The best story-telling podcasts

Sometimes you need a refuge from life, sometimes you need someone to tell you a really good story…

I don’t think anyone could understand how important podcasts have been for me since my son was born seven years ago. Often my only intellectual conversation. An outlet for the dull moments whether that’s during housework, the time someone or other is insisting the TV is on, when he doesn’t sleep or when I can’t shut off my anxious brain. I have been some amazing places with these podcasts. At a time where we all need distraction here are my recommendations for the best storytellers around.

Heavyweight

Jonathan Goldstein lures you in with his comedic genius and then moments later, you’re in tears. A podcast about righting wrongs from years ago. Soraya is my favourite episode. There’s even one about Moby. If you haven’t caught on yet I would suggest this an excellent time to binge it all.

If you like this, you’ll like: The Mystery Show. I wish Starlee Kline would bring this back. Solving a mystery with good old-fashioned leg work, though the series be small, it is mighty.

Criminal

This is the first true crime podcast I found and Phoebe Judge’s voice alone can transport you anywhere. The stories are compelling, sensitively told and about a surprising element of crime you haven’t thought about. My favourite episode is about a woman who sits with the dying and brings about their end. Beautiful pods too about historical cases and unexpected interviews with crime scene cleaners. She takes the genre is a really different direction.

If you like this, you’ll like: This is Love Also Phoebe Judge, the series about Italy is particularly wonderful. I was strangely moved about the town that grew silent for the chance to hear the oldest violins in the world played for the last time. An isolation bonus is Phoebe reads a Mystery. Released because she is in isolation. A real treat to have The Mysterious Affair at Styles read out loud.

In the Dark

Another true crime trying to uncover the truth. But more importantly, it has recently been part of a justice movement that has freed Curtis Flowers. We wait to hear whether he will face trial for the seventh time. It was already a compelling story but the fact there may even be a hopeful ending is so good.

If you like this, you’ll like: The Fall Line I defy anyone to listen to the prologue about Atlanta, it’s history, it’s fall line and not immediately be sucked in. Really a triumph of story-telling. Each series

Myths and Legends

Excellently retold, he uses a series of stories from antiquity and around the world to create a new story. Well – researched, coming out every week these have long been one of my favourite ways to relax in the evening. I like the way I have learnt so much more about various legends – I would particularly recommend catching up on the Arthurian legends and the retelling of fairytales.

If you like this, you’ll like: Mythos by Stephen Fry and Heroes are on my audible account now. Another person with a melodious voice, this has been a great accompaniment to my isolation.

I hope you enjoy these recommendations and are staying well. I would love to listen to more fiction podcasts if anyone has great recommendations.

What do you suggest?

The Swing

Feet off the ground;

Trying to snap it

I reach for my phone to record.

But you forget

Hands off the chains

The soar of fear, I shout

But you sit, still there

Feet on, feet off.

The momentous occasion

There are things that take longer for you

And I am proud,

Overinterested

Used to the gut rise

And reaching out to help.

A hummingbird buzz around you.

But this is just another play in the park,

Just a casual afternoon on the swing.

How to organise a messy life

Being a hot mess sometimes, I have learnt a few ways to simplify life…

Hold meetings with your partner

It has been a tough few weeks and little things always get missed, dates in the diary creep up on me or I forget to email back. When life gets messy I know I have to be a bit more structured to help me through the chaos.

Diary management is the touchstone of an easier life. After many times where I have been wondering where my husband got to, he now gives me a rundown of his whereabouts each week on a Sunday. I would do the same back to him if I ever went anywhere. While we are combining our calendars, I jot down meal ideas on a food planning pad and make the shopping list.

This may seem like a simple step to be organised but he knows if he wants a shopping list and to eat during the week, I need to know how many meals are to be made. It’s not a difficult thing to do but I find whenever we wing it, things go wrong.

Listen to your body

I have become very mindful of my need to rest. I’ve been more tired with changes at work and a few busy weekends and sometimes that means I need time to zone out. Although I see escapism as a sign that I am not coping well, there has to be a place for trash tv or rewatching an easy comedy.

