Blog : Posts tagged with 'radio'

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The Knowledge

In which FP plots to go on the telly again


Regular readers of this site might be aware that, in the past year or so, I’ve appeared on telly a couple of times, showing off my inner geekiness. If you weren’t aware: specifically, I was a contestant on the 2009-10 series of Mastermind, parading my knowledge of French history (I won, hurrah!) and steam trains (lost, but not because of the trains).

It was all great fun and a grand couple of days out. Indeed, if you ever get the chance, I’d recommend going on either Mastermind, Countdown or Jeremy Kyle – they’re all filmed in studios alongside each other – because, if nothing else, the backstage food is very good* and it’s always nice to get pampered.**

Now, I’d never tried doing that sort of thing before, despite people saying “oh, you’re clever, you should enter [latest popular gameshow]”. And I don’t want to turn into one of those people who goes on every quiz show going, popping up every week somewhere across the TV schedules.*** But, even so, now the “you must not go on any other telly” bit of my Mastermind contract has (I think) expired, I’ve started casting an eye across the networks and thinking “maybe I could do that”.

I’m not sure that there’s much TV that I’m suited to, though. Definitely not that Channel 4 thing with Davina McCall, if it’s coming back, just because I don’t think I’m the sort of person who would get through their auditions. The more I look at the lists of game shows that are out there, the more I’m attracted to the ones where you don’t actually win anything material. Radio 4’s Brain Of Britain, for example – not TV but you get the point. I also quite fancy the thought of applying to Only Connect on BBC4, because I think I’m quite good at spotting links between things.**** The only problem is, that’s a team game; I don’t know anybody else who would want to do it (or even who watches it, apart from K), and I never know any of their music questions.

So – does anyone have any other cunning ideas? I will have to ponder it over, and see what I can enter. And, then, watch this space.

* Apart from their meringues, which were the worst meringues I’ve ever had – they had the texture of a stale bread roll.

** There were seeming armies of runners with nothing really to do other than be nice to nervous Mastermind contestants and their families. You couldn’t even try to get yourself a cup of water without a runner saying “oh, don’t get up, we’ll get that for you”.

*** Like the woman who beat me on Mastermind; at least, my mother said she’s spotted her on TV a few times before. I didn’t realise. Another of the contestants, too, was on A Question Of Genius not long ago.

**** If you don’t watch it: the aim is to spot connections between words or statements. A sample question: “12:00am, 1st January, 1970″ is one clue; “Newlyn” is another; the answer is “datum points”, because the former is the time datum for Unix-based operating systems, and the latter is the site of the altitude datum used by the Ordnance Survey. The full questions have 3 or 4 clues, but you get more points if you don’t use all of them.

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Sense of scale

In which we learn that a stable in the back garden could save one’s marriage


As usual, the radio was on this morning, on my way to work in the car. Which means: Thought For The Day, with its standard five minutes of anodyne and non-shocking religious platitudes. Today’s thought: isn’t it great that the Queen’s marriage has lasted so long? What can modern society learn from her? I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

One phrase, though, made me do a double-take. The speaker* said that in the face of the Duty which they were bound to carry out,** their marriage had been helped by: “the small things, like corgis and stables”

I’m sorry? Small things? A corgi might be able to get on your lap,*** but a stable? Not what your average couple would consider a little thing that would help a marriage along. I could just about fit a stable in my back garden, if I have to be honest, but there’s no way a horse would fit down the garden passage anyway. I’ve never really been sure who Thought For The Day is aimed at, but it clearly isn’t me, nor 90% of the people in this country. Coming soon, presumably: how contemplating the words of the 92nd psalm will help when disciplining your servants.

* the Right Reverend Dr Tom Butler, famous for breaking into a car and making a nuisance of himself whilst apparently drunk, shouting “I’m the Bishop of Southwark” and leaving behind paperwork proving he was indeed the said bishop, then later denying all knowledge and claiming he’d been mugged.

** You could almost hear the capital D

*** if it managed to jump up that high

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Interconnectedness

In which we consider the perils of an updated adaptation


When I was in my early teens, one of my favourite books – even though I didn’t really understand half of the plot at the time – was Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams. With a plot which was cobbled together from two separate Doctor Who stories, and which relies on the works of a poet I’ve never even read, it can be a little tricky to understand.* When I heard that it was going to be on Radio 4, I had to listen, purely to see if it was adaptable at all.

They haven’t done badly so far, to be honest, although the plot has been twisted round in various ways that, with one epiisode to go, don’t quite make sense yet. On the other hand, they haven’t quite pulled off updating the story to the present day – some parts would have been much better as a 1980s period piece.** And they did leave in half of my favourite joke.***

This isn’t meant to be a critique of the series, though, especially as it still has one episode to go. This is something I’ve spotted, which Radio 4 have been quiet about so far. Radio 4 are also going to dramatise the other Dirk Gently novel.

