Sharing things

Transcript for 2.3 Shy and Jamie

Transcript for Sharing things 2.3 Shy and Jamie

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Hi I'm Amalie. I'm a current student and I'm the host of Sharing things. Sharing things is a conversation between two people who have just met but who share a connection to the University. We start with a meaningful object that they have brought to the studio and we take it from there.

In this episode you will meet James Crawford and Shy Zvouloun. James is a writer, publisher and broadcaster and the presenter of BBC's 'Scotland from the Sky'. Shy is a Law student involved in Women in Law and Edinburgh International Justice Initiative. Let's see where this takes us.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Nice, nice, nice.

Shy: This is very weird.

Amalie: I know.

Shy: I'm not used to hearing my voice like this.

Amalie: It's uh...yeah, but it's kinda fun. Ok so, welcome to Sharing things and we usually start each conversation by asking the same question, uh, which is: What have you brought to the studio and why?

Jamie: I, I will start. I've brought a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Amalie: Oooh

Jamie: But it's probably not a piece of the Berlin Wall. I bought it about seven years ago on eBay when I was writing a book. I was writing a book about lost buildings all around the world, going from the earliest times up to the present day and one of the buildings-- one of the structures was the Berlin Wall, and partly for inspiration, decided I want to try and to acquire a piece. So, I bought it on eBay, erm, as I say, I suspect it's not real because there was a kinda market for these pieces of the wall, erm, when it came down. I was 11 years old when it came down, 1989, and people would come from all over the world. They were called 'Mauerspechte' and they would hack away at the wall, take their little bit, you could hire a hammer for a few Deutsche Marks and hack away at it. Very quickly the western side, which was the side that had graffiti on it...

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: ...all those pieces: gone. Now actually the more interesting side in ways, the eastern side, the side that was keeping people in, but people wanted the western side because the thing that showed up that it was a piece of the Berlin Wall was the markings, the graffiti on it. So, the eastern side was spray painted to make it seem more authentic, so I hope that my piece is one of those spray painted Eastern pieces but the reality is it's probably a bit rock from a building site that someone has put some paint on and sold on eBay. But I'm fine with that, that's ok, that's all right.

Shy: I think that almost makes it better, you know not knowing. Adds a bit of a mystery to it.

Jamie: It's, it's like Schrödinger's wall.

Shy: Exactly.

Jamie: You know, it's that idea, maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I don't want to ever know but I like, I like the kind of sense of power that just this tiny little thing with this kind of-- it's got, you know it fits in the palm of my hand, it's got yellow, brown paint on it.

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: Maybe this is a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Amalie: Maybe it is.

Jamie: But maybe it's not.

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: And actually, you know, it's better not knowing.

Amalie: I don't-- yeah, I don't think we'll ever find out.

Jamie: That's ok.

Amalie: And yeah, that's ok. What do you feel like it means to you? Does it remind you of something?

Jamie: I mean one, one of the things-- when I was writing this book, a lot of the places I was writing about I hadn't necessarily been to. Erm, partly because it's very difficult to get to them. Some of them were in Iraq, for instance, or in the jungles of Peru. Some of them I had been to. The Berlin Wall, I'd been to the site of it, erm, but one of the things with the Berlin Wall, as I say, I was 11, I was 11 when it, when it came down...Is I'd grown up with it, and I'd-- growing up with it something that was almost normal, you just accept it, particularly when you're young. You kind of accept things like that, but the idea that there was this line that divided the world, in a sense, in half was fascinating to me.

And when I was growing up I-- my older brother used to buy these comics called 2000 AD, I don't know if anyone is aware of that anymore. People like Judge Dredd came out of it, and it was all kind of set in a post-apocalyptic world and you know, there'd been a nuclear war and things had just gone wrong. And they were very kind of counter-cultural and subversive, and it was almost kind of, as a young person, inevitability that that was what was going to happen to the world you know, that kind of fatalistic view that there was going to be a nuclear war. And you just, you know, as a kid you just think well I guess that's going to happen [laughter]. You know, we had friends who had a bunker somewhere in Scotland, they said oh you can-- if the five-minute warning sounds you can come stay in that bunker [laughter].

