In Praise of Podcasts

Last night I wrote a post while I was in intense pain and struggling to sleep. I wrote to help me focus on what I was feeling and to find a way through. To some extent it worked, and with the additional help of some distracting feline affection from Monkey and some great podcasts, I was at last able to get to sleep.

This post is a quick update on how I’m doing, but more importantly an opportunity to thank some people who helped me last night who probably aren’t aware of their contribution.

After writing and cuddling with Monkey I felt more settled, although the pain and nausea were still overwhelming. I often listen to audiobooks or podcasts when I’m struggling to sleep and I’ve written before about the challenge of finding one that hits the right tone – not too exciting so I can’t sleep, but interesting enough to hold my attention and help quieten my mind and body. Last night three friends came to my rescue, unexpectedly.

Image shows a digital drawing by Touretteshero of a rainbow coloured font which says 'In Praise of Podcasts' on a midnight blue background. The text is surrounded by sound waves coming from the text with the words 'Thank You' embedded in one wave.

I decided to listen to comedian Mark Thomas’s podcast and in particular to an episode about the National Anthem and his attempt to re-write it with the help of comedy songwriters and activists Jonny and Paddy from Jonny and the Baptists.

I’ve been a big fan of Mark’s for a long time and he’s an incredible storyteller which makes it very easy to listen to him. This was crucial last night when my concentration was muddled by pain.

Mark’s been a big supporter of Touretteshero from the beginning. We first met in difficult circumstances when I went to see his show Extreme Rambling and was asked to move during the interval because of my tics. Mark’s response was open, responsive and compassionate and he now holds regular Relaxed Performances. He wrote about what happened from his perspective back in 2016.

In the podcast, Jonny and Paddy were working with Mark to create a new National Anthem that would bring people together. This wasn’t the first time they’d all joined forces – I first saw Jonny and Paddy perform in Edinburgh, and it was a song they’d written with Mark about Nigel Farage that was my personal highlight.

When we made Broadcast From Biscuit Land for BBC4 we turned to Jonny and Paddy to help us write a song for the finale. You can see a clip of the resulting masterpiece here.

Podcasts have got me through many tricky middle-of-the-night moments. There’s something beautiful and intimate about someone joining you wherever you are, whether physically or emotionally, and talking directly to you.

The pandemic’s creating many new barriers and is physically separating me from many of the people I care about, and pain can also feel pretty isolating. But listening to Mark, Paddy and Jonny last night made me feel less alone and helped me feel settled enough to sleep.

To everyone who’s putting time, energy and love into creating content for people to enjoy at home – thank you. It can be easy to take resources like these for granted but my experiences last night helped me realise how valuable the company that podcasts provide, can be. It’s great when makers think about the accessibility of what they create by, for example, making sure transcripts or captioned versions are available for D/deaf people or for those who find listening to information tricky.

Also, for my mum and anyone else who might be worried by last night’s pain post I’m feeling a lot more comfortable today.

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