top of page

Sadventure Completed #29: Radio Blah Blah...

Updated: Mar 28

I am not a fan of talking radio, I told him. In fact, it is not a rare occurence that, should I be driving, I channel hop between stations to avoid in the inane chatter of the airways.

When I first moved into my place here, pre my internet being connected, I was horrified to discover the only station I could get on my kitchen radio was Radio 4. Being in the Cotswolds, it is like living in an episode of midsummer murders anyway, and this wasn't helped by listening to several chapters of "The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency" as I unpacked the kitchen contents.

Thankfully, when I am driving around, I can tune in (mostly) to Oxfordshire's Jack2 - a no-talking music station, in which they interrupt the music to tell you it's a music only radio station. Still I am spared the intellectual discombubulation of Radio 4 these days.

I am unimpressed that I am now compelled, for 28 days, to have a daily dose of at least one programme of Radio 4.

Day 1

Finally, the sun is shining and I can get outside. Unfortunately, my extremely large apple tree is throwing down baby apples every which way so I headed to the far corner of the garden with my towel to bask in the sun comfortably and get this chore done.

First, I had to register. Why? I have no idea. After that faff, I settled down with the cat to listen on my phone to how a cattleshed became home to an opera hall in the Cotswolds. I have to confess riveting this was not. Although I was slightly bemused by a young boy who wore a spoon on his eye.

Shortly after that my low boredom threshold kicked in so I set about the task of counting how many petals there are on a daisy. Forty-four. So I repeated the experiment - gently tearing off each strip and forming them into piles of five. Now 45. Third time lucky? 47.

Then the internet went off. Never before have I been so grateful to have no reception. Then on, then off, then on. I gave up with my phone signal and came indoors and got it up on Sky. Unfortunately. By then it had moved on to Open Book - about queer nature writing.

Day 2

As I collapsed on my sofa following my early morning run, I figured I could multi-task: hyperventilate and listen. Desert island Discs was on - I've heard about it although I've never heard it before.

If someone was ousted to a desert island, and could only take with them eight pieces of music and one book (in addition to a bible and the complete works of Shakespeare supplied) what would they select and why?

Personally, if I was to be cast away, I'd want eight canisters of Raid and a Breitling Emergency.

That said it wasn't quite the arduous listening of yesterday. Emily Eavis' parents started the well known music festival Glastonbury. She talked a lot of her growing up on the farm and the role the festival played in her life. It was really quite fascinating.

And then there was the reading of Derek Jarman's memoir of his garden. Finally, it was BBC news at 10am. I have no news before lunch rule in my home - and idea supplied by Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear, which is a constructive way of tackling anxiety and trying to be more positive about life. It's only when I listen to the news, that I wish I were stranded on a deserted island.

Day 3

With the heatwave, I felt the only thing that needed to be done was a load of laundry and a thorough weeding of the garden. Both very amenable to listening to the radio. I looked at the schedule and found it unbelievably depressing:

Looking at the small print in contracts.

So, not sure if this is cheating, but I opted for a podcast and selected Don't Tell Me The Score: David Cotterill.

Never heard of him but he was a Welsh footballer who is talking publically about his depression. Ah ha! A fellow sufferer - I thought I could learn something from him.

I learned his middle name was George Best. He's funny, articulate and has an interesting tale of growing up in the world of football. He talks of the importance of self-care: eating well, sleeping well, living in the day and good people management skills: patience, tolerance and genuine concern for others. Most notably, he talks about alcohol abuse. Just like George Best, he became an alcoholic.

I've long since known that alcohol is a depressant, and yet too many of us seek out alcohol to temporarily reprieve from the glooms. I did. Eventually, like all medications, its effects waned and, in fact, became extremely harmful. I thought by giving up booze, my depression would ease. It did, but it didn't eliminate the periods I was doomstruck altogether.

David Cotterill is now nine weeks sober, following a stint in rehab. It's too soon to say whether or not he'll get into long-term sobriety. He's set up Mental Health Anonymous, based on the same concept of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's early days. I wish him well.

Day 4

The Archers. Heard of it. Never listened to it. Today’s one hour is the Sunday omnibus of the Archers.

In February, 49 industry experts voted it the second-greatest radio programme of all time. 46 of them are connected to the BBC. Desert Island Discs came first. I am somewhat gutted to find that I’ve already peaked in my journey of discovery that is talking radio.

The jaunty short intro music which brings maypole dancing to mind, a thought I can live without, The Archers is supposedly an everyday story of country folk that has morphed into a cacophony of country rows. I live in a tiny hamlet in rural Oxfordshire. Thus far I have managed to avoid falling out with a single neighbour. I blame the lack of pub in my village.

