May 4, 2023

27. Curiosity Calls 1

27. Curiosity Calls 1

What have a psychiatrist, a psychic medium, a bodyguard, a WWII survivor, a remote settler and a parliamentary candidate got in common? They all feature in today’s episode. The podcast has now passed 25 episodes, so it felt like a great time to look back.  Check out this compilation of the best bits of some of our earlier episodes.

It was great fun revisiting some of the first episodes to feature in the Batting the Breeze podcast. I was delighted to reaffirm that the style and integrity of the podcast has hardly changed. It also reminded me how lucky we have been to have such fabulous guests on the show.

We looked back at the following episodes:

Episode 2 - A Child's Eye View of World War II – I reveal that Enid Bottle (now Enid Winduss) is actually my unsuspecting mother who helped me test my podcast equipment right back at the start by talking about her experiences of the Second World War.

Episode 6 - How to Lose Friends and Alienate People – Edward Morello tells his hilarious story of running for the UK parliament and believe it or not, he is set to try again!

Episode 7 - Is Anybody There? – The delightful psychic medium Jules Emm tells us about her special guide White Owl who pays us a visit during the interview.

Episode 9 - Awakening in the Northwest Territories – Alastair Henry talks about his experience of remote living in a First Nations settlement called Lutsel K’e in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Episode 10 - A Holotropic Journey – Neil Harris reveals the wonderful world of Holotropic Breathwork, a means of achieving “expanded states of awareness” and shares his own experience of being given birth to by a “rather impressive goddess”.

Episode 12 - Winston Churchill's Last Bodyguard – A chance encounter with the son of Winston Churchill’s bodyguard for the last 15 years of his life exposed a host of never-hear mini-histories of Churchill in that time.

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Thanks for listening!

Last week's episode
[Episode 26] – Symphony of a Mind - "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." Today I had the privilege to meet one person with autism. Stuart Ross Carlson is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder but he is defined by his extraordinary musical ability.  He is a concert violinist and composer. I tried to understand the contradiction between the very earthly challenges that Stuart and his family face every day and the apparent ethereal effortlessness with which he communicates through his violin - I couldn’t.  

Next week's episode
[Episode 28] - Honeybees, Herbalism and Humans - If you have ever considered how you could reconnect with nature, here’s your answer – through bees.  Have you ever wondered why bees make honey? What does a drone do all day long? Why should we care about the health of our bees? Paula Carnell is a bee consultant and honey sommelier looking to create a buzz about health. She says that bees are Mother Nature’s way of connecting nature with humanity, “What’s happening to the bees is inevitably happening to us as well”. 


[00:00:00] Edward: You know, there are many, many, many ways that are quicker, cheaper, and less painful to find out that 40,000 people don't like your face. And I would recommend that you try all of them before you run for parliament. [00:00:20] [00:00:40]

[00:00:55] Steve: Hello. Thank you for joining me for our first "Curiosity [00:01:00] Calls". Batting the breeze as passed the 25 episodes mark, and it seemed like a suitable time to take a look back at some of my favorite clips from our early episodes. I had a lot of fun putting this compilation together. I hope you enjoy listening to it too.

A Child's Eye View of WWII

[00:01:17] Steve: We start with Enid [00:01:20] Bottle, Episode 2 - A Child's Eye View of World War II. Full disclosure, Enid is actually my mother and I'm pleased to say still alive and kicking and 89 today. Happy birthday Mum. While I was planning Batting the Breeze, I took some new [00:01:40] recording kit around to mum's to test. I just said, "Start talking". So Mum shared memories of being a small child living in London when World War II broke out. It turned out so well, I thought I'd share it. She talked about the blitz. Night after night, the bombs dropped for [00:02:00] nine months through to May 1941, but life carried on.

Enid Bottle (Winduss) today

[00:02:05] Enid: We used to visit my grandmother at Tuffnell Park. She had a flat over Uncle Bob's butcher's shop. And when we went home, perhaps it might be nine o'clock at night, I expect, [00:02:20] we'd go down the hill to the Tuffnell Park tube station, and you'd go down the escalator and all along the sides of the platforms, there were bunk beds and people with families all going to bed down there. You know, they brought all their [00:02:40] sleeping bags and stuff, and it was their air raid shelter, and it was like that on all the stations.

