Nine unique luxury items on Desert Island Discs

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Desert Island Discs celebrates its 75th anniversary this week, having first aired on 29 January 1942 when original host Roy Plomley interviewed popular Viennese comedian, actor and musician, Vic Oliver.

Originally a Forces Programme, its peek into the private lives of public figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment and everything in between has proven irresistible to Radio 4 listeners.

The host’s chair has since been inhabited by Michael Parkinson, Sue Lawley and the current incumbent, Kirsty Young, who will be talking to one of Britain’s modern brand of National Treasures, David Beckham, in its regular slot at 11.15am on Sunday.

Since this is a man who can buy anything he wants, I’m curious about his choice of luxury item.

Will he follow the majority of guests and opt for the usual home comforts, art or writing materials, musical instruments, sports equipment, a desire to learn new languages or astronomy  – or will he surprise us, and decide on something utterly unique like these previous guests:

TV Presenter Julian Clary wanted an all purpose prosthetic arm. Having seen a sound man with one that had a multi purpose tool instead of a hand, he believes it would be very useful for cracking open shellfish and peeling the bark off trees, while the glint off it might attract a passing ship to rescue him.

Journalist Virginia Ironside chose to take an enormous bag of plaster. Having dabbled with sculpture, she’d make the heads of all her friends and dot them around the island like an art installation, and be forever surrounded by the people she loves.

Actor Maureen Lipman would take a parking meter with a year’s supply of tickets (but didn’t actually say why) and a gypsy caravan with a wooden floor to tap dance on until rescue.

A life sized laminated picture of the “adorable” and “deeply attractive” James Caan from Dragon’s Den would be actor and director Kathy Burke’s choice – to body surf on!

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Comedian turned actor Hugh Laurie is someone you might want to avoid upon his return – he wants two sets of throwing knives so he can come home with an uncanny skill: “being able to knock the piv out of the Ace of Spades at 20 paces would be a great thing”!

It’s lovely to know that the Pythons are so close still. John Cleese wanted to take Michael Palin but wasn’t allowed because he’s animate. You could have him stuffed, advised host Sue Lawley. “That’ll do,” replied John.

Captain Jacques Costeau, the conservationist and oceanographer who co-invented the aqua-lung with engineer Emille Gagnan, wanted something he could touch all day long, choosing the stone from the stomach of a fossilised dinosaur he’d once been gifted.

High wire walker Philippe Petit felt his ‘Mysterious Object’ would force him to keep thinking while marooned on the island. It was found in a barn when he was a child, and his father tried without success to get it identified by tool manufacturers and other trades across different continents. It’s wooden and looks like an artillery shell, about 20cm tall. Inside, it has two rows of sharp teeth, suggesting some kind of trap. But they only fit together when the object is closed. Any ideas? 

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It’s Lego all the way for actor Hugh Bonneville. An enormous pile has been accumulating in his den for the past decade, which he built and then foolishly dismantled. He has the instruction leaflets though, and will rebuild the lot. He also had a practical use for it – struts for all the sand tunnels he’s going to build! Is there a Lego Downton Abbey? There should be, shouldn’t there? 

I’m completely predictable – writing materials all the way for me!

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14 Things You Didn’t Know About Milton Keynes

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The Milton Keynes Cows in the town centre

‘New Town’ Milton Keynes isn’t so new anymore – it’s 50 years old today! It was formally designated a new town by the government on 23rd January 1957 and is famous for its roundabouts. But it must have more going for it than that, surely?

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Enigma code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, is situated in the area, and is credited with shortening World War II by between 2-4 years. Alan Turing, whose story is told in The Imitation Game, was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code while at Bletchley, working alongside other mathematicians, chess champions, linguists and crossword experts to crack transmissions made by the Axis powers.

An Enigma machine at Bletchley Park

Bletchley hosts the National Museum of Computing. It opened in 2007 and houses Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and offers the opportunity to revisit all those old games in the PC Gallery.

The government intends to open a cyber-security college at Bletchley in 2018, for which students would be selected due to their aptitude (see above criteria) and include coders and computer programmers rather than academic achievers.

Who’s who?

Reigning Ping Pong World Champion, Olympian and winner of Britain’s most table tennis medals in the Commonwealth Games, Andrew Baggaley was born and raised in the town. His mum began playing table tennis with him in their back garden and he hasn’t looked back. He will be defending his title this week at Alexandra Palace.

Arguably Britain’s most famous television Geordie, actor Kevin Whatley – a star of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Morse and of course his own spin off, Lewis – has made the Woburn Sands area his home.

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Kevin Whately as Inspector Lewis in Oxford, August 2015.

Award winning horror writer Sarah Pinborough aka children’s fantasy author Sarah Silverwood, was born in the town and has written a series of spinoff novels based on the shared Torchwood/Dr Who universe.

