Category Archives: Festivals

414. With the Family (Part 2) My Uncle Met a Rock Star

Listen to my uncle Nic telling some stories about British rock stars he has met over the years, including an encounter with one of the most famous musicians in the world!

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Introduction (transcript)

In this episode I’m going to play you another conversation which I recorded during the recent Christmas holiday. In this one you’re going to hear my brother and me talking to our uncle Nic about some of the amazing rock stars that he’s met over the years.

Nic has always been a huge fan of rock music and because he was born in the early 1950s he saw many of Britain’s greatest rock stars performing live on stage quite early in their careers. I’m talking about the late 1960s, throughout the 70s and beyond.

So, Nic has met a lot of musicians at gigs but he also just has a knack for bumping into rock stars in normal everyday situations and then being very cool, calm and casual in their company. It’s almost like they’re on the same wavelength or something.

Anyway, my brother and I have always enjoyed hearing Nic’s anecdotes and I’m very glad to have recorded some of those stories for this podcast.

If you’re a fan of rock music, especially some of the classic bands of the 60s and 70s then I’m sure you’re going to be impressed by some of the people my uncle has met, talked to, and even had breakfast with.

And there is one person in particular that he once bumped into – who is not only a bonafide legend of the music world, but also just one of the most famous people on the planet today. Any idea who that is? Well, to find out just listen on.

So, here’s a chat with my Uncle Nic, with some help from James.

I say “help” from James, what I mean is that he just takes over the interview at one point because he thinks he can do a better job than me, and maybe he’s right. Anyway, that’s enough rambling… here’s the conversation.

***

Thank you very much to Uncle Nic and belated happy birthday to him too.

Let us know what you think, and which one you think is the most impressive story. Because they are impressive stories, aren’t they. Come on! Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Pink Floyd! Fast Eddie from Motorhead!

I realise there will be people out there who don’t really know a lot of the people we were talking about. I’m sure you know Paul McCartney, but you might not know The Who, Motorhead, Pink Floyd (hard to imagine), The Damned, Slade…

And I’m sure there are others too, not necessarily in the toilet but in other situations, but who knows.

VIDEOS

The Who – Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltry, John Entwistle

Motorhead – “Fast Eddie” & Lemmy

Free “All Right Now” live at The Isle of White Festival (1970)

Paul McCartney & Wings “Junior’s Farm” (Nic’s favourite)

Pink Floyd recorded at Live 8, Hyde Park in 2005

Slade in 1973

The Damned

Have you ever met a famous musician? Let us know in the comment section.

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412. British Festivals and Holidays (Part 2)

Here’s part 2 of this episode all about special days and celebrations in the UK throughout the year. Below you will find a transcript and videos.

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May
1st and 29th – Bank holidays. There are two Mondays in May when people have the day off work or school and (if we’re lucky!) spend some time outdoors enjoying the spring sunshine. The first bank holiday in May is known as the May Day holiday and it is vaguely associated with workers rights (like Labour Day) although this is not expressly stated as the purpose of the day. As I said earlier – officially all bank holidays were set up to give workers some time off.

The second May bank Holiday is known as the Spring Bank Holiday or the Late May Bank Holiday and this one is associated with the beginning of Summer. It always lands on the last Monday of May and often there’s good weather. Typically what happens on this day is that people are surprised by the good weather which leads to a feeling of optimism about the coming summer. People say things like “Ah, summer’s going to be great – let’s have barbecues!” and then they wait for summer to arrive and they wait and wait, and it stays cloudy and rainy, and they wait and it rains and they wait all the way until late September before realising that Summer is over and the week of sunshine we had at the beginning was all we were going to get, and then suddenly at the end of September the sun comes back and we have what’s known as an Indian summer – that’s a late summer.

Usually at the end of May we have the F.A. Cup Final – that’s England’s most traditional football cup and it’s pretty special because all the teams in all the leagues get to play each other and the final happens at Wembley Stadium, and it’s usually pretty sunny when it happens.

Also throughout May you can check out the Brighton Fringe Festival. It’s a great time to visit Brighton, which is just one hour from London and is on the south coast of England – so you can enjoy the seaside (even though the beach is made of stones not sand) and all the attractions of an English seaside resort. In the festival there are comedy shows and other attractions and most of it is free. I did a few podcasts from the Brighton Fringe a few years ago when I was performing comedy there. You can check those episodes out here:
teacherluke.co.uk/2012/06/07/brighton-fringe-festival-1/
teacherluke.co.uk/2012/06/17/brighton-fringe-festival-2/
teacherluke.co.uk/2012/06/29/brighton-fringe-festival-3/

Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling

June

13th – The Queen’s Official Birthday. Although the Queen’s real birthday is on the 21st of April, it has been a tradition since 1748 to celebrate the king or queen’s birthday in June.

A military parade known as Trooping the Colour is held in London, attended by the Royal Family. I think the reason the monarch’s official birthday is marked in June is simply because there’s a better chance of good weather for the military parade. It’s as simple as that.

19th – Father’s Day. Father’s Day is a day to show appreciation to fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and fathers-in-law. Many people in the UK give their father a card or gift, have a meal together or go out for drinks. We don’t do it in my family! This is probably because of a feminist idea that men already have plenty of days and blah blah blah.

21st – Summer solstice – midsummer’s eve – the longest night of the year. The ancient monument of Stonehenge in Wiltshire has its true moment in the sun on this day as people celebrate the longest day and shortest night of the year. Stand inside the monument facing northeast, toward a stone outside the circle called the Heel Stone, and you’ll see the sun rise like a blazing fire – a sight that brings in pagans and sun-lovers of all beliefs! In fact, there’s usually some sort of pagan celebration at Stonehenge on this evening. Everywhere else we just enjoy a really long evening, with long shadows and light until about 11pm or more. Summers in the UK are fantastic for long days and despite what I said earlier about barbecues we do have some wonderful weather sometimes, and I have good memories of these never-ending summers with days that just went on forever. Sitting in a pub garden all evening on the 21st is a particular pleasure.

Wed 21st to Sun 25th – Glastonbury Festival
This is the biggest music festival in Europe and is now one of the most important music festivals in the world. Every year about 200,000 people travel to a farm in Glastonbury in the Somerset countryside not far from Stonehenge in the South West of England. It used to be a hippy music festival a bit like Woodstock. These days it’s a place to check out music and all kinds of other performance art, and all the biggest bands of the moment perform there. It tends to be headlined by the biggest names in music. Recently we’ve had groups like The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Beyonce and Kanye West headlining the event. The BBC usually cover Glastonbury throughout the festival. In 2017 one of the headliners will be Radiohead. We don’t know who is going to headline on Saturday yet – it might be Guns & Roses, Rihanna, The Stone Roses, The Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran – the list of speculations goes on.

I’ve never been to Glasto, but I almost always watch it on TV and I have to say it’s often a bit of a disappointing experience, probably due to the poor sound quality you get through recording a live concert and putting it on TV. It completely lacks the power and punch that you get from seeing someone live. It just sounds like you can’t hear the drums properly and it all sounds weak and clinical sounding. There’s nothing like seeing music live and I think to really enjoy Glasto you need to be there, soaking up the atmosphere, up to your knees in muck. I expect it’s not what it used to be.
Here’s a podcast episode about music festivals from the archives teacherluke.co.uk/2009/10/20/summer-music-festivals/

Link to the biggest music festivals www.festicket.com/magazine/top-20-music-festivals-in-the-uk/

26th – Eid. Marking the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan, Eid is widely celebrated by Muslim communities in the UK. Each community usually organises its own events, but there are some large celebrations and feasts in city centres, such as in London and Birmingham. I’ve never been part of an Eid celebration but I remember when I worked in London that a lot of my students fasted during Ramadan, and then disappeared completely during the Eid celebrations! I wonder what it is like to go without food during the daylight hours – it must be pretty hard. I know that fasting is an important part of Islam (one of the 5 pillars of Islam) and it’s all about abstaining from earthly and material pleasures and focusing on prayer and a sort of spiritual detox. It must be a big celebration when it’s over and you can eat during the day again!

July

Monday 3 July – Sunday 16 July – Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Wimbledon, the world’s oldest tennis tournament, is a summer highlight for sports fans. Held at the All England Club in London since 1877, Wimbledon is known for the tennis players’ white dress code and the tradition for spectators to eat strawberries and cream. For me this is usually something you watch in the evenings while eating summer food like a melon or something. It’s also another opportunity to be disappointed by British sportsmen, although Andy Murray did win in 2013 and this year too. Well done Andy.

Also during the summer we have cricket test matches going on. A test match is one game of cricket that happens as part of a test series. So, a series is 5 matches, and the series goes on throughout the summer – it can take a couple of months for a series to be completed. Each test match lasts up to 5 days. The biggest rivalry we have is with Australia and we regularly play a test match series against the Aussies called The Ashes – it’s been going for decades and it’s a big deal if you like cricket. You might think that 5 days is rather long for a game (and yes they pretty much play all day – from about 10AM until the light fails in the evening – they even stop for tea in the afternoon) but it’s really great when there’s a test match going on because you can keep up with it during the day (just quickly check the scores or listen to it on the radio here and there) and then watch the highlights of the day’s play on the telly in the evening. I should do a whole episode about cricket.