[00:02:46] Steve: Fast forward to 1944 when Hitler unleashed a new terror weapon, the V-1 flying bomb, also known as the 'buzz bomb' or 'doodlebug'. Apart from being a weapon [00:03:00] capable of great destruction, it was designed to spread terror across London and the Southeast, and in that respect it certainly achieved its objective.

[00:03:10] Enid: I remember being extremely frightened at that stage because they were missiles which would drop [00:03:20] anywhere. And that is a horrible feeling.

Enid in the air raid shelter

[00:03:22] Enid: And we were south of the river, south of London. You didn't know where they were going to land because you heard them go over and suddenly stop, and it was just dead stop.

[00:03:34] Enid: And then quiet [00:03:40] until you heard the bang, the explosion, when they got to the ground.

[00:03:52] Enid: And it was really frightening because you didn't know whether it was going to be you or someone else or what. We were [00:04:00] fortunate that nothing landed on us, but they did in the locality, they did.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

[00:04:06] Steve: Frightening times indeed. In episode 6 - How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, we met Edward Morello. Edward lives in a small village called Bridport in Dorset, [00:04:20] England. One evening he was watching a political program on television and getting a little irate until his wife said, "You should do this. Just go and do it", that is stand for election to the UK Parliament. So he did. [00:04:40] I wondered if he took a sanity check before going ahead...

Edward Morello prepares for parliament

[00:04:49] Edward: The one thing that does happen is suddenly people, everyone goes, "Oh, do you know what? I know somebody who's run for parliament, would you like me to put you in touch?" There's actually quite a lot of people who have [00:05:00] historically run for parliament.

[00:05:01] Edward: And the overriding denominator of all of that is that they didn't win. Very few people won. So what you do is you end up meeting lots of people who didn't win. And actually that's not particularly helpful. "My advice is do not talk to anyone who's run for parliament because all they can tell you is how they lost.

[00:05:19] Steve: [00:05:20] But it's not just about knocking on doors...

[00:05:23] Edward:  And, it is start at sun-up and end at sundown. People don't tend to like you knocking on the door after the sun's gone down, fair enough. But you start at sunup you end at sundown and you do that solidly every single day, seven days a week for four to six weeks until you can't do it anymore.

[00:05:39] Edward: [00:05:40] When you get home, you've invariably got a call with your campaign team, and then you have to sit at your computer and answer the, anywhere between a hundred to 200 emails that you receive.

Edward Morello electioneering

[00:05:52] Steve: And of course the most important thing about [00:06:00] electioneering - is getting used to rejection.

[00:06:02] Edward:  It is personal, there's no way to get around that.  I had somebody who refused to shake my hand. I'm not voting for you lot I'm not even gonna shake your hand.

[00:06:11] Edward: I did have, It was actually a retirement block of flats, and there was, I knocked on the door and this little old lady opened the door a [00:06:20] crack and, I'm six foot three, she was probably three foot two. This tiny little old lady opened the door and she said, "Yes, dear"? I said, "Hello I'm Edward, I'm your Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate. "Are you dear?" "Yes, I am". "Well, in that case, you can fuck off"! and slammed the door in my face. And you go, "Okay". I mean, that was [00:06:40] definitely personal, "You know, there are many, many, many ways that are quicker, cheaper, and less painful to find out that 40,000 people don't like your face. And I would recommend that you try all of them before you run for parliament.

[00:06:55] Steve: And presumably for every one of those rejections, you get one that [00:07:00] says, "Yes I'm going to vote for you." And you can take that personally as well?

[00:07:05] Edward: I mean, it's not one-for-one, it would've been a closer, right? It's about five-to-one if I'm on honest, Steve. But yeah, absolutely, you know, it is an ego-boost. There's no [00:07:20] two ways about it. That's the, that's the high you're living for, right?

[00:07:22] Steve: Well I guess five-to-one in sales terms is quite a good return isn't it?

[00:07:26] Edward: It's great conversion rate, great conversion rate, terrible in politics?  

Is Anybody There?

