BBC – Radio 4 – The New Elizabethans

This is a long series in which James Naughtie gives us a short profile of 60 prominent British people, who have had a noticeable effect on us during this new Elizabethan era.

The programmes are always interesting, even when I haven’t even heard of the subject before. Yes, it’s obvious that someone must have pioneered and popularised the idea of package holidays, but have you herad the name Vladimir Raitz before? I hadn’t.

Today’s programme was about David Bowie. As a fan, I obviously felt he deserved a longer programme but I think the 15 minutes was pretty good, despite at least one factual error. I don’t think Mr Bowie recorded that duet with Bing Crosby five years after Crosby had died.

Still, it was good to see that he was recognised as one of just 60 New Elizabethans. The good news is, it looks as though this series will be up on the iPlayer for a long time.

BBC – Radio 4 – The New Elizabethans.

Welcome to London 1958

So, the Tour de France is over and I think we all did very well. Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins for becoming the first Brit ever to with Le Tour – its 99th outing. And also to Mark Cavendish for winning the final stage on the Champs Elysées. And to me for watching more of it on TV this year than, probably, ever.

And now of course we’re into tthe Olympics. We’ve already watched the Mens’ and Womens’ Cycling Road Race out on the road near Hampton Court and we’re looking forward to the Time Trials on Wednesday over at Hampton Court Palace. We have tickets for the Water Polo (yes, honest) in a couple of weeks’ time. Other than that, we’ll watch some of the other sports on TV until interest waivers, or naff or inept commentary or inane or disrespectful interviews drive us away. Yeah, well, I mean, it was amazing.

But what’s going on on radio? There’s a ‘new’ Tony Hancock sketch on Radio 4 Extra which I’m looking forward too.

BBC Radio 4 Extra – Hancock’s Half Hour, Welcome to London 1958.

The Proms are in full swing but I have discovered that listening to a classical music concert while I’m out walking the streets doesn’t really work. The volume has to be quite high so you can hear the quiet passages and then of course, it’s far too loud during the loud sections. But at home, I’ve enjoyed again some Beethoven symphonies so far and some strange music by Sibelius.

BBC – Proms – BBC Proms homepage.

If you’re quick, ie, within 10 hours or so of pressing the ‘Publish’ button on this thing, you can listen to a dramatisation of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I haven’t heard it yet: I’m saving it for a rainy day.

Treasure Island.

 

 

Le Tour de France

Well, on the whole, I prefer radio to TV. And I’m not much of a sports fan either. But these three weeks each year are a bit different chez Radio Top Soup.

The only sports event I choose to watch pretty much from start to finish every year is the Tour de France. Coverage on TV has increased over the years. I know, I could always have paid a subscription  to watch the event, but paying for any TV goes against the grain: there are higher financial priorities.

It used to be on Channel 4, and has now migrated to ITV4 but with the same group of commentators, Paul Sherwen, Phil Liggett, Chris Boardman and Gary Imlach.

At the time of writing, two British riders are leading the tour, Bradley wiggins and Chris Froome, both from the Sky team. World champion Mark Cavendish is also a member of this team. All three have so far won a stage of this year’s tour.

And a fourth British rider, David Millar, won today’s stage, the longest this year.

Congratulations to all of them. And good luck to Bradley and your sideburns, we hope you reatin the leader’s yellow jersey right up to Paris in 9 days time.

Coverage of the Tour is available on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra but i feel, in this case, radio commentary is a second best.

Given the amount of British succes this year, I’ve often had to leap across the room to turn the radio off as the news reader announces ‘the latest on the Tour de France’. If I haven’t yet watched, I don’t want to know how it ends!

Tour de France on ITV4.

The Offocial TdF site.

The Shipping Forecast

There’s nothing like lying in bed at night, not quite asleep, with the wind and rain lashing against the windows and then suddenly you realise it’s that time: they’re playing Sailing By, a lovely, emotive tune to introduce the shipping forecast.

I walk around the streets for a living, whatever the weather. I can’t imagine what it’s like being out in the open sea in really bad weather, day after day. My dad was in the Royal Navy during the war and I wish he had told us more about his maritime experiences. I always think of him when I hear the Shipping Forecast.

