Category Archives: History

421. Skateboarding – A New Olympic Sport (with James)

Here’s a new episode with James about Skateboarding, which will be a new event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, along with karate, surfing, baseball/softball, sport climbing and surfing. James has been a skater for most of his life and used to write articles for a skateboarding magazine, so he’s exactly the right person to talk to about this.

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Introduction

Skateboarding might seem like an annoying antisocial hobby for children but for the first time it has been accepted by the Olympic Federation as a proper sport and is going to be one of the events at the next Olympic Games happening in Tokyo in 2020. So, skateboarding is now a mainstream sport. When the Olympics are shown on TV in a few years’ time, skateboarding might be one of the most popular events for audiences around the world, especially when you consider the popularity of snowboarding in the winter games. So, let’s find out about skating so we are ready to understand and appreciate it more.

Types of skateboarding

  • Ramp (vert or miniramp)
  • Street
  • Freestyle
  • Park

Parts of a skateboard

  • The Deck – the wooden board itself, made of maple plywood and covered in grip-tape and with the nose at the front and the tail at the back)
  • The Trucks (made of die-cast aluminium – they fix the wheels & axles onto the deck)
  • The Wheels (made of polyurethane or ‘urethane’ and available in different hardnesses)
  • The Bearings (the metal components that allow the wheels to spin on the axles)

Common tricks

  • Ollie (jumping with the board under you, still touching your feet)
  • Kickflip (an ollie in which you flip the board sideways under your feet by kicking it in the air)
  • Shove-it (spinning the board under your feet so the nose spins round from front to back, or back to front)
  • Different types of grab (doing an ollie then grabbing the board in the air)
  • Grind (sliding or scraping the trucks of the board along an object like a curb or rail)
  • Boardslide (sliding along an object on the underside of the board)
  • Blunt (balancing on an object on the back wheels and tail)
  • Nollie – doing an ollie but from the nose not the tail
  • and many more! Click here for a full glossary of skateboarding.

Videos

Here is James’ selection of videos to give you an idea of the different types of skating, and some of his favourite skaters and cool moments in skateboarding. Notes written by James.

Natas Kaupas, one of the first people to develop street skating.

Mark Gonzales skating vert and street and play fighting with Oscar-winning film director, Spike Jonze. From the Real skateboards video Non Fiction. (1997)

The legend of Tom Penny, a skater from Oxford, England: Zen master, legend, space cadet, enigma.

Lizzie Armanto, one of the best female US bowl / park skaters, in an ad for Bones bearings.

Women’s Highlights – Huntington Beach | 2016 Vans Pro Skate Park Series

The Flip skateboards video “Sorry” from 2002, presented by Johnny Rotten – probably the best skate video ever made… Madness. Good soundtrack too.

James describes his skateboarding injury on the podcast in episode 180.

180. Dislocated Shoulder

McVities Chocolate Digestives

Here’s that advert on the Paris metro “McVitie’s – It’s English, but it’s good!”

mcvities

Click here for the full list of ingredients!

Is skateboarding popular in your country? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

420. Anyone fancy a brew? Let’s have a nice cup of tea!

Everything you need to know about the culture of tea-drinking in the UK, including a full guide to how to make a nice cup of tea, English style.

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In episode 420 I have chosen to talk about my favourite herb, which like millions of other British people, and countless others around the world, I consume on a daily basis. It calms my nerves, it raises my morale, and it helps me to socialise. Queen Victoria famously used it, and the Beatles took it regularly during the recording of their most inspired music and even sang about it in a few of their songs. I’m talking of course, about tea.

As everyone knows, tea is very popular with people all over the UK, from all regions, backgrounds and social classes, whether you’re the Queen herself, or you’re the guy who cleans the road outside her massive house, everyone loves a brew. The British Empire was built on tea, wasn’t it? Goodness knows I’ve made enough references to it in my episodes – I’m even drinking a cup right now. Mmm.

Why an episode all about tea?

I just want to celebrate tea, but also I want to tell you everything I think you need to know about this subject including these things:
– Stereotypes about tea drinking in the UK
– Different ways to make and drink tea – Afternoon tea vs just having a cuppa
– My personal way to make a nice cup of tea
– The history of tea in the UK
– Facts about tea, including its health benefits
– George Orwell’s essay on tea – considered a kind of reliable guide to the ins and outs of the potentially controversial subject of how to make tea.
– References to tea in Beatle music

What are the stereotypes about drinking tea in the UK? Are they true?

Smashing a few stereotypes – let’s talk about how most people drink tea in the UK these days, not how people seem to think we do it (that’s quite hard because it depends who you are).

*Tea is for the upper classes and is a posh affair full of uptight rules – nope, all types of people drink tea and it’s often a very casual and informal moment.
*Drinking tea is a mystical, spiritual kind of experience that takes you on a journey into a colonial dreamland where you have a profound moment of higher understanding while visiting the distant lands full of oriental mystery – nope, we’re not that pretentious about it! It’s just a nice hot drink!

Here’s that annoying advert for Special T with Diane Kruger

*Tea is only drunk at tea time – nope, people drink it at all hours of the day
*All British people like tea –  not everyone likes it, of course
*Tea contains more caffeine than coffee – see below

Does tea contain more caffeine than coffee?

Unmade tea contains more than unmade coffee – but when you brew the tea most of the caffeine is not transferred to the water – it’s discarded with the leaves. With coffee the caffeine is transferred to the water more, so the drink is more caffeinated. www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-25502,00.html

What’s your specific method for making a good cup of tea, Luke?

I’ll tell you about 3 typical situations in which make tea, and the different ways I do it.

  1. A quick cuppa when I’m on my own.
  2. Making a pot of tea to share with a couple of friends.
  3. Preparing tea for a special occasion, like when grandparents come to visit.

What are your preferred tea brands?

PG Tips (pyramid bags), Yorkshire Tea (“like tea used to be”), M&S Gold, or fancy brands that you find in Wholefoods or little cafes – never Lipton and not Twinnings either.

Apparently it’s best to use loose leaf tea, but I usually just use tea bags. I use loose leaf tea for making sencha in a Japanese tea-pot.

Why do people drink tea so much in the UK? What’s the history of Britain and tea?

It’s all to do with our colonial past and the East India Trading Company! If you want to know more, just Wikipedia it! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_in_the_United_Kingdom

What do people eat with tea?

Biscuits or cake!

Click here to see pictures of popular biscuits in the UK.

Click here for typical cakes which we eat with tea. YUM YUM YUM

What are the health benefits of tea?

