I've been very late to the game with podcasts (if my mother is reading its like radio that you listen to on your phone) but a new daily routine here in Dubai has made plenty of time for all things audio. My commute to work is a half-hour walk each way, I've finally rediscovered my love of running as a way to explore my new neighbourhood and my apartment has a shared gym which has all the equipment you could want but lacks the soundtrack of my beloved Boom Cycle (there goes my last remaining connection to new music).
These are the podcasts that have brightened up my walk to work (not literally as its really sunny here), made me laugh or made me learn something new. The current limbo period of ex-pat life where I've furnished a flat and discerned the difference between a 10 and 100 Dirham note, where I don't quite have a settled daily routine and where evenings are not spent going for "one drink" and returning home at 1am mean that some days I feel the novelty of having a bit of free time to fill. Listening to one of these while running, pouring over a book in a coffee shop - after my London existence it feels quite indulgent to have this time to cram my brain with new information (otherwise I just listen to Conor Oberst's new album on repeat).
1. Intrigue: Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel
This BBC Radio 4 podcast definitely has strains of Serial (the one podcast I had previously listed to). Narrated by Carrie Gracie it tells the story of a British businessman who died in mysterious circumstances in the city of Chongqing. I had to continually remind myself that these events happened in 2011 and not in the 1960s - it's a truly surreal chain of events encompassing politics, power, sex and money and, the surviving protagonists aside, no one will ever really know what happened. The six episode series is served up in 20 minute bites so it's perfect for the commute and the slick production combined with Carrie's experience as the BBC's China Editor makes it a compelling listen.
2. My Dad Wrote A
You've definitely heard of this and don't need me to explain it. I held off downloading this one as I was convinced that I wouldn't find it funny but when a friend mentioned that she was listening, I tentatively downloaded episode one and ended up snorting water out of my nose while on the Stairmaster. Elegant. Serendipitously, Elijah Wood (the subject of my first foray into internet life with a fansite) is a huge fan and has a spin-off "footnotes" episode (there's also a great one with Bake Off's Tamal Ray). I met co-presenter Alice Levine at a food blogging event a couple of years ago - she hosts supper clubs, has an excellent vintage-inspired wardrobe and is hilariously scathing about basic masculinity, I like to kid myself that I'm cool enough that we could be friends.
3. Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History
I read "Outlier's" a few years ago and Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, while covering a totally different subject matter takes a similar approach in turning familiar thinking on its head and looking at events which have been misunderstood or wrongly interpreted. Each episode takes on a free standing event, I started with "Saigon, 1965" after visiting Vietnam last year and trying ever since to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of the all too recent history of this country. It feels like everyday at the moment an event is referred to as "historical" but this podcast affirms that history isn't something that just happened but how we are made to perceive and understand past events. Definitely one for making those brain cells work.
4. Sword and Scale
I studied law and I can still remember the first time I read a murder case report. It felt truly awful, like I'd read something I shouldn't have, a detailed account of a complete stranger's last moments - had I really signed up for three years of this? An hour later, a chat with a friend and with half the case list ticked off I felt completely fine. It's hard to describe but true crime feels similar - it's horrifying but we quickly become desensitized to it. This podcast delves deep into the very of humanity but it's sensitively and slickly produced making it as compelling as it is dark and deeply disturbing. Florida-based host, Mike Boudet, is a great presenter,the work that he puts into each show is insane and his very American enthusiasm prevents it all getting a bit too dark. The round-ups of bizarre American news stories are a nice interlude and (aside from a few two-part-ers) each episode is a free standing story.
What else would I enjoy? Do you listen to any of these?