What's going on down there?

A preoccupation with the male anatomy has swept the airwaves

On Gaydar (gaydarradio.com), the presenters Neil and Debbie talked to Clive Peters, a retired businessman and one-time adviser to Downing Street on fiscal policy, about his new book, How to Maximise Your Manhood. "I don't know quite where to start," said Debbie. "With the cover, probably. It's a carving of a man with a big . . . noodle." She said the word as if there were simply no more logical way of putting it. "That's actually a carving from a place in Jamaica which gets hit by hurricanes," explained Clive, down the line from his home, "and on a regular basis every year at certain times the trees come down and a chap goes around and tidies up the vicinity and chops . . ."

Someone in the studio put the theme music to The Pink Panther on in the background to jolly Clive along. He was coming over rather flat, given his vocation. "Good grief," said Debbie after several further moments on the misappropriation of Jamaican stumps, "tell me, Clive - why are men obsessed with their noodles?" (I would have thought, BTW, that the nation's premier gay radio station would resort less to euphemisms for body parts - rather less need for noonoos, buds, and so on. The impression being given here was that the usually unflappable Debbie had recently been wheeled on in a pram.)

"Perhaps I should start from the beginning," offered Clive, in the dread tones of a person threatening to do just that. "I just reached a time in my life when men suffer from what is commonly known as . . ." There was no getting away from the fact that Clive was monumentally boring. ". . . And while I was doing that I discovered a machine that did actually help with the problems . . ." Really he could have been talking about rail travel, or Neal Cassady. "Which put a smile on my face and indeed that of my wife . . ."

And, as it happens, at that very moment over on BBC Radio 4, Professor Robert Winston (Robert Winston's Musical Analysis, 7 February, 3.30pm) was talking about penises, too - Schumann's, no less.

After going to bed with a woman called Christel in 1831 the composer developed a wound down there and hurried off to write the Opus 17, "a piece of music that catches that perturbing, terrible, glorious, marvellous quality of tempestuousness of manic depression".

Winston was keen to establish the extent to which Schumann's possible syphilis enhanced the all-comprehending theatricality of his compositions. He had peopled the programme with virtuosos suffering from bipolar disorder, who told tragic stories of how their loved ones banned them from playing late-period reminded them of a person chatting manically during a bad patch. Not nearly a common enough occurrence, I reckon - the begging of one's partner to stop playing the Toccata Opus 7 so masterfully that it actually renders not just the subtleties of human speech, but indeed the unconscious violence of all psychological language, to such a degree that one feels like a bitten-off leg hitting the ocean floor.

Personally I would quite dig the scenario, exasperatedly sending a text through to the living room - some fkng Brhms insted PLS DRLNG : ( - before rustling my copy of Grazia and wondering how long a girl must reasonably wait before putting the noodles on.

Pick of the week

Handel’s Silla
19 February, 2pm, Radio 3
An opera that may never have been performed in Handel’s lifetime.

Night Waves
19 February, 9.15pm, Radio 3
Devoted to Pinter’s Homecoming.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The New Depression