There are  loads of benefits, apparently. Have a look: The Evening Standard – “5 Reasons Why Drinking Breakfast Tea is Scientifically Good For You”

George Orwell – A Nice Cup of Tea

George Orwell’s well-known essay about how to make a good cup of tea, first published in the Evening Standard in 1946. It’s hard to argue with his approach and the clear and lucid way it is described. www.booksatoz.com/witsend/tea/orwell.htm

References to tea in songs by The Beatles

“Without doubt tea was the Beatles’ top tipple of choice! In one 3-month period in 1967 when they were ostensibly at the height of their drug period – they actually recorded no less than five songs referring to this most English of habits! (“Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning, Good Morning,” “A Day In The Life,” “All Together Now” and “It’s All Too Much.”) They actually recorded more overt references to tea than to drugs!” [Martin Lewis, Beatles scholar and humourist]

The Rutles – Wild Tea Parties

Talking with Richard McNeff about making a perfect cup of tea – recorded 6 years ago before I had a tea-pot!

Do you prefer tea or coffee? How do you like to make it?

beatles tea 10

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  

403. Competition Results / War Story / Grammar & Punctuation / My Dad’s Accent

The final results of the LEP Anecdote Competition, some podcast admin and responses to some comments & emails from listeners including a war story, some grammar & punctuation (noun phrases, possessives & apostrophes) and a question about my Dad’s accent.

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The LEP Anecdote Competition – Final Results

The voting closed at midnight last night. So, here are the results in reverse order.

  • 10th position: Weija Wang from China (talked about how his female friend embarrassed him by admitting that she had fallen in love with him, but he suspects it might have been a practical joke)
  • 9th position: Shujaat from Pakistan (told us the story of how he narrowly avoided a terrorist attack near his college)
  • 8th position: Elena from Russia (told us the nightmare story of how she went on a wild goose chase to find the daughter of one of her friends, who appeared to go missing one Saturday evening)
  • 7th position: Frankie from Sicily, Italy (talked about how he narrowly escaped death in a walk around a lake that turned into the day trip from hell)
  • 6th position: Vasily from Tashkent (told the sweet story of how he met his wife, accompanied by the lovely sound of the accordion – this story was a cult hit in the comment section, prompting lots of speculation about Vasily’s virtuoso accordion playing skills)
  • 5th position: Jose from Spain (told a creepy story about a suspicious character he used to know)
  • 4th position: Zdenek from Czech Republic (told an amusing anecdote about a lesson learned on the London Underground about how to say “please” to strangers)
  • 3rd position: Marla from Germany (in her lovely voice told us about how she found herself on the set of the brilliant BBC TV series “Sherlock”, and met one of the main cast members)
  • 2nd position: Saaya from Japan (Told us a story involving a pyjama-based family coincidence which proved to her that she’s truly is a chip off the old block)
  • 1st position! DRUM ROLL! … Kristina from Russia! (who told us about her nerve-wracking experience of doing a completely unprepared live simultaneous translation for a famous film director, on stage in front of a large audience of people)

CONGRATULATIONS KRISTINA!
Also, congratulations to everyone who took part. It was really great to listen to your stories.
You can still hear the anecdotes, by visiting the page for episode 387 (all anecdotes).
I hope you join me in congratulating the winner and the runners up.
screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-10-42

Adverts at the beginning of episodes

You might have heard some adverts being played at the beginning of episodes. For example, you play an episode on your podcasting app or on the website and before the episode begins you hear about 20-30 seconds of advertising. I’m not talking about the bit where I mention my sponsor for the podcast, but another ad – not featuring my voice. The ads are region specific. For example, here in France I hear adverts for Mini (coincidentally enough, voiced by my mate Tom Morton from episode 344). Some of you won’t be hearing these ads, but many of you will, and you might be wondering what they are. Let me explain. They’re not added by me. They’re added by Audioboom and I’m hoping that they’ll be a temporary thing. Audioboom, my audio host, are now inserting ads into podcast content which is hosted by them. I’m one of many podcasts which are hosted by Audioboom. They don’t just do podcasts. They do audio hosting service for lots of other purposes – e.g. for news websites that want to embed audio clips onto their websites, or journalists who want to publish pieces of audio. They’ve recently started featuring adverts on audio content in order to monetise their service. I’m in discussion with them about this. Personally, I don’t really want the ads. I have my own sponsors – italki & Audible and some others that I’m talking to. They’re working pretty well because I like their services, we have a good relationship and they’re services that reflect the aims of my podcast. I don’t really want other ads in addition to those. Some sponsorship is definitely necessary in order to keep this podcast free, and I want it to stay free. But too much advertising is definitely not a good thing. I want to make sure your listening experience is enjoyable, as much as possible. I personally find it annoying and a bit jarring to hear certain types of advertising at the beginning of episodes.

So, I’m in talks with Audioboom about how we can enter a new agreement in which those ads are not featured on my content. That new arrangement is now pending, meaning that we’re in the middle of sorting it out. I’m waiting for Audioboom to get back to me with some other options. Hopefully we’ll find a solution which is satisfying, or I might move to a new podcast host, which would be pretty inconvenient for me, but in the long run might be better for the podcast.

In the meantime, you might hear some ads inserted at the beginning and the end of my episodes, but I expect it won’t be a long-term thing. They’ll just be there until Audioboom and I have figured out a way to either remove them, or improve them to the point that I’m happy to keep them.

You might think – “you could earn money from them Luke, to help monetise your podcast”. Yes, that’s a good point, but as I said, I already have sponsors which I feel are working for me well enough, and allow me to cover costs like website services and just the time I devote to the preparation, recording and production of the podcast. The main thing for me at this stage is that the listening experience is good for you.
I need to balance all these things: the monetary support I might get from advertising or sponsorship, your experience of listening to my episodes, the workload that I have and the time I have to devote to the project.

So, in brief – if you’ve heard slightly intrusive sounding advertising at the beginning of episodes – I am aware of it, I didn’t insert those adverts myself and I expect it will only be a temporary thing until Audioboom and I have reached some kind of agreement.

A family story from WW1 – A Turkish POW in Russia

This is Deniz’s comment after my episodes about D-Day and in relation to the episode I did about my Grandfather, who died at the beginning of 2015.

Related episodes

183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)

184. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 2)

259. Eulogy for Dennis

In episode 183/184 I went to the D-Day commemoration to remember what happened in Normandy in 1944. My Grandfather was an officer in charge of a group of men on that day. I asked listeners to share any stories they had about family members who got caught up in WW2.

