It is nothing but a fantasy, but more than any honour, any public recognition, an elevation to the peerage or an invitation to Buckingham Palace, I would like my “public service” to be recognised with an appearance on Desert Island Discs. I know it's not going to happen, but I can but dream. And I can't be the only person who's worked out exactly what discs to take in the unlikely event of the call from Kirsty arriving.
I am grateful for the advent of Radio 4 Extra, whose schedule revisits old editions of Desert Island Discs. Over the past few weeks, I've been captivated by Shameless creator Paul Abbott (whose honesty about his long battle with depression was a truly moving piece of radio) and the TV screenwriter Andrew Davies, who, remarkably, chose one piece of music that would also be on my fantasy list (“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, in case you're interested). It also underlines what an excellent presenter Kirsty Young is, curious and persistent without being intrusive.
The thing I've never been able to work out is what my luxury would be. But earlier this week, I resolved this never-to-occur problem. I'd ask for a ukelele. I have always wanted to be able play a musical instrument, and a few years ago I joined a communal ukelele class. With four strings and a sound that comes from the Gods, the ukelele is relatively easy to master, and has a very high pleasure to effort ratio. I got as far as being able to strum “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” but I'm afraid I turned out to be the class dunce, and that was that. Left alone on a desert island for long enough, I might be able to get to the point where I could extend my repertoire beyond Carole King. And if not, at least the ukelele would burn quite nicely.
This all came to me the other night while I was watching the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain in a sell-out concert at the Palace Theatre in London. The nine-strong orchestra - six men, three women playing nothing but a variety of acoustic ukeleles - are improbable global superstars: they've just returned from a tour of America, they're massive in Germany and have even appeared at the Polar Jazz Festival. To the aficionados, their attraction is hardly surprising, as they provide an astounding evening of entertainment with their inventive, witty and highly polished versions of modern pop songs.
I was sitting next to two grey-haired old ladies - the demographic of the audience is more hip replacement than hip - and at one stage I saw that they were joining in with the orchestra's interpretation of the Sex Pistols. “I...want to be...anarchy,” they sang, the world's most unlikely anarchists providing a perfect example of the subversive influence of the Ukelele Orchestra. It is indeed an appealing instrument which, in the right hands, has the power to amuse in a way that no other instrument can. Alone on a desert island, I'd entertain myself, while plotting a return to normal life as a member of the Ukelele Orchestra. Well, that's the dream...