Radio - Rachel Cooke
Andy Kershaw, who wants to get You and Yours off the airwaves, is already my hero of 2006
I have made several radio New Year resolutions. The first is to forswear listening to things that I know will make me angry - chiefly, late-night programmes on BBC 5 Live and, on slow news days or when Carolyn Quinn is having a day off, Radio 4's Today. My weird addiction to the former is easily dealt with. Once installed in my bath, I shall listen to improving, calming Radio 3 or, failing that, to the idle drip of the cold tap. My addiction to the latter is more of a problem. I have an idea that if I miss Today, I will be unable to join in with the "national conversation". This is total rot. I can't remember ever having walked into the dry cleaner's, or the newsagent's, or even the office, only to find everyone talking about what David Cameron said to James Naughtie at 8.10am. But it is hard to break the habit, especially when you look at the alternatives.
The last time I tuned in to Terry Wogan on Radio 2 he lacked the urgency I need to get my day started. On the other hand, Chris Moyles on Radio 1 and Nicky Campbell on 5 Live make me so stressed, that I am in danger of doing other commuters an injury once I clamber on the bus.
My other resolution is to give some of my betes noires a chance. This decision has been inspired by one man - Andy Kershaw - who used to loiter in the darker recesses of Radio 1, but these days can more often be heard on Radio 3. Kershaw is turning into a kind of trade unionist for radio listeners. He has the accent (Lancashire, and as heavy as an Eccles cake) and I presume he still has the donkey jacket. Most of all, however, he has the rallying cry.
This rallying cry is, of course, "Get Veg Talk and You and Yours off our airwaves." Kershaw first ranted about these issues on - here's an irony - the Today programme shortly before Christmas. Asked what he thought about the axing of Radio 4's "whimsical" Home Truths, which used to be presented by his mate John Peel, Kershaw seized his moment. Why stop at Home Truths? The Radio 4 schedules are crammed full of cuddly, boring dross. Why had Veg Talk, a programme about - yes - vegetables, been commissioned over and over again? Why is You and Yours, in which John Waite and Winifred Robinson sombrely discuss credit cards and dental floss, broadcast every a day? His tone throughout all this was marvellous: as self-righteously indignant as a stout housewife who's just been sold the wrong kind of tripe at Bury market.
Previously, the idea of Kershaw and his precious world music made me feel ill; I hate pan pipes. But now I performed a swooning volte-face and decided he was the best thing since, ooh, Peter Hobday. And so it was that, on 25 December (10.15pm), I listened to Christmas In Ashgabat, in which Kershaw visited Turkmenistan. Apart from a repeat of Mark Lawson's Front Row interview with Alan Bennett on Radio 4, this was by far the best thing I heard all holiday. The Turkmens' music was lovely, if weird, and Kershaw is a great guide. It was hilarious listening to him describe his fat government minders, or the personality cult of Saparmurat Niyazov (aka Turkmenbashi - the Turkmen leader), a fellow who throws public holidays in honour of melons. "It's very Radio 3, isn't it?" Kershaw tittered, watching Ashgabat nightclubbers clamber over writhing strippers who, oddly, were performing in a doorway. The year is young, but Andy Kershaw is already my hero of 2006. Meanwhile, I will investigate the options at breakfast, and report back to you.