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Transcript: 'I was howling with pain and there was blood everywhere'

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This is a full transcript of 'I was howling with pain and there was blood everywhere' as first broadcast on 3 November 2020. Presented by Beth Rose

FRANK -They ambushed us and they shot us. Point blank range. It wasn't a drive by, they came up and got us.

The doctor was literally having to brace himself against the table to pull this thing out.

What they don't see is all the stuff that we have to deal with beneath the surface.

You're acutely aware that you're suddenly the height of an eight year old.

There is the does he take sugar mentality. I mean, you know, often when I'm on a plane the flight crew will address the person next to me.

[Jingle: Ouch]

BETH -Hello, and welcome to this BBC Ouch podcast with me, Beth Rose. Frank Gardner is a BBC journalist and bestselling author, but in 2004 he became the headline when he and his colleague, Simon Cumbers, were ambushed by Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Frank was shot six times. He was paralysed from the knees down and suffered huge internal injuries. His colleague, Simon, was killed.

Sixteen years on, Frank's revisiting that trauma in his new documentary, 'Being Frank', where he candidly shows all the ups and downs of acquiring his impairment, from the tricky task of changing his catheter to the challenges of riding horseback down Columbian ravines, all to weigh up what being disabled really means to him.

But Frank didn't turn to journalism until his 30s, so we also chat about the years he lived in Cairo and Bahrain, the approach MI6 made on him, and, if you're a fan of reading or writing, listen right to the end, because Frank reveals some titbits about his new book, not due out until next year.

Hi Frank. It's so good to have you on the BBC Ouch podcast.

FRANK - Great to be here. Sorry, I've got to say, you've been away somewhere, somewhere sunny.

BETH -Everyone keeps saying how tanned I am. I think it's because of the window right by me.

FRANK -That lockdown tan then.

BETH -Exactly. Not much sun left anymore though. Before we get going I have got two questions for you, but every time I've mentioned your new documentary, 'Being Frank', everyone has these two questions. The first one, are you working from home?

FRANK - Yeah. We're actively discouraged from going back into the building. It's good and it's bad. It means that you run your own schedule, but I really miss the camaraderie, so in that sense I will be delighted when they hurry up and find a vaccine and we all go back to work.

BETH -Well, the other question is, are you a spy?

FRANK -If I was I'd have to kill you.

BETH -Don't do that.

FRANK - No, I've been very open about this. I was really intrigued by the idea, and I met somebody in Cairo, he was a diplomat but I didn't know that he was the MI6 guy in Cairo, and he put me in touch with somebody and I went for the interview. He said, "Look, you've got to understand that if you ever do this as a profession you will appear to be a mid-career failure, that other people will rise above you and you'll never be able to tell anybody other than your partner."

And I thought right back then, I was what, 22, 23, if I do something well I want people to know about it, hence I've gone into television. I would make a rubbish spy because I like telling people about things. But that said, I'm one of probably about several dozen journalists in London who cover defence, security and intelligence. We are allowed to pick up the phone and ring the communications guys in the intelligence agencies and we get very, very little out of them. What I should mention is that I'm well through writing a series of spy novels, which is great fun, because that allows me to fantasise about the sort of stuff that we could never talk about. The next one will be out in May. It's huge fun. Everything in our DNA is about reporting factually, and yet here I am making things up in this book.

BETH -I've actually just started reading 'Ultimatum', but one of the exciting things, Frank, I opened the front cover, I found £60 in there that I'd put in an envelope.

FRANK -That is a sign, Beth, that you need to be reading my books, definitely.

BETH - But you've obviously got your documentary coming out really soon, called 'Being Frank', which is your attempt to address the disabled life and what it means to you, what's happened over the last 16 years. A huge part of the film is actually this huge part of your life that you've spent in the Middle East.

FRANK -Yeah, 2020 I think is going to be the first year that I haven't, because of COVID, visited the Arab world since I was 18. I developed a fascination for Arabic and the Middle East when I was only 16. My mum introduced me to an explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, and in the 1940s and '50s he had travelled with his Bedouin companions from the south coast of Oman all the way up through what's called the Empty Quarter of the Arabian deserts to map an unexplored part of the world. His photographs from that time were just mesmerising.

I went to Exeter University, so I had a year in Cairo, which was amazing. I moved fairly quickly into living with a very poor Egyptian family. There were twelve of us in two rooms. It was an absolute privilege to live with them. There were no tourists at night. I mean, there'd be a few by day, but at night I'd sit in the cafes with Egyptian guys and played backgammon and dominos with them and it was just such a fantastic part of my life and I learnt so much Arabic that way. I went on after that, I worked for a Middle Eastern bank in Bahrain and travelled all over the Middle East doing that.