August

Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 4-26 August 2017 (5th–29th August 2016). The largest arts festival in the world, ‘the Fringe’ features over 40,000 performances and more than 2,500 shows at 250 venues. Any type of performance may participate, across theatre, comedy, music and dance, and many students visit Edinburgh to put on their own shows. For more, read our Edinburgh Festivals guide.

296. Learning Comedy is like Learning a Language

374. Alex’s Edinburgh Fringe Report

Notting Hill Carnival. August Bank Holiday Weekend – last weekend of August (27-28th August 2016) Held in west London over a bank holiday weekend, Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street festival. Around 1 million people go to see colourful floats and dancers in flamboyant costumes, hear music from salsa to reggae, and taste Caribbean food from street stalls. Bring your party spirit, enough cash and a lot of patience – it can be very crowded.

Check it out – I did a video podcast about Notting Hill Carnival.

September

18-20th Sept 2017 (16th–20th 2016) London Fashion Week. London Fashion Week sets the global fashion agenda, alongside the other big shows in Paris, Milan and New York. These fashion shows during fashion week are mainly for industry insiders, but you can get tickets to London Fashion Weekend for a taste of the fashion show experience. There are two each year – the first London Fashion Week is in February (3rd weekend). Students get involved too, with events including student and graduate showcases and networking opportunities.

October

31st – Halloween. The modern way of celebrating Halloween is based on the Christian feast of All Hallows’ Eve and the Celtic festival of Samhain. Children go trick-or-treating (knocking on neighbours’ doors to ask for sweets) or carve pumpkins, while older students go to parties and Halloween events at pubs, clubs or Students’ Unions. The important thing is to dress up as gruesomely as you dare!

November

All month – Movember. If you’re seeing more moustaches than usual, you’re not imagining it – throughout November, the charity campaign of Movember invites men to grow a moustache and raise awareness of men’s health issues. It’s a bit annoying and I don’t really know why.

5th – Bonfire night. Historically, this marks the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate King James I in 1605 – the failed ‘gunpowder plot’ is remembered in the children’s rhyme ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November; gunpowder, treason and plot’. Today, it is commemorated with spectacular displays of fireworks.

There will be firework displays in most cities, but one of the best places to be is in the medieval town of Lewes, East Sussex – here, the fireworks are accompanied by colourful parades, music, costumes and the traditional ‘guy’, an effigy made of straw or paper to burn on the bonfire.

Find out more in my episode about Guy Fawkes Night. teacherluke.co.uk/2016/11/05/from-the-archives-halloween-guy-fawkes-night-5th-november/

11th – Remembrance Day. Each year in the UK, 11 November  is a memorial day to honour  those who lost their lives in battle – especially during World War 1, so many peace campaigners also support the event. The Royal British Legion charity sells paper poppy flowers to raise funds for veterans and their families (the poppy is a symbol of Remembrance Day), and it is customary to observe a two-minute silence at 11am. Around this time it’s common to see people wearing red poppies on their shirt or jacket. In TV studios they have boxes of poppies on hand so that nobody appears on TV without one, which would not be a good idea because it would make you look disrespectful.

30th – St Andrew’s Day (Scotland). Honouring its patron saint, St Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s national day. There are many events across Scotland, including traditional meals, poetry readings, bagpipe music and country dancing. This is a great opportunity to go to a ceilidh – a party with Gaelic folk music and dancing. Fortunately, there is usually a ‘dance caller’ to teach the steps! I’ve never done it, but apparently this is a thing in Scotland!

Thurs Oct 19 2017 – Diwali. Diwali (or Deepavali) is the Festival of Lights for Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. Cities including Leicester (which hosts one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India), London and Nottingham have extravagant street parties with traditional food, music, crafts and dancing – and of course, displays of lights, lanterns, candles and fireworks.

December

Throughout December, there are loads of winter markets and festive visitor attractions across the UK. Look out for events advertised in local magazines like TimeOut!

Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park. In addition to a traditional Christmas market, this huge site features carnival rides, two circuses, an ice skating rink, fake snow and an exhibition of ice sculptures… and enough hot chocolate and mulled wine to keep you warm.

Jamie Oliver’s Mulled Wine recipe www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/recipe/jamie-s-mulled-wine/

Hogwarts in the Snow, a wintry version of the Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden (near London). Watch snow fall over the original model of Hogwarts castle, and see the Great Hall set for Christmas dinner.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, the largest German market outside Germany and Austria, complete with glühwein (mulled wine), wursts (sausages), pretzels and sweet treats. You can also shop for unique gifts from local artists at the Craft Fair.

The winter festival at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Usually an educational ecology park, in December the Eden Project is transformed with Christmas trees, a choir, real reindeer and an ice rink, with ice skating classes for all ages.

Belfast’s Christmas Market. If you’re studying in Northern Ireland, visit the multicultural market outside Belfast’s City Hall for festive food and drink from around the world, crafts, gifts and Christmas decorations.

Pantomimes. The traditional Christmas ‘panto’ is a mix of slapstick comedy and musical theatre, with silly costumes and audience participation. Pantomimes are usually for children, but it’s worth seeing one for a uniquely British experience.

24th–1st Jan – Hanukkah. Jewish communities across the UK will be celebrating Hanukkah (Chanukah), the Festival of Lights. In London, the Menorah in Trafalgar Square is the largest in Europe. It’s usually lit by the Mayor of London on the first day of Hanukkah, at an event with free doughnuts and live music.

25th – Christmas. Most people in the UK celebrate Christmas, even if they are not religious. There will be Christmas trees, presents, carol singing, mulled wine (warm, spiced red wine), mince pies (small pies with a sweet fruit filling) and if it snows, snowmen and snowball fights! The traditional Christmas dinner is a whole roast turkey with roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and Christmas pudding for dessert.

26th – Boxing Day. The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, and is a bank holiday in the UK. It’s believed to have been named after the ‘Christmas box’ of money or gifts which employers used to give to servants and tradesmen. Nowadays, there are no particular Boxing Day customs, but most people spend the day with their families, going for a walk, watching sports or eating the Christmas leftovers.

Other festivals

May 4th is unofficially Star Wars day, just because of the date “May the fourth be with you”. I think some Star Wars fans get together and there might be special screenings but as far as I can see it’s just a chance to post something on Facebook wishing everyone a happy Star Wars day.

A listener to this podcast wanted me to mention Sea Odyssey: Giant Spectacular – a kind of street theatre event that happens sometimes in Liverpool. That looks fantastic.

There are many arts festivals too, where you can sample literature, theatre, arts & craft, dance and poetry. Click here to read more about arts festivals www.artsfestivals.co.uk/festival-details

411. British Festivals and Holidays (Part 1)

Here’s an episode all about special days and celebrations in the British calendar. You’ll hear cultural information about holidays and customs, and some pronunciation work on how to say dates and the months of the year. Transcript and videos below.

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Introduction

This episode is being recorded before Christmas. I’m going to upload it sometime around Boxing Day I think. You’re probably listening during the Christmas period or the new year period. I hope you’re having a lovely time wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

This episode is all about British festivals and holidays that occur throughout the year. Let’s look ahead to the coming year of 2017 and see what kinds of things Brits will be doing for certain special occasions.

I’m recording this because at some point earlier this year I got a message from a listener challenging me to talk about all the major British festivals and holidays in one episode and I said “challenge accepted”, and so now, finally, here is that episode! I don’t remember your name – I’m sorry! But here it is ok! The thing is – the challenge was to do it all in one episode and I have a feeling this is more than one episode because I’ve got lots of things to say about this!

The UK calendar is absolutely full of festivals of many kinds. In fact, there are festivals and special days in every month of the year. These festivals mark various special occasions connected to the passing of the seasons, important historical or religious events and significant people in the UK.

In this episode let’s explore those main festivals and public holidays, in rather fast style.

I’m from England, so my version might be a bit Anglo-centric, but I have tried to include a variety of festivals and not just the ones that seem significant to me as an individual.

This episode should be a great little journey through the UK calendar, and it should help you learn some more British culture. Also we’re going to look at how to pronounce the months, dates and days in British English.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking! Here’s our whistle-stop tour of British festivals and holidays.

So, there are public holidays – days of statutory leave – days off given to us by law, and these are generally known as bank holidays, and there are festivals. Not every festival is a holiday.

So, bank holidays and festivals.

Bank Holidays
If you’ve lived in the UK you’ll know that a bank holiday is usually a wonderful, wonderful thing in theory. They usually happen on a Monday and sometimes on other days, but usually on a Monday. So a bank holiday is a long weekend. They’re usually associated with an old religious occasion or some other important reason for the state.

Three of these bank holidays take place in the summer, so everyone imagines they will be out in the garden having a barbecue or in the park having a picnic or something. In reality they probably involve getting caught in the rain in some way, perhaps while attempting to have a barbecue in the garden or picnic in the park or something.

Having our public holidays on Mondays is a great thing though, because it means you get a day off, and a long weekend. Shops and services are sometimes closed, which can be a bit annoying, but less so these days – in fact the shops tend to do quite well on a bank holiday weekend and so they stay open. So it can be a good day to go out shopping.

Banks are closed though, which can be a bit of a pain in the neck if you need to use your day off work to get something done at the bank.

