Aired: 27 October 2014 at 6.30pm, BBC Radio 4
Curator: Phill Jupitus
Steering Committee: Rich Hall, Anna Keay, Henry Marsh
Not A Place But A State Of Mind
The American Front Porch is an ingenious architectural solution to the conundrum of how to entertain visitors without letting them into the house.
The tradition of the American front porch dates back to the late 1700s. It was a key feature of the humble Southern States ‘shotgun house’, a design which goes back yet further to West Africa. It was introduced by slaves building their own wooden shacks in the traditional Yoruba layout: one room wide, two rooms deep and with a front porch.
After the abolition of slavery, African Americans continued to build shotgun houses, and the style caught on with poor white Southerners too. The front porch was a perfect compromise between their two cultures. It allowed for an open, African way of life, but with a closable front door it also allowed for the more reserved customs of Europe.
In the mid 1800s, ‘porch culture’ spread to the whole of the rest of the United States thanks to two men: landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing and architect Andrew Jackson Davis (whose identical first names were a bizarre coincidence) who promoted estates of houses with large front gardens - and a front porch as the natural bridge between the garden and the house.
The front porch evolved into a practical place for the whole family to sit outside after dinner, gossip with passing neighbours, keep an eye on the neighbourhood and watch their children play. It has come to define the American way of life.
Comedian, Writer &
Rich Hall is an American writer, comedian and musician.
His professional career began in the early 1980s as a writer and performer on the TV show Fridays with Larry David. He also worked as an Emmy Award-winning writer on the hugely popular Late Show with David Letterman.
He also co-wrote and starred in the satirical show Not Necessarily the News from 1983 until 1990. It was on this show that he coined the term ‘sniglets’ meaning ‘Any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should’ – very similar to Douglas Adams' and John Lloyd's liffs. He also joined Saturday Night Live during its 10th season, alongside Billy Crystal, Martin Short and Christopher Guest, and had his own TV series called Vanishing America. Between 1990-and 1991 he had a chat show called Rich Hall’s Onion World.
He then moved to the UK, where he has remained ever since, appearing regularly on panel shows and TV series. In 2000, he won the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, in the guise of his own grizzled uncle, Otis Lee Crenshaw, a much-convicted country music singer. He has released several albums as this character and toured with a band in 2008 and 2009, supporting himself as Rich Hall. He has also won the Barry Award, the top prize given out at Australia’s prestigious Melbourne Comedy Festival.
He has written several plays, performed on many comedy tours, and has written several books including collections of sniglets and the wonderfully titled ‘Self-Help for the Bleak: Attaboy Therapy’.
On British TV he has made several series including Rich Hall’s Cattle Drive, Rich Hall’s Continental Drifters, The Dirty South, How the West was Lost and Rich Hall’s Fishing Show.
He was born in Virginia but grew up in North Carolina. He is part Cherokee.
Matt Groening has stated that Rich was the inspiration for bartender Moe Szyslak in The Simpsons.
‘I’ve taken on this grouchy persona, and that works very well on stage. Someone in the audience is always a lot more peeved than I am and is glad that someone else is talking about it. Audiences watch this grouchy persona, but most people can see that I’m having a really good time on stage. It’s ironic grouchiness. No one can stay worked up about things for that long.’
The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word, then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation that you ever had.
Dr Anna Keay is the Director of the Landmark Trust - a charity which rescues buildings of historic or architectural importance, and makes them available as tourist accommodations.
Top of the most popular properties are: Luttrell’s Tower, a Georgian folly near Southampton; Astley Castle, a Saxon stronghold dating back to the 12th century in Nuneaton; a Victorian pigsty near Whitby which was built in the style of a Greek temple; the London townhouse of 20th century poet John Betjeman; and a summerhouse in Dunmore built in the shape of a giant pineapple.
Born in the West Highlands of Scotland, Anna grew up in a very remote farmhouse with no mains electricity, no mains water and only an old generator. She developed a love of historic buildings while working at Inveraray Castle in Argyll as a guide in her summer holidays.
She was educated at Oban High School in Argyll and Bedales in Hampshire. She read history at Magdalen College, Oxford, where she won two academic scholarships. Her PhD was on court ceremonial in the reign of Charles II. She is an expert on the Koh-i-Noor diamond and has written a history of the British Crown Jewels.
From 1996 to 2002 Anna worked as a curator for Historic Royal Palaces, which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and the Banqueting House in Whitehall. From 2002 until 2012 she was Properties Presentation Director of English Heritage, responsible for curating and presenting to the public 420 historic sites across England, from Stonehenge to Kenwood House.
She says that her favourite British building is The Grange in Ramsgate – the home and masterpiece of Augustus Pugin, designer of the new Palace of Westminster. ‘It is an exuberant gothic masterpiece where all the splendour and style of the high Middle Ages is deployed in a warm and comfortable family house. I love it that this homage to medieval craftsmanship was built in Britain at the height of the world’s first industrial revolution.’
Her favourite historical figure is Mary Anne Everett Green, a 19th-century historian and archivist whose digests of historical manuscripts form the basis of almost everything we know about Tudor and Stuart Britain. She published a volume a year for 38 years and she had four children along the way.
Anna is married with two children. Her husband is the historian Dr Simon Thurley and her parents are the writers John Keay and Julia Keay.
Until the reign of Queen Victoria, it was common practice for the gems in the Crown Jewels to be hired from the crown jeweller for the coronation for four per cent of their value.
At the end of the English Civil War the Council of State ordered the Crown Jewels be destroyed. Almost all the pieces used for the coronation of King Charles I were taken to the Mint within the Tower of London and melted down. They re-emerged as coinage, used to pay the army that had defeated the king.
