Aunt Mirrie and the Child by Kate Clanchy

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Aunt Mirrie and the Child by Kate Clanchy. Prof. Mair Bosworth. Perf. Hannah Gordon. BBC Radio 4, 15 March 2015. BBCiPlayer to 13 April 2015.

When Radio 4 removed the "Afternoon Reading" from its schedules some year back, there was a predictable outcry from listeners and radio pressure-groups: culture was being sacrificed in favor of news, the BBC were nothing more than philistines, and new writers would never get the chance to have their work broadcast.

In today's media-rich environment, this doomsday scenario simply doesn't exist any more. If Radio 4 won't broadcast new writing, then there are plenty of outfits distributing their output on the internet who would be more than happy to oblige. There has never been a better chance for would-be scribes to create new and innovative material for radio, and to have instant feedback through Twitter and other social media (as well as occasional reviews from harassed writers such as myself).

Perhaps aware of the fact that there now exists considerable competition for new writers, Radio 4 have subtly brought back the short story strand, broadcast at various times and available for one month through the iPlayer. Taken from her forthcoming collection of short stories, "The Not-Dead and the Saved," "Aunt Mirrie and the Child" focuses on the ways in which particular traits (both character-traits as well as physical characteristics) are handed down from generation to generation. It is basically a variation on the idea (often expressed by older relatives to their younger siblings) that a child "has her mother's eyes," or "her father's hair," and so on. I personally used to hate that observation (aren't individuals all different from one another?). Author Clanchy offers an interesting meditation on the subject, suggesting that if genes - or physical characteristics - are passed down through the generations, it can be a double-edged sword. Some people might be thoroughly dissatisfied with the idea.

Read in a soft Scottish accent by Hannah Gordon, "Aunt Mirrie and the Child" was an affectionate tale of people coming to terms with what they had been born with.