Best of the rest

You won’t be surprised to hear that someone who produces their own podcast listens to a lot of others too. Over the last few years the number and variety of those available has grown exponentially, and as a format it offers so much that traditional radio or television can’t. It feels a bit more personal, and often focuses on one topic to a degree of detail which mainstream broadcast media can’t offer.

As we approach the end of the year, I thought I’d do a little round up of the podcasts I have enjoyed the most in the last 12 months. To make things a bit more specific, I’ve listed my favourite episodes, rather than just my favourite series. Not all are actually from this year, which is one of the great things about podcasts – you can go back through the archives and explore sometimes years’ worth of episodes. So, in no particular order……

First off, is a recent episode of Mark Shayler’s ‘Doing Things Better and Doing Better Things’ series:

In this episode Mark chats with Steve Chapman, an artist who has taken an unusual path to being creative and making a living from it. I’ve read a lot of Mark’s work with The Do Lectures, and listening to this episode was a little like having motivation being mainlined into me – the lead line of the episode is “Self doubt is the most effective employee retention tool” which really hit home to me. Steve’s description of how his early employment had stifled his natural creativity, and the means by which he was able to start flexing that muscle again was wondrous.

I could have picked any episode from this eclectic series as a highlight to be honest, but this one stood out for me simply because I could identify so many parallels in my own life. A close second would be ‘The House of Love’ with Sandra Schembri, CEO of House of St Barnabus, a less than typical members club in Soho.


Next up is an episode of The Adam Buxton Podcast with Michael Lewis, the author of The Big Short, Moneyball and Liar’s Poker amongst others.

Adam Buxton is a name you will likely be familiar with from the world of comedy, being the former half of the comedy pairing Adam & Joe. His podcasts are often with other comedians, but occasionally a guest like Lewis appears and the result is a remarkably interesting conversation.

Lewis is primarily a financial journalist, but a lot of his work focuses on the psychological aspect of how economics work, and this particular interview focuses on the subject of a recent publication of his caller ‘The Undoing Project’.

This chronicles the relationship between psychologists Amos Tversky and Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, whose work exposed how our day to day behaviour and decisions are influenced and directed by subconscious biases and ‘rules of thumb’, many of which lead us to make choices which are less than perfect.

It’s a perfect example of Adam’s expertise as an interviewer quite aside from his natural abilities as a comedian. You’ll probably end up listening to this a few times, but once you’ve finished this one have a look at the episode with Charlie Brooker, for something completely different….


Third up is actually a pair of episodes of the long running Joe Rogan Experience, both with journalist Sebastian Junger.

Sebastian Junger is a journalist, who I first encountered through his work during the Afghanistan wars, when he was embedded with an American infantry company in the Korengal Valley. From these experiences he and the photojournalist Tim Hetherington produced the documentary Restrepo, and Junger published his written account, War.

Hetherington was tragically killed in 2011 on assignment in Libya. This had a profound effect on Junger, who endured “a year in the wilderness” and the end of his marriage as a result. In 2014 he produced ‘Korengal’, a film about the soldiers he had lived so closely with in Afghanistan and how they had all struggled, and often failed, to adapt to returning to modern American society. Many came to admit to actually missing combat, even in the comfortable surroundings of a first world country which professes to value and support it’s armed forces.

Their struggles prompted Junger to explore the sociological background to these problems. In 2016 he published ‘Tribe’, which in my opinion is one of the most profound books I have ever read. It explores how everything about the way we now live, from housing structures to employment, is almost directly at odds to the manner in which we have evolved to exist. It proposes that the reason for many of the problems encountered by returning veterans and in wider society is a lack of cohesion and direct interaction. Veterans are lauded and honoured at sporting events, but in meaningful terms what they actually need is to be valued, relied upon and given a portion of responsibility in ensuring the welfare of their own community. This idea is transferable to any other member of society and Junger believes it’s absence in many lives contributes to the growing shadow of mental health problems in a time when luxury and ease are far easier to come by for use than any of our ancestors.

