Top of the Pods

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Hi, my name is Cath and I am a podcast addict. It’s been 30 minutes since my last download. I’ve already written at length about my love of the spoken word and podcasts help sustain me between Audible credits. My tastes are diverse but I love listening to writers, hearing about films, beauty, music and am fascinated to know what makes humans tick.

Having given up booze and men in 2017, I need some stimulation in my life so here are my ten essential podcasts of the 50(ish) I currently have on rotation. I am almost as promiscuous with my listening preferences as I am with men…

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review

In a Nutshell:  Two middle aged men bicker, occasionally discuss films.

Why I love it: I am a huge film fan and when I bought an iPod Classic in 2005 this was my first download. The show has seen me through a divorce, the loss of a parent, multiple health crises and is my longest commitment to date. Simon Mayo hosts and acts as the voice of reason when Mark Kermode goes off on one of his infamous rants about everything from the loss of human projectionists in multiplexes to the rampant stupidity of Michael Bay films. The duo have nurtured a worldwide community with their own code of conduct, acronyms and in-jokes. I don’t get a chance to listen live but if you can, try to catch the studio webcam feed, it’s always nice to see Kermode’s flappy hands in full flow.

Desert Island Discs

In a Nutshell:  A guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re cast away on a fictional desert island.

Why I love it: Desert Island Discs is valium in audible form. The show has the ability to calm my foulest mood and the theme tune alone can instantly lower my heart rate. The concept is so simple and the joy comes during the interview, when the host delves into the Castaway’s life and reasons behind their music choices. The online back catalogue boasts over 2000 episodes and includes royalty, prime ministers, movie icons and musical legends but I delight in discovering humans who are extraordinary but not famous and often find myself moved to tears.

All Killa No Filla

In a Nutshell:  Two British comedians discuss serial killers. Funnier than it sounds.

Why I love it: I have a morbid fascination with murderers, perhaps because I have met more than one in the flesh (a story for another day). I could blame coming of age in the 1990’s when Fred and Rose West, Aileen Wuornos and Dr Harold Shipman crimes were tabloid press fodder. The podcast is hosted by comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean and each episode is devoted to a different killer with their crimes described in a style that is often hilarious, but never at the expense of the victims. Not one for the fainthearted but after nine years working in a hospital I am not squeamish and my dark sense of humour ensures very little offends me. I’ve heard each episode at least twice and can often be found cry laughing while listening on public transport.

Full Coverage

In a Nutshell:  A podcast for beauty addicts, by beauty addicts.

Why I love it: Despite my low maintenance appearance I love beauty. I can spend hours on blogs and forums researching products and rarely impulse buy cosmetics after some previous costly mistakes. The show, hosted by professional makeup artist Harriet Hadfield and author (and beauty junkie) Lindsey Kelk, gives no-bullshit reviews of new beauty releases, Holy Grail products and interviews with beauty insiders. The pair are brutally honest and hilarious; this isn’t the regurgitated PR fluff you may be used to from some Vloggers.  You may not believe a show about beauty would translate to audio but the descriptions are so vivid it’s like you are in the room as they test out products. And if you follow either presenter on Instagram you will often get a sneak peek at some of the goodies they’re trying out.

The Emma Guns Show

In a Nutshell:  Writer Emma Gunavardhana’s show features interviews with celebrities, brand creators, editors and authors on a wide selection of topics.

Why I love it: Spending time with Emma and her guests is like hanging out with old friends. The range of interviewees is huge, from well-known faces to knowledgeable health and beauty professionals. Emma tackles tricky subjects with ease – anxiety, ageing, hormones, diet, motherhood, work ethic and entrepreneurship – no topic is off limits. In a world of facetuning and filters there’s a joy in the way Emma engages with her listeners on social media on bad days as well as good. Every episode leaves me a little bit inspired and with another girl crush to add to my ever increasing list.

Anna Faris is Unqualified

In a Nutshell:  Interviews with celebrities and cultural figures followed by advice calls with listeners.

Why I love it: On paper the show shouldn’t work – a famous actress interviews celebrities and gives (unqualified) advice to members of the public. I’ve watched enough shitty chat shows with “personalities” to know that fame doesn’t always equal talent. Unqualified plays to Faris’ strengths – she has personality, humour, intelligence and empathy in buckets. The show is unfiltered, foul mouthed and candid with no subject too delicate for Faris, her producer/co-host Sim Sarna and their guests to discuss. The shows are often chaotic and hysterical, even when tackling difficult topics.

