Tuesday, 19 April 2011


There aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with good media coverage of topics and themes that deserve a place in this blog - and that would better equip me to do the job I get paid for! Never mind that I have to sift through a lot of stuff that turns out to be useless, irrelevant nonsense masquerading as genuine news reporting or informed comment. But I should know that I can trust Radio 3 and Joan Bakewell to deliver the goods. Belief - the 15-minute programme she presents on BBC Radio 3 - is into its seventh series in three years and has featured such notable figures as Bonnie Greer, Satish Kumar, Lord Patten, David Starkey and Ann Widdecombe. The Radio Review in the G2 section of today's Guardian about yesterday's edition of Belief catches my eye (which is painful, just a few weeks after a cataract operation):

What a fine fellow Omid Djalili sounded on Belief (Radio 3). Articulate and engaging as he spoke about being a member of the Bahá'í faith, he also seemed delighted to encounter host Joan Bakewell. "I just wanted to meet you," he told her. "I think you're wonderful." Explaining a central tenet of his faith, he used her as an example: "The Joan Bakewell we see here is going to continue in some form, just in a different essence." This is excellent news.

His life story was fascinating. While growing up in London, his parents opened their house to many Iranian visitors, which meant Djalili kipping on the sofa. "I never had a bedroom until I was 14," he explained. There was a funny frankness about his memories of this time, living in a house full of fleeting strangers, "some of them charming, some of them absolutely awful".

On the issue of comedy, and his standup routine, which Bakewell noted can be "riskily offensive", Djalili explained that it's deeply connected to his belief. "It's all about making people conscious, starting with myself," he told her. Life, and religion, is one long process of improving yourself, he insisted, and improving your core self. Bakewell asked him to describe his core. "I'm a fat, needy man, pleading for attention," he quipped. (Elisabeth Mahoney)

I stayed at Omid's parents' apartment a couple of times when working at the London International Book Fair in Olympia, back in the late 1980s. Though that was long Omid himself had moved out, so I can't say which of the two categories of visitor he'd hve put me in (and maybe those who weren't Iranian were placed in a different sort of classification system).

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