These public holidays are originally called Bank Holidays because in 1871 certain days were designated in law as being days on which no financial transactions should take place, just like on Christmas Day. I suppose this was to give workers a few guaranteed days off a year – so that they didn’t get completely exhausted working in factories every day of the year. These days people have more statutory paid holidays – in fact everyone is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year. That may or may not include the bank holidays – it’s up to the employer. At the last company I worked for in London we had to work on bank holidays, which sucked a lot. While all my other friends were out attempting to have barbecues and getting caught in the rain, I was teaching English. But, it was a good school to work for so they allowed us to take our bank holidays as ‘days in lieu’ – days off which replaced the bank holidays that we worked. I would always take all my days in lieu during quiet periods at the school in December so I could do all my Christmas shopping.

These so-called Bank Holidays are scattered throughout the year, and they’ve been arranged to land on Mondays, corresponding to certain periods or events in the year.

So, instead of having specific dates, our holidays are matched to Mondays in the year, unlike in France where the public holidays always arrive on the same date – even if it’s a Saturday or Sunday (nightmare). Sometimes public holidays in France land on a Tuesday or Thursday and a lot of people ‘do the bridge’ which means that they take the Monday or Friday off as well, and enjoy a massive long weekend. If that happens, it seems the country grinds to a halt because everyone’s gone on holiday for most of the week.

We have 7 bank holidays in the year in the UK. A bank holiday weekend is a truly wonderful thing about life in the UK. It’s a long weekend, and you’re always guaranteed to get it. There are two in May, which makes that month a particularly good one in the UK. It’s normal to celebrate by having a barbecue or a party, or just going out and having fun in the sunshine.

Upcoming bank holidays in England and Wales

2017

2 January – Monday – New Year’s Day (substitute day) (if it falls on a weekend, they give you the next Monday off, which is nice)
14 April – Friday – Good Friday
17 April – Monday – Easter Monday (Easter is a fantastic 4-day weekend)
1 May – Monday – Early May bank holiday (it’s also called May Day and probably originates from Roman celebrations of the beginning of the summer period – in some countries there is Labour Day on 1 May, which celebrates the rights of workers, but we don’t do Labour Day – instead ours is the early May bank holiday – I think this is because the whole concept of bank holidays covers essentially the same purpose as Labour Day)
29 May – Monday – Spring bank holiday (This is also called the late May bank holiday and is connected to Pentecost – in fact it’s the first Monday after Pentecost. What’s Pentecost? It’s the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. So, the first Monday after the seventh Sunday after Easter. Are you following this? Most people just find out from their employer, from the newspapers, friends or from a calendar they probably got for Christmas.
28 August – Monday – Summer bank holiday (Barbecue & disappointment season – it’s there to mark the end of the summer holidays)
25 December – Monday – Christmas Day
26 December – Tuesday – Boxing Day (Again, if Christmas Day or Boxing Day land on a weekend, then they give you the next available days off –  like in 2016 when you get a day off on the 27 because 25 landed on a Sunday)

How to say months and dates

In a moment I’m going to go through festivals and days of celebration or commemoration which happen in every month during the year.

Before I do that – let’s look at the pronunciation of the months of the year. I know you did this at school but I’m often surprised at how people still pronounce the months wrong. So just repeat the months of the year with me and think about how you’re saying them. Think about vowel sounds, the number of syllables and which syllable is stressed.

Let’s go. January – February – March – April – May – June – July – August – September – October – November – December

Also, let’s consider the way we say dates in the UK.

Day first and then month.

When we write we just add the number then the month. We add the little ‘th’ ‘rd’ or ‘st’ as well next to the number, but you don’t always have to. So we write 21 December or 21st December.

But when you say a date you have to remember to add the before the number, the ordinal – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc and also of.

So it’s the 21st of December.

What’s the date today?

It’s the 21st of December.

In America they don’t know what they’re doing, so they put the month first.

Just joking, it’s fine. For the Americans they start with the month and don’t always include of.

“It’s December 21st” for example.

“What’s the date Mom? It’s December 21st, honey.”

Tell me these dates.

What date is Christmas Eve?

What date is Christmas Day?

What date is New Year’s Eve?

What date is New Year’s Day?

What date is Valentine’s Day?

What date is St Patrick’s Day? (17 March)

What date is your birthday?

What date is the summer solstice?

What date is Halloween?

What date is it today?

Festivals Throughout the Year

The following information is based on an article by the British Council, although I have paraphrased quite a lot and added quite a lot of stuff. Click here to read the full article where you can read more about each festival www.educationuk.org/global/articles/festivals-and-holidays/#january

Here’s a list of the festivals and celebrations throughout the year in the UK. This list includes traditional events, sporting events and I’ve also included some major music festivals in the UK – and if you spend some time in the UK I really recommend that you go to a music festival, they’re usually a lot of fun as long as it doesn’t rain!

January

1st – New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve (31 December), it is traditional to celebrate midnight with your friends or family and to sing ‘Auld lang syne’, a folk song with words by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, although to be honest I have never ever sung that song in my life! The party can last well into New Year’s Day! Many people make ‘New Year’s resolutions’, promising to achieve a goal or break a bad habit in the coming year. For me, New Year’s Eve is about these things: struggling to plan something to do, going to a house party and getting drunk, going out to a club or something and then having a nightmare getting home (no taxis), freezing cold outside, staying in and drinking wine, watching Jools Holland on the TV, not really wanting to do anything because you’ve already spent the week drinking and eating too much anyway.

In Scotland, the celebration of the new year is called Hogmanay. There are big parties across the country – expect lots of music, dancing, food and fireworks – but Edinburgh hosts some of the biggest.

25th – Burns’ Night (Scotland). This is the birthday of Robert Burns – who is basically the national poet of Scotland. Many Scottish people hold a special supper (dinner) on Burns’ Night, with toasts and readings of his poetry. Men might wear kilts, there may be bagpipe music, and people will almost certainly eat haggis (the traditional Scottish dish of sheeps’ heart, liver and lungs) with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Sounds disgusting? It’s actually pretty tasty. I’ve never been to a Burns Night celebration because I’m English and it’s not our thing, but I bet it’s a lot of fun.

28th – Chinese New Year. Outside Asia, the world’s biggest celebration of Chinese New Year is in London – each year there is a parade through Chinatown in the West End, with free performances of music, dance and acrobatics, a feast of food and fireworks. There are many more events around the UK, so find out what’s on in your area – cities including Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool and Birmingham usually host colourful street parties.

February

28th – Shrove Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’. Lent is the traditional Christian period of fasting, which lasts for 40 days. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, when households would traditionally use up their eggs, milk and sugar by making pancakes. Nowadays, even if they are not religious, many people still make and eat pancakes on this day.

Some towns in the UK also hold ‘pancake races’, where contestants toss pancakes in a frying pan while running for the finish line. One of the most famous is in Olney, Buckinghamshire, where it’s believed the first Pancake Day race took place in 1445.

I’ve never been to a pancake race. For me pancake day is all about making your own pancakes, probably ruining the first one because you have to burn one before the pan is ready. My favourite pancakes are just covered in nutella. Far too much nutella.

14th – Valentine’s Day. Historically this was the date of the Feast of St Valentine, nowadays this is a celebration of romance. Many people in the UK go out for dinner with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and give them a Valentine’s card, chocolate or flowers. If you’re single, you might receive an anonymous card from a ‘secret admirer’! For single people, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a nightmare because you see all these smug couples getting together and going on dates. It can make you feel a bit lonely, or you might just reject it completely and do something totally at odds with the day. But couples can also have a slightly difficult time on Valentine’s Day – usually there’s pressure on the man to come up with some special romantic plan, and generally there is a feeling that Valentine’s Day is a sort of manufactured event by companies and marketing people. It’s actually quite unromantic, and some people just shun it completely, but in my experience if your girlfriend or wife says “Oh you don’t need to do anything for Valentine’s Day” then you definitely DO need to do something. Don’t be fooled by what she says. That also includes birthdays and anniversaries.

March

1st – St David’s Day (Wales). St David is the patron saint of Wales, and March 1 is a celebration of Welsh culture. People in Wales might wear a daffodil and eat a soup of seasonal vegetables and lamb or bacon. I’ve never eaten that in my life and to be honest I’d never ever heard of it, because I’m English. Events are held across Wales, including a large parade in Cardiff. As an English guy I’ve never been part of St David’s Day celebrations. All I remember is some people wearing daffodils at school when I was a kid.

17th – St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland). The Feast of St Patrick is a national holiday in Ireland, and is now celebrated by Irish communities all around the world. In the UK, there are St Patrick’s Day events in cities including Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and London, as well as Belfast. Many people go out with friends, wearing green or a shamrock symbol (the lucky clover) and drinking Guinness, the Irish dark beer. The tradition is to get completely pissed and wear a massive hat shaped like a Guinness glass or shamrock or some weird combination of the two – a shamrock beer glass hat thing that won’t protect your head against a hangover or any other form of brain damage that you might suffer on this evening as a result of alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, or all three if it’s a really good night.

26th – Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday). Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate motherhood, and to thank mothers for everything they do throughout the year. Many people give their mothers a card or gift, treat them to a day out or cook a meal. I usually send a big bunch of flowers to my Mum and try to make her feel special. It’s the least I can do.

