The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius

42 Welcome To The Clearing: Timandra Harkness - Writer, BBC R4 Broadcaster & Goat Borrower!

February 18, 2021 Chris Grimes - Facilitator. Coach. Motivational Comedian
42 Welcome To The Clearing: Timandra Harkness - Writer, BBC R4 Broadcaster & Goat Borrower!
The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius
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The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius
42 Welcome To The Clearing: Timandra Harkness - Writer, BBC R4 Broadcaster & Goat Borrower!
Feb 18, 2021
Chris Grimes - Facilitator. Coach. Motivational Comedian

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Welcome to another Episode of "The Good Listening To Podcast" with me Chris Grimes!

And please welcome to the GLT "Clearing" today, Timandra Harkness: Writer, BBC R4 Broadcaster & Presenter, Lapsed Comedian & Goat Borrower! 

("Goat Borrower?!" All will be explained!)

Timandra is BBC Radio 4 Author & Presenter of many series - including currently "Steelmanning" and Timandra continues on an energetic life quest - ingrained from an early age - of always questioning "WHY?"

Inspired too by Lucien Freud's Mantra: " Astonish - Disturb - Seduce - Convince "

Timandra and I have HISTORY!  We go way back! Starting with (but not only!) being Comedy Improvisers together in the Bristol based and highly acclaimed Comedy Improvisation Company, INSTANT WIT.

A lovely conversation with many highlights - including Philosophy, Micro-Lite Flying, Icarus, Motorbikes, Trapeze, Windows of Opportunity, Ginger Cake & more!

In Timandra's own words:

"I present BBC Radio 4 documentaries including Divided Nation and the Future Proofing series. Five Knots is back on BBC Radio 4 in January 2021, followed by new series Steelmanning.

Since winning the Independent newspaper's column-writing competition (this is where the "Goat Borrowing" comes in!) I've written for many print and online publications, including BBC Science Focus and Unherd.

My book, Big Data: Size Does Matter was published by Bloomsbury Sigma in June 2016. 

I am a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, and a member of their Data Ethics and Governance section. 

In my spare time I enjoy opera, motorcycles, and talking to strangers".

See also 


A "GLT with me CG!"

The Podcast series that features "The Clearing":  Where all good Questions come to be asked and all good Stories come to be told!

With some lovely juicy storytelling metaphors to also enjoy along the way:

The Clearing itself - A Tree (where we get to "shake your tree to see which storytelling apples fall out, in the form of a lovely storytelling exercise called "5-4-3-2-1") - some Alchemy - some Gold - and finally a Cake with a Cherry on Top!

Think "Desert Island Discs" but in a Clearing! 

Also think about William Shakespeare - and about Jaques in "As You Like It" in particular:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages..."

Jaques: Act II Scene VII

And as my Guest in the Podcast:  Now is your 'moment in the sunshine' to share your story!

Who are you? What's your story? And what 'life-lessons-learned-along-the-way' would you like to share with us? An

Tune in next week for more stories of 'Distinction & Genius' from The Good Listening To Show 'Clearing'. If you would like to be my Guest too then you can find out HOW via the different 'series strands' at 'The Good Listening To Show' website.

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW wherever you get your Podcasts :)

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Welcome to another Episode of "The Good Listening To Podcast" with me Chris Grimes!

And please welcome to the GLT "Clearing" today, Timandra Harkness: Writer, BBC R4 Broadcaster & Presenter, Lapsed Comedian & Goat Borrower! 

("Goat Borrower?!" All will be explained!)

Timandra is BBC Radio 4 Author & Presenter of many series - including currently "Steelmanning" and Timandra continues on an energetic life quest - ingrained from an early age - of always questioning "WHY?"

Inspired too by Lucien Freud's Mantra: " Astonish - Disturb - Seduce - Convince "

Timandra and I have HISTORY!  We go way back! Starting with (but not only!) being Comedy Improvisers together in the Bristol based and highly acclaimed Comedy Improvisation Company, INSTANT WIT.

A lovely conversation with many highlights - including Philosophy, Micro-Lite Flying, Icarus, Motorbikes, Trapeze, Windows of Opportunity, Ginger Cake & more!

In Timandra's own words:

"I present BBC Radio 4 documentaries including Divided Nation and the Future Proofing series. Five Knots is back on BBC Radio 4 in January 2021, followed by new series Steelmanning.

Since winning the Independent newspaper's column-writing competition (this is where the "Goat Borrowing" comes in!) I've written for many print and online publications, including BBC Science Focus and Unherd.

My book, Big Data: Size Does Matter was published by Bloomsbury Sigma in June 2016. 

I am a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, and a member of their Data Ethics and Governance section. 

In my spare time I enjoy opera, motorcycles, and talking to strangers".

See also 


A "GLT with me CG!"

The Podcast series that features "The Clearing":  Where all good Questions come to be asked and all good Stories come to be told!

With some lovely juicy storytelling metaphors to also enjoy along the way:

The Clearing itself - A Tree (where we get to "shake your tree to see which storytelling apples fall out, in the form of a lovely storytelling exercise called "5-4-3-2-1") - some Alchemy - some Gold - and finally a Cake with a Cherry on Top!

Think "Desert Island Discs" but in a Clearing! 

Also think about William Shakespeare - and about Jaques in "As You Like It" in particular:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages..."

Jaques: Act II Scene VII

And as my Guest in the Podcast:  Now is your 'moment in the sunshine' to share your story!

Who are you? What's your story? And what 'life-lessons-learned-along-the-way' would you like to share with us? An

Tune in next week for more stories of 'Distinction & Genius' from The Good Listening To Show 'Clearing'. If you would like to be my Guest too then you can find out HOW via the different 'series strands' at 'The Good Listening To Show' website.

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW wherever you get your Podcasts :)

Thanks for listening!

GLT 43 Timandra Harkness - Writer Broadcaster & Lapsed Comed...

Fri, 2/12 4:02PM • 1:07:13


harkness, people, microlight, point, bit, lovely, dog, called, borrowed, goat, question, clearing, life, manning, comedy, remember, film, punt, nudging, nice






Yes, now shut your face cuz I'm about to start.



So yes, welcome to the good listening to podcast with me Chris Grimes, the podcast series that brings you the clearing. We're all good questions come to be asked. And all good stories come to be told. And I've got a gorgeous, lovely lady who's beautiful storyteller. She's Timandra Harkness, presenter, writer, and lapsed comedian, the comedian in me when I saw that on your website is lucky. We're not a prolapse comedian. That could be more me. But yes, and we've got history because Timandra Harkness we go way back then we, we do yeah. And I was actually I was going to mention that at some point, but But yeah, that's why it's such a delight to be here with you. And it's kind of a different context. And also of course, you know, bonus of worldwide plague is I get to have my lovely attic.



The bonus of my home studio. Well thank you for salute It is my it's my bedroom, wedged against a Velux window but Bless you. But yes, the joys and virtues of the pandemic is that we all get to see each other's attic rooms.



