For the love of Pod!

 

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Oh my word, I love Desert Island Discs. That isn’t forceful enough. This requires a shout from the rooftops. I LOVE DESERT ISLAND DISCS! It is possibly the most perfect programme ever devised. I am arguably obsessed beyond what might be considered normal or acceptable with Kirsty Young and her liquid gold voice. I cry at the end of every episode when she says in her heartfelt way, “Thank you VERY much for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs”. I feel like she bores into the heart of these people and extracts things that you will never hear in another interview with them.

I became obsessed with Desert Island Discs when I was on maternity leave with my 3rd child. I would download and listen whilst doing the mundane jobs in the house. It became the sound track to my ironing, my hoovering (headphones on), my utterly interminably boring treks round Aldi, and then, when I had some time to myself, my crochet and my waiting around in the car for clubs and school to finish. I accessed the archives and found people I had never heard of or knew only vaguely about. I critiqued the styles of the various presenters, although I never cared much for Michael Parkinson and whilst Sue Lawley was good, she was perhaps not my type!

 

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But still, the format, the people and the peace it brought me, kept me coming back for more. I have just listened to the 3 hour special celebrating 75 years. I have loved every minute and I am excited that there are more episodes to be found in the archives. It amazes me and pleases me. This humble broadcast is a slice of modern history. It is literally an archive of the people who have shaped our humanity. It is fascinating to hear the evolution of the way people spoke in the 50’s to the present day. The trajectory of the gramophone record over 75 short years – now more of a concept than an object to touch, to hold.

And yet, the one immoveable point remains, and the reason why this programme is as relevant now as it was in 1942; the simple fact that music informs our lives, contains within its abstract ethereal nature, strong, individual narratives and personal memories that turn one global thing into something unique to each of us. It is this fascinating truth, that whoever you are, whether you are royalty, comedian, musician, writer, innovator or groundbreaking scientist, that one piece of music that millions of other people listen to and love, still defines an era in their life, still contains importance and resonates with something in them. It is a great leveller. Perhaps that’s why it is such a clever idea. It is at the same time unique and individual, yet global and proletarian. This is why it is not the sort of interview where us plebs are left feeling like we are less than these great and famous people, but instead that they are just like us and we are just like them – people with memories and experiences which are precariously held in the shared memory and narrative of popular culture.

I believe I am a podcast bore! Podcasts. The thing that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The idea of such a thing. I remember getting our first digital radio and trying to understand that I could pause live radio! that I could come back later and listen to something that had just been broadcast! I reached an age where having music on in the background just didn’t do it for me. Those months where I would be awake, feeding my baby in the middle of the night, they were times when the voices on the radio would keep me company. These voices have become my companion in my world of stay at home mumdom!

I look forward to Woman’s Hour! And I love listening to the news quiz and Kermode and Mayo’s film podcast, or the very funny Adam Buxton, as I go about my daily life. I love hearing other people talk about their wonderful lives and worlds and feelings and thoughts. I feel connected to the world outside. I also often feel like I am a sad loser who has no life and must rely on the lives of others to exist. But in an attempt to remain positive and upbeat it also highlights the diverse wonder of the world I live in and the life I have. I am no scientist, but listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage for instance can provide an insight into concepts and ideas that I have no way of accessing on my own, being a total philistine when it comes to science. And then I always return to and savour my weekly hit of Desert Island Discs, always my favourite, go to place for solace and enjoyment and therapy!

 

I Skyped with my friend in Australia last week. Another treat! My fix of someone who just gets me, my topping up of ‘ah yes, that’s who I am’ conversation. She is the person who just knows who I am so we don’t need to go through all the preamble. It’s just, boom, 2 hours of total connection. Usually, at some point in our chats, she’ll say ‘what are you reading?’ And now inevitably we also discuss what podcasts we are listening to. It is hard when you have come to the end of a run of a particularly brilliant podcast, something like ‘Serial’ or ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’.

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Antoon van Welie (Dutch 1866-1956) Portrait of an Old Woman Crocheting – or, portrait of me!!!

I binge listened to Radio 4’s back catalogue of Soul Music last year and regretted immediately that I hadn’t rationed it because I wanted to experience it all over again. And I guess I feel like I am at this point with my beloved DID because enough time has passed now where I can revisit some favourites, like Lauren Bacall, Dustin Hoffman or Gene Wilder and hear their stories again.

Anyway, I have tentatively subscribed to some new podcasts, I have stepped away from the Radio 4 shed to tread new waters. I feel a little bit like I am cheating on an old and beloved friend. But, it has to be done. I need to spread my wings. I need to try and find some new obsessions for 2 main reasons. One is that I will soon run out of my trusty old faithfuls and two, because I am aware that my tastes are rather old lady and perhaps I should be aiming more at things that are intended for a slightly younger demographic (not that I am young anymore, but I can dream). I realise that whilst many of my friends of a similar age are still listening to banging tunes, applying make up, brushing their hair, keeping an eye on fashion and generally occupying their time with slightly less octogenarian pursuits, I am listening to podcasts, mainly from radio 4 and making sure that I have a crochet hook and a ball of wool with me wherever I go.