Amalie: Oh wow.

Jamie: And it seems ludicrous to think back about that now, also they lived more than five minutes away, so we wouldn't have got there in time. And then for that-- that thing, that structure that was almost a symbol of, of this division of the world, for that to come down was quite a big, you know it was quite a big moment. Even at 11, I experienced that as quite a significant moment.

So, of all the places that I wrote about in a way that was the one that's closest to, not necessarily to my heart, but psychologically it was the one I was closest to and felt most of a connection with because it was something I was always aware that was there, it was almost like a dark fairy tale of my childhood that was suddenly gone.

Amalie: I just picked up on mentioned-- just speaking of comics, [laughs], I see that you have brought a comic.

Shy: It feels a lot less special now that someone's sitting next to me with a piece of the Berlin Wall.


Amalie: No!


Jamie: But it's maybe not, it's maybe not a piece. It's maybe just a bit of rock from a building site.

Amalie: But it might also be...

Jamie: It might also be.

Shy: Not so special...Ok, well I guess I'll talk about mine. Yeah. Erm, I brought a comic book from home. It's ‘The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes’ which is a comic book written by, I think, a Canadian comic artist called Bill Watterson, I might be butchering the delivery of his name but you know we try.

I grew up in Tanzania so for a very long time we didn't really manage to get post so, this was I think one of our first Amazon deliveries, my mum's going to correct me on this. And it was so odd to finally get a delivery with like books that I was, you know, wishing for, for ages em, and this one's one of them and I've brought it everywhere with me. I took it to boarding school, I took it when I moved into my first adult apartment and now it's in Edinburgh with me. And I mean, you can tell from the wear how much I read it and it's still got little tabs in it from, you know, my favourite comics when I was like nine, so it's a bit sentimental to me and whenever I'm feeling a bit down and just kind of pull off the shelf and have a look at it, it makes me feel young again.

Jamie: Do you read it differently?

Shy: I think so, yeah. I pulled it out for the first time in a while when I was trying to pick out what I'd bring here, and I looked at the comics and I feel more like the mum than I do like Calvin and that's a bit depressing because the mum’s always such a downer [laughter]. Like I remember reading them when I was little and thinking oh she's mean and now I relate to her. I realise I'm an adult all of a sudden. Very odd realisation to have.

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: Do you think that will change again as you get older?

Shy: I don't know, I really hope so. I'd like to feel like Calvin again, feel a bit you know, adventurous and mischievous, but I think when you reach that middle stage where you're trying to figure out what adult life is you kind of lose that sense for a little bit.

Jamie: And at first was it Calvin you identified with?

Shy: Oh yeah, easily it was Calvin getting around making fun of people, like not meanly making fun of people but having these very childish thoughts and yeah, I got him. Which I think is part of the appeal for me when I was little, it was very relatable. I didn't really relate to a lot of the you know the girly stuff, the stereotypically girly stuff so this was always a bit of a saviour, yeah.

Amalie: How do you feel about it now?

Shy: I don't know, it's-- you know there are some things in your childhood that you don't really like to question, they're kind of almost like the Berlin Wall, they kind of are. Erm, and this book is, you know, just a book to me, so I don't, I don't know how I think about it, it just is.

Amalie: It just is.

Shy: It just is.

Amalie: Yeah, I kind of like that. Do you have a favourite story in it?

Shy: Oh, I think there was one I was reading with my partner the other day, there's erm-- it's a really simple comic strip, it's just four panels and it's Calvin waking his mum up and she's all angry that he's woken her up at two in the morning. And she walks into his room and he asks her the question 'is it true that humans are made of spores?' and she gets all angry at him and there's the whole, I guess, the whole special part of this comic is that he's got a teddy bear called Hobbes, but he sees him as alive so he and the teddy bear had like a conversation about him saying 'oh it's a secret, your mum just didn't want to tell you' and it's cute. It's feels almost like, you know how we see adults as children you know we see them as hiding things and then when you grow up you realise they're not really hiding things, they're just tired all the time. That's a bit depressing, oh my god.

