Friday, 6 March 2009

Proper Job!

When I lived in London I was very partial to LBC. Describing itself as London's Biggest Conversation, LBC is a 24 hour talk radio station, where listeners are invited to call in with insightful comments, rant, rave, ramble or witter on aimlessly as the fancy takes them. I would often have this station on in the background as I tapped away at my keyboard, and it almost became like audio wallpaper for me.

All this ended when I moved. You can't get LBC in Sussex, other than on Sky or online. And, as these two methods of access are not always convenient, I have rediscovered the joys of Radio Four.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Radio Four. The Archers, The World at One, the Afternoon Play (sci-fi week this week, with an offering from Iain M. Banks), the Shipping Forecast (especially the late night edition, preceded by a wonderful piece of British light music, Sailing By, composed by the fabulously-named Ronald Binge)...and Front Row.

Front Row, presented by Mark Lawson, is, let's not deny it, an arty-farty programme. Lots of media people extolling the virtues of other media people, or explaining in five minute interviews their motivation for the latest play/film/poem. Last night's edition focused, among other things, upon actors who came from 'ordinary' families. Actor Anthony Sher told of his down-to-earth South African father who had never met an actor until he sired one. Mr. Sher senior dutifully attended his son's plays, but invariably fell asleep only minutes into the first act, on one occasion slumbering peacefully in the front row whilst the rest of the audience gave his son a standing ovation for his Richard III. It seems that, as an ordinary bloke, he found it difficult to come to terms with his son's thespian status.

Not for the first time, this got me thinking. Is the arts a 'proper job'? Very few would disagree that bricklaying, coal mining or car assembly are 'proper jobs'. But what about acting? Can the actor return home to his humble cot, exhausted with the honest toil of pretending to be someone else for a few hours? Is bashing out his or her lines equivalent to bashing dents out of the bonnet of a Fort Cortina? Or is it just a bit of a lightweight pastime that some are lucky enough to get paid for? And whilst we're on the subject, what about poets? Is there a nobility in knocking out a few stanzas or verses that these days don't even need to rhyme? Doesn't this not-rhyming-thing smack of a lack of effort? I mean, if you're a poet, and that's all you have to do, you're got all the time in the world to find something that rhymes with 'silver' or 'cadaver'. I'm not a poet, but even I can manage a non-rhyming poem; viz:

There was a young lady called Janet
Who used to support Queen's Park Rangers.
At a match in the rain
She caught a bad cold
And had a stiff neck for a fortnight.

And I can even cope with the odd haiku. Here's my offering acknowledging the existence of shredded carrots:

Have you noticed that
Every pre-packed salad has
These orange bits in?

All of a sudden T.S. Eliot (an anagram of toilets) and Seamus Heaney aren't looking quite so clever, are they?

Don't get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for the arts. I've got a degree in some arty subject or other, and always found science a bit of a trial at school, especially those equations where you had to balance up the molecules of oxygen or sodium or similar. But I do think 'arty' people sometimes think (and talk) too deeply about what they do. You only have to watch the 'extras' disc of any Hollywood movie DVD to realise this. When Dustin Hoffman was cast in Marathon Man, he prepared for the part by doing a large amount of running. When he told Sir John Gielgud, the noble knight remarked, 'Dear boy, why don't you just act?'

I went out to post a letter today. As I was returning home, I saw an elderly gent with a zimmer frame (Comedy Goddess - you know what this is now, don't you?) Now, zimmer frames in Sussex are not exactly as rare as hen's teeth; they're very common, in fact. But not so common was this old gent's appearance. He was wearing red shoes, a pair of grey trousers with a generous four inch gap between top of sock and bottom of trouser, a ladies' pink anorak with an orange hood, and, to top off the ensemble, a child's red school cap.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with LBC, or Radio Four, or Anthony Sher, or even poems that resolutely refuse to rhyme? The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing. But, dear fellow blogger, I had to tell someone...


Rob Inukshuk said...

Ah radio 4! I remember it well. Fab OH used to listen to it on the train journey home when we lived in far West Wales. I never did get into it. Funny, now I'm wanting to see if I can stream it.

Actually I'm not a radio fan, I only ever listen when I'm in the car. Is that strange? Oh well.

chris hale said...

Hi Rob.

Radio 4, like Marmite and Cadbury's chocolate, is one of those things that ex-pats are said to hanker after.

