When the inimitable Gyles Brandreth comes to breathe his last, that life-flashing-before-the-eyes bit may take some time: Oxford scholar, Tory MP, Westminster diarist, royal biographer, teddy bear connoisseur, actor, crime writer, not to mention throwing up over Ted Heath’s shoes ... In the meantime, he delves into his vast archive for FIVE MORE AGES OF BRANDRETH, recalling the great and good or otherwise he has encountered.
Monday’s first episode invokes Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who, he recalls, dozed his way through a visit to Oxford in 1979. Brandreth also met a later incumbent, Ted Heath, at Oxford, but that particular encounter didn’t go at all well. He also recalls writing speeches for John Major, and meeting a young special assistant at the Treasury by the name of David Cameron.
For the Irish writer Edna O’Brien, moving to London in an unhappy marriage proved a less glittering rite of passage, although publication of her novel The Country Girls – deemed scurrilous by an ultra-conservative Irish establishment – brought her sudden celebrity as well as finishing the marriage. Now, on Radio 4’s Book of the Week, she reads her unsparingly frank memoir COUNTRY GIRL, revisiting her journey from a strict Catholic upbringing in County Clare to literary stardom in 1960s London and encounters with Hollywood idols, pop stars and literary giants along the way.
Hollywood, too, crops up in Radio 3’s current Piano Season, as this afternoon’s SATURDAY CLASSICS explores the use of piano music in film scores, with notable examples including music from The Sting, The King’s Speech, Brief Encounter and, naturally, The Piano.
The old Joanna also finds its way into Radio Scotland’s MY LIFE IN FIVE BOOKS, as Stuart Cosgrove interviews author Janice Galloway about her childhood, her fraught relationship with her mother and sister, as recounted in her award-winning memoir All Made Up, and the books which inspired her to become the writer of such acclaimed novels as Clara about the pianist Clara Schumann.