30 July 2010

BP OIL Spill

A copy of the contract issued by BP to scientists, obtained by the BBC, says they cannot publish the research they conduct for BP or speak about the data for at least three years, or until the government gives the final approval to the company's restoration plan for the gulf.

It also states that scientists may perform research for other agencies only so long as it does not conflict with the work they are doing for BP, and that they must take instructions from lawyers offering the contracts and other in-house counsel at the oil company.

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, criticised the contract. He told the BBC: "This is really one huge corporation trying to buy faculty silence in a comprehensive way."

Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama and one of the scientists approached by BP's lawyers, said the company wanted to hire his whole department.

"They contacted me and said we would like to have your department interact to develop the best restoration plan possible after this oil spill," he said. "We laid the ground rules – that any research we did, we would have to take total control of the data, transparency and the freedom to make those data available to other scientists and subject to peer review. They left and we never heard back from them."

The lawsuits range from civil racketeering and personal-injury suits to claims from out-of-work shrimpers and owners of now-vacant hotels on the gulf shore.

The cost of the spill to BP has already exceeded $3.1bn (£2bn), and the company has pledged some of its assets as security to the US government while it builds up a promised $20bn compensation fund. Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate the final bill for the disaster caused by the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers, could run to $70bn.

Roger's favourite tractor, Fordson base on the Model T engine. Five baby swallows last week. Now all flying. All images Roger Morton

Butterflies’ Wings

I can’t draw or sing

but I imagine

people, events,


I observe

intricate shapes

on a lizard’s back

delicate patterns

on butterflies’ wings

five lurid stamen

amongst the

hibiscus petals

the smooth surface

of sea-rubbed glass,

the smell of basil on my

fingers that lingers

as I fold washing,

concoct tonight’s

meal. Too lazy to

shop. Too sun-soothed

to use

my unpaid credit card.

I stretch another meal

from courgette flowers, herbs,

cold white wine.

One can’t stint on the vine.

Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

Artshow 10

An indolent summer evening, hundreds of people. Some lovely. The Dottie Bart Jazz Quartet in full flow. A studio space crammed with artists’ work. Dottie never lets the grass grow under her feet. She changes and changes. Obama eat your heart out. Francesca Spille shows large fuzzy photographic self-portraits. They’re not bad. I like the menacing guy in the fedora. People offer invitations to other vernissages, To dinner. There’s too much chit-chat. I buckle and subside. Others do better, I’m sure. Darling Richard in yet another role is an attentive, considerate barman. Life throws up interesting challenges, n’est-ce pas?

Joselyn Morton

Radio 7

Hello again She's a Life Peer in the House of Lords, she worked for many years as an administrator in the National Health Service then as an administrator in the Home Office; she was a BBC Governor for 5 years, and last December, at the age of 89 she was invited to be a guest Editor of Radio 4's Today programme. She is none other than the best-selling crime novelist, Baroness James of Holland Park, better known as PD James, the creator of Adam Dalgleish and Cordelia Gray , and who will be celebrating her 90th birthday next Tuesday, 3rd August. A couple of weeks ago we had the privilege of welcoming Baroness James (or Phyllis, as she prefers to be known) to the Radio 7 studio to record an exclusive interview with Joanna Pinnock, during which she shared her thoughts on crime fiction, her love of radio, her career, and of course her much-admired fictional character, the intensely cerebral Scotland Yard Inspector, Adam Dalgleish. She also spoke of her clear memories of radio, recalling when she heard over the airwaves the news of the outbreak of WW2, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the first-ever Royal broadcast, by King George V in 1932. PD James' first novel, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962, and her most recent novel, The Private Patient, was published in 2008 (an adaptation of which was broadcast on Woman's Hour in May this year, and will eventually make its way to Radio 7). She is the author of over 20 crime novels, many of which have been adapted for film and television, but the richly written and often complex plots require even more careful adapting for the medium of radio. Writer/abridger/dramatist Neville Teller is the only dramatist to adapt PD James' novels for radio, and Nevillle also popped into our studio recently to talk to Jim Lee about the challenges and the processes he uses in dramatising the complex plots of the famous author's work. Naturally cautious about adaptations of her client's novels, PD James' agent initially refused the rights for radio dramatisations of her work. Fortunately, our bold Mr Teller persisted, was finally allowed to ‘have a go’ and he is now responsible for the radio dramatisations of seven of her novels, all approved by PD James herself. In celebration of her birthday, we have planned a PD James season, which will include: Devices and Desires, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, A Taste for Death, and A Certain Justice. The interviews with Baroness James and Neville Teller will begin on Saturday, and will continue throughout the next two weeks. You can catch them before and after the dramatisations. I hope you'll enjoy them