So welcome to my attic. I'm going to show you my etchings



to talk you into my attic. So the history we have is we work comedy improvisation performance through instant wit, which has been going for 25 odd years. embarrassingly, crucially, we go way back when but we've got history before that even because you went to college boomerscollege with my wife Jeannie. That's true, I'd forgotten that. And



coming full circle, you're on radio for a lot. And guess what, I've got a radio. It's uncanny. So we've just got connections that are just going to be meant to be on this podcast. Now my job First of all, is to just blow bit of smoke at you as to why I've decided to welcome you to the clearing. And you are indeed very welcome, is you've done all sorts of wonderful bits of broadcasting. Steel Manning is your current BBC series. And I was really intrigued by that. And in fact, I was googling today just to remind myself, I'd love you to tell me what the derivation of all the listeners what the derivation of steel Manning is. So hold that thought. But you've done stand up comedy as well. And you did a wonderfully appealing show your days are numbered the maths of death. I remember. improvising with you when you were talking about about to take that show up to Edinburgh. So you say you're all over broadcasting. And also you won your first ever laptop, in many stories we can explore when you want a columnist competition about goat borrowing, which we've all done.



Indeed, yeah, that was that was how I kind of got into journalism really, that you have to pay like a library to pay a lot if you you're like returning the goat. Well, that was the story was, and this is why I won. It was the Independent newspaper did a column writing competition and you want a laptop and this is back when laptops were like, wow, okay, smaller than a truck.



I had done. And they gave you headlines because it was sponsored by NES cafe. So they gave you titles, and they were all slogans to do Nescafe. And this and the one I chose was if you want something mild and mellow, just drink the milk. And it was a kind of half remember story of my childhood when I lived in the country. And we went out and is one of the things that I'm not even sure how well I remember it because it was quite muddled at the time. And then it got more muddled later. But basically, we went off down to the bottom of the valley, and we borrowed this goat and we brought the goat on a string basically backup the windy lane to where we live needed to find milk Did you What was that? Well, I don't know. I mean this The thing is, I actually still have no clue why we borrowed it, but I just remember that. That is me and my mum and my dad, bringing this goat back up the lane. I don't know how much dealing you've had with goats, but if they don't want to do something, they can be quite stubborn. I mean, like normal people have done scrumping, but I've not done it. I've not borrowed a goat.



While it was anyway didn't want to come up the line. It was all quite pallava I think that at one point I fell over and it knelt on me. But then afterwards My dad said no, that was a different time. And that was a donkey. Oh, so I may be bottling up anyway, I remember the whole thing was absolute pallava. And we and we got it back to the yard. And I'm heading after all this which was quite traumatic as I was about seven I think, or six and



and then it was like okay, well we leave it tied up and then we have to milk it. Like Whoa. And then in the morning it was untied and it had gone back home.



We never got to melt it. I think if I understand your father correctly, what I'm interpreting in this story is your father's going for a very long quest to teach you about the word Menagerie. So each holiday is a different animal that you add to your Menagerie. So today



we're borrowing and go last year is you remember Timandra if you're listening was a donkey, and so on.



No, I definitely borrowed the donkey. I think that was a, I think that was a lie in the fact that I love the grace. In fact, I'm only borrowing it. It's okay. We're not. We're just borrowing it. No, no, it was it was like we had neighbors it goes, because my dad actually also told, I don't know if it's the same neighbors, but my dad later told this great story about because he was like, it was new Stroud, everyone was hippies. Everyone had goats and things. And my dad saw one of the neighbors that had goats across a supermarket. And added like to check out a long way down, and so shout across Oh, hi. Hi. How you doing? Hi, fine. Uh, hi, how the kids? Oh, one of them died. Oh, no worries in the freezer.



Oh, meaning the baby goats, obviously. Oh, we hope he knew that. She knew that the rest of the supermarket didn't know that. So caused a big stir, apparently. Yes. Now



a lovely long, rambling Menagerie fueled introduction. So Timandra Harkness. Welcome to the construct of the good listening to podcast, where as I've mentioned, I'm bringing you to a place called the clearing which is the place I'm really enjoying curating where we're going to first of all ask you in a moment what your clearing is. And then we've got some lovely storytelling metaphors to bounce along and Johnny fi along the way, so that Timandra Harkness presented writer and lapsed not prolapsed comedian just to qualify What is it clearing? like for you? Where do you go in your wonderful joy of travel? You know, what's a clearing like the you know, it's clear my mind. Um, I actually I do find travel in general helps me clear my mind because I think it gets you away from the distractions, the everyday worries, obviously, currently, that's that's kind of tricky. But on a day to day basis, I'm really lucky. I live quite near the river in southeast London and quite a long way east. So it's becoming quite a large estuary, and it's very tidal. So I think it's probably the nearest thing you can get to living by the sea while living in London. I like to go down and walk along by the river, which is very close to my house. And you'd kind of look out across there's some combination of water and mud, depending on what the tide is doing at that point. And there's this is a very scenic Tate and Lyle factory, across the river at one point, let's golden syrup, isn't it? Yes, it is. Yeah, I love them. And until I can gaze across at that, which is surprisingly, aesthetically pleasing for an old to the factory, and and watch the seagulls who are very ascetically pleasing for an old sugar factory.



That's a nice thing. Anyone said to me all day. You're very welcome. bizarrely enough, I picked up a tin and we're not sponsored by technology at all, but I picked up a tin of that very same stuff because I was trying to I just was salad. I needed a ginger cake.



I was trying to make one. Now I must have done it yet. But I've got the Tate and Lyle in the bank. I see if we were doing this in person you could have made indicate we could have some Yes. So sorry. I interrupted you. Are you so you're at this beautiful s3? No. Yeah, no. So basically, so I like to walk around the river and look at the water in the sky. Because I think that's one of the things you get by living near water is you get a bonus sky because they can't put any buildings closer to you than the other side of the river. And by the way, knowing you as I do, bizarrely, whenever I see a microlight in the sky, I think of you because you you do do that, don't you? I did. I haven't. For years, I became a bit upset. I tried flying a microlight back when I used to do a lot of travel journalism, and went off and it was like a week's holiday start learning to fly microlight. And I was thinking, well, I don't know this looks kind of because he's basically like a hang glider with a sidecar.



In a great big, a great big engine with a propeller on the back. That's basically what it is. Or you can get slightly more sophisticated things which are just like very, very tiny airplanes. But I ended up in the microlight one. And I just, I tried it once I was completely hooked because it's like, it's like, you get on a scooter and you ride a scooter. And then the next thing you know, you're 1000 feet in the air is your motorcyclist as well, obviously. Yes. Yeah. And I think that was that was part of the appeal. Oddly enough, actually, the guy that started teaching me was also into motorbikes.



There's a lovely



segue there, and I'm not going to talk about segway. I've no idea. I've never been on a Segway. I don't know if you have and that's not where I'm going. But but the sort of sidecar iconic type of helmet stereotypically one would could wear you can just make that perfect for a microlight as well, I'm sure. Absolutely. Yeah, totally. I mean, you need a bit more.



