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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Silent movies on the radio

It was either Simon Brett or John Lloyd, or was it Geoffey Perkins, whose blurb, on one of his books, mentioned his great success at having adapted silent movies for broadcast on the radio. A friend's grandmother was recently able to answer a question of mine about silent movies: did people talk during them? Given that there was no spoken dialogue, did members of the audience talk over the melodramatic tinkling piano music, or did people shush each other? She was able to confirm that it was the latter, in England, at any rate. Perhaps it was different abroad. I was prompted to think of this today by a programme that was just on Radio 4 that included nude scenes and more than one attempted seduction, all at a quarter to eight on a Wednesday evening. Which got me wondering what wireless watershed might or might not exist? It did then further occur to me that a man who is worrying about nudity on the radio is possibly a man who might benefit from getting out more.

But perhaps the radio will redeem itself at quarter to nine when there is due to be a fifteen-minute programme presented by Peter Hennessey called It Happened Here, which this week is about the Prime Minister's office in the House of Commons. Who, apart from BBC Radio 4, would make time for such a fifteen-minute interlude? It did indeed so redeem itself, as I broke off from writing this to listen to the programme, which has now been on and so is no longer due to be on, but is a thing of the past (not withstanding its possible appearance on the I-Player), meaning that I am at this point here creating a temporal anomaly by writing about its past future appearance. I was also moved by an episide of Archive on Four (surely that was The Archive Hour until they cut it to forty-five minutes - BBC cuts in action; next, Front Row will be replaced by a show called Queue for Returns) about the birth, thirty years ago, of the SDP. I'm not sure that anyone who was never in either the Labour Party or the Liberal Party could understand why this story is so enthralling.

It almost made up for a spectacularly awful Prime Minister's Questions, dominated by questions of the "Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating a group of my constituents who recently won the largest egg and spoon race ever run in Gloucestershire?" variety. No Liberal Democrat MP rose to ask a question; at least, if any of them did so rise, none of them was called by Mr Speaker. Perhaps they were all away campaigning in Oldham ahead of tomorrow's by-election, or perhaps they had misunderstood Nick Clegg's admirable Alarm Clock Britain campaign and had not yet woken up? Given that this is partly a Liberal Democrat government, I doubt that I am alone among Liberal Democrats in always appreciating it when some of our MPs stand up and ask something pertinent and positive about that government's record at Prime Minister's Questions, especially given that the Deputy Prime Minister is sat next to David Cameron throughout and deserves the maximum degree of comradeship from his backbench colleagues. If that makes me sound like a Tory, then so be it - loyalty used to be the Tories' secret weapon, and we Lib Dems should borrow it from them.

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