An alternative "Thought for the Day".
One of the most fun things I did this Christmas was an "Alternative Thought for the Day" on the Today programme this morning -- New Year's Day. The programme was being guest edited by Al Murray, who wanted something different, and a wee bit pagan, on the religious front. It couldn't actually oust Thought for the Day (done this morning by Lucy Winkett), which took the usual 7.40 slot. My alternative version was broadcast at 6.50 am
As a colleague realistically pointed out, the number of people who were actually listening to the Today Programme at 6.50 am on New Year's Day must be lower than on any other time/day of the year. BUT the good news is that there was a video version on the BBC website, acted out by self as Vestal Virgin (yes, I know that I am committed never to dressing up as a Roman, but this WAS New Year's Day - so what the hell). You can watch the video version here.
Let me just say two things about this. First, every bit of the broadcast (which you can listen to through the link above -- so I'm not going to summarise) was bona fide in classical, philological terns. I take the part of a Vestal Virgin on January 1st, and refer to the presents we have just had at the Saturnalia, to the idea that the sacrifical animal is largely consumed by the human sacrificers, and to the general open house that Roman polytheism had for incoming deities. It also hints that to the average pagan intellectual, monotheism would seem crushingly simplistic (that's where I pinched Al Murray's line about everything being much more complicated than that...). To be a bit prissy, it is actually quite a good little lesson in Roman paganism.
Second, although it looks as if we were all in Rome at great expense. It was actually done on a green screen (as in the picture above).. and the whole scenery was somehow, magically, projected onto it. I'd always been pretty sniffy about this kind of thing, but never imagined the effect could be so realistic. Stunning I thought. Really made me look as if I was there...
Was it all worth it (because it took a bit of time -- including the borrowing of the BBC Olympic Torch)? Well I'm a BBC fan, but my reckoning was pretty much 100% positive. It was a New Year joke, but it was also pukka in classical terms... and everyone had a great time making it. And I think that a lot of people enjoyed listening/watching too.
Hope you like.