There's no point really in wearing the kind of leathers and boots particularly because if you fall 1000 feet, then that's not going to do much for you, but but it does get really cold up there. So it's kind of similar. It's more about what



Then abrasion, but yeah, bridge, similar gear. Yeah. But it's just very interesting how you're the only person I know who's been in one. So every time I see one, I think of you. And that's happened over the years that I obviously have known of you quite a few times. So it's just quite nice to have a, just something in the sky, we go out been lucky, you've not done an Icarus and sort of crashed in the background or anything. I didn't recommend it. And the reason I stopped was that I never seem to have the time and the money and the weather all at once. Either either I had the time, but because I wasn't working in any money, or I had the money, but there's because I was working all the time. Or I had both the time and the money and the weather was against me, because they're very, they're very weather dependent. But I do recommend if anyone's kind of going, Oh, I wonder if I should try that. You should.



Well done for trailblazing.



Yes. So we're in your clearing now. And and I've sidetracked you with the sky or Oh, yeah.



I think we're down by the river. And I'm gonna ride with a tree now in your clearing, and I'm going to shake your tree. And this is where your storytelling apples fall out in the construct of the 54321 exercise, where you've had five minutes Timandra Harkness, not prolapsed laps.



You're not lapsed at all, by the way? Because everything you do has great humor coursing through it, obviously. And so yes, it's five things. So five minutes to thought about four things that have shaped you three things that inspire you to things that never failed to grab your attention, hawks, squirrels, and then one quirky or unusual fact about you, we couldn't also know until you tell us so over to you to interpret the tree shaking, please. Okay, well, I did literally spend five minutes preparing this and have written some notes a small piece of paper.



So okay, for things that shaped me, well, I'm going to start with my parents actually, I was thinking about. And I think the most revealing thing about my parents making me who I am, is that my primary school teacher apparently asked them one parents evening, when you asked him to do something, do you always tell her why you wanted to do it? And they went? Well, we do try to Yes, we think that's very important. And she said, Yeah, I thought so. Because she won't do anything unless I tell her why.



Which makes complete sense demand, which is why your dad borrowed the donkey that day,



either. Yeah. So it's all for bigger picture now. And indeed, on the one hand, I look back and I think, yeah, that must have been really annoying for all my teachers and practically every other adult in my life, because I do slightly remember being that kid, it was always like, why, and I wasn't doing it just to be awkward. It was that I genuinely, I wanted to know why. I like to have the reason to think my parents would always indulge that or even encouraged it. But as an adult, I think it's really comes in handy. I think it's a very good instinct to have



that that's so so sad. That so so so informs your career now in documentary filmmaking, because your documentary program making sorry, because you're just constantly out there, asking the big why's basically, absolutely, I mean, I actually I have kind of slightly tongue in cheek, I've made it myself up some business cards that say, the Bureau of awkward questions, because I Yeah, exactly. So I think that very much has made me who I am and me as many other things they have done for me, and my dad still does, again. But I think that encouraging me to ask questions, and to ask why we're doing something is really good.



And then the next thing actually, is that you mentioned blue, most colleagues, I've hit the course I did that. So I studied film and drama with art and art history. It was a course that let you combine two subjects. And at the time,



I think I mean, I I chose it. I think just the person that interviewed me kind of



as the themes emerging here. He explains to me why they structured the course the way they did, because he asked me we had this very nice interview, and he said, and he looked down at my former went, well, I think you'll probably get offered some other places. So what do you think about our course? And I said, Well, I like some things about it. But it's



it starts everything in the core seems to start in about the 19th century. It's film and theater and I actually I'm really interested in earlier theater, Greek theater, Shakespeare and so on. And so I think I've missed that and he said, Well, the reason we do that is because we want to be able to look at film and theater side by side and so on and so he kind of explained why so



I don't know that just now that that. Did you say steel man theater then? Did you say that? Did I make Did I hear that reading? No, no, that was you must have no ancient Greek theater and I just thought I just suddenly thought there might be a golden nugget of the word steel Manning which is coursing through I know we will come to that later though. Sorry. I wasn't trying to



But But no, it's just it was even though it was a small college of higher education, I mean, the particular course the film and drama course as No, take your, your JD has told you was very well respected in the field. And you know, and if you said to people in film studies or whatever, oh, yes, I went to Bush, they would go Oh, and the reason for that is that it was very thoughtfully structured, and really rigorous. And I never appreciated that at the time, because obviously, you go to college, and you just assume this is what college is like, and that people can't let you make arguments without justifying them. And that you, you take in a range not only have different periods and different plays in different films, but also a range of different critical approaches to them. And then you go, Okay, well, is this the best approach to take tothis particular director or to this type of theater? If not, why not? So very, you're questioning and rigorous. The thing I particularly remember is



that we were not allowed to use the word realism until the final year, when we did an entire term studying realism. And if we tried to use it before that if we tried to say, Oh, this 19th century players were realistic, they would say that word because you don't know what it means. Oh, I don't use it until we do the realism course. Wow. I know. Exactly. So that's the kind of rigor that you know, I just assumed that all higher education courses had that. Yeah. And then afterwards, I talked to other people who went to sometimes quite prestigious universities. And they went, Oh, we did a bit of this. And we did a bit of that. And we just did so. And I would ask them some question and they just look a bit blank. And I think No, I was I was really lucky there. Because again, it did kind of encouraged me in this habit of not taking things at face value and then in the journey to becoming you there's the the written the through line of your thread of your parents making you question why all the time? Why why even the interview why. So the percolation Timandra Harkness Hartman is brought to you by the word ye please.



Exactly, not the chromosome y but the



other word.



And then in perhaps a perhaps this is the other aspects of me that



I then I basically got pretty sidetracked I kind of had it my idea that was going to direct films. That was that was my idea, although I didn't really um, films and plays, but I didn't really do very much about it. I kind of slid around, ended up working in stage managing theater and doing lighting and some.



And then I got sidetracked into Circus by working with a director who just kept banging on about how he didn't fly to Peace Corps and how amazing it was, until I went, Okay. Well, I'll you know, I'll try it sounds great. And then I tried to get hooked. But I had no aptitude at all, I was the kid at that school, who was so bad at PE, that the student teachers would think I must be messing around because nobody could be that bad at.



And I still am to a great extent. If you throw a ball, I cannot catch it. It's just I have absolute zero aptitude for supporting any guys. So me trying to do flying trapeze was just like, the most ridiculous thing. And so what it taught me what I really wanted to because it's such it's such a hit. It's such it's so exciting, because you're like flying. Yeah, you become weightless, you'd become. Yeah, it's a wonderful feeling. And I just I had to plug away and plug away at it. And all the people I was learning with were kind of going on and joining flying trapeze troops and touring the world. And I'm still not allowed off the safety belts kind of thing. Because I'm a danger to myself and I stopped doing the Canon news for you.



Better probably, but but I really had to work at it to get anywhere at all. I had to work really hard. And I've got to be honest, I'm really lazy. And I'd gone through childhood only doing things that I could do quite easily. I can ask why. And this was the first thing I come across that I really wanted to do. But I really had no aptitude for. And I had to work at it and work at it and be very humble and go, everybody else is better at this than me. But I still want to do it. And even though in the end after several years of really, really trying to do two things. I just accepted that.