BETH -And it was at the end of your banking career wasn't it that you joined the BBC in your 30s?

FRANK -It wasn't exactly a smooth flight path to be honest, so I'd run out of runway in banking, I was brought back to London, I was made a director, and I thought, whoa, this is not the life of adventure that I wanted. I retrained and I managed to get an unpaid attachment for two weeks at BBC World. I turned up overdressed, because I'd come from banking. I think I was in a suit, and I did two years in the news room, but I sent myself out on little reconnaissance trips to the Middle East with a camera and brought back features for World Business Report and realised that one man banding was the only way I was going to get on air.

And I then moved myself and, at the time, my heavily pregnant wife to Dubai with absolutely no guarantee of income. It was tough but it was the right place at the right time. I was on and off US aircraft carriers, I was going to Yemen to do hostage stories, it was a big risky move but it was good. I then applied for the job of BBC correspondent in Cairo, which I got. I was always being assigned off to Damascus or Gaza.

BETH - So now what a lot people will know you as is the BBC security correspondent. You report a lot on the War on Terror and you do a lot of stories still in the Middle East. This is in part where the documentary begins, doesn't it? Do you mind telling me a bit about what happened 16 years ago when you and your colleague, Simon Cumbers, were in Saudi Arabia for a story?

FRANK -Back in the summer of 2004 Al Qaeda did a raid on a housing compound in eastern Saudi Arabia, killed a lot of people, and we were sent down the next day to go and report on it. And it was our last day, we'd finished everything. The Saudi Ministry of Information minders turned up at our hotel, we didn't expect to see them, and they said, "We're here to take you round Riyadh." And we were kind of, oh okay, all right. Well, I guess we'll get a bit of B roll, bit of extra footage, why not?

And they ended up taking us to an area that they totally underestimated how dangerous it was. We filmed a couple of piece to cameras, we were packing up and we got ambushed. Al Qaeda, it was their main team, they happened to be driving past, they saw us and they shot us. Point blank range. It wasn't a drive by, they came up and got us. The first bullet went through my shoulder, the second one in my leg, but then I was down on the ground and then they stood over me and put the rest into me. Simon was killed and I was shot six times and very lucky to survive. All the people who attacked us are all dead now.

Being shot through the nerves that connect the spine to the legs, the net result of that is that enervated enough to be able to stand. I've been incredibly lucky that I have recovered, through hard work and physio, I have recovered quite a lot of the enervation, basically down as far as the knees. The papers said, "Oh, he's paralysed from the waist down," that isn't true anymore, I'm paralysed from the knees down, but my glutes… This is probably TMI all of this, but my bum muscles are pretty kind of weak, and that's actually what holds you up as a biped, as a walking pedestrian.

So I can only stand if I wear callipers and a frame, but it's much more practical to stick with the wheelchair. The lower down your injury the more independence you can still retain. That said, I would say most of the people I know who have got spinal cord injury, and some of them are incredibly active, I mean I've even met people like Gerard in the film who is amazingly active and he is tetraplegic, but he absolutely makes the most of his life. And for me, I got hit in my early 40s, so I was able to run marathons and do endurance races before I got hit, so I have no bitterness.

BETH -Very matter of fact, Frank, which I think you appreciate a lot of people regard you as; getting on with it. As you said, you were shot six times at point blank range. It's not just the legs is it that this attack caused damage to?

FRANK -Yes. No, you're absolutely right. I mean, one of the reasons, Beth, why I've chosen to do this film, the director approached me, I said to him right from the beginning, "Let's show everything." I wanted people to see the iceberg beneath the surface. People look at somebody in a wheelchair like me, polling along the street, you know, trying to get up a curb or whatever, and, you know, they probably think oh, poor guy, I wonder if needs a bit of help, but what they don't see is all the stuff that we have to deal with beneath the surface.

For me, I think probably top of the tree is pain, I just get so much neural, neuropathic pain in my legs. So today is a good day. Yesterday was a bad day. If we were doing this the day before, it would be what I call a mallet day, which is where I get the sensation of somebody taking a huge great big mallet and whacking the inside of my knee. It lasts from five to ten seconds, but it's so painful I can hardly speak, and I still get that 16 years on.

