Hook, Line and Singer (Radio 4)

Cerys Matthews has an unlikely love affair with fishing.

Hook, Line and Singer
Radio 4

A nice, one-off documentary about angling was presented by the singer and DJ Cerys Matthews (12 October, 11am). Followers of her Sunday-morning show on 6 Music would immediately recognise the tone: polite, enthusiastic, speaking quietly and intimately. CM's love affair with fishing began, she explained, when she was heavily pregnant with her first child. "Everyone enjoys the water and seaweed and pebbles and things. I think lots of people think the same way, don't they?"

This is classic Matthews: humble, but in a supremely contemporary way - I'm just like you, only you're a bit better. Coming from the mouth of, say, the professionally humble Guy Garvey of Elbow, who is forever on 6 Music oozing unobtrusiveness while musing about rain falling on Bolton, such a line would sound fake - yet never with CM. Maybe it's the thickness of her Welsh accent and the way she's always bursting into bits of songs, like someone walking home drunk from a party under a fat moon.

Mostly she's just excellently late Seventies. You can imagine her drenching herself in Devon Violets before a date and never, ever running out of Alka-Seltzer or pairs of tinted sunglasses. At one point, she went to visit a fishing tackle shop on the River Tay to talk about tying flies: the March brown, the blue dun and the Yellow Sally, all made from swan or peacock feathers, rabbit fur, or a badger cockerel.

CM's voice disappeared even more musically than ever high up into her neck with the romance of it all. A little later, amusingly, she asked her fishing buddy, "Do you ever write poetry, stuck out here on your own?" "Good God, no," he frowned. "Do you ever think of, like, the earth?" "That's getting a bit heavy, Cerys!" At which point, CM confessed to not being able to think cogently at all when casting a line. I was reminded of a letter that Ted Hughes wrote to Karl Miller in 1980 before a fishing holiday in Alaska: "Angling (like farming) is absolutely non-verbal - it all goes on in the right side of the brain or in the sympathetic nervous system or thereabouts - it becomes physically difficult to recover any freedom of language for quite a while. And yet I've never read anything about this odd fact . . ."

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 17 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, This is plan B