[00:07:34] Steve: And Edward is still on standby to go through it all again at the next UK election, [00:07:40] whenever that may be. I'll keep you posted. Now in episode 7 - Is Anybody There?, I caught up with Jules Emm. She's a psychic medium and a very accommodating one at that. She said she would answer any question that I put to her. So I did, and she did. [00:08:00] I started with, "What is a psychic medium?"

Jules Emm psychic medium

[00:08:04] Jules: There are lots of people out there who work in different ways, 'cause you all have a different gift. So my gift is very much where I work with guides. I'm like a telephone. So I communicate with my guide [00:08:20] and they will tell me things and I then pass it on to the person who's sitting in front of me. So for example, if I was doing a reading, I generally work with the same guide. If I was doing healing, I can work with very different guides.

[00:08:35] Steve: You're answering all my questions here by the way. Very good. Very good.[00:08:40]

[00:08:40] Jules: Must be psychic.

[00:08:45] Steve: Do you know what they look like?

[00:08:51] Jules: I don't. I have a knowing of one, a native Indian called White Owl... and she has been with me from [00:09:00] the day that I was born. And I know her energy. As soon as she comes in, I know her presence.

[00:09:06] Steve: Was that something just then...

[00:09:07] Jules: And that was her. So the light's flickered. So that was her letting her know that, you know, she's around.

[00:09:13] Steve: So just for the record,  some light behind me... Is flickering. the point when you mentioned [00:09:20] her name.  Interesting.

[00:09:21] Steve: Well, of course I had to ask...

[00:09:25] Steve: Do you believe in ghosts?

[00:09:26] Jules: Yes.

[00:09:28] Steve: Have you ever seen one?

[00:09:29] Jules: Interesting. Where I used to live, I had presence in the house. One was of a young Victorian girl and also the father. Now the [00:09:40] people I had in the home at the time all had seen this appearance and it was a child in Victorian clothes as solid as a human being. The three people who saw them all very scientific, they're all doctors, and did not believe in what I did. Yet, [00:10:00] they all saw this girl and they thought it was one of the grandchildren.

Awakening in the Northwest Territories

[00:10:04] Steve: All very strange. I caught up with Alastair Henry in Episode 9 - Awakening in the Northwest Territories. Alistair lives in Canada and retired a few years back, but [00:10:20] still had a load of energy to do more. So he went off to a settlement in the Northwest Territories and worked and lived with the First Nation's people of Lutsel Ke. I started by asking him about the Northwest Territories.

Alastair Henry relaxing

[00:10:34] alastair_henry: It's a huge territory. And Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest [00:10:40] Territories and it's only got 17,000 people. And when you get to Yellowknife, that's it. No more roads. That's the end of the tree line. Between there and the North Pole is called the Barren Lands. And big animals live there. And bears, wolverines, muskox. And you just think, [00:11:00] wow, nature is awesome.

[00:11:02] Steve: And what about Lutsel Ke?

[00:11:09] alastair_henry: They were nomadic up until I think about 1940. And then the government said, "Hey, you guys can't keep roaming the land like this. I mean, we're gonna be bringing people [00:11:20] in to settle". So they built this community called Lutsel K'e, which means " Lands of the Little Fishes".

[00:11:28] alastair_henry: When you've only got 300 people, it's one great big community and mostly everybody's related anyway... a lot of inter-marrying goes on, there's this thing about keeping the bloodlines [00:11:40] pure.

Alastair Henry with Homer

[00:11:41] Steve: While Alistair had been prepared for a sparse way of living for a period, he did expect to have somewhere to live with a roof over his head. He was in for a shock.

[00:11:51] alastair_henry: I saw my house in 10 crates at the building site. There's no plumbers, no electricians, there's nobody.[00:12:00] In the meantime I... had to live with other people in the community. And one of the guys I... lived with, Stefan, he built his home from materials he found at the landfill. There was no indoor toilet. Just on the porch, it was a bucket with a garbage bag. So you had to do your business in the cold. So one time he [00:12:20] said to me,  "You know Al, you can't pee in the honey bucket"... it was called a honey bucket. You have to go in the bushes same as me. And that was brutal because it meant putting on every piece of clothing you had in the middle of the night to go outside to take a pee in the bushes. So I stopped drinking and that's what, that was my solution.

