Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Charlotte Green

In Zin's first post here she mentioned Charlotte Green.

She is, without doubt, a vital component of Radio Four. She is renowned for her voice, which won her the 'Most Attractive Female Voice on National Radio' award. She reads the news and also frequently reads clippings on News Quiz, where it is not unheard of for them to save the smuttiest clippings for her sultry voice.

Some examples of her reading cuttings for the topical comedy quiz are 1. Meat and Two Veg; 2. Taking a Hard Line; and 3. A Nigerian Identity Crisis. They are all from the News Quiz classic cuttings page, where you can hear more. (Needing Real Player again - don't blame me, blame the Beeb).

Charlotte is known for her occasional giggles, exemplified in the Nigerian Identity Crisis clip above, but one of her most classic moments ever is described in an article she wrote for the The Guardian.

I have always been enormously attracted to people who make me laugh. For me, it's essential to laugh both at the absurdity of life and at oneself. Inevitably, the laughter sometimes spills over into my work and I find myself poleaxed by merriment.

The most memorable occasion was during an eight o'clock news bulletin on the Today programme with Sue MacGregor and Jim Naughtie, both of whom have a very good sense of humour. The mood was relaxed, the bulletin was about to end and I was preparing to read my final story. The voice piece playing had 10 seconds to run and the green light in the studio had gone on to warn me that it was coming to an end. Suddenly the name of the head of Papua New Guinea's armed forces, Major General Jack Tuat (pronounced Twat) resonated round the room.

It's an open secret that I have a ribald sense of humour. I knew immediately that I was going to have trouble getting through the next story, which to compound the problem was about a sperm whale. In the few seconds before the voice piece ended, Sue repeated sotto voce, almost with a sense of wonderment, "Jack Tuat". I caught her eye and from that moment knew I was lost. My voice rose and dropped like Dame Clara Butt on speed, the laughter broke free and the item about the stranded sperm whale came to a premature end. I was transported back to my 10-year-old self, ambushed by mirth because my best friend had farted, unexpectedly and explosively, during school prayers. Poor Jim managed to splutter the words, "Good luck to the whale", before heroically embarking on an interview with a man named Pratt, who in the general chaos of the moment he then inadvertently called Spratt. It was a moot point as to which one of us slid under the table first.

I live dangerously on occasion when stepping into the Today studio. On New Year's Eve, the atmosphere was suitably festive. The head barman from the Savoy Hotel had been invited in to mix a cocktail called a Corpse Reviver and Jim offered me a taste. It lived up to its name and was powerfully medicinal. The fact that the back of my throat felt as if it had ceased to exist proved to be the least of my problems.

The head barman was asked to continue mixing some drinks and took to his task with alacrity. I, however, was meant to be reading a news summary at the same time. It's not easy to do with a silver cocktail shaker being brandished by your left ear and then shaken loudly and vigorously. The finer points of Britain's economic performance got lost amid a general outburst of merriment and revelry. Ho hum.

You can hear the clip here. And you probably will want to, again and again. It is classic 'Radio Four Gone Wrong', and a perfect Charlotte Green moment.

You can hear her discuss her career with the BBC here, with RealPlayer.

Charlotte, you are wonderful. When you were off sick for some months after getting appendicitis, my partner and I actually called the BBC to find out where you were as we were worried and missing you! The model of professionalism, and the model of giggling, in a somehow ideal combination.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Important things about this blog

I think there are a few things that need to be said at the outset of this blog - certain presuppositions and parameters that will apply. This is not an exhaustive list, but the following things are important to know:
  • Charlotte Green is the archetypal news reader and is therefore beyond reproach (especially when she gets the giggles!)
  • The Shipping Forecast is subject to detailed analysis and is generally judged on the criteria of speed of delivery, gravitas and moral judgments made about the various sea areas. Many of the sea areas have additional names (not stated by the continuity announcer) which will become apparent in due course. (This link has a great map of the shipping areas by the way.)
  • Quote Unquote is clearly *not* comedy, even though the write-up says it is. It is at all times to be avoided and shouldn't really be allowed on the air. These two statements also apply to Down the Line.
  • Monday and Friday 6.30pm programmes are almost invariably fabulous.
  • The day just feels wrong when Big Ben is not chiming. The birds which replaced Big Ben for awhile were an interesting diversion though.
  • This blog is almost exclusively about Radio 4, but the World Service is also up for debate, although only such programmes as are transmitted when Radio 4 "goes to bed".

That's all for now.

Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show!

Well, this blog has to have a first post about *something*, so why not what is on BBC Radio 4 as I type, Count Arthur Strong?

Spoof reminiscences of a former variety star. Count Arthur Strong is an expert in everything from the world of entertainment to the origins of the species, all false starts and nervous fumbling, poorly concealed by a delicate sheen of bravado and self-assurance.

While both the show and its main character are immensely irritating, I do find myself giggling, despite my best efforts not to.

It is a humour based on mixed-up words, an easily confused old has-been, and his arrogant self-importance which leads to his growing frustration when no-one recognises him or appreciates what he considers to be his considerable abilities.

He is rude, annoying and a general nightmare to be with. Yet I can't quite turn it off, nor can I hold back the odd snigger. I hate myself.