“I don’t really listen to many podcasts now…”, I heard someone say recently, “…because I no longer have a commute”. This made me realise how different my listening habits would be if I didn’t have a spaniel to walk. (I’ve tried the commuting thing on occasion, by the way, and gave it up as a bad lot. Spaniels are better.)
I tend to listen to a mix of podcasts, but they are mostly tech-related. There are shows like Self-Hosted and 2.5 Admins if I want to know which hard disks to put in my NAS, when to use FreeBSD instead of Linux, or how to back up my ZFS filesystems. I enjoy Clockwise for a light-hearted quick-fire discussion of tech topics and gadgets, and, almost at the opposite extreme, the State of the Net podcast is a gentle, contemplative and insightful chat about broader issues. There are some which cater to my more particular interests, like the Home Assistant podcast (about my favourite home-automation system) and the Fully Charged podcast (about EVs and renewable energy). And then, for something completely different, the Talking Politics History of Ideas educates me on the work of MacKinninnon and Marx, of Wittgenstein and Wollstonecraft.
But brief podcast episodes are interspersed with much longer audiobooks, and it’s no exaggeration to say that our Audible subscription is one of the best services we have, in terms of the number of hours of enjoyment per buck. My wife Rose could never be persuaded to carry a smartphone anywhere, until she discovered it could read all of her favourite books to her, and now it goes everywhere. She’s never used any other iPhone app, and almost never used it as a phone. She has taken some photos over the years – but probably less than a dozen! No, for her it is first and foremost an audiobook player, which can be used as a phone in an emergency.
We aren’t, by the way, walking around with headphones on all the time. The iPhone speaker is fine for most of our normal use, if placed in an appropriate pocket. And we enjoy many of the same authors, so snatches of Conan Doyle, of Nevil Shute, or of Tolkien can often be heard from any corner of the house. In unabridged form, of course.
We both share the same favourite modern author — Patrick O’Brian — and the audiobooks, beautifully read by Ric Jerrom, are quite superb. If you’ve never tried audiobooks as an accompaniment to your walking, cooking or ironing, start with Master and Commander, and you can be assured of many, many happy hours.
Especially if you also have a spaniel.