Every time I tried to do and the more I The more I was serious. The more I pointed my toes, the more everybody laughed, and I just went You know what, you're never going to be any good attribute thing. Just how many years of your life do you want to spend doing something you're never gonna be any good and whereas everything you tried to do seriously, people laugh at you. Just accept that comedy is where you're meant to be. So



So I walked away but but it was the first thing that taught me that sometimes you actually have to put the effort in and relying on your wits and that your native lock is. I loved what you just said about the more you tried to point your toes metaphorically the more people laughed. And that's probably the birth of the clowning, isn't it? Because that's where Caitlin, comedy happens at the point when you you will leave the cliff a bit.



Absolutely, yeah, totally. It was it was literally that it was literally, yeah, I really want to be the beautiful trapeze artists, pointing my toes doing very moving meaningful things. And as your idea that the more people laugh, okay, and you know what, that makes complete and profound sense in what I know about you, but also in instant work that we did do together. That's what's so brilliant about a particular format, where you, you, you ask the audience for a really, really somber, heavy social issue, and then you you interpret it and answer it using the gift of dance. That's right. We're delightfully crap because we don't dance. But the more seriously you take it, the funnier it is. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And that is the origins really of where I got into comedy. So I did the clowning, I just totally went, Okay, well, I'll still pursue this as well just accept that clowning is, is where I'm at. And then yeah, and then I came along to an audition. You instant went and met you and I, and



I still remember the song that I think got me into the group, which was I was given the the challenge of doing a head about bowling.



And I still remember the chorus which goes, put your faith in Bowling, put your faith in bowls. Don't get involved in golf, because it's nothing but a lot of holes.



They've determined Timandra Harkness When can you start?



So 50 years time, when I can't remember my own name, that soul will still be there. And actually, this segues beautifully, in fact, to the fourth thing that shaped me, which was which and still is continues to be people who have taken a punt on me, because my life is full of people who've looked to me and gone



well, we don't know really, if you can do this, but we're gonna take a chance on you. And you know, among the earliest ones where you guys in instant word,



Genesis Nigeria, remember, it's more philosophy for instant wit? Oh, God. Yes. Cool. So I'm just going there with with me, right. It was it was more for us. Yeah. Last then it's weird. So we go back even further. Yeah, got that. Yeah. So Exactly. So it was it was you guys going? All right. Because it was literally we came along played games, didn't we? And then yeah. And then you found Yes. And yeah, which of us you you wanted to play more games with? Really? Yeah. Yeah. What it boils down to, and I was lucky enough to be one of those and, and which just led to so many wonderful, happy creative times. You know, when asking why. And playing games, asking why why, why, why and connected to the mindset of Yes. And it's just a brilliant philosophy and life mantra Really? Because, you know, yes, and yes. And no, even going into places where I'm not going to be good at this. But yes, and yes, and yes. And, and presuming a lot of doors have opened within the broadcasting world you're in now because, again, you must have got in with an attitude of Yes. And and people want to take a punt on it. Absolutely. Exactly. I mean, that's thing I completely am doing the radio, which I'm doing, which I also absolutely love. I love the kind of, it's a mixture of it's very immediate, it's very low tech, really, you can just turn up to meet somebody with a like a tiny recording kit, you could put in your pockets if you had large pockets. And, and record the conversation, the sound patania so you know, people tend to be quite relaxed. And then you can you can edit it very carefully. So you can craft something



that has lots of layers. So it's I do love it and but that completely again came about First of all, are some people doing a new series called The human Zoo took a punt on me. And they were they were putting it together to try and be a bit experimental and different with the format was about social psychology. And they wanted someone to do the kind of roving reporter job but not in a straightforward radio journalist kind of a way. And the producer remembered me from doing comedy about science. And turned out the presenter who was also the kind of moving force behind the whole thing. Michael blaxland remembered me from



I've been invited along to big meeting at Radio for where they want to



Ideas for getting more maths on the radio. And I did a lie that invited me because I was doing sciency comedy at that point, but I wasn't very far into the math. I think maybe I just started studying maths again, I'm not sure. And so but anyway, they invited me along, there was this huge table, this huge room and they went around, they asked people for their thoughts on maths. And my soul memory that meeting is that every time I opened my mouth and said nothing. Everybody looked at me.



And then said nothing and moved on as if I was just talking absolute nonsense. So my memory of that meeting was that nobody, nobody really thought I said anything useful.



The exact opposite Michael blason had remembered me from that. So a couple years later, and and I hadn't done any radio journalism, I will, I recorded some bits for the old travel program, they used to do excess baggage when they used to just literally lend you some recording kit and go, if you're going there anyway, record some stuff. But



just before we move off, that there's something really rich and profound about how in life we experience gravitas and authority, technically, through the use of silence. And I love the fact that you used to be in these meetings, and you just say something that was so thunderously wise is an interpretation where they just go.






That would be a very generous interpretation. I think they just thought he was mad, although I have to say one of the the only thing I remember that I said, was, this really was like



15 years ago, it was a long time ago. And I said, Well, think about think about word things is that people can enjoy stuff together. So you think of crosswords, people get together and do a crossword. It's kind of sociable, and a puzzle. You know, could we come up with some kind of equivalent for maths where people could get together socially and do some kind of puzzle? And they all just stared at me and moved on. And about 18 months later, Sudoku is where absolutely everywhere



you see



me back, you know, I was here 18 months ago.



I know. But of course, you always remember the things you write about. You don't remember the millions of things, you're completely wrong or bad. So yeah, so so people taking a punt on me. And I'm incredibly grateful to them for taking a punt on me to do a job that I really had no idea how to do, and yet completely blended in and learnt on the job. And then. And then they encouraged me. Basically, Michael introduced me to another producer, who was making a program about big data. And Michael said, Oh, I know you're interested in this subject.



Why don't you get in touch with him and say you're available? And then nudged me and pushed me? Is it? Have you emailed him yet? Have you met him yet? And so I met the next producer. And I was a complete idiocy. I mean, honestly, I couldn't have done a worse interview if I'd been trying to not get the job. And nevertheless, he said he would take upon so he literally said to me, like, Well, alright, let's give it a go. So gaming,



radio documentary, there's a lovely theme here that there's a quote of which I liked of late, which is what's meant for you won't pass you by falsely the idea that someone's there, nudging you every now and again, you will meet people in our lives who nudge us and keep nudging because they can see something we maybe can't. Absolutely, I know, and I'm so grateful to all those people for taking a punt on me because, you know, I absolutely would not be doing what I'm doing without them. And, you know, they put more effort in for me than I did at that point. And it's making me like the Abba song of take a punt on me.



I always say I try and remember that and I always try and and I know there's some nice phrase for it, you can probably remember, but by always try and do that for other people. I always try and go Look, I wouldn't be where I am if people hadn't taken a punt on me. So I should try and take a punt on other people. So it could be rented properties. That is the most beautiful things in it. Yeah. And I, I love the whole notion of helping people by nudging them. Even giving somebody a damn good listening to the really nice way to



Let's knock each other along. And this is really lovely. So we might be at the end of four things that have shaped you. But But now I think we are Yep, that's it. That's four things shape. What's next three things that inspire you, and



it's all good. Okay, now this is this is really tricky, because actually, I kind of, I don't know, I couldn't decide whether like everything inspired me or so. So all right. So I'm going to give you



an and I've already changed my mind about them. But they are let's start with there's a philosopher called Hannah Arendt






she's she's not the best



No philosopher, but I think she's getting a bit better. Now there's a lovely film about her.



