Radio

Podcasts are great, and there are so many of them. It is such convenient fun to listen in on the research and/or thought collection of another person, often some-one specialising in a field I am interested in but haven’t done much delving into of my own. Someone is talking into your ear as if telling you a bedtime (or any-time) story, except they are telling you about the connections drawn between the various sources of information they have found on a particular topic.

That said, not all of the podcasts I listen to are effectively non-fiction; some of my regulars are also artfully composed digests on literature or music. But the thing about podcasts that brings about a kind of fatigue, sometimes, is that they involve choice, specifically the choice to give oneself over to what is effectively another person’s realm, voice, and material. I have to be in the mood for the host’s voice, timbre, diction, and favoured topics.

You could argue that this is just as much the case with radio, but the nice thing about radio is that you tune in and things have just been streaming on without you, you dip into something that’s just going on already, and whatever host is there, whatever piece is playing, you settle in and listen to it: it’s the equivalent of sneaking into a performance room with the lights out, taking a seat at the back, and not having to explain yourself or introduce yourself to anyone. Things just unfold in front of you at their own pace, in their own time, and if you leave, they will continue even if you’re not there to listen to them.

Psychologically, there is something soothing to me in this, and radio, much more so than podcasts, is a medium I love. The fact that I can tune in and tune out and encounter a surprise, is so relaxing. I don’t have to choose whether I’m more in the mood for a podcast on the misuse of apostrophes or an interview with Damien Hirst, whether I’d rather listen to a woman’s take on contemporary slang, or a man’s; I can just tune in and see what’s there.

All this to say the following: my one true love, as far as radio goes, is a station [the Belgian classical station MUSIQ3] that has been in my life since I can remember grasping the concept of radio stations, and being able to differentiate one station from another. It plays in my parents’ house, and now it plays on my laptop whenever I want audio company but don’t want to let one of the usual podcast hosts or Youtubers* into my space. For some reasons, radio hosts (perhaps it’s just this particular station, though) seem less intrusive, simultaneously less rambling and less scripted, and they give more space to what I need: music I didn’t choose, but that someone else (smarter, with better taste, passionate and well-intentioned) chose for ‘me-the-audience’.

Radio is my permission to let someone else decide, to drift along with a programme that isn’t directed specifically towards me and my preferences (inferred from whatever links I may have clicked, or tastes I may have indicated on social media) but exists on its own merit. This all probably sounds too much like I’m asking for permission to like and listen to radio, when a lot of people around me seem to have time only for things that are specifically designed for them, things that will in some way improve them or boost their knowledge, but I like the drifting, leisurely quality of radio, the way it doesn’t want to do anything for me in particular. It lets me listen in, float along with the programme, without pretending to make my life any more productive.

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* Don’t get me wrong, the video essay is one of my favourite contemporary forms, and I love watching, and learning from, those – but sometimes I like tuning in to something for any other purpose than listening in on something.

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Women Who Write the World

Yesterday, I left the house. This has happened before, so let’s refine the previous sentence: Yesterday, I left the house and went to Sheffield.

There was a purpose: the Women Who Write the World event, at Union St.

It was part of the Women in Translation month, an event organised by Tilted Axis press.

Present were Aoko Matsuda, there to discuss her recently published short ‘The Girl Who Is Getting Continue reading

Twenty-Nine

I want so much more than just this sense of relating to life in a once-removed sort of way. I want the plunge, in full; I want to climb a tree, then live in it. I want the scratches of every surface I climb lingering in the skin of my palms. Every breath breathed fully. I think it’s so much easier for people to exist on film, because on film all you see is their bodies doing, their bodies existing, the body from the outside: you don’t see the mind racing, being elsewhere, being absent.

Nineteen

There is something I haven’t fully considered about writing, which is that every time I work on a story I do so in streaks: for a few days, all of my mental (and –to a certain degree– physical) energy is focused on this one story, on existing in its universe, responding to its demands.

It is like getting on a ride of sorts and my body and psychology are set to the movement of the ride, responding to its rise and fall, orienting me based on where the ride takes me. Or perhaps more like climbing aboard a ship.

But then, after a few days, or even a week (depending on how lucky I am with stamina, with the length of my streak), I climb back out of the story-ship’s bowels and return to the motionless shore of non-immersion, the basic state of living when I am not thinking my way through a writing project. Even if I haven’t finished the story I was working on, adapting to the shores of non-immersion takes me a while: I need to regain focus and balance.

The feeling is the same as being lost but feeling the need to keep moving: the same hectic pull.

Every time, I climb or fall out of the story onto sold ground and it feels like sea-legs; I feel dizzy, disoriented, but also angry with myself for feeling this way; I tell myself,

‘What do you mean? You are a terrestrial creature, not a fish: you belong on the land, this is your home, where you were born. And yet only after a few days or weeks at sea you mean to tell me that you suffer from a sense of disorientation on the very ground your legs have evolved to tread?’

This is, of course, only a metaphor – and I like to stretch those a bit. But it puts into words the feelings I have been battling for the past few days. My disorientation makes no sense to me: all I did was climb on a boat/story allow the motion of the waves to carry me, affect my sense of balance for a while, and then climb back out onto a shore that should feel stable and firm, a ground that isn’t supposed to be spinning, a horizon I have convinced myself should the straight and clear.

But here I am, without focus and, most of all, berating myself for it instead of accepting that this is simply part of the process.

But here I also am, writing it out, making sense of it for myself so that I may eventually learn to accept it.

Eighteen

The moment you see a man in a suit and he does things a man in a suit wouldn’t do, you reconnect with the idea of humanity, which in itself is simply the joy of being surprised, of not being confirmed in one’s hardened beliefs.

It is sad that this is what it takes, but also delightful that it happens so often when you look for it.