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Tuesday, 18th December 2007

Inspired by the long running radio series Desert Island Discs the format of this series is simplicity itself. The title is not Castaway cards please note. That would be an unfortunate thing for anyone to do.

The final decision was made as the most expensive movie in cinema history has been launched (although watching The Time Machine, one of my favourite movies of all time, had more than a bit to do with it). Unfortunately that particular ship sank in rather colder climes. At the time there were rumours of survivors having scrambled onto the iceberg but this was fanciful.

Fate has been rather kinder to you. Having been shipwrecked on an island of wonderful climate (I wish I was there now as the Northerly wind smashes the front of this house.)

You are the only person on the island that you know of and your stay is for an undetermined length of time.

As the ship was sinking you cared for nothing else than your prized collection of cigarette cards. In fact it was the greatest collection of cigarette cards the world had ever known with every known card represented. Trouble is you can only take five sets of cards from this most wonderful of collections.

I realise some of you would rather go down with the collection but this is not an option.

The format of the series is simple you get to write in with the five sets you would take to the desert island and the reason why this would be the case. Be as imaginative as you like, a brief introduction about yourself would be nice but not necessary.

The sets and the reason is totally up to you. Practical, personal or fanciful every set has a legitimate reason to be taken there.

Next month we begin in earnest so get your name up in lights and scribble in with your five sets of choose.

I look forward to reading all about them.

My Choice

start the series with my choice of five cards. There has to be some benefits to running the show afterall. I know there are some of you that would be pleased to hear I had been put on a desert island for a few years. Believe me there are more than a few days every month when I would agree with you. However, as yet, this seems like a remote possibility.

Enough daydreaming.

I am going to assume I do not need any more introduction than already exists on this site. At least I have written as much about myself as I am willing to or perhaps you can bear.

Gallaher, Robinson Crusoe [1928]

My island has a temperate climate, I've geared it so it rains at night, so it does not interfere with my waking hours unless I want it to. Other than this it is pretty much like any other deserted desert island.

My first choice of set would be the absolute classic for all island dwellers, Gallaher, Robinson Crusoe [1928]. Happily this is a series of 100 cards which has our hero Crusoe surviving all the perils you can imagine. The original book being a dramatised story by Daniel Defoe (whose life story is well worth looking up if you get a moment) about the British sailor Alexander Selkirk.. If you look carefully you will see that one of these cards adornes the title banner from this series. If you cannot make it out our hero is tying himself into a tree in preperation for sleeping the might

Self-explanatory I need not say more on this set.

The next set is a bit more difficult. As long as my food has clear labels on it I know what I am doing. If I landed on an island with bananas and coconuts then all would be fine but beyond that, or perhaps in the spirit of changing my diet I might like to know what other things were on the menu. For this reason I would like to take a set of cards informing of all things botanical Obviously no set could cover all things I would like to know so lets just plump for Gallaher, Plants of Commercial Value [1917]. Again a Gallaher set and 100 in it (I am going for bulk here.) Okay I know commercial value might well not be edible but please allow me a bit of artistic licence.

So within two sets I have things pretty well sorted on a basic level. Afterall I have Robinson Crusoe as a guide and I am making a business out of the local fauna and flora.

Players, Those Pearls of Heaven [1916]

Before I moved to the bright lights of a small community I spent a bit of time out in the sticks where street lighting was the torch you held in your hand getting from the pub back to your house. It was an amazing experience, it was like walking about with the roof off the planet. The sense of space is absolutely immense and the stars, well the stars are like dust (thanks Asimov, I know you got there first with that one.) I am a bit of a stargazer, or at least I was in those days (remember I was coming back from the pub). Nowadays the street lamps ensure the moon is something of a find. Well no street lighting or distractions would mean I could get back into the habit and Players, Those Pearls of Heaven [1916] a series of 25 cards would be an ideal companion for this hobby. In case you are wondering it does not rain all night on my island.

My fourth set is even more personal. On various pages on this website I have told you this fact and I am going to tell you again. It took me at least four years to complete a set of Gallaher, My Favourite Part a series of 48 cards, those were the days. I bought many many thousands of cards in that period but still did not complete that set. It did more to fire up my desire to collect cards than any other set I have ever had. It is not the oldest, it is not the most expensive (indeed it is one of the more 'aggressively' priced sets) and in fact it cannot be described as the most artistically pleasing. It is a well informed set showing some of the greatness cinema stars of the time but nothing is more important than the fact I probably started this entire business because of it.

There is the added bonus this set has one of the greatest of howlers on it. Wallace Beery says his favourite part was in North-West Passage. Quite how this could be the case is difficult to imagine, he was never in it.
Film Stars

Gallaher, My Favourite Part

There always has to be a last set. Imagine now the warm waters of my desert island are swilling about my waist as the boat settles towards its watery resting place and I have to decide what the final set of cards is going to be from that fabulous collection.

Reviewing the situation I am amazed to discover there are three sets of Gallaher cards in my series of four so far. I have covered most bases, survival, education and sheer self indulgence. They do not represent the most expensive sets by a long chalk but that is always the way. How we chuckle at the evil-doer in the film that is left sprawling on the floor filling his pockets with gold as the ship sinks. We all know this wealth is no more than ballast sending him to a watery grave. The last set that is a tricky one, it feels so final. I have to make a choice.

Players, Country Arms and Seats (shown quarter size)

Not to tricky as it goes, Players, Country Arms and Sets, the full monty though, 3 sets of 50. 150 cards, count 'em.
The amount of information on these cards is significant and in the event of getting homesick for 'Blighty' I would be able to examine these cards at my leisure. Each card has a scene of little England on it. Our Stately Homes and the parklands about them just the bits of the UK which make you wish you were back there.

So what did not make it? A large pile of unsorted Guinea Golds and Tabs cards. Anyone who has these cards will know why they have not been sorted <g>. I was hoping that the isolation of the cruise would give me enough patience (perhaps I could employ Zen monks in future for the sorting.) and knowledge enough for me to finally sort out this bundle of cards. However the thought of dragging this bundle of cards to the desert island was to much and I cheerfully hurled them over the side.

So there are my five sets of cards. No real value to them, Taddys, Clowns and Circus Artistes and Wm Clarkes, Tobacco Girls have been consigned to a watery grave which is something I am not happy about but if I had wanted I could have saved them. No cards depicting sport, although I expect there would have been some cricketers and footballers in the Guinea Golds (if only I knew which ones they were.) A pretty utilitarian set of cards, although there does seem to be premium on card quantity.