Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Heresy 5

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

When I was a kid, I used to go to sleep listening to a tape of The Railway Children read by Dinah Sheridan. (If I were writing this on Twitter, I might add a little #middleclassnightmares at this point - although they weren’t nightmares, they were happy dreams about old gentlemen waving from railway carriage windows). I listened to this tape so often, and my brain was so much sharper in those days, that it all sank in; I could probably recite the whole book word for word to this day. What a party trick that would be - if I wanted to kill a party stone dead.

  Anyway, there was a line in it: “Of course, mothers never have favourites, but if Mother had had a favourite, it might have been Roberta.” That’s how I feel about tonight’s episode of Heresy.

  I love all the episodes and (call me Pollyanna) all the guests. Rufus Hound has done sterling work this series, David Baddiel (as the show’s creator) is always perfect, Polly Vernon was sparky and smart in her first EVER public performance, Grayson Perry was brilliant, so was Dave Gorman, I love Richard Coles… I don’t think we have yet made an episode that I wouldn’t enjoy listening to on the radio - and I can’t have a yardstick other than that.

  But if I had to have a favourite, in this series, it might be tonight’s. The guests are Matthew Norman, David Schneider and David Mitchell, and the topics they must argue against are





  I like it because tonight’s episode is a warm, funny little world to join. The guests all got on very well with each other at the recording, which was nice to be part of - it felt like being a successful party host! And I loved it that they all found each other funny and collectively made each other funnier. I like it because Matthew Norman is a restaurant critic and journalist, not a comedian, and he doesn’t do much radio but he’s done Heresy twice now and been as funny as any comedian both times. I like it because David Schneider is, I think, one of the funniest people around and yet he doesn’t seem to do many panel shows; I think he should do more and perhaps he will, but I was very glad that he did ours and was great on it. David Mitchell, of course, is clever and funny on everything he does.

  I like it because the Twitter topic is one that means a lot to me (I really, strongly, disagree with this received opinion) so I genuinely wanted it to be argued out - and yet, other parts of the show are quite incredibly silly. Look out for two of the guests revealing they were scarred as children by watching lobsters die. Also, the audience members join in very well and inspire some good extra chat.

  Altogether, the whole thing feels properly Radio 4. And, since Radio 4 is one of my favourite things, I am very proud of the episode. If you’re going to catch one in the series, do make it this one. Wednesday 6.30pm, Radio 4.

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Billy at 10:04 am on June 16th, 2010

OK I agree with the 1st statement, disagree with the 3rd, and the 2nd, well, it depends. “Shouldn’t eat animals that are kept as pets” - it is sentimental claptrap to say farmers shouldn’t kill sheep and pigs that have been given names or stroked.

  But do you mean a Freddie Starr type of situation? Those kinda pets should really not be eaten.

Ian at 12:57 pm on June 16th, 2010

I’ve always preferred the following (not the best thing to post I realise given your fear of flying):

“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”

Good luck in the WSOP.

Roger S at 4:45 pm on June 16th, 2010

The 1st is a no-brainer. The 2nd is not clear, it depends whether the the animals were kept as pets first or not….. anyone wanting to eat my dog would meet with some strong resistance.

The 3rd is also a no-brainer, and it has been a surprise to me how many people who I had previously admired and respected and who I thought were clever people use Twitter to prove otherwise. The me, me, me thing is most unattractive.

Baz32 at 11:21 pm on June 16th, 2010

Roger did you change your mind about any of that after listening to the programme? I was convinced by the arguments about Twitter, esp. David Schneider on the international aspects. Yes some people are just talking about themselves but is that so bad? Communication between people is a good thing, isn’t it? And a lot of people are trying to be funny, which has GOT to be a good thing.

  Very funny programme, I enjoyed it a lot. Might listen again on iplayer. The whole series has been extremely entertaining.

Edward at 11:41 pm on June 16th, 2010

“They were not Railway Children to begin with.  They were ordinary suburban children.  And they lived in an ordinary suburban red-brick fronted villa…”  Me too - I had the same tapes!

