Friday, 22 January 2016

Radio Review: 22 January

Why doesn’t Melvyn sound more interested?

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176I’ve got a format for Radio 4. Get a group of experts in to talk about a subject, and have a bored-sounding man ask them questions that would seem a bit woolly coming from a mildly curious toddler. If you think they’d never commission it, haven’t I just described In Our Time? (R4, Thursdays, 9am).

Last week’s show was about Saturn and its rings, and there was a fascinating programme in there somewhere, but Melvyn Bragg really sounded as though he’d rather be anywhere else. A couple of times, I thought he was within an ace of doing that derisive laugh that John Humphrys does. A classical generalist, he’s wildly out of his depth when he can’t drag everything back to Aristotle.

That same day, Woman’s Hour (R4, weekdays, 10am) closed with the author of a new vegan cookbook making a quesadilla for Dame Jenni Murray. Two things made my ears prick up. One was the superbly withering way that Dame Jenni referred to an element of the recipe as ‘a savoury cashew spread that you’d call cheese’. The other was the author claiming that when she became a vegan ‘you couldn’t even get a soya latte, people looked at you as if you had two heads’. As she sounded like a bright young thing, I wondered when her conversion took place. Answer: six short years ago. Now, I haven’t lived in London for 14 years, but even back in the dark ages I could have found any number of coffee shops selling soya lattes. If, that is, I had wanted to. Which I didn’t.

For further evidence that 2010 was not year zero for the meatfree life, my treasured 1911 Baedeker lists several vegetarian restaurants, including the superbly named Shearn’s Fruit Luncheon Saloon on Tottenham Court Road. It’s a Waitrose now, so you can buy apples there fully aware of a proud tradition.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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