Category Archives: Radio

Give it a Dent

‘Do you feel like lying down in front of the tree-cutters next week?’ I asked the Resident IT Consultant. He did not wish to channel his inner Arthur Dent, so I suspect neither of us will demonstrate our displeasure with Stirling Council (and yes, I’m sure those plans have been there for anyone to see for a long time. I mean, we do know about them, so…) in the near future.

But we ought to. Do it. Wanting is saying too much, but why would we want them to spend £3m on something really stupid and unnecessary, when at the same time they need to cut down on services because they need to save £8m. If they were to ask me, I could show them how they would only need to find a way to not spend £5m.

We’re not activists. But even if we were, can one afford to engage in physical protest at a time like this? Fear of covid means no one is likely to get up close to any workers, to prevent the council from chopping down a dozen huge trees to make way for a road no one needs.

What I suspect might happen is that it’s too late to save the trees, so they will go. And then someone has second thoughts or discovers they don’t actually have the money after all, and nothing much happens. But let’s start by demolishing a wooded green area near the town centre.

I’ve often wanted to believe I was an Arthur Dent, slightly ridiculous, but a little bit brave, standing up for my rights. Not this time.

With a little help from Patricia

I now know what I am doing. Maybe.

A friend sent me the link to a recent Winter programme on Swedish Radio. Even for someone like me, in exile, it makes sense, because there were always Summer programmes, and one has to assume Winter is the same. Except in winter.

It seemed to be.

They are very popular, and ‘everyone’ listens to them. I don’t know how they find the time! I really wanted to listen to this one, but setting aside 90 minutes isn’t easy. In the end I cut the vegetables for a while, and then had a solitary lunch.

The pattern for the programmes is that someone – usually famous, or important/interesting for some reason – talks about their lives and plays music. A sort of Desert Island Discs.

This time it was Patricia Tudor-Sandahl, who is English but who has lived in Sweden since 1964. The other side of me, so to speak. I only knew Patricia as a psychologist, having read her column in a weekly magazine for some years. But it seems there are books, too.

And it was those that pointed the way. Patricia had been interviewed by someone who asked what sort of books she writes. Her answer was ‘the kind of books she wants to read’. Not unusual in itself, but as quite a few are not fiction, I found her reply more interesting, even if it should make no difference at all.

It made me realise that I blog what I’d like to read. That sounds presumptuous, I know. But what I mean is that I like to find other blogs like mine. And while I search I write what it is I need to write, in the hopes that someone else out there was waiting for the drivel I am offering them.

Anyway, this realisation went slightly deeper than I had expected.

As for Patricia, she spoke of her humble beginnings in Manchester – which I did not know about – having tin baths and trying to stay warm while her father fought in the war. And how she was in such a need to get away, and with a choice of Turkey or Sweden, she went to Sweden and never left. Her first job was teaching us all English, alongside Ian Dunlop who was famous on television in the 1960s.

Like me, she has adopted many, many Swedish things in her new life, but she will never be Swedish. I needed to hear that.

And I’d not listened to Mikis Theodorakis’s Zorba for far too long.

Madam, won’t talk

In case you missed it, and it’s a wonder I didn’t, since I never listen to the radio: Radio 4, Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? part one today, second part next Sunday.

It was bliss, even at the halfway mark. I’m never sure I will be able to tell the characters’ voices apart on radio, but this worked fine. And their David is perfect. As is Mr Byron/Coleridge/Shelley/Wordsworth.

Over eleven years since I reviewed the new edition of Mary Stewart’s best book, and many many years since I first read it. Obviously. That review revealed that I now know lots of fans of this gorgeous romantic thriller, but I note that we still haven’t gone on that group trip to Stewart settings.

Medals for ‘my’ boys

It’s good to know the witch senses are working just fine. I could simply not see any other outcome regarding the Carnegie Medal than that Anthony McGowan would be awarded it for Lark. It could have happened sooner, but this way we got all four books of the trilogy in.

(And I’m saying this even keeping in mind the competition Tony was up against.)

