Ed Miliband was on Radio 4’s venerable Desert Island Discs earlier this week. He chose to bring The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy along as his book, and opted for these songs:
1. "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (ANC’s anthem, South Africa)
2. Hubert Parry – "Jerusalem"
3. Paul Robeson – "Ballad of Joe Hill"
4. A-ha – "Take On Me"
5. Neil Diamond – "Sweet Caroline"
6. Robbie Williams – "Angels"
7. Josh Ritter – "Change of Time"
8. Edith Piaf – "Je Ne Regrette Rien"
The luxury he chose was a once-weekly takeaway from his local Indian restaurant. Ed then decided to show the public that he wasn't just a nerd and headed to a desert island to live the experience for real. This is his island diary, which was found by a BBC search and rescue party.
The BBC boat just dropped me off. Said goodbye to Mum, my wife Justine and Ed Balls, who were on the boat with me. Got confused and ended up kissing Ed as well. I got just a little frightened and Ed ended up having to remove me from the edge of the boat, which I was clinging on to. I threw up a couple of times but after Mum rocked me back and forward for a few hours and told me I was just as good a boy as David, I swam gamely to shore with my music and books.
Ate the houmous selection Justine packed for my dinner and washed it down with a nice glass of Merlot (sea water). Set up my disc playing machine. Never listened to music on my own before. Never really understood the fuss. I remember Gordon saying he liked the Arctic Monkeys and I said, “I like you more, Gordon”, so he sang “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” to me and even though he was tone deaf, it was one of the most exciting moments of my life. Listen to “Sweet Caroline” as the sun goes down. Feel uplifted. Strange screaming in my ears as I go to sleep. Might be Neil Diamond. Might be the howler monkeys.
Must bring my own vision of social democracy to the island. There are a bunch of snooty Macaws bullying the other birds. They're already calling me “Sweet Caroline”. Go back to my beach and play "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" for what feels like hours. You have to really think hard about its political associations to like it. Feel really inspired by the fight of the ANC. I have always admired Nelson Mandela, something I told him when I met him. He asked me what I thought happened when we died and I said, “Nelson, the places where we go, when we're grey and old, I've been told, that salvation, lets their wings unfold…” At least, I think that's what I said.
I feel as though "Je ne Regrette Rien" is becoming bitterly ironic. I regret so many things. I regret not bringing my smart phone. I regret not bringing toilet paper. I haven't been able to defecate since I got here because I don't know what to do when I finish. Do I just go into the sea?
Of course, I miss Justine (I must remember to burn this diary and write an “official” diary to be discovered after my return to civilisation in which I play up family and play down smart phones). Listen to “Angels” thirty-four times in a row. Try and cry. Feel a bit sick. Might be because I really need to go to the toilet. Realise that I never really listened to any of these songs before I got here. The CD player feels strangely hot. Is that normal? Fall asleep under a tortoise’s shell.
Really struck that the “Ballad of Joe Hill” is about a man framed for murder and of course, my father was framed by the Daily Mail. Dad is my hero and while I can’t really stop talking about him, I in no way share the complicated, voter-scaring views he had. Must remember to listen to “Jerusalem” more in order to stir up patriotic feeling when I'm thinking bad, dirty, hot Marxist thoughts… I have finally gone to the toilet but am now covered in my own faeces. I can't go into the sea because I think there's a shark there.
Indian takeaway day! My local restaurant manager and good friend Kamal arrived on a speedboat. We did this thing we like to do where he pretends to not know me. The Macaws stole some of the chicken tikka masala. Listened to “Angels” on my staring rock. I wonder what Ed Balls is doing right now? Is he loving angels instead? Try and cheer myself up by recreating the A-Ha video with the tortoise but he doesn't know what a supermarket is. The Paul Robeson CD has warped in the sun so I eat it for dinner. It tastes of salt and something bitter that reminds me of my brother David. Have a series of dreams in which A-Ha's singer comes out of the waves and pulls me into them with him.