Amalie: Tired all the time, yeah...

Jamie: As the father of two children I can testify to that.


Shy: Is that it? [laughs].

Jamie: That's it, that's why I had a coffee on the way in here, my third of the day [laughter]. I'm tired all the time.

Amalie: Yeah, I sometimes think about the fact that you can never really know your parents, because they have lived this whole life before you.

Shy: Yeah.

Jamie: I mean, I think one of the things, having children now is, is you start to inhabit two places at once. You reinhabit childhood, because you start to see things again through their eyes but then you also have a different understanding of your own parents and-- I mean, the reality is that there is no such thing as an adult [laughter] I think that's, that's what you realise. They're just people who've got older, who've got the same issues, the same problems and just more responsibilities to deal with but no one ever really grows up.

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: And your perception of things changes but I think particularly reliving things through my own children, and you know there's good and bad things about that, there's excitement, you relive the excitement of things that you liked or that they are suddenly getting passionate and excited about and that's fantastic.

Amalie: Like, for example what?

Jamie: Might be something like Star Wars, or it might be...

Amalie: Oh, I love that.

Jamie: ...You know, books that you read as a child that they're starting to read or starting to appreciate and you know the kind of the wonder and the magic and that journey that lies ahead of them. You know, particularly my, my oldest son who's just seven, just the other day finished reading his first book by himself, you know and that's-- and he's, he's started wearing a head torch at night to read in bed [laughter]. You know, and that's fantastic because you just you think about the journeys that he will go on through, through literature and through books, um that he won't go on with me, and that's brilliant because I think that's all those kind of worlds that he will be able to explore through, through writing and you know publishing and writing and books are a big part of my life so to see that emerging within him is fantastic.

Shy: Do you hope that your kids will read your books one day?

Jamie: I suppose so, yeah. I think so, I think so.

Shy: I feel like there's probably more pressure there, like for your kids to like them.

Jamie: I hope, I hope that they will and I hope in that-- the sort of first major non-fiction book that I wrote doesn't really have much of me in it actually. You know, it's kind of-- it's much more about kind of general history and you know, there’s kind of me in the way that I tell the stories but the book that I'm writing just now has much more personal journey in it. And I do hope that you know they're- my kids are seven and four at the moment- that when they're older and you know I've got to go off travelling to write this book, that they'll kind of understand what I was doing [laughs] and what I was up to and hopefully appreciate that and also in some respects, you know you talked about never being able to know your parents, maybe they will understand me better because I think one of the things that I have to face as a parent is that they will just you know at some point think what was up with that guy?

[Background laughter]

You know and that's something that you have to grapple with. So, I think as a writer you know, maybe, I mean maybe it's a double-edged sword that you're putting something out there that they can then look at and consider. But yeah, I mean to answer the question, I do hope they read it and appreciate what I was up to in my office or you know going off to the library or going off travelling.

Amalie: Yeah, I feel like I-- I'm obviously not that old [laughs] but I think, but I think I still see this difference between adults as in like, my parents type of adult and my type of adult which is like early twenties type of adulting and I feel like even though we are technically categorised in the same group, it's so different.

Jamie: I mean, my kind of observation about the younger generation and I was asked to go back to one of these weird things, I was asked to go back to my school this summer, no just this summer passed, to erm-- whoever is kind of top, top of the year in school get something called Dux medal and a former Dux medallist has to come and give the speech, sort of presenting to them so I was asked to come and do this. And I really-- I was kind of conflicted about it. I hadn't been back to the school for 20 years...

Amalie: Oh wow.

Jamie: I really want to do this?

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: Erm, it was quite surreal sitting-- going back and sitting in the space that I-- the last time I'd been it was in a church and the last I'd been in this church was in 1996 and it was just very weird so I kind of...did start talking about things that were going on in 1996, like Spice Girls had released their first single [laughter] you know, strange things like that. And I was just so unbelievably impressed with their maturity, erm, how prepared they were for the kind of next step, for the world.