And finally, now that we are into August and summer holidays, I'd like to remind you that there are less than 4 weeks left for you to fill in the BBC Trust consultation form (that is, if you haven't already done so). The services provided by Radios 3, 4 and 7 are this year being reviewed by the BBC Trust, in terms of quality of output, value for money, and any future plans for each of the three networks This is a good opportunity for you, as listeners, to have your say. Every response will be sent to, and considered by the BBC Trust. You can access the form here and you have until August 26th to send in your views on Radio 7. I've been told that there has been a good response so far, but there is still time for those of you who have not yet got round to sending off your completed form to voice your all-important opinions.

Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes, BBC Radio 7

"A picture of my serotonine tattoo. I don't know that it needs much explanation than its my favourite



Stephen O’R’s Sydney

I have been put on a new nerve pain pill by my pain specialist -Cymbalta - its also an antidepressive serotonin something. It makes me feel sicker than a dog although pain free (I think) they say it will take 3-4weeks for my body to accept this chemical and in the mean time I have no energy or appetite - feel nauseous and sleepy all the time and wonder if I can last. But until I either try and get off it or my body accepts it I am ratshit. 2 weeks down 2 weeks to go. xx Stephen

Roger Morton A nearby village has displayed this sign for the past 30 years that we know about. Yet every year a very large family group pf gypsies arrive and camp by the nearby flowing river Nizonne. Since President Sarkozy's declaration this week, is that likely to change? I hope not. I also hope that one of these years I will be able to afford one of the handsome baskets that these travellers are selling.ed

24 July 2010

Humble administrator's garden

The Shanghai Film Festival

The Shanghai film festival had more films in its programme than I had ever seen at a film festival before. This was not surprising as everything else was big in China. Evidently the Chinese Gubment only allows 20 films a year to be purchased for distribution so I guess a film festival is a rare opportunity for film fans. In my days of going to the Sydney Film Festival it was possible to see all the films if you took lunch with you but at Shanghai forget it. You could only make a selection from the films on offer.

The screening of my wife’s film was in a huge cinema that seated about two thousand and it was packed. Normally mobile phones annoy the heck out of me but here it seemed normal. One of the major characters was the poet John Keats and I was wondering how the translation would go in the subtitles. Translation is a subtle thing where the translator has to almost rewrite the work involved. But who would be doing a translation for a film festival in China I worried. When I asked the two locals I had invited to the screening how the poetry had survived translation they replied ‘very well’ and pointed out to me that Keats’s work had been translated many times over the years and the translators would have just used one of those. I realised that in spite of the occasional mobile phone conversations, the audience had been quietly attentive. Most of the two thousand stayed for the Q&A and their questions showed they were an intelligent audience.

We had gone to China because both of us had films screening in Shanghai but it turned out mine was in Beijing and would only come to Shanghai later; lucky most people who I had told that it was screening at the Shanghai museum were never going to go there anyway.

Film festival duty done we headed for the railway station (huge) and caught a fast train to Suzhou. The train was one of the new super fast trains that now link all the major cities in China. In a BBC radio documentary I heard that over ten thousand people were involved in the development of these trains. Like the huge buildings that go up in one and a half years from go to woe, the development and spread of the fast trains show what is possible under a determined, well financed and central controlled system.

Suzhou means land of rice and fish. This ancient town dates from well before unification in 221 BC and is built around a large series of lakes and rivers. The 1900 kilometre Grand Canal, which runs from Hangzhou to Beijing, passes through Suzhou. It was started in 495AD and links five large rivers including the biggest and most important, the Yang’tse and the Yellow Rivers. Building this system provided a massive internal interconnecting transport system that connected all the major markets with the major production areas. Porcelain travelled from the east, silk from the south and wheat from the north.

Often compared to Venice the old town at Suzhou was surrounded by a wide moat and a high wall instead of a lagoon. ‘Real’ people occupy the houses and factories that line the waterways. None of this real estate is for sale and can only be passed down through families. Groups of painters can be seen here and there and while there are Europeans visible, most of the tourists are Chinese. We tour the ‘humble administrators’ garden built in the Ming Dynasty. Evidently the ‘humble administrator’ had been sacked from his job in Beijing and banished from the capital. He arrived in Suzhou with enough cash to spend the rest of his life creating a five-acre classical garden to hang out in. Occupied by the Japanese cavalry in the 1930’s, it is now occupied by hundreds of tourists from other parts of China. We get to follow a large group of Italians through the No.1 Silk Factory where we see the process of making silk from tiny caterpillars who double in size each day eating leaves from non-fruit bearing Mulberry trees and we leave with a silk duvet and a black silk jacket that I wear for the rest of my stay in China.