Then there's the whole sort of scribbly bits. So a spinal cord injury, it tends to knockout bladder, bowel and sexual function. I've been very lucky on the latter. And my insides were shot to pieces, they had to remove large amounts of my innards so I use a colostomy bag. It's fine, it doesn't show on air, but basically, when the thing farts, when air comes out through what's called a stoma, which is basically a little hole in the side of my torso, it'll make a noise. Sometimes that happens during meetings. It has occasionally happened on air and I'll have to say, "Sorry guys, that's me," as we see in the film.

BETH -Yeah, you're really open in the film, and one of the most striking moments is you have to change your catheter every eight weeks, and 16 years on you always get a bit nervous before doing it.

FRANK -Yeah, so basically I have something called a suprapubic catheter, supra as in above. It basically just sits in there. You have to change it every eight weeks otherwise it gets kind of clogged up. And I now do it myself, Initially I had to go to hospital each time. At times it has been immensely painful taking it out and putting it back in. There was one time where the end of it had basically kind of swollen up. It was stuck in there, and this is absolutely terrifying, so I went to A&E. They had to give me morphine and then pull it out. And the doctor was literally having to brace himself against the table to pull this thing out. And I was just howling with pain. There was blood everywhere, it was awful. So yeah, it's a slightly nerve-wracking thing to do that.

Coming back to why do this, why put this in the film? Because I want people to see that despite all of this crap that goes on underneath the surface you're still able to lead a pretty normal life and still travel. I went to Laos last year, and you can still do all of this stuff despite all of that. So my aim in this film is not to show that I'm some kind of brave soul, it's about saying to other people, you know, to encourage them, to inspire them, to empower them to do what they want to do. Don't let this stuff be a hindrance, don't be embarrassed about it, or maybe at first, but then get over it. It shouldn't stop you doing what you want to do.

BETH -What was it like for you to revisit the very start of your journey, for want of a better word, 16 years on, when obviously there's quite a big chapter to reflect on?

FRANK - Parts of it were fun. I mean going back to the Royal London Hospital and going up onto the roof to the helipad and watching the little red HEMS helicopter come in, I liked that, I mean, I've always liked helicopters. I was in the military, I flew around in choppers a lot, so to go to the Royal London and watch this thing come in, that was great. What was pretty grim was being down there in the ward, hearing that depressing sound of those monitoring machines going beep, beep, beep. Beep, beep, beep.

And it just brought it all back and all the gadgets and the tubes and the oxygen and the antiseptic smell. The nurses were wonderful, no praise is high enough, but nothing changes the fact that that was an immensely depressing time because I had waltzed out of the door as a fit 42 year old with a rucksack over my back saying, "See ya, I'll be back in a week," and three weeks later I was back as a broken body.

For the first few weeks I was hooked up to six different accoutrements. I had a central line in my neck to feed various drugs to try and stabilise my meds, I just had so much wrong with me, and the frustration of seeing a sunny day outside the window at the other end of the ward and not being able to go out into that, being completely confined, imprisoned in that bed, was so frustrating, it was awful. When my family came to see me for the first time and my daughters ran up and they wanted to hug me but my wife had to say, "You can't hug Daddy, he's got too many wires coming off him," that was really grim. Hospital was tough. I was in hospital for seven months. I had fourteen surgical operations.

BETH - I mean, how did you deal with it when you, as you say, you're in your cocoon and you are in your mind?

FRANK -Well, things got slowly better. I was starting to do physio. I had a constant stream of visitors, which was nice. At one point they sent me a psychiatrist to see if I was okay and this woman sat on the edge of my bed and said, "So it was a car accident was it?" And I said, "Right, do you know what? Please leave, because if you can't be bothered to read the notes before you come in here, I am not opening up to you." And they then sent this brilliant ex Royal Navy psychiatrist, Neil Greenberg, who then became the Foreign Office go to person for released hostages to talk to, he was brilliant. He mostly listened, I was in floods of tears as I kind of let everything out, and I think it's so important to do that; you mustn't bottle it in.

My advice to anybody who has had a traumatic incident, a traumatic life changing catastrophic injury or event or illness, write it down in your laptop and password protect it. You may never use it, but get it all out there. And that's what I did. As soon as my shoulder had healed enough for me able to write, I wrote down everything I remember about the attack, which was everything, later it became the first chapter of my book, but it might have stayed sealed there forever. Maybe I would have passed it on to my children. It's cathartic to do that. So that's one way I dealt with it.