A Biopic, which is called Hannah Arendt. And it's quite talky doesn't appeal to everybody. But to my mind, it makes abstract ideas quite dramatic and emotional. And indeed, it depicts a verydramatic and emotional period in her life. So she, she was Jewish, she was German, she had to flee Germany in the 1930s. And she moved to America. And she went to Israel, when out of Eichmann, the the Nazi was taken to Jerusalem to stand trial. And she went there to cover the trial for an American newspaper, I can't remember which one. And so the film focuses on that, which is a very, very difficult and dramatic period, because, you know, there's the obvious drama, and they use some archive footage from the trial. So, you know, it's a very highly charged emotional situation. But then she also the way that she approached it, because as a philosopher, she was very unflinchingly honest.



And that's one of the things I like about her that she, she doesn't kind of try and make this smooth things over and make things better.



And so she came back and covered the trial. And she she coined this phrase, which people know her for the banality of evil. Oh, yes, yes. And some people have kind of accused her of trying to normalize into the modern word, to normalize



being a Nazi and and say that it's something ordinary and, and she said, No, that's not what I meant at all. What I meant was, isn't it extraordinary that somebody like Eichmann, who was absolutely actively involved in sending hundreds of 1000s, if not millions, of people to their deaths,



was just a bureaucrat and constantly stood in the dock saying, Oh, I just, I literally, I was following orders, I fulfill my duty. What happened to those people after they left, my jurisdiction is not my responsibility. just completely absolving himself of any responsibility. And so my point really, was that



you don't have to be a consciously evil person to do things that are evil, that it's enough sometimes to just be a bureaucrat and not really think about what it is that you're doing. Yeah. And so the point really was, you must always think about what you're doing. Do not that also reminds me, it reminds me of the the, we mentioned Icarus earlier on but the you know, the, the mosaic of Mozart, the poem where



where there's the the tortures horse banali sort of scratching it off on a tree. My literacy is falling out the sky. So there is there could be evil going on all around. But there is a banal banality economist to the rest of the world who's going on? Yes, so sorry. That was just a thought. Yeah, no, so she's, so she's very inspiring, because I think she, she could have had an easier life. However, thing is just just a little more if you watch the film, it will make you want to smoke. I've never smoked in my life. But within the first two minutes, the film I fight, she just makes it look so enjoyable. I really want to smoke.



But did you know she could have had a much easier life if she had avoided those dark tricky areas? And yeah, she didn't. She went for them. head on. And she, and she didn't follow any particular dogma or school. She didn't say, Oh, well, you know, I, I follow this person. And she always had to think things out for herself. Yes. And I really admire that I find her books really inspiring. So there you go.



The next, the next thing, I think, is Oakland privacy campaign. And the reason I cite them is



so I wrote this book, big data does size matter? Answer. It's what you do with it. You also to the nudging that you got from that producer who said you're about big data, you must have had some, actually, yeah, I suppose. Yeah, no, it did help, actually, because I I was audiences with the topic. But I think the fact that I had made the radio program then helped in advance Yes, yeah, exactly. And, and a lot of it was about how



so much data is being collected about all of us that, in a sense, we don't really have much privacy left, because it's possible to know so much about us in so many ways, just by collecting the data that we



that we give out in the course of getting on with everyday lives. And so there's a certain fatalism, I think a lot of people go, Well, you know, privacy is over. What's the point?



And in the course of writing the book, I went out to California interviewed various people about various aspects. Of course, it's where a lot of it's happening. But Oakland is this city across the bay from San Francisco had this very active privacy



Pay. So it's like they're they are in the heart of Silicon Valley. And they're not rolling over and going, Oh, well, everybody knows everything. They found out citizens about can found out that their city council had been given a great watch of federal funding to put in a new system, or which would link up CCTV cameras and automatic number plate readers and even facial recognition and all sorts of things. And would be this this great system that would enable the council to watch the whole city the whole point and everything that happened. And so they rocked up to their city council meeting. And when



I think on a lot of privacy impacts for what's your privacy policy on this, and the council went up



and said, this campaign is set at this this long campaign, and they enlisted lots of how they listed the citizens. And they worked on their elected councilors and said, Look, don't you think you should think about this? The stuff you're putting in? Yes, it would be great for if there's another earthquake and a tsunami, the reason for that, yes, it's great for finding people who are kidnapped. But, you know, if somebody goes on a demonstration in the town square, and then goes to this other place in this other place, you know, you've now got the technology to link that together and basically spy on that individual that you think that's a problem. And they ended up with the City Council not only went okay, well, we won't have all the things that are in the regional plan, because we do take your point. But also, we're gonna set up a privacy Advisory Commission, which will be made up of EU citizens and activists, some of you. And whenever we want to introduce a new technology,



you will draft the laws that will govern how we can use it, what data we can collect, who can access it, what we can use it for all this kind of thing. And then, you know, obviously, we as the elected council will have the final say, but basically, you will actively be drafting the laws that limit its use. And then I even got to go by this time last year, actually. So that was February 2020. Well, yes, I know, a lifetime ago, I was in California. And I I went back. And the guy that I interviewed Brian Hoffer told me about it is now the chair of the Oakland privacy Advisory Commission. And he said, we've got a meeting, why don't you come along. So I went and sat in, and it was amazing. It was like, there they were, the the police came and reported back police said, Well, we have done this, we used a drone to do that, we've got this going and they were kind of like cross examining them and going well, we can see why you did this because you were trying to, you know, safeguard the officers and not not get the officers killed. And that's a good thing. But strictly last time, you're here, we drew up a code of how you could use this, and you just can't go over my house.



So we are gonna, you know, we see why you did it. But we are gonna have to refer you on because it's not really. And I just thought this is this is fantastic. It's like they're not saying don't use technology. They're saying we want democratic oversight of it. Wow. So I'm never gonna say like, it sounds initially nice. But actually, I think it's really inspiring because it's showing that you don't have to either go or will agree knows everything or go, well, we're going to ban it. Or you can actually say we want to get the benefits of the technology. But we don't want stuff to be done to us without us having any say in it. Wow. I mean, if they can only bottle that way of negotiating, they could take it to all sorts of global disputes and say, Well, why don't you use the Oakland model? Well, they are they it's interesting, actually, they are asked to go to loads of other places in America and advise them on setting up their own policies and their own advisory group. So you know, yeah, I'd like to get a bit more of it over here. And what else inspires me? It's so difficult so many things inspire me I slide you know, read a poem or see a picture or, or



Okay, I'm gonna pick the women of Poland at the moment, because there's a move in Poland take away the right to abortion pretty much under any circumstances when they've it was already quite tightly delimited how you get an abortion, but it's pretty much been completely taken away. So



women in Poland, I should perhaps say women in Poland are back in the situation that women in Northern Ireland were in until horrifyingly recently. Yes, that if they were pregnant and didn't want to be pregnant, they had to travel abroad. Good grief. Yes. pregnancy and it's rather shocking to think how recently women in Northern Ireland so the the flag of inspiration being omg this oppression is happening again in Poland. Yes. And women are found absolutely fighting back on it. I say the women



There's also a lot of men. I mean, you know, I don't think you have to be a woman to think that nobody should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term that they don't want



to. Yeah, that's, I think that's obviously it's something that affects women. But it's, I won't try and steal manual on that one.



