Rosie would be thrilled. And, yes, the poor dear gasped that they were "orgasmic".
They had actually caught some mini-bass which had to be thrown back. These are apparently called chequers, which brings us to Norma Major and her newly raised profile. On Tuesday morning she allowed a respectful Helen Fraser Inside Chequers (R4). The place is immaculate. Carpets are always Hoovered in the same direction, so that no lines appear. What do they do, pick up the Hoover and carry it back across the floor? Nobody said, but when it's done, the staff have to remove their shoes. The towels must hang so that the labels don't show and all the toilet rolls are, if not brand new, pretty full. All this is designed to make the incumbent PM feel at home. No wonder nice Mrs Major missed being able to potter. Still, she has used her time valuably and learnt to swim. The woman who helped gave a touching picture of her progress from float to water-wings to aquatic freedom in the pool.
There was a comic moment when she described taking Yeltsin for a walk to the pub, which was shut. Hammering on the door, they announced the arrival of the President of Russia. Back came the landlord's voice: "Oh yes, and I'm the Kaiser."
Leaving well-run households far away, R4 took us to the inhospitable island of St Kilda on Monday night, for a play about an 18th-century wife and mother with no house or family to care for. Judith Adams's Burdalane told the true story of Rachel, Lady Grange, wife of a closet Jacobite and mother of 10 children, who was imprisoned, fitfully mad and frequently drunk, while her husband cavorted with a new wife and got into Parliament.
It is a tale of gothic melodrama. Lady Grange had endured three mock funerals and been locked for months in a cupboard before being banished to St Kilda but, gradually, when treated kindly and denied the whisky, she recovered her wits, though she was never to return to Edinburgh. The island is densely populated by seabirds, whose cries were interwoven with the voices in her head and with Paddy Cuneen's haunting, plangent score. Supported by a strong cast, Kathryn Hunter's performance as Rachel was chilling, and magnificent.
Department Score (R3) is the uncomfortable title of a promising new musical quiz. In the first round, three students at Cardiff challenged a team from Birmingham University, answering fiendishly difficult questions about all kinds of music, from Buxtehude to Blur. It provoked the kind of dazed admiration prompted by the specialist round of Mastermind, and offered a few interesting snippets of information to be salted away for possible future use. Well, maybe. Here's one: the other name for a Renaissance wind instrument we all know (don't we?) as a sausage bassoon is a racket. You never know: you might thank me for that one day.
Finally, the week's most unmissable broadcasting came from Sir Alec Guinness who was reading each morning from his diary. My Name Escapes Me (R4) he calls it, with typical self-deprecation. Don't you believe a word of it. Nothing escapes him. He chronicles the tiresome irritations of old age with a rare, wry detachment: "I made enticing cooing noises," he said, "to what I took to be a pale pigeon on the lawn. It turned out to be a knuckle-bone left by one of the dogs."
His sight may be letting him down, but his perceptiveness and gift for turning a phrase are as sharp as ever. There was a marvellous account of an open-air Mass in St Peter's Square when heavy rain turned an armada of starched coifs limp, and a thousand nuns fell silent without a shot being fired. Sitting on the soaked red plush of his chair was, he said, like settling into a chilled, sodden summer pudding.
His diary is full of memories - of Coral Browne's splendid earthiness, of Leonard Cheshire's devastating modesty, of Googie Withers's warm kindliness, but my favourite bit was his rhapsody about the Shipping Forecast. For him, it is romantic, authoritative, mesmeric and understandable. He loves its impartiality, the way no moral judgement interferes with the reader's cool announcement that, while visibility is rising slowly in Finisterre, it is falling fast in Dover. And despite his enthusiasm for our inshore waters, he evinced not the slightest interest in fishing.Reuse content