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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Friday, 9 December 2016

'Tis the season to download some fine podcasts

The battered, dust-filled shoebox with the motley collection of Christmas decorations is once again dragged out of its hideaway above the hot water tank.

The remnants of five decades worth of tarnished tinsel, plastic baubles, one surviving glass bauble, papier maché angels, lights that no longer work. Add to this a 2009 Waitrose Xmas pudding with real cognac, a gift that has yet to be opened, and probably won't be - and you're ready to face the season.

For a decade or two my personal Advent treat was listening to John Peel's Festive 50 countdown. Then Peel died, the 50 was no more, and there was a big gap in that strange collection of repeated experiences that - for me - made Christmas Christmas.

But now that gap has been filled. Yep, I've acquired a new listening habit, the depleted stable of Christmas/New Year traditions has a new, very 21st century member. It's an Advent Calendar, but not the type that offers stale sickly chocolate behind cardboard shutters. It's Daniel Ruiz Tizon's Advent Calendar, a sequence of 24 daily podcasts recalling his past Christmases, and always asking the question: will it ever be possible to love Christmas again as much as we did in those distant times?

These bundles of memories, deeply autobiographical and rooted in a certain area of south London, but also deeply resonant for anyone who has grown up in the UK over the past few decades. Each 12 minute episode arrives like a little gift-wrapped memory bomb. I'm a lot older than Daniel but the references to life in the 80s and 90s are as powerful as any Proustian madeleine.

"When you live in Lambeth, you learn not to pick up the snow". Well, that was true in almost any urban area where dogs roamed the parks and pavements.

If you like your wine extra dry, your lemon very bitter, and your oil extra-virgin, this is the advent calendar for you. Catch it today: we're not even half way there yet. Listen, and like me get hooked. But don't cheat - one day at a time please. As with the chocolate variety, there was always one lirttle piggy who scoffed the whole lot on December 1, and suffered as a result.

Literature has Dickens' A Christmas Carol; TV has  The Snowman. Now podcasting has its own Christmas classic. Listen!

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