A really good listen. My current top five podcast recommendations
I truly believe podcasts are one of the greatest digital inventions of our time. The ability to listen to fascinating, entertaining, informative, funny, thought-provoking, moving (I could go on...and on) content any time, anywhere, is - for my money - comprehensively life enhancing.
Listening to podcasts transformed my daily commute when I was working full time. Now they keep me company when I'm exercising, when I'm cooking, when I'm doing chores and when I'm travelling anywhere.
Podcasts have made me laugh out loud and weep openly on the tube (I wouldn't recommend either, but the former does clear a space around you pretty quickly, which can be handy at rush hour). They have taken me to places I couldn't have imagined, taught me facts I never knew, and introduced me to people who have brightened my day, filled me with awe and raised my spirits.
The only challenge is finding enough time to tune into all the brilliant podcasts I follow. Here, then, in no particular order, are my current top five podcast recommendations. I'd love to hear yours.
If you're already a fan of TED (it stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) talks, powerful presentations of 18 minutes or less, covering topics from science to business, art to psychology, wellbeing to global issues and pretty much everything else you can think of inbetween), the TED Radio Hour is a brilliantly informative and entertaining amalgamation of talks and speakers edited together on a theme. And if you've never listened to either before, a world of fascinating insight and knowledge is waiting for you to discover it.
Current favourite TED podcast: The Case For Optimism. A ray of cheerful, reassuringly well argued hopefulness about the world and humankind. More of that please!
Fans of the TV programme QI will be aware of just how much detailed research goes into preparing the questions for the show (do watch if you haven't, it's simultaneously hilarious and fascinating. And hosted by the wonderful Sandi Toskvig, who I know and admire endlessly). But what about all the compelling, surprising, you-can't-be-serious facts that don't make it on to the show?
Step forward the team of QI elves (I haven't made that up, that's how they're referred to) who gather round a microphone and share their most interesting facts of the week. Managing to be as entertaining and informative as the show itself - be warned, there's a lot of laugh out loud stuff in these podcasts - I guarantee you won't listen to one of these ridiculously enlightening podcasts without learning something new.
Favourite No Such Thing As a Fish fact: One of the eight arms of a male octopus serves as a penis, which, in order to mate, he has to insert into what is the equivalent of the female octopus's nostril. As if that weren't tricky enough, once they have mated, the female (who is bigger) frequently eats the male.
Real people telling their real stories, on every subject you can imagine, to audiences at one of the now hundreds of Moth Live events around the world. Moving, enjoyable, revealing, humorous, brave, feisty - the stories are as varied as the tellers of them.
Current favourite Moth Radio Hour episode: Women In the World, six stories that take you from Seattle in the USA to the mountains of Nepal, and reveal the experiences of six very different women. A classic example of the eye-opening variety of Moth content.
Sounds gloomy and rather morbid, but it isn't either. For the one absolute certainty in life, death is something we're still bewilderingly bad at talking about and planning for. The marvellous Joan Bakewell and a different panel in each of the three programmes in this illuminating, forthright and moving podcast series, talk about death, dying and the choices we make for ourselves and others. My personal circumstances - the sudden death of my husband 18 months ago, and the slow demise of his mother) - may make me particularly preoccupied/interested in end of life and how we manage it (generally very badly), but I defy anyone not to find this a necessary and thought-provoking series.
Favourite We Need to Talk About Death moment: honestly, all of it. The power of these podcasts lies in the overall impact and message of the three episodes
No podcast list is complete without the mother of all radio shows. There's a reason why it's been going as long as it has (since January 1942 since you ask), and why it continues to appeal to people of every age, sex and persuasion. In my view, Kirsty Young, who has been the presenter since 2006, is the best the show has ever has. Her gentle, insightful questioning brings the very best out of every interviewee, from actors to scientists, musicians to economists. Its a mark of her skill that I've yet to listen to an episode that hasn't enthralled me.
Favourite Desert Island Discs interview: Do NOT, NOT, NOT miss the episode with poet Lemn Sissay. No, I hadn't heard of him before either, but in a masterclass of powerful interviewing and heart-stoppingly open and honest replies, his story will sear itself on your memory and heart.
Please do let me know what your favourite podcasts are.