RADIO Scotland had a proper big story on Monday morning with the whole will-Humza-resign-won’t-Humza-resign breaking story about the First Minister. How big a story? Big enough to get the BBC’s Chris Mason to hustle to London City Airport to grab a flight to Scotland, Mason told Good Morning Scotland. He’d been planning to spend the day in Milton Keynes covering the local elections in England.

When the BBC’s political editor reckons the story is in Scotland then you know you’re at the heart of things.

But that is also a challenge for Radio Scotland. The station is so formatted that it can’t just break out and go for broke. The Afternoon Show must go ahead. Maybe that’s a good thing. Nicola Meighan talking to Gabrielle might have been something of a boon for those who find the 24-hourification of political coverage frankly wearing.

But it did mean that while Nicola - joyously bubbly as ever - was discussing Scotland’s Home of the Year 5 Live could carry on discussing Yousaf’s resignation (although, it’s worth noting, that Nihal Arthanayake, also interviewed the playwright James Graham and reviewed the latest must watches on the telly, so 5 Live didn’t go all in itself).


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More interesting might have been the discussions behind the scenes during Mornings, when the First Minister’s resignation seeming imminent but as yet unconfirmed. So, should Kaye Adams still play the odd pop tune (Rush Hour by Jane Wiedlin is a tune to be fair) and go ahead with that big interview with the comedian Michael McIntyre?

The answer in both cases was yes. “Slow news day, Kaye,” McIntyre joked. Later, the travel journalist Simon Calder also popped up for the show’s 'travel surgery'.

But inevitably the big story couldn’t be ignored and Adams handed over early to the Lunchtime Live team for the big announcement. Cue Humza.

Away from the political fray the most flat-out enjoyable and evocative radio programme of the last week was Radio 4’s Archive on 4: Night Train last Saturday night. Presenter and travel writer Horatio Clare may be best known for his annual Christmas walks on Radio 3 these days, but this documentary saw him catch the night train from Paris to Vienna, while thinking about the allure and mystery of travelling by rail.

Or that was the plan. But his Paris train was cancelled because of snow on the tracks and he had to get another one to Frankfurt and then an S-bahn - “about as drearily effective and unromantic as a train can be,” Clare notes - in a bid to make the connection with the Sleeper.

Proof that European railways aren’t necessarily always more reliable than their British counterparts.

While he travelled, Clare delved into the lure and lore of night trains via contributions from author Andrew Martin and clips from the BBC archive.

The Herald: Caledonian SleeperCaledonian Sleeper (Image: free)

The latter, in particular, were good value. In a clip from a 2012 edition of Lives in a Landscape, Mary, one of the passengers on the Caledonian Sleeper, had a story to tell about the erotic charge of said train.

“I know of a couple who had never met before,” Mary began. “They spent the whole evening together drinking away and having a wonderful time getting to know each other. And then at one in the morning he said, ‘Ooh, do you want to come back to my carriage for a night cap?’

“The next morning she was rather surprised to find herself stepping out not onto Pitlochry Station where her husband was waiting and where the steward had put her luggage, but actually onto Aberdeen platform because, unbeknown to her, she was in the wrong section of the train and the train divides at Edinburgh.”

Meanwhile, David Bowie’s mate Geoff McCormack was also on hand in an archive clip to recollect a trip the two of them made on the Trans-Siberian Express: “It was a French-built Tsarist train. It was all mahogany and brass and tassels. Even the toilet chain was a tassel.

"It was gorgeous and we thought, ‘Well, this is going to be wonderful “However, the next morning we pulled into another station and we were all herded onto a plastic train with formica. Not so sexy at all.”

Ah, even the romance of train travel has its limits. Clare’s journey proved a similar disappointment. The journey to Vienna was overcrowded and very late. Still, when he woke in the morning it was to an Austrian winter. “It’s not just thick, it’s complete," he noted. "It looks like silence made visible.”

You don’t get that on a plane.

Listen Out For

Dame Jenni Murray’s Motown Favourites, Boom Radio, Monday, 6pm

Part of Boom Radio’s Motown Monday, Jenni Murray picks her favourite tunes from the greatest label in the history of pop music (this is not up for debate).