I was very lucky to have a loving family around me, that there were lots of visits. I needed some motivation to get better, so the BBC said, "What can we do for you?" And I said, "I'd like a letter guaranteeing that I've still got my job when I'm well enough to come back to it." They sent it the next day, and I had that sort of mentally framed above my bed. I wanted to get back to work.

BETH -Unbelievably, you were back at work within ten months.

FRANK -The Beeb were very gentle about it, they said, "Well maybe just one day a week or two days a week." And I said, "No. Look, this is how I want to do it. We will spend the first day doing the interviews about what happened, then I want to move on and not talk about me anymore and just get back to doing my journalistic job." And I went straight back to doing it full time.

And the first overseas trip I did, I think the very next month, we went to Geneva to interview Osama bin Laden's half-brother. He was a perfumer. But I do remember being absolutely exhausted on that trip. It's a short flight, it's what, one hour to Geneva, and I had to lie down when I got there. It took me a year to get my mojo back really.

BETH -Obviously it was a hugely traumatic experience. Did you experience anything like post-traumatic stress disorder or any flashbacks?

FRANK - No, I've been very lucky on that and I'm not complacent about it at all, Beth, because I know that PTSD can rise up and get you years later. A friend of mine who was filming in the Balkans and somebody died very close to him and he got PTSD 11 years later. You don't often see it coming, you know, I'm no way complacent about it, but what I did do was I told everybody who came to visit me who wanted to know exactly what had happened. I then wrote a book about it, 'Blood and Sand', and I've not really bottled anything up. And plus, there's so much to live for. There are so many places I want to go to. There's so much of the world I still want to see. There's so many things I want to do. My kids are such wonderful girls and I'm very lucky to have a lovely girlfriend as well. So, there's lots to live for.

BETH -What was it like then with this documentary? Because you really had to revisit everything, didn't you? And you met lots of people along the way who also had similar experiences in terms of recovering from serious injury.

FRANK -Yes, there were three people that they introduced me to. One, Gerard, had much worse injuries than me. Another, Yasmin, had less severe injuries, but was finding it very tough mentally. Ironically, Gerard I think was incredibly robust, although he is a tetraplegic and totally dependent physically on his carer. He wears his disability very lightly. He's studying Middle Eastern language I think, or Arabic language, at the moment for an MA and he was just full of life and zest.

Yasmin was able to walk with assistance, but finding life very difficult and it didn't help I think for her that she lives in a flat right at the top of a load of stairs, and I don't think that she perhaps has had the same family and friends support group around her that I've been lucky enough to have. But the third person, Matt, is not a spinal injuries person, he is an amputee. He was a Royal Marine and had lost part of his leg from an injury in Brecon Beacons. It wasn't even in action, it was in training, and he's found that very hard to deal with and it's been a huge strain on his marriage and it was really interesting meeting him and his wife and it just illustrated to me that the challenge is as much mental as physical.

The danger that a lot of people fall into is that they become angry and resentful. I could easily have gone down this route I think. You're acutely aware that you're suddenly the height of an eight year old. There is the does he take sugar mentality. I mean, you know, often when I'm on a plane the flight crew will address the person next to me.

It's unhealthy to dwell on what could have been or what you could have done. What's done is done. It's much more interesting to focus on the future. And that psychiatrist, Doctor Neil Greenberg, he said. "Look, don't waste any emotional energy on the things that you used to be able to do. Think about all the stuff that you've salvaged, all the things you can still do. Your mind is still there. You've still got most of your body. Focus on future things." And I decided fairly quickly that I would retrain on how to ski and how to scuba dive. Those were two sport activities I didn't want to give up and I later became President of the Ski Club of Great Britain. I wasn't chosen for any skill, it was more of a kind of symbol that here's this guy who's had huge injuries and he's still skiing. I'm a far better skier now in a sit ski than I was when I was on two legs. I've cracked it now.

BETH -I'm glad you brought up the future because there was another bit in the documentary, and I don't want to give away too much, you go and see Frank Cross.

FRANK -When I got to London Frank Cross was the consultant surgeon who was looking after me.

BETH -He's very straightforward in what he says to you, which is basically, "No improvement, Frank, and it's going to get worse as you get older. You might need more care than you would like."

FRANK -Do you know what, Beth, he's been saying that to me since I was in my 40s. So I take great pleasure in continually surprising him. I mean, I think he has been genuinely surprised at how quickly and how far I've recovered. I keep myself as fit as I can and I think I'm going to keep surprising Frank. I am not going to go down the route that he thinks I am.

