Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Desert Island Discs

I have recently discovered the joys of the BBCs Desert Island Discs archive, where you can download podcasts of all editions of the programme dating back to the 1940s. It is a truly wonderful resource, plotting changes to music, celebrity, language and style over 70 years, and is highly entertaining, too.

The politicians, particularly party leaders, are often the least interesting. I cannot help but think their choices are determined by their media and press consultants, more concerned about how their choices portray them.  The honourable exception to this being Lord Home.

How many of us, especially those who are fans of the programme, have not wondered what seven records we would choose, should we ever be asked.....   Here are mine (in no particular order).

1. Mac The Knife
In 1993, along with two friends (Richard Lazenby and Charlie Butt) I opened a Wine Bar & Bistro in Southampton. On the opening night a local singer, Lucien De Laloi, played sax and sang. At about 10pm, with the party in full swing, Richard and I crossed the road and looked at 'our' bar. We had created it from scratch from an empty fashion boutique. For Charlie it was a financial investment. For Richard and I it was a shared dream. As we watched our baby come to life, packed with friends and well wishers, Lucian started singing Mac The Knife. It became our theme song, and Lucien our house singer. At that moment I could not have been happier, prouder or more excited.

2. Highland Cathedral
I fell in love with Gibraltar 20+ years ago, and had the joy of taking Steve there a year after we first met. I was delighted when he too fell in love with this wonderfully patriotic, decent, quirky and contented corner of Britain. Over the years I have read everything there is to read about the history of the Rock and it's brave and decent people. Two years ago we were there for Christmas, and secured late tickets for a charitable concert held in St Michael's Cave. The highlight of the show was the pipes and drums of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment playing Highland Cathedral. The sound within this massive cave was magnificent. Sadly, I cannot find a recording of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, but this is the Royal Scots Guards, who are equally magnificent.

3. I Vow to Thee My Country
I am an unashamed patriot, and for me, I Vow to Thee My Country, is one of the tunes which makes me lip quiver and my eyes moisten. This version is instrumental and is overlayed with scenes from the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. The scene at 3 minutes 50 seconds, where the dock workers lower the cranes in a mark of respect as Sir Winston's coffin passes on a barge, is one of the most moving of all.

4. Us and Them
Pink Floyd wouldn't be in my top ten bands, but I like most of what they do.  Us and Them is my favourite, I think as much influenced by the fabulous saxophone as anything else. It also takes me back to when I first set-up my own home in the late 1980s and made my own circle of friends - and what a bunch they were. I recall hosting a Murder Mystery Dinner Party to which the guests turned up in fancy dress, including a mad axeman, a S&M Dominatrix and a deranged surgeon with bloody body parts (butchers offal) strung around his neck. When I apologised to my neighbours in advance, they dismissed my concerns with, "Oh don't worry, having seen a transvestite chase a man dressed in leather thong around your garden last week, nothing could shock us."

5. Zadok the Priest
The Coronation Anthem composed by George Frideric Handel in 1742 and sung at the coronation of every monarch since. And woe betide anyone I hear refer to it as the UEFA Champions League music.

6. This Is My Life
Having seen her in concert twice and bought most of her albums and CDs, I had to include at least one of Shirley's songs. Shirley is great - unashamedly high camp and a wonderful performer. I saw her once in Marbella, she was at an adjoining table in Cappuccino. I was eating an omelette, she had a lobster. C'est la vie!

7. Tell Me It's Not True
When I began writing this post several hours ago, I had a mental list of 30 songs to choose from, but Tell Me It's Not True was not one of them. I dislike musicals, but Willy Russell's Blood Brothers is the exception.  Being born in Liverpool, in fact in the very district of the city in which Blood Brothers was based, and coming from a family who, in the pre-war years lived in the most deprived conditions, perhaps gives me an emotional bond with this production. My poor maternal grandmother, who was brought-up seven children in a two-bedroomed terraced house, on the meagre wages of a dock worker, could very easily have been Mrs Johnstone.  If you have not seen Blood Brothers you won't have a clue what I am talking about!

So there we are, my seven Desert Island Discs!

PS I am grateful to MB who spoke to me at tonight's meeting of the Tonbridge & Malling Executive Council and reminded me that guests on Desert Island Discs select eight records, not seven. He asked what my eighth choice would be, so here it is:

8. Eternal Father, Strong to Save
As some of you will know, I spent three very happy years working on the cruise ship ss Canberra. I loved every minute of it; the travel, the (tax free) earnings, the booze, even the passengers (I ended up in a relationship with one and living in Sydney!) But perhaps most importantly of all, the friendships and sense of deep sense camaraderie, something I had not previously experienced. Being at sea is the greatest leveller. You drink, eat, play and work together, nowhere to go to escape. The unwritten rules were simple - get on or get off. There was no place for prima donas or trouble makers. As a consequence, I found myself making friends - and at times deep and bonding friendships, with people I would never have the opportunity to meet shore-side. If I had to gather 30 friends, the largest contingent would be from my time as sea, even though it was 20 years ago. Eternal Father, Strong to Save is the seafarer's hymn. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say I was a sailor, or even a member of the navy (though, technically I was in the Merchant Navy and had many friends and colleagues went to the Falklands). It was a privilege to work with so many wonderful people.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful selection. A couple of thoughts - It's worth reading the rarely used second verse of I vow to thee my country :

    I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
    Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
    Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
    And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
    I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
    I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

    Also, Sir Cecil Spring Rice was Irish (living before independence) and wrote the poem referring to his beloved Ireland. I understand that he sent a copy to the American Secretary of State just before he, Sir Cecil, died and the effect that it had was influential in persuading the Americans to come into WW1.

    The other thought - where is the eighth disc?