Deniz’s comment

Hey Luke,
This was an intense episode, wasn’t it? I can understand what you feel about your grandpa. I listened this episode recently, and came here to check if any commentator mentions anything about World War 1 or 2, which is related with their family. As a reminder: you asked for it in the podcast.
As you probably know Turkey kept its neutral status during WW2. So as a Turkish person, my family do not have any WW2 memories (except how hard those state of emergency years were) on the other hand WW1 was a really intense chain of events in Turkish history, since so many Turkish people were killed during the battles and even infants had to fight for the very reason after a while it had became “defending the mainland” for Turks.
So here is the memory from the father of my grandfather (my grandfather): The Caucasus Campaign had been a real disaster for the Turks, since fighting with the Russians during winter conditions is always a bad idea and “the sick man of Europe” Ottoman army lacked equipment for such a formidable campaign. In a nutshell, so many Turks died because of the winter conditions and the situation became a piece of cake for the Tsardom of Russia.
The father of my grandfather (my great-grandfather) was really lucky to stay alive and became a POW after the Russians surrounded them. As a POW he had to do whatever the Russians decided for him and in the end he was sold to an aristocratic Russian family and became a stableman for them. After a while that Russian family let him marry since they thought there was no turning back for him anymore. So he married a low-class serf woman, and they even had two babies!
But then… the Tsardom of Russia also collapsed and the October Revolution stormed through all of Russia. This incident had serious effects on aristocratic families, which is not a surprise. So during all that mess, my great-grandpa managed to escape by boat and came back to Turkey again… Of course he had to leave his Russian wife and those 2 children there, because he had no any other choice.
After he came to Turkey, he fought in the Turkish War of Independence and after that finally married a Turkish woman, which led to me, in the long run. So Luke, isn’t it weird? There are some people in Russia, who are my distant relatives in a way, and there is almost no way for us to find each other. I just wanted to share that story here, since I know many Russians listen your podcast and who knows… It’s a small world with weird coincidences. :)
Thank you for all the podcasts!

Does that story sound familiar? If it does – get in touch!

Grammar: Nouns adjuncts, noun phrases, possessive ‘S’ and apostrophes – A question about the title of “An 80-Minute Ramble”

Yaron’s question about the title of episode 397 “An 80-minute ramble”
Hi Luke,
It’s been a while… good to have you back…
I haven’t listened to this episode yet (I probably will in the evening)
Anyhow…I have a small question:
Should it be “An 80 minute Ramble” or “An 80 minutes Ramble”?
I find that all the subjects with the “S” at the end of the word in English to be very confusing (You need to add “S”, with ‘ sign before/after the “S”, etc…. )
I would really appreciate ii if you could clarify it.
Thanks,
Yaron

My reply
Hi Yaron,
It’s ‘an 80 minute ramble’ not ‘an 80 minuteS ramble’.
As you know, plural nouns (unless irregular) do take an ‘S’ – e.g. “I’m going to talk for about 80 minutes” but not in the case of ‘an 80 minute ramble’ because ’80 minute’ here is like an adjective for the word ‘ramble’ and adjectives in English aren’t pluralised.
What kind of ramble? An 80-minute ramble. ’80 minute’ is performing the function of an adjective.
More information en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_adjunct

That’s the theory, but it’s a bit abstract isn’t it? It might be easier to learn this when you consider all the common examples of this kind of structure, e.g.

  • a 5 star hotel
  • a 10 pound note
  • a 4 year old girl
  • a 5 minute walk
  • a 10 dollar fine
  • a 10,000 pound reward
  • a 9 hour flight
  • a 4 hour drive
  • 10-year cave-aged cheddar cheese

‘S
This is either: ‘is’, ‘has’, possessive

Check this page from Oxford Dictionaries Online for all the details about how to use ‘S

en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/apostrophe

Rick Thompson’s accent

Sebastian
Hi Luke, I hope you’re all right. I’ve got a question: Where’s your Dad’s accent from or what kind is it? Is it posh? Thanks.

The ‘short’ answer:
My Dad speaks standard British RP (Received Pronunciation), also known as BBC English. This type of accent is generally associated with middle and upper-middle class people, probably university educated, from England, particularly the South East of England, but possibly from any other part of the UK too.

I think, by the standards of most Brits his accent is slightly posh because there aren’t many regional inflections in his voice, but I don’t think he is properly posh, like someone who went to Eton school for example.

What does ‘posh’ mean? (screenshot from Oxford Dictionaries Online – click it for more details)

en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/posh

You could say there are slight regional variations of RP (e.g. in Scotland, the north of England or Wales) But it’s not a truly posh accent, like the way the royal family speaks, or David Cameron speaks, for example.

I reckon you could break it down like this (and this is making it really simple)

  • Regional dialects (strong accents, particular words and phrases used – all specific to certain areas)
  • Regional accents (strong accents specific to certain areas)
  • Standard RP with slight regional variations (e.g. the way some vowel sounds are produced)
  • Standard RP from the South East of England
  • Heightened RP (like David Cameron)
  • Very heightened RP (like The Queen)

Depending on your social background, you’ll consider some accents to be more posh than others. Generally, if the accent is associated with a higher social class (based on the old model) than yours, you’ll say it’s posh.

Posh can be either positive or negative. It depends on your view of the situation.

I guess by a lot of people’s standards, my Dad sounds quite posh. For me he isn’t that posh. He’s just really neutral and clear. I think a truly ‘posh’ accent has different qualities to it.

To do justice to this subject I’ll need to do full episodes on the way different people speak.

That’s it! Speak to you again soon. Bye!

402. The Rick Thompson Report: What’s Going On? Nov. 2016 (Post-Truth Politics, Cricket and Tetris)

Last week I asked my Dad for his opinions about recent news and we talked about Brexit, post-truth politics, the US election, the right-wing press in the UK, the political landscape in the EU, the rules of international cricket and the music from Tetris. You can listen to the conversation in this episode. Introduction and and ending transcriptions available below.

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Introduction Transcript (script begins 1 minute into the episode)

My Dad is back on the podcast in this episode and in a few moments you’re going to hear our conversation which I recorded last week on Thursday 17 November 2016.

In the conversation we touch on these subjects: the weather (naturally), a bit about the rules of international cricket, then a Brexit update including details of the recent UK high court decision regarding the government’s power to trigger Article 50. Article 50 is a piece of legislation (part of the Lisbon Treaty) that when triggered begins the legal process of the UK’s exit from the EU. We’re not actually out of the EU yet, despite the result of the referendum. We have to wait for the government to ‘trigger article 50’ and then it all starts.

“Trigger article 50” – it sounds like something from Star Wars episode 3 “Revenge of the Sith”. In fact it feels like the political narrative these days is getting more and more similar to the plot to a Star Wars prequel, with lots of complex negotiations with shadowy trade federations, insidious political manoeuvring and the general sense of an impending journey towards the dark side, which is a pity isn’t it? “Trigger Article 50!” In Star Wars episode 3 it’s “Execute Order 66” which is an order by the evil emperor Palpatine to have all the Jedi assassinated by their own soldiers. “Execute order 66” “Trigger Article 50!”

But no, this isn’t Star Wars – we’ll have to wait until December for that.

You’ll also hear my Dad’s views on the presidential election result in the USA, some stuff about the UK’s right-wing press (newspapers), the OED’s word of the year – ‘post-truth’, ‘post-truth’ politics and general political trends across Europe and other regions at this time.

At one point the podcast gets interrupted when someone rings my Dad’s doorbell and it turns out to be a lost postman (which is actually quite a welcome break from all the depressing post-truth politics), then we somehow end up talking about the idea of a giant flea jumping over St Paul’s cathedral, a bit more about the joys of international cricket, the music from the classic Russian videogame Tetris and how a cup of tea is sometimes the best solution to almost any problem.