April

1st – April Fools’ Day. For one day of the year, it is acceptable – even encouraged – to play tricks, pranks and practical jokes. Even newspapers, TV and radio shows often feature fake stories on April 1. It’s customary to reveal the joke by saying ‘April fool!’ (the person who falls for the joke is the ‘fool’), and you’re supposed to stop playing tricks at midday. Some famous April fool jokes include ones done by the BBC – like in 1957 when a respected news programme called Panorama broadcasted a report about how spaghetti was harvested from trees in Switzerland.

It showed people climbing ladders to pick spaghetti that was hanging from the trees and collect it in baskets. Needless to say, many Brits were fooled by it.

Other tricks are things like, telling your students they have an emergency test that day, or just changing all the clocks in your house so everyone things they’re late. That kind of thing. It’s all harmless fun, until someone has a terrible accident or someone gets very upset and there’s a huge argument resulting in the end of a relationship or someone getting fired from their job. Just harmless fun.

Here’s that 1957 BBC April Fool’s Joke – check out the old-school heightened RP accent!

14th–17th – Easter weekend. Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date depends on the next full moon after the Vernal equinox (the first day of spring), so the dates change each year. It is always on a Sunday in March or April (called Easter Sunday), and the previous Friday (Good Friday) and following Monday (Easter Monday) are bank holidays. People celebrate Easter in different ways, but many give each other chocolate eggs and eat ‘hot cross buns’ (sweet buns with a cross design), while children decorate eggs or take part in Easter egg hunts. To listen to an episode I’ve already done about this, click here teacherluke.co.uk/2009/04/14/episode-2-easter/

23rd – St George’s Day (England). The legend is that St George was a soldier who killed a dragon to rescue a princess in the middle east somewhere. He is now the patron saint of England, and this is England’s national day. Yes, I don’t understand it either really. You might still see St George’s Cross (a red cross on a white background, England’s national flag) or events with morris dancing (an English folk dance), but it is not a bank holiday and most people don’t hold special celebrations. That’s right – we just don’t really care about St George’s Day. In fact, this is quite interesting as you’ll see that English people are quietly a bit modest about their country. We don’t celebrate the national day, we have some negative associations with our flag (although I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with me – I think it’s true), and we’d rather be patriotic about the UK than about England. Honestly, this is because England has done some pretty naughty things in the past like colonising other countries, going on crusades, smashing up towns after football games, invading our neighbouring countries and tying them into a union with us, then dominating that union with our values – unfortunately these are the values that many people associate with the English flag, and we don’t really know how to celebrate our saint’s day. I think, with Scottish Independence, there are moves to reclaim Englishness from the nationalists, and redefine it, but I feel like whenever someone proudly claims they are English and waves the English flag – it just smells of right-wing nationalism, hooliganism, skinheads, violence and stuff like that. Pity really because there shouldn’t be anything wrong with being English any more, especially if Scotland is given its independence. Also, I guess it is hard for many English people to feel a connection to Saint George considering the story is about a guy who probably wasn’t English anyway – it turns out he was actually born in Turkey and became a Roman soldier – and that confuses us. Still, it is about a knight who killed a dragon which sounds pretty cool.

Here’s a version of the story from a website called “Project Britain” which sounds like it was created by a Brexiteer – but then again my podcast is called “Luke’s English Podcast” which could also sound like a nationalistic right-wing podcast run by the English Defence League or something. You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast and we want England to be back English again! No thanks.

Anyway, here’s a version of the Saint George & The Dragon Story – I have no idea who wrote it or to what extent it is fact checked or even based on anything that actually happened. In fact it reads like pretty much every other fairy tale story of a knight defeating a dragon to rescue a princess. projectbritain.com/stgeorge2.html  

409. A CHRISTMAS MEGA-RAMBLE with AMBER MINOGUE

A rambling conversation with Amber about Christmas and more!

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Introduction + Transcript

It’s the festive time of year again. Christmas is just about a week away. Obviously, this is an important time in the UK and in many other places, so here is the annual LEP Christmas episode.

I’ve got a lovely fire going here. It’s all warm and cosy. The conditions are perfect.

It’s a now a bit of a tradition on this podcast to do an episode devoted to the subject of Christmas every year, so that’s what you’re going to get in this episode. It’s going to be a massive Christmas-themed rambling chat with the one and only Amber Minogue!

We’re going to talk about many things, including our plans for this year, the things we usually do at Christmas, our memories of childhood and growing up, spending christmas with kids and whether you should tell children the truth about Father Christmas, how it feels to work on Christmas Day, weird Christmas routines in my family, the rules of stupid games we play at Christmas, dodgy dad-jokes and Christmas crackers and plenty of other tangents and stories.

I wonder what you’re doing at this time of year? How do you usually spend the Christmas period? Is it an important time of year in your country, in your family or for you as an individual?

It would be interesting to compare your version of Christmas wherever you are in the world, with the sort of Christmas that we have. So, while you listen to us rambling on in this episode, think about the similarities or differences between your Christmases and our Christmases, and perhaps leave a comment on the page for this episode so you can share how it is for you.

This is quite a long episode, but do listen all the way until the end because I have some other little announcements and things to say, which I will tell you after this mega chat with Amber is finished.

There’s no need for me to say anything more as an introduction. So, without any further ado, here is my super-festive Christmas MEGA-rambling CHAT with Amber Minogue.

CHRISTMAS MEGA-CHAT STARTS HERE

Christmas Cracker Jokes
www.telegraph.co.uk/comedy/what-to-see/50-best-christmas-cracker-jokes/

What do you call a cake that sits in a cupboard watching all the other cakes?
A mince spy. (a mince pie / spy – ha ha)

What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
A Christmas Quacker! (a Christmas cracker / quacker – ha ha)

How did Scrooge win the football game?
The ghost of Christmas passed! (the ghost of Christmas past / to ‘pass’ a ball in football)

MEGACHAT ENDS

So, that was Amber and me talking about our versions of Christmas.

What do you think?
What are the differences to the ways you spend Christmas? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Other Chrimbo episodes that you might want to enjoy (just in case this one isn’t enough!)
Christmas – It’s all about Family (with James Thompson) – talking about all sorts of random stuff, not all of it about Christmas.

teacherluke.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/christmas-its-all-about-family/

A Cup of Christmas Tea with Paul Taylor – missing Paul’s voice? Listen to this episode – it was the first time he came on the podcast and we talked about Christmas as well as other things.

teacherluke.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/158-159-a-cup-of-christmas-tea-with-paul-taylor/

The A-Z of Christmas (With Raphael Miller) – Everything you need to know about Christmas culture in the UK, with Raph from Liverpool.

teacherluke.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/160-the-a-to-z-of-christmas/

Merry Christmas + other news

245. Merry Christmas! (+ Other News) + Video!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – I tell you a classic Christmas story written by Charles Dickens

320. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Some other announcements and admin, etc

I think I will be uploading one more episode before the Christmas holiday arrives, so I might wish you a proper Merry Christmas then, but if I don’t get the chance to do that, then MERRY CHRISTMAS. I hope you manage to get your shopping done, your gifts wrapped and all your food prepared.

ANOTHER LEPSTER GET-TOGETHER
MOSCOW LEP Conversation Club
This Sunday 18 December, 4pm-6pm, Wooden Door anticafe
FB Event link www.facebook.com/events/633385513500698/
VK link vk.com/clubnu1

Join the MAILING LIST!

Thank you for your messages!
I appreciate your responses to my work and your messages of thanks. It’s always nice to here from you.

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If you’re feeling festive and generous and you’re thinking of expressing your gratitude to me somehow – you could make a donation to LEP.

There will probably be another episode up before Christmas, so I’ll speak to you again in that one.

But for now – BYE!

xmas2016

366. Talking about Nothing with Alex Love (Invaded by Robot Aliens) PART 1

On the podcast today I am in conversation with Alex Love, who you might remember from some previous episodes of this podcast. Alex is a friend of mine who I first met while doing stand-up comedy in London 7 years ago. He has featured in podcast episodes before, like the Brighton Fringe Festival podcasts (ep 104, 105 & 106), 109. The Drunk Episode and 226. On a Boat. All those episodes also featured our friends Paul Langton and Moz – both of whom have been guests on the podcast recently.
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Recent Episodes with Moz and Paul Langton:
Moz’s episode: teacherluke.co.uk/2016/03/23/337-murder-mile-walks-stories-of-londons-most-infamous-shocking-murders-some-explicit-content-swearing/
Paul’s episode: teacherluke.co.uk/2016/05/24/349-whos-the-best-superhero-with-paul-langton/

Alex Love regularly performs stand-up comedy gigs in London and in Manchester where he now lives. At this moment he’s preparing for the Edinburgh Festival where he will be performing a one-hour show which he has written himself, called “How to Win a Pub Quiz”. The show is a mix of stand-up comedy and pub quiz trivia and it has had some good reviews at previous festivals. If you’re in Edinburgh this August you can see Alex’s show at a venue called The Stand in rooms 5 & 6 (venue 319) at 12 o’clock midday from 4 to 14 August.
Bookings:  tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz

As well as doing comedy Alex has also done a number of different jobs in his life, including doing a paper-round, working in a call centre, and writing journalistic pieces for The Guardian newspaper.

I invited Alex onto the podcast today mainly to talk about his Edinburgh show, but in fact, the conversation mainly involves Alex and me just wittering on about nothing in particular! That’s why I’ve called this episode “Talking about Nothing with Alex Love” because although we do talk about his show a little bit, I’ve found it quite hard to put my finger on exactly what it was that we talked about for the majority of this conversation. We just seemed to be talking about nothing and I actually think that’s a really great thing and a worthwhile thing for you to listen to.

