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An everyday story of lesbian lust. By Gyles Brandreth

Blog | By Gyles Brandreth | Oct 20, 2023

My first love: Judi Dench

Are you into podcasts? I am in a big way, but a lot of other oldies aren’t. I even have friends who pretend not to know what a podcast is.

‘Radio 4 is good enough for me,’ they say. And, yes, Radio 4 is indeed glorious. I have just been recording another couple of episodes of Just a Minute (a Radio 4 staple since 1967), and, with Sue Perkins now happily at the helm, I think the show is as fun and funny as ever. Same goes for The Archers – a radio favourite since 1951.

With The Archers, of course, you get a lot more sex than you do with Just a Minute. From Ambridge the other day, we were treated to the radio soap’s first- ever on-air lesbian kiss.

We have had gay girls in Borsetshire before, but this was the programme’s first audible Sapphic encounter.

Pip Archer was none too keen on Stella Pryor at first, but when Stella’s dog Weaver was killed in a farm accident (remember, this is an everyday story of country folk), one thing led to another, and what began as a comforting hug transmogrified into an erotically charged osculatory embrace.

It was nicely done. It felt unforced and authentic.

The Archers regularly credits its agricultural advisers. If there was an intimacy coordinator in the studio on the day of this particular recording, we were not told, but they should take a bow.

BBC Radio can give you lots. Podcasts can give you lots, lots more. Essentially, a podcast is an audio production made available in a digital format for downloading over the internet.

The word ‘podcast’ itself first saw the light of day in an article in the Guardian in February 2004 – so it might be a misprint. But if it isn’t, some say the word is a contraction of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’, while others claim the ‘pod’ part is an acronym for ‘portable on demand’.

Either way, there are at least five million podcasts out there for you to choose from (produced in a multiplicity of languages in countries around the world) and you can access them via your computer or an app on your iPhone or by barking at the device on the kitchen sideboard, ‘Alexa, play The Oldie podcast!’

Politics, pornography, true crime, self-help, gardening, goitres (and how to live with them) – you name it and there’ll be a podcast series (or several) devoted to it.

The production quality varies, but the best of them rival (and sometimes outclass) anything that the BBC has to offer.

For five years, I have been presenting a weekly podcast about words and language with my lexicographer friend Susie Dent. It’s called Something Rhymes With Purple because I thought purple (like orange and silver) was an unrhymable word. I was wrong. To hirple is to walk with a limp.

This month, I’ve launched a new podcast called Rosebud.

Admirers of Citizen Kane won’t need to ask why. It’s all about first memories. What is your very first memory? Not one prompted by an old family photo, but truly your first recollection.

That’s where the conversation starts and then it leads to other firsts. Dame Judi Dench, my first guest, told me that her first boyfriend was called David Bellchamber.

‘We were six at the time,’ she revealed, ‘and I knew he was serious when one day he said to me, “I think we should start calling each other ‘darling’, don’t you?” ’

I have a different guest every week. Many are old friends, such as Judi Dench or Miriam Margolyes (much of what she told me is podcastable but not necessarily broadcastable – that’s the joy of podcasting: anything goes), but I am meeting new people, too. For example, Nicola Sturgeon.

That was a podcast encounter that took me by surprise: a) because I really liked her; b) because she was so candid about her singular childhood; and c) because she told me how much she liked, admired and felt indebted to our late Queen – which was something I didn’t expect from the firebrand former leader of the Scottish National Party.

‘She was very kind to me,’ she said. Nicola, a Glasgow girl, also told me about her first love. His name was ‘Sparky’. ‘And he was,’ she said, grinning.

My friend Michael Plumbe has died, aged 91. He was a good man with a serious love of language. I knew him through the Queen’s English Society. When Mike last emailed me, days before his death, I thought he was losing it. But once I had given his email the attention it deserved, I realised he wasn’t.

‘I codnul’t blveiee waht I was radnieg,’ he wrote. ‘Aoccdrnig to rsceearh at CmarbgdieUinervitsy, it deons’t mttaer in waht oedrr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. Bcuseae the hamun mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istelf, but the wrod as a wlohe.’

Rset in paece, Mkie. It was fun kowning you.

Gyles’s latest book is

Elizabeth – An Intimate Portrait