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December decibels

Amrita V Nair | Updated on December 24, 2020

Warmth in winter: December is also an excellent time to embrace hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness and geniality that encourages one to spend time with loved ones doing things that bring comfort and contentment   -  ISTOCK.COM

Five podcasts to help you relax and recharge before the arrival of a new year

* Many of us will agree that this year, more than most, could do with a liberal helping of hygge

* There’s nothing quite as comforting as curling up with a good old cosy mystery à la Agatha Christie or MC Beaton. Cosy mysteries usually feature an amateur sleuth investigating a crime in a tranquil setting such as the English countryside or the Scottish Highlands

* In each episode of Ramblings, host Claire Balding goes on a walk with a renowned or interesting person through the English countryside and interviews them about their life and work

* Some episodes have Brown elaborating on a topic by herself while others feature her conversations with leaders and luminaries such as US President-elect Joe Biden and actress Reese Witherspoon

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If April is the cruellest month, December is surely the kindest. It is perhaps a result of a life spent almost entirely in the unchanging heat of the tropics; but December with its dropping temperatures makes me feel calm and hopeful. This month feels like a time of slowing down and taking stock of the year gone by while garnering optimism and motivation for a new year.

December is also an excellent time to embrace hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness and geniality that encourages one to spend time with loved ones doing things that bring comfort and contentment. Many of us will agree that this year, more than most, could do with a liberal helping of it. Here are five excellent podcasts to help you get in that hygge state of mind and to relax and recharge before the arrival of a new year.

Alba Salix, Royal Physician

Alba Salix is a fantasy audio sitcom that tells the story of the eponymous royal physician and her assistants, Holly and Magnus. Set in the fictional kingdom of Farloria, the podcast is loved by its fans for its quirky narrative style, chortle-inducing dialogue, and excellent voice acting. If you love sitcoms, slapstick humour, or the novels of Terry Pratchett, this is the podcast for you. The podcast, which was created by Eli McIlveen and Sean Howard, is currently in production for Season 3 and its success has also led to equally delightful spin-off creations set in the same fantasy realm — The Axe & Crown and The End of Time and Other Bothers. Listen at albasalix.com

Wonderful!

Created and hosted by married couple Rachel and Griffin McElroy, Wonderful! describes itself as a podcast for “joyful and enthusiastic people that like hearing about the passions, big and small, of other people”. Episodes are released weekly and each one features a conversation between the hosts about something in the world that brings happiness and a sense of wonder to them or to their listeners. The topics of discussion can run the gamut from music to movies to bread. In last week’s episode, for example, the McElroys discuss Griffin’s admiration for the literary subgenre of cyberpunk, as well as Rachel’s love for tamales, the steamed Mesoamerican snack. Along with their thoughts on why these things are wonderful, they also talk about the history and broader significance of their picks. No matter the subject, the McElorys are enthusiastic, hilarious, and amiable — and their passion for finding joy and optimism in everyday things is infectious and life-affirming. Listen at maximumfun.org/podcasts/wonderful/

Railcar Studios Presents

There’s nothing quite as comforting as curling up with a good old cosy mystery à la Agatha Christie or MC Beaton. Cosy mysteries usually feature an amateur sleuth investigating a crime in a tranquil setting such as the English countryside or the Scottish Highlands. The stories have little or no violence or gore and feature oddball characters who bring humour and whimsy to the plot. Railcar Studios Presents is a podcast that seeks to bring radio play adaptations of beloved classics and original audio dramas to their listeners. Their first such project was released over 11 episodes in 2019. It featured an adaptation of Red House Mystery, a locked room murder mystery written by AA Milne, beloved children’s writer and creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. With beautiful audio production and sound design, the podcast brings to life the classic country house murder mystery and makes for perfect listening on a wintry day. Listen at railcarstudios.com/

Ramblings

The premise of Ramblings is simple. In each episode of this BBC radio show and podcast, host Claire Balding goes on a walk with a renowned or interesting person through the English countryside and interviews them about their life and work. Balding’s convivial interview style as well as the somewhat informal format of an ambulatory interview brings out compelling and candid insights from her guests. One of my favourite episodes features Balding in conversation with author Robert Macfarlane while on a walk in Cambridge. The interview touches on many aspects of his career and work, while also describing in vivid detail the beautiful landscape around them. Listen at bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006xrr2

Unlocking Us

Academic and author Dr Brené Brown shot to fame after her 2010 TED talk on the power of vulnerability went viral online. She has since written multiple The New York Times bestsellers and has emerged as a well-respected, albeit subversive, expert on leadership and motivation. Her research puts forth the radical idea that vulnerability is the foundation for courageous leadership. In Unlocking Us, Brown draws on psychology, literature, and several other fields to explore ideas and concepts that shape the human experience. Some episodes have Brown elaborating on a topic by herself while others feature her conversations with leaders and luminaries such as US President-elect Joe Biden and actress Reese Witherspoon. The podcast, like the rest of Brown’s work, encourages its audience to live a life of authenticity and self-acceptance. Brown uses insights from her research and reading to shed light on issues that many of us grapple with in our lives. These discussions are further elevated by Brown’s straightforward delivery and exceptional candour about her own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The ideas introduced in this podcast will take root in your mind and surprise you with their relevance as they surface during unexpected circumstances in day-to-day life. Listen at brenebrown.com/podcast/introducing-unlocking-us/

I hope that these five podcasts will keep you company as you take stock of the extraordinary year that has gone by. And as I conclude this last podcast roundup for 2020, I would like to leave you with these words of hope from TS Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice.”

Amrita V Nair is a freelance writer, public policy specialist and podcast enthusiast

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Published on December 24, 2020
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