Language-wise this episode gets quite technical in places, especially when we talk about the UK’s constitutional, legal and political frameworks. So, watch out for lots of big words and big phrases relating to constitutional law, the inner-workings of government and even more complicated than both of those things: the rules of international test-match cricket.

Depending on both your level of English and your familiarity with these topics, this might be a difficult conversation to follow, but we all know that these challenges can be good for your English.

You might try transcribing some minutes of the episode (go to the transcript collaboration page to get started) or try some shadowing or any other techniques for active listening. Alternatively, just sit back, relax, have a cup of tea and enjoy the company of my Dad for a little while, as we try to work out what’s going on in the world.

I’ll talk to you again briefly on the other side of the conversation, but now you can listen to the Rick Thompson report.

*CONVERSATION*

So, there you go, that was my Dad and me going on about what’s going on. What do you think is going on? Get stuck into the comment section at teacherluke.co.uk if you’ve got something to share.

You can hear the Tetris music in the background. This one is Theme A – which I believe is a version of a Russian folk song called Korobeiniki. I’m sure many of you out there know more about it than I do, so I will let you explain the meaning of the song, and indeed the correct way to pronounce it.

For me, it reminds me of journeys in the back of my dad’s car, trying to get to level 9 on Tetris.

I actually prefer the B theme. It still gets stuck in my head to this day as I find myself humming it even when I haven’t heard it recently.

If you know about this tune as well, you can write a comment on the website.

Comments: Let me know what you think of these things

  • What do you think is going on generally in the world today?
  • On a positive note, what are you looking forward to? What are you optimistic about? Is there anything coming up that you’re impatient for? (On that note, I am looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars film, which is a prequel to the original trilogy, as many of you will know. This one isn’t a sequel to episode 7, it actually takes place between episodes 3 and 4. Yes, they still can’t count in the Star Wars universe. So far they’ve gone in this order 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 7, 3.5 and after that it will be 8. I’m looking forward to it just because I love the SW universe, and the trailer looks pretty good – although I’m a bit concerned by the script which seems a bit dodgy in places (“This is a rebellion, isn’t it? – I rebel.” It’s not Star Wars without a bit of clunky dialogue) I expect I’ll be talking more about this soon. Anyway, what are you looking forward to exactly?
  • Are you a fan of cricket? Have you ever heard of cricket? Do they play cricket where you live? Do you understand the rules at all?
  • Going back to Tetris – Did you use to play Tetris? Do you still play Tetris? What do you know about the history of this classic game? Do you have any stories to share about Tetris, including how it was developed and the people who created it? Or stories about how you played it, and how you used to get that tune stuck in your head, and how you’d play it until you got ‘Tetrisitis’?

So, feel free to get involved in the comment section.

Listen to Australian comedian Jim Jeffries trying to explain cricket to some Americans *contains rude language*

Join the mailing list

It’s the best way to get access to the page for the episode where you’ll find notes, transcripts, videos, links, other useful bits and pieces, as well as easy- access to the episode archive, the comment section and lots of other things.

Another note about the transcript collaboration team

This is now called The Orion Transcript Collaboration Team, which is cool. I didn’t name it – the name was chosen by Antonio because “Orion” is a constellation of stars in the night sky, and the members of the team are also a group of stars – so the name seems appropriate now. I like it anyway.

The team have been doing a great job. Go to the website -> (hover the mouse over TRANSCRIPTS -> TRANSCRIPT COLLABORATION and click the red, yellow or green buttons to access the google docs.

Episodes are divided up into 3 minute chunks. You transcribe your 3 minutes. Other people check your 3 minutes and make corrections. Eventually the whole episode is transcribed – it might not be completely perfect, but it’s done. Next, I have to proofread them all! So actually, this project rapidly creates more and more work for me. I am going through them *extremely* slowly, and publishing the full scripts on the website. It might be necessary to employ some proofreaders to check the finished scripts. Perhaps I should launch a kickstarter campaign for that or something, because it’ll cost money to get a pro to do the final proofreading.

I got a message from Antonio about this recently and he said this at the end:

I laugh a lot when someone corrects my chunk and I see certain mistakes I do. But I have improved a lot my understanding and can watch the BBC TV, not only the news, understanding much, much more than before I started transcribing you episodes. Maybe in this area, I am experiencing the famous breakthrough all teachers speak about. See you, Luke and thanks again for your commitment. Antonio

BENEFITS OF TRANSCRIPT COLLABORATION
Catherine Bear
Since I’ve been proof-reading a little bit of the transcripts, I have the feeling that my short term memory has improved considerably.
So, guys, I would encourage each of you to do little bit of transcribing.
Also shadowing is a nice way to improve not only the short term memory but also the sentence stress, intonation and pronunciation.
I used to speak with a kind of American accent, but since I started actively listening to Luke’s English Podcast back in August and doing lots of shadowing (like 5 minutes in one go, a couple of times a day) — my English accent suddenly started to switch towards the British RP English. :)
Guys, let’s share some personal success stories related to Luke’s English Podcast.

Yes, please do share some personal success stories of learning English!

Take care and I’ll speak to you soon.

402

382. Mod Culture with Ian Moore

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Ian Moore, who is a professional stand up comedian, published author and mod from London. Ian is probably the best dressed man ever to appear on this podcast. He is also a professional talker with many things to say.

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Photo: Richard Wood @comictog twitter.com/comictog

Intro before the intro

Hello listeners, this episode of Luke’s English Podcast is sponsored by italki which is a really convenient way to develop your fluency in English by talking to native speakers online – to claim your voucher worth 100ITC just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk or click an italki logo on my website.

This episode features a conversation with English writer and comedian Ian Moore and in this part we talk mainly about mod, which is a British subculture involving clothing and music, but before the interview there is about a 15 minute introduction in which I explain a few things that will help you to fully understand the conversation. This podcast is for learners of English so sometimes it is necessary to give support to my listeners in advance of hearing a natural conversation in order to help them understand it all. My 15 minute intro to this episode is mainly an overview of the history of mod culture, with a few other short explanations. If you want to skip the intro, just move forwards by about 15 minutes and you can jump straight to the conversation. However, the introduction is there to help you to understand the cultural references, some history and other details in our conversation. OK, so that’s my intro before the intro, and now that this intro is nearly finished, I’ll let you listen to the other main intro which is going to come after this intro when this intro is finished, which is now so here is the proper intro, after the jingle, which is going to start as soon as I stop talking which is right about now.

Introduction and Explaining (Skip forwards 15 mins if you don’t want some explanations)

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Ian Moore, who is a professional stand-up comedian, published author and mod from London. Ian is probably the best dressed man ever to appear on this podcast. He is also a professional talker with many things to say.

I first met Ian a few months ago. He was in Paris for a few days and was the headline act at a comedy show where I was also performing. We got talking and our conversation was suitably rambling for me to consider Ian a good guest for this podcast. Also, there are some specific things I wanted to ask Ian, which I thought might be interesting for you my audience to hear.

