Posted by: billpurdue | June 19, 2015

Specially for fans of Radio 4

Out of the 365 days in the year, I would think there is only a handful of days when I don’t listen to BBC Radio 4, whether I want the news (the main reason) or a documentary or possibly comedy. I must therefore be one of Radio 4’s devoted fans.

When I came across a new book all about Radio 4, I had to have it. “For the Love of Radio 4 : an unofficial companion” by Caroline Hodgson is the book that attracted my attention and I’m finding it fascinating.


There’s a brief history of Radio 4 (known as the Home Service until 30th Sept. 1967), details about all the popular long running series such as The Archers, Desert Island Discs, I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue, Woman’s Hour and several more. There are potted biographies of well known Home Service/Radio 4 personalities, such as Kenneth Horne (a successful businessman specializing in toughened glass before taking up a career in comedy), Roy Plomley of Desert Island Discs fame and Jenni Murray, presenter of Woman’s Hour, who was born in Barnsley.

There’s lots more, for example: the pips, BBC Radio 4’s relationship with Westminster , religion and ethics, drama and readings and so on, all rounded off with a short chapter devoted to Letter from America. It’s a delightful book to browse through or even read from start to finish. It’s ideal for anyone with any interest in radio. The author has a background in TV production and became hooked on Radio 4 in her twenties.

Magic at the start of the 19th Century


I’m thoroughly enjoying the drama series on BBC1 TV called “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Susanna Clarke and is all about the state of magic and magicians in 1806. It’s the general opinion at the time that there has been no magic practiced in England for the past 300 years and a certain Mr Norrell from Yorkshire is convinced that he is the only magician left in the country. Enter Jonathan Strange, a totally different type of person all together, but he is also a magician. It’s the feud between these two which is the central theme of the novel, as well as the unintended side effects of some of the spells that they cast.

I read this novel (in hardback) some years ago, but as the drama series began, I wanted to re-read it and bought the ‘TV tie-in’ paperback. It’s long – about 1000 pages – but never dull. I’m about a third of the way through, trying to catch up with the TV series, but I don’t think I will succeed. It has some rather archaic language (‘chuse’ instead of ‘choose’ for example), but for anyone who is looking for a good long read that’s a bit different, this is just the thing. Page turning and terrifying!

New – file under ‘Railways’


Browsing in Waterstone’s Chesterfield today I came across two recent railway titles that might also appeal to the general reader of history titles.

 Belles Whistles

First : “Belles and Whistles: journeys through time on Britain’s trains” by Andrew Martin. According to the publicity the author “recreates five …. famous train journeys by travelling aboard their nearest modern day equivalents. Sometimes their names have survived, even if only as a footnote on a timetable leaflet, but what has usually – if not always – disappeared is the extravagance and luxury. As Martin explains how we got from there to here, evocations of the golden age contrast with the starker modern reality”

 Trains now departed

Second: “The Trains Now Departed: Sixteen Excursions into the Lost Delights of Britain’s Railways” by Michael Williams. The author “tells the stories of some of the most fascinating lost trains of Britain, vividly evoking the glories of a bygone age. In his personal odyssey around Britain, Michael Williams tells the tales of the pioneers who built the tracks, the yarns of the men and women who operated them and the colourful trains that ran on them”. (By the way, if you study the cover illustration and you know Derbyshire, can you see a possible error in the picture?)

If you’re looking for railway books, which are well illustrated with photos and pictures of railways and trains, these are not for you. However, they both look very promising as absorbing reads, so I’m hoping to examine them both in more detail in the near future

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