I met two of my heroes on Feedback this week.

    Matthew Parris popped into the studio, en route to the Moral Maze, to discuss his campaign against the overuse of the historic present tense which he says is now rampant in the media.

    Matthew is the most polite and charming of guests but he is alarmingly honest about himself as well as about others. (Do have a read of his autobiography if you doubt me. It is a classic.)

    His knowledge of grammar is profound and I soon understand why he writes for the Times and I do not. Our interview is one of my less challenging ones. He just knows far more about the subject than I do.

    Matthew also has a talent for perversity. I wonder if he, rather like fellow columnist Simon Jenkins, sometimes argues an extreme case just to see what the reaction will be. Both delight in opposing the consensus.

    Then I talk, sorry, talked, to the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, who has just returned from Gaza. Our inbox is full of allegations of bias in the BBC’s reporting of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Apparently the Corporation’s news is anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli at the same time.

    I wanted to talk to Lyse about these allegations but also about how difficult it is to report on the ground in Gaza with rockets and shells going off around you and children being killed and maimed in front of you.

    Despite her harrowing work, Lyse is also very charming and smiling. She seems such a caring, sensitive person, doesn’t she suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? She has seen the most dreadful things, not only in Gaza but also in Syria and Afghanistan. Why does she keep going back?

    This is our Feedback interview with her:

    The BBC's chief international correspondent on the challenges of reporting on war.

    Next week on Feedback I will be speaking to two more of my heroes, or should I say, heroines, Carol Tregorran from the Archers and the actress who now plays her, Eleanor Bron.

    When I was a young schoolboy in a quiet town in the north of England I thought Carol was so sophisticated and alluring. I longed for her to be my Mrs Robinson, as played by Anne Bancroft in The Graduate.

    I was also blown over by the elegant and beautiful Ms Bron in those early BBC TV satire programmes and of course in the Beatles film, Help!

    Paul McCartney says he named Eleanor Rigby after her.

    All I can say is that both Carol and Eleanor did not disappoint when I met them.

    Roger Bolton

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    • Comment number 7. Posted by All for All

      on 10 Aug 2014 18:18

      Good to have some real opposition of voices in the BBC programme-offering, to be caught with a little luck across radio and television.

      If we survive to see awarded valid Degrees in Democracy, their examined study might well begin with such gentle reflections as those of Lord Bragg in his 'Radical Lives' (BBC-2, 9th August, 21:15), allusions to what kindly we might call 'degrees of democracy', from sham to Thomas Paine's equal Rights of Man.

      Thank you Melvyn, thank you Directors Cut, thank you BBC, allowing for Tom Paine a new hearing - for us some neglected common sense and reason - his voice ever more needed as we count the cost of not falling but mounting horror, from power left with, given-back to, or snatched-back by, those most mighty in money and fear, in greed and corruption.

      What rights - what duties - rest now with the BBC, often to repeat and to make these programmes ALWAYS iPlayer available, for all who - as Disraeli saw - to be safe and secure as masters MUST be educated, perhaps for all worldwide? Tom Paine gave away the proceeds of his writing, and so in part could 'Our BBC', toward the liberation of conscience, towards making one day unnecessary the use of pseudonyms in political writing.

      Not to become a planetary dead-end, not to see everywhere the social breakdown dictated by worship of Mammon, not to part company with 'Man and God', not to succumb to the brutal imposition or subtle selling of private capitalism, of business at odds with democracy (hear the pitch of Digby-Jones in 'The Business Covenant', just repeated today 10th August on Radio-4 at 17:00), let us spread the word for equal partnership.

      In history and in reason: "United we stand. Divided we fall." It is NOT 'foolish' to believe that the world can 'make sense', that we share a common reality and common cares, not least for freedom to play our own part (competing for place), and to enjoy our individuality (choosing the private direction of our own energies and of our own shares of public currency).

      We are NOT, as today's masters and politicians will flatter, 'a mature democracy'. For progress to START towards 'mature democracy' we need first to understand and then to AGREE our equal partnership, our 'maturity' only to grow as generations pass, learning to live by liberated conscience, being enabled to have rational trust in each other, enjoying the fruits of co-operation, freed to make a better world for all.

      Until that start, the concept of democracy stands ever more to be abused, perhaps lost from hope, shams of voting no defence whatever against the power of Mammon and myth, of the propaganda now enslaving the West and laying waste the East, any hopes in Leveson obliquity paid down.

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    • Comment number 6. Posted by Lawrence Jones

      on 6 Aug 2014 08:58

      Never had any heroes, but if you love listening to the radio and intelligent discussion, then check out yesterday’s ‘A Law Unto Themselves’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04cbnn6), comprising a discussion between Baroness Helena Kennedy and Ms. Gareth Peirce. Loved every minute and rate it as my fav. radio programme of the year so far.

      Hee-hee, Baroness Kennedy’s questions were all inherently wave-like in nature; the responses were particle-like! The listener had to work hard to gain access inside Ms. P’s head, even when a question was asked in relation to smiling (‘A wolf smiles before it eats you’ - Prof. Laurence Taylor) – or patronage.

      So many observations in relation to this broadcast – Baroness Kennedy didn’t follow up on any of Ms. P’s responses, but this was understandable, given the complexity of the responses that required a great deal of thought. Also Ms. P’s timing with her responses was fascinating. Some of Baroness Kennedy’s questions were quite protracted and it was difficult to judge when they’d end. Ms. P was spot-on apropos her timings with responses in all but one case – and that exposed a chatty bus conductor element to her character which I found interesting.

      Still baffled, though, how one can appear to be anti-establishment (Ms. P. refused to become a gonger), yet voluntarily attended an upper-class school/university and survive within an upper-class profession. Even more baffled how any exceptionally intelligent and very private individual can contemplate marriage (or taking a partner). If one’s exceptionally intelligent, one analysis and analysis and……… – the quickest route to the divorce courts.

