Archive for the ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ Category
“So embedded is beer in the cultural life of Britain that visitors to the country, from the humble tourist to the President of the United States, make it a priority to have a real pint in a real pub. If you have been here, you will recall the experience: the distinctive glasses, the gentle, husky and alluring drink, the atmosphere of coziness and geniality. But all this is changing fast . . .”
This edition of From Our Own Correspondent is entirely devoted to a special essay by Jake Wallis Simons on the private and gentlemen’s clubs of London. They are an elitist and very exclusive world, still places for the social elite to huddle together, where – over a fine malt whiskey – you might bend the ear of government.
Jake Wallis Simons recently visited several of the capital’s finest clubs, and learned a good deal about pleasure and privilege.
But is modern Britain really still as riddled with class distinction as its reputation and history might suggest? And what role are do clubs play in the endless ebb and flow of power and influence? Listen the the audio (8 mins 37 secs)
Listen to the audio (5 mins 5 secs)
“A single error can have far-reaching consequences, both in political life and on the football pitch. In Sweden, the prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, of the centre-right Moderate party, recently got himself into the sort of hot water that will be only too familiar to many politicians in Britain. In a classic gaff, he carelessly used the term “ethnic Swedes”; this provoked widespread accusations of racial intolerance. Meanwhile, in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, Mayor Ilmar Reepalu is having problems of his own after making comments that were perceived to be anti-Semitic. This, commentators have suggested, has exacerbated racial unrest in the town.
Sweden has a population of approximately 9.4 million – in demographic terms, roughly the size of Greater London – and the influence of this smallness of scale can be seen everywhere. It is relatively easy, for instance, to get signed up by Sweden’s professional football teams, at least in the lower leagues (though you won’t get paid very much).
The political processes, too, are often less formal than in Britain. The prime minister, for example, can appoint whomever he likes into cabinet positions, whether they are members of parliament or not. Nevertheless, the media controversies of recent weeks have demonstrated that Swedish public figures are often scrutinised just as much as their British counterparts.
It was against this strife-ridden backdrop that a football match took place in Stockholm between the England Writers’ Football Team and the Swedish Writers’ Football Team. It is a little known fact that writers group themselves into national teams and play football against each other. Many end up injured, as writers are generally not used to strenuous physical activity. Invariably, there are comic moments. And notwithstanding occasional moments of acrimony, Writers’ Football games are, on the whole, perfect examples of diplomatic harmony and cultural exchange . . .”
Listen to the audio (5 mins 13 secs)
“Church bells have been ringing in England for more than thirteen hundred years. The English ringing technique – in which a bell is swung through a full 180 degrees to allow it to sound mouth-up, projecting its voice upwards out of the tower – is quite unique; it can only be found in the British Isles, a few former colonies, and the area around Verona in Italy.
Traditionally, English bells are rung to summon the faithful to worship, to celebrate weddings and festivals, and to mark national thanksgivings. At funerals, and at times of disaster, the bells are sometimes muffled; during wartime, it’s agreed that church bells will not be rung except as a warning of invasion.
One cold January Saturday, I came across the oldest bell of this kind in the world, which dates back to the year 1260. It is a handsome treble bell, cast in solid bronze, its face mottled with the distinctive grey-green patina that has protected it from centuries of atmospheric corrosion.
Surprisingly enough, this bell is not kept in the British Museum, or in any museum for that matter. Instead, it still hangs in the belltower of the tiny Hampshire church for which it was originally intended more than seven hundred and fifty years ago . . .”
Listen to the audio (6 mins 3 secs)
“Britain is often described as a nation of animal-lovers, usually cats and dogs. Australians, however, can have wilder tastes. Jake Wallis Simons met one who feels much more at home in the jungle than he does in the big city.” NOTE: this recording includes JWS impersonating a post-coital baboon. The full story
Listen to the audio (16 secs)
On Saturday 23rd July, at 11:30am, Jake will be appearing on Radio 4′s From Our Own Correspondent. The story he will be telling is an unusual one, involving parrot worrying, puma taming, and . . . the call of a post-coital baboon. In this short clip, released by Radio 4 on Twitter as a teaser, Jake can be heard making like a baboon and generally being a bit of a pillock. At only 16 seconds in length, that’s got to be worth a listen.
Hear more (you mean you haven’t heard enough?)
Listen to the audio (2 min 54 secs)
In this short clip I am interviewing Peter Allison, the animal tracker, adventurer, explorer, daredevil and writer, about how to understand the language of the animals. You will be able to hear more of this story very soon on BBC Radio 4 (though this was just recorded on my iPhone). Let me say this: Peter Allison is extraordinary. On the left is a picture of him tickling the tummy of a traumatised puma (click to enlarge). Stay tuned. –JWS
Listen to the audio (5 mins 55 secs)
“The island of Malta does not exactly have a central bus station. Instead, it has the Funtana tat-Tritoni, an open-air fountain in the middle of the capital city Valletta, which is home to a frenzy of bus-related activity. From early morning until late at night, fume-belching buses sweep around the fountain, picking up passengers, negotiating log-jams and stopping for the odd half-hour rest.
As well as the crowds of Maltese commuters that could be seen thrusting their way around the vehicles (office workers, school children, elderly nuns), I also noticed a good number of nerdy-looking tourists who were photographing the buses, recording mysterious details in little notebooks and generally getting in the way . . .” Read the transcript
Listen to the audio (5 min 17 secs)
“People came in ones and twos until the place was packed. Somebody closed the door to stifle the breeze. Then Father Angelo Seychell — a short, rotund priest in a spotless white robe — glided in, positioned himself beneath the crucifix, and began Mass. The congregation followed the proceedings automatically. But when it came to the sermon, there was an unexpected change . . .” Read the transcript