Episode 68: A conversation with John Drake

“They say everyone grieves differently, but I also think we grieve differently for different people, and we need time to explore that. Try and embrace it.” John Drake

In this week’s episode, we are talking grief, trauma, terrifying experiences in the Sri Lankan jungle, PTSD, life in conflict zones and the unusual experience of lockdown on a small island.

Meet my friend John Drake. We went to school together on the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland, hung out as unsure teens. John is a wonder; one of the most intelligent people I know, and also kind, empathetic and self-deprecating, with a wicked sense of humour. Since we left school, John has lived a lot of life. After studying Politics and Arabic he settled in London, working with ex-SAS guys and intelligence analysts before becoming a Head of Intelligence. He travelled from conflict zone to conflict zone, advising on risk and safety practices, and spent extended periods of time in locked-down countries such as Iraq.

During his university years, he spent time in the Sri Lankan jungle during the civil war, where he was attacked by an aggressive elephant that had killed six villagers, a sad result of human communities encroaching on wildlife habitat. John developed PTSD after the horror of this experience, a legacy that would stay with him for years. Then, five years ago, John lost his Dad suddenly and traumatically and was thrown into a new normal. Grief characterised his daily life, along with a resurgence of PTSD.

We got into a conversation about grief and life that felt more like a chat over coffee than a recorded podcast; the sort I love most. John openly shared his perspectives, with a good slice of humour thrown in, about:

  • Growing up in a small island community and the impact on personal identity

  • Lockdown life on the Isle of Mull

  • The empathy deficit in cities versus the Hebrides

  • The sudden and traumatic experience of losing his Dad five years ago

  • The vast importance of talking therapy, and experiences with bereavement counselling and CBT

  • The attack John suffered in the Sri Lankan jungle from an elephant, leaving him with PTSD

  • The therapy of sea baths for dealing with PTSD, and the simulation of the physical shock response

  • Experiences of living and working in Baghdad on lockdown, with suicide bombs exploding nearby

  • The helpfulness of yoga in daily life, especially during lockdown

  • The art of martini-making!

If you’ve ever wanted to clue up more on global affairs, politics and conflicts – follow John and check out his travel safety website and app, Starling Safety, as well as his podcast Insight from the Edge of the World, launched in April. He’s an informed mind on the issues affecting our planet and global systems, especially wealth inequality, and speaks so articulately and intelligently on it all.

Mighty thanks to John for taking part in this. You can listen through the links below from Friday 8am BST and be sure to check out the show notes. Please go share with your people!

Listen online through Soundcloud


Apple Podcasts



Show notes

Starling Safety

The Martini Socialist

Insight from the Edge of the World podcast

Tobermory Chocolate

The Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma (King’s College London)

John on Twitter

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