BETH -The other thing, the fact that because obviously you weren't using your legs or your hips, the bone density decreased and so you have osteoporosis. Is that something that you have to manage?

FRANK - If it is, I'm not doing it. What I ought to be doing probably more of is standing and walking a bit, but my legs are osteoporotic, that's not going to change. When I was on horseback in Colombia earlier this year, and that's part of it in the film, that's why I made the decision, I need to stop going down this steep ravine now because it's so steep I am going to fall off this horse and my legs will break. So I called a halt to it then and we found a different way to get down.

There have been two times since being shot that I've been really scared. One was earlier this year in Colombia, going down that ravine, and another was BBC 'Ski Sunday, Celebrity Grand Slalom'. I was the only guy in a sit ski, I was only disabled person doing it, so I had to compete against Heston Blumenthal, Fiona Bruce, in going down this pretty damn steep slalom. It was in Courmayeur in Italy and we arrived there two days before the race and for two days it rained and then the day of the race it was minus eight so the slope was like glass and you were allowed one practice run.

I went down it and I lost control and basically fell and skidded all the way down. I was terrified. When I had the second go, I know this is going to eat up a lot of seconds, but I'm going to sideslip carefully down the steepest bit. And they had Graham Bell commentating, "Come on, Frank, you need to commit to this slope. You've got to go for it." And there's me absolutely terrified up the top.

BETH -Well, I'm sorry to hear it was so scary, but it's quite amusing to look back on it. So we should come full circle. So the idea of this film was for you to take a look at what does disability or the disabled life mean to you. Did you come to a conclusion at the end of it? Did it change your mind set in anyway?

FRANK -No, I don't think so. It was refreshing and educational to meet the three people that I did. You can't help comparing your own conditions and injuries and I thought that it's kind of ironic that there is Yasmin who is much more mobile than me, but is finding it much tougher mentally and there is Gerard who's much less mobile than me and has got this fantastic spirit and he's got all this ambition to go back to the Middle East. I mean, we made a pact on camera that a year from now he was going to go back to the Middle East. Well, he's excused that because of Coronavirus.

BETH -But you definitely did force him into that pact?

FRANK -I kind of twisted his arm a bit.

BETH -On camera. Any takeaway moments? Was there anything that stayed with you?

FRANK -I've probably blocked out from my mind those really grim days in hospital, the feeling of utter helplessness. And it was a long way away from home so when my wife and daughters came to visit it was a brief visit and then they were a long way away after that. And I could hear children playing in the corridor and they weren't mine, the thought that I would never again run into the sea with my kids or climb a tree with them and play hide and seek, all of those things. Of course, the reality is when you come out of hospital you find other ways of doing it and you can still do this stuff in a wheelchair. But at the time it was very, very depressing. It's tempting to feel an enormous wave of self-pity, but I got through that.

BETH -In a way was it good for you to revisit after 16 years? Has it maybe given you some more closure or opened things in a different way?

FRANK -I don't think I need any closure. I am where I am. It's not as if the killers of my cameraman, Simon Cumbers, are still at large, they're all dead and buried. I'm lucky that the profession I have chosen is one that could continue after my injuries, with modifications. It has been immensely frustrating not to be able to go to the kind of places that I would otherwise have done. So the Arab Spring in 2011 that erupted seven years after my injuries, I couldn't do it. I would have loved to have been there, right in the centre of Tahrir Square. This was like a second home to me. The BBC didn't send me, they couldn't send me. There was constant flux in that crowd, it was dangerous at times, there was tear gas, there was shotgun pellets, it would have been no place for me in a wheelchair. And besides, the live point was way up a load of stairs. But that was really tough, you know, my disability has massively affected, whatever people might think, it has hugely affected my ability to get on air in interesting places.

BETH -And you did go back to Saudi Arabia didn't you?

FRANK -Yeah I feel slightly guilty about it, because I did promise my mother that I would not go back to Saudi while she was alive, and I did it one year before she died, but it was too good an opportunity. It was a BBC Two documentary and they came up with the stunningly original title of 'Frank Gardner's return to Saudi Arabia'. I think that was a big form of closure for me. It was breaking the mould of going back, because I'd dreamt of going back to Saudi Arabia. I'm actually… I know this is going to sound bizarre, I'm very fond of parts of Saudi Arabia and I've had enormous hospitality there. Yeah, there are some bad sides to it too, especially back then in 2004. Saudi Arabia is a much happier place now. There's no political freedom but there are a lot more social freedoms. There's entertainment, the cinema, women can drive.

