IF THERE was any doubt about the power and influence which can
be exerted by apple crumble and custard, then it will have been
dispelled by last week's edition of Hardeep's Sunday
Lunch (Radio 4, Sunday). Hosted by Hardeep Singh Kohli, this
show introduces us to families and their stories over a few plates
of food rustled up by Kohli himself. And it was in remembrance of
the meals that Pastor Mimi Asher prepared for her son and his mates
that the apple crumble was served.
But this was no ordinary breaking of bread which Pastor Mimi was
offering. For "mates" read "gang members"; the impetus behind these
meals was an attempt by a terrified mother to win back her
13-year-old son from a peer group whose violence blighted the
Brixton estate on which they lived.
Michael would not sit down to eat alone with his mother; and the
gang would not countenance visiting Mimi's church. But they could
be lured into her house for a goat curry and a crumble; and thus
began Michael's redemption.
There was nothing overly sanctimonious about the telling of this
story; nor did the powerful message of traditional family values
and meal-time etiquette ever become cloying.
The most moralistic language came not from the older generation,
but from the reformed youth - in particular, Michael's friend Karl,
a former gang leader, who, with the zeal of the convert, now
preaches a heady message of Love Conquers All. Nevertheless,
whatever Pastor Mimi puts in that custard sounds like it ought to
be more widely available.
Somehow I do not imagine that crumble is going to cut it with
President Putin. Since the annexation of Crimea, how to solve a
problem like Putin has become another debate about the efficacy of
sanctions, and how far we can push them. We might have heard it all
before, but, as a clear-cut, sensible exposition of the issues,
The Inquiry (World Service, Tuesday) did a better job than
many documentary strands.
The Inquiry is a newcomer to the crowded radio market.
Its format is straightforward: four "witnesses" comment on
different aspects of a political issue. The combination of the
personal perspective and the diversity of approaches works well, so
long as we trust that our editor/reporter is giving us
Thus, last week, an economist, a diplomat, a reporter, and a
businessman all gave their three-roubles-worth and came up with
something like a consensus: that sanctions may work, but only in
the long term. Diversity of opinion can be tiresome and confusing;
here, it was well marshalled.
Radio 1 has recently been commended in the Mind Media Awards for
The Surgery (Wednesday), a phone-in show dealing with the
agony industry. Last week it was alcoholism, and the sensible
advice of the team could not be faulted. Radio 1's aim, however, is
a core demographic of 16-29-year-olds; but figures tell us that it
remains stubbornly on 32, and their callers all sounded that
Of course, it doesn't help the station's age average to have a
middle-aged radio critic tuning in; so I'll desist, and take my