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Radio review: Rosebud, Just One Thing with Michael Mosley, and The Essay: Music in bloom

24 May 2024

BBC/Listen Entertainment Ltd./James Green

The Revd Richard Coles was a guest on Giles Brandreth’s podcast, Rosebud (Plaine Jaine Productions)

The Revd Richard Coles was a guest on Giles Brandreth’s podcast, Rosebud (Plaine Jaine Productions)

IF YOU have been missing the familiar, gentle tones of the Revd Richard Coles since his departure from the BBC, you can get a pleasingly extended dose courtesy of Rosebud (Plaine Jaine Productions; downloadable every Friday). The podcast is a vehicle for Gyles Brandreth. It is not driven by the voluble host, however, but by the guest, who is invited to identify those “rosebud” moments that formed his or her character, just as powerfully as did that iconic sled in Citizen Kane.

For Fr Coles, the recital of formative experiences begins unpromisingly, with a memory of the time his baby brother “did a poo” in the bath; and there are details along the way of the young pop star’s life in ’80s London which are not for the squeamish. But there are also episodes of great tenderness, self-knowledge, and humour. Fr Coles’s cultural ubiquity is his greatest asset. His father thought that God wore an Old Etonian tie; Richard hung out with Jimmy Somerville, and was called to the faith by reading George Herbert’s “Love bade me welcome”. It is a charming combination, which flatters perfectly the sensibilities of the Radio 4 audience. That we now must seek him out in podcast-land says much about contemporary media drift.

At least Dr Michael Mosley doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. His series on health and well-being, Just One Thing — with Michael Mosley (Radio 4, Thursdays), has definitely contravened its own founding principle by reaching almost 100 “things”. Having presumably run out of all the obvious tips — such as how it’s not a good idea to eat a whole chocolate cake in one sitting — Dr Mosley is now exploring aspects of lifestyle whose benefits are more marginal and less easily quantifiable.

Last week, we were encouraged to read poetry out loud, as a means of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. But it has to be metrical verse, according to the expert from the Swiss Association of Art Therapies. Tennyson evidently is preferable to T. S. Eliot. How this can be tested is unclear; but it is a further indication of how the well-being industry appropriates all virtue to its own cause.

Previous episodes of Dr Mosley’s show have taught us how learning a musical instrument improves brain power, and volunteering makes for a more resilient immune system. The question is, if I help an old lady cross the road, how much of that cake am I allowed?

Sillier still was The Essay: Music in bloom (Radio 3, Monday of last week), in which Katie Derham found a serious botanist almost biddable enough to say that plants could hear music and respond positively to it. To be fair to him and his scientific reputation, he was only being polite to a presenter who was desperately trying to legitimise her programme. We heard also from a composer who wrote a piece to be broadcast from a bed of flowers; but that is not the same thing at all; and the image of a pot-plant swaying to a musical beat remains the stuff of novelty toys.

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