“Broadcasting House” is one of my favourite radio programmes and I always make time for it. (0900 every Sunday on BBC Radio 4, if you haven’t got into it yet)

Time was a central theme in one of the first items last Sunday, 13 Feb. A character’s obsession with “the quickening pace of time”, as he grows older, is the central theme of a stop-motion film “The Eagleman Stag”, a 9-minute short nominated for a BAFTA in the “short animation” category. The film’s director Mikey Please was interviewed; the BBC website tells me that he is a freelance animator who graduated from the Royal College of Art last year [only last year and winning a BAFTA? Impressive!]. He has directed several music videos and title sequences as well as making his own short films.

By the way, through watching the award ceremony later that day I now know that Mikey’s film won the BAFTA. Do the people at the BBC know something that we don’t know? Was his selection as an interviewee a lucky or a smart choice? Or did the editors at “Broadcasting House” have a time machine?

Alvin Toffler

The quickening pace of time as one gets older is, of course, not a new theme. I remember reading Future Shock and The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler’s remarkable books of 1973 and1981 respectively. Toffler was very interesting on this phenomenon. He suggested that one solution was for retirees to live in enclaves where clocks ran slower. He was totally serious, of course. Although I haven’t retired, I qualify, age-wise; I want to move there now.

An anecdotal, non-scientific illustration of the time-speeding-up phenomenon came from the late Tony Curtis, when interviewed in his 80s.

Interviewer: “Could you give us a thumb-nail sketch of your movie career?”

Curtis: “Well, I arrived in Hollywood as a very young man with very little money. So I checked in to the cheapest motel I could find. I had a shower and put on a clean shirt; then I came down here to meet you.”

Which proves the point rather neatly.

Stop-motion and “The Wind in the Willows”

Back to that interview about animated film “The Eagleman Stag”. Paddy O’Connell, the host of Broadcasting House, said: “from Wallis and Gromit onwards, the UK has a hold on stop-motion”.

I love Wallis and Gromit to bits (and I live in Bristol, where Aardman Animations is based), but I really must dispute the idea that the UK’s hold on stop-motion started with them. Paddy is maybe too young to remember, or he didn’t have young children in the 80s, as I did, but in 1983 there was a wonderful feature film version of “the Wind in the Willows”, followed by more than one TV series. They were produced by Cosgrove Hall and voiced by wonderful British character actors such as David Jason and Michael Hordern. Both the feature film and the TV series were, according to good old Wikipedia, “sometimes misidentified as being filmed in claymation, which is incorrect. The method used by Cosgrove Hall is a stop-motion animation process using scale model sets and pose-able character figurines.”

Best version

A review of the 1983 feature, on Amazon, says: “Before it became a Wallace-and-Gromit ghetto, model animation was pioneered by Cosgrove Hall – and this is arguably their magnum opus. Beautifully produced, lovingly detailed, with a great vocal cast and classy score, it has the nerve to stick closely to the book. As a result it is the best screen version by miles and, in my opinion, likely to remain so.” To which I can only say “hear, hear!”


Last Sunday I was listening to “Broadcasting House” (aka “B.H.” to fans) on Radio 4; one of the highlights of my listening week.

First up, there appeared to be a wonderful opportunity to find out what two heavyweight economists thought of the current situation and of the government’s policies. They were Lord Desai and the current professor of the subject at Cambridge, whose name I’ve sadly forgotten and probably won’t get around to checking. Sadly, the discussion didn’t convince me that economics, famously called the dismal science, is really a science at all. Their responses to a simple question of what tests we should apply to the new measures to decide their possible efficacy were predictably obscure; at least they were to me. No matter how brilliant these men must be, their communication skills left much to be desired. You’d think the BBC could have wheeled out two better communicators. As there are now chairs for the public understanding of science, and as economics is a sort-of-science, there is a strong case for creating a post of Professor (at the University of Life, of course) for the Public Understanding of Economics. Neither of these two luminaries would have got my vote.

B.H. presenter Paddy O’Connell, however, does get my vote, as an interviewer able to mix gravitas and humour according to the weather conditions. (I’m not joking; he even interviewed people queuing for the grand re-opening of the pier at Weston-super-Mare, during a downpour) I particularly liked the way he chaired the segment where guest reviewers cover the Sunday papers. Sunday’s panel comprised Craig Brown, whom I found disappointing for such a well-known columnist; there was a novelist whose name has escaped me, and the find of the day, Emma Harrison, who runs a recruitment agency called A4E, specialising in helping long-term unemployed people back into work; a worthwhile purpose and seemingly a delightful person to boot.

While many other people on the show, including her fellow-panellists, seems too be recycling the gloom-and-doom aspects of the media’s response to the UK government’s cuts package, Emma Harrison was a lone voice proposing a more positive approach. As the person who clearly had the most experience of working with the people who potentially could be among the worst affected (if the cuts are indeed regressive – see an earlier post) it was encouraging to hear her say that the glass-half-empty approach that tends to be favoured by our media (bad news sells papers, dear boy) can be totally counterproductive. Well said Emma; she’s the only guest on the whole show whom I shall look up on Google.

Finally, a piece about corgis was narrated by Tom Conti. Maybe he needs the work these days but why choose a Scots actor, seemingly exaggerating his native accent, to read a not particularly funny (IMHO) monologue in the person of a dog that is famously Welsh. (This last item is from my “I think you’ll find …” Department of Pedantry). Maybe there was some comic subtlety about this that passed me by.

Finally, I heard a new definition: an optimist is someone who picks up the crossword with pen in hand.

Despite my gripes on this occasion, B.H. still rules for me.