Presenter: peter white producer: kathleen griffin



Download 48.6 Kb.
Date07.03.2016
Size48.6 Kb.
IN TOUCH
TX: 04.08.09 2040-2100
PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
PRODUCER: KATHLEEN GRIFFIN

White

Good Evening; what makes a good summer read or perhaps I should say, a good summer listen? I'm joined by two audio book fans, and here are just some tantalising fragments of what the three of us have chosen.


Clips

The air in springtime by the streams was thick with wild garlic and later with the sweeter gentler smell of the bluebells. The swallows and house martins dipped on to the lake and the woodpeckers yaffled in the distant trees.


The Portobello has a rich personality - vibrant, brilliant in colour, noisy with graffiti that approach art, bizarre and splendid. An indefinable edge to it has the spice of danger.
Until the invention of the internal combustion engine the most prolific traveller in history was also the most unlikely.
White

So a homage to a garden, a chiller, and an extraordinary 19th Century blind traveller still to come. And in case you think we're ignoring your powerful reactions to last week's items on the redundancies amongst Braille producers, and on self-defence for blind people, we'll be dealing with them next week so that we can give them the time and the space your reaction shows you think they deserve.


Now I suspect I'm not alone in confessing only to giving real attention to the holiday packing when it comes down to the books I'm planning to take. Joining me to reveal their packing plans are regular audio book reviewer Sue Arnold of the Guardian, and Amar Latif, who runs Traveleyes, which is a company based on the idea of providing visually impaired travellers with a pair of eyes to help them enjoy and appreciate the surroundings more, although I take it Amar they aren't instructed to read to people are they?
Latif

No, not audio books.


White

So that's why they take audio books. So Sue, first of all, tell us what you've chosen.


Arnold

I've chosen a book by Adam Nicholson called Sissinghurst - An Unfinished History. I don't know if any of you have been to Sissinghurst, it's the most visited National Trust property in Britain. It has a 180,000 visitors a year. Not unconnected with its irresistible combination of lesbian literary and aristocratic connections because the person who created the garden was the legendary Vita Sackville West who was married to Harold Nicholson who both had a very strange marriage, as their son Nigel - he wrote about, what was it - Portrait of a Marriage. But anyway that's one thing, she was a lesbian but she had two children - Nigel and Ben. And she was always running off and he was always running off - they didn't live together but that was one thing. She was also the daughter of an earl I think and should have inherited, had she been a boy, Knole, which is another huge stately home down the road but her brother had it. So she bought this ruin of a medieval castle called Sissinghurst and she made this amazing garden. Nigel gave it to the National Trust because he couldn't afford the death duties. When he died, five years ago, Adam didn't inherit it but it was his home, you know, he knew it and he tried to persuade the National Trust to change it, to take it back to its roots. He thought bring all this back and Sissinghurst will then be provided with organic stuff and everything and really the book is a story about his battle with the National Trust because they wouldn't do it.


White

It's a battle and a love letter.


Arnold

It's a battle but it's also - interspersed it's a history and it's a biography.


White

Just to give us a flavour of this, this kind of sums up, doesn't it, the way that it was actually marketed and the way that Sissinghurst actually was or at least the way Adam Nicholson wanted it to be.


Reading from Sissinghurst

The grassy banks on the field edges were dense with archangel, red campion and stitchwort before the brambles and nettles, always the winners in this annual race, strangled and overwhelmed them. All of these were the deep constituents of home. For days at a time I circled the house and garden, all the public places at Sissinghurst through this other hidden world and never, or so it felt, emerged into view It was as if out here concealed from the public the real thing existed and that other place over there was an [indistinct word] version of it, prepared for public view with public adult concerns dominating it in a way that they wouldn't or couldn't in the distant field or wood.


Arnold

I think actually he writes beautifully and when he's talking about what he feels about the place and he himself is deeply rooted and connected to it and he just doesn't want it to be what he describes as like a dead thing, like a Titian in a huge car park, he wants it to make sense as a cohesive whole. And it's lovely.


White

Let me bring in Amar Latif, what do you make of Sissinghurst Amar?


