Life, love and the ac­cep­tance of loss

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You, Me and the Big C

Ra­dio 5 Live Liv­ing for the City Ra­dio 4 Woof: True Tales of Ro­mance and Fail­ure Ra­dio 4

Nick Rev­ell: Bro­kenDreamCatcher Ra­dio 4 “Rachael was nails,” said Mike Holt. “She propped us all up.” The You, Me and the Big C pod­cast on 6 Septem­ber was an emo­tional lis­ten: touch­ing and up­lift­ing, sad and pro­fes­sional. Rachael Bland, who came up with the idea for the pod­cast – a show about can­cer pre­sented by three women with can­cer – died on 5 Septem­ber. Her co-pre­sen­ters, Deb­o­rah James and Lauren Ma­hon, along with pro­duc­ers Holt and Al En­twistle, ded­i­cated the next day’s pro­gramme to Bland.

It went to No 1 in the iTunes pod­cast chart. There were in­ter­views with those who had been on the show: can­cer-suf­ferer Emma Agnew rem­i­nisced about com­ing on and talk­ing more hon­estly than she ever had be­fore; Richard Ba­con de­scribed how Bland had vis­ited him in hospi­tal when he was ill. “She was fac­ing the end,” he said, “and yet she was very con­cerned about me.”

There were jokes too: “There’s so much pres­sure on me to stay alive now,” said James, who has stage 4 bowel can­cer and, in 2016, was given an 8% chance of liv­ing for five years. “Yes, it can’t be Me, Me and the Big C!” said Ma­hon. At the end, they played The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done. Not a dry eye in the house.

Last week’s episode was a pre-record, made when Bland was still alive. And now the team are go­ing to take a short break be­fore re­turn­ing with the show in a few weeks. Con­tin­u­ing the pod­cast is right, es­pe­cially with all its new fans, but it will be dif­fi­cult. James and Ma­hon need to come to terms with the empty chair be­hind the main mi­cro­phone, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. Bland was the most ex­pe­ri­enced of the three when it came to pre­sent­ing; it will take a lit­tle time for James and Ma­hon to find out how best to work with­out her. The ap­palling sud­den­ness of some­one be­ing there, and then not, is a shock. All that per­son­al­ity, that liv­ing phys­i­cal pres­ence – gone. It takes time to ad­just.

An­other mov­ing lis­ten last week was Ra­dio 4’s Liv­ing for the City. Singer Corinne Bai­ley Rae re­turned to Leeds, where she grew up. Bai­ley Rae was an ex­cel­lent tour host, hon­est and de­scrip­tive – es­pe­cially about what it was like be­ing a teenager, wait­ing for buses, which she did a lot: “It was al­ways rain­ing, you’d al­ways be freez­ing.”

She didn’t ap­pear to mind, though. When she first went to Los An­ge­les, she was called “the sun­shine girl”, but there is some­thing tough in Bai­ley Rae. Her de­scrip­tion of the night her hus­band, Ja­son, went out and didn’t come back (he died in 2008 of an ac­ci­den­tal over­dose) was im­mensely sad. And the travelling woman, who’d gone from wait­ing on buses to fly­ing around the world, didn’t want to travel any more. “It was such a huge chasm, such a big break, my life slowed down to min­i­mal move­ment – like be­ing in water or be­ing in trea­cle,” she said. “In a way, I could say it was 10 years, I didn’t do any­thing.” A won­der­ful pro­gramme, sen­si­tively pro­duced by Fall­ing Tree.

Shall we cheer our­selves up? Here are a cou­ple of short, latenight com­edy pro­grammes worth check­ing out. Woof: True Tales of Ro­mance and Fail­ure, on to its sec­ond episode of four last week, is a treat. Like a rapid-fire Eng­lish David Sedaris, Chris Neill tells his funny tales of rub­bish dates. Ev­ery word is per­fectly cho­sen and per­fectly used; ac­tu­ally, he has some­thing of Alan Ben­nett, too.

In Bro­kenDreamCatcher,

Nick Rev­ell (above) gives us a dif­fer­ent style of com­edy sto­ry­telling, where he takes his au­di­ence by the hand and leads it to un­ex­pected, mag­i­cal places. Last week, he ex­am­ined the world of con­spir­acy the­o­ries. His list of Il­lu­mi­nati mem­bers made me laugh. Both of these shows are easy lis­ten­ing, be­cause the co­me­di­ans in them are so good. Up­lift­ing stuff.

‘She propped us all up’: Rachael Bland, far left, who died ear­lier this month, with You, Me and the Big C co-pre­sen­ters Lauren Ma­hon and Deb­o­rah James. Pho­to­graph by Claire Wood

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