Friday 16 January 2009

More Women Than Men on News Quiz Shock!

I love News Quiz, it's one of my favourite half hours on radio 4, but there are always, always, always many more men than women.

Tonight, possibly for the first time (certainly the first time I have ever heard), there are three women and two men. Even discounting the chair (and discounting Sandi should surely be illegal), that makes an equal number of male and female contestants.


And now I have expressed my joy I will go back to enjoying the programme.

Thursday 18 September 2008

ISIHAC Mailout

Dear I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue Mailing List Member,

It seems an opportune moment to communicate after the hiatus caused by the death of our beloved Chairman Humph in April this year.

Firstly, on behalf of the team, I'd like to thank the thousands of you who sent us messages of condolence. There were so many I regret I have still not replied to 900 or so - I promise I will in due course. And belatedly, on Humph's behalf, I'd like to thank the thousands who sent Humph "Get Well" messages when he first went into hospital. I spent several hours printing out as many as I could and took a huge pile of them in for Humph to read in his hospital bed. I'm so pleased he was able to able to appreciate the scale of everyone's affection for him at what must have been a very worrying time.

You will probably have heard the various Radio tributes to Humph since his death. I do hope you caught the ISIHAC team's tribute to the great man on 15th June narrated by Stephen Fry. If you didn't, I'm pleased to say that BBC Audiobooks will be releasing it later this year, together with the show Humph In Wonderland which we recorded last Christmas. I will send further details of these in due course.

And you might also have read Radio 4's announcement that we will be continuing with I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue in 2009. We have all been slightly ambivalent about continuing the show without Humph, but have been greatly encouraged by the huge number of emails you've sent encouraging us to keep going. Despite the rumours, we've made no decisions about possible replacements for Humph, and are unlikely to make any decisions this year at least. Certainly I don't envisage us selecting anyone on a permanent basis for several series.

For anyone suffering withdrawal symptoms in the absence of their biannual dose of 'Clue', there are several programmes and publications either currently available or in the pipeline...

* On BBC iPlayer you can currently catch both the BBC4 tribute to Humph, and a half-hour excerpt from the ISIHAC Tour show we filmed at the Lowry Centre in Salford earlier this year. This is the only complete film of ISIHAC in existence and was the last recording Humph made before he went into hospital just ten days later. We will be releasing the entire show as a DVD in due course, hopefully by Christmas. The links to the iPlayer shows are as follows: For the BBC4 Humph Tribute it's and for the half-hour tour show except it's

* On 10th October our publisher Trevor Dolby at Preface Books is bringing out the complete collection of Humph's introductions to all the places we visited over seventeen years touring the show, written by Iain Pattinson. The book is entitled Lyttelton's Britain and contains a large amount of previously unbroadcast material. As I say in a foreword to the book, I think the combination of Iain Pattinson and Humphrey Lyttelton has been the single most important writer/performer partnership in British Radio since Galton & Simpson started writing for Tony Hancock. It's a wonderful and hilarious collection and I confidently predict it will be a best-seller. You can pre-order a copy of Lyttelton's Britain now, and Trevor is offering this book at a special discounted rate of 35% off the retail price to members of this mailing list - that's less than Amazon. Just go to and click on 'Pre-Order Now', then enter the promotional code 'Lyttelton' before purchasing, and the price will amend to £9.74 plus £2.75 postage, so £12.49 in total.

* Finally, I must tell you that our good friend and Clue regular Andy Hamilton is touring his one man show 'Hat of Doom' around the country over twenty dates from now until early December. You will of course know Andy from his regular appearances on The News Quiz as well as Radio 4's Old Harry's Game. Andy was co-creator and writer of Channel 4's legendary Drop The Dead Donkey and has recently co-created and written the stunningly good BBC1 sitcom Outnumbered, which returns for a second series this Autumn. For the complete list of Andy's tour dates, go to:

And that's about it for now. I will of course keep you posted of any future developments.

With best wishes

Jon Naismith
Producer, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

Saturday 29 March 2008

When Charlotte Giggles.