So, but they but so they have not been taken lying down that there's been a lot of demonstrations and yes, at one point it was a strike. I think the women said, oh, we're gonna go on strike. See how you manage notice. As a comedian, I'm very glad I didn't dwell on taking it lying down there. Thank you very much.



So, moving on. So moving on. So there you go.



Yeah, so I do get I get inspired by lots of lighter things as well. But But those those three were the first that came to mind because he only gave me five minutes. And now we've got two things that never failed to grab your attention in the who squirrels way. Okay, well, this is going to completely do the opposite. And then I'm going to say a nice motorbike



because I still have a motorbike, but I'm not riding it much at the moment because I wasn't riding much in London, and people get trying to steal it. So it's living in a frame iconic one, then Have you got it is a it's 100 VFR 800. Of course it is. It's a silver one Chris.



machine, David Essex, please Thank you. It is a sofa for non binary people. It's what they call a Sports Tourer. So it's, it's potentially extremely fast.



It's one where the the speed limit is at the top of the dial. And yet, I like that it's potentially really fast because that somebody you know, big brain does yourself you potentially really fast I get that processor in there.



Exactly. What have you read in the speed it has, it's quite nice. Because it's about 1617 years old, which is, you know, quite old for buy. So it's still got the speeder that goes around the clock instead of a digital speeder. You've got somewhere don't tell us where Yeah, no, it says living in a friend's garden, Hampshire, and he gets to ride it occasionally. So it doesn't feel good to go rusty, or sad. But yeah, if you look at the speedo, right, if you imagine the 12 o'clock at the top, that's about the speed limit.



And then it goes the needle will actually go down to about four or five o'clock, like a cut up with somewhere that had no speed limits. So that's when we fell for the leader of the pack. She goes exactly. But it's still it's it's a very, but it's also got a big fairing on the front to keep the weather off. So it is actually quite nice. I have in the past and I'm kind of waiting to like do this again taking it on holiday in motorbikes generically have an iconic status or you mean specifically it's the Honda 800 Do you know the nice thing is I still I will still often see a biker passenger that has a beautiful bike. Oh, it's the same one I've got.



But not just that. No, I am still and I think even more so because I'm not really riding it much at the moment myself. I will see a biker past and look at it in my you see my head follow it. Yes. That's exactly what gets your attention. Yeah, exactly. And the other one is dogs. Because I have to say I am. I am so jealous of anyone that has a dog at the moment and everybody seems to have a dog now all in so many people, even the ones that didn't have a dog before. Have you got dogs? No, we were sort of occasionally salivating for one but occasionally not.



The dog thinks funny when I when I first went to drama school I was analogized to being like an untrained Labrador in our I'll come in look your face and hump your leg to sit in the corner and leave. I went to any of those things, but I do love dogs. I'm definitely I love the independence of cats. But I'm very drawn to dogs the right dog. I'm not thinking of you as Labradors. Not quite right i mean i can see that because they are very affectionate and they're very little personal boundaries, but



it lets me



know physically are a bit more of a



maybe is there a Labrador Greyhound cross something like that Great Dane. Ah, Great Danes at drama school were brilliantly Well, really surely the ancient European acting teacher will I will.



Look Ducky, watch animals look at the great day. Because it's always saying sorry, I'm sorry. I'm really



sorry. I'm really sorry. It's because they're just enormous. They're like a horse in the house, aren't they? They? I rest my case because I'm looking at you now going if you stand up now you're just gonna hit your head on your sleeping window. I am so thank you. So I've upgraded from an untrained Labrador to



a great day. Vikings were Great Danes, and yeah, I'm so um, says I would love to have a dog. But it's like my life just makes it impossible because it I mean, obviously at the moment like, I'm not really going anywhere. So it would be perfect.



But as soon as any kind of normality returns Yes, I'm I'm traveling or I'm 12 I have a family dog. So you're sort of Harkening to my dad and stepmom I have two dogs so I can I can always come visit them but are they they're sort of they borrowed them. They are



actually no to continue the the animal borrowing theme. Oh, not this Christmas just gone, which hardly counts. But the Christmas before I borrowed a dog.



Because some of my friends were going away on holiday, the whole family going on holiday for the whole of Christmas in New Year. And they had lovely mad pointer, they still have lovely mad pointer called Ziggy. And, and it was actually it was by before that about a month before that I was having dinner with a friend and going Oh, I wish I could have a dog. It's impractical. And he went well you can borrow Ziggy, if you like, because we're all going to Argentina and and I think the person that normally looked after it has broken a leg or something. So So I borrowed this delightful, crazy neurotic pointer for Christmas in New Year. And even that even though I only had to go to work for about two days in that whole time made me realize that my life would just be not fair on a dog because by the way the question on everyone's lips question on everyone's lips but my lips is did he play guitar?



And relax? That's good. She was lovely. But she's absolutely mad and quite so are you have tension in the fullness of you will get a dog that I'm assuming. So there's a dog out there that you're coming to borrow, you're going for? Well, I would I would love to have a dog but



I can't I just don't think I couldn't live the life I do and have a dog I mean, I would have to completely change my life and I'm a handbag dog. There's little sort of Pekinese, not ball whatever they call those two hours. It's not really fair on them to suddenly disappear for



a long play. I'm not saying that my life is going immediately go back to being as carefree and jet setting as I always dreamed it would be but



even just like going away overnight. Do you did say that microlight is like a motorbike with a sidecar so I can see you in the sky with your dog doing the Wallace and Gromit thing. Oh, that'd be great. That'd be lovely. Yeah, there's a correct cause pot sort of zaniness about that as well about Timandra Harkness Chitty Chitty Bang Bang up in this guy.



I can definitely see that. Yeah, no, I would love that. But now I think I'm gonna have to just like make do with saying hello to everybody else's dog for the time being lovely. And now finally, in the tree taking we're into a quirky or unusual fact about you we couldn't possibly know until you tell us. Okay, well, you've given away a number of things that they hardly secrets like the motorbiking and the micro lighting. But here's one thing I bet even you don't know about me, Chris, even though he is we've known each other. When I was very young, about four, I did ballet classes, and I said that I wanted to be a ballerina.