And I was reflecting what I was like and they were so much more mature than I was, so much more can kind of switched on, so much more resilient and there's a sense for, you know, almost for my generation to think that it's good that the younger generation appear to be better, kinder, nicer, care more about the planet than you know, ultimately...look at my fragment of the Berlin Wall, I thought the planet was going to be destroyed [laughter]. Now maybe being destroyed in a different...

Shy: We do still think that [laughs].

Jamie: Yeah, in a different way, erm but maybe it created a kind of fatalism among my generation, kind of like 'ah well you know, doesn't matter, blow it all up'.

Amalie: Got the nuclear bunker like five minutes away [laughter].

Jamie: Yeah, yeah. I mean I think, I think people are actually trying to confront it which is, which is really impressive erm for the younger generation for the, you know that generation behind me but maybe some will have that kind of fatalism about ‘what can you do?’ I hope not, I hope not and I don't think so.

Shy: I think it depends on where you come from because I-- so I'm originally Israeli, erm, which has a lot of issues for me because of my very conflicted ideological beliefs. But when I go home it's you know, there's just a kind of acceptance of the way things are because it's so commonplace to believe that you know there's nothing you can do about it you know the whole society has come to accept, you know, things like the military is essential to our identity as a people, that for us there's no other option, you know, the people who refused to go are far and few and I mean if you are one of those people you're very much in a bubble where you see yourselves as you know liberals and you are liberals in the Israeli context but everyone around you has just accepted it and no one even thinks about the possibility of changing it, you know. To us it's normal to have bunkers, every single house has a safe room, the minute you hear a siren you walk in and don't even think about it twice anymore and I have friends who are just shocked by the fact that you know for us anyone from 18 to 21 is in the military.

We're not surprised when we hear sirens anymore and you know because I grew up abroad it still shocks me every once in a while, but that nihilism is entirely there and I mean I think it's gone past nihilism, it's just acceptance. And I think that's a bit scary because they're people my age and I, I don't know I always hope that people my age will be the agents of change because it is for the most part in our hands. But, I mean in Edinburgh you know the community's so liberal that you really do feel like something's happening but the minute you kind of step back and move into a different you know context, that whole feeling of hope just kind of dissipates. Which is a bit sad but you definitely feel the whole Berlin wall thing.

Jamie: Well exactly.

Shy: We've got our own wall.

Jamie: I was going to say, that's-- which is far longer than the Berlin Wall...

Shy: Yeah.

Jamie: ...You know, ever, ever was which you know in itself is-- I mean it's both terrible and fascinating, you know it's actually one of the stories and I'm looking at for my new book...

Shy: Right.

Jamie: the story of that wall and that border.

Shy: Yeah.

Jamie: Erm, you know, and trying to understand it. How it came about.

Shy: It's hard to understand. I think even people living there don't understand it. I mean there is the historical context obviously and you can understand it in terms of a timeline of events but understanding the human experience, which I think is almost as important is very difficult to do because, even as an outsider who doesn't have any personal involvement in it or has any you know anything at stake, it's hard to separate yourself from the bias that you have and it's impossible to understand both sides when you've got that bias. I mean logically you'll say oh yeah I understand you know that there's a mutual fear of the possibilities that will occur if we put ourselves in vulnerable positions that come with you know, peace negotiations but until you're in it, you can't really understand what the significance of this wall is.

I would invite you to visit the country and have a talk with you know both Israelis and Palestinians because it's very interesting to see the different, erm, different opinions.

Amalie: I keep hearing the word border over and over. What does crossing a border mean to you?

Shy: Hmm.

Jamie: I mean, for me I think it's university. You know I grew up in the country and erm I think even coming from you know a small kind of village in the country to Edinburgh was quite a significant step and not an easy step and I think a lot of, you know, a lot of students will experience that wherever they're coming from to Edinburgh, wherever they're going to university, but I mean after I left university I then moved to work in London and that wasn't as big a jump for me, you know, going to one of the busiest cities in the world from Edinburgh which ultimately is just a kind of big town, but still it was that first leap when you're sort of 18, to come away from home for the first time, I mean it is crossing a border. And it's a difficult one, you know and it's easy to want to cross back, whether it's just to get your washing done or you know whatever it might be [laughs].

