from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: the distractions of podcasts

July 6. Today I was wandering around with various tasks on my list. Roy, my Cairn Terrier, came with me. He is going to have a rather horrible operation tomorrow: his right eye is to be removed due to glaucoma and a very high, irreversible, pressure. A step we do not take lightly. So we gave him a good day: not left alone, walks, treats and games.

While doing this, I listened to three podcasts. There is such a wealth at our fingertips in the libraries of podcasts. Free.

The first, titled The Good Fight, was with Anne Applebaum, historian and author of, ‘Twilight of Democracy: the Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends’. The interview was broadcast 2 years ago but remains very interesting. …’Yascha Mounk talks to Anne Applebaum about how authoritarians take power, the threat of social media, and the first six months of Trump’s presidency.’

Food for thought….

The second podcast of the day, hinted at by David Vincent in one of his posts on this site, is Better Known … ‘Each week, a guest makes a series of recommendations of things which they think should be better known. Our recommendations include interesting people, places, objects, stories, experiences and ideas which our guest feels haven’t had the exposure that they deserve.

These episodes are short – around 30 minutes – and most entertaining. I managed to listen to 2 of them (there are 127 episodes available).

The important one is dated 6 July, 2020. Ivan Wise interviewed David Vincent, asking him to talk about 6 things – places, people, ideas, things … that are of particular value interest to him. I won’t disclose the 6 things that David spoke about but I enjoyed his choices. It is rather pleasant not to have to listen to news about Covid-19 or the daily announcements of Trump’s nastiness.

And these distracted me from worrying about our little old dog.

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Better Known.

John Clare

June 19.  I have just recorded a contribution to ‘Better Known’, a podcast series in which the speaker recommends six people, places, objects, stories, experiences and ideas that should be better known.*

It was a challenging task.  Most of us carry in our heads our eight Desert Island Disks, revising them from time to time in the hope that one day we will be asked to make them public.  The brief for ‘Better Known’ was much wider, and coming in the middle of an avalanche of work, there was little time to ponder upon it.  I came up with five entries, and spent three quarters of an hour talking about them. 

For places:

  • Montaigne’s Tower, in south-west France.  The man himself, the first modern explorer of how an individual should live, is well enough known, but his tower, which we visit whenever we are in the Dordogne, is largely neglected by French visitors.  Montaigne spent his days in one tower at the corner of a large courtyard, his wife in another (now demolished), and his mother in the main house (now rebuilt), a perfect arrangement for any family.
  • St Peter’s Church Melverley.  A rare, perfectly preserved timber-frame church, constructed out of local oak in around 1405, every beam pegged to another without any fixtures, standing on a bluff with the River Vyrnwy swirling around it.
  • The Stiperstones.  A long rocky ridge, in sight of my house, with the remains of Britain’s largest lead mine at its base, and long views across the Welsh Marches.

For objects:

  • Caroline Testout climbing rose.  Names for a late-nineteenth-century French couturier, a splendidly blousy pink rose, with a faint scent.  I have one growing over my front door, and any house would be improved by it.

For writings:

  • Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, sometimes cited in these diaries
  • The poetry of John Clare, the great peasant poet of the first half of the nineteenth century, the finest observer of the natural world this country has ever produced.

It is in some ways a counterproductive undertaking.  The last thing I want is coach loads of tourists at Melverley, or Everest-like queues to ascend the Stiperstones.  The writings are more secure.  There will be a limit to the number willing to tackle the two million words in Mayhew’s volumes, and Clare, quite simply, really should be better known, although his reputation is building, not least thanks to a recent biography by Jonathan Bate.  Here is an evocative poem written in his asylum years on the topic of solitude, to which he returned frequently over his life:

There is a charm in Solitude that cheers
A feeling that the world knows nothing of
A green delight the wounded mind endears
After the hustling world is broken off
Whose whole delight was crime at good to scoff
Green solitude his prison pleasure yields
The bitch fox heeds him not – birds seem to laugh
He lives the Crusoe of his lonely fields

*To be broadcast on July 6