Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Slept badly and woke to dripping, slushy snow. It's not the pretty kind that lifts the heart and makes one think of Narnia, but dirty and cross and wet.
Because of the insomnia, everything was out of whack. Instead of a clean, efficient start to the week, there was a mild feeling of being out of sync. I managed to take my mother some soup (creamy cauliflower, I was rather pleased with it), and got in some healthy food. My plan is to eat a lot of protein and spinach and broccoli, to get my strength up.
Then, there was a quite unexpected little piece of serendipity. Because I was running so late, I did not make my lunch until after two. I had the radio on, as is my enduring habit, and I was cooking the broccoli, and the polite lady announcer said: the afternoon play is set in a fish stall in the north.
Now, I love the north. Some of my happiest times in this small island have been spent in Yorkshire and Lancashire and the Lake District. And I also love fish, except for cod, which I think is over-rated. But the afternoon play is a hit and miss affair at the best of times, and the thought of some gritty piece of social realism set amongst the flounders of Blackburn or some such place did not send my heart racing.
Then the polite woman said: written by Jim Poyser. I was at university with Jim Poyser. I was always rather in awe of him, because he was so funny and clever and sharp. He took dryness and irony to entire new levels. If he was writing about a fish stall, then it would be worth a listen. He is the kind of person who could write about a cardboard box and make it interesting.
And the thing was: it was absolutely bloody brilliant.
It was about fish. It was also about family and friendship and money and dreams, literal and metaphorical. It had really good jokes. It was very finely acted. I ate my food slowly and listened to the whole thing, in a haze of pleasure. It was very naughty, because I should have been Getting On. But it was so good. Any play which contains the line 'You're in the kingdom of the halibut, Sean' is worth the price of the licence fee alone.
No one writes much about the art of the radio play. I'm not sure any other country in the world really goes in for radio drama any more. It is one of the quiet miracles of the BBC that we still have that tradition here. It is an incredibly hard thing to do well. You have forty-five minutes and no pictures. Every word must count. It's not like a normal play, where you can get away with a bit of fat; the audience has the diversion of costumes and scenery and props and stage business. On radio, it is all language, and that language must do something with each sentence. The listener always has the possibility of distraction; unlike in a theatre or cinema, the audience is not captive. So with radio, you have to grab them by the neck and not let go. I realise that I have a rather profound respect for people who can do that.
Oh, and the other really lovely thing is that my agent had a little baby boy today, so there is a new small person in the world. I always wonder why it is I feel such delight at the thought of a new human. The news was uniformly rotten this morning; an awful lot about cuts and closing down charities and perilous financial conditions. Everyone is furious with the government and there is no bright light on the horizon. There is never, ever a news story which says: new policy working marvellously well. Yesterday, I watched a terrifying documentary about the death of the bees, and I fear that in fifteen years' time there might not be an apple tree left. And yet, and yet, the thought of new life still whacks the optimism button. Who knows? Maybe this small fellow will grow up and save the bees, and then we shall not all be for the dark.
Pictures of the day.
Snow on the wall:
View through the pines:
A tangle of old honeysuckle branches:
The snow does make the colour of the beeches pop:
Two little trees with snowy hill behind:
I love these - like three little maids from school:
Even though it felt like a blank old day, the colours actually were rather dramatic:
And the hill, white against a pale sky:
Final piece of excitement: my dear co-writer Sarah was on Woman's Hour this morning. They love her on Woman's Hour and are always asking her there. I have only a very slight twinge of envy. Anyway, she has a marvellous radio voice and if you want to listen, and have access to the iPlayer, click here and it's the first eleven minutes.
If you would like to listen to Jim Poyser's fabulous play, click here.