Friday, 20 October 2017

It's Good To Listen

Two national treasures brighten up the airwaves

Written by Louis Barfe
It is my considered opinion that Dawn French and Alan Bennett are two of the very best people these islands have produced. Hearing them both on Radio 4 Louis-Barfe-colour-176in the course of one week merely confirmed my excellent judgment in this matter. French was a guest on Woman’s Hour (R4, weekdays, 10am), and when the also- glorious Jane Garvey mislaid her reading glasses temporarily, French offered to lend. That’s the sort of person she is. You suspect that Jennifer Saunders would hand over her specs too.

She talked about loving her daughter intensely, but not being ‘her friend’. It’s an important distinction, she believes, and I tend to agree. ‘Friends are your choice,’ she says. ‘Parents are not your choice, and there are jobs to do as a parent that you could never do as a friend. The boundaries are very different.’

She also talked about taking on the bulk of the driving when she was married to Sir Lenny Henry, because they were sick and tired of getting stopped by police if he was in charge of the car. It was a pragmatic response, but it shouldn’t have been necessary. When one of the most famous black men in the country is subject to ‘sus’ law, you know something’s rotten.

French is, unbelievably, 60 this year, and so is the Today prog (R4, weekdays, 6am). As part of the festivities, Alan Bennett came in for a chat with Jim Naughtie, livening up a particularly grim edition. Not that Naughtie had much to do. Bennett, once crippled by shyness but now a gleeful natterer, knows what people expect of him and gives it largely unprompted with a twinkle. Whatever else is wrong with the world, people like French and Bennett (now wouldn’t that be a double act?) make it all seem far more bearable.

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