There’s a small clue on their website: it refers to DGHDA as the “first series”. Really, it’s a standalone book – the only characters apart from Dirk who pop up in the other book, The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul, are Miss Pearce and Sgt Gilks. What makes it so obvious, though, is that quite apart from the plot-based changes, the producers of the current radio series have made other changes to DGHDA, adding references to tLDTotS to link the two books together. I’m also pretty sure they’re going to change tLDTotS to add in characters from the first book, too, to try and present them as a cohesive pair.

Whether this will work or not is another matter. Bookwise, The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul is rather patchier and had more plot holes than Dirk Gently; although one of the things they both have in common is that small asides, or scenes which appear to be a quick joke, can turn out to be an important plot point later on.**** I’m enjoying the radio Dirk Gently so far, but I’m not completely convinced, and I don’t know why its adapters thought they had to do more to link the books together. Maybe I should write to them and ask.

* Particularly, you have to know that Coleridge’s Kubla Khan is, as far as poems go, pretty short. Wikipedia has a very thorough and spoiler-filled plot summary, which explains most of the trickier bits.

** How many people still use tape-based answering machines, instead of voicemail? How many people still refer to “car phones”? A story with a plot revolving around people leaving messages on answering machines, and stealing answering-machine tapes, doesn’t really make sense if you move it forward twenty years

*** “There’s no such word as herring in my dictionary!” Unfortunately, unless I wasn’t listening properly, they missed out the setup line which comes many scenes earlier.

**** At the start of Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul, Dirk had recently set up work as a fortune-teller, in drag, to get some cash in – but gave it up when everything he said, however outlandish, came true. It seems like a throwaway comic scene, at first – but in actual fact it contains important hints to what is going on later in the book.

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Commerciality

In which we recognise some music


I was pleased and slightly surprised the first time I heard the band Camera Obscura on the radio. I was even more surprised the first time I turned on the radio at random and heard a Camera Obscura song playing.*

We were sat, lazing about watching telly, the other night, and the adverts came on. There was an advert for Tesco clothes. With, I was rather amazed to realise, a Camera Obscura song as its backing. “Bloody hell,” I said, fainting slightly. However famous they keep on getting, I’m not sure I’m ever going to get used to it.

* it was on Radio Two, at about 4am on a Sunday morning; I was driving home from a certain Theatrical And Social Club and had just dropped a friend off at her house.

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It’s Only Natural

In which we are careful not to confuse “natural” and “beneficial”


Two things struck me about the coverage yesterday of Patricia Tabram‘s drugs conviction. Tabram, in case you didn’t see the news, is the Northumberland woman convicted of growing cannabis for medical reasons. She likes to claim that her conviction is part of a grand struggle for rights, like the right of everyone to vote, which is over-egging her pudding a little. She’s certainly been using her conviction as part of a broad political campaign,* but that’s about as far as the similarities go.

Anyway, interviewed on Radio 4 last night, she said something along the lines of: cannabis is good medicine because it’s natural. Prescription drugs are not because they’re full of chemicals.** Which, of course, is a load of nonsense. Some people like to use the word “chemicals” as if it’s some dark, lurking evil, and like to imply that anything grown on a plant is healthy and implicitly Good For You. Despite this, you rarely find them tucking into a nice meal of potato fruit and yew berries.*** How many different chemicals are in your average pill? A handful. How many different chemicals are in a marijuana leaf? Thousands.

Tabram also said that prescription medicine made her feel suicidal, but cannabis had no side-effects at all. That’s her experience, though. Everyone has different side-effects to any sort of drug, “natural” or otherwise; I’ve known several people who have had bad psychological reactions to cannabis. It may be relatively innocuous, but just because you’re fine with it doesn’t mean the person next to you will be. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

* Standing against Peter Hain at the last general election, appearing on the telly a lot, trying to get people to call her “the cannabis gran”, that sort of thing. I had second thoughts about mentioning her here, because I don’t like giving publicity to publicity-seekers, but frankly this blog is a drop in the ocean.

** Not her exact words, but that was the message she was trying to give.

*** I shouldn’t need to say this, but potato fruit are rather poisonous, and yew seeds are very poisonous indeed.

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Miscellany

In which various things happen, and FP listens to Thought For The Day


First Christmas present bought already, but I’m still going to have to devote the weekend to running around the county hoping desperately to find something inspirational. I’m not saying what I’ve already bought. It’s for my dad, and I don’t think he reads this place, but you never know.

When I get up in the morning, I have Radio 4 on in the background. I like Radio 4, but I normally try very hard to avoid listening to Thought For The Day, in case of the very real risk that it will make me want to throw the radio through the kitchen window.* Today though, I caught a quick flash of it. I can’t remember the exact phrase I heard, but it was something along the lines of “lots of Christians use phrases like ‘God willing’ and ‘if God wishes it’ all the time”. Which left me rather puzzled, because even though I’ve known a large number of devout Christians over the years, none of them have ever said any such thing in normal conversation. Maybe one of the good aspects of Thought For The Day is that it makes you realise there are people out there whose view of the world is so partial and skewed, that they really do believe they are standard conversational phrases, just because that’s what all their friends say.