[00:12:38] Steve: [00:12:40] To say that the lifestyle was laid back would be a monumental understatement.

[00:12:48] alastair_henry: They live in the moment, and a lot of times I would say, "You wanna work on Friday?" They say, "Oh yeah." But Friday, there was no sight of them. Because it was a nice day, they just decided to do [00:13:00] something else.

[00:13:00] alastair_henry:  So from then on, I just realized if Jim is hungover, well he's hungover. He can't do his best today. So I just have to accept that at least he, he's here.

[00:13:12] alastair_henry: They have this... affinity with nature. They just see the Creator like the universe. They're [00:13:20] all connected and they love this interconnectedness. It's very real for them. We feel superior to nature, but they just feel part of it.  

[00:13:29] alastair_henry: I saw people being happy and I thought, "Well, how can you be so happy, you have nothing?" So I realize happiness isn't about what you have, it's how you see the [00:13:40] world, how you perceive things and how you appreciate.

A Holotropic Journey

[00:13:42] Steve: And how you see the world very much applied to my next guest, Neil Harris from Episode 10 - A Holotropic Journey. Neil, a long-time psychiatrist and psychotherapist discovered Holotropic Breathwork later in life. [00:14:00] Holotropic Breathwork? Well, I'll let Neil explain.

[00:14:03] Neil: Back in the fifties and sixties, once LSD had been released by a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, encouraging people to research its possible beneficial effects for [00:14:20] people with psychological struggles or psychiatric illness, the field really took off.

Neil Harris with wife Sally

[00:14:24] Neil: People were researching its use for end of life anxiety, for substance dependence, for resistant depression, and the community internationally was thriving when, of course, president Nixon - amongst others - outlawed the [00:14:40] use of psychedelic drugs.

[00:14:42] Neil: But rather than let that cause the research to grind completely to a halt, another psychiatrist called Stanislav Grof, who was from Czechoslovakia and had trained in Prague, developed a new way of supporting people into what we would call [00:15:00] "non-ordinary states of consciousness" or "expanded states of awareness".

[00:15:03] Steve: Neil shared one of his early expanded states of awareness. He remembered that within minutes of starting he was...

[00:15:13] Neil: a Celtic clan of some sort, involved in a battle. I was killed. I was [00:15:20] lying in a shallow grave in the ground, strangely thinking to myself, "Oh, so this is what death is like". Then the experience moved on to include... being given birth to... by a rather impressive goddess.

[00:15:34] Neil: And then at the end of the experience, one of the facilitators helped me do some processing [00:15:40] work on a physical injury I had suffered. And there was a release of emotion and energy at the end of that experience, which was profoundly helpful to me.

[00:15:49] Steve: Neil then explained that holotropic experiences normally fell into one of three groups. One of those groups particularly caught my [00:16:00] attention. It turns out that the second group...

[00:16:03] Neil: is to do with your time in the uterus. People are beginning to understand more and more that pre-birth experience is relevant to child development and personality development. The shock of moving from what might be a blissful, safe, unchallenging [00:16:20] environment into an almost impossible situation of life-threatening pressure and novelty is something people can experience in Holotropic Breathwork and the third group of experiences...

[00:16:32] Steve: Um, just rewind there a bit Neil. I'm slightly fixated on the notion of birthing [00:16:40] experiences, i.e. imagining you are being born ? I was unusually tongue-tied at this point, but seeing I needed a little bit of help, Neil went on to give me some practical background to this.

[00:16:53] Neil: A lot of these experiences leave residues in our body.

[00:16:58] Neil: So, an example of the birth [00:17:00] experience causing a move towards resolution would be somebody who has chronically described neck discomfort or carries themselves in a asymmetrical way and realizes through the breathwork that that happened to them while they were being born.

[00:17:16] Neil: And often people will go and talk to their mothers if they're still alive [00:17:20] and say, tell me about my birth. And they'll hear some surprising things that confirm their experiences that they've had in the breathwork.