Where to go and what to see:

The town’s most iconic attraction is cows! Concrete Cows, to be exact, a sculpture created by Canadian artist Liz Leyh in 1978 from materials donated by a local builder. Comprising three cows and three calves, all half life size, they reside in the Milton Keynes museum, while Bill Billings’ more famous replicas are situated on the A422 Monks Way.

Making the most of the area’s connection with covert activities, Si5 Spy Missions and Room Escape give an opportunity to think like the cryptologists of the past. Can you pass muster?

The National Bowl is the town’s major entertainment venue, playing host to any and everyone from the late David Bowie to the Foo Fighters. Formerly a clay pit, it’s an open grassed area in the form of an amphitheatre which holds 65,000 people unseated, but is the subject of constant speculation about its future.

The Bounce Trampoline Park was the first of its kind in the UK. Forget spotters, this is wall to wall trampolines where you can play with your mates or all the family, engage in dodgeball or dive around in foam pits!

Wimbledon FC moved from south London to MK when it became apparent their home ground at Plough Lane wouldn’t allow them to keep growing. They eventually changed their name to MK Dons, and  enjoyed a second round Capital One Cup victory over Manchester United in 2014, beating the self styled Biggest Club in the World 4-0!

The Buddhist Peace Pagoda – erected in 1980 in Willen Lake – was the first Buddhist stupa built in the western hemisphere.

Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda

There is evidence of human settlements as far back as 2000BC, with the Milton Keynes Hoard, a valuable bronze age find, now housed in the British Museum

Fears that this new town would be a concrete jungle proved unfounded – there are three ancient woodlands, 4000 acres of parks, 400 acres of lakes and at least 20 million trees. The Parks Trust, an independent body, is pledged to prevent building on any of the park lands, a power bestowed upon them by the departing development corporation.

50th anniversary celebrations are taking place throughout the first part of the year, including this weekend – find out more here.

Image credits:

Cows

Enigma Machine

Kevin Whatley

Peace Pagoda

7 Reasons Women Feel Guilty But Shouldn’t

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We beat ourselves up, us ladies, especially those in the transition phase between the olden days (know your place, accept inequality, do your duty to your husband) and these days where having a man is not the be all and end all of our lives and we are completely in charge of our own destiny.

So here are some common reasons women feel guilty – and why we shouldn’t.

Housework: If, like many women, you’re juggling being a wife, mother and worker, the housework could well be your main source of guilt. In which case, identify the tasks that need to be done most, i.e. those that will soon pile up and cause more guilt (you’ve no clean knickers; school shirts aren’t ironed) as opposed to those the family likely won’t even notice (i.e. dusting). And draw up a chore rota – the rest of the family can get involved and do their bit too – it’s not just your job these days.

Taking sick days : If you’re genuinely ill, you’re doing neither yourself nor your employer any favours by struggling in. If you’re not performing at 100%, and if you’re in a sales job, for example, wouldn’t it be better for a colleague at full strength to close that sale than you struggle your way through it, potentially losing the client?

Motherhood: Damned if we do, damned if we don’t, right? Every woman has to find their own way when it comes to parenting. Sure, they give you parenting books but reality doesn’t come neatly packaged. While there are some obvious do’s and don’ts, every child will respond differently. Read the advice, listen to other mums, check things out with health professionals then do what works best for you and your child – and don’t believe everything the playground mafia tell you about their perfect lives and children.

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Breastfeeding: The mothers who breastfeed and do so where and when required are very vocal (quite rightly), along with midwives and other health professionals about the benefits of breastfeeding. But if you don’t want to breastfeed in public, then don’t. And if you don’t want to breastfeed at all, then that’s fine too.

Feminism: Let’s get this clear right from the off – being a feminist does not mean you hate men. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s recognising that for all members of a society to feel valued, they should have an equal say in how their society runs, and not be subject to discrimination.

Caring: You have a job, children, a husband and elderly parents and you’re feeling split between them all because there aren’t enough hours in the day. Hang on, haven’t you forgotten someone? Oh, yes – YOU! Think for a moment how any of them would cope if anything happened to you? So don’t feel guilty for that little bit of me time you take: you need to recharge your batteries and if that means reading a book in the bath in the company of an overflowing laundry basket, so be it.

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Body image. Thankfully, the messages these days is about being healthy, as opposed to being thin, curvy, hipless or with cheekbones to die for. Being obese is not healthy, neither is being stick thin. Wean yourself away from the unhealthy images – if you want a glossy magazine to read, with practical lifestyle features and interesting content about interesting people, pick up the Radio Times – where said featured people come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

Take control of your life and don’t apologise for doing so – it’s as valuable as everyone else’s.