David Bowie Dead

David Bowie is dead. The announcer on Radio 3 was almost sobbing yesterday morning when he broke the news. It filled up half of all the television news yesterday, and is on the front page of all the newspapers today.

I have never knowingly listened to any of his music. I paid no detailed attention to the television and newspaper outpourings of grief. But I am curious. Do his achievements justify so much coverage? Was he a great musical genius? Or was he, like everyone else praised by the modern arbiters of taste in this country, somewhere between the mediocre and the piffling? Was he the musical equivalent of Carol Ann Duffy and Lucian Freud? Or have I spent all these years ignoring something wonderful?


  1. I suppose it depends on what you mean by “achievements.” I can’t say I was ever a HUGE fan of his music, but I found it interesting.

    In a 2002 BBC listener poll choosing “the 100 greatest Britons,” he placed 29th.

    He won two Grammy awards, and was made Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France but turned down a British OBE and knighthood.

    Whether those were proffered rewards for real achievement in his fields (music, acting, painting, etc.) or just acknowledgements of his popularity would be, I guess, a matter of opinion.

      • DJWebb,

        In American dialect, the usage is “placed,” not “was placed.” I suppose one might plausibly hold that only the British dialect constitutes “good English,” but after nearly 50 years of speaking and writing in American dialect I’m disinclined to pretend to be British even if doing so would read/sound “better” to your eyes/ears.

        • No, Thomas. Good speakers of American English do not use these incorrect terms. The trouble is that educated speakers of American English are hard to find. I’ve never personally encountered an educated American, but people like Professor Alan Bloom (of the “Closing of the American Mind”) would probably fit the bill.

          • On a different note, and in relation to British/American differences, and putting on my George Bernard Shaw hat, one peculiarity I have noticed about Americans is the extent to which they are verbally literal. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to put it – it is difficult to explain – but they have this literalness about them, both in person and online, and it does grate with me. I suppose one way to sum it up would be that the British are lyrical, whereas Americans are literal, but I’m not sure if that makes sense. I am having difficulty putting my finger on this.

            I think it is related to the sense of humour difference, which I used to think was just a simple cliché or stereotype about them, but having encountered very many Americans both online and in the Real World, I think the stereotype has a lot of truth in it.

            Mr Knapp (and, I emphasise, this is not a criticism of him, just an observation), is a good example. It can be seen below, in the way he interprets the OP’s piece. The nuance and verbal subtlety that is a hallmark of British English tends to escape them. This has resulted in a serious misunderstanding on another thread, in which myself and Mr Knapp have gone off on a very unfortunate tangent.

            It could be that there is some deep explanation for this in such things as American geography and the ethno-German heritage of perhaps the majority of white Americans, which has affected the way they use English. Or maybe this is not a typical American quality and it’s just that I’m encountering the dim ones? I doubt it’s the latter, though, as I’ve seen this attribute in lots of highly-educated Americans, including people who have attended Ivy League institutions.

          • “Good speakers of American English do not use these incorrect terms.”

            So far as I can tell or have ever noticed, EVERY speaker of American English uses “placed” rather than “was placed” to describe poll rankings.

            • So, in American English, “placed” is a deponent preterite rather than a past participle?

              There is no reason in itself why you should not make a word mean whatever you want it to mean, whenever you want to use it, regardless of how it has been understood in the past. However, this leads to linguistic drift. Too much of that, and past literature begins to seem distant. This is already the case with Chaucer and even with Shakespeare. But we are lucky that, so far, English has been stable enough for anyone of reasonable education to read anything in English written since about 1660, and not to think it very distant. We can take up a novel by Wilkie Collins or Jane Austin, or we can take up Gibbon and Hume and Addison, and the Restoration playwrights, and read without a gloss. For the past few hundred years, English speakers have been lucky. Most European languages are substantially different today from before 1914. Even French has changed considerably since the 17th century.

              This being so, arguments over correctness are more than snobbery. They involve cultural continuity and the education of the young.

              My advice to Americans is to look hard at how they have started to mangle tenses in the past hundred years. In particular, they seem to have lost any sense of distinctness between the preterite and past perfect. This makes their English look very strange to us, and probably limits their appreciation even of writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

              • Sean,

                An American educated to high school graduation level (if I’m not mistaken, the UK equivalent is GCE) in the last few decades of the 20th century would not have learned the meaning of deponent preterite in school and very likely would have only had perhaps an hour on participles of all kinds.