Mod Culture

First, Ian is a mod. He’s a proper full-time mod. He dresses in all the correct mod clothing and has done for years. That might not mean anything to you and in fact that’s one of the reasons I wanted Ian to talk about it in this episode. Mod culture is quintessentially English. Basically, Mod is a fashion style, a way of life and a whole subculture of its own, and it’s uniquely English I think. Mod is one of the first genuine youth subcultures of the modern era. Nowadays there are many many subcultures (e.g. punk, skinhead, hippy, raver, indie kid, rocker, metal head, skater, etc) to the point that they don’t really mean anything, but back in the late 1950s and early 1960s there weren’t many youth subcultures. Everyone basically dressed the same except between different social classes in society. Certainly young people just dressed and acted like adults. Then in the postwar period young people became more independent and developed their own alternative cultures which were separate from mainstream lifestyles. Young people began to associate themselves with these alternative cultural movements as an expression of their individuality particularly in the form of the clothes they wore and the music they listened to.

Mod culture first became well-known in the UK as a result of a story in the newspapers about rival gangs of ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’ fighting each other on the beach in Brighton in 1964. These were the two main youth subcultures of the time and they hated each other. The rockers wore leather jackets, had their hair quite long and unclean, and rode motorbikes. They listened to rock and roll music. The mods were very sharply dressed in well fitted suits and ties, wore smart leather shoes, had a particular haircut (a bit like the Beatle cut) and rode Italian scooters. They listened to modern jazz, black American rhythm and blues or Jamaican ska. Their rivalry came to a head in the well-documented fighting that happened on the beaches in Brighton. The fight between the mods and the rockers was all over the newspapers and it shocked everyone, causing a kind of moral panic about young people. At that time it was the equivalent of something like the London riots of 2011. Most people couldn’t understand the violence and it was considered a sign of the breakdown of society. It was also the first time that most people became aware of the mod movement.

Since then, Mod has drifted in and out of fashion, going away in the early 70s when it was replaced by things like glam, soul boy and skinhead movements to be revived again at the end of the decade, in the 1980s and again in the 1990s. Being a mod is a way of life and it revolves mostly around the clothing you wear and the music you listen to, but there is a certain philosophy which underpins the movement too and that seems to be based on certain kinds of European existentialist thinking and a kind of open-mindedness to outside influences combined with a great attention to detail in clothing choices. In order to identify a mod, you need to be aware of the right details in the person’s clothing. A certain type of suit, cut in a specific way. Certain brands, types of shoe or coat, and a particular hair cut. The most famous mods are probably people like the musician Paul Weller of The Jam, the groups The Small Faces and The Who (early period), and these days the actor Martin Freeman who likes to wear mod clothing when he’s not acting in a movie or TV show.

While mod culture borrows from many other cultures it is very specifically British and therefore I think it is worth exploring on this podcast.

So, first – Ian is a mod. Secondly, he lives abroad – specifically on a farm in rural France, despite being a very well-dressed city boy from London, and he has lots of stories to tell about this, which form the basis of several books which he has written and which have been published. Both books tell funny true stories of his life as a mod living on a farm in the French countryside, they’re well-reviewed on Amazon and are definitely well-worth a read. They’re amusing, not challenging to read and are full of very entertaining little anecdotes and tales of his double life as a comedian working in London and a farmer in the French countryside. I thought it would be interesting to hear him talk about that on the podcast, and if you’re looking for appropriate books to read in English – I really recommend these ones. There are also audiobook versions read by Ian himself. The first book is called A la Mod, and the second is called C’est Modnifique.

And thirdly, Ian is a professional stand-up comedian – in fact The Guardian newspaper describe him as “One of the country’s top comedians”, which may account for why he’s able to write such funny stories in his books. Ian has been performing in the UK professionally for about 20 years and has travelled all around the country doing big gigs everywhere, including at London’s best venue The Comedy Store in Leicester Square. Ian has also performed in many locations around the world, so naturally I wanted to find out about that too.

So all in all, Ian Moore is a great guest for this podcast and we had a very enjoyable rambling conversation upstairs on my terrace on a very sunny morning this week. This is going to be two episodes, because we talked for over an hour together.

This might be a tricky episode for you to follow because our conversation includes quite a lot of tangents and references to things you might not be familiar with, so let me just give you an overview of the main things you’ll hear.

At the start we talk about the view from my terrace, including the Sacre Coeur basilica, which we can see.

Then we talk about how he met his wife on the steps of the Sacre Coeur when he first moved to France. Then we go on to chat about his first experiences in France and why he fell in love with the country. (He talks about buying a vinyl copy of “Complete Madness” in a supermarket in Nice – Madness are a band which has a large mod and skinhead following).

Then we talk about where Ian comes from, and how he describes his accent. (Basically, he’s got a typical south east / London accent, cockney or ‘mockney’ even though as a child he used to live up north in Blackburn and also in the east in Norfolk. He spent most of his time in London.)

We discuss his level of French, and then move on to talk about being a mod and what that means, including quite a lot of specific descriptions of his clothing and mod style in general, so watch out for some vocabulary to describe clothing in this episode.

But now, without any further ado, let’s join the conversation with Ian Moore and you will first hear us talking about the views of Paris which we can see from my terrace.

*CONVERSATION BEGINS*

We talk mainly about mod culture. The podcast pauses after about 40 minutes.

*CONVERSATION PAUSES*

So, that’s the end of part one of this conversation, in which we mainly covered mod culture. Check out the page for this episode where you’ll find some videos of mod-related things and also some stand-up footage of Ian Moore on stage.

How was that for you? Did you manage to understand what we were saying? I expect it might be a bit tough because we’re talking about things that you might never have heard about before. THat’s one of the main reasons why it’s hard to understand native speakers sometimes. It might be because of the pronunciation – specifically connected speech and the way some sounds are not fully pronounced, it might be the vocabulary being used, but also it’s because of the cultural references being made and the general mindset of the conversation. These are all factors that influence your ability to understand native speakers. Certainly the cultural aspect is very important. If you’re on the same wavelength as the people you’re listening to, or talking to, it makes it far more likely that you’ll understand them. This will help you work out the meaning of words that you don’t know and fill in the words that you didn’t hear. You have to try to tune in to not just the language, but the way of thinking of the people talking and then you’ll understand more and ultimately pick up more of the English yourself. So, listening to conversations like this is vital, even if it’s difficult.

Don’t forget that you also have to activate the English you hear in the podcast by having similar conversations yourselves, perhaps with a language partner on italki. Don’t forget to take advantage of my italki offer by visiting www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

OK, part 2 of this episode will be available soon and then you can hear Ian talking about his funny experiences of being a mod in the French countryside, dealing with animals of all shapes and sizes, the challenges of living on a farm and the life of a professional stand up comedian. Thanks for listening to this episode, I look forward to reading comments on the website. Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I’ll speak to you soon.

Bye.

