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When It’s Time To Say Goodbye

September 9, 2013

There’s a programme on Radio 4 in the UK called Desert Island Discs. It’s a simple premise.  It takes the form of a conversation between the interviewer and someone worthy who is about to be cast on a desert island (not really – it’s just for fun).  They have to choose 8 discs to keep them company, a book (although they are given The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare) and they get a luxury to make life a little better.  The castaway may be a celebrity as we would know it such as Hugh Laurie, Dustin Hoffman, Lang Lang or Debbie Harry but, whilst always interesting, they’re not my favourites.  I like the quiet ones. The ones who are absolutely eminent in their chosen fields but who I’ve never heard of before.

The last one was Daniel Kahneman:


who is a psychologist but, not content with being brilliant at that, also won the Nobel Prize for Economics.  HIs work looks at how and why we make the decisions we do. He was brought up as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France and, after his father was rounded up but then released due to the intervention of his employer, the family were on the run for the remainder of the war.  They survived (apart from his father) and were in Israel for the foundation of the Israeli state.      Interesting, eh?

Then there was Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi – not so quiet, obviously, but it’s amazing how little I actually knew about such a famous person. 



Did you know that her father founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated independence for Burma from the British?  I didn’t.  Not until I listened to Desert Island Discs.  The surprises kept coming when she chose Tom Jones singing The Green, Green Grass of Home as one of her discs.  That was unexpected. 

The last one I listened to, however, was Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and now UN Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes region.  It was, again, a fascinating insight into her fight for abortion and contraception in Catholic Ireland but one little fact really stood out for me.  One of her songs was The Parting Glass. It’s an old folk song and, apparently, her husband sings it at the end of a dinner party when it’s time to go.  Or at a dinner party where he wants the guests to go home.  I can picture the scene…there you are just reaching for another After Eight and contemplating a third glass of port to see you on your way when suddenly the host springs up.  With barely a chance to catch breath from a particularly intense discussion of the latest Strictly Come Dancing “Celebrities”, he launches into an Irish folk song, the essence of which is that he’s tired, he’s had enough and you should please leave now.  Yep, that would do the job. 

There are moments when you know it’s time to go home.  The chairs go on the tables.  Your hosts start putting on their pyjamas.  Your taxi turns up at the door and you hadn’t even called it yet.  Knowing when it’s time to move home from abroad however, can be less obvious…unless you have children.  When we lived in Israel a friend of ours had 2 sons.  One day her husband went into the garden to find the 3yo building a small construction out of stones.  “What are you doing?” he asked.  “Just making a checkpoint, Daddy”, was the response.  They moved home shortly afterwards. 


Coming out in a Lego (TM) kit in all good toy shops this Christmas

And in response to my last post confessing my overly-Pakistani driving style, a friend said it reminded her of a friend of hers from Moscow.  She knew that they had lived there too long when her 5yr old was in the car with his grandfather in America and announced, when stuck in traffic, “just drive on the sidewalk, Mom does it all the time”.

So far we haven’t seen any signals from the 3yo or the 1yo that it’s time to go which is good as we’re planning on being here for a while longer yet.  I will, however, keep you posted…


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  1. Sara permalink

    You know we will be the first in line for that Lego set!


  2. I heard that Desert Island Discs with Aung San Suu Kyi, and like you, was amazed at how little I knew about her.


  3. Ok. You may be about to hate me.

    But I can’t bear Desert Island Discs. Kirsty’s too sycophantic anyway but what really annoys me is the way they only play about thirty seconds of the music.

    “So let’s hear your next choice”.
    “Well, my next choice is the Beethoven Violin Concerto. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with what we’ve been talking about but I had to pick a piece of music and it was the first one that came to mind”.

    Plays fifteen seconds of the first movement, which is FORTY MINUTES LONG. You get nothing from the first ten bars… Why even bother playing it?

    “And then you went to secondary school. How was that?”

    etc etc

    Why don’t they call it Desert Island *chat* and have done with it? I agree with you generally – all the people are really interesting and have interesting stuff to say. So why not have them on for half an hour and talk to them for all of it, instead of interrupting their interesting chat with irrelevant bits of music? And then have a completely separate programme where you let them actually talk about the music (and not the time they went to Bognor on holiday) and what it means to them?

    And don’t even get me started on the end:

    “So in the last ten seconds what are your book and your luxury”.
    “I’d have Nicholas Nickleby and a bar of Dairy Milk”.
    “Thanks for talking to us”.



    • Ooh, the controversy! I can see where you’re coming from but I have the attention span of a gnat so i don’t mind too much that the music is short. Daniel Kahneman came up with a beautiful Beethoven Piano Concerto I hadn’t heard of before so I’m planning on looking it up for a proper listen.


  4. When I read the title of your post I thought you were going somewhere. So glad you’re still around 🙂

    Sounds like an interesting program. I wonder if they have a podcast?


  5. They do! Click on the link in the post and it should take you to the homepage from which you can download or listen to the archive programmes from anywhere in the world – no need for VPN which is nice. Enjoy!


  6. I enjoyed Russell Brand’s time on D.I.D. recently.


    • Me too. I always knew he was erudite and interesting but I also always thought he was a bit of a prat. However he came across much better than I was expecting and I ended up rather liking him.


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