I was talking to someone last night about the next Book I Haven’t Read that I’m going to write about: House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. “Oh, I don’t think anyone’s read that all the way through,” she said. “I don’t think you can.” So maybe I should invite additional contributions to the next Book I Haven’t Read post – if you have read House Of Leaves all the way through without cheating, let me know.

Big Dave says he’s found a flat now. A “one-bed studio flat”, or what people Up North** still call a bedsit. At least this means he has the weekend to do his Christmas shopping in, rather than worrying about property-hunting trips down to Barking and Beckton.

* especially if Anne Atkins is the writer/presenter.

** apart from if you’re a property developer, of course. Or you live in Leeds, probably.

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Little Touches

In which we know what’s happening in Dogger and German Bight


All clubs or venues, of any sort that play music or have a DJ, usually have one particular track that they use to say “right, people, it’s time to shift yourselves and go home so we can start clearing up.” Something slow, something relaxed, something that says “the night’s over, now move yourselves.”

There are several things I like about the Netherthong And Wooldale Theatrical And Social Club,* but one of them is its choice of “go home” music. Sailing By. Followed by the Shipping Forecast itself.** Like other aspects of the Netherthong And Wooldale, this appeals to my sense of humour. It’s often the little touches that make you smile*** more than the firmer ones.

* not its real name, but you’re getting used to this by now.

** Of course, if you’re not British, or have never stayed up listening to Radio 4 until 1am, you won’t know what either of these are anyway. You can read the current shipping forecast, though, or listen online.

*** Or laugh. Or giggle. Or go “Aaargh no! Stop it! Tickling!!!”

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Thank heaven for pseudoephedrine

In which tastes seem to be changing in a worrying direction


Because without it, I’d still be laid on the sofa with blocked sinuses and an awful headache.

Yesterday, whilst I was in that state, I was listening with my Dad to Radio 2,* to Arthur Smith‘s comedy clip series The Smith Lectures. And, during the show, he played Ford Kiernan‘s cover of the Coldplay song “Yellow”, done in a swing style.**

I was laid there listening to this, this annoying ballad redone as a nice cheerful piece of easy-listening swing, and I couldn’t help thinking: this is actually rather good. Certainly compared to the original: it has verve,*** it has wit, and it doesn’t have Chris Martin’s horrible whining all over it. But it’s swing. It’s Easy Listening! Am I getting old?

* it was his choice, I’d like to add, not mine.

** according to The Internet, it was released on his charity album Swing When You’re Mingin’.

*** but not The Verve, of course

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Changing seasons

In which it feels like summer


Today must have been the first day of summer.

I’m not saying that because the clocks change tonight,* or because the parents have gone on holiday, or for some other obscure astronomical reason. Today was the first day that really felt like summer. It’s not just about being warm, or sunny, but there’s something in the air. I wanted to go out into the garden and lie back in a deckchair sipping a gin and tonic. Of course, as I don’t have a deckchair, and couldn’t be bothered to nip down to the local branch of Deckchair World,** I didn’t. And now it’s pouring down again. That’s this year’s summer gone, then.

* they do, don’t they?

** “Do you need more deckchairs in your life? Come straight down to Deckchair World – we’ve got the deckchair to suit you! Green stripes! Red stripes! Blue stripes! Special offers galore – buy two deckchairs, get one free! Come down and see us – branches in Scunthorpe, Withernsea, Beverley, Barrow and Goole.” I’ve started listening to local radio a lot more recently, and it probably shows.

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On Display

In which the BBC are exhibitionists


One thing new about Saturday’s trip to the NMPFT: the museum now houses Bradford’s local BBC radio studio, usually used to broadcast BBC Radio Leeds. The studio and offices are in one of the ordinary museum galleries, with large windows* to make sure everybody gets a good look at the presenter at work.

Now, the BBC seems to have made a habit of doing this in the past few years. Their studio here moved from a cupboard in one of the council offices, to a shop by the bus station; again with big windows so passers-by can watch. The same has happened to their studios in Hull. Somewhere at the BBC, a few years ago, someone made a note: “all radio studios to have big windows for random passers-by”, and they’ve stuck to it ever since.

Thinking about it, I’m wondering where they came across the idea. Back in the 1990s, I rather liked the TV series Northern Exposure, which, as it happens, featured a local radio station which broadcast from an ordinary town shop, the DJ sitting by the window watching everyone pass by as he talked. Maybe, someone at the BBC is a Northern Exposure fan too, and ever since then has been doing their best to put the BBC’s radio presenters into public view.

* presumably with very sound-proof glazing.

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