The week in radio: At Home With Colin Murray; The Heart

Colin Murray’s new podcast for 5 Live strikes just the right balance between serious and silly, while Kaitlin Prest explores love with stark frankness

At Home With Colin Murray (BBC 5 Live podcasts)
The Heart

Sportsmen and women are notoriously dull. All that training makes for a brain of skewed genius: a mind that gives speed-of-light reactions and split-second pan-game understanding, but then is baffled by how to work a coffee machine, fill in a form or read fiction. They just don’t think about everyday life in the way most of us do. Added to that, many high-profile athletes are media-trained to give as little away as possible to journalists.

So when I heard that Colin Murray was starting a sports interview podcast, I thought, “Good luck with that”. Murray is one of the most engaging radio interviewers out there, but even his charm can splatter like eggs on a wall when faced with a resentful Premier League footballer or po-faced tennis pro.

Anyway. I’m here to say I was wrong. At Home With Colin Murray is a lovely podcast, 30 or so minutes of chat that goes as deep and as shallow as needed. There are a lot of laughs (teasing Olympic hockey gold medallists Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh about their “nana bed” while touring their house; getting Gary Lineker to take a penalty against him in Lineker’s back garden), but there is serious stuff too. Murray’s experience and chutzpah means he’s able to turn on a sixpence when it comes to topic matter, moving from teenage sporting talent to genocide in a thought-provoking programme on Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begović without crunching gears or – more importantly – making the sombre stuff seem trivial. The programmes are packed with detail and infused with warmth; really, this podcast is a delight. You feel that Murray could even get a good interview out of Andy Murray (who is, I am convinced, an interesting bloke deliberately hiding behind a boring persona). And yes, that is a direct challenge.

Another podcast that grabbed my attention this week was Kaitlin Prest’s The Heart. This, one of Radiotopia’s pool of excellent offerings, has been going for a few years. It’s about love, sex and emotion, and I listen on and off. There is much about The Heart to admire – the exceptional soundscapes, the unpicking of taboos – but the tone can drive me doolally. Prest sometimes comes over as self-regarding and the show can be very pleased with itself. Having said that, I absolutely loved last year’s mini-series Pansy, which examined femininity in men.

Kaitlin Prest of podcast The Heart.
‘Precision and emotion’: Kaitlin Prest of podcast The Heart. Photograph: Chris McIntosh

And now, we have No, a three-part series that, judging by the first episode, is one to which almost every western woman will relate. Prest delves into her own past to tell a personal tale of sexual consent. The precision and emotion of her language, as well as her unsparingly truthful storytelling, made for poignant, Proustian audio.

We heard extracts from her real-life diaries, descriptions of teenage sexual encounters. These were pin-point accurate; so real, you flinched. She described how she tried to beat the boys at being boys, by pretending she wanted to have sex as much as they did. It was self-protection, of course: “By pretending to be on the same single-minded mission that they seemed to be on, I would somehow reverse my impending objectification.” She told of how a boy – uninvited, undesired – put his hand down her pants while they were watching Jerry Springer with a group of friends. She froze, and tried to squeeze her legs shut. To no avail. Afterwards, she says: “I promised myself I would learn how to unfreeze, how to say no.” How you freeze. How to unfreeze. How to be brave enough to speak up. There are very few women who don’t understand exactly how hard that is to do when you’re young; when you’ve been taught to be polite and to believe in romance, and to be desired, rather than desire.

I am too old to find such stuff triggering, but this programme made all those early sexual experiences come rushing back. Being a teenage girl is tough. Thank God for podcasts like these to remind us all how hard it is and how well some women do to come through those days at all.


Miranda Sawyer

The GuardianTramp

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