Don't think you can stream it, but there's a 'listen again' facility on the BBC website, I believe.

Derrick said...

Good morning, Chris,

A friend of our listens to practically nothing but Radio 4. I love their news at one but rarely hear it! And "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" and "Just a minute" are always good value.

Proper jobs? I'd say so, if they can transport you to a different world, make you laugh or cry. That's hard work - and I'm not laughing!

Funny you should mention rhyming poetry. Please pop over to my place and see what you think.

Thanks for telling us about the elderly gentleman. He's obviously an eccentric, like you!

chris hale said...

Hello Derek.

I hope you realise that my tongue was very firmly in my cheek when I wrote this post!

I read (and enjoyed!) your poem earlier today. It really gets to he bottom of how we define ourselves; am I a retired policeman, a father, a husband, an arts graduate, or all of these at once? And single incidents from childhood can loom very large, even if the incident was, in reality, small and insignificant.

Eccentric? I like to think of my self as differently ordinary. They do say that, if you call yourself eccentric, you're not!

I look forward to more poetry soon. And yes, I agree with is a proper job! One only has to read one of the war poets, or a sonnet, or (my favourite) John Betjman to be transported to some other place.

Derrick said...


I didn't think you kept your tongue in any other place!

Thank you for your kind words. You have now only lost points for spelling my name wrong!

chris hale said...


To say I am mortified by my mis-spelling is an understatement. Sorry!

Kind regards,


Madame DeFarge said...

Your obvious display of talent leaves me speechless. Which may be a good thing.

I'm not sure I'd want a proper job. An improper job sounds far more enjoyable. But, stuck as I am, in the village of Westminster, I shall make do and mend.

chris hale said...

Ah, MDF! Westminster was, indeed, a village in the true sense of the word many moons ago. Thorney Island was little more than a thicket of dense brambles (with, no doubt, a few peasants hanging around) until they built the Royal Peculier of St. Peter in Westminster.

Like yourself, I was once a servant of the peepul. Now that really was an improper job! I could tell some tales, etc etc...

punk in writing said...

I never seem to find the time for radio anymore.

Back when I was at school I used to spend hours sitting on the floor, drawing or painting, while I listened to the radio. I also listened to these great adaptations of Sherlock Holmes I had on tape.

chris hale said...

Hi Punky.

Ah! A fellow Holmes fan! I must dig out my old Conan Doyle books.

Incidentally, did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle firmly believed in the existence of fairies?

punk in writing said...

Now that you mention it, yes I do believe I've read about that.

I wonder what Holmes and Watson would think of all those ideas about fairies.

chris hale said...

Watson would probably have dismissed fairies as 'Poppycock'. Holmes would have sat on a dozen cushions, smoked an ounce of shag (his favourite tobacco), and used his powers of deduction...and then dismissed fairies as 'Poppycock'!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Ah, Sailing By! What a wonderful soothing piece of music. Now I will enjoy it all the more knowing the glorious name of the composer!

I admire the dedication of actors who do arduous things like sport and - aargh - dieting to get in shape for their roles. Having seen Christian Bale in the recent Batman films for which he built up his physique, I was amazed to see how thin he was in a clip from The Machinist. There's commitment! And I can't even resist a cherry scone ...

Proper job? I wonder if there's a good anagram for that ...

chris hale said...

Hi Raph.

I once did some amateur dramatics, where I played (if you'll excuse the expression) a grumpy old sod. So, I got into the part by being a grumpy old sod offstage. Some would say it came rather too easily to me.

I don't think I could resist a cherry scone either. Like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation.

Sadly, proper job is rather a poor phrase for anagrams. Real job is better, as you can get lobe jar and bar joel. The first sounds like a receptacle for brain surgeons, and the second, a drinking den frequented by the singer of Uptown Girl.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Welcome back old chum. My knob cannot be twiddled away from Radio 4 as I've superglued it. It's the drama and the comedy and the panel shows I love. The best ones invariably transfer to TV, sadly, where they sometimes lose a lot of their charm. But heigh ho. Great to hear you've come to your senses. LBC? pah.

chris hale said...


I never had you down as a knob-twiddler anyway.

I remember Radio 4 when it was The Home Service, and newsreaders plied their trade in dinner jackets, even though they could not be seen. Alvar Liddell, whre are you now?

disa said...