To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of Brian Johnston, Johnners to one and all, Radio 4 Extra had a three hour programme presented by Rory Bremner. It’s doubtful in today’s diverse BBC that Etonian Johnners, with his stink bombs in the tuck box mentality, would have had the career he did.
Obviously best known for Test Match Special, he also presented Down You Way over 700 times and was bastion of Twenty Questions. This had one hilarious episode where the object to guess was a honeymoon suite. One panellist, a French lady, asked if drilling takes place there . Johnners, in discussing the question after the answer was given, commented “No, but you have to stand to attention.”
One word encapsulates Johnners and that was fun. You knew your spirits would be uplifted by him. Even now I cannot contain myself when he and Aggers (Jonathan Agnew) get the giggles after the latter said “He didn’t quite get his leg over”. Aggers and Johnners did not co-commentate for a year after that. In Down Your Way, a bookseller from Hay-on-Wye whose name I did not catch, but who started the literary festivals, had similar attack of giggles and, as they say in broadcasting, corpse.
Twenty Questions and Down Your Way offered a view of a Britain long since passed. To quote the opening of L. P. Hartley’s The Go Between
“The past is a another country. They do things differently there.”
Listening to news bulletins of the death of a 3 year old Mikaeel Kular, a restaurant bombing slaughtering 31 in Kabul, a family of 5 killed in shooting and a Briton murdered in St Lucia and other deeply depressing items, the cheer of Johnners would be welcome.