Because, in my opinion, regularly listening to unplanned and slightly rambling conversations between friends, like in this episode, is genuinely good for your English, long-term. This is, after all, the way that we communicate with friends in the real world, isn’t it? Real conversations are not scripted or planned out in advance like the recordings you hear in published English learning course books, like this www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MVxesy1AFI 5.22. That’s an extract from a Headway course book published by Oxford University Press, which is a very good book and everything, but the audio conversations are a bit fake sounding because they’ve been written in advance and are being used to present certain bits of language. Of course, the vast majority of conversations we have with our friends in the real world are not planned in advance and usually involve responding to little moments that come up in the conversation, changing from one topic to another and simply rambling on about stuff in general. And we build relationships with people by rambling on about stuff in general, we have fun with each other by rambling on about stuff in general and we release stress by just rambling on about stuff in general, and this is why simply rambling on about stuff in general is actually rather a wonderful thing indeed.

So, I invite you, in this episode, to listen to us rambling on about stuff in general. Your job is to try to follow the meandering flow of the conversation, take note of certain phrases or aspects of language that you hear, and generally just let the English wash over you like some kind of refreshing language shower. An English language shower. A languashower if you like, or perhaps an Englashower.

One technical detail before we start: There are some moments when the Skype connection breaks up and Alex sounds a bit like an evil robot. That happened a few times and it actually really annoyed me during the recording because it was quite disruptive to our conversation. For some reason, whenever we started talking about something serious some connection problems occurred and Alex started sounding like an Aphex Twin remix or a drunk robot or something. You’ll hear it happening sometimes in the conversation and you’ll also hear that I got a bit annoyed by it later in the conversation and I said the phrase “This is doing my head in” which means “this is really annoying me and making me angry and frustrated.” To be honest, I have managed to fix the vast majority of the technical issues in the recording because I have done *a lot* of editing, so in fact you probably won’t notice any of these technical issues and all of this explaining that I’m doing here in the introduction is probably completely unnecessary, so I’m now going to stop doing it and just move on.

I hope to have Alex back on the podcast again soon for another episode in which we do a kind of podcast pub quiz of our own, which you can take part in. That would be good, wouldn’t it? Yes of course it would. Everyone likes a pub quiz. That’s another episode for another time, perhaps while Alex is in Edinburgh and has a better internet connection.

I should also mention that there’s a little bit of swearing in this conversation. So, “there’s a little bit of swearing in this episode.” There you go, you’ve been told, and I know that the vast majority of you are now thinking – “fine, that’s absolutely fine Luke. Not a problem. In fact, good – that’s good. We fucking love swearing Luke. IN fact, swearing is sharing.” Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about but I’m glad you’re happy. I encourage you not to swear too much though OK, even if you hear it on the podcast. Do what I say, don’t do what I do. OK.

Well, right then, without any further explaining, let’s now get started, and we’re going to jump straight into the conversation mid-flow right now so this is it, off we go, it’s time to get started so let’s get down to business right away without any further hesitation or messing around or time-wasting and so here it is then, let’s start, we’re all set, you’re set, I’m set, everything’s set and ready to roll so here we go, on your marks, get set, get ready, get steady, let’s get ready to rumble… OK GO.

*Episode Begins*

By the way, what’s a “Pub Quiz”? Well, it’s a quiz that happens in a pub. Typically, pub quizzes happen in the evenings in pubs all over the country where teams of people get together to answer questions which are read out by the quiz master. It’s just a game and a good excuse to get together, have a few drinks and test your general knowledge. The winning team is usually awarded some sort of prize – typically restaurant vouchers, bottles of wine or something like that. Pub quizzes are very popular in the UK. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “a 2009 study put the number of regular weekly pub quizzes in the UK at 22,445.”

Everyone loves a pub quiz, they’re very appealing. So, Alex’s Edinburgh show is quite a clever combination of a stand-up performance and a pub quiz in which the audience have to answer various funny questions read out by Alex.

Title: Alex Love – How to Win a Pub Quiz

Venue: The Stand 5 & 6 (Venue 319)
Dates: Aug 4-14
Time: 12:00 lunch time
Length: 1 hour

Description from the Ed Fringe website: This highly interactive show is part stand-up, part actual pub quiz. Expand your trivia, compete against other teams, witness results. After playing to capacity crowds in 2015, this unique hour is back with more facts, prizes and niche-referenced nonsense.
Reviews: ‘Alex Love is great fun’ (Scotsman). ‘It takes quite a show to create such a sense of engagement that one music question can become a full-blown sing-along, but this is the spirit of How to Win a Pub Quiz.’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Such a quick brain’ (We Are Funny Project).
Bookings:  tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz

Alex on Twitter: @thisalexlove twitter.com/thisalexlove

Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast twitter.com/englishpodcast

Find me on Facebook: Luke’s English Podcast

Join the mailing list

Feel free to send a donation

Check out italki and get 100ITC at www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

Download a free audiobook from Audible at www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke

Now, go and make a jet-pack and your dreams of flying will come true! Yes you can!

;)

Luke

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End of Part 1 – ‘Outro’ – Transcript

Hello everyone – I’m interrupting the conversation here because I’ve decided to divide this episode into two parts and I thought that this dramatic moment where Alex has moved into the bathroom to find a better mobile internet signal is a suitable moment to do that. So this is the end of part 1. Part 2 should be ready for you to listen to right away – so go ahead and get stuck into it now.

OK then, so that’s it for part 1. Don’t forget to join the mailing list at teacherluke.co.uk and then you’ll get an email whenever I upload a new episode and the email will direct you straight to the page for that episode where you will find notes, transcriptions, links, videos and other details that relate to the episode.

Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you again in part 2.

Bye.

358. Fête de la Musique / World Music Festival in Paris

Join my wife and *me as we walk around the streets of Paris during the annual World Music Festival. You’ll hear live music, descriptions of the scene, a couple of conversations with people we met, and the sounds of this amazing evening in the city of light. It’s another long episode, but I hope you listen to all of it because I just really want to share the atmosphere and moments of this special event. Check below for photos.

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This episode was recorded yesterday evening on 21 June, which is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year. It’s also World Music Day and here in Paris there is always a big music festival on this date, called “Fête de la Musique”. In Paris the whole city comes alive all night as live bands and musicians perform music on every street corner. The whole city becomes a big festival and it’s one of the best nights of the year here. The streets are filled with people partying, having a good time, drinking, socialising and dancing to the music.

So last night my wife and I went out to walk around the area and get into the spirit of the festival and in fact my wife suggested that I do some recordings so I could show another side of life in Paris, because it’s not all just Euro 2016, floods, strikes and terror alerts. There are loads of amazing things going on. Yesterday we had a brilliant evening and I’m really glad I captured it on the podcast.

So, I invite you to join us as we take a stroll through the streets of Paris on this hot summer evening, taking in the various musical performances, getting into the spirit of the evening and meeting a few people along the way. I met a few people during the evening and recorded short interviews with them. They were mainly Brits (a couple of guys from England, a French guy and a Belgian guy who spoke good English and two guys from Northern Ireland) and I asked them a couple of questions about the big stories of the moment like the football and the EU referendum.

You will also hear plenty of live music which I recorded yesterday. On every street corner there was a different band or a DJ playing. There were some moments when I chose just to record the music and not to speak, so you will hear some little musical interludes sometimes in which I’m not actually saying anything and it’s just live music, so you can soak up the atmosphere of what turned out to be a really brilliant evening in Paris. I hope you enjoy being part of it and that you can use your imagination to picture the scenes. The sounds should be in stereo too, so if you’re listening on headphones it should sound pretty cool.

There are some photos on the page for this episode (below), so check them out!

Now, I will let you listen to my audio diary of la fete de la music in Paris. I really enjoyed recording this episode and I really hope you enjoy it too and that you get into the atmosphere of this evening of music and good vibes!

Photos

322. With The Thompsons

Hello again, how are you? Welcome back to the podcast. Here’s a new episode for your listening pleasure. This one is a rambling conversation with my parents and my brother about everything and nothing.

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Some News & Stuff

Just before we get started – here are just three announcements or bits of news.

First: I’ve received loads of emails recently, especially over the Christmas holiday period. I managed to write back to quite a few of them, but unfortunately some of them go unanswered – so I would just like to say sorry if I didn’t get back to you. Even if I don’t reply, I love getting messages from listeners, and please know that I read everything that is sent to me.

Second: The LEP photo competition. I’ve received loads of photos and the competition ends soon. Then I’ll post all the pics and you can vote for your favourites, and the one that gets the most votes will get an LEP mug plus a t-shirt or bag. The runners up will get a mug each. Personally I love seeing the contexts in which you are listening to this podcast. It is really cool! I’m looking forward to sharing them on the site for all to see.

Since we’re talking about competitions, this is usually the time of year that I ask you to vote for me in the Macmillan Love Dictionary Awards, but it seems that they’re not running it this year. Perhaps they got fed up with me winning it every time! I don’t know. But anyway, that’s not happening, but I’d like to ask you a favour – if you know of any other awards at all for learning English websites or online services, please do consider nominating me and my podcast. Awards are a great way of bringing exposure to the podcast. The Macmillan Awards were really helpful for bringing new audience members to the show every year, and for giving the website a bit of kudos too. So, please do nominate LEP for any awards that you’re aware of, if you think I deserve it of course – I would really appreciate it.

