Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Youthful indiscretions

One of the serendipitous consequences of being laid up on the sofa with a bug on Sunday, feeling unable even to watch TV, was catching (amongst other things) Robert Webb's appearance on My Teenage Diaries on Radio 4. First aired last year, the programme presented Webb with the opportunity to revisit the diary kept by his 17-year-old self, the existence of which he neatly explained as a result of "that delightful combination of insecurity and conceit that made me think this was the best way to have a decent conversation".

Insecurity and conceit were abundantly evident in the entries about his awkward interactions and regrettable fumblings with members of the opposite sex. I'd imagine this is true for many of the guests on the series, but Webb's style, both of writing and reading out, made for particularly amusing (if at times excruciating) listening, the supposed self-awareness of the diary mockingly revealed (with the benefit of age, perspective and hindsight) to be nothing of the sort.

However, what really made it exceptional radio were the passages about his mum's sudden illness and equally sudden death - beautifully written, with a powerful combination of warmth, poignancy and black humour (most notably, his observation of the way his stepdad gently turned the volume down on Kylie Minogue's 'I Should Be So Lucky' when it came on the radio on the way to the funeral, rather than just switching it off). As Webb admitted to the show's presenter Rufus Hound, he laboured over getting the passages right, as though already aware they might one day be for eyes (or ears) other than his own. Thankfully, that proved the case.

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