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Woman: Sorry to be late. This club’s a bit off the beaten track, isn’t it? Thought I’d never find it!
Secretary: You don’t have an in-car satellite navigation system, then?
Woman: A sat-nav? No I don’t, though I suppose I should invest in one. I often have this sort of trouble – getting to a town’s a piece of cake, but after that… well. It’s not so much the cost – my friends all have them and tell me the price is going down all the time. But electronic gadgets aren’t my favourite things. Fine when they work; nightmare when they don’t . A little black box could hardly have been less useful than my map today, though!
Secretary: I wouldn’t be without mine now. I won’t try and blind you with science, but I do know quite a bit about satellites. The technology’s amazing – position can be pinpointed to within a metre. Of course, accuracy’s down to the mapping companies who do the updating work, but new models come out all the time . It’s entirely up to you of course, but imagine never having to ask for directions again!
Woman: That’d be good – I’ll certainly give it some thought!
Paula: We both grew up in a fairly rough part of the city, Mike, so I’m assuming you used comedy to keep yourself safe – and popular in the long run!
Mike: Well, in school, as you know, if you could run fast or make people laugh, you had a very good chance of surviving and emerging unscathed. I wasn’t a fast runner, so I exploited comedy to avoid unwelcome attention. It seemed to come easy , and it worked.
Paula: Your type of comedy is less spontaneous than reflective. You see things from your own point of view, don’t you, and create a world for other people to see. Whereas I explore the world that’s already there, which most people don’t see.
Mike: Don’t you think that the key to achieving what you want in life is the realisation that it’s going to be tough, and the sheer persistence that gets you there in the end?
Paula: What you have to have is massive self-confidence. With that you can do anything.
Mike: And being specific about what it is you want to do.
Paula: Ah well, that goes without saying .
Woman: If you’re English, a nice sad nineteenth-century romance is very useful if you’re on holiday and you get attacked by homesickness because it conjures up dripping English autumn days perfectly.
Man: I always take something by this chap who’s written a number of books about the criminal underworld of Boston, Massachusetts, which is hardly culturally or geographically a place that I know , but I find it fascinating. There’s no doubt about it if you compile, as I do, dictionaries of slang for a living , one is drawn inevitably not alas to the great classics, who are on the whole rather light on slang, but to someone like this fellow who has this amazing ability, far beyond quoting, of writing 20 or 40 pages of dialogue in almost incomprehensible slang, which I have the most wonderful time going through. I find it very alluring.
Ruth Sampson: Last year I found myself flying to the Arctic Circle with five biologists from the Canadian Wildlife Service. As our small plane descended towards a snow covered runway, I looked out of the window at the frozen ocean below. I could see small holes in the ice, and, around them, lots of extraordinary little figures rather like ants. I was told they were seals , basking on the ice in the sun. Ten minutes after we’d landed, I had my first sighting of a wolf , which my eagle eyed colleagues pointed out to me at least seven hundred metres away, and later on I was lucky enough to see a caribou with its huge antlers at much closer range.
At first sight, the Arctic seems to be a kind of desert, but there are plants and animals around – you just have to look around for them. You may find what’s called an oasis – this is a little confined area with access to water, where vegetation can establish itself and provide nutrients for animals . Arctic plants have evolved to cope with this harsh environment, like the yellow Arctic poppy, which only has a tiny tuft of leaves visible, as the bulk of the plant – a network of roots – stays underground . Its leaves remain green all winter, so it can make the most of the short growing season. The diversity of bird species decreases as you travel north, but there are birds which spend the winter here, and others that come back in the spring. Most of these birds get their nourishment from seeds , although a predator like the snowy owl feeds on small mammals called lemmings, and others do manage to find fish.
For accommodation, we had tents which looked just like the igloos the local Inuit people build out of ice, with little tunnels at the front , only ours were orange and made of nylon! And our only connection to the outside world was our radio link. You notice how light the snow cover is – it scatters with the wind, and there are hardly any deep drifts.
Apart from the cold, the main hazard is the wildlife, and I received a brief introduction on the correct action to take if a polar bear came to visit . There are other large animals, like the musk ox, but they seldom pose a threat. Another thing was that recording the team’s descriptions of wildlife, which was my task, was incredibly difficult. The recorder itself was fine, but batteries just don’t work in the cold , so I had to hold them inside my thick coat to keep them warm.
Interviewer: Jed Stone’s best known now for his talents as a garden designer – but he and his wife Helena ran a highly successful jewellery business in the nineteen nineties, which brought them fame and high living. Then they lost it all and, some years later, bought a derelict house which they renovated and now together they’ve created a garden. They join me in the studio today. You do seem to do most things in partnership, like the jewellery business, but using Jed’s name. Why’s that? Helena?
Helena: Well, this is a bit of a bone of contention, actually. We have a friend in PR who said, “You have a great name, Jed Stone. People would pay a fortune for such a good name.’ But, sadly, at the time, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t get the credit for what we do, and that does get to me sometimes  – but, there again, I’m very bad at putting myself forward. People see Jed as a figurehead, which is fine, actually, because I don’t enjoy being recognised or get any thrill out of that, whereas Jed loves it.
