It's clearly another sign of impending middle age that I am increasingly enamoured of Radio 4 and its sister station, BBC 7, which repeats old Radio 4 - and Radio One - comedies, dramas and so forth. As a youth I loved Radio One, with The Evening Session and then Mark & Lard being essential listening - I often didn't do anything but listen to the radio in the evenings and I was far from alone in the musical geek kingdom. I then switched to Fivelive for the sport, and stuck with it, ignoring the increasingly heinous phone-ins.
But now, in my thirties, it's all about Radio 4. While I still listen to Radio One's dance music selection (which is pretty unrivaled as a radio station, at least based on what I have listened to in NYC - that does not include podcasts which is a different story), it's Radio 4 that really fills my day with fun. Each week I avidly await the download on Friday of the Radio 4 Friday Comedy Podcast - which on great weeks is the News Quiz and on not great but still highly enjoyable weeks is usually The Now Show. I listen to Just a Minute, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue or The Unbelievable Truth during my lunch break at work. Plus BBC 7 has provided great joy in the past few months with That Mitchell and Webb Sound (truly revelatory in its quality), old Round the Horne, Dad's Army, a fab adaptation of Strong Poison and general fun.
The one programme that beats all of these, however, is Bleak Expectations. I don't know how funny it would be without a familiarity with Charles Dickens - I suspect less but not significantly so. I am familiar - and a big Dickens fan, generally - and I find it absolutely side-splitting. This weekend I was forced to stop what I was doing on several occasions because I couldn't concentrate due to laughter. I've contemplated purchasing the entire series on several occasions, but I always pull back. I think it is partly because I like the episodic nature of listening to it on the radio. Somehow that seems much more serendipitous, the offering up of the show to you on the airwaves, rather than it being part of a library you own. Or maybe it's just another version of the grass is greener - something that is not your own and readily accessible is more alluring.