Latif

It wouldn't be a book that I would choose myself but I liked the setting, a really nice pleasant country environment and that really opened up some wonderful language - descriptive language - and I love it when an author paints with language. I mean this book, as Sue said, is full of great examples. I mean in places this guy, Adam Nicholson, is something of a John Constable with the written word. I mean lines like: The sun spread across the trees like honey - it just paints such beautiful pictures.


Arnold

But Amar don't you think half of the way it is, why it's good, is that amazing Jeremy Clyde, don't you just love him, the way his voice ...


White

I was going to make that point, that it actually - like Amar - I don't think this is a book that I would have persisted with, that doesn't mean I didn't like it, but I wouldn't have persisted with it if I was say reading it in Braille, I don't think, but because Jeremy Clyde absolutely takes you along with him, he makes you believe that he's Adam and he makes you believe that he's in love with this garden and this house. I have to say that is - it is very effective. What does this fulfil for you Sue in terms of a summer read?


Arnold

Oh Peter I don't differentiate between summer reads and any other reads, I really don't - this isn't a beach to escape or anything. If it's good and it holds me I'll read it, I don't care.


White

So you're not looking for escapism anymore on holiday?


Arnold

No, not like you Peter.


White

Well we'll come to that, we'll come to that. What about length though because I think a lot of people tend to think that a summer read should be kind of quite short and something you can - whereas I'm the complete reverse, I like a long read because you haven't got time to read them ...?


Arnold

Unabridged, unabridged that's what you need. But also - I'll tell you what I'm actually going to take away for my summer read, it's a book I've tried to start - I've started eight times - Midnight's Children and it's like 40 hours and I just can't do it. I take it every summer, it's come in my bag for the last 10 years.


White

What about you Amar, what do you normally take - I take it you do take holidays do you?


Latif

No I don't take personal holidays.


White

Do you know I had a feeling you were going to say that.


Latif

I've not been on a holiday for the last six years. But you know when I'm actually taking holidays with Traveleyes it's usually my tour notes that I'm reading, maybe some information about the local situation.


White

So you're reading for information, even when you go on holiday?


Latif

Absolutely.


White

Okay, well Sue rather hinted at my reading tastes. I've chosen one of my favourite authors in one of my favourite genres which is crime fiction. I mean I love Ruth Rendell, I think she's the best in a very good crop of British or at least English writing, female crime writers - PD James, Elizabeth George who's actually an American but writes about Britain, Frances Fyfield, the very good relatively new one Sophie Hannah who I think is the new Ruth Rendell. Quite apart from the crime Ruth Rendell's got a great sense of place for me. Her latest book is called Portobello, which as it suggests, is set on and around the Portobello Road, which is the spine of West London. And like all good fiction authors she likes to give us facts, such as that Portobello is named after a notable British victory in the War of Jenkins' Ear, which I didn't know, but nowadays it's a thriving thoroughfare.


Reading from Portobello

You can buy anything there, everything on earth is on sale - furniture, antiques, clothes, bedding, hardware, music, food and food and more food - vegetables and fruit, meat and fish and cheese and chocolate. The stalls sell jewellery, hats, masks, prints, postcards old and new, shawls and scarves, shoes and boots, pots and pans, flowers real and artificial, furs and fake furs, lamps and musical instruments. You can buy a harp there or a bird cage, a stuffed bear or a wedding dress or the latest bestseller.


White

I suspect she's having a bit of joke with us with her reference to the latest bestseller, which I'm sure she hopes will be her. All her characteristics here - you know that sense of place that I mentioned, slow rather mundane menace and obsession and that's what I think she's really good at, the fact that most of us if we're honest have got completely irrational parts to our nature, that we do things not because they're logical but because we're driven to do them - all kinds of weird impulses that we don't properly understand. If you're expecting a Wexford, which is her loveable but grouchy policeman you're going to be disappointed, this is her other kind of book - a study of very ordinary people driven to do extraordinary and inexplicable things. Sue, I caught a hint in your reference to what I'd chosen, a little menace of your own, what did you make of it?


Arnold

Well Peter, I agree with you, I love Ruth Rendell. The trouble with this one, if you ask me, it doesn't have a plot. It has place, it has character, it just doesn't have a plot.