      Feedback has been discussing the issue of females within the world of broadcasting quite regularly and so I feel duty bound to post very positively in regard to this programme (I’m a male). Thanks, also, to Mr. Brian King for producing such an interesting programme.

      P.S. Can you let us know when Ms. Helen Boaden is going to be interviewed on 'Feedback' please? Thanks.

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    • Comment number 5. Posted by newlach

      on 4 Aug 2014 16:25

      Eric Robson doesn't have a garden. What next, Jeremy Clarkson doesn't have a car and Mr Bolton can't stand people who complain about the BBC!

      A gardening hero turns to dust. Someone revered by gardeners the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and beyond has no garden. Someone I imagined would think nothing of mucking out a neigbour's stables for some free manure has no garden. Someone I imagined had a vegetable patch the envy of top chefs the world over has no garden. Some I imagined had smooth manicured lawns with ponds and fountains has no garden. Someone I imagined whose roadside flowers, a riot of colour, would distract passing motorists and cause accidents has no garden.

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    • Comment number 4. Posted by All for All

      on 3 Aug 2014 10:43

      Talking of heroes, great to see Melvyn Bragg's Radical Lives, yesterday his first subject preacher John Ball, one provoked to speak of God-given equality, one who helped bring moral force to the Peasants (poll tax) Revolt, eventually also to bring a response from (or through) Good King Richard II such as should forever have given protection against faith in 'less inequality' and in 'trickle down'.

      After the tricking and killing of Wat Tyler, with seizure of other leaders and dispersal of the 'rural' crowd, execution of the king's suppression was mainly cautious, if not luke-warm, but a show of force by the king was resolved for Essex. According to a chronicler, Walsingham, to a deputation of Essex rebels demanding confirmation of Mile End promises, the young king rounded on them:

      "You wretches, detestable on land and sea: you who seek equality with lords are unworthy to live. Give this message to your colleagues: rustics you were, and rustics you are still; you will remain in bondage, not as before, but incomparably harsher. For as long as we live we will strive to suppress you, and your misery will be an example in the eyes of posterity. However, we will spare your lives if you remain faithful and loyal. Choose now which course you want to follow."

      (Nigel Saul, in 'Richard II' 1997, p 74, quotes from "Peasants' Revolt' ed. Dobson, 310-11)

      Need it be said, 'we' to this day 'suppress' each other. Richard II lost his people and his crown, 'we' lost the Hundred Years War: and still we teach the world division, today with sham democracy, somehow to marvel at cumulative collapse of confidence in our relationships at every level, family and state, global and existential.

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    • Comment number 3. Posted by Tinkersdamn

      on 3 Aug 2014 02:11

      To judge from the web stories, Lyse Doucet has spared us the maudlin and as a result delivered the very real faces we badly need to see as human to understand the price of this conflict. This in itself may be threatening to some partisans and their objectives, but it's the sort of journalism that may help readers think straight.

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    • Comment number 2. Posted by newlach

      on 2 Aug 2014 13:08

      What are we talking about: the past historic or the historic present? After Feedback I listened to 1914 Day by Day in which very good use was made of historic present. Also, there is this from the 1950s by none other that David Attenborough. It concerns his visit to Tanna to investigate the cult of John Frum. Followers believe Frum will return on 15 February. Here is Mr Attenborough's exchange with one follower:

      "But Sam, it is nineteen years since John say that the cargo will come. He promise and he promise, but still the cargo does not come. Isn't nineteen years a long time to wait?".
      Sam lifted his eyes from the ground and looked at me.
      "If you can wait two thousand years for Jesus Christ to come an' 'e no come, then I can wait more than nineteen years for John."

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    • Comment number 1. Posted by All for All

      on 1 Aug 2014 17:21

      "Our conscience is clear."

      We could listen to you Roger and Matthew and Lyse all day, and to similarly polite and charming voices all the days of our lives; and with luck we will, here in Britain at least, so happily surrounded by ocean (and defensible air-space), supported by centuries of peace-making (passions paid-off for now), and enjoying the legacies of learning and luck (industrialisation and empire).

      Our exploitation of nature and cleverness is still with hardly a qualm, despite mutterings from climate and biosphere, from religion and politics, from the consequences of rule not by ourselves but by 'the wages of inequality', fear and greed, by our corruption from ways that in faith might be better, that should be followed in conscience, and that could be ours if only we could be agreed on our equal partnership.

      Looking into 'the ethics' of press, police and politics, of the internet and genomic studies, our finest cling to fine notions, of transparency and accountability, even of feedback and representation, flags worthy to be waved but all too easily to be lost sight of, when from within or without come the massed flags of desperation, and of ambition less than worthy, by our neglect and hypocrisy invited.

      That the BBC's international corespondents 'do their best', is hardly to be doubted, their professionalism, passion for truth, and courage-under-fire everyday with us, in sound and vision. From between the lines, and perhaps at times more openly, it might even be the case that 'the whole truth' is told, 'over a period of time': not just of news events and their supposed justifications, but of deep origins and the deep conditions for our liberation.

      Much as we might admire our long-serving reporters and long-trusting audiences (rather as we respect our ever more hard-working families, and our ever fewer hard-working direct tax-payers), it might be a comfort too far to say 'conscience is clear' if sight is lacked or lost or disavowed of 'where we are' in terms of freedom and democracy, when the course of an Arab Spring is all too predictable.

      To report 'without comment' is not necessarily to serve local or home interests. It might serve as comment, of course, to fail to say what any might plainly see as the case, such failure speaking to our own predicament as well as of those in mortal peril more immediate.

      Best wishes. And thanks.

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