Life

Radio review: Mary Beard, Glad to be Grey

Nuala McCann

Glad to be Grey Radio 4

Midweek Radio 4

Mary Beard refused to dye her hair for her television show and got called a “witch” for it.

Let's face it, if you're watching Beard, you're probably not so very keen on Say Yes to the Dress or America's Latest Supermodel.

Why should it matter that she likes her locks natural? Isn't it what she says that matters? She knows her ancient Rome, who cares about her roots?

In the library in Cambridge, she can sit and study all she likes and nobody bats an eyelid.

And from that hullabaloo over her grey, came this radio programme.

Beard has a subversive streak (ha, catch that last little hairdressing pun). She did confess that she had toyed with going for green hair just to shock her academic colleagues... but underneath it all, she was knocked when one tv reviewer of her series Meet the Romans suggested she should be kept away from the cameras altogether.

Why does it matter for a woman to be grey, when it does not seem to matter for a man?

Let's hear it for the silver vixens.

While we're on the subjects of foxes and academics, have a listen back to Oxford don Charles Foster on Midweek. He likes to imitate animals. This doesn't mean howling at the moon like a wolf or breaking into the birdie dance after one too many at a party.

No, Charles lived for weeks on end as a badger. In fact, he took his eight-year-old son, Tom, along too for the fun.

Foster's mate Bert has a JCB and he scraped out a bit of his Welsh valley and father and son burrowed into the ground to make their own little sett and stayed for six weeks.

For the purpose of authenticity, they ate some earthworms, as badgers do.

His mate Bert brought them a fish pie once and Charles said that he supposed a badger would eat it, if it was left lying about. Bert promised to make it even more authentic... “I'll set the dogs on you later,” he promised.

Tom licked slugs – apparently, the brown ones taste nuttier but readers should not try this at home.

Charles also tried to live like an otter – but he couldn't catch fish with his teeth.

And he had an interesting time rooting about in bins as an urban fox. Cold chicken tikka masala and leftover pizza... yum.

He was sleeping entirely legally under a bush when a passing policeman found it difficult to understand that he was trying to be a fox.

But what did he miss most in all his animal adventures ... good old bread and butter. You can't beat it.

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