As far as I can glean, The Archers hops from scene to scene, from argument to argument, affair to affair, money woes to money problems. There is not a single word of how this year’s abysmal weather has affected our gardens - the hot topic of conversation between me and my neighbours. Most of my neighbours haven’t even bothered to tell me their names, and if they have, I’ve promptly forgotten them. It helps periodically when someone orders something from Amazon and it is delivered to the wrong house (usually mine).

In the Archers, they also all seem to be in and out of one another’s houses - mostly self-invited. Last year a man walked into my kitchen and called me Mavis. I was really quite startled until he’d recognised that I was probably not Mavis, and this was definitely not Mavis’s kitchen.

In this episode, people were getting in a tizz about their summer fate. Personally, I think they’ve left the planning a little late. And not a single mention of who is going to do the maypole dancing.

Day 5

I listened to Start The Week - a compendium of topics discussed by Stephen Fry, Alison Balsom, David Hare and Lucy Hughes-Hallet, with Tom Sutcliffe keeping them all under control. In fact it was all too civilised if you ask me.

Today's mutterings were: Egotism, Greek Myths and Baroque Music.

In other words, one of those programmes which makes one feel terribly uneducated, then extremely erudite when it finishes - a phenomena which lasts only about ten minutes until I forget absolutely everything I heard. A memory like a computer? In my case like a broken sinclair.

Day 6

Oh, Good Grief! If I was to name the two most boring things on planet earth, with watching paint drying coming a distance third, I'd say Radio 4 and cricket. Today's offerings combined the two.

And then Radio 4 redeemed itself with Marie-Louise Muir unpicking the intricacies of Irish Satire. My favourite part was when they were discussing the menopause, and the release of women, from societal expectations...

"When our oestrogen level drops, when we hit menopause...and the lid that was kept on the anger we've all experienced but not been allowed to show because we are female and you're not supposed to do that, and then this lid comes off and there's this freedom...

I am raging. All that flashes are women just feeling that rage. Oestrogen kept us compliant and nice, and to stay at home to look after the children and there's no biological imperative to keep us compliant, we become more like men....and we don't give a toss, and we say things, and if you don't like me: 'up yours' because I don't have to have babies anymore, who cares, give me a pint. You can do all that stuff now, there's the freedom. Okay, you sit at home lonely stroking your cat because everyone's afraid of you. But it's a small price to pay...

Day 7

Women's hour.

Yay! There's twenty-four hours in the day, and we get a whole hour to ourselves. We represent 52% of the population but hey ho!

Why are the number of women dependent on cannibis? Twice as many men use cannibis, but three times as many men get treatment. Why this difference? The male expert explained that where addiction is concerned, women are much quicker to get addicted but it's still perceived as a male problem. Intervention, like most medical research, is based on studies of male addiction and treatment. I found it interesting but no real insights or solutions offered.

US tennis player discusses bipolar, her difficult relationship with her mother, and women not being paid to play tennis in the 60s and 70s.

Women discussing what to wear at parents' evenings - and their children saying 'you're not going out in that!' I'm sorry but I just cringed that even in 2019, we are spending time criticising the choices that women make regarding their attire.

Women's centres - set up to empower women but they are now responsible for punishing women as part of 'community service or payback' ordered by the courts. An economic decision because women centres are underfunded, as is the probation service. This diminishes the centres - no longer are they a safe place for women to discuss their challenges, because they are now being monitored and reported on. I completely agree. It's very hard to ask for help when one is struggling - if consequences are feared, then help is simply not obtainable.

And finally, a radio play about Daphne Caruana Galizia a Maltese journalist, murdered in 2017, who took on business people and politicians.

Soooooo: Mental Health, fashion, women's complex relationships, the erosion of women's support and a woman killed for speaking out. I found it somewhat depressing, and exasperating that our 'topics of interest' are still traditionally confined.

Day 8

Sketches: Stories of Art and People.

Stephen hit a tree. And did considerable damage himself. Left himself unable to walk. He talks about the grief of his life changing moment.

Men in a shed. All of whom are struggling with the after effects of illness or physical catastrope. Found fellowship in woodwork. There are over 500 men's sheds around the UK.

A woman's love for starry nights. And the universe.

The News - a thoroughly depressing affair about stuff in politics

The Diaries of Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years. Episode 9. Unsurprisingly, I haven't got a clue what's going on.

You and Yours: A discussion of William Hill closing stores, which will hit our poorest areas hard - making several thousand unemployed. However, one wonders why betting shops are so prolific in our lowest income areas.

Day 9

Will this ever end? At least someone is thoroughly enjoying this.

Today's non-stop excitement was a woman talkng about a man who enjoys raping women - not sure why I came into the programme to the end, and the Secret History of Science and Religion. Gripped I was not.

