I don't listen to the BBC's Desert Island Discs much, mainly because, in a rather aunt of Woody Allen, ('This restaurant is so bad', 'Yes and the servings are so small') ,contrary manner, I'm not very interested in music and I hate the way on the programme they don't play the chosen pieces right to the end.
The thing about the programme that I do find appealing though is finding out what luxury each desert islander chooses to take with them. Nicholas Parsons, I remember, tried, very sensibly - but unsuccessfully - for an unlimited supply of fresh water. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, demanded a huge pot of Dijon mustard, which he seemed to think would hide the taste of any nasty food he found to eat.
A bed I suppose would probably be the most useful of all items, but when I try to imagine what I'd choose I discover a streak of frivolity always getting the upper hand. Sometimes I think an endless supply of crisps would be perfect or never-ending plates of toasted cheese; at other times, I prefer the idea of an inexhaustible bottle of a scent called Caleche, or this soap, which would not only remind me of comfortable houses but give me hours of pleasure (pleasure?), thinking about the British royal family washing themselves:
; usually I return to my mainstay though, which is the self-portrait of van Eyck that they have in the National Gallery in London. I have the impression that I could look at that forever - I certainly never get sick of visiting it, but as I write this I begin to wonder whether living with it might actually be too much of a good thing. A question I will possibly never know the answer to in this case is: would familiarity eventually breed contempt?
And speaking of contempt, even though I seem to spend more of my time than is sensible engaged in housework, it has never crossed my mind to select a vacuum cleaner or a steam iron or anything to do with cooking as my luxury, (not, of course, that anyone has actually ever asked me either - but I like to be prepared). I realise too that a really comfortable pair of shoes would probably be terrifically handy, but I'm banking on the possibility that I'll be wearing those already, when I arrive.
When the chips are down, (or the toasted cheese and scented van Eyck portraits), I recognise in the end what would really be the best thing to take of all - a horse, because horses are a) such nice personalities, (on the whole - it would be bad luck if one got a mean one), b) useful for gardening and c) we could canter about from place to place, if the island turned out to be big.
What would other people choose? I'm sure there are much more exciting things I should be packing that I haven't even thought of. Ooh and look, how riveting - here's a comprehensive list of everything anyone who has ever actually been on the programme has decided they couldn't live without.
In Praise of Boredom - Claire Messud in *Harper's:* I want my children to embrace doing nothing, to embrace the slowing of an afternoon to a near standstill, when all you can hea...
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