Roger S at 10:12 am on June 17th, 2010

Baz, no I didn’t change my mind but, in all truth, I have to say that there must be exceptions and it appears that David Mitchell is one, since he told us that he uses Twitter for information purposes only and not for the type of inane, potty ramblings that I saw when I looked at Twitter a few times to see what the fuss was about. 

For my potty and inane rambling intake, I’m lucky I guess, I have a wife so I don’t need Twitter. 

Yes, communication is a good thing but talking about yourself ought to be a bad thing but I concede it probably isn’t since these people have ‘followers’ hanging on to their every word so they are serving a purpose at least.

Persons TRYING to be funny with the written word is a bad thing. Some people can do it brilliantly and entertainingly. I can’t, I wish I could. It’s a gift very few have. Vicky has it. I read all her columns and have her books, I’ve read ‘For Richer For Poorer’ twice now. I have a friend who is a sports writer and he writes in the same style… verrrrry funny, very clever.

I agree entirely with your last paragraph. But I would because I am a big fan of Vicky and David M and try not to miss anything they are on. 

Kind regards to all.


Spence at 12:13 pm on June 17th, 2010

I was listening to the latest Heresy on iplayer as I am wont to do and had to wonder if Victoria knows what that audience guy’s tattoo was likely like :

That’s a Decepticon Insigina.

David Mitchell’s obviously fully aware of what’s what with Transformers, as he’s a bit of geek in that way.. but then many people should be now after two highly visible live action movies and it has also been around constantly since 1984.

As to meat…. I’ll eat things with feathers or scales but not mammal meat.
So no Beef, Pork, or Lamb… I’m not exactly keen on the idea of Goose or Duck either mind. Eating Daffy Duck just has to be wrong.

I see too many randomly wandering around the countryside, it would be like eating the next door neighbours.

Lego at 1:13 pm on June 17th, 2010

Dave Mitchell’s a smart & funny guy, & always good value - & he also probably hates being called Dave, so I’ll continue to do so. ;P (not that he’ll probably end up seeing).

Obviously you can use Twitter in 101 different ways, & that’s one of the things that’s great about it. It’s in some ways very basic, but at the same time it’s very flexible in purpose. But I think my favourite twitterers are the ones that try to come up with the twitty one liners, like you & DavidS.

Roger S, I’d totally disagree, there’s nothing wrong with people trying to be funny in text, whether they’re famous for humour or just an “ordinary Joe.” I browse forums quite a bit, & there’s plenty of ordinary people who crack me up with their observations & one-liners. I think one of great things about the British is that we actually take a pride in our sense of humour, & most people at least have a stab at being witty. Some fail of course, but Twitter is a good judge of that, you get RTed and followed if you are funny or interesting, you don’t if you’re not. Of course most people are a bit sheep-like and will judge you as being funnier or more interesting if you’re already famous, such is the social proof of fame (that’s not a dig at anyone famous incidentally, it’s just an observation of how people are)

Speaking of Twitter, you don’t seem to tweet very much these days,VC. Either I’ve scared you off there with my axe murdering ways, or something/someone’s taking up a lot of your attention these days ;)

AndytheDealer at 3:12 pm on June 17th, 2010

Only its Mother could love it.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good show, but to pick it out of the series as your favourite…mmmmm.

MDW at 4:37 pm on June 17th, 2010

I’ve not done the twitter thing yet and I’m not really sure what it’s all about - you follow people’s every move via your laptop (are they all famous people or can I follow my cute neighbour?). It never really sounded fun to me as I get very annoyed when I go on facebook and ‘friends’ are telling me that “they’re up” and “might go to the shops today” so what, I don’t care to know.

But am I missing out? I never listened to Radio 4 until about 4 or 5 weeks ago and now I listen all the time - is twitter great and just undiscovered by me or is it as bad as I think it is.

Victoria Coren at 6:13 pm on June 17th, 2010

Well, listen to the show, that’ll tell you a bit of what Twitter’s about! But it all depends who you follow. I personally like it when I see that my friends or my brother are up and about, going to the garden centre or whatever it is - it makes the world feel smaller, and people closer, on days when I’m working at home and can’t be out fraternizing.

