Friday Notes || No.24

On naming storms & walking off the aftermath of 2020

Hello, and welcome to Friday Notes. This week’s edition of Friday Notes is all about naming storms and walking off the aftermath of 2020.

Friday Notes is my weekly newsletter round-up of my own work together with a curated list of the essays, articles, music, web comics, videos, films and books I enjoy each week, online and off. I hope you find something that interests you.

What I've been enjoying this week

1. I always enjoy seeing the names storms are given each year, so found this article about naming storms interesting. Germany has decided to include a more diverse range of names for this winter’s storms to reflect the demographics of their population, so the new storm names include some Turkish, Kurdish, Greek and Polish names, amongst the usual traditionally German names.

2. Mateusz Urbanowicz has just released the first BTS from a calendar commission he worked on last year. Long time readers will know that I really enjoy his work, but if you haven’t yet seen his illustrations or watched his videos, here’s a gentle nudge to do so. I am astonished at how photorealistic his work can be.

3. England is currently in lockdown, for the third time, and so my gym and pool have closed again. Last year I put on a little bit of weight from the enforced habit shift of not being able to swim or lift weights, and not having my usual summer on my feet filming weddings, either. It’s a really physical job as I’m on my feet for twelve hours at a time with a bag of equipment on my back, running all over the place with tripods and light stands. Combined with eating one too many sticky buns and a few too many bowls of noodles coated in gochujang sauce to numb my anger and sadness throughout the first year of the pandemic, I ended 2020 at the upper end of the range my weight normally fluctuates through.

Seeking a way to get the extra kilos off without swimming or lifting weights, and without running - I used to be a runner, but exercise addiction is part of my past and running was always the stick I used to beat myself with - I have settled on taking longer walks instead. In the first week of January I am pleased to say that I have managed to walk 70km (or about 43 miles if that’s your currency) and I have been listening to podcasts to motivate me to get out the door and to keep me company.

I have written about my love for ‘In Defense of Plants’ podcast and so I have been keeping up to date on new episodes as Matt releases them, but this week I also took a deep dive into the back catalogues of ‘This Podcast Will Kill You’ and think I have found a new favourite podcast. Erin Walsh and Erin Allmann Updyke both have PhDs and specialise in epidemiology and disease ecology, and their podcast focuses on infectious diseases, from a medical but also social and historical perspective. The episodes are long - perfect for a long walk - and detailed, but also fun and upbeat.

I like podcasts that assume the listener is intelligent rather than dumbing everything down to a primary school level of understanding. For example, I started listening to an episode of theirs about antibiotic resistance but soon pressed pause as I hadn’t yet listened to their episode about antibiotics, and they lost me in the first fifteen minutes. That’s fine, I’ll just go away and do some reading and listening to get up to speed before jumping back in. They also have a multipart podcast series about the current pandemic, but I think I’ll have to be in the right mood before listening to those. Sometimes I just want to take my mind off the ongoing pandemic and not think about it for a few hours.

I struggle to find new podcasts to listen to because I am really picky. I can’t listen to hyperactive hosts, or podcasts where the editing cuts out all natural breaks and pauses in conversation, and I’m not a fan of hosts who break from an interview to explain terminology to listeners, either. There’s accessible, and then there’s patronising. It’s a fine line. I’m also, much to my disgust and dismay, British. In other words, as a result of my upbringing in British society, I am emotionally stunted / reserved (take your pick) and struggle with really happy, smiley, ‘ohmygodthatisamazing’, ‘wooooow’ enthusiasm that US audiences might be more comfortable or familiar with.

Anyway, all this to say that I really like TPWKY and highly recommend you take the time to listen to their episode about caffeine - a history of tea, coffee and chocolate with guest speaker Matt from In Defense of Plants who joins the Erins to explore the function of caffeine in the plant world - and their episode about dancing plague. I had heard of dancing plague before, in the context of Miroslav Penkov’s novel ‘Stork Mountain’ which I read a few months ago, and have been meaning to read more about it ever since, so I was pleased to see they had an episode about it. Erin and Erin tell the story of dancing plague and then examine the literature to debunk various hypotheses about what might have caused it - from ergot fungus in rye to mass hysteria.

I put a poll out on Instagram this week for people to recommend their favourite podcasts to me and received a handful of other suggestions that I look forward to trying in the coming weeks. These include Ologies, Noble Blood and Desert Island Discs. I haven’t listened to any of these in depth to be able to give personal endorsements but they come highly recommended from people I know and trust! Of course, ‘Desert Island Discs’ is one I remember from childhood as it’s a radio show that has been going for decades!

If you have a favourite podcast, please share it with me via the comments below, or by pressing reply to this email. I know I’m picky but I also love to try new things and hear about what other people are really enjoying so don’t let my grumbles put you off!

That's all for this week, thanks for reading.

See you next Friday!


If you're reading this for the first time, hello, my name is Stéphanie. I'm a documentary photographer, filmmaker and writer, and I live in Birmingham in the UK. I hold a PhD in environmental social science from the University of Birmingham, and write about art, society, politics and the environment.

You can find out more about me and my work at these other places on the web:

Portfolio Website | Personal Blog | Flickr | Vimeo | YouTube | Instagram