With the best will in the world, when you have been together for a long time you sometimes run out of things to say to each other. When you spend most of your waking hours together you occasionally find that conversation, like some semi-desert rivulet, dries up. During each week, there are a limited number of conversations you can have about the weather, the state of Middle East politics, and the sensory allure of deep fried pigs ears.
And so it is with me and Amy. I have always thought that the sight of dog and owner walking together in muted misery is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship in training. As the great Mildred Henderson was apt to say, "Families that walk together should talk together". And consequently, if you happen to spy Amy and I during one of our twice daily walks you are as likely as not to catch us deep in conversation about art, philosophy or the previous night's Bushtucker Trial on I'm A Celebrity ("What is the matter with them," she is prone to say, "whitchetty grubs are full of protein").
But all too often, by the time that we reach the Crematorium Gates (this is a geographical reference rather than some Miltonian aphorism), our conversational banks are in need of quantitative easing, and that is the time that we switch on whatever Podcast fate (and iTunes) has decided to download for us. There are, of course, our regulars, The Archers, Guardian Football Weekly, What The Papers Say: the staple diet that keep us going come rain or shine, feast or famine. And there are the Epicurean delights, those auditory morsels that make life worth living, walks worth walking.
And so it is with the BBC archives of the late Alistair Cooke's Letter From America
. As if to prove that it doesn't always get things wrong, the BBC have decided to make available over 900 programmes from it's substantial archives of weekly broadcasts by the journalist Alistair Cooke, which cover the period 1946 to 2004. You can listen to them on-line, download the Podcasts, and in some cases read the actual scripts at the BBC Letter From America webpage
. I am not sure how familiar people in the USA are with Cooke's work, but the truth is that most people in the UK, and many other parts of the world, saw America through his eyes for much of the second half of the Twentieth century. And even though the events he writes about and talks about have now long sunk under the dust of history, his words still retain the lyrical architecture and crafted economy of a great writer. Like so many of my favourite writers - Pepys, Dickens, Arnold Bennett - you get the feeling that Cooke would have been an enthusiastic blogger had the technology been available at the time. Whether you have a dog that needs walking or not, I would recommend that you give him a listen.