Third: Disappearing Comments. *Actually, this is now resolved! I found a way to fix it and you can read comments on the homepage again :) * You might have noticed that comments have disappeared from the front page of my website. Normally I have a load of comments that show up under the text on the front page of my site. It’s important for me because new visitors to the site can see the positive comments and it’s a great endorsement of my podcast, but the comments are gone and I don’t know why. I find that quite annoying. I run my website myself and I’m no expert, as you may be able to tell. The site looks pretty basic but it does the job. I use WordPress to manage the site – so if any of you out there can explain to me why the comments on my front page have disappeared, I’d really appreciate it. The comments box is still there, and the comments are still visible in my admin dashboard, but they’re just not showing up on the front page. Comments are visible on all other pages and posts on my site. I think it may be something to do with the template, and .php files and stuff – but it all gives me a headache and I’m a bit cautious about messing with the template files of my website. So, if you know about this stuff then let me know if you have a solution to my missing comments section.

OK, that’s enough technical stuff – I don’t want to bore you! Let me hurry up and introduce this episode.

Introduction

As you know I was back at home in England this Christmas and while I was there I managed to record a few rambling conversations with various members of my family. You already heard the geeky conversation with James about Star Wars, but in this episode I’m speaking to my Mum and Dad too.

At Christmas time, or in fact whenever we’re together as a family, we like to sit around and talk rubbish for a while, often over a glass of wine or a meal or something. It’s sort of a family tradition – I’m sure it’s the same thing for many of you. I like talking rubbish with my parents, and as a family I think we’re quite good at wittering on about whatever comes into our heads. Usually there’s some disagreement, arguing and bickering involved, like you heard a few years ago in an episode of LEP called Family Arguments and Debates, in which I recorded arguments and discussions with my Mum, Dad and brother about various things. Well, here’s another one.

For this episode I decided I’d like to give you the chance to listen in on one of our family rambling sessions. You can imagine that for an hour you’ve joined us at my family’s home in Warwick, you’ve had a glass of wine or three, and now we’re all sitting around enjoying each others company and generally setting the world to rights.

In terms of language learning – there’s no target language which I’m teaching you in this episode. Instead I’m just letting you hear some natural conversation between native speakers. As usual I recommend that you just follow the conversation, try to understand it all, get carried away with it, think about your own responses to the questions I’m asking, try to notice certain bits of language and grammatical usage as it comes up naturally. My parents are both educated and well-spoken people. They have standard British accents – they speak RP, which is like BBC English. In fact, my Dad worked for the BBC as a news broadcaster for many years. My Mum works in a charity bookshop and also likes to study subjects like art and history in her free time. You’ll also hear my brother James who you already know. He’s a freelance designer who still likes skateboarding in his free time even though he’s getting on a bit now, and last year he fell of his board and dislocated his shoulder. You can hear all about that story in episode 180 “Dislocated Shoulder”. teacherluke.co.uk/2014/05/20/180-dislocated-shoulder/

In this episode I wanted to get my family talking a bit, so I prepared some random questions and posed them to the group. If you like you can write your answers to any of the questions in this episode as comments on the page for this episode. It’s a good way to interact and practise your English at the same time.

So now, just sit back, relax and enjoy this rambling conversation about everything and nothing, recorded in the company of the Thompsons at Christmas time.

321. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – SPOILER REVIEW

Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. Happy New Year. This is an episode of Luke’s Film Club, and this time I’m joined by my brother James as we talk about the new Star Wars film in full detail including our thoughts, theories, favourite bits and memorable characters. This episode is full of SPOILERS, so be warned if you haven’t already seen the film.

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Welcome back to LEP. Happy New Year! Did you have a good holiday? Did you have a nice Christmas?

Let me tell you about the social English New Year routine, including all the typical questions we ask each other on our first day back at work in the new year. “Hi, Happy New Year” etc… (Listen to the episode for all the details of this bit).

I was back in the UK with my family. We started at my parents’ house, then a few days in London, then in Bristol with my cousin Oli. I managed to record a few conversations with my family members, which will be uploaded in podcast episodes over the next few weeks.

The first one is this episode which is a conversation with my brother James who you already know from previous episodes of the podcast. We decided to do an episode of Luke’s Film Club about the new Star Wars film in order to discuss it in proper depth, including some spoilers. I’ve seen Star Wars a couple of times since it was released a few weeks ago, and so has James. So, in this episode we talk all about the film in full detail including our thoughts, theories, favourite bits and memorable characters. This episode is full of SPOILERS, so be warned if you haven’t already seen the film.

Also, this is an extremely geeky episode as you’ll hear my brother and me talk at some length about Star Wars. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a geek really, because ultimately – what’s wrong with being interested and enthusiastic about specialist subjects? As long as it doesn’t take over your life in an unhealthy way, then I think it’s ok – so I invite you to embrace your geekiness in this episode, along with us.

I understand that you may be sick of Star Wars by now as the media have been going crazy about it for the last month or so. If that’s the case, don’t worry – other new episodes about different things will arrive on teacherluke.co.uk very soon. But for now, I feel I had to cover this topic in more detail just because it’s so close to my heart (because I’m Luke Skywalker) and I know that many of you my listeners are interested in this too, not to mention the fact that this may be the biggest movie event in history so far. So, here it is… Luke’s Film Club: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, with special guest James Thompson.

Before we get properly started, you might be interested to know that the audiobook version of The Force Awakens is now available on Audible.com. It’s the official audiobook novelisation of the film, it’s 10 hours long you get loads of extra detail, scenes and storyline that you don’t see in the film. SO, if you’re a fan of Star Wars, why not download and listen to it? And, remember you can get it free as part of a 30 day trial with Audible – the world’s top provider of audiobooks. To get started, just go to teacherluke.co.uk/audible and sign up to  a 30 day trial, download any audiobook and if you don’t like it just cancel and keep the audiobook. The offer really is out of this world. Alright then, let’s get started with this new episode of the podcast.star-wars-the-force-awakens

320. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s Christmas! So in this episode I’m going to read you a classic Christmas story – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You can read the story as well as listen because the whole thing is included on the page for this episode.

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Welcome to this special Christmas edition of Luke’s English podcast. I’m feeling very Christmassy here. All my shopping has been done and I’m looking forward to getting together with my family tomorrow. I’m just here with a lovely warm fire, and I’ve managed to find the time to tell you a story in this episode.

But first I’d just like to say Merry Christmas to all of you around the world. I hope you’re spending a pleasant time full of yuletide cheer and festive spirit, even if Christmas isn’t something you celebrate. I usually like to do a special Christmas themed episode of Luke’s English Podcast at this time of year. In the past I’ve done other Christmas episodes and you can check them out if you haven’t already done that.

78. Christmas – It’s all about Family

158. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 1)

159. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 2)

160. The A to Z of Christmas

245. Merry Christmas! (+ Other News) + Video!

What are you doing for Christmas this year? Are you doing anything special? As usual I’m going back to my parents’ place for a few days. They live in Warwick, which is in the midlands not far from Stratford Upon Avon, where Shakespeare was born. I expect we’ll be doing the usual Christmas things: eating loads of food, playing lots of games and giving each other presents. I might record a few podcasts with my family too, if we get a break from all the festivities at any time.

In this episode we’re going to eat a nice big slice of Christmas podcast cake, in the form of a classic story by Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol”. It’s a story that many people know and is firmly associated with the general sentiment of Christmas in modern Britain, and other parts of the world no doubt – the idea that Christmas is a time of generosity, of stopping your work and focusing on the important things in life, like your family. I’m going to read you a version of this story, which you can find reproduced on the page for this episode if you’d like to read with me. In fact, this episode is almost 100% transcribed.

I found this version on a website called Family Christmas Online. Just go to familychristmasonline.com to find more Christmas themed stuff. Credit should go to Theresa Race Hoffman who edited this version for public readings. familychristmasonline.com/stories_other/a_christmas_carol/a_christmas_carol.htm

It’s a reduced version and I’ve also modified it slightly to make some of the language more up-to-date but generally the style is quite similar to the original which was written by Charles Dickens in 1843.

Before I read the story to you, here’s a preface about how A Christmas Carol Made Charles Dickens One of England’s Best-Loved Writers

Preface

Sometime in 1843, Dickens decided to publish a quality Christmas book that would reach people in two ways:
It would use a very original story to plead for compassion for the poor, and
It would be affordable, bringing quality literature in a well-made book to a wide audience.

Dickens’ publisher didn’t believe in the project, so Dickens ended up financing the book himself. He spent money on a quality leather binding and on many quality illustrations, several of which were hand-tinted, an expensive process. As a result, the first printing of A Christmas Carol made very little money, but it rapidly became Dickens’ most popular work. The book was soon reprinted and was adapted for the stage. In later years Dickens often read a shortened version of the story aloud. A Christmas Carol has never faded from popularity since. IN fact there have been a few different film versions of the story, including A Muppets Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine – which is acually a touching and beautiful telling of the story.

