RADIO
WHEN Peter White arrived in York for his first job, his brief was to organise a gang of skiving teenage tearaways into useful citizens. He was 21 but looked 16, a small, scared southerner with buck teeth, totally blind. His contemporaries thought that he, like other "crips" should be selling poppies or weaving baskets, but he had other plans.

In See It My Way (R4), White remembered how he coped. Using braille playing cards, he challenged the lads to a game of poker. His luck was in that night and he fleeced the lot of them. Of course, they thought he had cheated and were mighty impressed by this unlikely Al Capone, so he built on it. His student years had given him a stronger head than theirs, so he took them to the pub and drank them legless on their own money. He never looked back. By the end, they were teasing him, hiding his phone or moving the dartboard when he was practising, to the certain peril of the populace.

What these boys didn't realise was that they had helped him to grow up. Listening, we understood. White is such a natural broadcaster, so utterly free from self-pity that it's remarkable that he once saw himself so negatively. Give a really brave man an impossible job and just see how he flourishes.

As jobs go, to act a talking dog is a tough assignment, especially when the dog is Russian. Satan needed a little surgery to loosen his vocal cords, then he sounded nearly human. He was one of Aesop's Astronauts (R4), animals whose experience of space travel left them with AES, or Accelerated Evolution Syndrome and the power of speech. Oh all right, it's nonsense, but what a great idea. Christopher Rozycki played Satan with a guttural growl and the tendency to snap out his orders, generally "Give biscuit" or "Rub head".

Naughtily billed as a drama documentary, Tony Mulholland's play brought back the excitement of the early days of space travel, when literally anything seemed possible. The talking dog was followed by Toyah Willcox as a demonic Lolita of a cat and then by a couple of serious monkeys called Jethro and Austin who escaped from the laboratory to make very successful, if gibbering, pop records. It was terrific.

Even more surreal was Heartache (R4), written by cartoonist Mel Calman. This was a conversation between Brain, Stomach, Heart and Penis, carried on while the owner of these organs was in hospital recovering from a heart attack - and likely to be given another by the machinations of his fiendish ex-wife. Given poignancy by the fact that its author died of a heart attack while writing it, it was, none the less, extremely funny: what delighted Stomach or Penis - fried food or the nubile nurse - seriously bothered Heart, especially when Brain was asleep. Penis was cavalier: "If I'm happy, everyone is happy," he insisted - to be told he was behaving like a teenager.

He'd have been happy at The Wild Party (R4). The very best radio actress around, Lorelei King, played Queenie, the heroine of Joseph Moncure March's cult poem of the New York jazz age. Introduced by the poet Simon Armitage, it is a sleazy, sexy tale of lust, drunken betrayal and revenge, written in often appalling verse (where else would you find satyr rhyming with - or even in the same context as - percolator?), but in Viv Beeby's intensely atmospheric production, it projected the urgency and dramatic horror of a classic.

Still in America, Simon Armitage went to visit the home of Emily Dickinson, The Amherst Myth (R4). He was just the man for the job, with his gift of perceptive, ironic understatement. People always wonder why Dickinson was so reclusive: there are many theories, but Armitage, having been reverently conducted around the homestead, thought it was probably just because she preferred it at home. But he certainly admires her. Her reluctance to publish might have sprung from a fear of her work being edited and "improved": it's hard to pretend you're ordinary when you're not, said Armitage. He should know.

"Who else would I get with your looks, charm and personality?" the Queen of Romance (R2) was asked in the first episode of Stephen Sheridan's new series, largely a star vehicle for Lesley Joseph. The answer came from her disenchanted sidekick: "You could always try one of the Brooke Bond monkeys." This is a sitcom packed full of one-liners but implausible in narrative: more com than sit. The plot hinged on our heroine having doctored a fine old bottle of Burgundy without, apparently, having opened it. Nice work, if you can do it; if you can do it, tell me how.

From Romance to Valentines. Floating about on all the slush were some elegant bouquets. I liked a dedication read out by Susan Sharpe on Cupid's Choice (R3). This man wanted Mozart's concerto for violin and viola, because in that work nobody gets to play second-fiddle. But alas, he proved to be as dotty as all the others. He sent, I'm afraid, love from Augustus to Matron and mentioned sharing carrot brandy - carrot? Do I need new batteries in my radio? Or a hearing-aid?

Kevin McGee knows about romantic dalliance. He was this week's living poet, nominated by a Kaleidoscope (R4) listener, and his poems were marvellous. Unfortunately, it's the silliest one that I've had on the brain ever since, so you can have it, too. " 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house I was chasing my wife with an axe/ It's not that she's such a despicable spouse - it's just how we like to relax."

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