On my radar: Alexei Sayle’s cultural highlights

Born in Anfield, Liverpool, Alexei Sayle studied art before training to be a further-education teacher. When London’s Comedy Store opened in 1979, he became its first MC and, over the following decade, became a central figure in the alternative comedy movement. He has starred in a number of TV shows including The Young Ones (1982-4) and the Emmy-winning Alexei Sayle’s Stuff (1988-1991). His credits also include theatre (The Tempest, Old Vic, 1988), film (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989) and radio (the award-winning Alexei Sayle and the Fish People). His book Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar is out now, while the second series of his BBC radio programme of the same name is broadcast on weekdays on Radio 4.

The London bus: better than a Bentley, once you are over 60. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

1 | Travel

London buses

When I was 60, I was very excited to get my old person’s travel pass and so now the chauffeur has been fired, the Bentley sold and I go everywhere on public transport. On some models of London bus, there is a single seat in a little sort of cubby hole behind the driver, under the stairs. I really like that seat and will often have to fight other old people to get it. I think of that seat as “premium economy”.

Footage from Ken Burns’s documentary series The Vietnam War.

Footage from Ken Burns’s documentary series The Vietnam War. Photograph: BBC

2 | TV

The Vietnam War (Dir: Ken Burns, BBC4)

This marvellous documentary series contains not only amazing footage of the conflict itself but also fascinating testimonies from those on both sides who fought in and protested against the war. As someone whose mother was close to the communist side I would sometimes come home from school to find slightly bewildered members of the Viet Cong in our front room in Anfield. The series is also very revealing about the brutality and cruelty the north Vietnamese could display both to the enemy and their own people.

Time Out Top 100 Cheap Eats guide by Time Out

3 | Food guide

Time Out London: Top 100 Cheap Eats

About a decade ago, my wife, Linda, gave me this restaurant guide. And in the last few years I have been trying slowly to visit every establishment in this little book on the bus, often accompanied by my friend [restaurant reviewer] Matthew Norman. Recently, we have been to Ariana II, an Afghan place in Kilburn, whose other branch is bizarrely in New York; Mosob, an Eritrean cafe on a particularly bleak stretch of Harrow Road; and Tbilisi, a bright, neon-lit Georgian restaurant in Holloway. After I eat at these restaurants I put a line through their page and never visit them again. It is a sign of the relentless churn of the London dining scene that a lot of the eateries in my book have already closed and become something else before I can go there, but then that is sometimes a relief.

Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin (1927) by Otto Dix.

Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin (1927) by Otto Dix. Photograph: Tate

4 | Art

Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919–1933, Tate Liverpool

A few months ago, I was made an honorary doctor of English at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire. They put us up for two nights at the Hilton on Liverpool’s waterfront and the morning after my investiture we strolled over to the Tate Liverpool to view this exhibition, which brings together the paintings of Otto Dix and the photography of August Sander. I was most aware of Dix’s etchings of warfare and the aftermath, but his society portraits are a revelation. One of the joys of the Tate Liverpool is that, compared to London, it is not swarming with tourists, so you get to see the art without interruption. If I go to the Tate in London I generally only visit the viewing gallery of the new [Switch House] extension. I know some people who own one of those expensive flats opposite that you can see right into and I have a good laugh at their expense.

The cover of Mistakes Were Made

5 | Book

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

I recently needed to nominate my favourite book for Radio 4s A Good Read and I chose this. It is written by social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson and genuinely seems to me to explain all the terrible, cruel acts that human beings commit, but if you absorb the lessons contained within it can also serve as a handbook for you to avoid making these same mistakes. It deals with the much-abused concept of cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and other cognitive biases, using these psychological theories to illustrate how the perpetrators (and victims) of hurtful acts justify and rationalise their behaviour. The writing style is also wittier and more engaging than a lot of books of this type.

BBC 6 Music stalwarts Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe.

BBC 6 Music stalwarts Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe. Photograph: BBC

6 | Music

BBC Radio 6 Music

I love Radio 6 Music, it’s nearly all I listen to. I love everybody but particularly Radcliffe and Maconie, Craig Charles, Mary Anne Hobbs, Liz Kershaw and Tom Ravenscroft. In Spain. there is a very similar station called RNE 3, which is channel three of the state broadcaster. They’re even more esoteric than 6 Music: I once remember them playing 23 different versions of a Beatles song, one after the other.

Jackie Walker: telling her side of a controversial story.

Jackie Walker: telling her side of a controversial story. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer

7 | Performance

Jackie Walker: The Lynching. Theatro Technis, London NW1

Jackie Walker was a Labour activist campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn. Then she was accused of antisemitism, suspended from her party, abused and demonised on TV and the internet. This was her presenting her side of the story. First, there was a whole security rigmarole you had to go through to get tickets for this show, since pro-Israeli activists were trying to disrupt it. This was very exciting but I was still expecting to find little enjoyment in the show itself, seeing it more as an act of political duty. However, it turned out to be a great night. Jackie possesses a lovely singing voice and the honed acting skills of a veteran performer, plus the tragic story of her Jewish civil rights campaigner father and her black Jamaican mother, who was wrongly confined to a mental institution in the US, is worth a show in itself. Jackie is also very funny and frank about her own bolshy nature. Usually, when you hear after a play, before you can escape, somebody announces: “There will now be a discussion about the issues raised in this show” and your heart sinks but in this case the talk afterwards was almost as good as the performance.

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