                That was my experience, anyway, and I was educated in government schools that most people rated toward the top end quality-wise, where I focused my attention on language more than most students (several courses on English proper and on composition, a couple on English and American literature, and five full years of journalism-related study).

                Am I an exemplary proper user of American English? Well, I would hardly rank myself near the top of any list of American men of letters. On the other hand, editors of “mainstream” newspapers and non-libertarian political publications selected my writings for publication more than 500 times last year, so it seems plausible to me that rank somewhere ahead of the middle of the pack.

                I don’t necessarily consider it snobbery to assert that the language is more well maintained and more well taught in the UK than in the US. Reasons aside, though, it remains a fact that US English and UK English are, at this point, very different dialects.

                • “Reasons aside, though, it remains a fact that US English and UK English are, at this point, very different dialects.”

                  Yes, but I’ve been struck by Sean’s previous argument that the US resents to a considerable extent the fact that much of its cultural and linguistic roots are in England. If spoken US English — and I am told the colloquial variant of US English is further adrift than the less frequently encountered literary form of US English — is quite far from British English, then that can only mean that young Americans have few cultural moorings. They are not exposed to writings before ca. 1970.

                  I would welcome US English becoming a completely incomprehensible new language that we cannot understand. At least that way our attempts to maintain our cultural heritage would not depend on another nation’s views on the advisability or otherwise of maintaining or discarding a cultural heritage. I’m told that educated speakers of US English do in fact maintain the present perfect.

                  One of the more grating errors in US English is combining a collective noun with a singular verb. E.g. “a handful of people is behind the president’s policy”. I believe this reflects the influence of German or other European language on US English. The correct form is, of course, “a handful… are….”

                  • “If spoken US English — and I am told the colloquial variant of US English is further adrift than the less frequently encountered literary form of US English — is quite far from British English, then that can only mean that young Americans have few cultural moorings.”

                    Actually it means the opposite. Americans have many cultural moorings. Even as early as 1776, our Declaration of Independence was published in English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch because all of those languages were already spoken and published in here. Ever since then, we have adopted and/or absorbed elements of still other cultures. The idea that Americans are just Britons who filed for divorce is a silly, if ubiquitous, myth.

                    • Disagree here. The Slaveholders’ Rebellion was carried out at every level by native speakers of English – some of whom wrote very good English. The literary war was conducted in English. Just because there were other Europeans settled in the Colonies has no bearing on the generality of the cultural and linguistic roots of those colonies.

                      Until about 1900, America was a cultural satellite of England. As late as the 1960s, educated Americans were about as familiar with English history (before about 1700) and English literature as we were. Indeed, I can point you to phonograph recordings made in the 1880s, in which the American director sounds indistinguishable from the Englishmen he was introducing.

                      The cultural and linguistic divergence from the English tradition has taken place within living memory, and has done and will do America no good. I can point to any number of grammatical errors in written American English. But the main complaint is its tendency to inflation and vagueness, and its increasing ugliness.

                      Of course, if you want to commit cultural suicide, that is your business. On the other hand, since America has a great and generally undesirable influence on England, I have some right to complain about American developments for their effects on England.

                  • Well, yes, of course I remember the praise you lavished on my book, and I am grateful for it.

                    I have a problem with the whole notion of “cultural suicide.” Cultures change. They change constantly. Some of them change more quickly than others. Some of them change in very different directions than others. Everyone finds this disconcerting to one degree or another. But it’s not “suicide.” It’s history.

                    The early post-revolutionary American ruling class — the planters in the south and the shipping merchants in the north, for the most part — were of course former Englishmen by citizenship and continued essentially as Englishmen culturally.

                    The rest of us were, well, mixed, and became increasingly so. There were already substantial culturally Dutch (especially in New York) and French (all the way from Detroit to New Orleans) populations in the original 13 states and the Louisiana territory to the west. There were Spaniards in Florida and THEIR culture had penetrated as far north as the Carolinas. By the mid-19th century, we were flooded with German and Irish immigrants in the fallout from the potato famine, Europe’s “spring revolutions,” etc. And by 1850 we had annexed a good deal of Mexico. Not to mention all the indigenous tribes we displaced and/or exterminated, even as we adopted their crops, pieces of their languages, their art, etc.; and several million African slaves who brought their languages, religions, and other cultural features with them and made them part of what we are. And there were of course subsequent large waves of non-British European immigration. The ones that come immediately to mind from places I’ve lived and where the cultural traces remain visible are Italy and Hungary. Only now are we reaching the 20th century!

