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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Three minutes of fame

France Inter, a 24-hour news/discussion/feature radio channel, comforted me at the end of my working life. The magazine I edited was bought out and my 18-mile round-trip commute  became 90 miles. As entertainment and to improve my French my car radio was perpetually tuned to FI. Thus I heard (and understood) Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie le Pen in interviewee mode.

One movie at the Borderline Film Festival (still running) was La Maison de la Radio, a brilliantly edited, touching yet funny montage of a day in the life of France Inter. It is VR's favourite movie so far.

It reminded me of Joe and Lucy, both great radio listeners. It further proved how intellectually superior radio can be compared with telly. How radio can make assumptions about a listener's intelligence that telly would never dare to make. It also recalled a day when I occupied the other side of the fence.

The magazine I then edited had predicted the death of the English pudding in staff canteens. The BBC gave me a slot on the forebodingly-named John Dunne Show. What impressed me was JD's technique.  After rehearsing he said he would repeat the questions in a livelier, more vivid way and invite me to "step up". This he did, grinning, gurning, urging me facially, turning the exchanges into a sort of knowing conspiracy about the subject. To which I responded, growing in exhilaration.

La Maison de la Radio showed many examples of this. And I slipped back into two distinct pockets of time. Telly, alas, is never Proustian.


  1. That's nice, being reminded of, I mean. In fact it reminds me there's something I meant to post about. I really should listen to more French radio, France Culture has some good things on too.

    Was the prediction about English puddings a true one, do you know? I imagine it probably was. Though in fact I worked in a (fairly upmarket) canteen at a similar time, and we used to do some fairly traditional ones then.

  2. Yes, agreed! We both like radio a great deal. J. spends a good deal of time in the studio with his earbuds in his ears, listenign to podcasts of CBC shows. One you might like is called "C'est la Vie", a show about life in French Quebec for anglophone listeners.

  3. Some translation is needed for me and I don't mean en Francaise. Do you mean you were interviewed about the death of the English pudding? Does "pudding" mean "dessert" in this application? Please explain puddinglessness.
    Beth, I am also a fan of Bernard St.Laurent and love listening to him, although I have no facility for French. He just sounds like the dearest man. Also like to listen to Tom Allen. CBC Radio has most excellent programming most of the time. Unfortunately a lot of it is in the evenings when I am no longer tuned in.

  4. Lucy: My listening was done in the morning (7 - 8 am, GMT) and I profited from the time difference since it was peak listening time in France. I also profited from listening to a mix of mainly news-related programmes which meant that I started out with a reasonable knowledge of the likely background, what was going on in the world.

    This lead to a difference of opinion with Joe. He said he was hopeless about spoken French whereas that was the area I was looking to improve. I was less concerned about what was said than that I could follow it. Thus I was thrilled to listen to such political blowhards as Chirac and le Pen and understand them word for word. This horrified Joe who worried about not agreeing with what they said. Joe was frequently emotional in this way and I am sure that if he had listened to politicos (who are used to speaking down to the ill-educated) the thrill of comprehension would have overridden his political prissiness.

    Incidentally, Giscard d'Estaing, a somewhat more cerebral politico, was harder to follow.

    I commissioned the article from a freelance and it was true as far as it went. Anecdotal evidence from a handful of caterers in this particular line.

    John Dunne was my second interview that day. I was less successful with a straight news reporter from BBC Radio 4 who wasn't as helpful.

    Beth: My problem is I can listen to music when writing fiction, but not to talk. The car was perfect in that the drive took more than an hour and was over oft-repeated territory: there were no disractions. I also got used to the voices and verbal tics of the presenters. My favourite programme was one in which one guy (an Englishman but with perfect French) summarised what the foreign press was saying that day - very funny when it came to the British ragtops like The Sun and The Mirror.

    Stella: There is a whole post to be written about the linguistic status of "pudding" which is, literally, as you have guessed, a synonym for dessert. Much of it would be class-oriented and aurally nuanced. Thus the middle classes revel in referring to the hideously expensive sweet white wine from Bordeaux (eg. Sauternes) as "pudding wines". Snobbery enters the picture too.

    At the time I was enjoying my first editorship - of a fragile trade magazine called Staff And Welfare Caterer which centred on providing meals in factories, office blocks, hospitals, the armed services, prisons - non-profit catering if you like.

    You will be delighted to learn that I tried to put together a series of articles about canteens in the foreign embassies in London and the only one that gave me full co-operation were the Canucks.

    Yes, I was interviewed on the growing tendency not to order desserts at lunch. It was a hott-ish topic since it represented sociological change. There was a downside to all this media interest - the back page of my mag carried regular colour advertising from the company making Angel Delight. I worried but they were good sports.