Knowingly undersold

How to rip off John Lewis, and other stories.

Waiter there's a Fly in my Soup
Radio 4
Discovering Music
Radio 3

A hilarious one-off about the returns tills in department stores (5 March, 10.30am) flagged up John Lewis as pushover numero uno, operating a "no time limit, any reasonable explanation" policy. "Look, a tear!" you might say after a weekend at Gallipoli. "Blood and hair!" Expressionless, they will pencil you a credit note. "Frankly, some people do try it on," someone admitted, but then added the whole returns thing is "like operating a casino. People return - and then spend". Too true. Every time I return something successfully, drunk with success I lose my head completely and buy a queen-sized duvet. "What's wrong with it?" asked the presenter, Peter White, of a woman returning a bra. "Look, this is just something I do," she shrugged.

The following afternoon, the sublime Radio 3 presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch unpicked the Brandenburg Concertos phrase by phrase with the orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music, suggesting that Concerto No 1, in particular, is a CV of Bach's talents (6 March, 5pm). "Can we just hear what the horns do at the beginning? That's great! Thank you, Rodolpho!" As fans of M-P know, she lives in a world packed with Rodolphos forever giving her the sensation a bibliophile might get on coming across a first folio of Shakespeare. Have you seen her picture on the Radio 3 website? A ­musicology post-grad and alumnus of Newnham College, Cambridge, it is simply impossible not to imagine all sorts of biographical details while listening to her speak (favourite sweet: aniseed balls, surely). Richard Egarr, the conductor, piped up now and again, charmingly. "It's a slightly technical thing. It's in the ankles, Sara. It gives you a lift."

“Well, let's hear them clashing together with the oboe! Such lovely dialogue between the violins!" The effect was that at the end of the programme your correspondent was acutely aware, possibly for the first time, that the Brandenburg Concerto No 1 is basically, in a nutshell, epistemologically speaking, etc: an awful lot of musical instruments playing together at once. Now that's what I call a masterclass.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 14 March 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Who owns the world?