  If you don’t like that, you can just follow celebrities (if they’re people you’re interested in) or just the people who make the best jokes. For example, there’s a guy who writes down things his father says that make him laugh - - that’s been “a Twitter sensation” and nobody knows the guy personally, he isn’t (or wasn’t) famous, they’re just things that give you a quick laugh to punctuate the day. Well, they do if you laugh at the idea of a grumpy old American dad, and you don’t mind a bit of swearing.

  Thing is, if you don’t want to hear what your friends are up to, there aren’t any celebrities whose lives interest you, and you don’t find anyone on there whose one-liners make you laugh (or you don’t want to be laughing at random one-liners during the day) then fine, Twitter’s not for you. I just don’t like people saying that it’s driven purely by narcissism, because I really don’t think it is. Even when it isn’t driven by the urge to amuse or entertain, it’s the urge to be part of a web, a network. And that strikes me as natural and loving and lovely. Sheep do it! They bleat at each other all day in fields - nobody says it’s narcissistic. They just say, oh look, there are those sheep saying hello to each other, just reminding everyone they’re all there, binding the little flock together.

  Some people use “sheeplike” as an insulting adjective for humans. I’M NOT ONE OF THEM. Baa humbug to that.

John Peat at 6:34 pm on June 17th, 2010

Best episode for sure - inspired particularly as I’ve recently discovered that if you ignore the pointless/narcissistic babble on Twitter (about 99% of it) it actually makes an excellent tool for measuring feeling (and making jokes about it!!)

When people get tired of reporting their daily (bowel and other) movements, we’ll still have people making fun of the world…

SeanyNoE at 7:45 pm on June 17th, 2010

As previously tweeted, I agree, great show last night. For the record, although my Dad (72) would answer:
1. The kids will watch what I am, like it and be quiet!
2. You’ll eat anything if you’re hungry enough
3. Twitter? You’re lucky you got me onto Facebook. considered opinion is “everything in moderation”
1. Sure, let the kids watch TV to get an hour or two’s peace now and then (for everyone’s sake!)
2. Rabbit stew is delicious, but also provides more of a meal per pet than a hamster, gerbil or budgie
3. Probably, but I don’t care. I love it! If they’d had Twitter when I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t have needed my TV babysitter…

Sarah at 9:15 pm on June 17th, 2010

I loved the discussion of Twitter so much, I almost gave in to the urge to transcribe it to shove in the faces of people who mock…
And now I’ve admitted that, I may just go ahead and give in…

Rog at 9:22 pm on June 17th, 2010

Sheep do it. Vicky,  I’ve never seen a sheep use twitter before! Although having said that, being a fan of Shaun the Sheep, I am aware sheep are very clever. and follow your blog religiously.  Now here’s a question - if sheep did use twitter, what would they bleat on about… Am feeling a bit sheepish at asking this question… I think this is one for the panel to deal with!

Dan Tindale at 11:04 pm on June 17th, 2010

More often than not I’m talking to myself on Twitter.  It seems nobody reads what I say and web crawlers pick up the most random words.I have a follower called LadiesJeans after I talked about going on an exercise bike, and one called MentalHealth after I found out how many greats had died this year and I said it depressed me. 
For me, Twitter is less about narcissism and more about speaking with people I respect and admire, the drawback being that there are often several thousand other people in the same room clamouring for attention, too.
Though I do still try people like V.Coren and S.Fry, the cavernous, Beckett-like existential silence that returns becomes wearing. 
Tweeting is cathartic, though.  When I can’t sleep (often), I tweet: often they’re thoughts I would never share. Pax

MDW at 5:17 pm on June 18th, 2010

I listened to the show last night and I think you’re on the money it was the best one yet.

As for twitter I’m convinced, I’m often bored at work and need a quick laugh and I don’t mind a bit of swearing.

RomanticRecluse at 12:50 am on June 19th, 2010

Vicky, maybe nobody says that sheep that bleat are narcissistic because bleating is a sign of distress.  One day whilst walking in the Pennine uplands I heard a lamb bleating almost non-stop and the sound was coming from a particularly steep and rocky area so I suspect it may have been lost, trapped and in pain.

I don’t know if that’s relevant to Twitter.

Victoria Coren

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