Luke

Mod culture

Ian Moore on stage

ianmoore1

376. A Game of Mini Golf and a Pint (with James)

Hello everyone, here is another episode of this podcast for people interested in listening to authentic conversations and learning British English. I’ve been very prolific recently because I’ve had a bit of time off and I’ve uploaded loads of episodes in quite a short period, but this is going to stop very soon when I go away on holiday for a few weeks. While I’m gone you can listen to all of this new content, or go back into the extensive episode archive to listen to some of the older content.

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So, what about this episode. I’ve been staying at my parents’ house in Warwickshire, in England for a few days, enjoying the company of my family and spending time in the sunshine. When the weather is good here one of the things we like to do is go for a walk in the local park, have a look at the local castle and play 18 holes of mini golf. Technically mini-golf is for kids but it’s a lot of fun to play if you’re an adult and you’ve got nothing better to do. I expect you’re aware of the concept of mini-golf. Essentially, it’s like normal golf but mini. There are typically 18 holes. The aim is to put the ball in the hole using the fewest shots possible. The problem is that each hole has lots of obstacles in the way, like bridges, slopes and windmills.

So in this episode my brother James and I decided to go for a game of mini golf and we thought we’d record a podcast while doing it. So, why not join us as we walk through a historic English town, play some golf and then go for a pint of beer in a local pub.

During this episode you’ll hear us talk about a number of different topics, including some history of medieval England, some details about our game of golf, some of the things we can see in the park, some descriptions of the pub, the beer and the crisps, and some comments about what it’s like growing up and living in the countryside versus living in an inner city area like South London. Eventually our conversation turns to slightly more serious things, including the riots that happened exactly 5 years earlier in parts of London. That was a serious series of social disturbances which shocked and confused the nation. Why did so many young people living in cities decide to start vandalising and looting their local areas? Was it just basic criminality or was it a symptom of a bigger problem in our country? We talk about that a bit, and of course there’s some mention of Brexit and why people voted to leave the EU, but then James decided it was all getting a bit too serious, and he’d rather just enjoy his beer, so we stopped. We then get interrupted by a wasp, which is quite typical for an English beer garden during August. At the end you’ll hear James explaining why he sometimes feels awkward about appearing on the podcast, especially when we end up talking about serious things. You’ll see that he doesn’t like to take himself too seriously and he seems to think that nobody is interested in hearing what he has to say about big subjects like the London riots. Now, I wonder if you agree with that, or if you in fact find it interesting to hear him talking about such big topics, even though he’s no expert. I look forward to reading your responses to that question.

Anyway, before we get to all that, let’s start listening to the recording I made the other day on a sunny afternoon in Warwick as James and I head down towards the park to play a game of mini golf. I’ll talk to you again at the other end of this recording, but now let’s get started. Oh and by the way I would like to just warn you that there is a little bit of swearing in this episode, and a couple of instances of us talking with our mouths full. I will let you decide which one you find more offensive – swear words or talking with your mouth full. OK, so without any further ado, let’s go to the park.

*Recording begins*

Mini golf
James and Luke go to the pub
James’ final word

*Recording ends*

So, there you go – that’s the rather anti-climactic ending of that conversation. It ended in the living room, with my brother pacing around, unable to relax and stressing that he sounded too serious and pompous when talking about issues on the podcast. I sort of agree – I also enjoy talking about more light-hearted subjects and having a laugh but I also think it;s worthwhile taking about the more serious stuff from time to time, especially when it’s about real things, like the genuine experience of living in the UK. But also, we’re not experts so that does get a bit tricky sometimes.

But I’m interested to know what you think. Are you interested in hearing my brother’s opinions on things like the London riots and Brexit? Does he need to worry about sounding arrogant on the podcast, or is it genuinely interesting to listen to. Let us know in the comment section. I would very much like to show him what you really think.

That’s it for this episode. By the way, I’ve done loads of episodes recently. I’m going to talk to you about this in another quick episode, but the main reason for that is that I’ve had a little bit of time off and so I’ve been enjoying making a few episodes featuring conversations with my family and friends, but this is going to stop soon because I’ll be going away on holiday for a few weeks, so my thinking is that you can listen to all these new episodes while I’m away.

I’ll talk to you about that a bit more in a quick episode, probably later today, and then that’ll be the last episode for a little while  until I come back from my break.

As ever, sign up to the mailing list to get instant access to the page for the episode for notes, vocab, transcripts and links etc.

I’ll speak to you soon.

Bye.

Luke
2048

375. The LEP Pub Quiz (with Alex Love)

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. In this episode I’m talking to my friend Alex Love. We started this conversation in the previous episode and here is part 2. In this conversation Alex is in Edinburgh in Scotland and I’m in Warwick in England. In the previous episode we talked about pub quizzes and how they’re a common part of pub culture in the UK, so in this episode I thought we would play a kind of pub quiz with each other. The only problem is that neither of us are in a pub, but that doesn’t matter – this is a podcast and you can use your imagination.

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The rules of the game are pretty simple. Alex and I have prepared 5 questions each and we take it in turns to ask each other the questions. A correct answer gains one point, an incorrect answer gains nothing. All my questions are related to the English language, and all Alex’s questions are random trick questions and much more difficult than my ones. I’m not hinting at who wins the quiz there. No, not at all. You’ll have to listen to the whole thing to find out who wins, but I should point out that Alex’s questions are not proper questions and they’re designed to make me fail, a bit like my Dad’s questions in our recent game show. But I’m not making excuses or giving away the result of the quiz. No, of course not.

As you listen I think you should try to answer the questions too. You might need to pause the recording in order to give yourself a bit of time. Alex and I both explain our thought processes while answering the questions, and you could do that too. Try pausing the recording when you hear the question and then talking out loud while you think about the answer. Then continue listening and you’ll hear Alex and me doing the same thing – talking about our thought process before giving our answer. You can compare the way you talked about your thoughts and the way we did it. That can be a good way of comparing the language you and we are using.

Either that, or just sit back, brew up a cup of tea, or continue travelling on the bus like a normal person, and just listen to the magic of another episode of this podcast, recorded, produced, edited and published by the very modest me.

Right, without any further ado, let’s start the LEP Pub Quiz.

Questions (Listen to the episode to get the answers)

  1. Where was the lawn-mower invented? (which town)
  2. What is the most common noun in the English language?
  3. Which creature has the largest eyes in the world?
  4. What is the word for when two words come together to create a new word? e.g. ‘spork’
  5. Which mammal can go longest without water?
  6. What is the shortest possible sentence in the English language.
  7. How long was the 100 years war?
  8. What is the only planet in the solar system not named after a god?
  9. Translate this from German into English – Ich habe keine Ahnung 
  10. Name the only two words in the English language that end in the suffix -gry.

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363. Muhammad Ali & The Rumble in the Jungle

This is a special episode about Muhammad Ali and the story of one of his most famous fights, “The Rumble in the Jungle”. In the episode you’ll hear me give a biography of Ali and then I go into lots of descriptive detail about the fight, exploring exactly what happened in and out of the ring and why he is now considered not only one of the greatest boxers but one of the most outstanding people of recent times. The episode is almost 100% transcribed. See below for details.

