Michael Ball’s Sunday Brunch (Radio 2)

Michael Ball bends the knee like a medieval courtier.

"I recognise that smiling laugh," says Michael Ball (21 August, 11am). "Ha! Hi, how are ya, Michael?" says Doris Day. "I'm really well," giggles Ball. "May I call you Doris?" "Oh, do." "This is such a thrill." "How sweet!" "I've been a fan all of my life." "No kidding!" "I really truly have. This is a very, very special moment for me. One I thought would never happen. Thank you so much for agreeing to chat." "Oh, my goodness! Thank you. Thank you again and again and again and again!"

Doris, 87 and on the phone in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, leans against the conservatory's rustling, drawn shades and waves away the maid. This Ball fellow is just adorable, no? It's been a long time since a man was quite so solicitous and yet here he is, as eager as a medieval envoy. Not that Ball is being remotely insincere. You can hear in his voice a significant awe - each compliment a bouquet laid gently on the back seat of a Daimler.

“Well, I've been listening to your new album and it's just charming," he continues. "Well, it was fun to do," admits Doris.

“I particularly love your cover of 'You Are So Beautiful,'" says Michael. "Huh?" asks Doris. "'You Are So Beautiful?'" repeats Michael anxiously. "The song by Joe Cocker?"' An uncomfortable silence and the atmosphere of Doris thinking hard, as though summoning biographical details of a relative from the past century. "Ahhh," she finally utters, and then: "Oh yes! I love that. Isn't it gorgeous?" "Ah, it is," splutters Ball. Relief!

And so the interview continues, with the occasional clip of Doris in her prime singing "Sentimental Journey". An image of Rock Hudson holding his head unconvincingly against her small bosom in Lover Come Back springs to mind, and Day raising her chin sharply, like a gun aiming at a duck. "Oh, we had a wonderful time," Doris is saying. "It just makes me cry to think that most of those guys are all gone. Oh boy . . ." "Jimmy Cagney?" nudges Michael, gently. "He was so good," mutters Doris, "but boy did we fight." "Cary Grant?" "Cary. So funny! That face!" "James Garner?" "James Garner is still alive," yells Doris. "In fact, I must call him in a minute."

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 29 August 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Gold