Ra­dio Va­lerie Grove

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

Hav­ing been thrust by Richard In­grams into the edi­tor’s chair at Pri­vate Eye at 26, Ian His­lop has ever since proved to be one of our he­roes. And Chain Re­ac­tion, when His­lop linked up with Vic­to­ria Coren Mitchell, was one of the best ever. In the Coren house­hold, Vic­to­ria said, she was brought up to be­lieve that it was ‘a bit of­fen­sive to say some­thing se­ri­ous if you could make a joke about it in­stead’. So, fear­ful of any pauses and of be­ing bor­ing (‘the great­est crime’), she and her brother Giles would talk at rat­tling speed and agreed with the Coren rule ‘If hu­man cul­ture had to get along with­out P G Wode­house or Goethe, we would be a lot bet­ter off with­out Goethe.’ His­lop prompted her to talk about the Ormerod Hoax, whereby she and Giles tricked and outed some no­to­ri­ous fu­neral wake crash­ers – al­ways found hov­er­ing over the baked meats – by a hoax death no­tice. Vic­to­ria was al­ready a gam­bler at eight, schooled by her grand­fa­ther who ‘took our money and spent it on cigs’; she was a teenage Tele­graph colum­nist, got a first at Ox­ford, and re­mains fiendishly (and lu­cra­tively) hot stuff at poker; never thought she’d marry, but is ob­vi­ously pleased to be Mrs David Mitchell. At one weak mo­ment she ac­tu­ally said ‘David re­ally is my soul-mate’, where­upon His­lop cut her off briskly with ‘Yeah, that’s enough of that, back to your ca­reer.’ There was no men­tion of the an­tipa­thy that once ex­isted be­tween her dad at Punch, and In­grams at the Eye. (I was once at a long-ago News Quiz record­ing with Coren; we were told In­grams was off sick. ‘What’s that, In­grams ill?’ flashed back Coren. ‘Noth­ing triv­ial, I hope?’)

Vic­to­ria CM chose, as the next in­ter­vie­wee in Chain Re­ac­tion, the woman her fa­ther was ‘be­sot­ted’ with: ‘the short, sar­cas­tic, unique’ Sandi Toksvig. Sandi re­called how she and Alan Coren, when away do­ing Call My Bluff, would sit in their ho­tel beds watch­ing TV and eating burg­ers. ‘We’re like an old mar­ried cou­ple,’ said Sandi, ‘ex­cept we don’t have sex.’ ‘No,’ said Alan, ‘we’re like an old mar­ried cou­ple.’ Sandi

was ex­pelled from three schools – ‘They had this ir­ri­tat­ing rule that you had to be there ev­ery day’ – and she hated Cam­bridge but took part in the only all-fe­male Foot­lights show ever, with Emma Thomp­son and Jan Ravens, play­ing the Vir­gin Mary and Mae West. In 2016, she said, pro­duc­ers still get ex­cited if there is more than one woman on any panel. And she told how her el­dest daugh­ter, now a doc­tor, was taunted at school, ‘Your mum’s a les­bian’ – and re­sponded, ‘Yes, that’s right: did you need more in­for­ma­tion?’

I boy­cotted the Broadcasting Press Guild’s an­nual awards lun­cheon (£60 a plate) at Drury Lane, again. Ev­ery year, the piti­fully small band of BPG mem­bers who cover ra­dio rather than TV ap­peal for more ra­dio cat­e­gories. But the sta­tus quo pre­vails: twenty or so cat­e­gories for TV, a pa­thetic two for ra­dio. This year’s win­ners were the comic writer John Fin­nemore, and Sue Macgre­gor’s The Re­union. Both more than wor­thy, but how rep­re­sen­ta­tive of mil­lions of ra­dio hours? How to voice ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Af­ter­noon Dra­mas like Ian His­lop and Nick New­man’s Trial By Laugh­ter, about the 1817 trial of Wil­liam Hone for li­bel (when he and the car­toon­ist Cruik­shank re­duced the court to tears of laugh­ter), or Sean Grundy’s satire on the YBAS Burn Baby Burn, in which Jon Cul­shaw gave us his price­less Brian Sewell? Dis­cern­ing Oldie read­ers surely spend more time with their com­pan­ion­able ra­dios – in car, kitchen, gar­den or bed – than they do gog­gling the box. As Ni­cholas Lezard, former ra­dio critic of the In­de­pen­dent, laments in the New States­man, ‘The free­lance ra­dio critic is, I sup­pose, the frailest ca­nary in the coal mine.’ Yet ra­dio sta­tions pro­lif­er­ate – I shall report on the new dig­i­tal sta­tion Mel­low Magic (fea­tur­ing Fran God­frey, Terry Wo­gan’s Ra­dio 2 side­kick ) – and au­di­ences who could eas­ily ditch TV can­not ever imag­ine a ra­dio-less life.

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