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Archives for August 2010

It's NOT cricket, or is it? - Today's Close Call

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Julian Worricker Julian Worricker | 11:38 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

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cricketball.jpgWe came close to asking you what the topic should be for today's 'Call You & Yours'. We found ourselves on the horns of a dilemma because of the events of the last forty-eight hours in the world of cricket. Should we put 'on hold' our plan to debate the apparent shortcomings that exist in this country when it comes to learning foreign languages, and discuss fair play in sport instead?

After all, Radio 4 LW is the home of 'Test Match Special' so it's fair to assume a significant proportion of our listeners are cricket enthusiasts and it was also possible to take the debate beyond cricket by citing the recent 'bloodgate' affair in rugby union. But we didn't, and here's why.

In our minds a successful 'Call You & Yours' is as much about experience on the part of the callers as it is about opinion. We can all think of phone-in programmes where the listening experience is made up of a series of incredulous glances towards the radio and cries of "yes, but how do you know?". I'm not saying there's anything wrong with those programmes, but we're after a little more light and a little less heat.

So against that backdrop our fear was that a cricket-related phone-in would provoke frustration and outrage, certainly, but not quite so much insight. And if people did come on the air volunteering an experience of being encouraged to cheat at sport, we were clearly venturing into difficult legal territory if any names were mentioned. "I remember Mr Jones at our sports club promising us a fiver if we conceded a last minute equaliser" would be an interesting addition to the debate, but I don't suppose it would go down very well with Mr Jones. Especially if he didn't do it. In which case it wouldn't go down very well with the BBC lawyers either.

So we stuck with our original plan, a plan which was generating a lot of correspondence the moment Peter mentioned it on last Friday's programme. By all means tell us if you think we made the right decision. And who knows...maybe we'll put it to the vote in the future.

Julian Worricker presents You and Yours on BBC Radio 4

Not Funny, Not Clever ..... Part 2

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Andrew Smith | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

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It was that Winifred concluded the interview by congratulating Anna on being a "clever girl."

"Please remind Winifred Robinson that despite feminism and all that women have achieved in recent decades, women of all ages still have enough problems with being patronised....without her calling Anna Bullus a 'clever girl,' " wrote Louise. "Would she have called a male designer in his twenties who had come up with such an innovative idea a 'clever boy?' "

Winifred and I discussed it afterwards and we agreed that she does indeed, from time to time call intelligent young men in the office "clever boy" after they've winkled out a particularly good story or planned a skilful route through an interview.

Why use the word "boy" or "girl"? We decided it was partly to do with Winifred being from the north of England where directing such informal words at strangers is commonplace. It's regarded as friendly. And if it has any subterranean significance It's not so much for the more mature to belittle young people as to express mild light-hearted envy at their youth.

We decided to ask Anna if she felt patronised by the remark. Not at all, she told us, while adding she was looking forward to her next interview with Winifred. After we broadcast the complaint by Louise and a similar e-mail from another listener, we also received heartening support from other members of the audience, not all of them men.

"I am 58-years-old and I have never written to any media body before," wrote Val. "But I felt the need to offer my support to Winifred. It was absolutely clear that she was listening to the very clever young designer with real admiration."

What this episode did re-emphasise is the Radio 4 audience's eternal vigilance when it comes to our use of language on air. It was apparent too in the response to Quentin Letts' audio column on the creeping use of Americanisms in everyday discourse.

Rather optimistically Peter called for listeners to tell us the Americanisms they most liked. We received one, maybe two but the vast majority had a long list of words and phrases they love to hate.

Things took a turn for the worse when a listener accused Peter of deploying hated Americanisms himself. The offending word? "Awesome." Peter had no recollection of using it - in fact he went as far as to say on air he'd never used the word "awesome" in his life.

That sounded a bit strong but I was relieved when David, who spotted the "awesome "in the first place, e-mailed again.

Peter, I humbly apologise! You didn't say "awesome" at all - you said "autumn'!
Keep doing what you're doing - awesome programme!"


The joys of interactivity eh?

Andrew Smith is the Editor of You and Yours, In Touch, Face the Facts and The Media Show on BBC Radio 4.

Not Funny, Not Clever

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Andrew Smith | 17:14 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

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chewing-gum.jpgIt seemed like a fairly uncontroversial piece. Anna Bullus is 27 and has her own product design company. Her main invention is a bin for disposing of chewing gum which can then be recycled and turned into...more plastic bins for collecting chewing gum. Genius!

Now her bins are being trialled by Herefordshire County Council.

To be brutally honest, this is the kind of story which might slip off the You and Yours running order outside of August. But in the height of the summer an eloquent young entrepreneur with an interesting invention which appears to solve one of the more unpleasant side effects of consumption, is very welcome indeed.

So last Wednesday on came Ms Bullus for her five minutes of fame (4 minutes 13 seconds actually)

Have a listen and see if you can guess what caused a minor flurry of complaints in the programme inbox.

I'll reveal the offending section later this week.

Andrew Smith is the Editor of You and Yours, In Touch, Fact the Facts and The Media Show on BBC Radio 4.

Cycle Safety

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Siobhann Tighe | 09:48 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

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Siobhann-on-bike.jpgI haven't been on my bike since last June's tube strike. It was so stressful, the traffic so relentless, and other cyclists so unpredictable that my lovely red bike has been sitting in the kitchen ever since with its tyres slowly deflating. So I had mixed feelings when I borrowed a colleague's bike to go to Wembley Park in North London to record an item about cyclists keeping safe when confronted with large vehicles turning left. A whole multitude of thoughts buzzed through my mind. How do I get there? How will I carry the bike down stairs to the underground? How do I record my piece and cycle at the same time? But the most important thing was: Whatever you do, don't lose Jon's bike or get it stolen!

