Francis Durbridge is the creator of Paul Temple and the master of radio drama, to me the most transporting and transformative entertainment. We witness Paul and Steve tottering into wobbly dinghies, standing safely back from blazing vehicles and discovering ransacked rooms or bludgeoned corpses, with only our ears to give us eyes.The characters are vivid, not mannequins carried on when Paul needs someone to interrogate. They have plans, ideas and affections that live off speaker, so on speaker their behavior is always realistic and often enigmatic.
Durbridge excels at exposition, in any episode you will be brought up to date on the intricate plot by the natural dialogue which characterizes the show and which flows best with Peter Coke, Marjorie Westbury, James Beatty and other cast regulars. The rhythm of their speech feels spontaneous, interactive.
Episode for episode it can match “24” for plot twists and significant characters slain. Like Jack, Paul has a high-handed disregard for authority. Jack snaps people’s fingers askew and bosses surgeons about at gunpoint. Paul withholds evidence and meets up with known suspects. Just as Jack will bunt a computer programmer aside to more effectively work on a laptop, Paul knows more about everything than anyone.
(Don’t start with “Paul Temple Intervenes” an early effort, disjointed and dated)
The children are playing “Paul Temple” complete with episode breaks and previously’s.
C (age 11): Charlie, bring me a dry martini!
J (age 4): Here you are, careful it’s very hot.
I’ve just started on ” The French” by Theodore Zeldin. I am enjoying it, but it is 500 plus densely printed pages so I’m telling you about it now, in case I stumble and fall on that long walk to Paris (don’t pronounce that ‘s’).
The first page or two is filled with quotes from great minds testifying how funny and insightful they found the book. This doesn’t surprise me as I recently heard Teddy (I would call him that to his face) on Radio 4. “New Conversation” was about who we talk to and how we talk to them. Teddy says a preoccupation with finding a soulmate is disastrous, as it doubles our imperfections. We need communities of difference, different jobs, different family situations, different ages, different races. If we learn how to deal with people who are different, we can absorb something from them and become more than we were previously. He advocates ‘serious conversation’, rather than exchanging superficial information with many, really engage with few, perhaps just one. Truly try to understand them, what they want from life, how they cope with difficulties, what they think about the world we live in.
This way of interacting has many applications ( from IKEA staff to doctors) but the programme dwells on a project Teddy is running in Lewisham. Most interesting is how we feel that if something needs to be changed, we need to have a big meeting, and all debate it together. One man in Lewisham, Cedric, is very skeptical when Theodore (I can’t maintain that level of frivolousness) says they will spend the next hour or two just talking to one other person. But afterwards Cedric says he found it fascinating (to his surprise they didn’t talk about what they ‘did’).
To me it seems a type of modesty. To not spread ourselves too thinly, bolstering our self esteem by the numbers of people we know. To understand that people who seem far removed from our circle can teach us a lot.