When an upset stomach wakes you at 5.45am, there's every reason to believe that the hours ahead will be grim.

This was indeed what was happening to me yesterday morning, and I was thoroughly fed up. Until the now widely reported moment of joy during the 8am news on the Today programme.

Charlotte Green was reading it, and had just introduced a clip of the earliest known recording of the human voice, singing Au Clair de la Lune in 1860. When Charlotte returned after the clip it was clear within moments that she was starting to lose it. What ensued was fantastic, even more of a giggle attack than the infamous Jack Tuat incident.

~~~~Listen here~~~~

Charlotte's collapse was covered all over the media, with the Guardian writing this:

BBC Radio 4 newsreader Charlotte Green's famously steadfast composure on the Today programme deserted her this morning as she dissolved in a fit of giggles live on air while reading an obituary - sending the press office into meltdown.

Green's perfect enunciation is so constant it is an article of faith among her millions of fans, but it fell apart shortly after 8am today as she read a news item about the death of Oscar-winning screenwriter Abby Mann and had to be rescued by presenter James Naughtie.

However, the corpsing spread, with Naughtie struggling to suppress giggles when introducing the next report at 8.10am, about the danger that Iraq may be sliding into civil war after this week's clashes in Basra between government forces and fighters loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

The Today programme received hundreds of calls and emails after Green's fit of giggles and the BBC press office went into "meltdown", according to the show's presenter Edward Stourton.

Stourton later explained to listeners that Green had been put off after the previous news item, about the first recording of a human voice, singing Au Clair de la Lune.

Stourton said Green was distracted after an as yet unidentified Today staffer whispered in her ear that the quaint female singer sounded like a "bee buzzing in a bottle".

He and Naughtie both denied responsibility for the prank.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "Yes, Charlotte Green got a fit of the giggles after hearing a recording of the first human voice from 1860, this was the first time she had heard this. The next item was an obituary about Abby Mann."

"I'm afraid I just lost it, I was completely ambushed by the giggles," said Green later.

She admitted a similar giggling fit struck her about 10 years ago, also on the Today programme.

"I did feel slightly embarrassed, knowing I have this reputation that I am prone to getting the giggles," she said.

"People have been very sweet and everyone has been coming up to me said how much it has cheered up their Friday morning."

The Today editor, Ceri Thomas, said most listeners who contacted the show had commented on "how much they had enjoyed the moment".

He added: "When Charlotte loses it, she really loses it."

Despite the sensitive nature of reading an obituary, and the disastrous event of giggling throughout one, our favourite Charlotte doesn't seem to be in any trouble. The nation loved it, it was re-played less than an hour later before the end of Today, as there had been so many requests.

You can listen to the giggling fit here or here.

And as if that wasn't enough mirth for an early morning, the Monty Python song I'm So Worried was used to illustrate the Heathrow fiasco, thanks to its lyrics,

I'm so worried about what's happening today,
In the Middle East, you know.
And I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval
System they've got at Heathrow. (read full lyrics here)

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Adapted from an email from Refuge

We would like to let you know that on Sunday 30 March 2008 Honor Blackman will be reading the BBC Radio 4 Appeal to raise funds and awareness for the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge). This will be a chance to hear more about how the helpline supports the thousands of women and children who are experiencing domestic violence.

The BBC Radio 4 Appeal is a three minute appeal on behalf of the BBC's chosen charity for that week. It encourages listeners to donate over the phone, online, or by post.

The Appeal will be aired at 7.55am and 9.26pm on Sunday 30th March 2008, and then at 3.27pm on Thursday 3rd April 2008, on BBC Radio 4: 92.4 - 94.6 FM and 198 LW. You will also be able to listen again online at for a week after the first appeal broadcast.

Please help us to raise as much money as possible by listening in and helping to spread the word! We want to tell as many as people as possible about the broadcast, so let your friends know and ask them to tell their friends as well! The more people who listen the more money will be raised - all of which will go directly towards providing a potentially lifesaving Helpline service for women affected by domestic violence.

Please spare five minutes of your day to listen to the Appeal and forward this email to as many friends and family as possible. Thank you.