White

No it hasn't got a plot, that's the point of Ruth Rendell - those kinds of ones which aren't the crime detection ones, that you know what's happening, you know - what you don't quite understand is why it's happening. But most of life hasn't got a plot Sue.


Arnold

But Peter what about, you know, Ruth Rendell - her other name is Barbara Vine - those are those kind of things and the best book ever written was the Dark Adapted Eye, have you had that - that has - that's weird and quirky.


White

No, I think the best book ever written is A Judgement in Stone, which is also by Ruth Rendell and is all about the inability to read. Amar, separate us, what did you make of this?


Latif

Well I thought it was interesting, although I'm not a fiction type of person, so you know the whole business of remembering patterns about small events as the plot develops isn't something that I do out of choice. But I suppose I would do it if I found the plot gripping and engaging but sorry Pete I didn't really find that here.


White

You see I like it for information. One of the things she's got a thing about is London streets, I mean she writes about London streets a lot and I come to - I work here but I don't - partly because of being blind it's not easy to walk the streets for fun, it's something I'd always would have loved to be able to do but you know it isn't fun, you're too busy avoiding lampposts and bus shelters and things like that to do it for fun. And what I find is that Rendell, she walks - almost walks those streets for me. Now you can say well you can walking books but I find it much more engaging in a kind of fictional setting.


Latif

Yeah, no I totally understand where you're coming from because as a blind person books are just fantastic because that hunger for visual information they provide us, so I totally know where you're coming from. In terms of the actual book I mean the characters - I didn't really connect with them that much, you know they were all kind of a little bit odd and a bit quirky.


White

I have to confess that none of them were very loveable.


Latif

Except Ellie, Ellie was great.


White

The doctor.


Latif

You know the GP, yeah and I was really, really fascinated about that plot, what was happening between her and the psycho Joe and I was so intrigued to find out how that plot was developing, so I thought that was really good.


Arnold

It fizzled, didn't it kind of fizzle out that plot. I just couldn't get excited about any of them, as Amar says, I didn't connect with them, particularly not the dreaded art dealer with his - you say that's quirky, I just think that's irrelevant, trivial - somebody likes eating chocolate orange sweets ...


Latif

I know it was a bit obsessive.


Arnold

I thought it went on and on. I know it was obsessive, it was supposed to be obsessive but it was over - over the top I thought.


White

But you mentioned hidden history and that indeed is in the title of Sissinghurst but there is a connection here isn't there, there's a lot of embedded stuff which I just find - I mean I'd rather read it like that, I think, than in a set out non-fiction kind of way. Anyway I've made a sterling, Ruth Rendell, defence of you as I can. And if that's fiction, all too realistic, here's some non-fiction which is almost unbelievable. Amar, tell us about your book.


Latif

Okay my book's called A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts. And it's about the story of James Holman, a remarkable guy who lived 200 years ago and who was blind. But this next extract probably describes it better than I can.


Reading of A Sense of the World

In an era when the blind were routinely warehoused in asylums Holman could be found studying medicine in Edinburgh; fighting the slave trade in Africa where the Holman River was named in his honour; hunting rogue elephants in Ceylon and surviving a frozen captivity in Siberia. He helped unlock the puzzle of equatorial Guinea's indigenous language, averting bloodshed in the process. In the voyage of the Beagle Charles Darwin cites him as an authority on the fauna of the Indian Ocean. In his commentary on the Arabian Knights Sir Richard Francis Burton, who spent years following in Holman's footsteps, pays tribute to both the man and his fame by referring to him not by name but simply as the blind traveller.


White

So there we are James Holman the Amar Latif of the 1820s. So I mean it's clear that travel attracted you but I mean tell us about this book, what it is that really grabs you about it.


Latif

I think the thing that grabs me about it is that it's a very readable account about a remarkable guy and Jason Roberts has researched the background on Holman and he's researched into blindness, how blind people perceive things as well.


White

I have to say that impressed me. I didn't agree with everything but he'd really thought very carefully about it hadn't he.


Latif

Absolutely, you know, how blind people walk into a room and work on the texture on the floor to start with and went into great lengths. And it resonated true, some of the stuff is you know a sighted person's perception perhaps.