For the Kate Greenaway medal it was Shaun Tan for his Tales From the Inner City (which I’ve yet to read). One of my most favourite illustrators, and I’m more than satisfied.

This year the proceedings were short and on Radio 4, on Front Row. They interviewed both Tony and Shaun and both read from their books, and explained the background to what they’d written. Tony got so excited he had to be interrupted in the middle of his ‘terrific’ answer…

According to Shaun ‘painting is really a way of exploring anxiety’. Plenty of that around.

Yep, very satisfied with this.

Anthony McGowan, Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 from CILIP CKG Children’s Book Awards on Vimeo.

Genre?

By turning as French as I can – no mean feat for a non-French speaker – I have retrieved the ability to say ‘genre.’ Which is good, because one sometimes has to say it. Out loud, and so others can hear what you’re on about. It was while I interviewed Anthony McGowan about five years ago I discovered that for the life of me I couldn’t say the blasted word.

To get round this handicap, I’ve had to avoid using it, or to spell it.

When I was young, and tremendously foreign, I learned this word. Both what it meant, and how to ‘say it in Swedish.’ It involved saying it really wrong, in a kind of pidgin Swench. I don’t know whether Swedes now know better, or still say it like that.

As to its meaning, well, it stands for sub-categories of fiction, like crime, or romance, or sci-fi. All very nice categories. And useful if you want to specify what something is about. Because that’s what I took it to mean, a useful labelling tool. Not that it might indicate anything less worthy.

But that’s what it’s come to. At least in Britain. Maybe it was always thus. Maybe the term was invented, or adopted into the English language, in order to refer to rubbish fiction, on a completely different level than Literary Fiction.

A couple of months ago the word and its meaning came at me from two totally different directions at the same time. One was a question on a Swedish book newsletter site, where someone was asking ‘What does genre mean?’ Except they did it in Swedish. And I think the question was prompted by the discovery of the more British use of the word.

The other was on social media, where someone reported a programme they’d listened to, which went roughly like this:

(I asked permission to use it.) It’s not an exact quote or anything; more an idea of how people actually think, and are not ashamed to admit to in public. But basically, anything not very good is genre.

It’s very snobbish.

I read practically only genre fiction. By which I mean several genres, like children’s, or crime. It’s really good stuff. Sometimes I read Literary Fiction. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it isn’t and that’s when I remind myself why I prefer children’s books and crime. Although, some really Literary authors have been known to lower themselves to genre-writing. Quite often something seems to go wrong when they do.

The emergency quiche

You are under the impression you’ve coined an expression, and then it turns out you’re not alone. At. All.

We eat emergency quiche here. Not in national emergencies, but more when for whatever reason we can’t make dinner [in time]. They are generally bought, in order to be convenient, but would obviously taste better if home made. Trouble with home made is they are often gone by the time we have the emergency.

Last week the Resident IT Consultant discovered they have emergency quiche in The Archers! Seems they have unexpected explosions as well, so I am grateful we only have the pastry, egg and cheese concoction.

Today we have emergency Daughter in the kitchen, by which I mean she’s not on the menu, but in charge of making what’s on the menu. It’ll be a lot nicer than quiche.

Desert islands

Have I been doing this for too long?

On Sunday I was minding my own business, hanging the washing, absent-mindedly catching the last bit of Desert Island Discs as listened to by my Sunday chef, the Resident IT Consultant. While I rarely listen to the radio, I do like Desert Island Discs.

I heard the ‘victim’ say he needed Alice in Wonderland as his book. Apparently all the editions in the world, but this was disallowed. Some people…

And then we moved on to his luxury. Lots of sketchbooks. The penny dropped; I was listening to Chris Riddell. Quick double check with the Resident IT Consultant, ‘oh, is it Chris?’ He nodded sheepishly. I’d like to think he felt guilty for not alerting me to this state of affairs.

But how weird it is when one man’s luxury makes him immediately identifiable.

The Red Light Zone

It seems that being Head of BBC Radio Scotland – and I might have got the exact correct title wrong – is pretty much like being the Bookwitch. (You come up with ideas, and then you make them happen.)