I have a certain amount of pain, in addition to surviving on little sleep. Forgiving myself is important because like many people I have bought into the idea of productivity. If you want to achieve, you have to hustle. That may be true, but if I fail to listen to my body then I know I won’t get anywhere.

Keep it routine

The need for cleaning my place on a schedule has become paramount to my well-being. I know which days I do certain tasks so if get through these things as well as my daily routine, I can feel on top of things.

Leaving the odd post-it note of what I need my partner to do is not a bad idea either. What I find is if the basic stuff gets done around the house, I am much more likely to pick up the faffy jobs that need to get done. It’s a form of self-care to at least achieve those set things and I often find I do more by starting the basic tasks.

Write a Little

There is no limit to how little you can do. On weeks where I am just keeping the basic stuff together I might only dip into my work-in-progress a little. But I do something. I have written before about the importance of Morning Pages for my creative process. So on some days I just write these but end up highlighting something that is a new idea.

On other days I manage to type up something on my phone. Or I see a snippet of a story in an ordinary day. A man running full pelt behind an oblivious teenager who had dropped her card; parents trying to get their toddler to walk along, though their legs kept crumbling beneath her. If nothing else, watching people around me, keeps me curious.

And I suppose in all these ideas for simplifying life, I am saying sometimes you have to let go. Lower your standards!

This is the opposite of advice I see all the time to increase productivity, how to write everyday. I am not dismissing these ideas but in a tough week I say KISS (keep it simple, sweetie).

How has your week been?

The Simplest Things

Despite the creative block, sometimes it is small hacks in life that make me get back to the page. If you have been struggling to sit down to work, what are the small things you do to get your creativity flowing again?

What made a difference this week?

Cold extremities. The office is cold, the house is cold; storm Ciara has left us mercifully unscathed, where I live, but still Winter’s last blast is here.

The Spring flowers I photographed just last week are a distant memory as the sharp wind beats my cheeks in the playground. But despite the chill that permeates the house, it has made me nostalgic for the times I hunkered down to write. If I don’t want to go anywhere else, I may as well absorb myself by creating something. Whether I like it or not, the time I spent as a student was both my least efficient and my most productive . It must be a sense-memory, but as my hand flies furiously across the page, I associate a desperate need to complete work with this peculiar sense that the air is cold around my nostrils. And like the muscle memory of athletes, my inner student is making me work harder, and suddenly I have more new words than I have had in a while.

Cosy socks. I find slobbing out in comfy clothes not just necessary in this weather, but an inspiration to enjoy the hygge sensations of blankets and pillows by dressing in the warmest fabrics. And in this cosiness, I imagine myself other places. Like my characters, inside looking out on bleak surroundings. Or imagine trying to take off the socks and insist on being barefoot in the woods. The sensory appeal of soft clothing, firing up these thoughts about how my characters are feeling.

A Good Book. I have started a thriller and was so absorbed on my way to work, I almost forget to get off at my stop. A page-turner can be inspiring whether or not it is in the genre you are writing. Whether it inspires you to try your own hand at writing, or it just sparks ideas for a work-in-progress, I have been glad of time to read on my commute this week.

Old Photos. I found an old photo of myself as a child. Looking a little extra, trying on my Grandmother’s pearls, I was inspired not just by the girl I once was – much more spirited than I am now. I was also inspired to delve deeper back into the past of my characters. Though the work I have written may not make the final cut, the depth to which I know my characters now is clear as it flows easily.

Also I think a lot about my childhood ambitions, as I have said before, I do believe in dreams. They have changed a little, but one of the exercises I have been using writing letters to my encouragers in my journal, I wrote to my Grandparents this week, inspired by the photo and by the joy my visits there always brought me.

A Blank Page. The final thing that has really helped me this week has been a blank page. Rather than fill in gaps in my work-in-progress, I have allowed myself time with a notebook or a blank Word Doc. This is an indulgence as I know that having been making progress by fleshing out the first part of my novel. But if it get me working again, it will be worth the type-up time.

I’d love to know what you have done to get back to writing this week?