Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 3 July

Peston and Mair go on air with all guns blazing

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176For a while now, Eddie Mair has been needling Robert Peston whenever he appears on PM. Getting his name wrong is one strategy (‘Robin Pesto’ being a favourite of mine), and when subtlety fails, Mair defaults to outright hostility. I’ve always assumed they’re good pals and that it’s a massive in-joke, an impression confirmed by The Robert Peston Interview Show (with Eddie Mair) (R4, Mondays, 11pm – also available as a podcast). In this agreeably chummy six-part series, they set up three interviews each and keep the interviewee’s identity a secret from the other. So, one interviewer is prepared, while the other is winging it.

The third show was one of the most delightful bits of radio I’ve heard in ages, with Mair springing on Peston a visit to Denis Norden’s home. For many years, Norden has been losing his eyesight to macular degeneration, but, as befits one of the best comedy writers we’ve ever had, he finds the humour in his condition. Plus points include DVD s with audio description tracks, which he finds particularly amusing during sex scenes.

Nostalgia was involved, obviously, and Norden told the glorious story of what happened when he saw a cream cake for the first time after five years of war and rationing. It wasn’t all cakes and ale, though. Needing lighting equipment for an Army show in Germany in 1945, Norden and Eric Sykes were directed to a nearby camp, which turned out to be Belsen. ‘We had not heard a word about it,’ said Norden. ‘We got back and... everybody in the unit contributed their spare food.’

Unsurprisingly, the pin-sharp Mair wins at winging it, as he did when Peston chose Julian Barnes, while the analytical Peston is best when prepped. Meanwhile, can we just have a whole series of Denis Norden talking, please?

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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