Dissolution on Radio 4

C J Sansom’s Shardlake novels are amongst the most eagerly awaited in our household. And we are looking forward to hearing this adaptation on Radio 4 starting next Monday, 3rd September at 10.45 am.

Pan Macmillan – C J Sansom’s Dissolution to be broadcast on Radio 4


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.

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.

I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue

Series 57 of this much loved antidote to panel games has just started on Radio 4.

And I’m very excited because tonight, I am going to a recording at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

Two shows will be recorded tonight, each taking about an hour of real time, and then edited down to a little less than half an hour. Sometimes, the games don’t work, or the number of jokes is limited, so what we hear on the broadcast really is the best. I’ve been to a couple of recordings before: once in Tunbridge Wells and once at the London Palladium.

The audience is requested not to take photos, so I am unable to share the lovely pictures I have of the delightful assistant, Samantha who sits on the right hand of the chairman.

It may be the ‘antidote to panel games’ but its many games and catchphrases certainly permeate into the rest of our lives. I invariably smile inwardly when I’m on the Northern Line and pass by Mornington Crescent, the name of one of ISIHAC’s more esoteric rounds.

As I walk around, I sometimes think of new definitions to old words, possible candidates for the Uxbridge English Dictionary, but of course, I don’t write them down and my genius is lost to the world.

Sometimes I do try to sing one song to the tune of another. And that’s OK, until I realise that the local vicar has been following me along the road for who knows how long.

When I meet a Scotsman for the first time, I try very hard not to ask, “Ye’ll have had yer tea?”

Yes: series 57. It’s been going since 1972 and I’ve been a regular listener, on and off, for 40 years.

ISIHAC Radio 4 Monday 6.30pm and Sunday 12noon.

Oh and there’s a lot more here at Wikipedia. Not to mention the ISIHAC Official Website – but take care here, the theme tune starts playing straightaway, not ideal for work.

And here on Amazon there’s a multitude of Clue merchandise, including old shows, books, cassettes, CDs, limericks, games but sadly, not a photo album featuring Samantha.

Radio 4 (etc) – Ziggy Stardust Memories and Ulysses

We’ve been away for a while. Up in the Lake District, since you ask. Absolutely stunning scenery, of course. Sunshine helps but we had some rain too. Sorry I didn’t send a postcard, but I hope this will make up for it.


There’s a lot of catching up to do as far as this blog is concerned.

I’m still listening to, and enjoying, Ulysses as broadcast of Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago. It seems to have been well-received by most, going by newspaper reviews and the Feedback programme. (Apart from it disrupted the usual Radio 4 schedule.) And so, far, I’m enjoying it too. Am I more likely to go and read the book now? Hmmm, who knows.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the release of David Bowie’s top album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The album is, of course, being remastered, remixed and re-released. But I’ll stick with my original 12″ vinyl album for now, thanks! Played at maximum volume, of course.

There are at least two documentaries on radio about the album. The latest was on Radio 4 at the weekend. Midge Ure explores the story behind the ground-breaking album.

BBC – BBC Radio 4 Programmes – The Stardust Memories.

Previously, there was a documentary presented by Gary Kemp. It was broadcast in three formats: a half-hour version on the World Service, an hour long version on Radio 2 but the longest, two-hour  version was on BBC 6 Music. In it, Gary explores the story behind the ground-breaking album.

Radio 2 – Ziggy Played Guitar (not availble to re-play)

World Service – Ziggy Changed my Life (still available to listen again)

6 Music – Ziggy Changed my Life (not available)

Plus there was a Ziggy Stardust evening on BBC 4 last Friday. I nearly missed it, being, as I was, otherwise occupied up in the Lakes. But a quick check reveals the following still on the iPlayer:

David Bowie at the BBC – in concert at the Radio Theatre (2001 I think)

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – Ziggy’s last ever show, July 1973

David Bowie and the Story of Ziggy Stardust – Jarvis Cocker explores the story behind the ground-breaking album

The Genius of David Bowie – his songs performed by others

That’s enough TV I think: you’ll be getting square eyes, as my Mum used to say.

Loose Ends, Desert Island Discs, Cerys Matthews

Well that was a strange Sunday morning. I heard Broadcasting House OK but a long, long-distance phone call to my daughter, newly arrived in Sydney, meant that I missed both Cerys Matthews on 6 Music and Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. I usually hear one or the other, but this week, I shall look forward to hearing both while at work.

Desert Island Discs – this week’s guest is Tim Minchin.

Cerys Matthews – 6 Music – this week, Cerys celebrates the written word with Trembling Bells and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy live. And next week, her guest is Anaïs Mitchell, who as I’ve mentioned before, we saw in concert a couple of years ago so I look forward to that too.

But I am listening to last night’s Loose Ends mainly to hear Alison Steadman. We saw her just last week on stage at Kingston’s Rose Theatre in the newly revived (and revised?) Michael Frayn play called ‘Here’. I found it hard to watch, I couldn’t emapathise with the characters, but there’s nothing wrong with some challenging theatre once in a while. It’s on at The Rose until next Saturday, 12th May, so buy some tickets now.

Also on the current Loose Ends is actor Richard Wilson and top mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, both of whom are sort of heroes of mine.

Loose Ends – Radio 4.

Saturday Live, Bob Harris Country, Cerys Matthews, Mahalia Jackson

Saturday Live is growing. From the coming weekend, it will be 90 minutes each week, so it’s not only more of the same but also it will include what used to be Excess Baggage, which is no longer a separate entity.

As explained before, I usually listen to the programme a while after the broadcast, sometimes maybe weeks after. The benefit of this is that I can fast forward through those segments that I’m not particularly interested in. It has to be said, though, that this is a very rare occurrence.

Right, this week’s first long-lengtyh, extended Saturday Live will include the usual features: this week’s Poet is Luke Wright and the Inheritance Tracks are those of Cilla Black. Guests include David Cassidy and Patrick Duffy, ideal for those (like me) who were around in and still have affection for the 1970s. Presenter Richard Coles will be joined by Sian Williams.

Saturday Live on Radio 4.

My workday experience was enormously enhanced yesterday and today by listening to Bob Harris Country. I’m a little bit behind with the show, so I’ve only just caught up with his 1960s Special. And to use one of Bob’s own favourite words, it was ‘amazing’! At several points during the show, I thought he’d been cherry-picking from my parents’ own (albeit limited) record collection. Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash were all available at home during my childhood.

Usually, Radio 2 shows are up on the iPlayer for 7 days, until replaced by the following week’s show. But the good news is: as I write, there are many previous programmes up there. Which is good news for me. Bob alluded to a previous programme from a few months ago, a 1950s special. Well, I missed that at the time, but I now look forward to hearing it. (That one was 27/10/2011, by the way.)

Bob Harris Country on Radio 2.

On last week’s Loose Ends, Cerys Matthews poke about the documentary she’d made for Radio 4, called ‘Conjuring Halie’, about the delightful gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. I’ve often said that despite being the nation’s major speech station, Radio 4 does come up with some of the best music documentaries.

Conjuring Halie is repeated on Radio 4 tomorrow, Saturday 5th May at 3.30pm, and will be on the iPlater for a week after that.

Conjuring Halie – Mahalia Jackson – on Radio 4.

Loose Ends on Radio 4.

And finally: if you donated material to the national archive and then, thirty-odd years later, find one of the items up for sale on eBay, you’d be a bit miffed, right? Well, this happened to J. David Goldin, from Connecticut. But he did the right thing: he tracked down the thief, who is now serving time.

Read the full, heart-warming story here in the Washington Post.