21 Dec, 2020

DID final …

The last choices from the Desert Island Discs challenge.  The BBC programme asks:

  • If you can take only one of your eight discs to your desert island, which would it be?
  • You have the Bible or another religious text, and the complete works of Shakespeare. What other book would you like?
  • And you can have one luxury item.  What would it be?

The one disc has to be Bach’s Mass in B Minor.  It has everything: joy, pathos, serenity, drama and all manner of other reflections on the human soul.  Perhaps it’s lacking in humour – it’s difficult to laugh at it – but I’d always smile at the memory of my struggles to learn the bass line.

The book. To fill the empty days alone on the island I did think of Anthony Powell’s “A Dance to the Music of Time”.  It’s enormous – actually twelve volumes published between 1951 and 1975, and the Penguin edition has it at over 3000 pages. – but I’m cheating a little and counting it as one oeuvre.   I read the whole thing about three years ago, laboriously at times because it does have its ups and downs.

Changed my mind though.  I’m no academic but an abiding interest has always been the way words have changed their meanings as humans marauded, married, traded and migrated over the centuries.  The blog entry of 12 August, “Roots and Routes” referred to Proto-Indo-European, that language of which we have no direct record but which we know existed because its vocabulary travelled into other lands and was transformed as it did so.  Two examples were:

P-I-E: “ka” – “to like, to desire”.  One journey to English was via Latin carus, so we have caress charity, cherish.  The other route of the root was via the Germanic family, still linked to the original meaning, but now whore.

P-I-E:  “dheu” – “to rise in a cloud” from which we have fumigate, perfume, thurifer, typhus.

This is fascinating. It’s all in a 55-page appendix to one of my dictionaries.  Not enough.  I’d like a full, detailed comprehensive account of the correlations and relationship between individual words in our Indo-European languages. Haven’t got such a tome but they’re available and I’d love to have one, to dip into endlessly on the island.  Any ideas?

And the luxury item. In  the 4 November blog “Challenges …” I mentioned Baroness Trumpington who appeared on the programme and chose the Crown Jewels, reckoning it would increase her chances of rescue.  I almost decided to choose a drone-with-camera. Never had one and don’t want one here in London but it would be really grand to fly one over the island regularly, to check on the terrain, animal life and resources; and over other islands if it reached that far.

But then I thought ‘No’: what I’d really like is a dog.  I love them, other than the feral variety that regularly surrounded me in the Sudan (blog 17 May) and the one that scampered past me on a street in Valletta years ago, to be found sprawling round the corner, dying of rabies.  Pet dogs take a liking to me, and I to them.  Great regret that I’ve never owned one – travelling and living in Africa and the Middle East didn’t help, and now I’m in a top floor London flat with roof garden. Not impossible but not really easy.  So on the island I’d like a medium-sized, intelligent, friendly and ready-to-be ferocious-when-challenged hound.  What breed?  Don’t know.  Any advice?

So there we are on my island..  Eight discs; the B Minor Mass if I could chose only one; a good dictionary of our earliest known language and its relationship to today; and a nice dog.  DID challenge over. Thank you for suggesting it, Nick.  It’s not been as easy as I’d thought but it’s been rewarding, for me anyway.  A Christmas challenge to everyone: choose yours!

One more blog entry and then a pause for The Season.


  1. NO hesitation with the suggestion of a springer spaniel….. friendly, googley deep brown eyes, floppy ears, full of energy, loving companion, ready to do anything you ask him, and of course a great hunter. If you manage to spear something in the distance, he would be off like a shot to retrieve it for you. They even like water, so you might teach him to fish!

  2. David, congratulations. You’ve spun the discs out long enough even to give us a ninth entry with your favourite track, a book and a luxury. Really well done.
    It’s been fascinating enjoying all your choices and learning more along the way both about you and your choices, far more interesting and entertaining than the 45 minute slot the BBC produces.
    So, way to go! Thank you.

    I’m not a dog person but I’d recommend a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross Golden Labrador, providing great company and some strength too and hopefully the golden coat could withstand the lovely sun and heat.
    I trust Lauren Laverne will allow dog litter bins on your island because it won’t just be coconuts you’ll be scooping up !

  3. A Golden Retriever. A Golden Retriever is a dog. A dog is a Golden Retriever.

  4. I’ve loved reading about and listening to your choices. Some probably known to your readers but others a delightful introduction. Such a good idea, Nick! And further insights into the intriguing life of Peace! Many congratulations, Dave, for rising to the challenge with your usual style and aplomb!
    I tried tackling the Dance to the Music of Time, on the enthusiastic recommendation of my father, but only got so far! Maybe you’ve encouraged me to try again – could help to fill the lockdown hours too!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other posts

Tough Discipline, again ….

Tough Discipline, again ….

Following the last blog post, other examples are: The same 1972 university course but this time teaching in Spain.  We TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) trainees were sent to Barcelona...

read more
Tough Discipline …

Tough Discipline …

Well, the memory bank was triggered yesterday by a report on the unruly behaviour of some students, partly or wholly as a result of boredom during the lockdown.  Unusual punishments from my dodgy...

read more
Findings …

Findings …

No change on the health front.  Still much the same, so let’s move on.  Something along the lines of “That reminds me of when ….” The local residents’ association here, which I used to run, covers...

read more