How A Christmas Carol Helped Change the Way We Think About Christmas

By the time A Christmas Carol was published, Christmas in Britain had disintegrated into an excuse for a week of year-end partying. Not only had Christ become absent from English Christmases, but so had compassion, a virtue that Dickens believed that the poor greatly needed, especially at the onset of cold weather each year. A Christmas Carol helped the English, and eventually the people of many countries, gain a new appreciation for Christmas and for the plight of the poor. Perhaps the greatest change was the growing importance of family Christmas celebrations in a culture where the wealthy had often sent their children to the nursery early on Christmas so they could better enjoy their dances and parties. As an example, author Tim Hallinan* claims that December sales of toys rose dramatically in the decades following A Christmas Carol’s publication. Today, many people in the world tend to think of Victorian England as a time and place where Christmas was “done right.” But without the influence of Dickens and this story, such hearty celebrations of good will may never have occurred.

Preface to A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.
December, 1843.

So, let’s begin the story. Here it is. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

PART 1 – Marley’s Ghost

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. This must be understood, or this story will mean nothing to anybody. So, we start with the fact that Scrooge’s business partner Marley had snuffed it, he was pushing up the daisies, he was an ex-partner, he’d carked it. He was a goner. He was dead. Scrooge now carried on the moneylending business alone.

He never painted out Old Marley’s name on the door of the office, even though his old partner was – definitely – dead. The company was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes they called him Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh! Scrooge was a selfish old git! He was as cold as a freezing winter night, and he didn’t thaw one degree at Christmas. He hated Christmas and everything it stood for. No ‘season of goodwill’ – for him it was just another excuse to grumble and moan, and stay at home counting his money.

One dark Christmas Eve, old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was biting, foggy weather.

Scrooge had a very small fire in his office. But next door in his clerk’s office the poor fire was even smaller and barely warm. His poor clerk, called Bob Cratchit had worked for Scrooge for years, and yet had never received a pay rise. Scrooge always paid him the minimum wage.

“Merry Christmas, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew Fred coming into the room.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

“Christmas a humbug, uncle?” he said. “You don’t mean that do you?”

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!”

The nephew answered, “Don’t be angry, uncle. Come to our place for Christmas tomorrow.”

“Bah, humbug! Christmas! Don’t talk to me about Christmas. It’s all just a big jumped up shopping spree invented by the Americans. The whole thing is just invented to get your money out of your pocket! Well, not mine – I’m keeping mine. You do Christmas your way, and I’ll do it my way. Here on my own, just like every other day, thanks very much!”

“Suit yourself Uncle, but we’ll miss you this year, again” said Scrooge’s nephew. “Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

His nephew even stopped to wish “Merry Christmas” to the clerk.

The poor, cold clerk, Bob Cratchit, managed a thin smile and a weak “merry Christmas” in return as Scrooge’s nephew left.

As he left, Fred let two other people in. They entered and bowed to Scrooge.

“Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?” said one of the gentlemen.

“Mr. Marley,” Scrooge replied, “died seven years ago, this very night.”

“Oh, sorry for your loss” said one of the men.

“What do you want?” snapped Scrooge.

“Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, “It looks like it’s going to be an especially freezing winter this year. A few of us are going to buy some meat and drink for the Poor, and some blankets to keep them warm this Christmas. What would you like to give?”

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “If they’ve got no money they can borrow it, or failing that go to the debtors’ prisons.”

“Many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Scrooge went back to his work.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness and biting cold thickened. Some carol singers walked by Scrooge’s office. One cold young boy stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to sing a Christmas carol:

“God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!”

As soon as he heard it Scrooge jumped up so that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog.

At length the hour of shutting up arrived. Scrooge nodded to the clerk Mr Cratchit, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

“You’ll want all day off tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.

“Yes please Mr Scrooge. It is only once a year after all”

“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge. “No day off for you. I expect you to be here extra early next morning.”

Scrooge went home to his gloomy house. The yard was dark and the fog and frost hung about the place.

Now, the knocker on his door was very large and ordinary. But tonight it looked like – Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. The eyes were wide open, and its grayish colour made it horrible in the half light.

As Scrooge looked, it became a knocker again. He did look carefully, but the knocker was still a knocker.

“Load of old nonsense!” said Scrooge to himself.

He closed his door and double-locked himself in. He walked through his rooms to see that all was right and sat by the fire.

“Humbug!” he said. “Stupid Christmas. I’ll be glad when it’s all over and people start acting normally again.”

And then he heard it – a clanking noise, from the cellar, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain.

Scrooge tried to ignore it, and opened his paper.

Then he heard the sound again. The noise of heavy chains being dragged, and a faint sound of moaning.

Scrooge suddenly sat upright in his chair. The noise was real, and it was getting louder.

Suddenly the cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise coming up the stairs; then straight towards his door.

Quickly it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.

It was Marley, back from the dead. The chain Marley pulled was long, and made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, and purses. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge could see the two buttons on his coat hanging on the door behind.

“What do you want with me?” said Scrooge. “Who are you?”

“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”

“Humbug, I tell you! humbug!”

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain. Scrooge fell upon his knees.

Asked the Ghost, “Do you believe in me or not?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “I do! But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men; and if that spirit does not go forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death!”

“You are chained,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life and by the very work I did, with you,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; and of my own free will I wore it.” Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Do you know,” pursued the Ghost, “your chain was as heavy as this, seven Christmas Eves ago? You have made it longer, since then.”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. Greed was my business! I spent my life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill my pocket. Old Scrooge,  I am  condemned to walk the earth for eternity never to find rest or peace.”

“I am here to-night to warn you,” pursued the Ghost. You will be haunted by Three Spirits.”

“I—I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.

“They will come to teach you a lesson. Expect the first to-morrow,” said the Ghost, “when the bell tolls One.”

“Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night at the last stroke of Twelve.”

When it had said these words, the spectre floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

The air was filled with moaning phantoms, and every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost. They faded away. Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was still as he had double-locked, with his own hands. He tried to say “Humbug!” but stopped. And he went straight to bed and fell asleep upon the instant.

PART 2 – The First of the Three Spirits

WHEN Scrooge awoke, it was dark. The chimes of a neighbouring church struck the hour, with a single deep, melancholy note.

Light flashed up in the room, and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside by a hand. And Scrooge found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them, right in front of his face.

It was a strange figure—like a child, or an old man. Its white hair hung about its neck and down its back, and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. Its legs and feet were bare. It wore a white tunic with a shining belt. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and had its dress trimmed with summer flowers

“Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.

The voice was soft and gentle. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge.

“No. Your past.”

It put out its strong hand and clasped him gently by the arm.

“Rise! and walk with me!”

They passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road. Now it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

“Good Heavens!” said Scrooge. “I was a boy in this place!” He wiped away a tear and begged the Ghost to lead him.

“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.

“Remember it!” cried Scrooge. “I could walk it blindfolded.”

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognizing every gate and tree; until a little town appeared in the distance. Some shaggy ponies trotted towards them with boys upon their backs. All these boys shouted to each other merrily. Scrooge knew and named them every one. “These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They do not see us.”

But why was he filled with gladness when he heard them tell each other Merry Christmas, as they parted! What was Merry Christmas to Scrooge? What good had it ever done to him?

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A lonely child, neglected by his friends, is there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he cried.

They soon approached a large house, its windows broken, and the many rooms cold, and bare of food.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, to the back of the house, and a room with desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down, beside his poor forgotten self as he used to be. He said “Poor boy!” and cried again.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

And there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the holidays.

The door opened; and a little girl came darting in, and put her arms about his neck.

“I have come to bring you home, dear brother!” said the child. “We’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”

“Your sister,” said the Ghost. “Always a delicate creature. But she had a large heart!”

“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right, Spirit!”

“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, I think, one child – your nephew”

Scrooge answered sadly, “Yes.”

All at once they were in a busy city. Here too it was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

“Know it!” said Scrooge. “I was apprenticed here!”

At sight of an old gentleman, behind a high desk, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

“Why, bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again! My old boss!”

Scrooge’s former self, now a young man, came in, beside his fellow apprentice.

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock. He rubbed his hands and called out in a rich voice:

“No more work to-night, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Clear away, lads!”

It was done in a minute. The floor was swept, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse became a snug, warm, and bright ball-room.

In came a fiddler with a music-book. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, and the three Miss Fezziwigs,. In came all the young men and women employed in the business, the housemaid, the baker, the cook, the milkman. Away they all went, twenty couples at once!

There were dances, and games, and there was cake, and Roast Beef, and mince-pies, and plenty of ale.

During all this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. He enjoyed everything. Now that he remembered the Ghost, he became conscious that it was looking full upon him.

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to make our work a pleasure or a toil. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

He stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”

Scrooge and the Ghost again stood in the open air.

“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”

Again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now. He was not alone, but sat by a pretty young girl: in her eyes there were tears.

“It matters little to you,” she said, softly. “Another idol has taken my place. It is the love of money. Good-bye. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

“Spirit!” cried Scrooge, “show me no more! I cannot bear it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

He was conscious of being exhausted, and of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

PART 3 – The Second of the Three Spirits

Scrooge waited again.

Now, when the Bell struck One, he saw a ghostly light coming from the next room. He shuffled to the door.

A strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter.

The room was hung with holly and mistletoe, and a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. Heaped up like a throne were geese, pies, plum-puddings, chestnuts, oranges, pears, cakes, and punch. Upon this food couch, there sat a jolly Giant, who held a glowing torch high up, to shed its light on Scrooge.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost, “and know me better, man!” Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in a green robe, bordered with white fur. Its feet were bare; and on its head it wore a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles.