Interviewer: Is that right, Jed?
Jed: Obviously, I’d love to say, ‘No, I don’t,’ but yeah, I do. Even as a child, I thought it must be marvellous to walk down a street and have people know who you were. Ironically, that’s the worst of it now. It would be nice just to go and buy a paper without somebody saying something. But I suppose I do like being a public figure. It gives me a sense that I’ve done something people appreciate . It doesn’t stop me doing anything, but it does modify how I do it.
Interviewer: But Helena, you did appear on our television screens briefly as a presenter on The Travel Show. That must have been a dream job, travelling around the world?
Helena: Actually, I thought I was being heroic taking that job. I’d actually rather have gone down a coal mine. It was ironic really, because Jed adores travelling, whilst I hate it. The timing was critical though; I mean, we were living in this derelict house. We’d knocked huge holes in the walls to make windows and we could hardly afford to get the job finished and I wanted to be there when it was done. So I genuinely didn’t want to do the job they were offering, but I felt I had no choice  because, apart from anything else, it would provide us with a reasonable income.
Interviewer: So what about this jewel garden? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do when you bought the house?
Jed: Not at all. In fact, we were provoked into action. I was giving a lecture on gardening and I was including some snaps of our own wilderness to show what certain plants looked like. But these photos hadn’t loaded onto my laptop properly, and you couldn’t see a thing. So I started to make it all up – describing this jewel garden with magical colours – it came straight out of my imagination, it hadn’t been a long-term plan or anything. Anyway, as soon as I’d finished, these journalists came rushing up saying, ‘We must come and take pictures of your jewel garden.’ And I heard myself replying, ‘Fine, but come when the colours are good, don’t come now.’ To cut a long story short, we had to make the jewel garden before they came, and actually, we did ninety per cent of the work that summer . That was our incentive!
Interviewer: And why did you call it a ‘jewel garden’? Having read about the disasters with
the jewellery business, one would have thought you wouldn’t want the word
‘jewel’ in your house at all.
Helena: Well, I like to work on projects and if you have a project where you’re thinking only of jewel colours then that starts to limit you, and design is all about reduction. Really it was just a good, positive way of tackling what plants we were putting in, and the way we were going to design the garden , wasn’t it, Jed?
Jed: Yeah. But for me it was also partly a metaphor, it’s making something worthwhile out of a failure. We did spend years doing the jewellery and it wasn’t all disastrous; there were good things about it too and we wanted to salvage them and treasure them. It seemed a waste not to take that bit of our lives and to somehow incorporate it into our new design venture  – to take the bad experience and use it in a creative way. Jed and Helena, thank you for telling us about it today.
Speaker 1: Well, we got there late unfortunately. The problem was that Dave couldn’t find a parking space anywhere. We drove around for ages. I don’t think we realised just how popular it was going to be. We nearly didn’t bother, you know. Last month’s was such a disappointment – there wasn’t much to see and not many people turned up. But this time it was the complete opposite . There were all kinds of food, a huge fish section, clothes, miscellaneous stalls  with goodness knows what. Apart from it being almost impossible to make progress past the stalls  we quite enjoyed it.
Speaker 2: Yes, Pete and I go quite regularly now. He wasn’t too keen to begin with but over the last few months we’ve both got completely hooked. However, we were a bit unlucky last weekend. We were expecting great things and we’d been looking forward to it for ages. This was going to be the big one. We set off early, got the gear ready the night before, but after a couple of hours the weather set in. Couldn’t see a thing. The visibility was down to about ten metres. There was no way we were going to reach the summit  so we just had to abandon it. Discovered we’d lost one of our ropes when we got back home, just to cap it all .
Speaker 3: I haven’t been for ages. It was a real treat for me. Of course, before I was married I used to go several times a year, but I don’t think I’ve been now since nineteen ninety-four. It’s not that my wife objects to it, it’s just, well, I don’t know. I suppose I feel a bit guilty going off at the weekend. But it’s good fun – I love seeing all the big names. Mind you, not a lot happened.Nothing to clap or cheer about , but it didn’t seem to matter. It was just being there, encouraging the players  and despairing when they got it all wrong.
Speaker 4: We felt it was a good opportunity to celebrate. Occasions like this don’t happen every day and everyone was in a good mood so we thought, ‘Why not’? The thing is, we wanted it to be different, something that we’d always remember, something to round off a perfect day. Jamie had heard about this interesting place by the harbour where you sat on cushions and you prepared your own dishes . It sounded different  so we set off for there. When we arrived, the manager had already heard about our success and even though he was busy, he still managed to find plenty of room for us all.
Speaker 5: I was on my own at the weekend and I suppose I was a bit restless. You know, I’ve been working hard recently. I needed to get out in the fresh air and so I just headed off into the country. It was great – a beautiful day. It reminded me of when my father used to take me fishing. Well, I fancied a quick dip and so, as no one was around, I just stripped off and plunged in . It was marvellous, but I got a bit over-ambitious. Before I knew it, I was more than a mile out. It took me a very long time to get back and when I reached the shore again I lay in the sun for ages to get my breath back .