Jeff Zycinski, The Red Light Zone

I had never heard of Jeff Zycinski. But then I don’t really listen to the radio. I sort of assumed he was Scotland’s Terry Wogan, or something, but it turns out he was more the man who came up with the idea for a programme like that and put ‘Wogan’ in front of the microphone. (Or should that be behind?) Except he did it with people and programmes in Scotland, which means no one has heard of him.

Or have they?

Anyway, now that he has left the BBC, Jeff is ‘telling it all’ in his book The Red Light Zone – which is a much less daring title than you might think. It’s not sex so much as the warning that you are on air. Good title, unless you are being sent it in a cryptic message on Facebook, making it look like Badger the Mystical Mutt had been hacked. (This is the first book I’ve reviewed, published by a fictional dog.)

Jeff’s 25 years at the BBC make for interesting reading. There is some gossip, and we meet the Princess Royal as well as Chris Evans, and I now know much more about the various BBC DGs down in London, but it is mostly ordinary stuff. The running of radio for a quarter of a century.

I liked it. In the end so much that it acted as a painkiller, and I also had to put up with the Resident IT Consultant stealing the book whenever I wasn’t looking. Occasionally when I was looking, because I’m a nice witch. He liked it too.

If you remove the radio aspect from this biography, it still works as a description of 25 years of life in Scotland. I like the sound of Jeff’s wife. And their children. But I would rather that the dog had lived…

Fun on the radio

What you want to do now is to put your feet up and listen to the radio.

On Boxing Day (that was yesterday) there was a programme about [Badger] The Mystical Mutt on Radio Scotland. It was really about Lyn McNicol and Laura Jackson, who are the two slightly crazy women who are Badger, and who travel tirelessly around Scotland and beyond to bring their very large dog into schools to teach and entertain.

I’ve still to catch them in the act, but the books I’ve read have been fun, as are Lyn and Laura.

You have another four weeks during which you can listen to this online, or if you get up early on New Year’s Day you can hear the programme on the radio.

And today on the Today programme, you can hear Prince Harry interview Barack Obama. That could almost be worth getting up early for.

I’m not much of a radio listener, but I might take up my own suggestions here.

Bookwitch bites #142

It was nice to find myself in the company of Chris Riddell* and Judith Kerr for breakfast yesterday. Not for real, and it’s not as we were all in Hay or anything, but these two lovely people had dragged themselves into a radio studio ‘early’ on a Sunday morning to share their thoughts about Manchester and Hitler and whether to keep the truth from children.

Judit Kerr, stolen, borrowed from Chris Riddell

The downside to that, as Judith said, is that children think anyway and come up with the oddest ideas. So Hitler wasn’t actually hiding behind the hanging decoration in the toilet. But she sort of believed he might be. And Chris mentioned that his immediate reaction on hearing the Manchester news was to think of his daughter, recently graduated from University there. It’s how we function; we grab something close to ourselves.

In the Guardian Review we could read an extract from Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust. It didn’t take more than a few sentences and I was back in Lyra’s world. I already like Malcolm and his suspicious mind.

Jonathan Stroud, The Empty Grave

Another book to look forward to is Jonathan Stroud’s last Lockwood – The Empty Grave – which had a cover reveal this week. I tend to sneer a bit at reveals like this, but I found myself quite taken with it. Lovely to see George at long last. And I’d say that whereas an empty grave could be seen as a positive thing, I don’t think we should have such sweet expectations here (because where is the corpse?).

Awards are good. Especially when given to the right people for the right books. Some favourites of mine have recently managed this. Simon Mason was awarded Best Crime Novel for Young Adults at CrimeFest for Kid Got Shot. Robin Stevens got the award for Best Crime Novel for Children. I’m simply pleased that the younger books are getting attention like this.

Adrian McKinty won the Edgar for Rain Dogs, which is no minor thing, and is well deserved. He seems quite pleased, judging by this blog post. At home in Australia minding the children, Adrian sent his wife to receive the prize.

(*I’m counting on Mr Riddell’s goodwill in not minding having his sketch stolen by me, as usual.)