Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Dead News Network

There aren't many advantages of having very small children waking you up in the middle of the night. Peering through the curtains at the moon, 'thinned to an air-sharpened blade' perhaps? Or the opportunity to visit the lavatory without having your bladder wake you first?

Strangely, there are times in the night when Eloise wakes, feeds, goes back to sleep and I can't. It's not for lack of desire - or need. It just seems to be one of those 'sods law' things that sometimes, everyone else falls back to sleep and I don't. So I listen to the radio, with headphones. And the radio I most often listen to is BBC World Service.

I'm not really sure why. Probably because if I listen to anything at bedtime, it's usually Radio Four and - once that goes off-air - the World Service takes over. No longer to the strains of Lillibulero, though. Oh no. Nowadays, the 21st century World Service is less patrician and more, well - interesting. Never more so than the night before last when I happened to catch this fascinating item on an Irish medium - you know, of the 'gift' variety, the 'I-can-hear-what-the-dead-are-saying' type of person, the kind of person - the kind of phenomenon - I'm always fascinated by and sceptical of in pretty equal measure. I mean, those messages: they're all so mundane. You'd think the dead might say something more universally significant, wouldn't you? Well, I would. I accept there must be some kind of code-of-practice that prevents them divulging next week's lottery numbers but if it's true couldn't they at least tip us the wink before the next major earthquake or something?

No matter. The Dead News Network was a fascinating programme, and if you were doing what most people should at about 3a.m. on Monday morning, you'll have missed it. So catch it while you can here, on BBC iPlayer.

Friday, 8 July 2011

South Sudan

So, it's happened. At midnight last night Sudan that was one became two separate countries. The background is complicated, as it usually is in post-colonial Africa. Territories once ruled as part of an Empire seldom lend themselves to unified self-government once the colonial masters have tired of them. Take a look at the map: those boundaries aren't tribal; they're hardly even (naturally) territorial. They're imperial; they're military; they're handy ways of demarcating territory if you've got competition from another greedy, empire building country. In the reality of day-to-day self-government, they're quite often a disaster. So I wish the people of South Sudan well. They could've chosen a slightly better time to have a party. Because one of the biggest disasters ever to hit the horn of Africa is looming like Banquo's ghost at the Sudanese feast. These people need our help. It's the least we can do given the legacy we've often left them.

People trekking to raise money for UNICEF UK © Across the DivideNearly two million children are currently at risk of starvation in East Africa due to a combination of drought and rising food prices. Please donate to UNICEF's East Africa appeal.

Children of South Sudan urgently need our help now. To support UNICEF’s child survival projects in South Sudan text ‘SUDAN’ to 70007 or go to www.unicef.org.uk/southsudanappeal