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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Thursday 14th February 2013

A sort-of Valentine to Julie Burchill

One of the downsides of getting older is witnessing your friends and acquaintances being honoured in various ways. I don’t just mean knighthoods and peerages, I also mind the little things – an entry in Who’s Who, for instance, or an honourary degree from a red brick university. It’s reached such a point that I daresay I’ll even feel a pang of envy when I see their obituaries in the Times. “That should be me taking up all those column inches, not them,” I’ll think, before realising what it is I’m wishing for.

So you can imagine how I felt when I heard that Julie Burchill was going to be on Desert Island Discs. Burchill! I’ve known her, on and off, since I was 19 when she moved in with Cosmo Landesman, my next-door neighbour. We became best friends and remained close until 1995 when we fell out over the Modern Review, a magazine we’d started together. There then followed a colossal bun fight and we didn’t speak for 10 years. But we’ve since patched things up and occasionally exchange friendly emails.

I tuned in, of course – mainly to hear what she had to say about me. Not a mention, if you can believe it. Nada. Then again, Landesman didn’t get a name check either and she was married to him for 10 years. She talked a lot about her present husband, by contrast. Half the show seemed to be about him. The other half was about her life long love affair with Judaism. She said the most fun she’s had in the last three years – when she hasn’t been with her husband, obviously – has been in Hebrew class.

But it was impossible to stay cross for long. Like her, I’m an ardent philo-Semite so I thoroughly approved of her choice of records: Exodus by Andy Williams, Hebrewman by Ehud Banai, the Israeli National Anthem, etc. She also came up with the best “luxury item” I think I’ve ever heard on Desert Island Discs – a still so she could turn all the pineapples and coconuts into alcohol. (To read more, click here.)

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