BETH -Did your mum mind that you had returned?

FRANK -I didn't tell her until after I got back. She was grateful for that, she said, "Well, thank God I didn't know." I mean, she said I was very naughty to do that but she understood why I had to do it and it was… We went to the hospital where I'd recovered, and that was amazing going back there. Some of the surgeons who treated me on the night were still there. A Swedish guy, Thunberg, he said, "You were brought in and you were the colour of my white coat. We filled you up with plasma and it just came out through the bullet holes, we didn't know how to stop it." In the end they found this clotting agent that worked.

We went to the Yemeni border and that was very exciting, we flew in Blackhawk helicopters. We went to Jeddah and rode on the back of a pickup truck where they were playing Bob Marley and that was pretty strange. You know, I didn't think you could do that in Saudi, but every Friday afternoon they were allowed to do it.

There was one bad moment. We were in Najran, a town right on the Yemeni border and I needed to go to the loo and I went behind these trucks and while I was there, suddenly there was a screech of tyres, a shout and two shots. And I thought, oh no, not again, I can't believe it. And what it was, was a shepherd arrived in his pickup truck, he was calling out to a friend and then his car backfired. But this time we did have an armed police escort and they were totally panicking and running around. "Where is he? Where is he?" It was fine, but it was a bit scary at the time.

BETH -The Middle East is so fond to you, and you've spent so much of your life there that with this attack in Saudi Arabia did it feel a bit like a betrayal?

FRANK -That's exactly what it felt like, Beth, it did. Even as I lay on the tarmac there with all these bullets inside me, bleeding internally, I remember thinking, this is so unfair. I have gone to such lengths to understand and empathise with the culture and the religion of this region and my reward for all of this, six bullets in the belly? But I kind of sorted it out in my mind in the weeks that followed by understanding that the people who had attacked us were not representative of Saudi Arabia, these were fugitives from justice. They had murdered Muslims, they had orphaned people.

BETH -You obviously still have a great love of the area.

FRANK -I do, and I mean one of the things that really cheered me up enormously in hospital was the huge amount of letters and emails of support and condolence that I got from Muslims all across the world, from Birmingham to Modena.

BETH -I am interested personally on how your writing is going.

FRANK -I've done two nonfiction books, 'Blood and Sand' and 'Far Horizons' which is a travel book, and then the publisher said, "So, come on Frank, what's next? How about you write the definitive account of Isis?" And I thought, oh God no, how about I don't? So I thought right, now is the time to do fiction. I was on a long flight and just started writing, and by time we'd landed I'd written 5,000 words and that was the beginning of 'Crisis'. So there's 'Crisis' and then 'Ultimatum' and then the third one which I have finished but I'm waiting for the notes back from the editor, that will be out in May. It's very topical.

BETH -Oh, I don't know if it's TBC, but it's called 'Outbreak'.

FRANK -It is, yes. It's absolutely not about COVID and the particular pathogen is much nastier than COVID. And to be clear, I started writing it in December 2018. It's quite frustrating that the book hadn't come out before Corona, because I'm sure a lot of people are going to say, "Ah, he's just piggybacking off the back of…" I really haven't, I'd written most of it before this. And then I've now got to write the proposal for the next trilogy. So I want Luke Carlton to evolve. Some things are going to happen to him in 'Outbreak' on the personal side that are quite shocking. So yeah, the next one, once the COVID flight restrictions are lifted I will be heading off. All I will say is it's somewhere east.

BETH -That's not a huge tip off there, I would say.

FRANK -Yeah, I mean, it could be Tilbury.

BETH -Do you have a strict writing regime?

FRANK -No, not at all. I'm all over the place. I write when I'm in the mood, and I write best sitting in our local café with a cappuccino or a glass of red wine and a bit of chitchat around. I'm in 50s now but I'm going to still keep doing this stuff.

[Jingle: Ouch]

BETH -It's quite an astonishing life Frank has led isn't it? And his documentary, 'Being Frank', is really worth a watch if you want to know more. It's on BBC Two at 9.00 pm on 5th November. And of course it will be on BBC iPlayer afterwards. If you want to hear more Ouch original content subscribe to the BBC Ouch podcast on BBC Sounds. And you can also find us on Twitter and Facebook by searching BBC Ouch. You can email us as well, ouch@bbc.co.uk.

Related Topics

  • Mental health
  • Disability
  • Saudi Arabia

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  • 'I was howling with pain and there was blood everywhere'