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Free advice on a postcard

Published January 3, 2022

Mug saying ‘the adventure begins’

Over this holiday period, I’ve finally managed to listen to series nine of John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme. If you’re not aware of it, this is a fantastic radio sketch programme featuring John and friends covering everything from social awkwardness, new twists on old classics, incredible storytelling and every now and again some really moving stuff.

Series nine was different, there were the logistical implications of recording during a pandemic and that gave Mr Finnemore the chance to experiment with the format - this time there was an over-arching narrative, told backwards, with a different featured character each episode going back through the generations. The man himself admitted it’s hard to explain, that if you don’t get it after a couple of episodes, you probably won’t, and he knows it won’t be for everyone.

When I first listened to this after it was originally released, I couldn’t get into it, didn’t really have the focus for the unusual structure. But I could pay full attention to it this past week and I’m glad I did, it was fabulous. Highly recommended. So the first advice is to listen to that series asap (and also use this incredible fan site to help you along the way).

Once I’d finished that, I was craving more from these beloved voices (John, Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Simon Kane, Lawry Lewin, Carrie Quinlan) so decided to go back to the very first series of JFSP. I was blown away by this early sketch in the first episode, so fitting for the new year.

For context, the author of ‘500 Things to Do Before You’re 30’ is being interviewed and discusses how the book evolved from just a couple of things, like survival and procreation.

These two or three things to do before you’re 30 were enough of a challenge for almost everyone who ever lived until just a couple of dozen years ago, incredible advances in first world standard or living meant we could suddenly revise it up to 50 and start making people feel inadequate for not paragliding, swimming with dolphins or going to Bali.

Now it’s 500 things, to ensure that not even the most dedicated time and money-rich twenty-something can possibly achieve them all.

During the course of this interview, I’ve become overwhelmed with shame and I’ve realised why there’s nothing wrong with telling people about exciting or interesting things they might not have thought of doing, it’s pretty twisted to turn that into a guilt trip that uses people’s natural anxiety about making the best use of their time on earth as a stick to beat them with, and incredibly arrogant to set ourselves up as the arbiter of things people must do at all, let alone putting a sodding time limit on it.

So we’re going to go back to basics, call it 2 Things to Do Before or After You’re 30, and give it away free on a postcard. Most people who can afford books survive to 30 anyway, and it turns out you don’t need to procreate if you don’t want to. It’s going to read:

  1. Be kind
  2. Have fun

Heart hands

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