You know that, that sort of side of things but, but I was always kind of fascinated by it. There was a book that I read by Cormac McCarthy who's probably most famous for writing ‘The Road’ or ‘No Country for Old Men’. But there was a series he wrote called ‘The Border Trilogy’, which I started reading when I was about 15...15/16 and particularly the second of those books, ‘The Crossing’ which was about this you know young, young man who was the same age as me when I was reading it actually, he was 16, who is trying to hunt and trap a wolf in the New Mexico border...the Mexico erm, the New Mexico border and he goes out to try and find this wolf and he eventually catches it and decides he's not going to kill it but he's going to take it back to Mexico and I kind of read this book and I was just so taken with the landscape and the experience and I used to go out on my bike of an evening after reading it and kind of like, you know, it wasn't riding on a horse [laughter] but I'd kind of just, I'd just go as far as I could on this old racing bike that used to belong to my uncle and just ride these kind of country roads and just go as far as I could.

Amalie: Oh that's nice.

Jamie: You know exploring new places...

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: know roads I’d never been down, but the thing is I could always just you know, free wheel home you know, as it started getting darker in those kind of summer evenings, whereas the character in the book, it was really quite-- it's not a romantic book, it's a very depressing book as many of Cormac McCarthy's books are, but it's haunting and it always kind of stayed with me and you know this idea of kind of crossing borders and what it means literally and metaphorically, whether it's into manhood or adulthood, or into new experiences. I think it's something that has always stayed with me and has always fascinated me.

Amalie: What was the most difficult thing, crossing that border from moving, erm from the country to Edinburgh?

Jamie: I think you're confronted with yourself. You know in a way that you never are before when you leave the insulation of your family, you're kind of confronted with who you are or who you want to be or what kind of person you are. Erm and that can be, that can be quite, quite stark sometimes and I think it's that process of, of trying to mould who you are outwith that family environment, outwith that support environment that you've always had. You know, I had incredibly supportive parents, you know so I mean some people come from, from much tougher upbringings, much, much tougher upbringings than I ever would. I don't know whether that makes it easier or harder but it's just, it's an experience that everyone has to have of going out by themselves and again, you know I talked about my children earlier on, it's weird to think about them doing that because I can't imagine it. I can't imagine...and I guess I can't imagine a time where I'm not worrying about them, which probably gives me insight into what my parents [laughter] you know were thinking when I, when I'd kind of gone away.

Amalie: Yeah, my parents have told me that too. That it's like weird not having control over what their kids are doing.

Jamie: But even you know, I talked about going out on my bike, I used to do that at six, no helmet, just riding country roads. The idea of my seven year old being out on his bike, it just wouldn't, it just wouldn't happen. No one does that, no one really lets their kids do that now and I was having this conversation with my partner the other night about it, you know that sense of you know are they, are they going to be more or less resilient than, than we were because of things like that?

All the same, I do think my kids do seem more resilient than I was [laughs], so something must be working but, but it's you know, it's kind of reflecting on I guess the, the kind of latitude we were given you know, at that time. I mean this was the early 1980s, erm, you know and there was much less control over what you did. I suppose, you know your own-- talking about borders again, those own kind of personal borders were, were further away, were kind of wider, there was less scrutiny, there was no social media. You know, you, you could be more anonymous and probably could experience things more without it being monitored in any particular way.

Amalie: Yeah.