Day 10

How cruel! This Radio 4 challenge means I am listening to a programme about sweet pastries - sugar, butter, sugar, butter, sugar. Strawberry Tarts. Salted Caramel. More sugar. White chocolate granache. Jam. More sugar. Pies, Tarts, Cakes.

They also debated the best recipes for strawberries. The classic, of course, is strawberries and cream. Only one pundit goes on to say that, in fact, grass is the best combo for summer strawberries. I'm off to mow my lawn.

FML! <<<< What I'd say if I was still 15.

Day 11

A roundup of the week's news, the headline being that Trump is a wassock (I'm paraphrasing) according to Our Man in the US.

This is not news.

And then on to the Archers. "Emotions run high at Greenacres" was the description.

"Have you got another straw bale lying around?" he asked.

Stressful stuff not being able to see a straw bale.

Day 12

Monday morning's joy: Hotspot on going bust.

"That's a nice ring you've got on your finger" said the official receiver. Making the point that when people go bust, it is a terrifying experience, humiliating and shameful. Life becomes a day to day reality of managing fear and avoiding people, post and places.

Next: The Fens: Discovering England's Ancient Depths.

The fens are somewhat short on mountains. I love a bit of understatement. In the 19th century, you could get malaria in the fens. But Dr. Francis Pryor, in 1971, discovered Fengate's Bronze Age Farm, with remarkably sophisticated farming methods for the middle ages. They assumed that native Brits would not be capable of this, so it must be Roman. They were wrong.

I turned it off when Women's Hour came on: Preparing your child to transition between schools. Is this not a parenting problem? Why women's?

Day 13

Back home in time to listen to most of Women's Hour, alas. Today was a lively discussion about 'girl codes' for dating. I learnt that amongst lesbians, it is a cert that you'll date your ex's ex because the pool of women is so much smaller. However, amongst twenty something heterosexual women there's a lot of unwritten policies where dating is concerned. Something triggered by "Love Island." No idea - listening to Radio 4 is punishing enough.

Day 14

I just noticed that the "Radio" tab, sits just after the "Adult" tab. Makes the point about how grown up one must be to venture this far in to Sky TVs selection. Way further than I'm used to.

Today's programme is Today. News and current affairs. I learnt a new word: Prorogue.

The hot topic of today is: Boris's threat to suspend government in order to get his Brexit bill through. The word for this is prorogue.

And they invited John Major in for commentary who expressed his disappointment that cricket is no longer on terrestrial television.

The BBC has prorogued cricket. I am delighted.

Day 15

Women's hour again. This time talking to a Sue Eismann whose child, Nicola Fellows, was murdered in 1984, more commonly known as the 'Babes in the Wood murders'. It took 34 years for the murderer to be convicted.

22% of Mumsnetters are reluctant to enquire about companies' policies for parental leave, and schools to give menopause lessons.

Then Dead Cert - a pseudo comedy whodunnit. I didn't concentrate on it for long enough to have a clue what on earth was going on.

More interesting was the a report on Jamal Kashoggi's murder, still unresolved, but linked to Saudi Arabia, which was followed up on the reality of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria, and the horrendous impact it has on babies' chances of survival. And then, what to do with all the trash that's littering Mount Everest - 60,000 people go there annually with their water bottles which are burnt after, as long as they bring them back. Lighthearted Radio 4 is not. It is always a relief to turn it off.

Day 16

D for Diagnosis - what's in a name? We look for labels to find out what's wrong with us, especially when we are suffering. I've always believed that it's a good thing I've never trained as a psychiatrist because I'd have diagnosed myself with everything going.

Is a diagnosis for mental health worth it? First up is a self-diagnosed passive ADHD sufferer. Tobias is the guinea pig for this programme. He's now given medication following an affirmative diagnosis. He feels relieved to have the label.

Then quite a long section on the cultural and social factors which influence diagnosis. Women's hysteria, for example, is incredibly sexist but the basics of early psychiatry. And once homosexuality became a 'label', then it bore a load of treatments, e.g. immersion therapy, complete with electric shocks with which to inflict suffering.

Psychiatric expertise can also be manipulated to detain people who oppose the state views, a phenomena common in oppressive regimes.

Day 17

Why is this not over yet? Today's delight was combating violence in El Salvador...hideous descriptions of families torn apart. Followed up with how Papua New Guinea's Turuvians adapted cricket so it met half way between being a borefest and a massacre between rival tribes.

Day 18,

With a phenomenally busy day, a 13.5km walk, followed by an experimental dinner, the F1 and Wimbledon, it was quite a chore to slot listening to the radio in.

At 11:00 last night, Radio 4 transmitted a radio documentary made for the US National Public Radio, complete with an American host, who sounds like he's reading one a bedtime story. Today, he compiled a load of stories about the five senses, and current findings and research into them. Sound, sight, taste, touch and smell make fo