As a person who has actually been stranded on a desert island, I think I am qualified to write about this.
Have you ever been asked to name a book you could take with you if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island?
Granted, this makes a lot more sense than choosing a piece of music to help pass away those lonely hours alone. Even if you were lucky enough to be washed ashore with a CD player, power points tend to be very rare on desert islands.
So books do make more sense. But not much more sense in my view.
My wife, Katherine, was asked the question only the other day and, after some laboured consideration, decided that she would take along Samuel Pepys’ Diary.
Hmm, interesting choice.
For nearly 10 years from 1660 Pepys wrote about his experiences each day, recounting his own private life, his professional rise through the ranks and important events of the day such as The Great Fire and the Plague in London.
That’s a lot of reading. I imagine you could happily pass away 10 years reading it all on a desert island.
Even the shorter Samuel Pepys’ Diary (which I hope Dr K means because I tend to be the chief cart horse around here and I don’t really want to carry all 11 volumes) is a very thick tome.
But I think I know what her motivation is.
Some years ago, Katherine and I really were stranded for three days on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It was our fault, really. It started out as our idea of a holiday. We were already living on an island and decided it would be nice to have a break alone on an even smaller island.
We were dropped off on an atoll by a boatman at the beginning of Easter 1995 with the promise we would be picked up three days later.
The island was lovely: a coconut-tree lined tropical gem in the middle of a sparkling blue sea.
It was the size of a football field and was ringed by white sandy beaches.
Any right-thinking person would have heard warning bells though when they heard that the island was part of a chain of islands at a place called Ant Atoll.
It was probably invested with man-eating ants, right?
It turned out to be infested by rats, which only came out of the coconut grove to greet us when the boat had gone.
They were big rats and I think they were man-eaters.
As the only man on the island I was particularly worried.
They nibbled at everything we had, including our mosquito coils which must have left them with a nasty case of indigestion.
And I am quite sure they would have eaten us too had we not spent three days swatting them away.
Let me tell you, it was very hard to get to sleep on the beach with rats scurrying around us all night while their hissing rat-mates devoured everything around our campsite nearby.
This, however, is where Samuel Pepys’ Diary would come in handy.
I imagine Katherine could give a rat a pretty good headache by bopping it with that heavy book.
Meanwhile, I could read my book, How To Make A Radio Transmitter Out Of Coconuts
Sigh. If only the rats hadn’t eaten every last coconut on the island …..
Copyright: John Martin, April 28, 2005, all rights reserved