Shy: I think I'm going to piggyback onto your idea because it's a lot easier when someone brings up their own and you understand that you relate to it. Erm I don't think mine was university though. I uh, I left home when I was si...I think I was 16, because I was very, very lucky and I got a scholarship to go to a boarding school and that boarding school was just outside Tel Aviv. So, for me that wasn't just you know crossing the border of you know moving from one country to another that are vastly different or you know crossing the border of leaving home, it was I think not to be political because I promised myself I wouldn't be but we've already thrown out the window. I think having to move to that boarding school was very challenging for me in terms of challenging my beliefs, you know, when you grow up with your parents even if they try not to you know force their beliefs on you, you do grow up in a household where they're talked about especially with my parents, you know, they were always open about their beliefs, about the conflict and their beliefs about the way that the country works and leaving home and all of a sudden having that opportunity to kind of form my own beliefs especially in my school which was, it's a very special boarding school it's composed of 20 per cent Israeli students, 20 per cent Palestinian and other Arab students, and 60 per cent internationals and their aim is to kind of humanise the whole conflict. It brings together students and you live together in the same rooms, in the same building for two years and you form incredible friendships. I mean my best friend to this day was someone that I met at boarding school and when you're confronted with so many different beliefs and so many different lived experiences outside of home, outside of like, you know, the beliefs of your parents and the beliefs of your family, you are you know, it's, it's massive, it's a massive shift.

It's, it's hard being challenged as a person, I think anyone faces difficulties when they're challenged and I think that for me was possibly the biggest border I crossed because it really made me call into question everything I believed in and I think that was really important because I went into school being extremely ashamed of the fact that I'm Israeli, you know, to me it was awful, it was the worst thing I could be and I think I left the school having a little more appreciation for who I am.

I don't condone the way that the country works because we're not going to do that and I think that was a very big transformation for me because I'm a lot, I think I'm a lot more comfortable with my identity now than I was before I moved, so it was a really transformative experience and was, you know, crossing a border and both a metaphorical sense and a literal sense and I'm very thankful for that experience because it was so difficult but I think the difficult ones are the ones that make you grow the most and...

Amalie: Yeah.

Shy: Yeah.

Amalie: Was it easier to move to Edinburgh after that?

Shy: Oh yeah, for sure because I didn't move straight to Edinburgh. I had a bit of a hard time with mental health and I got a psychological exemption from serving in the military but I had to stay there for a year to, you know, get all the paperwork processed. So, I was there for a year and I was living in a flat with two 30-year-old flatmates while I was 18 and you know working as a waitress at a 24/7 diner and it was, it was the first time being a proper adult so moving to Edinburgh after that was very easy. [Laughter] It was very easy.

Jamie: So did that feel like limbo then?

Shy: Oh it was awful.

Jamie: ...that period.

Shy: It was awful, it was a really difficult period of time for me because I was also the youngest person working in the restaurant because everyone there was either you know after university or just finished the army so they were all at least 22 and above and my Hebrew still isn't the strongest it could be because I did grow up outside of Israel and it's a very hard language to learn.

So, I was waitressing in both Hebrew and English and French and Spanish and my brain was just a jumble and I wasn't doing well and the minute I got that exemption I was outta there. I had saved enough money waitressing to be able to go and backpack through South America for five months before uni.

Amalie: Ooh.

Shy: It was, it was good fun. It was, it was the exact amount of time I needed to kind of get my brain sorted before coming here, because it was-- it's just a very difficult period of time. You don't know what you're doing, you don't know how long it will take you, you have to talk to countless people that you don't want to talk about you're constantly talking about you know difficulties that you faced with mental illness and that's never an easy thing to talk about let alone someone you've never met and someone that you have to convince that you're mentally ill enough not to have to serve in the military. [Laughs] It's, it's not, not a fun time, but I guess you know, you do what you've got to do. And it was helpful, it also helped me come to terms with you know my mental illness and the fact that I have it and it's part of who I am. I'm still human for it, so having to talk over it all the time definitely made it more normal.

Amalie: Yeah, a hundred per cent.

Shy: Which is nice.

Amalie: Yeah.

Shy: And now I'm totally ok with it and I tell everyone about it, breaking the stigma. What about you?

Amalie: I would also piggyback on your answer, I think going to university was quite the change. I also come from quite a small town in Norway so moving from that to erm-- I did my first year in Canada and it just wasn't the place for me, I mean I skied a lot I had a lot of fun [laughter] but at the end of the day I think I chose the wrong university. So, I came here and it was better but it was also hard because I obviously came into second year and everyone had been here for a year but I think I also came into the right time because I feel like a lot of people make the wrong friends in first year.

