Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do I know how to be a person? Well, yes, I do, but it’s not thanks to Radio 4

Caunes-Minervois, Langudoc
The great thing about the internet, quite apart from giving me the chance to bore people the world over and not just in my immediate surroundings and social circle, is that when you are abroad you are able to continue listening to Radio 4. Wherever there is a wifi signal, whether here in Caunes-Minervois or the back of beyond in the Australian outback – I’m assuming broadband has reached those parts because the reference is completely hypothetical – all I need do is fire up my internet radio app (I use Tunein Radio on both my smartphone and iPod touch, but, as they say with one eye on the lawsuit, other apps are available) and within half a minute I can listen to the News At One, Just A Minute, Great Lives or, if I’m really bored and really have nothing better to do, the fucking Archers.

Here comes the first bucket of cold water: there is a certain British type – it’s insisted that we are all ‘individuals’ and that there is no such thing as types, to which I say nonsense, the world is full of ‘types’ – who will describe – usually herself, but not exclusively – as ‘addicted to Radio 4’ or some such nonsense. In fact, it is part of their self-image, and for the aspirants among them listening to Radio 4 is de rigueur if they are to have any chance of being taken seriously by the social circle to which they would like to belong. Well, I am not ‘addicted to Radio 4’.

(A few months ago, Radio 4 ran a series of utterly nauseating ads along those lines with all kinds of celebrities informing the world just why they ‘loved’ Radio 4 and why it was ‘essential listening’ and such an ‘intricate part of their life’. I describe the ads as nauseating because I would want to vomit each time I heard one. In fact, I did once, although to be fair the ad wasn’t the cause of my bout of vomiting but merely the catalyst. The cause was far too much cheap red wine).

I listen to the programmes which interest me and avoid those which don’t, of which there is quite a long list, very prominent among the being The Write Stuff, which has middle-class smuggery oozing from its pores and Saving The Planet (of Costing The Earth as they insist on calling is). But why, I hear you all asking yourselves, from the West Coast of the U.S. to the East Coast of the former USSR and all points north and south, is today’s rant about Radio 4 when the chap is sitting in the Languedoc and surely has far more French aspects of life to rant about? Well, I shall tell you.

Yesterday, I was listening to one of the Radio 4 programmes I do like, Great Lives, and it was about the film director Karel Reisz. The host was Mathew Parris, everyone’s favourite public gay (or one of them, the list is now growing ever since the Western World was finally persuaded that gays aren’t (a late edit: aren’t instead of are. Thank Christ for late edits. I might well have ended up in court) necessarily the Devil Incarnate) and one of his guests was Stephen Frears, one of our very own British directors who might be known beyond North London and BBC White City. And Mr Frears came out with a line which ultimately led up to this rant. Karel Reisz, Mr Frears informed Radio 4 land and its people, had ‘taught him how to be a person’. Do you understand what he meant? No, I didn’t, either, so I’ll repeat it in case your attention wandered there for a moment: Karel Reisz taught Mr Frears ‘how to be a person’.

For the rather more slow-witted among you, of which there are surely one or two, I should point out that ‘taught him’ is not meant literally. It’s more along the lines of ‘Frears learnt how to be a person from Mr Reisz’. And I’ll repeat the question: what the fuck does it mean? What can it mean? Of course, there’s the possibility that I am simply too thick to understand what Frears was trying to say. And, to be honest, I can vaguely glimpse what he might be trying to say, but that doesn’t make it any the less pretentious. Yet Radio 4 in particular and our broadsheets and many folk in general are apt to applaud such sentiments as ‘so human’.

Well, not me, squire. Perhaps I’m lucky, perhaps I’m one of the saved, but when it comes to knowing ‘how to be a person’, I find I have no problems whatsoever and need no lessons from anyone. I might indeed need lessons in other respects, for example, in ‘knowing how to be a bit more tolerant’ and ‘knowing how to be a little less irascible’, but not knowing how to ‘be a person’. No, dear hearts, it’s rather like falling off a log, and anyone who needs to be taught ‘how to fall off a log’ really is in trouble. Tune into Radio 4 is my advice.

. . .

Yesterday it was off to the Chateau Lastours just down the road, which is rather spectacular. It is, in fact made up of three castles, all of which were built on top of rather steep hills in the
The Chateau Lastours in Languedoc. Jewson's had a terrible time getting all the necessary up there, but they managed it
11th century, although they were demolished a century or two later and rebuilt on more or less the same spot when Languedoc finally became part of the kingdom for France and they were used to guard the kindgom’s southern frontier. This is ‘Cathar’ country (as big signs everywhere inform us), and there are a great many castles hereabout, of which I intend to see a few more.

My brother is a little less enthusiastic – ‘is it another bloody castle? We’ve already seen one, they’re all the same!’ – but if necessary I shall take off on my own. There is one particularly spectacular one about 50 miles south of us. Then, of course, there’s still Carcassonne castle to investigate, except that the hordes of tourists does the tourist trap surrounding it, which is horribly reminiscent of a slightly – but only slightly – upmarket Disneyland. Once expects a giant Mickey Mouse to appear above the castles, waving frantically and urging us all to buy as much tourist tat as we are physically able to carry off.


  1. use radio 4 podcasts, saves you having to listen to the boring stuff :-)

  2. I do, and download several more from Radio 3, especially the bits which don't sound like outtakes from Classic FM