Sunday 23 February 2014

From Somerset to the paddy (O'Connell) fields of Bangladesh

It was like old times on this morning's Broadcasting House, with Paddy O'Connell dancing in the streets (so to speak) over events in Kiev. 

We've been here before.

I remember very well Paddy's enthusiastic coverage of the early days of the Arab Spring (before it turned to deepest winter). He didn't quite say, "Bliss is it this dawn to be alive, But to be a middle-aged BBC presenter is very heaven!", but he could well have done so. 

And then there was his now-equally-risible attempt (on both BH and Twitter) to promote the idea of a 'Financial Spring' after the #Occupy revolutionaries (remember them?) set up their tents in front of St. Paul's Cathedral and the end of capitalism seemed nigh. 

He never learns. 

He was at it again this morning, enthusing about the "revolution" in Ukraine against "a president who fired on his people on the doorstep of Europe". He talked of "citizen guards" replacing the police. I felt like getting my tricolour out and crying 'Vive l'Ukraine!'

Pro-European Guardian historian Timothy Garton Ash then appeared to back up this view that this is, quite simply, a revolution. 

Paddy invited him to enthuse "from the gut". Professor Garton Ash described himself as "delighted".

Next came a debate on the Scottish independence debate between a father (Eric) and a son (Ross) who stand (amicably) on opposite sides of the debate. Eric sounded much more political that Ross, being (as Ross described him) a long-time supporter of independence. Ross, the son, is more open-minded, even conceding that he could change his mind on the mind if so persuaded. 

Eric denounced the selfishness of the UK, saying that Scotland (in contrast) would welcome more immigration, as well as denouncing the Iraq War and the poll tax. 

BBC news bulletins have given a fair amount of coverage today to Labour leader Ed Miliband's calls for reform to Prime Minister's Questions and Broadcasting House did their bit too. Current BBC political reporter Chris Mason and former BBC chief political correspondent John Sergeant discussed the history of PMQs. 

According to Chris, PMQs is a relatively recent invention, first being held in its current form in 1961 - and BH got in some actors to recreate a ludicrous-sounding exchange from that first set of PMQs between a   buffoonish-sounding Tory MP (what a prat the actor made him sound!), Tory PM Harold MacMillan and the then Mr Speaker Sir. It sounded rowdy.

Chris then reminded us that 1975 was the date when we first got to hear PMQs - a big day for Radio 4, Chris said. We heard a clip of Margaret Thatcher (sounding much like the Mrs Thatcher of the 1980s. Wasn't her voice supposed to be much more high pitched back then?) v Harold Wilson (sounding like Mike Yarwood). It sounded rowdy - and the public could now hear it for the first time. And to prove that we heard a clip of the SNP's Winnie Ewing being barracked and then cut down by the Speaker.

It was then back to Ukraine and BBC reporter Gabriel Gatehouse. The topic this time was what Paddy called the "taste for bad taste" of missing president Viktor Yanukovych as Gabriel took us on a tour around the no-longer-victorious Viktor's "incredibly opulent" palatial complex. There are boxing rings, a floating banqueting house, a menagerie full of birds, boar and deer (apparently all destined for the table), and, yes, duck-houses - "Duck-houses, that ultimate symbol of corruption", quipped the (biased) BBC reporter.

The paper review followed, with John Sergeant, cookery writer Prue Leith, and author and Guardian columnist Sarfraz Manzoor. 

Sarfraz started by enthusing over the possibility that men taking more of a role in doing the housework might be contributing to the apparent fall in the divorce rate over recent years. (Social conservatives, look away now!) John then enthused over early sex and Prue praised co-habitation, and Sarfraz name-checked 'austerity' as another possible cause. 

Prue then took us to bankers, and said she didn't believe what the bankers are saying. Sarfraz criticised the media for not urging on action against the banks. John talked up the moral issues over 'profits'.

John then returned to the subject of Ukraine, quoting the Observer:
The recent revolutions of the Arab Spring have shown that stormed palaces, packed squares, absent police and an intoxicating sense of liberation from an old guard do not necessarily deliver better political systems.
I had to grin at that, given Paddy O'Connell's past (and present) history of covering such stories as if he himself was partaking in that intoxicating sense of liberation. 

Sarfraz attacked the media again for creating a simplistic good-bad narrative - just as, I think, sections of the BBC have been doing over Ukraine (though naturally, as a BBC regular, Sarfraz didn't name and shame the hand that feeds him).

Prue talked about that perennial favourite topic - does music help make your a more intelligent person? Research suggesting that children who play music will do better at school has now been reported. Prue was sceptical about it. I'm sceptical about a causal link too (though I'd like it to be true). 

