Friday, 09 October 2015

Radio Review: 9 October

Remembering Henry Root makes up for Jeremy Vine

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176I found myself listening to Jeremy Vine the other day. I have no idea why, given my blood pressure woes, but there I was, earwigging as listeners rang in to have their computer problems solved by the show’s resident expert.

One chap found his laptop touchpad had suddenly stopped working. The advice? Take it into a repair shop. I was astonished that an ‘expert’ had seemingly never heard that many laptop touchpads can be turned on and off accidentally by holding down the Fn and F5 keys at the same time, and that it’s easy for clumsy typists to do this accidentally. Bitter experience, there.

My disgust at such duff expertise was balanced by my joy at learning that Radio 4 Extra was repeating the 2007 Book Of The Week adaptation of You Cannot Live As I Have Lived And Not End Up Like This, Terence Blacker’s engrossing biography of subversive rogue Willie Donaldson.

I’ve been a fan of Donaldson’s work ever since my form teacher at school lent me The Henry Root Letters (Thank you, Mr Wallis). Barely a day goes by without a phrase from one of Donaldson’s books springing to mind and making me laugh.

Being his friend (as Blacker was) seems to have been equal parts horror and joy. Just as his life was equal parts establishment and anti-establishment. At Cambridge, he joined staid societies largely to mock them. Later he became a pimp, humorist and enthusiastic user of crack cocaine. ‘How many pupils of FR Leavis have become ponces?’ he wondered aloud frequently.

In this version, Stephen Boxer portrays Blacker and Donaldson convincingly. Donaldson came up with a lovely phrase: ‘We can’t organise happiness. But we can organise unboredom.’ Donaldson has unbored me many times, for which profuse thanks.

Louis on Twitter: @LF Barfe or email:

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