Made of Human

In a Nutshell:  Sofie Hagen chats to a guest about life and how to cope with being an adult.

Why I love it: The world has gone a bit batshit crazy recently. My faith in humanity is at an all-time low but when I need to top up my belief in Good People I listen to the Made of Human podcast (or MohPod). Danish comedian Sofie Hagen talks to fellow comics, activists, academics and celebrities to get to the heart of what makes us all human. Spoiler alert – nobody knows what the heck they are doing, but that’s ok. Thought provoking, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking and always emotive. Just like real life.

The High Low

In a Nutshell:  Writers Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes present a weekly pop-culture/news roundup.

Why I love it: This fast paced, quick-witted take on the week’s events could feature anything from period poverty to Taylor Swift and the hosts cover all cultural bases from highbrow to lowbrow. The duo are prolific readers, host regular author specials and I have yet to disagree with a book recommendation from either presenter. In a world where podcasts can ramble on for 90 minutes or more it’s always nice to download an hour long show that takes me from home to office and leaves me educated and entertained instead of bored.

Soundtracking

In a Nutshell:  Edith Bowman sits down with film directors, actors, producers and composers to talk about the music that shaped their work.

Why I love it: I adore this show because Bowman is clearly a huge film and music fan and her enthusiasm comes across in every episode. Her relaxed interview style puts guests at ease and if she’s ever been starstruck it never shows. I have learned more about the music of the movies than I ever did through years of listening to director commentary on DVDs. The range of guests – from composers to directors and producers helps us understand how a soundtrack is constructed, how it weaves through and shapes the narrative and you’ll find yourself picking up more musical cues when you’re at the movies than you ever did before.

Griefcast

In a Nutshell: A podcast hosted by Cariad Lloyd, comedians talking about death.

Why I love it: Regular readers will know how much I enjoy wanging on about grief, it’s pretty much why this blog exists. I found the experience of losing a parent so isolating and responses from friends and family so polarizing that I actively sought out stories from others in “the dead mum/dad/sibling/friend club.” Comedian Cariad Lloyd, who lost her father at 15, talks to fellow comics, writers and actors about death and grief in a way that is funny, touching and real. Each episode brings comfort from knowing that although grief is unique so much of what you experience when you lose a loved one is universal. There is still so much taboo around death that I recommend this podcast to friends who have suffered loss and those who haven’t as the show can also teach you about empathy and how to be a better human.

If I had to pick my own Desert Island downloads I’d be happy with any of these. What’s your “must listen” podcast? I’m always on the lookout for my next great listen so feel free to drop me a comment below!

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Now for something a bit different…

Hello lovely blog readers 👋🏻

There are some new posts ready to publish which are a bit different to what you’re used to from me. I’m writing about my passions: books, music, podcasts, beauty, film and future posts may even contain some humour 😉

I’ve discovered that there’s a lot less drama to write about once you eliminate dating and alcohol from your life…

The Last Vice

Capture

This month I decided to take a break from dating, whilst still fully in the throws of my latest fling. I realised I’d had enough while weeping onto bedsheets that still smelled of a man I’d known a month, having flown to another country to meet up with him. This was not the first time I had travelled hundreds of miles for a man. Once I become attached to a mate I get drunk on lust, high on dopamine and engage in sleepless nights of frantic sexting which render me useless at everyday tasks. Please don’t expect me to concentrate on work when I have a hot man to fantasise about.

I have given up so many of my vices this year (I am nine months sober from alcohol and even drink decaf coffee, I’m practically a saint) but men are much harder to shake. I haven’t been in a serious relationship for years but I can’t seem to let go of casual entanglements. I get giddy on stomach flipping kisses. My fragile ego gets a boost from being looked at the same way Homer Simpson looks at beer. The couplings may last a few weeks or months but I always end them before any declarations of love are made. I try to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

There’s nothing wrong with serial dating, it’s just not right for me. I have a whole set of emotional baggage, am damaged from years in an abusive relationship, have low self-esteem and a habit of picking men who need to be “fixed”. So many men have gone on to marry the girl they dated immediately after me that I should start charging for my services or open a Centre for Wounded Males. Need the rough edges of your potential life partner smoothing out? Send them here, I’ll happily talk through their daddy issues until the early hours or buy them beard oil when their face is rough enough to sand timber. Once they’re feeling better about themselves I get bored and inevitably boot them out of my life. I will pick fights or change my behaviour, letting my dark side out and quickly extract myself from the relationship. I’ll tell them we can stay friends, without meaning it. If I stay friends with them I am treated to happy status updates, engagement announcements and wedding pictures. I don’t need to see that shit. Most of the time I block their number and social media profiles before they’ve even had a chance to digest what’s happened.

