Melvyn bragg

The rise of vampirism in Silicon Valley

The Immortals, which begins on Radio 4 this week, is not for the faint-hearted. While it professes to be about the human quest for longevity and the elusive ‘cure’ for getting older, it focuses largely upon the transferral of blood plasma from healthy young people to reluctantly ageing people, or, as anyone with good sense might put it, the desperate descent from vanity to vampirism. I was on the verge of switching over to something more anodyne when a 46-year-old tech entrepreneur began talking about being injected with plasma from his 17-year-old son. Bryan Johnson, who sold his company to PayPal for $800 million in 2013, does not even sound

The joy of wigs

I thought, or anyway hoped, that once I’d finished the chemotherapy I would spring back to vitality. Seven weeks on and I’m still creeping about like a two-toed sloth. Now and then I study my face and head in the bathroom mirror for signs of rejuvenation. The narrow skull now boasts a light covering of baby fuzz. Sprouting from my upper lip are some widely spaced bristles. But no sign yet of any eyebrows. From their pouchy sockets the eyes look back at me uncertainly. Listening to In Our Time a few weeks ago, I heard Melvyn Bragg read aloud Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘I Look into My Glass’. The three

Why In Our Time remains the best thing on radio

In Our Time is the best thing on Radio 4, possibly the best thing on the radio full stop. It is broadcast regularly from a parallel universe where everyone is interesting, everything is worth knowing and anyone can know it if they want to. It gets the best out of its medium by being somewhat contemptuous of it. It understands that the overproduced trimmings of modern radio are entirely extraneous. There will be no sound effects, no music and no catchphrases. All that we need by way of introduction is the word ‘hello’. After that, there’s no telling what will follow. ‘Hello. In 541 AD, in the realm of Justinian,

How to survive a heatwave

Provence-Alpes-Côte D’Azur A burning ball appears over the brow of the hill at seven o’clock every morning and then you have roughly two hours to perform outdoor stuff such as shopping. After that you are roasted alive even sitting under a parasol with a hat on or swimming in a pool, and you flee indoors, closing the shutters, doors and windows behind you. The lizards hide; the birds go quiet. Yesterday I watched Reg, the friendly black carpenter bee who lives in a bamboo pole on the terrace, die from sheer exhaustion. For weeks he’s been terribly busy with the flowers and making love on the wing with a succession