The restaurant the guide takes us to for lunch, is named in the Lonely Planet book and does such good business that the restaurant next door put a sign in its window saying ‘Recommended by lonely planet’ and increases its trade as well.

Suzhou is so pretty that people who work in Shanghai live here and do the daily commute for 30 minutes each way on the fast train. Around the old town are giant apartment buildings like those in Shanghai.

Clad in silk we are driven back to Shanghai on a huge motorway and arrive at our new hotel ‘Astor House’.

Built by the British in Victorian times it was a replacement for the original hotel that had been built in 1846. Chinese porters in kilts stand at the door that leads into a huge wood-panelled lobby. This hotel had given shelter to Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Bertrand Russell and a clutch of American Presidents and now us. Breakfast in the huge dining room lit by a glass ceiling showed a mixture of middle-aged European tourists and Chinese families from the International Diaspora. In the Bund nearby thousands of beaming people in town for the Expo take millions of photos of their friends and families. The Buildings of the Pudong and the boats at night on the river are lit with coloured lights that move and dance in a way that says ‘good times are here so lets party…’

Enough for this week. I find myself in New Zealand without the cable to download the pictures for this piece so next week when this riveting travelogue finishes there will some pictures.

Stephen O’Rourke

23 July 2010

Bill McAlister goes North

Maybe He Should have Called it Duffy

Forty two publishers refused

Samuel Becket’s novel



he should have called it


(or even Duphee)

Not so in-your-face


Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

NZ Sculptures

Today, a day of shifting sun and shadow, bright and soft light, we went to Alan Gibbs Farm spread above the Kaipara Harbour, a setting as stunning as the sculptures which decorate it. Rolling hills, planting of natives and a few exotics in the gullies, stepped ponds of rushes and water fowl, fenced giraffes and zebra (how perfectly patterned they are close up) and roaming free over clipped green grass, bison, water buffalo, Scottish highland cattle, emu, ostrich, alpaca, and goat, all in perfect condition and as curious about us as we were about them. I guess this is the 'farm' part which soothes the mind as peaceful grazing animals always do.

The sculpture collection is not soothing. It excites the imagination and sets it soaring. Most of the works are large, very large, to fit the wide expanse of landscape. Chris and I saw a Richard Serra work in the Guggenheim in Bilbao - impressive but nothing like the work Gibbs commissioned, which, in its robust rustiness and its height of six metres follows the contour of a rise for quarter of a kilometer. Along the bottom, the richness of the rust had paled and been softened by the sheep sheltering from the wind.

Perceptually teasing, situated in a hollow was a Sol le Witt pyramid, minimalist, yet composed of hundreds of concrete blocks artfully placed to deceive the eye. Also deceptive was a Neil Dawson trompe-l'oeil, a tornado deposited, curved sheet of corrugated iron or giant lounging chair, delicately balanced on the top of a hill ready to fly with the next wind.

But the sculpture which astounded, as our young friend Emily suggested, was the Anish Kapoor work, 'Dismemberment', which nestled or floated, in a hollowed-out hill. It was made of a bronze red pvc membrane stretched eighty five metres between two giant steel ellipses - like an HMV speaker with the ellipse at one end, vertical, and at the other end, horizontal. This gave it a magnetic tension. Not often one sees a sculpture which actually thrills. It subtly moved, quivering like a living being. The Kaipara Harbour was framed through one end the and through the other end, the smudgy distant hills. Almost as exciting were Andy Goldsworthy’s 'Arches' - thirteen of them; like a fractured Roman viaduct, stepping out into the shallows of the harbour. Several were cheekily out-of- alignment, like a crazed sea serpent desparate to leave land and get back into the water. They were built of rust-coloured stone quarried in Scotland, so perhaps a hint of 'Nessie' there.

We had taken our friend Shaun Cooney and his daughter Emily. Shaun has leukemia and is on a diet of blood transfusions and chemotherapy and I couldn't help wondering what was appealing to him the most. For me, if in his place, I thought that exciting as the sculptures were, it was that great expanse of shallow harbour with its intracies of colours and reflections and patterns that I would not want to forget.