                    Did English culture remain a significant influence on American culture for a long time? Yes. Even as late as the 1980s, when I was in high school, three literature courses were available at that level: American Literature, English Literature, and World Literature. England certainly remained a greater influence there than, say, Russia. My recollection is that English Literature started with Chaucer and ended with Kipling; well-leavened in between, of course, by plenty of Shakespeare — we read Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, did a class performance of the Scottish play, and watched a film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. World Literature was a mishmash of translated Russian (Turgenev and Solzhenitsyn) and French (Proust and Hugo) that I found not nearly as rewarding.

                    Significant, but not DOMINANT, especially outside the northeastern seaboard. By the mid-19th century at the latest, we were by no means divorced Englishmen any more.

                    I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, or a good thing. Things change, that’s all. And after the Empire influence on world culture from the 17th to early 20th century, I consider it unsound to bellyache because now instead of you bringing cricket to Bombay, Bombay is bringing curry to you. The Empire proved that superior cultures win and gain lasting influence … if you think your culture needs “protection,” you’re essentially claiming that it’s inferior to those now influencing it.

                • “I don’t necessarily consider it snobbery to assert that the language is more well maintained and more well taught in the UK than in the US.”

                  You’ve proved your point right there. You presumably mean “better maintained” and “better taught”. This is even worse than the ubiquitous “more well-known [whatever]”. It may seem picky, pedantic, and pompous to point this out, but imprecisions of this kind tend to metastasize, until we arrive at the point where “mysogynist” has lost its proper meaning, and Americans have corrupted the meaning of the word “disinterested”, which is a real loss.

                  One of the ironies, however, is that many complaints about the Americanization of English are actually complaints about older British usages that have survived in the, er, colonies, but have been superseded in Brit English.

              • We can take up a novel by Wilkie Collins or Jane Austin…

                Jane Austin?

                When you become dictator, make me your Minister of Spelling. We can’t afford to entrust our orthographic future to libertarians.

  2. He performed with a popular beat combo.

    Whether or not you were a particular fan, he had a very great cultural influence, and many other people very much were great fans of what he produced. A libertarian should rejoice at the popular arts, which are a perfect example of a free market providing products that consumers want, rather than what snobs think they should want.

    Who cares about “arbiters of taste”? Millions loved and bought his music. That is the true sign of achievement for libertarians; that something is valued on its own merits, when people have to pay for it themselves rather than the State paying for it. Unlike all that heavily State subsidised classical music, opera, ballet, etc.

    • No, libertarians do not have to rejoice at the popular arts. Something valued on its own merits by people with no taste? It would be nice to live in a free society where educational standards were high and the free market did not operate as a race to the bottom culturally.

      • Popular arts are by definition what people like, and what a free market has produced in response to that popular taste. That is the very definition of what libertarians should rejoice at.

        Rock’n’roll was one of the great cultural forms of the 20th century, which itself produced more arts than all the rest of human history combined. Arts produced not for a small elite, not to fawn over the great and powerful, not to support the State, or a monarchy, or lords and ladies, but for ordinary people. Music, novels, movies, comic books. television, even the spread of exuberant fashion to the masses. These things are one of the great demonstrable benefits of capitalism and a very close approximation to the true free markets we like to talk about.

  3. Can’t say he improved my appreciation of music very much either.

    He was outrageous and outrage in times of peace is usually popular with the populace. Breaks the boredom I suppose. The entire world of pop never for a second ceases to create outrage. Without doubt it caught the imagination of a lot of people during the second half of the 20th century. Having one eye blue and the other brown made him look a little weird which also qualified him to be whatever.

    To his credit he was a fearless man. He did what he felt driven to do and took on the chin whatever the critics threw at him. He certainly fell into the realms of the ‘artistic’. He saw things which most of us couldn’t and painted what he saw very well. I own nothing he ever created in the musical sense but would like of find something visual. I’ll be looking more seriously now.