Winston Churchill's Last Bodyguard

[00:17:26] Steve: Neil and his wife Sally, organise Holotropic Breathwork events in the New Forest in the South of England, and would love to hear from you. Check out the show notes for details of this and all the other guests on [00:17:40] today's show. And finally in Episode 12 - Winston Churchill's Last Bodyguard, I had a chance encounter with Bill Murray, son of Edmund Murray, who was so Winston Churchill's bodyguard for the last 15 years of his life. Edmund had unparalleled access to the [00:18:00] life of one of the world's great war leaders, and as such, to the many people with which Sir Winston fraternised.

[00:18:07] Steve: So what was this chance encounter? Well, a friend of mine, Kerry, had been scraping away wallpaper in the hallway of her new home when she nearly scraped away some old handwriting on the [00:18:20] wall. It was Edmund's handwriting from over 50 years ago. Yes, I know that makes for some very old wallpaper! The writing revealed Edmund's position as bodyguard to Sir Winston, and so Kerry proceeded to track down any offspring. I took up the story.

Bill Murray talks about his father Edmund

[00:18:37] Steve: After some investigation, [00:18:40] she located Bill Murray, son of Edmund, not too far away in Okehampton on the edge of the Dartmoor National Park. They talked on the phone and arranged to meet so that Bill could see his father's handwriting for himself.

[00:18:56] Steve: [00:19:00] And in December of 2022, Bill and his wife Carolyn arrived in Wookey Hole. [00:19:20]

[00:19:33] Steve: Somehow I'd managed to muscle my way in on this wonderful moment. After some [00:19:40] reflection, everyone relocated to the kitchen for a cuppa and Bill very kindly allowed me to turn on the recorder while we were chatting.

[00:19:49] Steve: What were your initial thoughts when you saw your father's wall art?

[00:19:53] Bill: Well, I was really surprised it came from nowhere, didn't it really, just the conversation. I suppose... because it's my father [00:20:00] who's written it, it's a happy memory. It's a happy memory. It's the sort of thing that he would do, it didn't surprise me in that respect. He had a good sense of humor and he would get something in his mind and then see it through. And to actually write something, a spontaneous thing probably between, I don't know, mixing up wallpaper [00:20:20] paste or something like that... it didn't surprise me at all really.

[00:20:23] Steve: Today is May 4th and it's 44 years to the day when another British Prime Ministerial titan first came to power, Margaret Thatcher. It's widely thought that Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher never [00:20:40] met. Spoiler alert, they did. Edmund actually facilitated this meeting, which we covered in the third of the three part mini-series. Part one, focused on Edmund's extraordinary life. Just before the war in 1937, he...

Edmund Murray in the French Foreign Legion

[00:20:58] Bill: got a one-way ticket to[00:21:00] Calais and joined the Foreign Legion. Signed up there, went down to the south of France to do his initial training and then over to Algeria and... did eight years in the French Foreign Legion from 1937[00:21:20] to 1945. He was quite smart, my father, as I said, and... he was a good soldier.

[00:21:25] Steve: While in the Foreign Legion, Edmund spread his net as wide as he could and started teaching.

[00:21:31] Bill: He also taught English. He taught English to the officer's children around the barracks and in the town as well[00:21:40] and he made a bit of money on that. He became very friendly with quite a few of the senior officers in the Foreign Legion. His other privileges were to take visiting celebrities around... the town, people like Maurice Chevalier.

[00:21:54] Bill: On one occasion, on Bastille Day I think, they went to perform at the [00:22:00] celebrations in Paris. It must have been just before the war, and Dad did dance with Marlene Dietrich, because she was there joining in the fun I suppose.

[00:22:10] Steve: Edmund left the Foreign Legion in 1945, joined the Metropolitan Police in London in 1947, then in [00:22:20] 1950 was first introduced to Mr. Churchill as he was in those days.

[00:22:25] Bill: "This is Murray sir", said Williams. Mr. Churchill moved his cigar to his left hand. I took his extended right lightly in mine, taking care as I have been warned to avoid [00:22:40] clasping it firmly. The great man shook my hand, inspected me carefully, and belched.​

[00:22:51] Steve: it was indeed an extraordinary life and well worth revisiting that episode as are all the episodes we featured today. And [00:23:00] that's all for this first Curiosity Calls. A massive thank you to you for listening and to my wonderful guests for being such good sports. I hope you'll join me next week for another episode of Batting the Breeze. Thank you. [00:23:20] [00:23:40]