Poor John Sergeant 'fessed up to liking classical music. Prue held his hand and reassured him that it's OK. 

I'd like to second that. It really is absolutely OK, John. Please stop worrying and don't be afraid to come out of the closet about it. Just stand tall, and say 'I like classical music'. 

I like classical music too. 

I tried to hide it while I was a teenage boy, pretending to be into pop music, but I now feel fully at ease inside my own skin. I'm out and I'm proud. Me and Johann Sebastian Bach? I love him, and I'm not afraid to say it. 

Maybe me and John should go on a Classical Music Pride parade together. I've already thought of some great slogans: 'We're here, and we're into chamber music. Get used to it!', 'Out of the Closets and into the concert halls!', 'Two, Four, Six, Eight! How Do You Know Your Kids Are into Tom Robinson?' and 'Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Haydnophobia's got to go!'   

Prue worried about parents who want their children to be geniuses. She said that you shouldn't want your children to be geniuses, as geniuses are "very unhappy people". Sarfraz opined that geniuses tend to have bad relationships with their parents. John agreed that happy geniuses are "very unusual". 

At the invitation of Paddy, Sarfraz (of Pakistani origin) took us to the Observer and the Independent and the question of which is the most 'homophobic' country? He mentioned Nigeria, Gambia and India. 

John talked Scotland, and the independence debate. He's clearly been disappointed that the issue hasn't been considered particularly important by people south of the border. He's glad that Westminster politicians have finally stuck their British oars into the debate in that part of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that is having to decide whether to remain part of the United Kingdom. About time, he thinks. Sarfraz mocked celebrity endorsements [though, being a trendy type, he added a caveat that David Bowie is OK], but John welcomed 'throwing the kitchen sink' at it. 

Prue talked costly energy-saving devices that either put your bill up or are ineffective, such as solar battery chargers and water-saving shower heads. Prue thinks it's about posing. John mocked David Cameron's "funny little wind vane", which certainly got Paddy chortling. 

BBC veteran Hugh Sykes was on hand to round off the programme by talking about flooding. Obviously not the flooding in Somerset. Oh no. Hugh talked about flooding in Bangladesh instead, in his usual sanctimonious way.

I suppose the message here was: We think we're hard done by? Pah, the Bangladeshis get it so much worse. (Like we don't know that already).

Paddy ended by wishing us "a great day". Thanks Paddy. 


  1. BBC radio2 news: Russia has recalled their ambassador to Ukraine...... the newsreader sounded somewhat incredulous... or maybe that's just me

  2. Do me a favour. Add a widget that shows recent comments.

    Oh and if the post isn't time-relevant don't post it, hold it for a day or so. Thereby spacing your posts... we get a glut, and then nowt...

    1. A widget? Wha’s one a-them?
      We’ll have to see what Craig has to say about that but don’t you think a recent comment feature with no recent comments would look a bit needy? - and , and, gluts and nothing at alls? From a commenter we rarely hear from who suddenly splashes 7 comments all at once......... ??

      Thanks for the Stern.
      Here’s one for you. It’s a combo of classical music+children+ Boccherini
      and here’s Boccherini - bet you didn’t know Russell Crowe was such an accomplished musician haha.

    2. I've tried widgetting that widget, ftumch. Whether it works or not is another matter entirely. Gadgets R not us.

    3. It does now! Widgets ARE us.

    4. Yeh, us 'n' widgets! We've nailed the widgetty buggers, good and proper.

    5. Or, to put it more accurately, Sue nailed those widgets!

  3. Classical Music Pride parade ... chuckle

    I am w'kin class me. I live in Furness, which has a high proportion of w'kin class folk. And an excess of 80s discos. But hey, I have always dug human achievement. I grew up with rock music (Zep, sabbath, lou Reed/Velvs, etc) but hey also Genesis and Yes et al.

    It is in only recent years that I started listening to Radio 3, mostly because R4 is a political nightmare, and R2 is populated by idiots. R5 is only good for football commentary. I have a game now... I wake up, put the radio on and see how long before Today drives me nuts and I have to switch to 3... still.... I don't know who is who in classical world. I know my prog rather well, i can tell a guitar lick by hendrix from clapton (or, pendantically, Steve Howe from Steve Hackett), but I can't tell Beethoven from Mozart sometimes.... Ah well

    1. Actually I really did like pop music as a teenager.

      '80s pop music was the music of my teens, and I was a bit of a nerdy Top 40 obsessive, keeping detailed records of the charts. (You'd never have guessed that, would you!)

      It's pre-'80s rock music that's becoming a slight obsession with me recently - as you may have noticed from the occasional music videos that crop up here.

