A wise man once said ‘You ought to go and do as you are told, you ought to listen to the radio’, and as usual I do as I’m told. As someone who spent most of his ‘working’ days over the last few years at a desk, the radio is just about my best friend (no offence). I could do without all other technical wizardry, but my relationship with the radio is a lifelong affair.
So ingrained is it that I realise I have perhaps taken it for granted, never having written about it on these pages, which considering the amount of hours spent listening seems a waste. This struck me as I listened to The Quest of Donal Q, this week’s episode of Radio 4’s Saturday Play (which you can catch here on the iplayer for the next six days). It was written specifically for Brian Cox and Billy Connolly by David Ashton and is loosely based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Also featuring Sandy McDade and Forbes Masson it is a terrifically entertaining hour in the company of two of Scotland’s favourite sons, and is a great example of what the BBC continues to do better than anyone else.
This got me thinking about what I’ve been listening to over the last few years, and there’s been some great programmes, particularly if you’re interested in the sort of stuff dealt with on Scots Whay Hae! You have your selection of Scottish Cafes; Movie, Culture, Book and Comedy, on weekday afternoons on Radio Scotland, and there are too many dramas written and performed by Scots or with a Scottish context to mention here, and that’s before you consider music (where radio continues to be an important place to hear new sounds and bands despite what others may tell you), sport and documentaries. Just today I was listening to Radio 4 and heard the first episode of Welsh’s Scottish Journey where writer, and friend of Scots Whay Hae!, Louise Welsh follows Orcadian poet Edwin Muir’s ‘Scottish Journey’ of 1934. You just won’t get this anywhere else. If you’ve travelled abroad with a tranny you’ll know how true this is (insert gag here).
I do want to draw your attention to two of my personal favourite radio shows of recent times, both of which first appeared on Radio 4. Another Brian Cox vehicle, adapted from Neil Forsyth’s excellent books, were The Bob Servant Emails which were only 15 minutes long but which proved to be some of the funniest radio for years. Cox is perfectly cast as Servant, a man who answers those emails the rest of us delete. Here’s an example of what’s on offer:
But my favourite Scottish radio comedy of the last few years is Fags, Mags & Bags which is set in a Lenzie local convenience store and which stars Sanjeev Kohli and Donald McLeary, also the writers, as best friends Ramesh and Dave who manage matters in shop. There is a regular cast which includes Julia Wilson Nimmo and Omar Raza, but there have also been interesting guest stars such as Kevin Eldon, Greg McHugh and Sylvester McCoy. It also had legend Gerard Kelly as the inappropriate Father Henderson in one of his final roles. In half an hour it always manages to be amusing, poignant and has a warmth which is something that radio requires more than TV or film. It is a much more intimate experience, and one which rejects overly harsh tones or violent changes. To put it another way; ‘It is both amazing, and great’. Here is Ramesh and Dave to show you around Fags, Mags & Bags:
The end of last night was spent watching BBC Alba which had the foresight and good taste to show the BBC’s 1974 production of John McGrath’s The Sheep, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. If you want to see just how fondly it is thought of then you should go over to Reel Scotland to garner the strength of feeling from those who also stayed up to watch, but it was a timely reminder of what BBC TV rarely does these days; namely produce thoughtful social/political drama (think also Edge of Darkness and Jute City). Things on the airwaves are healthier, if admittedly rarely hard hitting, but on stations such as Radio Scotland, Radio 4 and now Radio 4+, it seems comedy and drama can remain insightful, entertaining and relevant. It appears The Buggles were mistaken, video couldn’t see radio off after all.