    Who’d have thought that changing your name from Jones to Bowie could work that much magic? That’s a joke. RIP David Bowie. You were never boring and that’s a great thing in itself.

  4. I think that for once you may have missed something worthwhile Sean. I found some of his music difficult as it was at times jarring but it was superb musicianship and in terms of legacy I think there are only one or two people who were more influential in the last 50 years or so. He was also a true individual, not in a gratuitous ‘look at me’ sense necessarily but as a showman who thought that boundaries could be pushed at in such a way as to expand horizons rather than tear anything down.

    Most of all on a personal level I think some of the reaction to his death comes from the fact that he was, by all accounts and in all his public appearances and writings I have ever seen, a genuinely nice bloke who just wanted to do his thing, help others out along the way and not be bound by other people’s arbitrary rules.

    I think his passing is worthy of note, not only because I am sure he still had a lot more he could have achieved and contributed but also because the life and the passing of a good man is always something to be celebrated and mourned.

  5. If you’d never heard Beethoven or Mozart, you’d have missed something. I don’t think that applies to Bowie. And his lyrics weren’t very good:

    There’s a starman waiting in the sky,
    He’d like to come and meet us
    But he thinks he’d blow our minds.
    There’s a starman waiting in the sky
    Hes told us not to blow it
    Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
    He told me:
    Let the children lose it
    Let the children use it
    Let all the children boogie


      • Why not just pull something of his up on Spotify or YouTube or whatever and just give it a listen.

        Then you’ll know whether you like him or not.

        Knowing whether you SHOULD like him or not might take longer, of course. But if you only care about whether you DO or not, not whether you SHOULD or not, and if it turns out you don’t, you’ll have saved yourself some time.

        • I think this is Sean doing his Young Fogey act. He is about the same age as me, and I don’t believe that it is possible to go through life avoiding every David Bowie song any more than saying you’ve never seen a McDonalds or heard of Star Wars or know what Hip Hop and Rap sound like, regardless of whether one likes any of them. I suspect he started this thread with a twinkle in his eye.

          • Well, now, I guess that would make sense.

            But then again, to this very day I will occasionally discover that a song I’ve heard here and there for years and may like or dislike is by [insert artist here], whom I’ve heard of but have remained unfamiliar with.

            Now that I think of it, the first time I heard “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” it was sort of the opposite of that. I heard the cover of it by Bauhaus and liked it. I knew that it was originally by Bowie because I had heart the name and the title mentioned together, but I hadn’t actually heard the original. And since I didn’t care that much for his music that I HAD heard (e.g. “China Girl” — this was the ’80s), I hadn’t gone looking for it.

            • Heh, I actually bought that Bauhaus single and still have it in a box somewhere. My earliest “Bowie memory” though is the Space Oddity promo film (or video as they would later be called) on TV, and that as a small child he kind of scared me, particularly his teeth.

          • Because we are about the same age, you know I am far too old to be a /young /fogey!

            As for not having listened to any DB, I may well have heard some: I am just unable to match songs to names. I decided, when I was twelve, that I didn’t like popular music. That may have been an aesthetic judgement based on snobbery or on political prejudice. But it has never shifted, and the modern popular music I have heard over the years has done nothing to make me reconsider. It doesn’t approach the ghastliness of avant garde classical music. But I find it irritating or depressing. Since I am easily irritated, and very easily depressed, I will stick with what I like.

            • I suspect you’ve been a fogey since about the age of two, Sean. Threw your toys out of the pram if your mother didn’t read you Xenophon, right?


              • Abba have their moments. Also, some Czech singers are worth hearing. Indeed, when Karel Gott keels over, the whole of Central Europe will go into mourning.

      • The lyrics don’t look terribly inviting.

        They aren’t. And they’re not his worst. As an intelligent man, he should have managed to sound more like Tennyson and less like McGonagall.

      • They don’t seem strange, they seem inept. The Beatles’ lyrics were often strange, but they were rarely as crude as Bowie’s.

  6. I like David Bowie, but I feel no reason whatsoever to pressure Sean into listening to him if Sean doesn’t like popular music. I like Bowie and classical music, but I suppose these days we are supposed to choose sides.

    Guess I’m an American, but I have no idea who Carol Ann Duffy or Lucien Freud are.

