I didn’t mean to blog about Christmas trees but I was in Trafalgar Square the other day, and I had to mention this one. It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen, and each evening, leading up to Christmas, there’s carol singing under the tree, which is usually accompanied by much stamping of feet to keep warm.
Not this year, though. Just ten days ago, over on the Harlequin Community site, some of us chilly Brits were volunteering to exchange a few icy breezes with Tina Beckett’s warm ones, as the weather here in the UK was freezing! So Tina, if you’ve had a hand in the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having here for the last few days, thank you!
This year, it’s been warm enough to sit outside and enjoy a coffee, and to stop a while to watch the pavement artists. Charlie Chaplin was in attendance, along with other mime performers, a piper and the Christmas Fairy, who magically came to life in order to smile and wave for the children.
But I digress. On to the palm trees, which was what I originally intended to blog about.
Christmas is a great time for party games, and this year, thanks to the BBC website, I’ve re-discovered a new angle on an old favourite. Everyone in the UK will know exactly what I mean when I say ‘Desert Island Discs’, but for those who don’t have have a clue what I’m talking about, let me explain.
‘Desert Island Discs’ was first broadcast by BBC radio in 1942 and it’s one of its longest running programmes. The format’s simple. Each week a different guest imagines themselves stranded on a desert island. In the first episodes they were allowed a gramophone with an unlimited number of needles and eight records. In September 1951 one luxury was added to the list, and since October 1951 the castaways have also been given a copy of The Bible (or another appropriate devotional text) and the complete works of Shakespeare and asked to choose one additional book to take with them.
Since then, the programme has continued in much the same vein, although today’s guests aren’t offered gramophone needles to play their tracks. And last year the BBC added a database to their website, which allows you to search and compare your own choices with those of almost 3,000 radio castaways. Click here to see the castaways’ choices on the BBC website.
It’s interesting reading. Some of the more outlandish luxury items include a stone from the stomach of a fossilised dinosaur, a blue vase, a snowglobe, a Chippendale cabinet, a solar powered vibrator, 20 tons of pine needles and two established vines with a tin bath to make wine. My own choices are a little less creative – I’m torn between soap (which has been chosen 23 times) and paper and pens (chosen 154 times).
Choosing one book poses much more of a challenge. Something I haven’t read? I’d be kicking myself if I found that I didn’t like the book. Something I’ve read and loved? That’s a very long list to choose from. As I only have one choice, and I’ll never cover everything I want to take, then perhaps I should go for something to keep me occupied. On the basis that I didn’t fully understand Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ the first time I read it, then maybe a couple of years on a desert island would be long enough for me to crack it.
And what about the eight discs? Well I’m completely stumped with those. Do I choose from the classics, works which I’ve known and loved for years? Or perhaps the soundtracks of my teens and twenties? Remembrances of people and places? I started to make a list of all the tracks that I might want to take and gave up when I hit three figures.
Or maybe I’d take a more practical approach. Stranded alone on a desert island, I’d need music to lift my spirits, so perhaps some tracks I can sing along with, which will get me up and dancing in the sand whenever I hit a low spot. Not necessarily good music, or even music which I like the best, but something cheerful to help me face the day.
How would you choose? Or perhaps the musicians amongst us would do as Daniel Barenboim did and take musical scores instead of records? And do you have favourite party games for the times that your family gathers together to celebrate?
Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, I hope it’s a happy one!