Sound, snow & a solicitor-to-be

This post complements an edition of The London Podcast featuring writer Richard Kurti 

Lucy Carr and Richard Kurti at a Clapham estate agents, London SW4

Lucy Carr and Richard Kurti at a Clapham estate agents, London SW4

Talk of an outside loo*, prefabricated buildings put up after World War II and the coldest winter for 20 years sounds like something out of a sepia-tinged gritty 1950s drama. But it was reality for me and then BBC colleague Richard Kurti, living in 1980s London.

It’s fresh in the memory as I’ve made a podcast where Richard and I retrace our steps to Sandmere Road, SW4 where we lived in 1986-87 (as you’ll hear, I was in denial as to how long ago we cohabited). Fate even managed to sync the weather to provide snow!

It brings back memories of movies like Withnail & I, seeing The Smiths on their The Queen is Dead tour at nearby Brixton Academy, and TV shows like The Late, Late Breakfast Show with Noel Edmonds. I’m sure of the latter because I worked on it. Richard and I were BBC sound technicians, thrown together by fate as we had adjacent rooms at the BBC training centre in Worcestershire where we were on a residential course, prior to working at Television Centre in Wood Lane, W12.

While Richard subsequently went off to direct videos and then write for big and smaller screens, I pursued my own dreams of announcing and presenting.

And if those cultural references all seem prehistoric to you, chances are you’re a millennial. But just to increase the appeal of the podcast – ok, it was chance – we met up with the delightful millennial Lucy, who works at an estate agents near Clapham Common. At least, she does at weekends – in the week, she’s training to be a solicitor, and lives in the trendy east London area of Shoreditch.

In the show you’ll hear what’s changed in the capital since Richie and I shared a ground-floor flat. You’ll also hear what landmarks and features of London haven’t changed. And more to the point, in a studio conversation punctuated by two location pieces, you’ll hear about Richard’s two novels – Monkey Wars and Maladapted – and hear the author read an exciting excerpt from the first of those.

And in the exchanges and crossfire of our conversation, you might discern the reason why we only lasted under the same roof in SW4 for six months – or, at least, you will if you’re – appropriately – reading between the lines..!



*WC/closet/head/john/restroom… etc. in your language

The Cathedral to St Pancras

Photo of The Meeting Place at St Pancras International

The Meeting Place at St Pancras International

This post supplements my edition of The London Podcast on St Pancras Soundscapes

What’s a guy doing wandering around a London rail terminus in the middle of the evening holding a mike, but with no interviewee and nothing but the surrounding sounds to pick up? Fortunately, nobody asked me this at the time, not even the two patrolling police officers armed with what looked like sub-machine guns. They were on what seemed to be a routine patrol – this is an international port, after all. For a moment I thought they might mistake my stereo microphone for an offensive weapon (I’m 75% joking – the remaining 25% stopped me reinforcing this idea!), but they were of course too smart and too well-trained to make that mistake. Besides, I’m not aware of any firearms with a foam windshield on the barrel. There is such a thing as a gun mike with a ‘pistol grip’, but these names come from what they look like, not their function.

You wouldn’t be able to tell from the podcast that I passed the officers because, although they were vigilant, they made no more noise than anyone else passing me in the commentary-free sequence I’ve called ‘slow podcasting’ (after the ‘slow television’ spawned in Norway). And the whole point of the exercise is to let the atmospheric sound tell the story. From clacky heels to tube station turnstiles, and from pianos in the shopping arcade to snatched conversations, it’s a beautiful merging of sonic scenes, naturally cross-fading from one to the next. And once I get into William Henry Barlow’s magnificent train shed, from where the Eurostar trains depart for the continent, all the sounds are topped off with a cathedral-like acoustic thanks to the very high roof there.

Listen and enjoy – you can subscribe at the website above. And if you’ve enjoyed that podcast, I think you’ll like another example of slow podcasting in the show Sound of the Underground, which takes you on a short tube journey. Less cathedral-like, but still plenty of textures, and a bit of poetry, too, inspired by a classic documentary called Night Mail.