We asked BBC Radio producer Tim Dee to comment on his current work and ideas that have influenced him…
Which of your own ideas have you been thinking about most recently?
I have just spent a week on North Rona, fifty miles west of Cape Wrath, watching its breeding seabirds and talking to a team of visiting archaeologists who were mapping the island’s human past from early eighth century Christians to 19th century seal hunters. What we imagine to be a remote place on the edge of things was once more central to all sorts of communities and lives; but to head on to an uncharted sea in an open boat – as the early islanders did to get to North Rona – seems as brave and pioneering as anything human kind has achieved since the island was abandoned around 1844 and to my nervous sea-wary self as incomprehensible as the arrival of Rona’s mysterious Leach’s Petrels after months out in the ocean back to their nesting burrows in the depths of night. We once moved, like those birds, with the light and the seasons and to be in the thick of their return is to realise something of what we have lost.
What idea of someone else has made most impact on you recently?
Without wanting to sound too cosy – I have been greatly impressed by the work of my partner and her fellow behavioural ecologists at Cambridge University on bird brood parasites (cuckoos and others) that have begun to chart the co-evolutionary arms race between hosts and parasites and how they chase one another through evolutionary time – the cuckoos making their eggs ever less discernable versions of their host’s eggs and their hosts eluding the cuckoo’s by making their eggs even harder to match. To think of two species of birds flying after one another through colour space over millions of years is a thrilling mind bender for me.
What is the most important book/article of ideas that everyone should read and why?
Read Shakespeare, watch Shakespeare, read him again. Ideas don’t exist without minds to think them, grapple with them, hold and carry them. Remember Hamlet (a man who almost gets the better of his ideas and cures himself): There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Tim Dee was born in Liverpool in 1961. He has worked as a BBC Radio producer for twenty years, including being senior producer on Poetry Please and divides his life between Bristol and Cambridge. Tim’s first book is The Running Sky and, in 2010, he has been appointed a judge for the 2010 Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Prize.