Shy: Oh yeah.

Jamie: Hm absolutely.

Shy: Oh absolutely.

Amalie: Yeah so then, [laughs] so when I came everyone was still looking for friends so it wasn't that difficult at the end of the day. First and second year were definitely hard but now we've gotten used to everything and it's nice.

Shy: Thriving.

Amalie: Thriving...

Shy: Not surviving, thriving.

Amalie: Yes [laughs] definitely.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: I was, I was meaning to ask you whether your kids or you ever did when you were young, if you read Calvin and Hobbes?

Jamie: I, I didn't. I think my brother did, so I think, I mean I must have picked it up. I always remember people raved about it but I, I liked this really dark stuff [laughter]. Way, way too young because I had this older brother, my older brother was like three-and-a-half years older than me so this comic, 2000 AD, from four I was-- before I could even read, I was picking it up and looking at the pictures. So, you know the kind of Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes was just, it was just, it wasn't...

Amalie: It was too light.

Jamie: It was too light, yeah [laughter] yeah it wasn't [laughs], it wasn't about sort of apocalypse or nuclear destruction, so I wasn't in.

Shy: Well that in effect is intentionalism, not enough there to make you question everything [laughs].

Jamie: Exactly, exactly.

Amalie: Yeah, yeah that sounds kinda angsty.

Shy: Wow [laughs].

Jamie: I mean you know, I was watching like Footloose as well and things like that, you know and it was all sorts. Actually, you mentioned Norway, my dad worked in the oil industry so erm, there was a summer that I stayed in Stavanger and it...

Amalie: [Gasps] that's where I'm from.

Jamie: Ok, it rained the whole time.

Amalie: Yes, that sounds like Stavanger.

Jamie: I was six years old, was I six years old? Maybe seven years old. So, there's nothing to do apart from go to the video shop on the corner which had British movies and we would rent these films and watch like three a day so like at that really formative age, I was mainlining sort of John Hughes movies, things like the Breakfast Club and you know Flashdance, Rocky, all the Rocky films up to Rocky 3 I think by that point. Ridiculous.

Amalie: All the classics.

Jamie: So it's had a real, it's had a real impact on-- Top Gun I think might have been there, no that was probably a bit later. So yes, so I-- kind of like all these things impact on your world view, you realise when you're, when you're older.

Amalie: You keep mentioning like childhood in different forms, do you, do you find that you remember a lot from your childhood?

Jamie: Yes.

Amalie: Yeah.

Jamie: I do, a lot, I mean a lot.

Amalie: Yeah seems like it.

Jamie: Quite, quite vividly. Maybe, maybe more so again now, as I say because I have children you think about it more, but I mean, I think I've always had a pretty good memory, a very sort of visual memory, you know strong visual cues for things. You know, probably going back till I was about three years old I can remember.

Shy: Woah.

Jamie: And partly because we moved around so because, because of the industry my dad worked in, and I was born in Shetland erm, but that was because he was working on a construction project up there for a big oil refinery. Erm so my whole family were there but then we moved to Singapore. So, we went from Shetland, at six months old I went to Singapore and was there for another three years, and I remember being in Singapore, which means I must have been three years old and then we moved back to Scotland and kind of stayed there pretty much ever since but I guess having those key moments at that point of your life probably helped trigger those memories and help you access them.

Amalie: Definitely. What about you?

Shy: No I don't remember anything. I'm, I'm also 21 I should, I should be able to remember these things but I don't, like I can barely remember what I did yesterday. There are some things I remember but my parents always say that it's probably because I’ve looked at the photographs and I think there's something there you know, I'll look at the photographs and I'll remember that instance, but I don't know if I remember it right because all I remember is just that split second. Yeah.

Jamie: What's your earliest memory?