Tonia Matthews

Tonia beside the Kapoor Kapoor Chris besides the Goldsworthy Goldsworthy Neil Dawson Hotere
Saturday 24 July will be 30 years since Peter Sellars died. (I can remember how on the day of his funeral, the sky over Golders Green became the strangest dark green colour. ed)

In my last letter, I mentioned just a few of the well-known people who have come through the doors of Broadcasting House in London. Recently Radio 7 had two visitors whose names might not be familiar to you, but both have a strong connection to a hugely popular classic radio comedy series, Round the Horne. The visitors were Susan Montague, step-daughter of the late Kenneth Horne, and Lyn Took, who was married to and was for many years agent for the late Barry Took. Susan had not been in to Broadcasting House since she was taken there as a child by her step-father, so this was a nostalgic visit for her. She said how delighted Kenneth would have been to know that , over fifty years on, his performances were still being broadcast regularly, providing so much entertainment to so many listeners, young and old. Lyn Took is in every sense the Round the Horne archivist. Over the years she has retained scripts, letters, memos and tapes not only for that brilliant series but also for all other Barry Took 's television and radio work. She had brought in to Radio 7 a selection of letters to show to Susan. The letters, from the 1960s, were from Kenneth Horne to Barry. Although some were typed, most of them were beautifully hand-written, and made fascinating reading. Here is an example written after the recording of Round the Horne, Series 2, in June, 1965: " It's been a marvelous series, thanks to all of you, and, personally, I'm agog at the thought of starting again next March. Mind how you go - there aren't many of us left." And from June 1966: "My Dear Barry, a tremendous series - easily the best, and what's more, without a word of discord. A thousand thanks for your Trojan work, and let's hope for series after series . All the best - Kenneth" Sadly, there were only two more series of Round the Horne made, as Kenneth Horne died, suddenly, aged 61, of a heart attack, in February 1969. Susan was very moved to be given copies of Kenneth's letters, and said how reading them reminded her of his great sense of fun. Seeing these precious letters had me pondering on the pleasure most of us have had (in what could soon become a lost art) writing and reading letters, rather than today's speedier but less personal communication by e-mail and text. Lyn is currently sifting through dozens of boxes containing the ‘Took’archive, processing the contents to donate to the ‘Department of Theatre, Film and Television’ at York University. What a terrific contribution to the department, and what an opportunity for anyone studying Media at York to be able to access this wonderful archive. Kenneth Horne makes two appearances on Radio 7 in the coming week: in his usual Round The Horne role and also in a charming musical version of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat. Details further in my letter. The Goon Show Ill Met By Goonlight Goon Show star Peter Sellers (pictured with the other Goons) died thirty years ago this Saturday, July 24th. Throughout the week you’ll be able to hear John Repsch, chairman of The Goon Show Preservation Society, celebrating the great comic, mimic and actor. And you can hear Peter Sellers himself in sparkling form in this week’s episode of The Goon Show, as a special military operation involves Bloodnok filling a sock with spaghetti and Bluebottle guarding a mountain with a stash of dynamite. Harry Secombe and scriptwriter Spike Milligan join the madness in this 1957 episode, produced by Pat Dixon.

Thursday at 8am, 12pm and 7pm

An article in a national newspaper last Saturday immediately caught my eye, with the heading: Keep faith in fab DAB - ignore the naysayers, digital radio has the most exciting shows around’. The author of the article, Ed Potton, went on to discuss the virtues of the variety of radio stations available on digital, and although conceding that DAB still has a long way to go, he stated: " The bottom line line is that digital has enriched the airwaves for millions". Ending with a Top Ten of his recommended stations, Ed cited 6 Music as his number one, noting that the station is " fast becoming a national treasure" In second place was Planet Rock, followed by Jazz FM, and coming in at fourth place was our own Radio 7, which he recommends as a ‘Must-Hear: priceless re-runs of Hancock's Half Hour’. Ed Potton clearly has exemplary tastes in radio. Happy listening! Mary Kalemkerian

Head Of Programmes BBC Radio 7

The vole on the cover beside Roger Morton's finger to give an idea of its size.