  7. I’m amazed at the near-saturation coverage of his death in the media. There’s a lot of seventyish rock stars out there, ready to shuffle off – will they cover all their deaths in the same way?

    • Probably not, it depends how publicly loved they are. Honouring the deaths of significant people is quite normal for humans.

  8. He may have been a very nice man, and it may be shame that he has died – but I am not comfortable with the extent of coverage and chatter over this. I think it is distinctly creepy, yet part of a new wave of emotionalism, or emotion-porn, that seems to sweep modern Britain.

    He was not from my era, so perhaps I do not have the same affiliation with him as others, but I find the outbursts of platitudes and sobbing sweeping statements to be extremely narcissistic and out of all proportion.

    The media obviously – well, to me it seems obvious – have all these “tributes” and schedules ready to roll out whenever anybody of note dies. The airwaves have been full of it, straight off the bat, like it was packaged in a box and they just had to take it out.

    People have been phoning in with all sorts of mass regurgitated statements about how they had “cried” when they heard the news. That they had to “pull over the car, in shock”. That it was all a “shock”. That people have had to take time off work because they were too distraught to go in.

    People phoned in saying how Bowie changed their lives on Top of the Pops, that he was the greatest musician this country has ever produced, and on, and on, and on it went. Over and over again. The same reactions, the same statements, the same hook words.

    I think all this started with Diana, Princess of Wales. The stiff upper lip of the British is now quivering, whilst people allegedly cry over people they never even knew and never even met. Perhaps it is a sign of just how influential the media and celebrity culture is, where people feel as though they know somebody when in reality they don’t.

    Somebody called into the radio to say that there was no shame in crying and grieving over David Bowie as though he was a close family member. I just do not agree.

    As my parents get older, ill, frailer – and indeed my brother and myself – the thoughts of death and loss become more pressing on your mind. Well, they do with me. This is real loss. That would be real grief. That would be the grief of the people related and close to David Bowie. That is something feel is for them – not for people who never even knew him.

    Sure, be sad. Sure, he was an important part of music culture. He should not be talked ill of for no apparent reason. It should be covered with dignity and sensitivity.

    But what seems to happen now is something I find a bit alien, a bit undignified, a bit selfish even, as people make it about THEM and how he had affected THEIR lives. About THEIR anecdotes, how THEY feel about it. They seem to call in to radio stations because they think their gushing of emotion is important, that they have to compete in the rush to extol praise and virtues to prove that they are caring or something.

    Maybe I should “lighten up”…… but on the day, I had to turn off all the radio networks and TV stations because I could just not take it any more. The brainless quips, the regurgitations of the same comments, over and over and over and over….

    His fans are bound to be upset. I can appreciate that. I expect some degree of coverage, particularly for somebody like David Bowie……but it was too much for me! After several hours of it piped into my work place speakers, I felt I had to escape!

    • Perceptive comments.

      Obviously part of it is the speed at which information travels these days, and also the fact that we aren’t usually surprised any more.

      Bowie pretty much kept his illness a secret, so nobody was expecting the “Bowie is dead” headline, and these days it only takes such a headline a few minutes to get ’round the world.

      I hate to think that “dying as a surprise” was a cynical marketing ploy, but when you get right down to it, that was Bowie’s thing — he was good at attracting attention. In this case, it seems like he intentionally timed the album release to coincide with his death, and intentionally planned his death as a publicity-generating event. And it’s working.

      I’ve never been a David Bowie superfan or anything, but I have always considered him a worthy heir to PT Barnum, and this is just the final example of that.

    • I found the whole Diana episode both incredibly, contrived, mawkish and over the top and also more than a little ludicrous and disturbing. But then I couldn’t stand her anyway.

      I do understand it a little more when the subject is a musician. Music plays such an important and defining part in our teenage years and we generally associate our youth and often our happiest times – first love, alcohol and other illicit substances, school and university and the whole transformation from child to adult – with the popular music of the time. As such a performer such as Bowie, particularly one who changed popular music in the way he did, is bound to be tied up with our own self image far more than an artist, writer or other public figure. Music helps to define eras, particularly when young, and it is impossible to separate our view of a decade from the music we were listening to at that time. Of course Bowie emphasizes that even more with his decadal changes in appearnece and musical style.

