I’ve rediscovered the joys of BBC Radio 4. I’m not sure why, but having been a constant listener since I arrived in France, I just stopped listening to English language radio a couple of years ago. Perhaps it had something to do with me discovering some good programmes on France Inter, or maybe it was those unbearably smug people with the home-county accents who squat the phone-in programmes on Radio 4, or perhaps it was because I don’t feel engaged by British current affairs anymore.
Anyway, over the past week or so, I’ve been doing a lot of mindless marking while listening to some really great programmes on the Radio 4 site. The advantage of the internet over the tranny is that you can just zap the boring programmes and listen to the ones you’re really interested in.
I’ve heard about what it feels like to be the "persecuted" English minority in Scotland, ....... I've followed the stages in the development of a potential treatment for HIV by one of the big bad pharmaceutical companies in "Quest for a Cure"; learned about inguinal hernia operations (P has already had 3 which doesn't appear to be a record); been left gaping-mouthed at what actually happens to the clothes we give to charity in "Clothes Line" — did you know that the charities sell them to go-betweens who sell them on to stallholders in markets in Africa? I thought that a needy little orphan was hand-picked to wear the baby clothes I had donated. I've also been learning about serendipidous discoveries in science (rubber for example). I’ve heard Lionel Schriver talking about her book We have to talk about Kevin, decided that I don’t really want to read it but been interested in the fact that she made a deliberate decision not to have children herself because she is too single-minded about her work and was afraid she might neglect a child if she wanted to get a book finished. I’ve also listened to Ian McEwan talking about Saturday and that made me want to read bits of it all over again (I completely missed the James Joyce allusion in the last line). I was surprised to hear just how much Oliver Sacks’ voice and style fitted how I had imagined him (batty professor, nothing like Robin Williams in the film Awakenings)as I listened to him discuss The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. I also listened to a documentary about nuns who have donated their brains to science in a large scale trial about Alzheimers. (In fact, Alzheimer’s has been a bit of a leitmotif this week, it came up an the episode of the Sopranos that I watched, and it's also mentioned in McEwan’s Saturday, in a character he based on his own mother. The statistics are frightening.)
This morning I’ve listened to a woman talk about lupus and am, as I type, finding out all about the advantages of opensource scholarly publication in “Publish or be Damned" a programme about scientific publishing and the scandalous cost of learned journals (would you believe it costs £9000 for 12 issues of Physicosomethingobscure published by Elsevier).
Update: it's not a good idea to listen to something interesting as you type, it leads to lots of typos.