16 July 2010

An impromptu treat

I’m sure my adolescence was immeasurably improved by my watching and listening to Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son. Those years would have been unliveable if those programmes had not existed. Therefore an impromptu lunch last week, thanks to Mary K with the Lion of comedy himself - Alan Simpson, the man who made my teenage years bearable, was pretty special. It was a treat. ed

BBC Radio 7

Two of our most famous recent visitors were the legendary comedy writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Ray and Alan are fairly frequent visitors to Radio 7, but this time it was for an interview with a difference, as suggested by our announcer Jim Lee, who has an excellent knowledge of comedy facts. We had been discussing two of the best-known Hancock programmes, The Blood Donor and The Radio Ham. Both were made for television only and never adapted for radio. However, as all Hancock fans know, in October 1961, the scripts were recorded on audio for Pye records. Jim not only knew the name of the studio where the recording took place (Star Sound Studios, off London's Baker Street) but he also knew Alan Florence, a sound engineer who, at the age of 18, had been an assistant engineer on that recording. Subsequently, Alan worked on recordings for The Rolling Stones, Status Quo, Julio Iglesias, the Who and the Beatles. But as a huge Hancock fan, working on these classic shows almost 50 years ago proved to be one of the highlights of Alan's long and illustrious career. Apparently Alan is the sole surviving engineer from that iconic recording session, and Jim's idea was to invite Alan Florence into our studios to meet Galton and Simpson and to reminisce about the recording. Alan was thrilled to meet the writers and they were delighted to come along for the interview. There was one flaw in Jim's brilliant plan, however - Ray and Alan didn't actually remember that particular recording! But in a fascinating session, they told the story, along with many others and their hour-long interview has been edited into six short features which have been dotted throughout the schedule this week - and will also continue into next week. Additionally, we've got The Big Steptoe Radio Show, four new to Radio 7 Steptoes, plus a Hancock's Half Hour - not just to honour the writing duo, but also to celebrate Ray Galton's birthday. Ray will be 80 on Saturday 17th July. 1930 must have been a very fine year. Happy Birthday, Ray.

Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes, BBC Radio 7

The Church

Stretched out on the dry grass bank

of a flowing stream

with a mirror surface that distorts as a dream

small insects crawl my page

decisively escape

wet hair in tangled wisps

droplets of sweat in the nape

of my sun-warmed neck.

A curious noise

that I can’t identify

too solemn and steady

I believe for a cry.

The girls return from their walk

to the church. “So pretty, Sarah Jane said

how nice

if both the girls were to be married there.”

‘Don’t be silly, David sharply replied,

how could we possibly fit

all the guests


Joselyn Duffy Morton ©

Roger Morton

St Privat

The tiny village of St Privat has some astounding surprises. That there is a large beautiful church with carved Saint-Jacques (scallop shells) at the front entrance is not too surprising. Many small villages have enormous churches. However beside its war memorial was a memorial to the 51 Jewish inhabitants who had been exported to Auschwitz and killed. That was a shocking surprise. Lastly, there was a small ancient construction that I couldn’t identify. Luckily a man had parked his car nearby and was just about to leave. I asked him what it was. He explained that the village had had a large successful boucherie It’s still there, just around the corner. This was where the animals were killed and hung to dry. (Hence the expression ‘hung out to dry’, I guess.) I was intrigued to think that in those bad old days, a carcass of expensive cow could be left out in the open, in a public street, and no one would steal it. Interesting.

Joselyn Morton

L’Atelier Mouche

As always a vernissage at l’abbaye de Brantome is a pleasurable event. The building inside and out is memorable. I could sit on the huge internal staircase and dream my life away. The gallery is at the top of this splendid stone staircase. The view is spectacular – huge caves dug into the surrounding rock. The ceiling resembles a suspended galley ship. The artwork has to be exceptional to live up to this. Sue Wilk’s L’Atelier Mouche has tried to present a balanced body of work. Her own popular painted ceramics attracted a constant crowd. Her portraits are more controversial. I actually prefer her nude watercolours but I admire the progress of her work. There were 6 artists in all. I am familiar with Rosalind Lindsay’s wood-cuts, which I love. Buy one – they are so under-priced. (I will… once we have replaced the missing piece of roof at the front of the house; put in that longed-for second toilet; built another bedroom in the attic so that our bedroom can become Roger’s studio… yadiyadiya…) Edmund Ashby usually sculpts enormous stone realistic creations but he obviously had his market in mind for this exhibition and was showing small desirable pieces. I wasn’t drawn to his paintings until I saw the images Roger had taken. The camera loved them. Philippe Demeillier is exhibiting two bronze feathered birds pecking. The sparks actually fly. It's electric. The exhibition only runs until 16 July. Pity. it deserved longer. Joselyn Morton