Lockdown: The Earphone Weeks

7 May

This Is Fine

When this all started I eyed up the four foot stack of books next to the sofa, waiting to be read. Oh I was going to steam through that. On furlough I bet I could probably manage a whole book a day.

Let’s get to it, what have I read these last long, strange, empty six weeks:


Not one single book. Why? No idea. I just have absolutely no wish to read. I’m a bit annoyed with myself but I just don’t want to. I was halfway through the excellent A Treachery Of Spies and it’s just sitting on the coffee table starting at me.

I have a feeling it’s not just me, so I thought I’d tell you about the things I have been enjoying and some things I think you might too.

What I’ve been listening to 

You're Dead To Me

I am loving Greg Jenner’s You’re Dead To Me podcast on BBC Sounds. He sits down with an academic and a comedian to talk about a historical figure or event for 50 minutes and I think this is the main thing that has stopped my brain ossifying. Each episode is fascinating, informative and very funny and I feel at least 10% smarter. So far my favourites have been The Spartans, Blackbeard and Lord Byron. (And it’s amazing how many professors turn out to be really hot when you Google them.)


Ghosts In The Burbs

Ghosts In The Burbs is sooooo not usually my sort of thing at all but I’ve been really sucked into this. Liz Sower is your common or garden stay at home mum in Wellesley, Massachusetts – chatty, affable, someone you’d hang out with – who has a bit of a thing for ghost stories so puts up a flyer asking locals to tell her theirs. Each episode she meets up with someone to hear about their experience and suddenly you’ve gone from a description of a handbag to waiting to be murdered by a seven foot tall shadow man who lives behind the fridge.



Oh my god I can’t explain how much I loved this. ElvenQuest completely rips the piss out of basically every fantasy novel ever and had me doing huge out loud laughs. Stephen Mangan stars as a sarky novelist of said genre who, with his dog, gets sucked into a Lord of The Rings parody land called Lower Earth where he and a band of warriors team up against Alistair McGowan’s Lord Darkness. It sounds like such awful geekery but it’s just the most hilarious pastiche you basically can’t not like it. If that doesn’t win you over, loads of the jokes are about sex. Hope that helps.


This Thing of Darkness

This Thing Of Darkness is a really gripping drama podcast that’s sort of a look at the impact of a murder on a family, and sort of a whodunnit. David is in prison charged with the murder of his son, Jamie, though he insists he is innocent. The episodes take the form of his talks with his psychologist, her interviews with the rest of the family and her thoughts on the psychological impact of terrible crimes. Did David do it? It’s a compelling listen that’ll keep you thinking. A good one for when you’re pottering around in the kitchen.



I listened to Hag last year but have dipped in and out a bit recently. I was completely ready to hate this as it’s sold as “feminist retellings” of folk stories from the writers’ hometowns and is that not just the most tedious thing you have ever heard? From the description I assumed they would be militantly irritating and all about armpit hair but I loved them. Women are really interestingly portrayed and put front and centre without it being sort of obvious, and the stories are brilliant. As an extra treat, at the end of each episode the writers discuss their story with Oxford’s Professor Carolyne Larrington who specialises in medieval literature and they’re such interesting chats. This is also the second time I have mentioned professors in this post so look how smart I am.


The Whisperer in Darkness

This is one I tell everyone they have to try, but that’s because The Whisperer In Darkness is just SO incredible that I couldn’t stop listening, crouched in a corner looking like The Scream and trying not to cry. Based on H. P. Lovecraft stories, it’s about a fictional true crime podcast called Mystery Machine, which I would totally listen to if it existed. The two podcasters start an investigation into the case of Charles Dexter Ward, a man who has disappeared from his locked room in an American institution, while the psychiatrist treating him arrives in London to commit a murder. Cue the occult, secret government plots, more of the occult and you literally jumping out of your skin at some points. The second series is just as fantastic and creepy and one bit – you’ll know which bit when you listen – made me scream.


Homeless Bodies

It is such a shame that there are only six short episodes of Homeless Bodies. Each story is based on an item from the Wellcome Collection so naturally they’re all creepy as shit. I think this must be Audible’s Thing because each episode begins with the author talking to one of the Collection’s curators (does this count as a Professor hat trick?) about why they decided they liked a tattooed bit of human skin or whatever enough to write about it.  They’re all absolutely brilliant and my favourite one is the second episode, based on the scold’s bridal. Weirdly.



Let’s talk Mortem. This is the first I’d heard of Carla Valentine. She’s an incredibly cool and charismatic mortician, and this podcast takes a death – the body on Carla’s slab – and then goes from the morgue to the crime scene to police labs and speaks to real-life experts as if they’re working to solve the case. It sounds really simple but it’s an interesting dive into how it all works. Each case is told over three episodes and I think my favourite is The Burning Man: the tests they do, and how, have you gripped. This is one I like to listen to while I iron. Post mortems don’t really go with cooking supper.



In 1978,  after going missing while travelling through Belize, Peta Frampton and Chris Farmer’s bodies were found. They had been sailing on Silas Duane Boston’s boat, along with his two sons, and he was the only suspect. He wasn’t arrested for 38 years, despite his sons claiming they had witnessed the murder. Paradise asks why it took so long for authorities to act, speaks to Peta and Chris’s families,  includes recordings from Chris’s time travelling, and basically teams up with the suspect’s oldest son. I felt like this podcast was going to be really intrusive, but actually the two journalists investigating are really sensitive, and it feels like it means something to them. It’s a sad story, so this isn’t one for one of those lockdown days that involves just blankly lying facedown on the floor for three hours.


My Favorite Murdwe

Oh come on, we all knew it was going to show up. If you haven’t already heard of My Favorite Murder, you probably won’t like My Favorite Murder.




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