Doodles in the margin from an artist living and working in the Scottish Borders.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Heart of Darkness, with a Snooker Table.

It's often said that the BBC displays a left-leaning bias.

Not true.

The heart of the BBC leans not left, not even right, but beyond both to some nightmare ethos of victimisation before which even Kafka would have paled. I mean, of course, Desert Island Discs.

This cosy institution, one of the pillars of Radio 4, hides behind its chintzy familiarity a sickening world where the individual is persecuted with a devious thoroughness unknown even to those regimes who chucked citizens out of helicopters.

The premise behind the show is that the BBC gets hold of a celebrity - by kidnap, presumably - and maroons them on a desert island. A bloody desert island. Wrenched, like hair pulled out by the roots, from their friends and family, and stranded on some godforsaken atoll with nothing but mangroves, coral and wild monkeys for company. 'How do you think you'd cope?' leers the presenter. 'Would you live? Would you sit weeping on the shore for the loss of all those dear to you? Which do you think would get you first, the loneliness, starvation, or simply thirst? Would you stage a bitter struggle for survival for which your effete urban life - unless you're Ray Mears - has miserably ill-equipped you, or would you simply one day just walk into the surf? Let's have your next record.'

The records. Records. You know it's not a CD player, it's not even a big silver hifi with giant wooden speakers like Other People's Parents had. There's no electricity. It's a hand-wound gramophone with a big horn. You're going to be mad as Klaus Kinsky, serenading the savage tribes and their implacable jungle with Caruso, but without the company, or the white suit.

Lifelong agnostics are mocked by a present of the Bible. Sportswomen whose childhoods are a best-forgotten boredom, spent trapped in a wooden cube of stuffy dreariness filled with the bluebottle drone of teachers and the impenetrable shrapnel rain of pentameter while outside the freedom of the track simmers under the sun - they get the complete works of Shakespeare.

One luxury object: it can be of no practical use. You cannot signal with it, shelter under it, set fire to it, set sail on it or suck some kind of sustenance from the glue holding the fretboard to the body. It can only serve as a stiletto-sharp reminder of everything you have left behind.

And then, as the victim, having related their whole life, meaningful, trite, eventful, scarred, triumphant as it was, now sees it has all shrunk to this point of abandonment and void on some coral speck in the blank blue universe of the Pacific; then, they engineer a wave and take all of your records away. Except one.

One record.

One record to play over and over, sitting bereft on the scorching white sands, listlessly cranking the handle of your Victrola as your sanity floats away like a paper boat, ultimately believing yourself King of the Monkeys with your crown of seaweed and a coconut orb, to the sound of Deep Purple's 'Black Night,' another fragile soul taken and crushed.

And join us next week, when the black Cadillac comes creeping for Gary Lineker.

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