Shy: Oh man, I, I don't know. Everyone asks this one question and I never know because I can't organise them chronologically you know it's all kind of jumbled. So, I do have this one memory from I think I was around three-and-a-half and we were on holiday on Zanzibar, which is an island off the coast of Tanzania. My dad is a tour operator so we used to go on holiday quite often and I was in this blue bathing suit and I was sat in the bathroom, and the bathroom was like painted a vivid blue and there's palm trees outside and I remember that, but I think that's because I’d seen the photo, you know it's all these memories that you think you have then all of a sudden someone like changes a detail about it and you're like wait, do I remember this or not? Am I, am I imagining this?

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: The last question I'm going to ask you is, ‘If you could associate your object with one word what would it be?’

Jamie: Well, border is kind of an obvious one [laughter]. I'll associate it with writing actually, writing because that's such a, such a big part of my life and that's why I have it.

Shy: I guess mine would be childhood. Which also fits in quite a bit. I can't think of anything else it would be it just...

Amalie: It is just childhood. And why?

Shy: It could be the fact that it's been such a stable aspect throughout my entire evolution.

Can I call it that? I feel like a Pokémon.

Amalie: Your own evolution.

Shy: I'm referring to myself as someone who's evolved [laughter]. But it has, it's, it's such a small thing and it's something that I forget about all the time but all of a sudden every time-- English today, I can't speak. Every time I feel a bit too old this kind of grounds me, you know. I've had it all the way through and I realise how young I really am and that's so deep for a comic book but it's true this comic book has managed to pop up when I need it most even though I'd forgotten it exists.

Jamie: But I mean, it's more than just what it contains.

Shy: Yeah.

Jamie: It's the object.

Shy: Yeah.

Jamie: I mean, that's one of the things I love most about books as physical objects, you know I've got this massive bookshelf at home and you know that bookshelf that I have is, in its own way, a memory capsule, where I can look at each of those books on the shelf and think about where I was when I was reading, you know was I abroad? You know, sometimes the covers got that sort of slight curve to it because I was reading it beside you know, beside the sea or it was when I first started university I was reading that book or when I moved to London it was one of the books I was reading when I was first engaging with what it was like to live and to work in London and not to have that would be a great loss to my life, not be able to look at that shelf and think about all those memories that each of those individual books essentially hold because of when I came across them and then sometimes to go back and reread those books and understand them in different ways as you've done with you know with, with yours. You know that's, that's why I would you know one of things I'd say to everybody is buy books.

Shy: Yeah.

Jamie: And keep them because they're more than just the you know what's between the pages, erm they're an object that will have resonance further down the line in your life and they can be very important.

Shy: Well I totally agree with that. Like, when I go home now, which doesn't happen as frequently as I'd like to, like home home you know Tanzania. Erm, I'll have my bookshelf in my bedroom and I'll have all these books that I'd not read since I was really young and it's always so nice to kind of peruse through them.

And that's also why I really love second-hand books. To me it's just such a, such a weird concept that someone’s owned it and the you know there's like a little dog ear because someone had been interrupted and it's so crazy to think that someone might have been interrupted because I don't know, their cats knocked I don't know, a mug off of the kitchen table or because they got a bad phone call or because they just decided they wanted to go to sleep. Just the infinite realities that might exist within these books is just such a wild concept. It's the same thing with our books as well, like the books that I own will have marks on them and I'll forget why they have those marks but it's so intriguing to think hmm what was I doing then, you know.

Jamie: But also the strange things you've used as markers.

Shy: Oh exactly.

Jamie: Might be a receipt or might be you know an old sort of university ID card, you know, something like that, that suddenly you-- I hadn't thought about that book in ages, you pick it up and something falls out. Buy books.

Shy: Yeah.

Amalie: Buy books. That's honestly a great way to leave this episode.

Thank you for being on Sharing things.

Shy: Thank you.

Jamie: Thanks very much.

Amalie: Yeah.

[Sharing things theme music]

Thank you for listening to Sharing things. Make sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Spotify or your favourite podcast platform to catch our next episode.

See you next time.


Browse available transcripts

Back to Sharing things homepage