I live in Bournemouth. Philip Larkin ended up in Hull, I ended up in Bournemouth. It wasn’t really a conscious choice. But one aspect of this area has had a big influence on me.
If you’re brilliant at Latin and Greek in this country, they send you to Oxford or Cambridge. If you’re chronically addicted to heroin or alcohol, they send you to Bournemouth or Brighton.
It turns out there is a ‘recovery’ subculture here. You see lots of people streaming out of libraries or churches because they’ve been to 12-step meetings.
I got to know some of these people, and I’ve been fascinated by how the cure for addiction amounts to learning to speak in public. An AA meeting is about learning to tell your story.
I’ve been studying how this works for many years. I was lucky enough to set up a podcast with Rabbi Shais Taub, who wrote a book on the subject The God of Our Understanding. In our conversation we discuss what Alcoholics Anonymous does for people, and what implications that has for speechwriters.