  4. After a very long day, my play list while I read andpost here:


    Boccherini's Fandango. Wow, Julian Bream... by listening to R3 I now know he's still alive. God bless that man.

    (I'd NEVER heard of Boccherini before)

    and, oy vey, isaac Stern, my fav musical:

    one for sue

    1. Ah, Lynyrd Skynyrd - subject of that eternal debate about whether they really are a band with no vowels in their name, or whether the 'y's actually function as vowels.

      That's one for Jeremy Paxman to referee on a future edition of 'Newsnight'.

      Owen Jones could be on one side, Peter Hitchens on the other. Owen could argue the 'they are vowels' side, and then accuse Peter Hitchens of been vowelophobic.

      It would get very heated, and Newsnight's terrible ratings might pick up as a result. Or not.

  5. Question: which is better?

    John Williams

    or Segovia

    One thing I can't get with classical is style. I prefer Segovia, tho Williams is more technically profficient. Segovia has (had) style.

  6. Oh,and you gotta like Steve Hackett:


  8. I thought the research that found that learning/listening to music (particularly Mozart) makes you/your child more intelligent had been debunked. Like almost every other popular scientific ‘breakthrough’, (think superfoods) that popular scientific whaddyaknow said one thing one minute / another thing the next. There’s probably some truth in there, but the conclusion is dubious; i.e. jumped-to.
    It’s obvious that learning anything, like, say, another language, must affect yer synapses, but on a ‘before-and-after’ basis who could tell? I suppose you’d need several hundred sets of identical twins and teach one of them to play an instrument while the other was forced to wear ear-defenders. Mengele anyone?
    I know, I know, you can put your heid in a cat scanner and watch areas of the brain light up.

    Anyway, what I meant to say was that I disagree that people are ashamed of liking classical music. I’d say it’s the opposite. Far more people pretend they like it to make themselves look more cultured. What we need is a scientific experiment. Pass the twins.

    1. My niece has just told us she's going to have twins. Let the experiment begin!

  9. The widget, it works! Yay!

    I'll try to keep this to one post, so I don't spam it. And apologies for the many posts last night, I was a little giddy.

    I don't think the comments widget makes you "needy" at all, but it shows to us readers, and lurkers (for which I am usually) that the site is active and responsive. It also means that if I make a comment, and someone replies, then I will know easily and can respond, if I wish to. Just sayin, really.

    As for the glut... I've been coming here daily for some months now, and the weekend tends to be more posts than midweek. Ok, just a thought is all... pace yourselves some, the introspective posts can be put up any time.

    Re: Boccherini. Thanks Sue, but hey, Russel Crowe plays fiddle better than he does a Yorkshire accent. Ask Mark Lawson. Though... If Mark Lawson has sat on Ilkley Moor bah tat, I'll eat me slippers (me Mother's from Leeds).

    "'80s pop music was the music of my teens, and I was a bit of a nerdy Top 40 obsessive, keeping detailed records of the charts. (You'd never have guessed that, would you!)

    It's pre-'80s rock music that's becoming a slight obsession with me recently - as you may have noticed from the occasional music videos that crop up here. "

    I suspect you're a tad aspergers, at least high-functioning. I mean no insult, my son is full-on aspergers. He is obsessed with minecraft. He is an expert.

    Pre-80s rock is the difference between me and my contempories during the 80s. Had I been "normal" I would've been a new romantic or a goth, but no, I was doing old stuff. While my mates were putting make-up on, I grew my hair out and put Zeppelin (or Uriah Heep, Sabbath, The doors, Airplane, und so weiter) on the turntable.

    "Thanks for the Stern." No problems, he was a wizard.

    In light of which, and Sue's kids and Boccherini, one for Craig:

    and Not Hotel California:

    1. "I suspect you're a tad aspergers".

      Well, that may explain why I liked Kraftwerk!

    2. Lol
      Top comments:

      Bob Dobalina
      1 week ago

      This expresses perfectly the german soul. On one side cold and precise, but at the same time warm, human and touching. Kraftwerk expressed this synthesis perfectly. I am an american who emigrated to Germany in the early nineties, and I dont regret it (I had the time of my life following the rise and fall of the rave scene here). Kraftwerk was a big part of it. I thought, any country who can make this and BMWs cant be too bad. :) 
      Duc de Richleau
      3 days ago

      Those are also the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. I'm a North European, makes sense to me. You probably heard that connection here first, I've been researching AS for years, amongst Germans, and their genetic cousins English and Scots...

      Mind you, I'm a Tangerine Dream man, myself (saw 'em twice 80, 81). Sniff.


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