When we were on our desert island last month, internet-rationed, bereft of Sunday Times and Sky Sports and with the radio only in Spanish and German, I pined for Radio Four: John Humphrys and the Today programme were never so sorely missed. (He has been on the show twenty years last month. Congratulations, John.)
But it wasn’t just Humphrys – I yearned for them all: Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue; Just a Minute – even The Archers, which is about as bad as it can get you.
Songs of Praise apart, Desert Island Discs is the longest-running show on radio. I used to listen to it when Roy Plumley’s plummy voice used to say – over Eric Coates’s Sleepy Lagoon - ‘Each week we ask our guest to tell us which ten records they would like to have with them if they were marooned on a desert island with only a gramophone and an inexhaustible supply of needles’.
Finding myself similarly marooned - and without a single needle - I started to think which ten records I would choose. It’s not as easy as it sounds: you have to balance the relative importance of, say, taste, nostalgia, image and repeatability. (Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke chose all jazz, and some rock singer chose ten records of himself.) But in the end, nostalgia usually wins, which I guess puts family top of the list
My numero uno? (I'm getting ready for Liverpool v. Barca tonight.) I have to confess I’ve never owned the disc in question, or even consciously sought to hear it, but the Irish national anthem always sends me on a furtive tissue-quest. My mother was Scouse-Irish, and on occasional Sunday nights our little house would rock to the Gaelic music on Radio Eireann, to which my mother, aunts and assorted expatriate Micks would dance, or sometimes sing along to Paddy McGinty’s Goat or Rafferty’s Motor Car. We kids were usually in bed at the time, and heard, rather than saw, the ceilidh, but my mental image of the scene - somewhere between Riverdance and Gaelic football - may not be far wrong. The signal for the end of the evening was the midnight time signal followed by what I used to think was a jolly nice quickstep, but is known nowadays as Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish (Republican) national anthem.
So it means a number of things to me: childhood, home, parents, brothers, summer holidays in Drogheda or Cork and ‘Oh-oh – we're going to be thrashed at Rugby again’.