I was heading to the site of a building materials company called Cemex to test out equipment which lets truck drivers know that cyclists are nearby. These new devices were installed some time after a Cemex readymix truck struck a cyclist in London in 2000, and she died. She was called Alex and was only 26 years old. Her mum Cynthia Barlow said, "Her life was just beginning when it was taken from her". When Alex was hit she was cycling alongside the vehicle. The driver turned right at a junction in order to turn sharp left, and as a result he cut across her path. Her grieving mother bought shares in Cemex so she could go to its AGM, and then she began working with the company to educate its drivers and find ways to prevent further road-deaths.

So, on an industrial park in Wembley, so close to the Stadium and its arch that I felt I could touch it, I cycled past a Cemex truck, on its nearside. In a safe and staged situation I was imitating a very dangerous scenario for a cyclist. As I did so, a robotic voice shouted out, "Caution! Truck turning left!" Inside the lorry, a high pitched alarm went off telling the driver I was passing, and a set of four mirrors, including a front blind-spot mirror, allowed him to see me more clearly. Later I asked the lorry driver, Jason, whether he could ever imagine driving without these new devices. "I wouldn't like to drive a truck without them. They're another aid. Anything that will help me avoid an accident which could lead to someone's death I'm more than willing to try."

Siobhann Tighe is a reporter and producer on You and Yours
You & Yours is on BBC Radio 4 at 1200 weekdays. Listen to today's episode on the Radio 4 web site.

The Silly Season

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Peter White Peter White | 17:06 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

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cakes.jpgHi; August is one of my favourite times of year when it comes to working! I know childhood brainwashes us into thinking that its the natural month to get away from it all, but of course that's the whole point! As a Hampshire commuter, the more people who decide to get away from it all the better as far as i'm concerned. I'm a train fan, but even I can't pretend that the scrummage on an average Monday morning on the seven forty-eight from Winchester is anything but barbarous. But this monday morning it was almost civilised; people were polite to each other; some even spoke to each other, as opposed to the usual shoulder-charge with elbows out. Mind you, there is a downside! Having once got to work, there is our version of the silly season! This is not so much making up stories about frying eggs on pavements or octogenarians having knives and forks confiscated which they've smuggled into cricket grounds to cut their sandwiches. We have a version all of our own of the silly season: Its the people who clearly take delight in sending us interesting stories on a friday afternoon, and then, well satisfied, clear off on holiday at the weekend so that there's noone to talk about it. People do tend to forget that unlike newspapers, radio just wont work if the main participants in a story aren't around to talk. There's one other pleasant little plus-point about August working. The You and Yours team are a generous lot, and there's a well-established tradition that people who've been away, even just for a weekend, bring back local delicacies. "Nibbles in the usual place" is a much-treasured email to receive, and there's a notable upsurge in exotic foodstuffs during the month, partially making up for the lack of people to do all the work. Some (i've done it myself) cheat, and clearly go to the nearest supermarket when they get back; but so what, with a seat on the train and a chocolate-enhanced coffee break, what more could you ask!

Peter White presents You and Yours and In Touch on BBC Radio 4

BBC ID Badge

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Catherine Carr | 11:41 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

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catherinecarr1.jpgIt's a funny thing the BBC ID badge. By glancing at another's - swinging round their neck, or left strewn on a desk (more on that later) you can carbon date their career at the BBC. Grey hair once black? Maybe fifteen years in the business? A once carefree expression now worry-worn etc.

In our building, (Broadcasting House, in London), the same piece of plastic will let me into the revolving doors but it will not let me through the swing-ey doors (which I have to use when I carry my folding bike). The reason? "Terrorism risk", they said. "Something to do with hinges...?" I asked. I am still not sure. And, as with all work ID passes, a bad photo can provide a great canteen-lunch tease-a-thon. If you and your colleagues are at a conversational loose end, that is.

But the really marvellous thing about the BBC ID badge is the access it grants into other people's lives, into subjects you were once ignorant of, and areas you have never visited. That is how over the last week or so I have found myself sitting at a kitchen table behind a post-office in rural Suffolk discussing the extraordinary theft of the village's water and on the top floor of Harrods in Knightsbridge, drinking leaf tea on satin cushions with a 'superstar' perfumer. We were discussing the regulation of oak moss, amongst other things. (Watch this space...it affects you more than you think!)

Wearing the BBC badge suits a nosey parker like me, who likes the sound of her own voice (a lot) but who also quite likes to listen to other people talk about things I had never even thought of. Who knew - for instance - that there were courses for would-be-hoteliers on how to overbook their hotels? Not me. Maybe I am naïve, but then I seem to be in good company. Listen next week for the case studies I have found who have been left fed up in hotel receptions this summer. In that instance the ID badge and the privileges it affords may help to inform us all a little.

As for the leaving of ID's 'strewn on desks' (see above).. It taught me an invaluable life lesson... for on top of learning about the potential health risks of basil in men's perfume, this week I also realised that a discarded plastic badge is not only a ripe opportunity for ribbing (yes, I do look like a grumpy convict in mine). But it can also get lost easily. This means both revolving and swing-ey doors are suddenly slammed in my face. Not to mention tete a tetes with fragranced gentlemen and another cup of Lapsang Souchong.

Catherine Carr is a reporter on You & Yours

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