There’s been lots of discussion today about Ed Miliband’s choice of tracks in Desert Island Discs, though less about his luxury (an Indian takeaway once a week). I often muse about my luxury.
Fiona Reynolds, former director-general of the National Trust, pinched my original idea when she was featured in April 2002. She asked for a complete set of Ordnance Survey maps of Britain (she didn’t specify 1:25000 or 1:50000, though I would want the former, showing all the field boundaries and ancient monuments). So that idea went out of the window and I had to think again.
I’ve decided that I would have the British Library’s British Bird Sounds on CD (available from RSPB at £15.99). I doubt Kirsty Young would let me have it as one of my eight tracks because it’s a 2-CD set with the calls and sounds of 175 birds—so that’s why I’ve plumped for it as my luxury.
The introduction to the booklet with the running-order is extremely helpful. It generally has different entries for song and call, and specifies the type of call: alarm call (eg garden warbler), anxiety call (eg chiffchaff), contact call (eg spotted flycatcher) or something else. It includes just about everything one might encounter, except for wintering waders such as bar-tailed godwit and knot, which are comparatively silent in Britain. We are also told what is going on in the background (eg the wren recording has willow warbler and coal tit in the background).
Happy for hours
These two CDs (non-passerines and passerines) would keep me happy for hours. Not only would I really work on learning the different sounds, but I could recall places—the high green canopy of White Wood above the River Dart on Dartmoor where I’ve heard wood warblers; the River Tavy (also Dartmoor) with the stone-rattling call of ring ouzels; the machair of South Uist with its unforgettable corncrake (1 June 1994); the meadow at Otmoor which reels with grasshopper warblers, and the Chiltern woods of home which reverberate with wrens and ‘quoting’ nuthatches—to name a few.
This would give me much greater pleasure than a weekly Indian takeaway.