It was 8am on a Tuesday morning and as I slowly opened my eyes I realised two important things. The first was that no, I had not been dreaming, there really was a global pandemic threatening the lives of innocent people just outside my front door; and the second (albeit not as important but still up there) was that I was now on my own. And it was this realisation that caused me to curl up a little under my duvet. From that moment onwards I was the only one left in the house, the only one who decided to stay in our student house and not go home to the comfort of family.
It wasn’t too terrible at first. I kept myself busy, I had essays to write and research to read, I cleaned often and went for walks around the neighbourhood, I watched too much TV and even learnt how to make a paper crane. And yet, even with the seemingly endless dust gatherings that congregated behind the bathroom door and the regular video calls chatting to my friend and her cat, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t like me, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something missing. But then I remembered a podcast and my old friends Elis and John.
I listened to them constantly, almost religiously.
I hadn’t listened to their podcast, simply titled Elis James and John Robins, in a while so when I pressed play on their latest episode I immediately felt sense of nostalgia and comfort hit me. It was like catching up with old friends, even though time had passed and Covid-19 had disrupted present society, there was no awkwardness or mindless small talk as people tried to think of something more substantial to say. It was like nothing had changed. I listened to them constantly, almost religiously. I eagerly waited for new episodes and enjoyed listening to them as they played their made up games and spoke about random topics like service stations and kitchen appliances. The content they provided wasn’t exactly what you would call hard-hitting, and I have to admit some of the references that they made did go over my head (most of them about the early 90s and football players) but I didn’t care, as at that moment that’s what I needed.
The lockdown seemed to be the only topic on everyone’s minds, and understandably so. No one really knew what was happening or when it would end. There were questions after questions with multiple sources providing different responses and of course people used each other to vent or explain their worries. I was definitely one of those people and even began to scare myself after I woke up one morning with a sore throat, which incidentally was just because I drank little water the day before. After some time, I needed a break from Covid-19 and that’s what Elis and John’s podcast gave me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt this. According to The Guardian more people were turning to podcasts to help replace the social void present in their new homebound lives. They also suggested that with podcasts “one of the pleasures of the medium has always been its intimacy”, and it’s this intimacy that I realised I had been missing; more specifically, the intimacy involved in talking and listening to strangers. The feeling of being able to freely walk into a shop and discreetly listen to the couple behind in the queue as they decide on what to do in the evening or the feeling of sitting in a café and watching as people from all walks of life enter and order their usual. It’s a strange form of intimacy that I never really paid attention to. It made me understand that intimacy isn’t just about the physical side of things; it could also be about the familiar or closeness that one experiences.
I lived on my own for two months. Like with anything, there were good days and there were bad days. But one thing that became a constant in my life was the podcast. It provided me with this sense of intimacy; this sense of closeness. Listening to people, who I had never met before, talk about their problems and laugh with each other over the mundane tasks they needed to do put my mind at ease a little. I began to see that I wasn’t the only one experiencing these highs and lows during such a strange and uncertain time. And I can confidently say that I don’t feel I wasted any time in listening to their podcast so much, in fact I even learned a few new things. For example, did anyone else know that the dial on a toaster is time and not heat? Because I didn’t, and to this day I am still surprised by this. But maybe that’s why I found so much comfort in this podcast. Maybe it’s good to have other voices in your life to help you discover new things or maybe to help you forget things, even if it’s only for an hour.
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