26 February, 2013


It's only words

The Archers and Woman's Hour are two Radio 4 programmes which help to keep me fit.  For a 64-year-old who takes less exercise than he ought and spends far too much time taking holy communion in the Church of St Tim Martin, the speed at which I can cross a room to operate the wireless's off-switch is really quite impressive.

Forty years ago, when it had gentle personality-based plotlines that developed almost in real time, I could cheerfully lend half an ear to the omnibus edition of The Archers of a Sunday; the aggressive whiny vulnerability of Walter Gabriel, the surprising underlying decency of his snobbish and permanently exasperated son Nelson, a sort of bucolic Brian Sewell lite, the bumbling if ultimately well-meaning chavvy stupity of Eddie Grundy contrasting with the conniving entitlement-mentality selfishness and greed of his father Joe — a man like a mangy ferret trying unsuccessfully to present a conciliatory smile but achieving only a menacingly toothy rictus.  All good stuff and actually quite enjoyable.  These days if a passing Catholic priest hasn't infected all the choir boys with HIV and Usha hasn't been racially abused by one of Tom Archer's genetically modified pigs within the first ten minutes the show is reckoned to be a failure.  So it goes.  That's progress I guess.

As to Wimmin's Hour, I have always found its patronizing, self-righteous and curiously self-confident casual misandry masquerading as feminism irritating beyond words.  Jenni Murray, when speaking ex cathedra, is spectacularly annoying, though I do suspect that she can be a nicer, more rounded person when she's off duty.

But it came to pass that, this morning I found myself actually listening to Woman's Hour.  I've had a heavy cold these past few days — not so much a "common cold" as downright vulgar.  All that sneezing and snivelling takes it out of you, tha knows, and when I finally surfaced at around 10:00 this morning I turned on the bedside radio to facilitate my slow readaptation to the waking state.  The more reasonable and relaxed Jane Garvey was at the helm, so I listened on.

But why did she let herself down in an item about the care of elderly relatives suffering from senile dementia?  It was mentioned in passing that two of the standard test questions asked of possible dementia sufferers, when being diagnosed, were
— How many camels are there in Holland?
— What is the weight of a standard hammer?
To which la Garvey commented, gratuitously, that these seemed to be "very male" questions.

Why, Jane?  Why?

I must have dementia - I can't answer either of those questions!

Tha were funny, tha'lliteration.

Get you, Señor Censorious!

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