So, here I go. My choices today include, ‘The Guilty Feminist’, ‘Radiolab’ and ‘WTF with Marc Maron’. Anybody got any recommendations? I’d be glad to get them and give them a go! Wish me luck, I’m going in, but not before I’ve listened to David Beckham’s DID and had a quiet sob!

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Candy Cane Crush!

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Buddy the Elf and the Candy Cane Forest

My childhood Christmas was essentially a traditional Danfest, from the tree adorned with Danish flag garlands and real candles which were lit on Christmas Eve, to the traditional boozy rice pudding dessert at the end of our meal which contained a whole almond. Whoever got the whole almond won a marzipan pig. Santa delivered our gifts on Christmas Eve – he would leave them on the doorstep in a black bag and ring the bell. For 3 years in a row, I was convinced Santa drove a motorbike as every time my sister and I opened the door, we would see a bike speeding down the road into the darkness. I never noticed that my mum was quite out of breath and was coming in through the back door as we were running to the front!

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My Danish Aunt Rigmor’s amazing Christmas Tree from last year complete with real candles and Danish flags.

For me and my sister, there were no stockings on Christmas Day. No, for us, Santa’s elves did the leg work on the long run up to the 24th. Throughout December, our advent calendar or Julekalender was a magical pocket hanging on the wall and every morning, the Nisse (Danish Elves) would leave us a small gift: a pencil, a ruler, a sweetie, a book, sometimes some knitted items that looked suspiciously like things my Grandma might make! Then, on Christmas Eve, the main event.

After my Mum died far too young, it became of the utmost importance to keep our Christmas traditions alive. There were a few incredibly painful years when it just seemed too much as teenagers to keep it going. It felt wrong that the very reason why we were doing all these things was not there. None of us felt like doing it much anyway. However, there was also something so therapeutic about getting the tree, digging out all the old decorations, cooking the food in the same pans and serving it in the same dishes that our mum had done for us.

So what about my 3 melting pot children? Well, they get the Danish Julekalender and, I must confess that there is a stocking in the mix too. Lucky kids, stupid mother! But hey, why not?

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My advent calendar visited by the Danish Elves over the years.

My youngest has this year developed a regular and lengthy correspondence with the elves. This is very heartwarming and sweet. It is however, rather time consuming. On the 1st of December, I was met in the morning with an indignant child who was quite frankly pissed off that she had not received a reply to her picture and extensive list of requests that she had left in her basket. The elves learned fast and the next morning there was a reply!

Then, what can only be described as candy canegate occurred. The elves delivered a very cute candy cane pencil, a lot like the ones you can buy in Tiger! It was well received. This got my daughter thinking. Last year, the elves had delivered real candy canes. She hated them obviously because they were minty but she knew of a candy cane in other flavours, strawberry to be precise. So yesterday afternoon another detailed letter was produced. Yet another list for Santa requesting such things as puppy surprise (retailing at £29.99), some mental interactive chimp doll (retailing at almost £100), a smart watch and ‘my own ipad’. You have got to be having a giraffe my girl. My oldest daughter and I laughed heartily and explained that Santa can’t bring you everything you ask for. Youngest child shed a few tears and exclaimed ‘why not? He’s Santa’.

Anyway, at the end of the note to the elves asking for high ticket items, was this sentence: ‘And please give me a real candy cane tomorrow morning.’

I tried to deflect this. Even my son (still a believer) had to point out that it was unlikely seeing as mummy only lets them have sweets on Saturday (technically yes, in reality this is almost never achieved). But my girl was adamant. Who were we to question her resolve? As if it is any of my business anyway.

So, into the magic basket went the letter.

And finally, everyone was in bed, and finally, I awoke from my usual position, slumped on the sofa from where I had intended to arise to do all the boring shitty stuff that needs to be done most evenings. It was 9.45. The elf had to wrap some presents and write another fucking letter. Sadly, not being magic, there was no candy cane. So, the elf wrote the required response, fully supporting mummy and her rule of no sweets until the weekend. The elf then added strawberry flavour candy cane to the now growing list of requests that the kids have – yo-yo, ruler, smelly pencils, etc.

The next morning, I awoke to a relatively happy child. After all, the stickers she got were pretty shit hot really and she does love stickers. The letter to her (that had been lovingly written in elvish swirly script) was glanced at, tossed aside. There was a bit of crying, but mainly because her brother laughed at her and she was irritated. And then, much to my horror, a new letter was wafted under my nose before being deposited in the basket for that night.

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Dear Elves please please please please give me on Saturday a strawberry candy cane please please love from Ivy

What is this monster I have created? Can I take much more of this? Perhaps the next Elf response will be in Danish. That might slow things down in terms of correspondence. Maybe the elves will explain that there is a postal strike or that Santa has a backlog of notes to respond to. Perhaps I should just suck it up and enjoy this moment which will surely pass as quickly as it has arrived, and hope that one day she will not hate me when I present her with all of her letters.

Suffice to say, she will not be disappointed on Saturday morning, thanks to the local ‘Elf’ shopping centre in Feltham which luckily sells strawberry flavoured candy canes.