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Another series of Word of Mouth comes to an end with a hilarious and enjoyable coin-an-aphorism competition and a session where Matt Harvey and I pulled Christmas crackers and discussed the jokes (see picture below). Yes, it gets that high-brow. Incidentally, The king of aphorisms who judged the competition on Word of Mouth was James Geary. Here's his site: jamesgeary.com/blog.

We're back in April on Tuesdays (not Friday's anymore) at 4.00pm and Sundays still at 8.30pm.

word of mouth at christmas

Me with Matt Harvey. Crackers...
[View larger image]

In between, I've narrated a programme about step-families called Steps that should be up on the Listen Again facility at www.bbc.co.uk/radio from the second week in February.

I also narrated a programme for BBC 4 called The Story of the Ghost Story. An interesting experience. When you do radio, most of the time you go into a special studio, that has great sand-filled doors that block out all sound from passing traffic, coffee machines and iPods. When you go to BBC4 and do a job like this, you're taken into the editing suite, where the producer and editor are putting the film together. It's right bang next to the open office where hundreds of people are sitting at their screens planning the Beeb's arts output for the next  year and various bods are walking past with news of the party tonight, the programme budget that's been slashed, the bacon sarnies in the canteen etc. Then the editor hands you a mic that's like one of those airport announcers mics, just sticking out of the desk and you fire away. Every now and then the producer will get up, look out of the door and shout, 'Oi, we're trying to record in here, you know!' and for a while people outside stop talking about their bacon sarnies. Next time you watch a TV doc and there's something harrowing going on in the Sudan, or something ever so aesthetic going on with Matisse, try and listen out for the bacon sarny guy in the background...

I appear briefly (I think) in a programme on the history of Jackanory, coming up soon. My top Jackanory of all-time has to be Kathy Burke doing The Twits. Wonderful, though Alan Bennett doing Winnie the Pooh had that strange, nostalgic, endless sweep of the middle class running through it. How does he do it?

I'm in The Culture Show (BBC2) of Feb 2, looking at the Whitechapel library of old and comparing it with the new Idea Store that's 500 yards down the road. My father used the old one and its Norman Lebrecht's argument that the new institution is a betrayal of all that was good about the old one. We meet and dispute the matter.

In September I'm writing and presenting a series for Radio 4 called On Being Inferior.

The programme for Radio 4 about Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and Philip Pullman all being amongst the world's most popular fantasy writers and all coming from and living in and near Oxford, goes out in April. The photos here show me faffing about in Oxford trying to find out if there's a thesis here or not.

oxford picture 1

The man I'm standing with is, Ron, the childhood friend of C.S.Lewis's step-son Doug. They used to play together in the grounds of CS Lewis's house.


oxford picture 2

The guide at Christchurch College Oxford standing in front of the little door that Lewis Carroll used to look at and watch Alice peering through, wishing that she could go into the garden beyond.


oxford picture 3
This is me at my old college, Wadham. First time I've been there since 1969! Mixed feelings.


oxford picture 4

This is the first Asian plane tree ever to be brought to Britain, and its branches inspired Lewis Carroll to create the Jabberwock. It's in the garden of Christchurch College.




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