The only item of coronation regalia to survive the destruction of the collection at the end of the Civil War was the Coronation Spoon. Clement Kynnersley who had bought it at the 1649 sale quietly returned this exquisite 12th-century gold spoon to King Charles II.
Heartbroken by the death of her husband, Queen Victoria went into mourning, never again wearing the Imperial State Crown with its brightly coloured gems. In 1871 the tiny Small Diamond Crown measuring less than 10cm across and set only with clear stones, was made for her instead. It was placed on her coffin at her death.
The Crown Jewels were stolen from the Jewel House in 1672. The thieves were disturbed during the crime and wrestled to the ground on the Tower wharf, with the crown, orb and sceptre hidden under their cloaks. After being repaired the jewels were returned to the Tower and kept safely behind bars.
When King Edward VIII abdicated from the throne in 1937 to marry Wallis Simpson, he left Britain for the Continent, taking with him the Prince of Wales Crown, which he had worn at the coronation of his father in 1911. It was only returned to the Jewel House on his death.
King Edward VII’s coronation was postponed shortly before the ceremony when it became clear that the King was suffering from appendicitis. He received an appendectomy on the Buckingham Palace billiard table and was to be found sitting up in bed smoking a cigar the following day.
In the age of Shakespeare King James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark, enjoyed acting the plays performed at court, and used to borrow items of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London to use as props. Pieces were sometimes returned broken.
Although the British Empire once extended over dozens of dominions, only one – India – had a new crown made for it, which King George V wore at the inaugural ceremony known as the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Set with over 6,000 gems, it is one of the most sensational objects in the Crown Jewels but has only ever been worn once.
Of all the bewildering things about a new country, the absence of human landmarks is one of the most depressing and disheartening.
Sea Squirts - also known as ascidians - are marine animals that fall somewhere between being an invertebrate and a vertebrate. In their free-swimming, tadpole-like larval form they could be classed as vertebrates as they possess a simple nervous system – a notochord that runs along their body. However, as adults, they fix themselves to a rock and ‘re-absorb’ their primitive brain as it isn’t needed anymore; the brain is a very hungry and complex organ and it no longer needs it once it becomes static. The sea squirt also re-absorbs its tail, its simple eye and converts its gill slits to siphons.
Sea squirts have a tough outer skin called a tunic. Several sea squirts can live inside one tunic. The family that includes sea squirts are called tunicates.
A sea squirt is basically nothing more than a filtering pump; water goes in one siphon, food and oxygen are filtered out as the water passed through the body, and waste and gametes (sperm and eggs) are squirted out of another siphon.
There are more than 3,000 known sea squirt species found on the seabed around the world, with the majority of species being found in the warmer, nutrient-rich tropical waters. Sea squirts can vary from just 3cm to 30cm in length, depending on the species of sea squirt and its habitat, an come in a very wide range of colours and shapes.
They have both male and female reproductive organs making self-fertilisation possible but unlikely. For many species of sea squirt, tossing out eggs and sperm into the water isn’t an efficient enough means of multiplying. Their repertoire includes a process called budding, which enables them to rapidly form colonies of sea squirts. In order to bud, a mature sea squirt forms dozens of tiny outgrowths on its own body that each contain a self-sufficient collection of stem cells. Eventually, the cells inside a bud organize themselves into a hollow sphere, create a thicker layer of cells on the outside of that sphere, and form chambers and organs within it: a process that takes about two weeks. At the end, a new sea squirt emerges called a 'zooid,' genetically identical to the first.
Henry’s wife, Kate, wrote this ditty:
I wish I were a sea squirt,
If life became a strain,
I'd veg out on the nearest rock
And reabsorb my brain
Dr Henry Marsh is a leading British neurosurgeon, and a pioneer of neurosurgical advances in Ukraine. He is senior consultant neurosurgeon at the Atkinson Morley Wing at St George's Hospital, one of the country's largest specialist brain surgery units.
He specialises in operating on the brain under local anaesthetic and was the subject of a major BBC documentary Your Life in Their Hands in 2004, which won the Royal Television Society Gold Medal. He has been working with neurosurgeons in the former Soviet Union, mainly in Ukraine with mentee neurosurgeon Igor Kurilets, since 1992 and his work there was the subject of the BBC Storyville film The English Surgeon from 2007.
Fifteen years ago, he visited Ukraine to give a series of lectures on brain surgery. He was shocked by what he witnessed. Decades of under-investment in medical services in the former Soviet state had left it with little infrastructure or expertise in neurological conditions. On his trip, he met Dr Igor Petrovich who had been trying to treat people despite having access to poor facilities and almost no equipment. He impressed Marsh so much that he brought him to London for further training. Since then, Marsh has been visiting the Ukraine at least twice a year to share his expertise and undertake complex operations with Igor. He normally arrives bearing gifts - disused medical equipment from St George's Hospital, Tooting - often packaged in boxes made in his shed at home. He is struck by the wastefulness of the NHS: a drill bit he delivered to Igor has been used for ten years. In the NHS it was thrown away after a single use.
The lack of equipment in Ukraine has forced the surgeons to improvise when it comes to some of the most basic surgical tools, including buying DIY drills from hardware shops.
He has a particular interest in the influence of hospital buildings and design on patient outcomes and staff morale; he has broadcast and lectured widely on this subject.
His widely acclaimed memoir Do No Harm: Tales of Life, Death and Brain Surgery was published by Orion Publishers in 2014.
Marsh was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours. Also in 2010 he presented the Leslie Oliver Oration at Queen's Hospital.
He spends his spare time making furniture, keeping bees, and practising neurosurgery in Ukraine. Marsh is married to the social anthropologist Kate Fox.
When push comes to shove we can afford to lose an arm or a leg, but I am operating on peoples thoughts and feelings... and if something goes wrong I can destroy that persons character.