There's been quite bit of Mark Steel on Radio 4 over the last two days. Well, two programmes.
His Pick of the Week made a pleasant change from some recent episodes (from the likes of Liz Barclay and Sheila McClennon) which had made Radio 4 sound like one long, dreary dirge, or like an endless stream of earnest, socially-aware Guardian articles. At least Mark made the BBC's output sound varied, and his affectionately mocking tone made me chuckle.
Here he is, for instance, giving an example of why he so enjoys Thought for the Day (and who doesn't?):
Hello I'm Mark steel and this is Pick of the Week. Now, as ever when I'm asked to make selections for Pick of the Week I'm impressed by Thought for the Day because about one minute in there's a game you can play, guessing how they're going to jump from talking about that day's news to religion. So this week there'll be one that goes, "Once again at this time of year many children are enduring the somewhat stressful experience of completing their GCSEs and A levels, or hoping for results that will propel them through the challenges of life ahead. And, as they head off with their sharpened pencils, are they on exactly the same journey as Jesus made when he went into the wilderness? For that was a test. Indeed it was God's way of saying to his only son, 'You may turn over your papers and begin now'. Good morning". Now Wednesday's episode was from the Reverend Joel Edwards, and it didn't disappoint:
I was fascinated to read about a young marketing graduate who set up an online English language and cultural course which has gained more than 12 million viewers. ‘English with Lucy’ offers such videos as: “Easily Speak Like a Native!”, “How to Swear In English” and “How To Annoy British Girls In 3 Simple Steps.” Not a verb conjugation in sight. The channel’s popularity points to a form of learning which is shaped by questions from followers from all around the world. It offers a particular kind of authenticity, imparting knowledge which is highly-tailored to consumer demand and firmly sets itself against more traditional courses.I was thinking, "Ah, language! This is easy. He's heading to the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis. This is a simple one". But then...
And as we have entered a new global village of egalitarian truth-telling, which transfers the onus onto individuals to shop around for their ideal of authority and authenticity. Yesterday on this programme, the Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales unveiled plans for a new Wikitribune. Backed up by a team of paid journalists, the site will aim to combat fake news by offering ‘factual and neutral’ news. As a Christian, I’m thrown back to reconsider the question Pilate put to Jesus: What is Truth?Oh marvellous!! He threw you one way and then came the other way - from fake news to Pontius Pilate in half a sentence! I hope he's on again!
And as it's May Day (probably his favourite day of the year, when, for a change, he goes on a yet another protest march), here's another bit of Our Mark from this morning's Mark Steel's in Town. He was in St. Anne, Alderney, and on fine form:
You don't make it easy to get here, do you? I thought, "There's bound to be couple of ferries a day from Guernsey", but there's two a week, carefully co-ordinated because the Alderney ferry leaves just before the other one arrives - with anything up to a four-day wait. And what I really like is I think you do that on purpose!
But the main way of getting here is from Guernsey on a Trislander plane, and if you're not used to it it's not the sturdiest of jumbo jets. One of the Trislanders is bright yellow and you call it 'Joey', and it's got a smiley face with a red nose painted on it - which is fun, but shouldn't you take designing aeroplanes a bit more seriously?
The Trislanders have 16 seats, one of which is next to the pilot, and a bloke from the airport calls each person's name individually to get on the plane. I though, "Oh no, there's been a mistake. I've joined the RAF!".
And then this bloke holds the door open so you could squeeze in, and within seconds you forget any fear that you had that this thing is too small as that's replaced by the fear that it's too old.
And three people have told me, "Did you get the one called 'G-BDTO'? That's fun. It's got a leaky roof". A leaky roof! A plane!
On my flight there was a bloke hanging onto the door handle, and when we arrived I said, "Were you a bit nervous, mate?", and he went, "Oh no, I know this plane and the handle comes loose if you don't hold on".
I'm not joking, it was terrifying!
I bet there are Red Arrows pilots who go, "Sod that, I'm not going on a Trislander!" At least when smoke comes out of their planes it's on purpose for a display.
I think this is how you encourage people to live here, isn't it? You make it really hard to get here but once they're here they're terrified of ever getting the plane back.
I think you like the old planes with the face because you're like an island of big kids in Alderney. They suit you.
That's why I love the airport here - the way you pretend that it's like a big airport. Because when you land here the baggage man opens the boot of the plane and he gets out your bag, stood right next to you, but instead of just handing you pick up your bag he takes you to the little rolling rack thing and he puts it on there, but it's broken, so you just pick it up and take in straight back again.