Desert Island Books

Here are some thoughts from Lois Elsden, on a radio programme she listened to a couple of weeks ago:

I was listening to ‘Desert Island Discs’ today, the long-running but perpetually popular radio programme where famous people from all walks of life, choose which eight records they would take with them to a desert island, along with one book and a luxury (not practical) item. Today’s castaway, interviewed by Kirsty Young was Sue Perkins and these were her choices:

  • Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
  • Lonnie Donegan – Rock Island Line
  • The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?
  • Rex – 20th Century Boy
  • Kate Bush – Moments of Pleasure
  • Giovanni Battista Pergolesi – Stabat Mater
  • Nick Drake – Northern Sky
  • Philip Glass – Opening from Glassworks

I sometimes puzzle over the music I would take, and wonder why the castaways chose what they did – I guess I’m imaging a real desert island and wondering which eight pieces of music would I be able to listen to over and over and over again without getting bored or infuriated by it. So some discs I might choose to remember certain times in my life or people or events, wouldn’t necessarily be ones I’d want to listen to other than occasionally. On the other hand, some of my favourite music reminds me of nothing – I just like it!

Desert Island Books… that would make an interesting list… I will have to ponder on that, but if I was asked in an interview right now this minute for eight desert island books I’d say:

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John le Carré
  • Complete works of Shakespeare
  • Complete works of T.S.Eliot
  • The Alexandria Quartet – Lawrence Durrell
  • Modern Cookery – Eliza Acton
  • 2666 – Roberto Bolaño
  • Dhammapada
  • Beowulf

Actually… I may need to think a bit more about this!

If you want to read Lois’s own books, here is a link to her e-books and her latest paperback ‘Radwinter‘:



Roses in the darkness


Roses in the darkness

The tight buds pointed under my fingers

Slowly their petals unfold

Softness around a well of fragrance.

I bury my face and drink deep

Of that heavenly perfume

Which unlooses memories

Of the days of long ago

When I could see their infinite shades.

The pure white of virginity

So easily marred by rain.

The pinks of young girlhood

Innocent, shyly modest.

There, golden hues

Of laughing womanhood,

And the rich red fullness

Of maturity and experience.

Now as I feel those silky petals

My fingers bruise their loveliness.

Their perfume lingers as I pass by

My roses in the darkness

© Gillian Peall


I didn’t like to interfere….

He was such a nice old man,

Always very smart, with shining shoes

And an upright military air.

I’d wave as I went past his house

And sometimes see him in the village.

I wondered if I should pay a visit

But I didn’t like to interfere.


So when the hearse drew up

I thought he’d passed away.

And so he had in a manner of speaking.

For after he buried his wife

He gradually seemed to sag

His face looked drawn and so much older

And he didn’t look so dapper.

That military stride had gone.

But I didn’t like to interfere.


And by that winter time he seemed

A different man, the sort that needed Care.

And I wondered how he managed

In the house alone and him so frail.

But I didn’t like to interfere.


The just as Spring was forecast

The hearse came back again.

I wish I’d known, I’d have sent some flowers.

But I didn’t like to interfere.

© Gillian Peall

Sea Storm Rising

Sea Storm Rising

Wind scattered gulls duck and weave
the slanting sleet of a rising gale.
Dark domes are driving from the west
as we batten hatches and shorten sail.

White crested waves loom and break,
crushing us down, till we stagger free.
Rising in a welter of luminous jade
we take flight for the harbour quay.

Flung high we catch our way ahead.
Then driven violently down again
we yaw full reefed in tearing wind
to a rattling clack as halyards strain.

Driven headlong we strive to steer
till we claw to the headlands lee.
Now we release a few inches of sail
in full running flight, lifting free.

We strain and heave to lay our course
as a wave swept harbour bar appears
Sliding across it’s swirling surge,
at last we can escape from our fears

Gliding between great granite sides,
towering, between us and the squall;
In tremulous awe of Neptune’s power,
we lash fast to the harbour wall.

© John Watts 2017

Laughing Heaven

Laughing Heaven

I could not join our table
as I  had to take the call,
so I joined the yeomen set
finding a last free seat
with farmer, wife and son.

Hellos and names we traded
then sat in shifty silence.
What had we in common?
I from big city  business
they from a Cornish farm.

Mutual dog interest ignited
us briefly, but then it died.
Came shady silence again
I fought for connection;
but nothing came to mind

Till, just a chance maybe.
I told the Hat-Dog joke.
All three sat and stared
Fat Joe ,a ruddy vastness
wife Sal, a small grey mouse

Both seemed to be adrift;
young Tony looked to each.
At last a Humph, from Joe,
and fleeting gleam of eye.
A pause. A twitch from Sal

Then Joe harrumphed again
his jowls began to quiver
rippling down his frame
A mottled quake heaving
Ha, broke forth Ha Ha Ha

Titter, twittered mousey Sal
breaking to breathless squeaks.
Little Tony grins vicariously.
Then like a Vulcan shaking all
great bellows assaulted Joe.

He claps me on the back
he’ll tell one about his horse,
-when he’s caught his breath.
Now, we are all together
in happy laughing heaven

© John Watts 2017

Autumn Night

Dark clouds hang in the heavy sky.
Cold winter time is bearing down.
Grim grey clouds like icy shrouds
throw misty arms above the town.
Clawed by masts and skeletal forms
the crowns of buildings underneath
are islands breaking from this sea,
like sentinels or craggy teeth.

In city parks, trees shorn of leaves
stand naked, stark as fractal sprays.
There is no sheltered cover now
for Squirrels making last forays.
Paths are strewn, a soughing joy
for those who run or stop to seek,
the echoed scents of summer past
in conker nuts of silken teak.

A factory whines, a dismal sound,
yet greeted well by those within;
and high and far an aircraft drones
beaming up crowds to sun and sin.
Climbing over grey stacked clouds
it catches the last of  this day’s light
speeding south to warmer climes.
A man made needle flashing bright.

Now darkness cloaks deserted streets,
we light them all, because we can,
denying the world beyond ourselves
by hiding Life’s beneficence to man.
That greatest sight that all should see
starred space aspiring to transcend
and give rebalance to our world
of earthly woes, too close to mend.

© John Watts 2017