Radio with Teddy Jamieson

Fred Sirieix
Fred Sirieix

IT’S been a good week for ageing white blokes on radio. You might argue, of course, that every week is a good one for ageing white blokes on radio and I couldn’t really disagree. But with actor Bill Nighy sitting in for Guy Garvey on 6 Music last Sunday and French maitre d’ and TV celeb Fred Sirieix the subject of Radio 4’s The Food Programme (Sunday and Monday) you might at least feel that these were, as ageing white blokes go, upmarket examples (compared, at least, to one ageing white radio reviewer I could name).

Nighy, at 72, made for a rather impressive DJ, it has to be said. “Seeing as how it’s Sunday let’s go to church,” he began, before pressing play on a smoking hot live version of David Bowie’s Stay recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in 1976. Indeed Nighy was so smooth - that languid, posh voice helps - that for the first hour of Sunday’s show I was certain he was actually giving us an actorly performance of a DJ. The links all sounded as if they had been prepped in advance.

But the longer you stayed with it the more apparent his love for the music became. And Bowie and a dash of Dylan and the Dandy Warhols aside, that was largely black American music, ranging from Aretha Franklin to rapper Anderson .Paak. He even threw a Kelly Rowland tune in for seasoning (always my favourite member of Destiny’s Child).

In short, he should be invited back, if only to tell us for certain if Jason Isbell’s Different Days is indeed “the only song that includes the word benzodiazepine”.

Fred Sirieix, who at 52 is a mere child compared to the septuagenarian Nighy, was both sparkly and sparky on The Food Programme. Or five parts charm to three parts bullishness.

“Television has elevated the chef to where they are like rock stars, right? And the front of house and the maitre d’s and the waiters as a result have been left behind, like second-class citizens,” he claimed near the beginning. “But, actually, when you are thinking of your experience in the restaurant, it’s 50-50.”

For what was ostensibly a profile, there was a lot here about the impact of Brexit and the cost of living crisis on the UK restaurant scene (which is the third largest industry in the UK, it seems). Hospitality businesses are more than twice as likely as other industries to have problems filling jobs.

“The challenge we’ve got to overcome in this country is that people look down on service and don’t see service as something of value,” Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality pointed out.

Long hours and poor pay may also have a bearing on that, but when presenter Jaega Wise raised this with Sirieix, he didn’t sound particularly convinced.

“How do you run a restaurant and not put in the hours?” he asked. Hmm, maybe wait until Fred is off before asking for a duvet day then.

Finally, to Short Cuts (Radio 4, Tuesday), in which comedian Josie Long, not an ageing white bloke, presented three short documentaries on the theme of “intimacies”. I wasn’t sure what was most surprising in this playful half an hour. That someone seeking to con money out of people via crypto currency would choose to pretend to be a Welsh poet/novelist (in this case Joe Dunthorne) to do so? Or that Long began her intro to the second report with the words: “For the last four years Kristina Loring was working at one of the only professional audio erotica studios in the world.”

I’m just amazed there is one at all.

Listen Out For: The Truth about Jazz, Radio 4, Friday, 11am.

Clive Myrie presents this new series which begins with a visit to New Orleans, home of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden.