Bernard Shaw's festive favourite

19th December 1997 at 00:00
Bernard Adams previews the season's selection on that other box, the radio

Radio's Christmas stocking is tightly packed in the middle, if a little light at either end. But there are good things in unexpected places.

On Sunday December 21, you might want to relax with the children (of any age) over an hour of vintage Roald Dahl, at 2.30pm on Radio 4. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator features Matthew Kelly as Willy Wonka, owner of the famous Chocolate Factory.

By the Tuesday before Christmas you may never want to hear the word "shopping" again, but you might like to do some virtual shopping by listening to Thirty Minute Theatre (Radio 4, 2.02pm). Two shoppers with very different attitudes meet in a store - James is a cautious, list-oriented counter of pennies, while Jan prefers extravagant perfection to practicality. They start a conversation and seem likely to end up cheering each other up over the festivities . . .

If your Christmas plans include football, you might like to turn an ear to The A-Z of Football Food on Radio 5 Live at 10pm - also on Tuesday 23. You'll be able to discover if Delia Smith's influence has been felt at Norwich and what the Bluenose burger you get at Rangers ground is like.

On Christmas Eve, Radio 4 begins a boisterously slapstick but still charming Pickwick Papers, which runs in six half-hour daily episodes at 11.30am. Dickens's favourite north Kent patch comes to life splendidly and the cast, which includes Clive Francis (Pickwick), Bill Wallis (Tupman) and Christopher Scoular (Snodgrass), is excellent.

As I said, Christmas Eve is a bit crowded because at 2.02pm there's perhaps the most interesting radio event of the whole holiday. Bethlehem is a nativity play. Nothing very special about that, you might say. Well there is - because it's a re-creation of one of the BBC's earliest live broadcasts, from St Hilary, a tiny village near Penzance in Cornwall.

The original play was written in Cornish dialect by the local parish priest for his parishioners, and for a decade in the 1920s and 30s it was a national institution: Ramsay MacDonald and Bernard Shaw would listen to it over dinner. Last year a listener who remembered hearing it as a child asked if it could be revived. The new version will be slightly different but will still be performed by the local people. The play starts as a child rows across from St Michael's Mount to take part in the production . . .

And, by the way, don't forget Handel's Messiah on Radio 3 at 7pm while you're filling stockings or emptying glasses.

On Christmas Day you can listen to a real oddity while you're doing the sprouts. At 3.30 on Radio 4 there's Christmas at Windermere - the Windermere hotel in Darjeeling, that is, where eccentric expatriates celebrate a very English Christmas. The gong sounds for dinner, there's Ivor Novello on the piano and hot water bottles in the bedrooms.

On Boxing Day you can recuperate to the sound of the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Mahler's Eighth Symphony on Radio 3 at 7pm.

On Saturday 27 if you can manage to be up bright and early you can hear the first of what promises to be a fascinating series by Rosemary Harthill, Wisdom of the World. In it she ponders the well of wisdom common to many of the world's religions. (BBC World Service 8.15am, repeated on Sundays and Fridays).

Enough? Well maybe, but if you want to have a thoughtful time on New Year's Eve - reflecting on what you might be doing - you could listen to Under the Influence, a quirky social history of drink on Radio 5 Live at 10pm.

BBC World Service is on 648 Hz463 m. on MW in the daytime in London and SE; also on short wave in the 75, 31, 25 and 19 metre bands. At night on 92. 4-94.6 FM, 720 MW and 198 LW; also on various local radio stations.

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