With warmest wishes from all at Refuge and Women's Aid

For further information on the appeal, please contact

Sunday 9 March 2008


GFI is Radio 4's kids' programme. I don't listen to it often, but through my occasional dalliances with it I do know exactly what to do when I find a whale stranded on a beach.

Barney Harwood, who presents it, used to sing along to the theme tune which made it much more entertaining than nowadays when he doesn't. But I guess he has some dignity to maintain.

Tonight's programme was actually a really sensitive and careful discussion on how children cope with death, and what does and doesn't help.

Barney talked mainly to three children, two of whom were siblings who had lost their Dad, and one a girl who had lost her brother. They also had Michael Rosen on the programme, the current children's laureate, who wrote Michael Rosen's Sad Book after the death of his son. He wrote it to help himself cope, but it is a children's book which children experiencing grief can read and, judging by the reviews of the kids in the programme, is very helpful and reassuring to them. All of them, Rosen himself included, particularly loved the illustrations in the book, done by the ever-fabulous Quentin Blake.

They also talked to Milly Bell, who wrote My Daddy is Dying when she was 7 years old, in order to help other children in the same situation that she was in. Then Barney and the children on the programme asked her various questions, and her maturity when discussing her life was truly incredible.

The programme was gentle and inspiring. This adult here wishes she had the guts and wisdom of some of those kids, in dealing with death and bereavement.

Wednesday 5 March 2008


Radio 4 has this uncanny knack of taking a subject in which you thought you had no interest, and drawing you in so you're hanging on its every word.

That happened to me this morning with In Living Memory, discussing myxomatosis in rabbits:
Contemporary history series.

Chris Ledgard recalls the outbreak of the early 1950s which almost wiped out the country's entire rabbit population, to the consternation of animal lovers but to the relief of farmers desperate to protect their crops.

I ended up so enthralled that I had to delay my plans by half an hour, to hear the whole programme. The history in Australia, the introduction of the disease to the UK (seemingly deliberately) and the mixture of those who were glad of the disease to control the rabbit populations (often those in agriculture) and those who thought it was a death too cruel to inflict deliberately.

They even brought in Beatrix Potter and how many people in Britain's response to the situation was influenced by our childhood memories of the nasty Mr MacGregor.

The Australian government encouraged the deliberate spreading of myxomatosis in rabbits, whereas here the prospect of introducing a new disease into nature was generally perceived as a more unwise option.

I have to say, I am on the side of the Peter Rabbit lovers.

Wednesday 16 January 2008


Ian McMillan (love him) is on Quote Unquote (hate it). Dilemma!

Thursday 3 January 2008

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg

In Our Time is another of those 'only on radio 4' programmes. It is so intellectually brain-scrambling that I usually turn it off part way through, with no real idea of the intricacies of the scientific or philosophical absurdities which are being deconstructed. Melvyn B. himself usually has a frighteningly impressive ability to grasp and wrestle with each week's subject.

But on hearing the introduction to today's programme, I recognised the name of one of my University professors, and decided to have a go at following the debate.

It was about Albert Camus, whose literature I had been taught by that very same professor, and I am pleased to report that once my brain had woken up and remembered that it is capable of actual thinking, I followed the discussion with interest, comprehension and not a little nostalgia.

I studied l'├ętranger 3 times, firstly at A-level, where i am sure it is popular with tutors taking advantage of the fact that because it is written in the 1st person, they don't have to teach the past historic tense on top of everything else. But In Our Time this morning reminded me that as well as being not too technically or linguistically challenging a text, it also has much literary and philosophical merit.

Sunday 30 December 2007

Posh woman teaches Muslims to fish

The Fishing Scene today at 12.30pm was a classic piece of Radio 4 treasure. For a reason that was never explained, a posh older woman was spending the day teaching four Muslim young women how to do fly-fishing. Amidst flies, hooks and splashy noises the women got to know each other, discussing matters from fashion, to marriage, to African fish-head soup! I wanted to adopt the fishing woman as my honorary aunt and the young women as my sisters. The unlikely group talked, laughed, got on like a house on fire and even caught some fish.