I didn't know that about you Timandra Harkness, and you would not guess it having seen me express various social issues in the form of contemporary dance you still never look to me. And for now, there's somebody who studied ballet within a parallel universe Timandra there will be the good listening to podcasts with Krishna and he's talking to Timandra Harkness lapsed prima ballerina, not prolapse but lapsed, I think I would have to be a very different person for that to be true. I mean, I'll refer you back to all the previous stuff about not being able to point my toes, I refer my time back that my previous



I would live I can't even do organized dancing. I mean, I think the nearest I get to proper dancing is Kaylee. I can do a Kaylee because we did country dancing at school. And so my feet somehow in spite of me got the hang of just being in roughly the right place at roughly the right time. But all the you know, I've got friends that do the lovely rock and roll dancing. By the way, I love that a life



a life philosophy of being roughly in the right place at roughly the right time that that's really lovely as a way to slide on through because you did mention it slipped I slid into stage management I slipped into lightning design. Just bear being roughly in the right place at the right time is a really lovely thing with your big lovely boots. As that is probably Yeah. I remember used to where is it? Dr. Martin? I would think of us sort of dm type shoes he'd be Yes, yes. Yeah. No, I think I'm not. They're not currently DNS. I think there's some other kind of more walking boot but yes, absolutely.



Now we move



away from imaginary cake. Not yet. We're gonna talk about alchemy and gold next. It's the storytelling metaphors that keep on giving. So alchemy and gold before the cake you've just loved jumped ahead that you just want your cake now Don't you want to eat



So how can we go to Timandra Harkness in all your lovely, illustrious broadcasting stuff? You must tell us about Steele Manning, by the way. So I know that your current series, we'll talk about that, at the very end, I'll give you an opportunity to make sure we talk about that. And I'm intrigued by it. Even the word was fascinating when I heard about the series blardy blar. But alchemy and gold is when you are at purpose and in flow. What is the outcome, the end goal that Timandra Harkness is here to bring to the world? Well, I think actually, and you kind of raised it before really, it's about asking questions.



And asking awkward questions. Sometimes I think asking the questions that



other people are not asking.



And I mean, that, you know, there is a serious side to that, which is that some things need to be questioned. And people go along with things because they think, Oh, well, everybody else get along with so it must be right. And sometimes somebody needs to say, is, but why are we doing that? I can I just do this for you. But But why there's also a



I think there's also a more human side of it, if you like, I've always had this thing that people talk to me, which is, which is possibly



one of the things that helps me in radio, I just have that kind of face that people will talk to and tell me things.



And I'm not sure why it is maybe my face just says, I'm not going to judge you. Or, or maybe it's because I asked questions that are a bit off script. But people really open up and tell me things to the extent that sometimes if I'm if I'm somewhere with my journalist hat on I was and I say to people, you shouldn't tell this kind of thing to a journalist, you're just mad, because I'm not going to do anything with it. But you don't know that. And you should really be careful about that. So there's real integrity just innately there, which is obvious to people. There's an honesty and a connection there. But also,



again, it reminds me of the silence in the meetings where you said stuff that was a bit off script.



If it's a bit off script, it's stuff that nobody else is thinking about. And I think I understand it now. Yes.



informs that your ability to naturally naturally just swim away from the reef and improvise a bit while the waters a bit colder again. Well, I'll just keep swimming. Yes, yeah, I think so. Actually, I think the planning the improvisation are great because



they take away the fear of not knowing what to do.



The thing the good the clan teaches that I had and also the improvisation



teach you that it's fine to be on stage and not know what to do next, because something will come up or you will think of something and also and especially the improvisation, that you're there with other people and it's a team effort and you don't have to do it all yourself, I think. And it's actually they're prevalent in the best best best theaters. So in stuff like checkoff when it's not about the script, it's actually the yawning subtext. It's so interesting. Yes. And it's the gravitas and authority in the silences. Yes, exactly. I remember once I got on a bus, she had gotten a bus there was it was empty was no outsiders. So I said to the bus driver, I was slightly joking. I said, Oh, I'm late. Can you can you?



And there was another that was right. There's another bus behind him with the same number. So I said, I said, I'm late. Can you can you go straight through to wherever it was? Because there's, you know, the other herbicides, you can pick up the passengers. And he went in expecting him to just kind of nod and, you know, take my bus fare and whatever. And he said, he said, Yeah, right. Then he said, I'll, I'll, if anyone tells me off, I'll say I'm stressed because of work, because I've got some exams coming up. So it's an hour conversation. So obviously, I stand by the cab as he drives on, I don't Yeah, yeah. All I say is compensation. You really just then he just embarked on this story. He said, yeah. And I am stressed because I've got it sounds a bit silly. But I'm also stressed, because my marriage is breaking up. Wow. Um, because it's never really worked. He said it was an arranged marriage. He was some, I think he was a South Asian guy. And he said, No, it's arranged marriage. And you know, we don't really have anything in common. In fact, I'm getting. In fact, I'm going out with a policeman who works at that police station as we drive past this police station.



And literally, this came from me to saying that one thing of light, you know, can you keep going and just as a little joke, and and all this stuff just kept spinning and even after other people's then then he said, Oh, I have to start stopping now. Because this is really the star the official route. So he stopped as well people get on. But then he kept talking to me even



thinking, no, it's not even like an empty box with just the two of us. And he was just serving a profound purpose and function in his life is the conduit a bit like he'll probably think of you as being an angel who got him to just say it out loud, and therefore commit to what his heart was telling him. Yeah, yeah, I mean, actually, so maybe he just needed a good listening to. Yes, which is what you're about and also while you were speaking, then I have a word that just surface for



Which is Timandra Harkness is the great Inquisitor



sounds a bit not Spanish Inquisition but you just you there with a quizzical why question but the great Inquisitor, but that makes it sound like I'm going to say to people. So what do you think about this now? I'm sorry, it's theoretical, I'm going to burn you.



I think I think the point is kind of the opposite. I do actually go ahead and say, Well, I want you to say what you think. And even if I don't like it, even if I don't agree, it's really important that we have room for all the opinions, because if we don't get them out into the open, we're never going to resolve anything. Yeah. Lovely. Actually, I mean, if you want to talk about steel Manning, I suppose this is the moment to do it. Because, okay, I was gonna say we can, there's another bit of the clearing coming up, can when he does just, it's very relevant to this because



steel Manning is a word I learned after I did a previous radio series called How to disagree, a beginner's guide to having better arguments. And that was all about how disagreement can be uncomfortable. But it's really important, because it's really important. They have different opinions on things, and that you test your point your views, so that, you know, I can you know, if you're right, if you've never had to argue your case.



And all, you know, and further social reasons, it's very important that different people share their views. So that whatever we decide as a society, at least we've we've had them it's called the conflict sometimes, isn't it? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And in different contexts as well. Not all big political questions also within relationships. Yeah, exactly. And after that series, I think while that series was going out, I spent far too much time on Twitter, and people on Twitter was saying, Oh, you know, that was really nice. Have you come across this technique, steel Manning, or sometimes called strong Manning? And I said, No, I haven't. And they said, well, it's like the opposite to straw Manning. You know, if you strawman somebody, then instead of arguing with what they're actually saying, you set up a straw man of arguments that they've never made, but that you can really easily beat.






example, I can't really.



Anyway, it's it's, I think people are quite familiar with the idea that you that makes me think of it makes the other person if they're being strong and easy to burn. Exactly. Yes. Yeah, that as well. Yeah, exactly. Or it's like the, you know, the three little pigs in the house of straw and you just not much foundation to it. Yeah, exactly. And it and it's really annoying if you're arguing with somebody.



