Tuesday 9 November 2021

Letters from over there

The terror of radio

BBC Radio 4 has been my radio channel of choice for decades, one of those discoveries I made by osmosis, an interest of a partner that I acquired as they expanded my horizons. Each of them through the years has brought something special into my life and worldview, I am grateful to all of them.

One night I was listening to the book of the week and what was playing as my senses got attuned to what was going on, was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, just before going to bed? No thank you, I had to switch off the radio, my dreams are vivid enough without the need for inspiration or encouragement in the horror genre.

Stomach the discomfort

The day was a bit rough, a bit of abdominal pain, stomach upset and visiting the Detritus Throne more times than necessary with it in flow rather than consistency. Then I was choking on a drink of a fruit smoothie, I was seeing all again arrive at speed in the toilet bowl, I was just ready for a lie down and that was if I could keep in bed long enough before I was summoned to the court of nature again.

Usually, for my evening naps, I would go for BBC Radio 3 and classical music wafts through the air as I settle into probably 2 hours of sleep, but this time, I decided to touch BBC Radio 4 Extra and what a surprise that presented to my hearing.

Extra on the radio

First, it was something with the legendary and amazing Kenneth Williams, that distinctively unmissable voice with English enunciation that is always comical and funny. The dramatic effect makes for good radio, you cannot tire of listening to anything he was in.

However, what caught my attention and I do miss for long while was the British-American Alistair Cooke’s, A Letter From America by Alistair Cooke, he gave such an interesting insight into America by an Englishman resident there, the similarities and differences, especially in language where the homophones, homographs and homonyms are a veritable study in how we might speak the same English and yet be saying totally different things.

An insight on America

Alistair Cooke was present in the same place when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and he was a witness to many 20th Century events that he relayed weekly on BBC Radio for 58 years and now 1472 episodes are available to listen to on BBC Radio 4. However, a programme that includes an interview and excerpts from many broadcasts over the years was relayed on BBC Radio 4 Extra titled Alistair Cooke’s Century, you should start with this and then explore other episodes.

Sadly, of the many Englishmen that have gone to live in America, none have come close in ability or stature to give us a window on America as this great man. I guess the memory of that unique insight is one that would have me playing back many Letters from America. This would make for an enjoyable time.

Note: The BBC Radio X links are to live programmes when you click on them.

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