Maverick Life

PODCAST REVIEW

‘Goodbye to All This’ makes space for grieving

(Photo: Unsplash/Daniel Fontenele) Image design: Leila Dougan for Maverick Life

'Goodbye to All This' is a pre-Covid memoir that resonates in a year full of disorienting amounts of grief and loss.

2020 has above all else been a year of loss. The loss of human interaction – of hugs, of seeing each other smile of the small talk in the office that we once loathed and now impossibly miss. The loss of jobs – of security, of knowing what’s coming next, of our sense of place in the world. The loss of loved ones – family members gone too quickly and too young, ravaged by a virus, spending their last hours among strangers in overflowing hospitals with no familiar faces at their bedsides. Those of us left behind have none of the familiar rituals to hold onto. No gathering together to mourn lives lost and celebrate lives well lived. Sometimes it feels like an almighty wave has crashed over our heads and sucked us into a disorienting vortex with no familiar community rituals to hold on to. As South Africa enters its second wave of surging Covid infections, it often feels impossible to make sense of it all.

To borrow the podcast’s sea metaphor, Goodbye to All This doesn’t try to chart a neat course through grief, but rather offers a raft to navigate its rough waters.

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Goodbye to All This – A Falling Tree Production for the BBC World Service

Format: Series
Length: 12 episodes
Year: 2020 – currently being released
Listen on: BBC Sounds, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any other podcast app or streaming service

In 2011, Australian radio producer Sophie Townsend’s husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. The podcast series Goodbye to All This is Townsend’s audio memoir of what followed. Of living through his illness, treatment and death. And then having to learn how to live without him while continuing to parent their two daughters alone.

That’s the narrative arc, but the series is so much more than plot points. Written and voiced by Townsend, the magic of the story lies in the exquisite details, like the smell of jasmine in the air, that bring the story alive. It’s a cliché to say, but this series really does transport you to another world. A pre-Covid world, but one still marked by death. The beauty of listening to this story at this time is that it simultaneously makes space for grieving while also whisking you away to another time and place entirely.

This is entirely Townsend’s story, with hers being the voice and point of view through which we experience the series. But every now and then we hear the voices of unidentified family and friends who chime in to add perspective and context to her memories. The only other sounds are the gentle scoring and sound design which perfectly match the tone of Goodbye to All This. We hear crickets chirping, birds twittering, clocks ticking and waves lapping creating a textured backdrop that envelops you in sound. The scoring is subtle and unobtrusive, full of gentle sweeping percussion that, particularly at the end of each episode, leaves you riveted to the spot while you let it all settle.

This is a painfully sad story, but it’s one that models the messiness of vulnerability and resilience – something that all of us can relate to. It’s telling is a generous offering by some of the finest audio storytellers of our time. It gifts us the space to begin processing the losses of this year. “Goodbye to All This” is as apt a phrase as any to bid farewell to an unimaginable 2020.

If you’re wondering how to listen to these audio gems, local podcast organisation, Sound Africa, has prepared a handy guide to show you how.

Happy listening! ML/DM

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