“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed the Spirit.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have anything to teach me, let me profit by it.”

“Touch my robe!”

Feast, fire, room all vanished instantly and they stood in the city streets on a snowy Christmas morning.

The sky was gloomy, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness like a summer day.

Soon the steeples called the people to church, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their happiest faces.

The good Spirit led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s, holding on to his robe; and at the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen shillings a-week himself; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his little house!

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, dressed poorly in a worn dress.

“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs. Cratchit to the little Cratchits. “And your brother, Tiny Tim.”

In came Bob, the father, in his threadbare clothes; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Sadly, Tiny Tim held a little crutch!

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.

“As good as gold,” said Bob. “He told me, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Mrs. Cratchit brought in the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, blazing with brandy, and with Christmas holly stuck into the top. A wonderful pudding!

Bob proposed a toast:

“A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, he will die this year,” repeated the Ghost. “What then? If he is going to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head, ashamed to hear his own words.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child!”

But now Scrooge heard his own name.

“Mr. Scrooge!” toasted Bob; “I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!”

“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening.

“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas Day.”

“I’ll drink to his health, for your sake and the Day’s,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy new year!”

The children drank the toast after her, but they didn’t care for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party.

By-and-bye they had a song from Tiny Tim, who had a sweet little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time. Scrooge watched them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

And now, they traveled through coal miners’ homes, past ships on the dark sea. And everywhere they went, no matter how poor, every person hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought. And every person, good or bad, had a kind word for another on that day.

Scrooge heard a hearty laugh and recognised it as his own nephew’s. He found himself in a bright, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side.

“Ha, ha!” laughed Scrooge’s nephew. “He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live! He believed it too!”

“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly.

“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I am sorry for him. Who suffers by his ill temper! Himself, always.”

They had some music and played at games; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.

They all played and sang, and so did Scrooge, singing quite loud. He begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.

Much they saw, and far they went, and everywhere the Spirit went he left his blessing. It was a long night, and Scrooge noticed that the Ghost grew older, and he noticed that its hair was grey.

“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.

“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends to-night at midnight. Listen! The time is drawing near.”

The bell struck twelve. And the Spirit disappeared. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

PART 4 – The Last of the Spirits

THE Phantom approached, in a deep black garment, which left nothing of it visible save one boney hand.

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge. “You are about to show me shadows of the things that will happen. Is that so, Spirit?”

Scrooge’s legs trembled beneath him.

“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But I know your purpose is to do me good, and I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight ahead.

“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”

The Phantom moved away.

They were in the heart of the city; amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, as Scrooge had seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men, pointing to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.

“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it. I only know he’s dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night, I believe.”

“What has he done with his money?”

“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin, yawning. “It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral, for I don’t know of anybody to go to it.”

“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” laughed one gentleman.

Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the Spirit for an explanation.

Scrooge fancied that the Unseen Eyes of the ghost were looking at him closely. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.

They went into a dirty part of town where the shops and houses reeked with filth and misery.

There was a shop where greasy junk was bought. Scrooge and the Phantom came into this shop of Old Joe’s, just as two women and a man carried in bundles, laughing.

The man produced his plunder first. A pencil-case and a brooch were all. Old Joe added up his prices, upon the wall.

“I know those things,” Scrooge said. “They are just like mine – and they are worth much more than this man is paying!”

“Who’s next?” said Joe.

Mrs. Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner. “I paid two shillings ten for teaspoons just like those,” Scrooge objected.

“And now undo my bundle, Joe,” said the next woman.

Joe dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff, the same fabric and color as Scrooge’s bed curtains..

“Bed-curtains!” said Joe. “You don’t mean to say you took ’em down, rings and all, with him lying there dead?”

“Yes I do,” replied the woman. “Why not?”

“His blankets too?” asked Joe.

“Whose else’s do you think?” replied the woman. “And that’s the best shirt he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me. Putting it on him to be buried in,” she laughed. “But I took it off again.”

Scrooge looked at a shirt just like his own shirt and listened in horror.

“Ha, ha!” laughed the same woman, when old Joe paid the three out. “This is the end of it, you see! He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!”

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. – Merciful Heaven, what is this!”

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay the body of this man.

He lay, in the dark empty house, with no one to tell his story or mourn his death. “Spirit!” Scrooge said, “this is a fearful place. Let us go!”

The Ghost conducted him to poor Bob Cratchit’s house; and found the mother and the children seated round the fire.

Very quiet. The little Cratchits were as still as statues in one corner, with Peter, who had a book before him. The mother and her daughters were sewing. But surely they were very quiet!

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her face. “ It must be past your father’s time,” she said .

Peter said, shutting up his book. “But I think he has walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mother.”

At last she said, “He used to walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed. But he was very light to carry, and his father loved him so. Ah – there is your father at the door!”

She hurried out to meet him. Bob broke down all at once and cried. He couldn’t help it.

They drew about the fire, and talked. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr. Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once. “‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr. Cratchit,’ Fred had said, ‘and sorry for your good wife.’ I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we?”

“Never, father!” cried they all.

“Spectre,” said Scrooge, “tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?”

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come did not answer, but led him straight on, until they reached an iron gate.

A churchyard. Here, then; the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground

“Answer me one question,” said Scrooge. “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. Scrooge followed the finger, and read upon the stone of the grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

“Spirit!” he cried, tightly clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I can sponge away the writing on this stone!”

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. The Phantom’s hood and dress shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

PART 5 – The End of it

YES! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

His face was wet with tears.

“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world.”

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there.

“There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered!” cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. “There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh.

“I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. Never mind. I don’t care!”

The churches began ringing out louder and clearer than he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell. What a glorious, glorious sound!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, cold. Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. What a glorious Glorious day!

“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

“EH?” returned the boy.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, it’s CHRISTMAS DAY sir.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hello, my fine fellow!”

“Hello!” returned the boy.

“Do you know the poultry shop, in the next street, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.

“I certainly do,” replied the lad.

“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.

“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “Yes, yes!”

“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.

“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”

“What!” exclaimed the boy.

“I am in earnest,” said Scrooge. “Go and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”

The boy was off like a shot.

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim!”

He wrote the address somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man. As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

“I shall love it, as long as I live!” cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. “It’s a wonderful knocker!— Here’s the Turkey! Hello again! Merry Christmas!”

It was a Turkey!

“Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,” said Scrooge. “You must have a cab.”

The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he paid the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.

He dressed himself up “all in his best,” and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. Three or four good-humoured fellows said, “Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!” And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the happy sounds he had ever heard, those were the happiest in his ears.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the gentleman, who had walked into his counting-house the day before. It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.

“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. “How do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir! Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness to allow me to give you” —here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

“Goodnss me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”

“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour?”

“My dear sir,” said the other, shaking hands with him. “I don’t know what to say—”

“Don’t say anything, please,” retorted Scrooge. “Will you come and see me?”

“I will!” cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he meant to do it.

“Thank you,” said Scrooge. “I am much obliged to you. I thank you fifty times and god bless you!”

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and found that everything could give him pleasure. He had never dreamed that anything could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it:

“Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the girl.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is he, my love?” said Scrooge.

“He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-stairs, if you please.”

“He knows me,” said Scrooge, with his hand already on the dining-room lock. “I’ll go in here myself, my dear.”

“Fred!” said Scrooge. “Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”

“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”

Let him in? It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. Wonderful party, wonderful games, won-der-ful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.

And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.

His hat was off, before he opened the door. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

“Hello!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”

“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir. Ive got a bit of a hangover to be honest, but I’m good for work I promise.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

Bob trembled. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down, holding him, and calling to the people in the hospital for help and a strait-jacket.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further meetings with Spirits ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

christmas

318. The Lying Game 2: The Rematch (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Welcome back to The Lying Game 2: The Rematch (Part 2). In this episode you can hear Amber, Paul and me continue our competitive game. Who’s going to win this time? Will it be Paul, finally? Listen to find out what happens, and for details of the next version of the lying game which will be interactive.

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Spoiler alert! The scores and results of the games in this episode are displayed below!

Current scores
Luke – 1 / 0 /
Paul – 0 / 2 /
Amber – 1 / 0 /

Amber: I have recurring dreams about fish in distress

Score
Luke – 1 / 0 / 1
Paul – 0 / 2 / 0
Amber – 1 / 0 / 1

Tie break round:
Luke: I have a large scar on my knee.
Paul: I once nearly stabbed myself in the eye with a kitchen knife.
Amber: I went for a job interview as a lapdancer.

Final scores
Luke – 1 / 0 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 Total = 3
Paul – 0 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 Total = 3
Amber – 1 / 0 / 1 / 1 / 1 / 2 Total = 6

Amber wins again!

Next Lying Game – The Interactive Version

Listen to Luke, Paul and Amber say statements.
You have to ask the questions.
So, read the statements below and think of some questions.
Write your questions in the comments section of this episode.
When we record again we’ll ask your questions.
Then, eventually, you can vote on whether you think the statements are true or lies.

Luke: I accidentally knocked down a wall in a friend’s house in Japan.
Paul: I used to get bullied by Guy Berryman, the bass player from Coldplay.
Amber: I helped in the making of the film “Something’s Got To Give”.

Write your questions in the comments section for the next episode of The Lying Game!