Remember the time you were 13 years old and daydreamed about sixth-form boys, learned the hard way about fake tan application and were obsessed with having the best MySpace page in your year?
Berkhamsted Revisited is a podcast trip down memory lane for those who grew up in the 2000s. It deals with the experiences of two girls, as they look back over their collection of teenage diaries.
Two women in their mid-20s pore over the cringeworthy details of their formative years in the Hertfordshire town, but the surprising thing about this podcast is that the majority of listeners are men.
“Looking at the stats, the split is roughly 70/30 male to female,” says Laura Kirk, teenage diarist and one of the two presenters of the show.
Perhaps not surprising given that the production comes from the same stable as the long-running podcast The Football Ramble, which has reached number three on the iTunes charts.
“We’ve had a bit of promotion from those guys,” says Kirk, “but the fact that male listeners have stayed listening is surprising.
“The things we’re talking about – we’re not censoring it in any way. In our first episode we were talking about tampons! I thought at that point a lot of men would have switched off.”
Far from it.
Speaking to the BBC, Kirk says the majority of the people getting in touch with her and co-presenter Laura Gallop are men, telling them how much they enjoy reminiscing over their own teenage years.
A quick glance down the show’s Twitter feed indicates just how much men are loving Berkhamsted Revisited.
“I think it’s popular with men because the majority of the content is based on very common teenage experiences,” says Kirk.
One listener emailed the show saying that, growing up, he thought it was just the kids from Glasgow who were pretty similar, “but it turns out we were all doing exactly the same thing across the UK”.
Kirk says she thinks it’s comforting for people to realise that what they went through as an individual was part of a collective experience. It’s the essence of what every teenager inside us wants to hear: you’re not alone.
Kirk says of her teenage years: “I wanted to just look chill about everything. I was desperately trying to appear like a swan but underneath was paddling like mad.
“I constantly worry – even now – and often wonder, if I could hear other people’s internal monologues, what they’re really thinking. Are they really as cool inside as they appear on the outside?”
Kirk says she has a tendency to “over-scrutinise and over-think things” – perhaps somewhat evident by the fact she kept a diary and wrote in it almost every day between the ages of 13 and 19. A chronicle of her entire teenage years, if you will.
“If I had known that everyone was really thinking the same then I would have had a much less angsty teenage experience,” she says.
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But how does she feel about opening up her diaries to the world quite so candidly?
“It freaked me out a bit to start off with, and I had a couple of wobbles when I first started recording them,” says Kirk. “What would people think and what about if I upset people with some of what I’ve said?
“I’m normally very cautious, but eventually thought what’s the worst that could happen? Since then I’ve gone all guns blazing,” she adds.
“I’m not embarrassed about most of the stuff in there because I really do feel that most people were going through the same thing.
“My teenage years weren’t particularly unique but hearing that the podcast resonates with other people – particularly with boys – is really nice. I didn’t have a group of male friends – at least until sixth form – because I went to an all-girls school, so they were quite an alien species.”
And what about the people she’s written about in the diary?
“People from school have been back in touch – they’ve all been very positive about it! Some people have reminded me of events that I’d entirely forgotten – or things that happened on school trips that I wasn’t there for. A friend I’ve not heard from for eight or nine years contacted me and we’re now in touch every week.”
Not only has it acted as some kind of personalised Friends Reunited platform for Kirk, but she says plenty of strangers get in touch with their own school memories and excerpts of teenage diaries, no doubt cringeworthy and entertaining in equal measure.
“I wrote in my diary in a no-holds-barred kind of way, and wrote down everything I was thinking and feeling. I had it beside me on my bedtime table the whole time growing up,” says Kirk.
“I didn’t hide it and I suspect my mum did read it – but there was a part of me that wanted to let someone know what I was going through – even if it was just my diary.”
Kirk, who now works for a sports marketing company, says she doesn’t feel too emotional when reading back her diary.
“I’m kind of quite detached from it now,” she says, “but reading through some of the more heartfelt moments – like not having any friends – reminds you of just how far you’ve come.”
The girls return on Monday for a third series of the podcast – covering topics including first dates, festivals and that summer after finishing your GCSEs. Expect nostalgia, boys and embarrassing moments.
And if it’s inspired you to dig out your own teenage diaries, don’t feel bad. As Gwendolen says in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”
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