      So to some extent what we are actually talking about is the death of a part of our past and the confirmation of our own mortality. So I do not find it at all surprising that his passing has been met with such a public reaction.

      For me the only other two similar experiences outside of family were the death of Freddie Mercury and that of Terry Pratchett.

      • To be fair, I think the public’s sentimentality over Diana was actually a disguised protest against what was, and remains, a feral press. It can be seen as a reaction to their insensitive methods. For that reason, I don’t personally share the view that the public hysteria over her death, maudlin and embarrassing though it was, should be sneered at. The central issues with the press and media that animated the public back in 1997, have still not been addressed, even with the Leveson Inquiry.

      • The deaths of Mercury and Bowie left me cold, as I had no interest at all in what they produced. Terry Pratchett’s death however, for all that it was long expected, moved me to tears.

  9. I have to say, I do like some of Bowie’s music, especially from the 1970s, which in hindsight can be seen as his peak period. However I don’t see him as a substantial figure, even within his own field. My impression is that he was just a particularly talented arty type who picked up on the nerve impulses of counter-culture and counter-counter-culture at a time when Western civilisation was in a sort of extended social, economic and cultural decline and open to the sort of deconstruction and creative declension that somebody like Bowie could excel at.

    Not that I’m some sort of musicologist, but I think it should be pretty apparent that if we’re in a virtual state of national mourning over some bloke who made a bit of money producing a few average-to-good pop songs, then our culture and civilisation are at a low point. In a sense, the juxtaposition between Bowie-worship and mass-rapes of young women is figuratively perfect. Bowie himself would probably enjoy it.

    It’s a shame that the media have to stoop to all this sentimental twaddle and sycophancy over the deaths of polymorphous mediocrities. As Concerned Briton states above, it’s news management, maybe motivated by a need to distract from some very obvious and pressing issues, here and on the Continent, that demand our attention.

  10. I don’t know of his music, but I did watch a pointless film The Man who fell from earth once. The man was, as with all popular cultural figures, a nobody. The nobodies in the media and the nobodies in the population are enjoying the fake emotion of confected grief over the expiration of a nobody.

    • If a man who sold millions of records and a fistful of tunes that everyone (outside the Libertarian Alliance apparently) can hum on demand is a “nobody” I’d like to see your definition of a “somebody”.

    • I believe the film was about the power of big government against the individual who does not fit in, or is seen to threaten the status quo.
      It is based on a 1950s sci fi novel which was, apparently better than the film. Much of 50s sci fi, other than the space cowboys and indians stuff, addressed substantial political and philosophical ideas.

  11. I cannot truthfully say I was ever a great fan of his, if only because the genre in which he generally worked does not specially appeal to me.

    But I cannot deny he did have a real streak of genius, and was an artist in the broadest sense of the word, honestly pursuing his own ideas in his own way and not as some state bureaucrat decreed.

    Also let us not forget that he never forced anyone to listen to his music, nor so far as I know, did he lobby for the state to do so or. And nor did he ever use his popularity as the basis for forcing a particular brand of politics on his fans – unlike a certain very minor (and dreary) performer much in the news lately.

    In addition, I have to say that even if he was never a noted actor (nor pretended to be one), his performance in “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” was an oddly haunting one.

    So yes, whether we specially enjoyed his work or not, we should recognise his talent – and acknowledge that the world is a somewhat poorer, somewhat duller place without him.

  12. I can’t believe that an even bigger story is being ignored by LA, i.e. the engagement of Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall – or perhaps you’re still preparing a statement on it?

    • My difficulty is that I stopped reading newspapers in 2008. since then, I’ve mostly relied on the 7am bulletin on Radio 3, or on downloaded stories that people send me. I will think about the engagement you mention when it finally reaches me via the appropriate sources.

      • Old man, you can read all or most of the British national press online before 0800 GMT every day. Some is now behind paywalls but everything can be reached somehow. You should try not to be so reliant on BBC sources also, specially the sound-wireless, which is by now fully-penetrated by the EnemyClass!

        • Yes, I would second you on this. I used to listen to Radio Four more or less all the time a few years ago, but now I can’t stand to. It’s thoroughly occupied by Enemy Class plants. (I love that term. ‘Enemy Class’, by the way).

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