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Notes From The Cotswolds – Desert Island Discs by Penny Parkes
2018/05/18  |  By:   |  Features  |  

If you’d asked me twenty years ago how I felt about Desert Island Discs, there’s a small chance I would have rolled my eyes. Whether it’s a sign of the times, a recent obsession with podcasts in general, or perhaps my fourth decade softening my impatience, but of late, the back catalogue of this engaging, illuminating and, yes, inspiring show has become the soundtrack to my journeys. In fact, I write this very column sitting on a train from the Cotswolds to London, the tear-jerking words of gorgeous Marian Keyes still echoing in my headphones.

Since I think we can all agree that I’m unlikely ever to grace Kirsty Young’s studio or trouble Radio 4’s listeners with my own selection, I’d rather like to share them with you. For a child of the Eighties, it would have been all too easy to fill this list with Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac and the occasional ELO hit. Lords knows even Olivia Newton John might have secured a mention, had my parents been in charge of the stereo, but thankfully I have decades of my own special moments to call upon instead!

My first pick would have to be Sixpence None The Richer’s acoustic version of Kiss Me – not just because of its wistful melody, but because on the day I was due to bring The Youngest home from hospital for the very first time, after the longest and most terrifying fortnight of my life, The Ever Tolerant Mr P had teed this up on the car CD player “so it’s the first piece of music you listen to together.” It will, for that reason alone, always hold a very special place in my heart.

Whilst it’s easy to acknowledge the genius of Einaudi, it has to be the undulating I Giorni that claims a spot in the soundtrack of my life. This is one of those pieces that speaks to me every time I hear it – in fact so much so, that despite not having tickled the ivories on our ancient piano for many years, it gave me the impetus to start playing again, practicing until I could tackle the enticing arpeggios and feel that wonderful flow of being lost in the moment – I shall ever be thankful to this piece for bringing me back to the piano and for the hours of joy that has given me as an adult.

Choosing my favourite Lucy Schwartz song is a little like asking me to choose my favourite friend, but La Luna has always had that little extra something. Many of you will know that The Ancient Spaniel left my side two years ago this month, after being my constant companion for 15 years. Walking in my local woodland was almost intolerable after that, and even when The Ginger Ninja arrived, excelling in her attempts to fill those very big paw prints, it was still an adaptation – one that was considerably eased by this song, with its walking tempo and brightness that eased my way, literally walking back to happiness.

My grandfather didn’t leave much behind when he passed – coming from the generation where materialism held very little sway – but I treasure the battered wooden wine box stacked with his LP (vinyl) collection and, of these, the Allegro from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Mozart) is my favourite, somehow enhanced by the crackling static and the realisation that he too would plug in his headphones and let the music do the talking. I have only to recall the chamber orchestra in the towering fortress in Salzburg (birthplace of Mozart himself) playing this by candlelight to get a familiar prickle of goosebumps. Heavenly.

You’ve probably realised by now that I’m a sucker for an acoustic version and Breathe (2am) by the soulful Anita Nalik is no exception. I came late to Gray’s Anatomy, holding out as I did with ER and House, unwilling to believe the hype, but then gluttonously plunging headlong into the boxset with gleeful abandon. It seems that I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl when it comes to TV…  The episode featuring this song (Series 2, episode 17 “As We Know It” in case you’re wondering – yes, that one!) is the one I watched the week my debut novel was published, going on to win the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the year award, and to top the Audible charts. As I’m sure you can imagine it was a rollercoaster ride at times, with an exponential learning curve attached – but thankfully for my sanity I had this song, with the beautiful, gravelly Anita Nalik’s voice in my head when I needed it, reminding me that I only really had to do one thing – just breathe.

I’d love to hear about the soundtrack to your lives – it’s high time I discovered some new songs that didn’t come courtesy of the teenagers in my house – They’re oddly reluctant to embrace Van Morrison in a way that I feel they should! Do send me a tweet – I’m @CotswoldPenny – and I look forward to hearing your stories.


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