I love the way the steady pleasures of the radio schedules gently tether, even when you are all at sea. The other day, I struggled off a plane so sore-eyed with jet lag I hardly knew my own name. But then I got in a taxi and, because I could hear Jeremy Vine's lunchtime show on Radio 2, suddenly all became clear.
Vine is a proper radio presenter (I cannot quite see him as a DJ - though, with his fondness for the Smiths and New Order, he rather fancies himself as one) who manages to be both energetic and calming. Yes, he is almost freakishly enthusiastic when it comes to (very dull) consumer issues: "Gladys from Leicester is on the line. Gladys has also had problems finding a dentist." But he is also quick-witted and, on occasion, puckish. All of which makes him an inordinately reassuring voice to have around.
Difficult to believe that, when he took over from Jimmy Young two years ago, his appointment was mired in controversy. It is as if he has been in the job for ever. But do chats with the Gladyses of this world - even if leavened with the occasional cabinet minister - stretch Vine sufficiently? Does he mourn his former reputation as Jeremy Paxman's Mini-Me? Doesn't he sometimes long to scowl and snarl his way through a conversation? So it was with some interest that I listened to a programme that Vine presented on Radio 4 called Trouble in the Magic Circle (15 October, 10.30am). OK, so the "magic circle" part of the title did sound a bit fluffy. But the word "trouble" was altogether more promising. Surely this meant some kind of punch-up? In my mind's eye, I saw Vine stalking towards a large wooden box containing one half of a half-naked woman, while a man in evening dress tried to fight him off with a large wand. "Stand back!" Vine would shout. "Charlatan!"
But no, it seems that Vine's new chummy persona is for real (that, or his old curled lip was something he had to practise in front of a mirror). This is not to say that Trouble in the Magic Circle was not interesting; just that the old-style Vine would have gone in for his prey with fangs bared, regardless that, in this instance, it was only a few blokes who like messing about with coloured scarves. The programme's main thrust was the apparent contradiction that, whereas a member can be thrown out of the Magic Circle for revealing to the public how a trick is done, if he sells that trick to another magician, all is well. Vine went to see the
president of the Magic Circle to tackle him about this. But first, he elected to perform a card trick for him. The trick went wrong. Vine collapsed into giggles. He then speculated that this embarrassing failure might make it tricky for him to become a member of the Magic Circle. "Yes, that could well be a problem," said a rather pompous Alan Shaxon.
If this is the real Vine, then lunchtime on Radio 2 is his natural home. Those who gave him the job (rather than tetchy Nicky Campbell - at the time, a more obvious choice) should be proud. Matching presenters to stations, and to particular times, is what good radio is all about. Which brings me, I'm afraid, to Anita Anand at 5 Live. Anand, who hosts the late show (Monday to Thursday, 10pm), gets worse and worse. Her guests are, with few exceptions, dull and inept. Some of them struggle to read out text messages. All the while Anand herself twitters on and on, the bizarre inflections in her voice growing ever more discombobulating. Alas, her place in the schedule feels more like a noose than a tether. My throat - and several other muscles besides - tighten at the very thought.