Boy Child and Beyond

By Louis Barfe

Despite having bought the Christmas Radio Times with the intention of planning my festive listening meticulously, all of my highlights were caught on the off-chance – mainly in the car or in the kitchen, as it happens. When it first went out in the summer, I somehow missed Jarvis Cocker’s conversation with the mighty Scott Walker (BBC 6 Music, iPlayer), so the repeat, followed by another outing for the Scott Walker Prom, was most welcome. It was good to hear Walker talking about his jazz influences, and highly affecting to hear John Grant’s superb cover of Walker’s song, The World’s Strongest Man.

I’ve enjoyed David Sedaris’s work for some years now and was rendered helpless with laughter at his Santaland Diaries (R4, iPlayer). The source material was the two Christmases in the early 1990s that Sedaris spent working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s department store in New York. Enlisted by a parent to persuade a spoilt and sullen child into being good, Crumpet the Elf (for that was Sedaris’s nom de grotto) gets into the idea with rather too much gusto. Bored and tired, Crumpet tells the boy that not only will Santa not bring any presents, he’s taken to burgling the houses of naughty children and taking everything – toys, furniture, electricals, the lot.

Finally, my mind was blown by the great communicator and visionary James Burke on the End of Scarcity (R4, iPlayer). Within 20 years, he argues, nanotechnology, including 3D printing, will potentially abolish scarcity – an end to hunger, housing crises and want. The improvement of everything for everyone is almost within our grasp. Sadly, his tone suggested that greed and inequality will probably ensure it doesn’t achieve its potential, but wouldn’t it be lovely if it did?