I hope this programme continues to be broadcast when we are forced to listen to digital radio, and only digital.

The combination of Sailing By with the soothing tones of, typically, Alice Arnold, almost, just almost, makes insomnia worthwhile.

The Shipping Forecast is currently on Radio 4 at 00:48 every night and at 05:20 in the morning. In addition, on Radio 4 longwave, it’s on at 17:54.

The Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4.

Bob Harris Country

Despite the drizzle this morning, that threatened a more torrential downpour, I kept my spirits up by listening to the most recent editions of Bob Harris Country.

Last night’s guest was Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her set was really enjoyable and I wouldn’t expect anything else.

Bob’s guest last week was one Carrie Underwood who I’ve probably heard before, but this was the first time I’ve heard her being interviewed. And she came across as a really enthusiatic musician, yes, but she seems to have her head screwed on, and keen to enjoy ‘real life’ as well. She is university educated, recently married, looking forward to having children.

And I thought, what a great girl. Very real.

The big surprise is that she is the winner of the 2005 series of American Idol. Yes, really. Carrie and Bob mentioned it on the programme and Wikipedia confirms it.

Now I’m not a big fan of any of these ‘reality TV’ ‘Talent shows’. It annoys me that what happens in them becomes news items. If I were that interested, I’d watch the programmes.

And whenever I do happen to come across a participant or even a winner from one of these shows, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Pop Idol, the Voice, there’s loads of them, I am invariably underwhelmed by their personality.

So is Carrie Underwood the exception who proves that such programmes can have real value? I suspect she’s a one-off. So, no, I still won’t be watching these programmes on TV. Thanks for asking.

But I will be acquiring some Carrie Underwood music to soothe my ears.

Bob Harris Country – Radio 2 every Thursday 7pm – unusually, this page isn’t being kept up to date. At the time of writing, July 6, it lists ‘sessions coming up’ in February and March.

Sounds of the 60s

It’s great to listen to radio for the surprises, to hear music that you’ve not heard before and to hear people talking about something interesting that had previously passed you by maybe.

But sometimes, it’s comforting to listen to old favourites, it requires less concentration and it can bring back some marvellous memories. One such programme that i listen to regularly is Brian Matthew’s Sounds of the 60s – a show that has been broadcast for 30 years. It’s the half-a-diamond jubilee, so to speak.

Thankfully, he plays somgs that didn’t make it into the hit parade, it would become boring otherwise. But most of the music does have the 60s vibe to it. Sometimes he’ll play a record, and it will bring back visions of my Mum singing along while stirring the washing in the copper. Yes: a copper fudll of nearly boiling water, Daz, clothes and a big stick to stir it all up. We’d never even heard of washing machines at that time. But the point is, my Mum was a lovely singer, of opo music yes, but especially of old, traditional Scottish folk songs.

But this morning as I belatedly listened to last week’s programme, I was surprised, even shocked, and disappointed: Brian Matthew played a ’60s record that I didn’t like. Some of them I love, they’re great songs, some I like because off the associated memories, the rest are enjoyable and I won’t notice if I never hear them again.

But to hear a record that I chose to fast forward through, well, that’s a first. I won’t name the song, but you have a couple of days in which to listen to the programme – I suspect you’ll be able to work out which song is out of place.

Sounds of the 60s – BBC Radio 2 every Saturday, 8-10am.

BBC Radio 2 – The Ballads of the Games

The Ballads of the Games is a six-part series for BBC Radio 2 exploring the agony and the ecstasy of the Olympics, in the words of people who were there and through songs inspired by their stories.

The format is adapted from one created by Ewan McColl and Charles Parker in the 1950s, broadcast on the BBC Home Service. So it seems that even then, the nation’s Speech station was responsible for the best Music documentaries!

The first episode of Ballads of the Games takes us from the original games in 776 BC Greece through the origin of the modern Olympics movement in… Much Wenlock, Shropshire. There are some funny and some moving stories from previous London Olympics in 1908 and 1948.

BBC Radio 2 – The Ballads of the Games.

And of course, a hat-tip to Mike Harding who alerted us to this series during his own fantastic show on Radio 2.