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It is a cool Wednesday morning here in Paris as I record this episode. Again I’m talking about sport on the podcast today. This time it’s the sport of boxing as I talk about arguably the greatest boxer we’ve ever had, and in fact one of the greatest people of the last 50 years or so – Muhammad Ali. I’ve got a lot to say about the man, so I suspect this could be another long episode of the podcast! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – a lot of my episodes are long these days. Now, most of you seem to be fine with that, which is cool. I’ll say that with these episodes you are getting a tremendous amount of English exposure and that is one of the key ingredients in gaining proper English with a wide range of vocabulary and accurate listening skills, which really helps your English in other areas such as your own speaking. You can learn a lot from episodes like this, even if I’m not explicitly teaching language to you. I recommend that you listen closely, get into the story, pay attention and be curious about what’s going to happen next, while noticing the language I’m using to describe the events of Ali’s life and the specific details of his fights. Pay attention to every word, while getting drawn into the story of one of the most extraordinary people of recent years. Look out for not only language for describing the narrative of Ali’s life story but also the specific descriptions of boxing, which will include some complex language to describe body position, movement and technique. I’ve planned this episode quite carefully and took some time to do it. You’ll see almost every word of this transcribed on my website. I strongly recommend that you go and check it out. You could read along with me, or use the script to help you learn English in lots of ways. Alright, that’s my pep talk about learning English with this episode, let’s now get stuck into this subject.

We lost another great person this year,  Muhammad Ali. Since Ali died I’ve had quite a lot of messages from listeners saying to me, “Luke, talk about Muhammad Ali!” OK! I would absolutely love to talk about this subject! I am a big fan of Ali, especially his boxing. It’s one of my favourite topics. I’ve never talked about this on the podcast before, but I do have an interest in boxing and martial arts in general and particularly in several fights involving Ali so I am more than happy to talk about this in a special podcast episode to celebrate the life of The People’s Champion, the one and only Muhammed Ali, who truly was The Greatest.

And yes I do consider boxing as a martial art. I think it is a discipline and even though there are rules to boxing that you don’t have in other martial arts, I think true fighters understand that boxing can still be considered a martial art.

On the subject of fighting – I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in war, doesn’t believe in violence and generally doesn’t like fighting, but I am interested in boxing. I think it is a discipline and it’s a remarkably complex sport which, at the highest level, involves incredible levels of technique, strategy and skill. It’s also a huge mental challenge as well as a physical one.

I would try doing it and I’ve often thought about doing it, but I just know what would happen. I’d go down to the gym and have a go at the punching bags and get into the techniques and the sparring, but as soon as I got into a genuine fight situation all it would take is one punch on my nose and I’d say “OK, stop – stop! That’s enough!” So instead I’m far more comfortable talking about it, reading about it and studying fights on video than actually getting punched in the face myself.

It’s worth mentioning that boxing is a controversial sport and there are arguments to say it should be banned or controlled. That’s a complex argument and I understand that the point of the game is to try to hit the your competitor but I think that as long as the sport is properly regulated and the boxers themselves know exactly what they’re doing, then I think it’s up to them. If they are happy to do it and to take the risks then fair enough. There’s a lot to be gained for young people taking up the sport. I think it can give people a focus, discipline and also it’s a way of earning money as a professional. Many of the people who take up boxing come from difficult backgrounds and going to boxing rings to fight is better than fighting on the street and getting involved in other kinds of trouble.

I’ve always been aware of Muhammad Ali. I just remember footage of him on TV. He often appeared on British television and my parents talked about this from time to time. Such a big personality is quite hard to avoid. My interest in Ali as a boxer is mainly as a result of two things. The first is a great documentary called “When We Were Kings”. This is a feature film about Ali’s fight with George Foreman in 1974, which I’m going to talk about in a bit. When I worked at the HMV music and video store in Liverpool for a year “When We Were Kings” was on repeat every day for a week or two. You know the way they play movies in the store, on the big screens. I used to work on the specialist music and computer games counter and the screen was around the corner. I couldn’t see it, but the audio track from the movie was played through the speakers above my head, all day long. I heard the audio from that movie about 5 times a day, but couldn’t see the screen. I just listened to people describing the fight and heard Ali talking, over and over, while I was working.

The other reason I’m interested in Ali’s boxing is a book called “The Fight” by Norman Mailer. That particular book is an incredibly intense account of the same fight featured in the movie I just mentioned. The central chapter of the book is a blow by blow account of the whole 8 rounds, but the book also describes the entire story around the fight including the personal and cultural context. Norman Mailer describes his meetings with Ali and his entourage, the atmosphere of the fight and more. It’s so well written. It’s subjective, personal journalism, which for me brings the subject alive so much, and it’s tremendously evocative of the atmosphere and emotion of the fight. I’ve read it lots of times and it never gets boring to me. I recommend both the film and the book. The book can be a bit tricky to read at first because Mailer writes in a fairly complex and very descriptive style, but this really helps during his descriptions of the fight.

These days I like to watch footage of Ali fighting and watch interviews with him. YouTube is an incredible resource because most of the big moments in Ali’s career can be found there, including his biggest fights and interviews.

For this episode, I’m just going to focus mainly on the aspects of this story that I know the best and that’s really Ali’s boxing. I think if you really want to know about all the other details of Ali’s life story and all the facts and figures – names, dates, places etc then you can just check Wikipedia. What I want to do is celebrate this amazing person who we lost this year, by just telling you what I know and mostly that is related to his boxing and particularly his fight against George Foreman in 1974, which is the subject of that film and book that I enjoy so much.

So now I’m going to try and string together all the thoughts and feelings I have about this incredible guy, while also trying to tell you what I hope will be a captivating and amazing true story.

So let’s go!

Muhammad Ali – His Life

Ali was many things: An Olympic gold medal winning sportsman, a boxer, a poet, a comedian, a philanthropist, a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war, a campaigner for civil rights, a holder of controversial views on race relations, a member of the muslim brotherhood of Elijah Muhammed, a sufferer of Parkinson’s disease and one of the most inspirational and charismatic people of the 20th century. Muhammed Ali was one of those special people who don’t come along very often and who will be remembered for a long long time.