Okay, well, let's, let's take a maybe



go to serious subject here. Which, by the way, all been interpret using the gift of dance When the the current pandemic, right, so there's a lot of a heated argument about what we should be doing about it. And it's a really serious topic. Because, you know, on the one hand, people are dying, and depending on what you decide to do, more people might die. But on the other hand, the policies that we take against it, or in some cases themselves very, very destructive. So it's a really serious topic. So I was on the daily politics, saying that points back in the autumn, saying that I didn't think we should rush into another lockdown, because it's very destructive. And looking at the data that we've been shown, I didn't feel justified. And then the person after me said, Well, you know, there are people that just want to let it rip through the population. And, and I looked as indignant as I was, so so they came back and let me justify myself. And I said, well, it's not what I said at all. I didn't remotely say we should let it rip to the population, you just straw man to me by setting up a straw man, which is easy to, you know,



it's really easy to argue thing to argue against because it's clearly stupid. Anyway, so that straw Manning,



steel Manning is the opposite to that steel Manning is where you go out and look for the strongest possible case against yourself. So whatever you believe you think, Okay, well, what's the strongest argument that anyone can make against why I think so I can really test whether I can justify what I think. And this is this idea was introduced me after the previous series. And so we said, Well, that sounds great. Why don't we make a whole series about that?



Where I take five topics that I have quite firm opinions on, thought about for a while, but then I go out and find somebody with an opposing point of view, who I think can make a really strong case against me. And, and basically, I mean, in a way, it's very self indulgent, because I'm basically using them to test my ideas by stealing vigor to your own argument ultimately, exactly. So so I get I get a steal.



Man have an argument against mine. And then by doing, you know, going down the jesting against them, if you like, then I will strengthen up my own argument, or I won't, you know, or I'm, you know, I was quite prepared to find that. What I learned was that I couldn't justify my arguments, and maybe I was wrong.



Still horse in the end,



still dunking.



So that steel Manning, so I think it's by the time this goes out, it will have finished, but it will be on the BBC sounds fouled, and but they're coming full circle when I did here this week was about sugar tax. And that's ironic, because on your walk in the rivers, the Tate and Lyle factory, yes, that's right. Not sure for how long we will close down. So that's what steel Manning is. So in a sense, that is very much what I'm about is trying to



trying to get good arguments going, and why. question why exactly and say, okay, that's what you think, can you justify it, but also to myself as if that's what I think and I justify it. And it also remind me it's a bit like an image of you with a great big question mark over your head. The why, I don't know why Timandra. Man, it's all clear but but also reminds me of one of the most powerful drama lessons whilst I was only to be a drama teacher was it was quite psychodramatic in the group was shaped into the form of a question mark, and then it will happen in silence for the next three hours, the starting point was to put into a question mark as a sort of physicalize ation of that as a group of 18 of us. And then that's when the workshop commenced. So it became a very extraordinary series of very profound Tableau that happened starting from the question, and nobody said, this is about why but it was really profound because it was obviously, yeah, islands of the question mark.



Go figure.



So now we're going to reward you with a cake Timandra Harkness for gracing us with your presence here in the clearing. And I was having a conversation with Janie who you mentioned today, she said, Well, I wouldn't like cake. So it doesn't have to be a cake. It can be a gift, but does cake work for you? Cake works for me cake works. I'll go with cake. So this is your opportunity to put a cherry on the cake. Timandra Harkness and this can take the form of Are you happy to just go with it will want me to give you descriptions.



Now I'm happy to go with it. But of course, you are sorry, I'll just mean would draw me to qualify the different possibilities of where you could go. That you know, give me the different possibilities. So I'm thinking with the cake, it's up to you open to interpretation delicious Lee as you will do. It could be notes or advice to your younger self. It could be or include and also be the best piece of advice you've ever been given or a favorite inspirational quote, just anything that has pulled you towards your future. And then you can go existential to inspired by All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. And you can go to what your legacy should be how you'd most like to be remembered over to you. Well as a as a cherry on the top, I actually I'm gonna go with a quote that, that does it. I've got it pinned up above my desk, in fact, because I think it's it's a good, it's four words. And I think it's a great thing for anyone who's trying to create something or make something, it's it's very good to keep them in mind. It's something that Lucien Freud came up with the painter who's painted it love



it because they've got that kind of rawness and honesty and unflinching pneus used to do self portraits which is completely unflattering and but in the all of his work was completely unflattering. But he what he called the unflinching gaze that you really look at something and really try and see what's there. And he had this these four words, astonish, disturb, seduce convince that every work of art should should try to do and I just think that would that's a wonderful thing to aim for. And you absolutely can always pull it off and you're making a



if you make a 15 minute radio program about sugar tax, that you're not necessarily going to hit those notes but it's a great thing to aim for that and within those four words you've captured little emotional journey that you want to take



the viewer or the listener or the reader or whatever with you on you want to astonish them. So open they're open their eyes, open their minds, the world disturb them, so really not them offbalance. They're not them out of their assumptions. So they're a bit off balance and, and therefore, if you knock somebody off balance, you force them to move if you come up at someone's standing quite steadily and you give them a little shove and knock them off balance, they're not gonna fall over but they will have to move their feet. So I think to disturb people like that is good. And then seduce so then by drawer out what is it they really want. Bring them bring them somewhere



Bring them with you and then convince because you're not asking them to hang their brains up outside the door, you're asking them to bring their their reason with them as well. I'd say speak to them as as equals as rational human beings. So I literally have that pinned above my desk, astonish, disturb, seduce, convince.



And in our comedy improvisational, instinctive, if you can't stop it, stop it. I think that's such a beautiful place to end our time in the clearing.



Using a tiny bit of silence to segue into, we want to find out more about you on the internet. I know you've got Timandra But this is your moment in the sunshine to tell us about programs we can listen to, or where should we should go to find out more about you? Well, actually, if you go to Timandra, I do try and keep it reasonably up to date and have links to the things I'm doing. So there's a lot of radio series that still on BBC sounds, as they now call the AI player. As you can go back and listen to those there's links to some things that I've written, where my book is, and things like that. So it is actually quite a good place to go to. But of course the good and bad thing about having a ridiculous name like Timandra Harkness is



as if my parents foresaw the internet search engine years ahead with existing because if you can spell my name which is exactly as it sounds, then you can you can find me very easily but please start with my website because at least I had some say in what goes on that and but I was there myself and there's a lovely in the writing section, you're rocking and sort of Joan Littlewood type hat, and I have no idea whether she was a smoker or not, but your desire to start smoking again when you're listening to your philosophy inspira is is that's the picture that you should think about when you have a metaphorical smoke



and just put the in the top if you can't stop it, stop it say those beautiful forwards again from Lucien Freud and then I will stop after you've said them. astonish, disturb, seduce convince.



You've been listening to Timandra Harkness on the good listening to podcast with me, Chris Grimes. Thank you very much indeed. Good night.

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​​Transcribed by

Meeting Timandra
The Clearing
Shaking the Tree
Alchemy and Gold
Cherry on the Cake