I am inevitably failing to do it justice, so I will just say to listen to these podcasts, go find Tribe and read it. At least twice.


Next up is the ‘How I Built This’ series with Guy Raz, which as the title suggests is a collection of interviews with the founders and creators of some of the worlds most successful businesses.

If you are familiar with the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, you will probably already know that they are not the typical multinational. Most recently, they have announced that due to, in their words, ‘irresponsible tax cuts’ given to big business in America by Trump, they owe $10 million less in tax this year than last. Their CEO, Rose Marcario, took this $10 million and passed it on to a variety of groups committed to protecting air, land and water and finding solutions to the climate crisis. This is on top of their longstanding policy of passing on 1% of their sales to environmental projects.

This is typical of Patagonia’s approach to business, and stems largely from it’s founder Yvon Chouinard. His book ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ is a bit of a classic on the Business Leadership shelf, and his ethos is a model of responsible commerce. A relatively short episode of this podcast with Chouinard is fascinating.

Link to the episode because you can’t embed from Acast…


#tablefor10

Eating with ‘strangers’ is a fairly alien experience to most of us. We don’t often get or take opportunities to sit and share food with people we don’t know. Thanks to Barrie and Jo-Jo of @thehighstreetdelicatessen , that’s exactly what we got to do last night in their wonderful home.

Ten people, five couples, all meeting for the first time. The common thread was a relationship with the Deli, Jo Jo and Barrie’s ‘foodie adventure’ in Newtown.

The conversation flowed. Nine courses were created by Mrs Deli, occasionally glimpsed through the doors to the kitchen (a room which deserves a blog posting all of it’s own). They were delivered and narrated by Mr Deli with panache, each plate having a story and featuring the signature local sources:

Cava spiced with Rosehip syrup from Liz Knight’s Forage Fine Foods; Butternut Squash Velouté with Walking Whiskey Wellness origins; the last beetroot from the Deli garden salt baked with smoked aubergine, goats cheese and toasted walnut

Just a sample of nine exceptional plates of food.

Beyond the food was a sense that this gathering of strangers to share a meal (or nine) was more or less what eating should be about more often. The sharing of food makes connecting to others simple. It creates talking points, which lead to broader conversations, mutual understanding and wider horizons.

#tablefor10 is the way we should all eat every now and again, regardless of what is on the menu. If every city block of flats, town street or village hall did something similar once a month or so, it isn’t hard to see how we would all be better off.

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I’m extraordinarily happy to say that Jo Jo and Barrie are going to feature in the first episode of the podcast, due to be recorded and released next week.

Nothing but the best?

The vast majority of us use a supermarket to fill our cupboards and shelves. Quantity and value have become the drivers of what we eat and how we eat it, and this is entirely understandable and unsurprising. BOGOF, half price offers and multipacks are the watchwords, and a bargain is the holy grail.

Our expectations have been lowered. What we expect of our food, and of how it comes into being, has changed. It doesn’t have to be like that.

I try, wherever possible, to use the best I can afford. To have in the cupboard, fridge or drawer a core of items which I know the provenance of, which have been bought from someone who knows what went into growing, raising or otherwise making them. The closer to home that this all occurred, the better.

I’ve found that one introduction to such a product leads to another, and another. The ‘old fashioned’ way of getting the food in, by going to a place where they know your name and you know theirs – it leads to conversations, exchanges, recommendations, and before you know it a network of independent businesses is available to you.

The podcast which this blog supports is all about those people and businesses. It is going to chronicle who they are, what they do and how they do it. Maybe a bit of why too.

I have a very long wish list of people I hope to feature here, and it includes producers of food, drink and the associated hardware. It also includes the suppliers – the deli’s, farm shops, restaurants and cafes which showcase the best of what their area has to offer. Most are from Wales and the Borders, because that is where I’m from. All are producing stuff that is going to make your life a little bit better, one mouthful at a time.

Stay tuned.