White

Yeah he describes walking into a room and the fact that if you're totally blind you appreciate it from the floor up, which is absolutely right, I have never thought about that before. But you know we don't go in and look at the furniture or the ornaments or anything like that, the first thing you notice, because you can't see round, is the surface and stuff on the floor. And I thought that was good, it wasn't the usual sighted man writes book about blind man or woman, isn't it amazing, it wasn't like that was it?


Latif

No absolutely and he shone a light into the mystic surrounding blindness I suppose for the general sighted public.


White

Sue, what did you make of it?


Arnold

I thought it was absolutely marvellous and I was so predisposed not to like it because I don't really like books by blind people and about blind - I mean the thing that really has killed everything for me is that appalling Al Pacino film called Scent of a Woman, do you know that one?


White

I do. You like that ...


Latif

I love it.


Arnold

Oh I thought it was schmaltz beyond belief. But this man was so extraordinary, what he did, it just beggars belief that he would just arrive in Moscow and get a tartar, he didn't speak the language, to take him by sledge in the snow, minus 40 degrees, through Siberia, 3,000 miles, where he was hoping to pick up a boat to go to America. But it was just extraordinary what he did, the courage of him. And - but funny things, you remember the first time he goes to France, he doesn't speak any of these languages but he has this very personable way of making people like him, doesn't he, they just love him, this lovely man in his old naval uniform, that's what I love.


White

Do we believe it all Amar, I mean - or is there a touch of travellers tales about this do you think?


Latif

Well I suppose it's always worth exploring, putting a little bit of devil's advocate in there, to see whether Holman's accounts were true. I mean we all know that travellers tales can be embellished to some extent but I'm not saying Holman has done that but it would have been great had Jason Roberts perhaps been a bit sceptical and explored some of these ...


Arnold

I thought he did, it says at the beginning, in the introduction, every single thing of this comes from sources.


Latif

Yeah it comes from sources but he's just taken Holman's accounts and what critics were saying but not really stops to explore. Because when you're trying to communicate to a remarkable concept, such as this, a blind guy travelling round the world and he did, perhaps it would have been interesting to just explore it just as a matter of interest ...


Arnold

You don't think he jumped on a horse and he'd never been on before and rode away into - after mad elephants?


Latif

No I wouldn't - I'm not saying that, perhaps he did but it would have been interesting had it been explored.


Arnold

But actually, you know, if he'd only done half the things it would still be extraordinary.


White

Even if he'd made it all up it would still be fairly extraordinary.


Arnold

... you're so cynical.


Latif

I mean I suppose Sue you're absolutely right, I mean this is done 200 years ago when blind people didn't do a quarter of the things that we do now and it was just absolutely remarkable, you know, because back in those days they thought that you had a venereal disease being blind.


White

It's a great rollicking read, I'll give you that.


That is it, I'm afraid that's all we've got time for. I now can complete my packing, which is good news. More details about A Sense of the World, Portobello and Sissinghurst on our action line - 0800 044 044. You can e-mail us at our website on bbc.co.uk/radio4/intouch. And there'll be a podcast of the programme as from tomorrow.
Many thanks to Sue Arnold and Amar Latif, thanks for doing our reading for us. And from me, producer Kathleen Griffin and the team, goodbye.
Directory: rmhttp -> radio4 -> transcripts
transcripts -> Radio 4 Sunday Worship from Blackburn Cathedral Sunday 14
transcripts -> This transcript is issued on the understanding that it is taken from a live programme as it was broadcast. The nature of live broadcasting means that neither the bbc nor the participants in the programme can guarantee the accuracy of the information
transcripts -> This transcript is issued on the understanding that it is taken from a live programme as it was broadcast. The nature of live broadcasting means that neither the bbc nor the participants in the programme can guarantee the accuracy of the information
transcripts -> Presenter: peter white producer: kathleen griffin
transcripts -> Presenter: ian macrae
transcripts -> Sunday Worship Bath Abbey Sunday, 23
transcripts -> Presenter: peter white producer: cheryl gabriel


Share with your friends:




The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2020
send message

    Main page