Magazine article The Spectator

Going, Going, Gone

Magazine article The Spectator

Going, Going, Gone

Article excerpt

Just before the start of Going Places last Friday evening the announcer told us it was an `award-winning' programme. This seemed odd as it was about to breathe its last, having been dropped from the new Radio Four schedules which began this week. An in-joke, perhaps? A flicker of 11th-hour defiance? It is said that all the doomed programmes were told not to make a meal of their departure when signing off, presumably in fear that some griefstricken presenter might break down and sob, `We'll miss you lovely people out there.'

In fact, Going Places ended on its usual cringe-making note, reporting on the sort of weekend activities that most Radio Four listeners wouldn't be taking part in, with the presenter David Stafford putting on his best nursery-school voice to tell us how we could go gliding or UFO-hunting. A Scottish woman adopted several silly voices, including her natural one, to list events coming up and the whole thing mercifully came to an end, never to be heard again. As E.J. Thribb might put it:

So, Farewell then Going Places, Going gone.

Deadlines this week and next make it difficult for me to assess completely how the controller James Boyle's new schedules sound, but I shall be listening throughout April to form an opinion. We should all be pleased, though, to hear this year's Reith Lectures which started this week (Wednesday). The five lectures are being given by John Keegan, defence editor of the Daily Telegraph, author of the classic The Face of Battle and A History of Warfare and a lecturer at Sandhurst. His theme is War and Our World which was the title of his first lecture. Others cover the origins of war, the role of the state in prosecuting war, the concept of military honour and the future of war.

These are not to be missed, whatever you think about warfare. His is an inspired choice as Reith lecturer. At last, some lectures from which we'll learn something. In recent years some of his predecessors have been disappointing, offering us fashionable theories and dubious remedies. Now we have a lecturer of substance, talking at the Royal Institution before an audience of serving officers, politicians, academics and peace campaigners that later question him about his views, a new format. He told us that war has been the scourge of this century, overtaking famine and pestilence as a threat to our survival. He spoke eloquently about the human cost of war to both civilian and soldier alike and in the next two lectures explores why people and states go to war in the first place: `Students of the origins of war broadly divide into those who look for evidence of it embedded in human nature and those who seek it among the external or contingent influences which act upon human nature. …

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