The week on radio
But if small-c conservatism isn't necessarily part of the human condition, it may well be part of our condition, here and now. It could be a global change, a reaction to the century that invented the phrase "I can remember when it was all trees round here"; or perhaps it's a purely local phenomenon, a reaction not to change pure and simple, but to injudicious, cocked-up change.
At any rate, this is the lesson you could draw from two programmes on Radio 4 this week. In Why Did We Do That? on Thursday, Chris Bowlby investigated the mania for urban motorways that laid waste so many towns and cities in the Sixties and Seventies; and on Friday morning the architect Maxwell Hutchinson began a six-part series, Back to the Drawing Board, on the impact his profession has had on Britain over the past 50 years.
One thing both programmes made clear was that change was welcomed enthusiastically by many people - bus companies ran tourist trips to admire the Preston by-pass. And the demolition of slums in favour of clean, modern council estates was not the imposition of a socialist utopia. Young architects often had an idealistic streak - dreams of building Le Corbusier's Radiant City - but they had a counter-balancing realism: as Hutchinson put it, you might have Veronica Lake pinned to your drawing-board, but you still loved your wife. Sadly, they were building in a hurry, with little firm knowledge of how modern materials would behave over time, or how people would react to new living arrangements, such as high-rise blocks.
Bowlby's diagnosis of the trouble with road-building was less sympathetic, perhaps because it isn't his profession, perhaps because town-planners had fewer excuses. Certainly it's hard to see the counter-balancing realism in Birmingham's dream that "tree-lined parkways" would help transform it into one of Europe's most beautiful cities. Luckily, the wave of urban road-building broke against London, the planners admitting defeat when computer projections of traffic flow suggested that Earls Court be replaced by a 14-lane motorway.
These sharply argued, well-made programmes offered nicely contrasted views of closely related subjects. This was probably mere accident, though, and could easily have been another example of the BBC failing to find new ideas, or remember the old ones. This week had a good example: a Radio 3 series on spa-towns called Taking the Waters, admirably complementing last year's Radio 2 feature on the same subject with the same title. And you thought the BBC was interested in novelty for its own sake.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...