Why don’t I settle down with one of these suitors? Well, the person they are dating doesn’t really exist. The perma-grinned, perfectly made up girl who will laugh at their jokes and is never too tired for sex is pure fantasy. A friend once compared this version of me to Disneyland, somewhere that’s great fun to visit but eventually you get tired and want to go home. Once the initial high of the first flush of attraction wears off I suffer crushing low mood, debilitating paranoia that I’m about to be hurt and am a weeping wreck. That’s when I know it’s time to end it.

I did come close to falling in love when I met a guy a couple of years ago who was funny, sweet, already in therapy and wasn’t scared of my darkness. Eventually I got scared he’d hurt me so I pushed him away. It was a test, I wanted him to fight for me, but he didn’t. We reconnected this year and after a few flirtatious coffees where we struggled to keep our hands to ourselves we ended up in bed. It should have been Happy Ever After except for one thing – he has a live in girlfriend. I would love to say our hookups ended as soon as I found out I was the other woman but they didn’t. Sadly my moral compass must have gotten lost in my last house move and I let things continue longer than they should have. Told you I was damaged.

But no more, I’ve gone cold turkey. Full on man detox (mantox, if you wish). I need time to heal. I’m losing the fake smile and suppressing the overwhelming desire to please everyone because I am hollow after years of giving parts of myself away – my heart, my money, my time, my energy. I’ve got nothing left to give and after putting myself last for almost 10 years I am going to claw back some of my dignity, self respect and maybe I can start to forgive myself for the way I’ve treated others. And myself.

Mother

The most complex relationship I’ve ever had is with my mother. Only a handful of people know that prior to finding out my mum was terminally ill I didn’t like her very much. I loved her, that was a given, but like? That was a lot more complicated.

The rift that tore us apart came when I was 14, when I found out mum had been having an affair with her best friend’s husband. The women who gave birth to me, who held my hair back when I was sick, who trudged miles through a snowstorm to get me medicine for an ear infection had just broken my heart. When I was little I idolised her. She was the cleverest person I knew, she was generous, funny and strong. On that September night my trust disappeared. I was always her ally and found the lies over her cheating harder to get over than the infidelity. My parents separated for one whole night and after a short session of marriage counselling their relationship was back on track but I couldn’t forgive her actions that easily.

Mum and I spent the three years before I left home at 17 arguing. I used my parents marital woes as an excuse to act out and started drinking, dressing provocatively, going to nightclubs and kissing guys much older than me. When mum and I fought we would both be cruel in a way that only a person who really knows you can, we’d pick on each others insecurities and use them as weapons. When I left home we didn’t talk for six months and I honestly didn’t miss her. Once I saw her in the supermarket and walked past without acknowledging her, an act I found out 10 years later hurt more than our verbal sparring ever did. When I left an abusive relationship and turned up on my parents doorstep physically and mentally broken it was mum who was reluctant to take me back. I heard my parents arguing through the thin walls and her not wanting me to stay because I was “trouble”. Years later, when my marriage broke down and I ended up staying with my parents (again) I overheard my mum tell a friend, “ I don’t know why she’s upset, they had nothing in common.”

There’s a U2 song that reminds me of us, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” and this verse punches me in the gut every time:U2We started to repair our relationship in my late twenties, thanks to my best friend (and now sister in law) who adored mum and couldn’t understand the years of animosity between us. I tried to explain that mum had shattered my trust, broken my dad’s heart and obliterated my belief in Happy Ever After. She told me to grow up.

I was 30 when mum got sick and I want to say the years of resentment evaporated immediately but it took time. We got drunk one night, when dad was out with friends and aired out a lot of the feelings that had tortured us both. We decided to forgive the past and treasure the little time we had left together as mother and daughter. Mum told me she was jealous that every time I had gotten myself into a bad situation, be it with a boyfriend or a job, I had always left. Mum had been married to the same man for 36 years and in the same job for 27 and had wanted to leave both many times but never felt brave enough. I learned more about mum in the last 14 months of her life than I had in the previous 30 years.

When mum died I regretted all the years I’d spent arguing with her, it was all such a waste of time and energy. She was flawed but I am far from perfect. There’s no law that says you have to like your parents but holding onto anger for a prolonged period of time is utterly pointless and emotionally draining. If you have truly toxic people in your life, by all means cut them out. But when you love people you need to make sure they know it, even if they piss you off and make your blood boil sometimes. Before it’s too late.