When they hear the words “radio four” and “play” all in the same breathe, many people seem to recoil with the speed and determination that even Mo Farrar would envy.     That’s unfortunate because they then miss many gems amongst which is a quite remarkable story that was broadcast last month.     Although a regular radio 4 listener, I actually missed the transmission and was only alerted to it by a member of The Compassionate Friends, a support group for bereaved parents.       I don’t know how I would have reacted to FOUR TREES DOWN FROM PONTE SISTO, if I had heard it before Josh’s death, but I like to think I would have been equally moved by what I now consider to be one of the best shows on radio … ever!        Here’s what the BBC blurb has to say about it –

“Twenty five years ago in Rome, an American student named Geoffrey Charde fell to his death from a wall above the river Tiber, late at night and with no witnesses, four trees down from Ponte Sisto. Since then, his mother, the poet Sharon Charde has been writing her way through all the dimensions of her son’s death; writing her way back to life through a series of poems that combine her fearless examination of specific details and events with deep philosophical insights into the close proximity of death within every aspect of life.”

Jane and I listened to the play on the way back from Scotland recently.    Potentially a distressing and painful experience, it was perhaps a slightly dangerous thing to do while driving one of Britains busiest motorways.    But we both actually found it quite comforting to hear bereavement dramatised in a way that seem to mirror so accurately much of what we have been going through since Josh died.    Hopefully you will find it as life enhancing as we have, though to have a box of tissues nearby wouldn’t go amiss … and do give yourself time – the play is 58 minutes.

FOUR TREES is no longer available from the BBC as a download but you can listen to it here (hope we’re not infringing copyright or anything) – unfortunately because of file sizes we’ve had to split it into two parts

click here to listen to the first part - FOUR TREES PART ONE

click here for the second part - FOUR TREES PART TWO

the links will take you to a new page – use your browsers back button to return for part two.


and these links are good to check out

Four Trees Down From Ponte Sisto (blog by Gregory Whitehead who adapted Sharon Charde’s poetry for radio and composed the sound design)

Sharon Charde’s biography (

Originally broadcast on 29th June 2012,  FOUR TREES DOWN FROM PONTE SISTO was  adapted and composed for radio by Gregory Whitehead.    Performed by Anne Undeland.   Producer Jeremy Mortimer.


Anne Undeland recording Four Trees Down

4 Responses

  1. It was only luck that I had the radio on at 9pm (BBC Radio 4, 21/03/14), and found myself instantly transported back by the music of Gregory Whitehead. Back where? Back to the place where my older brother lies dying in the street in 1973. He had been hit by a car. Or a van, I think it was.
    “There is no end to this”, reads a line in one of the poems of Sharon Charde. Or were they her words or mine? Whatever, they are among those that I wrote down as I was listening bent over close to the radio in my kitchen.
    Ferrier (my brother) was 28 when he died in 1973. I was 21 then. He was in Callandar Scotland. I was in Santa Caterina, Brazil.
    This is some of the few things I know for sure, and the rest I don’t know. By the time I got back from Brazil three months later, it was long after both the inquest and his cremation.
    Accident or suicide? The question also comes up for Sharon Charde in the FOUR TREES play/poems and she comes down firmly on the accident side. And for Ferrier? The answer to that question is among those many things I don’t know. He had been depressed for a few weeks. That is what I was told back then, although not exactly in those words. But then it wasn’t easy to ask more or talk about mental illness or suicide. Or actually permitted.
    So maybe I am suicide survivor, and I am glad it Is OK to say that now.
    Then there was the bit in the FOUR TREES play/poems when Sharon Charde describes now all these years later, when she meets new people, and ‘What happened to your son Gregory?’, they ask. There is a moment when she pauses unsure in her mind which way to go with her answer. Like I do, whenever I am asked what happened to Ferrier, and I think about the uncomfortable conversation which will likely continue whichever of the forking paths I choose to follow in my answer.
    “There’s no end to this”. That could have been the moment I write that line down.

  2. As Jimmy says we both found so many resonances in this wonderful inspirational play……Sharon Charde talks about the last sunny day of her life and how she looks forever for her son in photographs. I was also reminded of Rosa,s brave and personal exhibition In Absentia when Sharon talks about her sons wallet “a mini museum of a boy who was becoming a man”…….
    The surreal and unthinkable reality of choosing her sons clothes for the funeral, a job no mother should ever have to do……….and then the relationship between poetry and weeping……….
    And last but certainly not least her reflection on how friends back away and the subject changes…….and she smiles……despite the pain inside.
    What a superb insight into a mothers grief.

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