Maternal concern

On Saturday evening, a text from my mother began: “I worry about you…”

Was she concerned for my health?
Was she suffering sleepless nights at the thought of me gallivanting through London dark streets? [I learnt years ago that she doesn’t appreciate tales of bar fights I’ve witnessed or night bus journeys at 3am.]
Did she think I might be on the verge of a nervous breakdown thanks to the pressures of work?

Nope. She was simply expressing slight dismay at the news that I’d spent the previous hour amusing myself by listening to two weeks’ worth of the Desert Island Discs podcast. For some reason, she didn’t think that was a suitable activity for 8.30pm on a Saturday night. Actually, I’d agree with her. I should have been on my sofa watching X Factor, but instead was on a slow train from Aylesbury to London after a wonderful day out marred by that most British of frustrations – weekend engineering work and replacement bus services.

The only way I managed to keep my sanity (and my temper) on the journey home – which was delayed even further by some idiot tourists not buying tickets and the replacement bus driver waiting for them, thus meaning we missed our train connection – was by listening to a stock of podcasts. And to be honest, I don’t know why my taste in these things should dismay my mother, as it’s largely derived from the upbringing she gave me!

Lately I’ve gone on a subscription spree, in the hope that I will never again be stuck on a broken down train with nothing to calm me. Many of them are Radio 4 related, thanks to its omnipresence in the family home while growing up. Favourites include…

The aforementioned Desert Island Discs. Admittedly, the music is cut down to a brief snippet thanks to copyright laws, but the interviews make it a worthwhile listen despite that. Plus, it’s either because I’m old and boring or because Radio 4’s dumbed itself down considerably, but I’ve actually heard of (and quite like) all the episodes in recent weeks (Tom Jones was particularly soothing on Saturday).

Excess Baggage – another Radio 4 gem. If you adore stories about the minutiae of British life, with a slight travelling edge to it, this would be right up your street. A recent favourite was an episode based on the results of a contest in which listeners could suggest their favourite bus routes and saw Sandi Toksvig travelling from Swindon to Devizes. Honestly, it’s truly fascinating stuff!

At this point I feel I should also point out that both The Archers and Women’s Hour are available in podcast form, but I haven’t actually stooped so low as to subscribe to them. Having been subjected to enforced silence for 15 minutes every evening at 7pm throughout my life (and whenever I return to the parentals) it would probably take extreme homesickness while living in the antipodes before I became an Archers fan!

Elsewhere on the BBC is a gem hidden on a radio station I never listen to unless there is an emergency tennis situation (i.e. it’s Wimbledon fortnight and I have no TV or internet) – 5 Live. Every Friday afternoon film critic Dr Mark Kermode joins Simon Mayo for several hours of ‘Wittertainment’. The result is a podcast that’s usually around 90 minutes long, but utterly captivating.

You don’t even have to be that interested in films to find it entertaining – they could (and do) rant about anything that passes the radar and, to my joy, are particularly into grammatical pedantry. I was introduced to it via a particularly scathing review of Eat, Pray, Love which you can hear for yourself in September 24th’s edition. The fact that I’ve listened to approximately 270 minutes of Mayo & Kermode in the last three days should be a pretty good indicator of its excellence.

Finally, just in case you’ve missed past podcast recommendations, other weekly essentials are Friday Night Comedy from Radio 4 and the Best of Chris Moyles. (Don’t judge me on the latter, the breakfast show amuses me every morning on my walk to the tube and he often talks about disused stations…)

I realise these are entirely BBC produced podcasts. I believe other entertaining podcasts are available, its just that with the amount the license-fee costs, I may as well try and get my money’s worth!


  1. Old and boring 😉

  2. I love Radio 4 (yes, I may also be old and boring but I’ve listened since I was young and boring too…)

    I’m just wondering what’s wrong with Woman’s Hour and why it requires ‘stooping’?

  3. Actually, I quite like Women’s Hour…I think I was trying to make myself appear more young & trendy by not confessing to downloading it! In reality, it’s more owing to the fact that I wouldn’t get round to listening to 5 hours of it a week.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.