8 podcasts to keep your mind occupied
‘What has been your silver lining in the pandemic?’
Such loaded question was asked during a mental health workshop at work. I was a little stunned because I actually could not answer at all for a while. Then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me. I finally started listening to podcasts on my lengthy dog walks in locked down London, after over 8 years of having a dog. A late start, but it’s now a habit of mine, and, if the podcast in question is really good, I ofen prolong the walk to keep listening. I even invested in a new pair of bluetooth headphones to make the most of the listening time.
Inspired by my friend and fellow blogger What Kirsty Did Next who wrote a fantastic list of true crime podcasts, here is my current list of favourites as usual, in no particular order.
Having loved some of the podcasts Kirsty recommends in her post, I really got into true crime and searching for more, I stumbled upon Australian, long standing podcast Casefile. It has been going on for years, and each episode highlights a case ranging from unsolved murders from the 80s to mysterious deaths from the 40s to bank robberies gone wrong. The narrator (Casey) voice has recently gone ‘robotic’; I suspect it’s computer generated, and it’s a little annoying but – having started listening from episode 1 – I love this series so much, I am able to get over the Siri style. I would recommend to start from the very first episode and work your way up. It’s so well researched and narrated, I can’t get enough of Casefile and I am going to support them via Patreon.
The extraordinary true story of a man who dug a tunnel right under the feet of Berlin Wall border guards to help friends, family and strangers escape from communist Germany and how the Stasi were after them; it’s gripping, bewildering and emotional. Extremely well presented by Helena Merriman who produced it for BBC Radio 4, Tunnel 29 is a part of history sometimes less remembered, but not any less powerful.
I enjoyed Tunnel 29 so much, I went straight on to the next BBC Radio 4 Intrigue production, May Day. This time set in much more recent conflict of the Syrian war, May Day is the story of Briton James Le Mesurier who fell to his death in Turkey leaving behind a tangle of truths and lies. He founded the White Helmets who became the subject of much praise but also much adverse press and controversy. The podcast is very well researched too, and until the end leaves you suspended as to what to expect next and what to believe.
Lockdown Parenting Hell
Completely on the opposide end of the spectrum, this is one of the most popular podcasts in the UK, hosted twice a week since Lockdown 1 by comedians Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe. While right now, after listening to many many episodes I am kind of over it and it’s getting a little repetitive, Lockdown Parenting Hell had the merit to get me into podcasts in the first place: the silver lining! It’s rude, hilarious and perfect for people who’ve experienced lockdown with young children. Some episodes are extremely funny so you’ll be laughing out loud for sure.
The Log Books
The Log Books series tells stories from Britain’s LGBTQIA+ history and if you’ve enjoyed It’s a Sin, you will particularly love the 3 episodes dedicated to readings from the logbook entries from 1983 to 1991 of calls made to Switchboard and personal stories from the time. It’s emotional and intimate and for those – like me – who lived the London gay scene soon after, quite personal.
One of NBC Dateline podcast, Mommy Doomsday is the truly bonkers (and tragic) story of Lori Wallow and her ‘family’, the disappearance of two of her children and the obsessive church she followed. The best thing about the podcast is the host, Keith Morrison who delivers the story with the skill of an Oscar winning actor. Dateline have produced more podcasts; I just finished The Thing About Pam and found just as riveting as Mommy Doomsday.
Invisibilia has been going on for a while, and it’s by US based NPR. I must admit, I do not find all episodes as good and some are a little odd, so you need to give it sometime, but a few have been really interesting so it’s worth giving it a go for something a little out of the ordinary. I can’t even give it a theme or a genre, in fact! Some are social experiements, some are true stories, some are more new age inspired.
A missing plane, a cabin full of suspects, a grieving sister seeking the truth.
Have I saved the best for last? Possibly, although this is not entirely fair to the others podcasts listed above. Passeger List is more of an audio movie, an audio book or a fictional podcast with a great cast (includes Patti Lupone amongst others). It’s something reminiscent of Lost (for those old enough to remember it) and has plenty of intrigue, mystery and conspiracy theories. Series 1 had me prolonging my dog walks endlessly to make sure I finished each episode. I cannot wait to start listening to series 2 which has just come out and apparently the rights have been bought by an on demand network to turn it into a movie. So recommended!