Listen to Josh Ritter singing, “I dreamt that I was swimming” and I was feeling peaceful and dreamlike because he's just so easy to listen to but then it turned out I was actually dreaming and I woke up and I was actually swimming and it was more like drowning than swimming. At least I'm not covered in my own shit anymore. And the shark didn't eat me. The Macaws laugh at me. They’ll regret taking on me. Take me on. Take on me. Take me on!
Why did I bring "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" with me? It's like a Christmas carol gone wrong. What the hell are they talking about? Is it really about freedom and brotherhood? It doesn't sound like it. It's just a load of people wailing. What are the strings doing? Are they strings? It's jammed in the CD player and I can't get it out. Why didn't I bring a CD by the nice African people from the gravy advert? I think I saw them at Live8. I feel like Nelson Mandela's family is wailing at me, asking me to give them all Nelson's money.
I try and find solace in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but all I can do is stare at the page reading “Don’t Panic”.
Indian takeaway day spoilt when Kamal tells me, with quiet dignity, that his name is Kunal. It simply serves to remind me that these are the people my government would serve so much better than David Cameron’s: people working in the desert island food delivery industry. Sit on the beach eating my curry while Paul Robeson, Neil Diamond, Robbie Williams and the singer from A-Ha play a game of doubles volleyball in front of me. Robbie loses and calls Neil Diamond a liar and a cheat. Robeson knocks him down and they all start singing "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika". Then Neil Diamond comes over, wipes my arse and sings “Sweet Caroline” to me till I fall asleep. Wake up on the shoreline vomiting into the sea. Must stop eating the snails while they're still in their shells.
My favourite books: Britain’s Everyday Heroes, by Gordon Brown; Marxism and Politics, by Ralph Milliband; Take on Me; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon; Take on Me by Take me On…
Spent nine hours today marching up and down the beach listening to “Jerusalem”. Feel very patriotic but I can't really remember for what country or for where or even where I am, though I do know that I haven't eaten for two days and am afraid to go into the water because of: a) the shark; and b) my faeces, which are floating around in the water, I'm sure of it. Made a sandcastle and called it “Jerusalem”.
Kunal has sent his son Devin to deliver the Indian. To be frank, my stomach is a mess from all the sea water I’m eating and the tikka isn’t helping. I keep on seeing A-Ha dancing across the sand towards me. Their bass player looks like David Cameron and I think George Osborne might be playing keyboards. I’m trying to keep my chin up but my fear is that “Take On Me” is inhabiting me. It might be the tree bark I found to mop up the masala sauce, it might be the sea water or it might be the fact that I've listened to “Take on Me” on repeat for over a day and a half.
Thanks to Josh Ritter I have been asleep for the last two days. I woke up to find that I'd burrowed my way into the sand head first and that I was covered in ants. Thought I saw a passing ship but my cries of “Sweet Caroline” didn't reach it.
I flew into a patriotic rage after listening to “Jerusalem” and became convinced that the tortoise was my brother David and that he was trying to overthrow the monarchy. I stabbed him in his belly (his back has a shell on it) and then fell asleep under him listening to “Angels”, gently sobbing as I thought about what a good leader Gordon would have been if only the country had given him the chance.
The Macaws have imprisoned me in a cage made of tortoise shell. They play “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika” to me on a loop. Had an argument with a lizard about Tony Blair but I just ended up shouting “Take on me” into the air all night. The next morning I talk to the Macaw guide and try and trade sexual favours for my freedom, but he just enjoys the sexual favours and keeps my freedom.
The Macaws have let me out of my cage but won't let me leave my beach. Reduced to throwing up sea water onto my CD player and then eating little bits of it until I throw up again… I've been repeating the process for most of the day.
Crawling up and down the beach whilst trying to flirt with a particularly fine-looking sand snake. CDs are all skipping. A-Ha playing on a loop inside my head. Wish I had a nappy.
Take on me, take me on!
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