Radio review: Michael Rosen's desert island memories

Nuala McCann

Desert Island Discs Michael Rosen

It's time for a little food for the soul. Seek out the poets on Desert Island Discs.

Seamus Heaney is there and so is Michael Rosen.

Rosen is currently recovering from Covid-19 – at one stage he was told that he had a 50/50 chance of recovery and that he might not wake up from an induced coma. He spent 47 days on a ventilator.

But this Desert Island Discs dates from 2006.

In it, he talks about his son Eddie's death at just 18 years of age.

He has written in a ruthlessly honest way about putting his hand on his dead son's chest and hearing the rustle of plastic ... put in after the pathologist's work.

He tells things as they are - no fibs.

Books and poetry were very much part of his childhood – he and his brother did a great skit on that strange recording of W B Yeats chanting The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

He also completed a year of medical school: “Six of us used our scalpels to find out what an old woman was made of,” is how he once described it.

He swapped to English from medicine and later teamed up with illustrator Quentin Blake for his books.

He won a place as a graduate at the BBC but was fired after a few years. He thought it was because he wasn't good at getting up in the mornings but 12 or 13 years later, an investigative journalist called to suggest that it was his politics.

There was a story about little Christmas trees appearing on people's files.

When he talks seriously about how his son died, it is heartbreaking.

Rosen thought Eddie had flu and gave him tablets and some water. The next day he went into his room at about 6am and found him dead.

“I thought I knew the symptoms of meningitis,” he said.

His book, “Carrying the elephant” addresses the elephant that is grief.

There is a joy in revisiting old Desert Island Discs and setting off on magical journeys when you're stuck at home.

Try this one with Rosen, his love of Irish and French music and his luxury item – Eddie's didgeridoo.

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