Basic life story – Main events up to the 1974 fight with George Foreman.
He was born in Louisville Kentucky in 1942, and named “Cassius Clay”. Apparently he learned to box when he was 12 in order to get revenge on some kids who stole his bike, and apparently he was talented and continued to do it. Clay went on to become a successful amateur boxer and won at the age of 18 won an Olympic gold medal for boxing in 1960 and then went on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood – a group of black Americans who followed the preachings of Elijah Muhammad. The group he belonged to sought to gain equal rights for black people in the USA. Part of their vision was a segregated USA in which the blacks were given the freedom to set up their own nation. This was quite an extreme position – segregation, but it came out of the sense that blacks had no faith in white America since centuries earlier they had been forced to leave their land and come to the USA as slaves. Their wish was to be allowed to live and prosper with equal status in the country, but alongside white communities, not part of them. In 1964 (I think) he changed his name from Cassius Clay (which he said was a slave name given to his ancestors by slave masters) to Muhammad Ali. Although his views on segregation as a solution to the inequalities in society are now considered radical and extreme, he expressed his ideas so eloquently and with such grace, charm and humour that it was hard not to listen respectfully to what he had to say. In fact, he comes across in his interviews and discussions as a very thoughtful and respectful person, even if I disagree with some of the views that he expressed at the time. Listening to him speak was fascinating and he was clearly very intelligent. Ali was an amazing role model for many black American people who were struggling against prejudice and inequality on a daily basis in the USA and he was very much a symbol of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

In 1967 the USA was at war in Vietnam and like thousands of young men in the States he was drafted into the military, but Ali refused to fight, becoming a conscientious objector on religious grounds. He was arrested on draft evasion charges and this caused him to be suspended from boxing for 3-4 years as a punishment for refusing to fight. He was also stripped of all his heavyweight titles. They were taken away from him. He was also banned from travelling to foreign countries to box, because he refused to go to Vietnam to kill for his country. In hindsight, Ali’s argument is hard to disagree with in my opinion. Here’s what he had to say on the matter.

In the first part of this Ali sounds like he’s slurring his words a bit. I think that’s because the interview was done later, when symptoms of Parkinson’s were beginning to show. The second part of the interview is from a debate he had with students.

The first part of that his point is: Why should I go to another part of the world and murder people who’ve never done anything against me. They never called me nigger, they never enslaved me, raped my people, set dogs on me, lynched me. My struggle is against white oppressors at home who I have to defend myself against, not some Vietnamese in another country.

Here’s another quote:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

Again, his actions – this time as a conscientious objector – made him a counter-culture icon and one of the most prominent voices of opposition to the Vietnam war from the beginning.

Ali appealed the decision to stop him boxing and the ban was eventually lifted in 1971 but by that time he hadn’t boxed professionally for 4 years. That’s 4 years when he was in his prime, lost. Interestingly, because the ban was imposed when he was champion, he had never lost a heavyweight title fight, so even though he didn’t have the belt he was still undefeated as a champion.

I want to talk about his famous fight in 1974 against George Foreman so I’m going to focus mainly on that in a moment.

Ali is considered to be one of the greatest boxers ever and he had an amazing record. He was also an extremely entertaining fighter. He was known mainly for his speed and his movement in the ring. He used to dance – constantly in movement, which made it extremely difficult to fight against him. Although he had some weaknesses – specifically a lack of power in his punches he made up for his faults with his amazing speed. Heavyweights aren’t usually so light on their feet or fast with their hands, but Ali was. He has been compared to Bruce Lee in the way he used movement, dancing with his feet, speed of punches, feints and counter attacks. In fact, Bruce Lee said on a number of occasions that he took a lot of influence from watching Ali boxing. Apparently Bruce Lee used to project video of Ali fighting onto a big screen and then shadow his movements, following Ali’s feet and hands. Here’s a Bruce Lee quote about Ali: “Everybody says I must fight Ali someday,” Bruce said. “I’m studying every move he makes. I’m getting to know how he thinks and moves”. Bruce Lee knew he could never win a fight against Ali “look at my hands”, he said. “That’s a little Chinese hand. he’d kill me”

Ali was not just fast at punching, but also at avoiding being punched. He seemed to be amazing at judging distance and would lean back out of the reach of oncoming punches. Looking at some videos he seemed to be unreachable. No one could touch him.

Video of Ali avoiding punches, dancing and using his reflexes.

Ali is wearing the white shorts.

One of his catch phrases was “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” and it summed up his style. He was light on his feet but he could hurt with his sharp attacks.

About his speed he said:

“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.” Muhammad Ali

Some of his punches were so fast they couldn’t be seen and they didn’t appear on film. For example the punch that knocked out his rival Sonny Liston in 1964 is a bit of a legend. It’s known as the anchor punch and it happened so quickly as part of a counter attack that Sonny Liston didn’t see it coming, but neither did most of the audience or the viewers of the fight on TV. It looked like Liston had suddenly just hit the deck. The fact is that the punch arrived in about 4 100ths of a second. It was a real ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment.

As well as his skills as a boxer, Ali was a hugely charismatic, lively and humorous personality and this is another one of the reasons he is so loved.

He used to write funny poems and his conduct in interviews was frequently hilarious. It seemed he was as quick with his responses as he was in the ring. I recommend you watch some of the videos on youTube of his funny moments.

Some funny moments

Ali did win the heavyweight title again in the early 70s but lost it to Joe Frazier. In fact Ali lost a couple of times in that period to his two main rivals Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. By 1974 people were saying that Ali was past his best and people wondered if he might never win another heavyweight title and would retire.

By 1974 a new challenger had arrived on the scene in the form of George Foreman, who was an extremely impressive fighter. Large, very strong and devastatingly effective. Foreman beat both of the fighters who had beaten Ali – Ken Norton and Joe Frazier, and went on to become the heavyweight champion.

Foreman was 25 and in the peak of fitness and had smashed Frazier and Norton in just a few rounds each. Ali was 32 and past his prime.

Nevertheless, Ali chose to have a go at beating Foreman to reclaim the heavyweight title. Boxing promoter Don King knew that it would be a great spectacle to put loudmouth Muhammad Ali the people’s champion against the young dangerous new champion George Foreman and managed to raise the money to pay for a huge high profile title fight between the two men, in which both fighters would be paid $5 million dollars. The only way he could raise the money was to go overseas and in the end it took place in Africa in Zaire, where the dictator president Mobutu put up the money to pay for the fight, knowing it would be good publicity for him and his country. The setting was Zaire, and the fight was called The Rumble in the Jungle.

So this is the story of the Rumble in the Jungle. This is the fight forms the basis of that book I love and that film I listened to so many times while working in the music shop. It’s a great story and it’s a true story, so here we go.

The Rumble in the Jungle

*Tenses – a lot of my descriptions of this fight are in present tenses, even though the fight took place in 1974. Present tenses are sometimes used to bring immediacy to events. It brings them into the present and increases the drama. Past tenses are usually used when you tell a story, but they do create some remoteness, so present tenses are sometimes used to bring the story into the here and now.

Round 1
Ali is the challenger so he arrives first, to great applause. The crowd loves him.
Foreman waits ages to come out. This is probably a tactic to unnerve Ali. It doesn’t seem to work.
Some people in the crowd boo Foreman as he enters the ring.
The fighters psyche each other out.
Foreman uses his physical presence.
Ali is fighting a mental battle with Foreman, using the crowd against him – encouraging them to shout “Ali bomo ye”, shouting and talking all the time at Foreman.
Foreman is silent and has complete faith in himself and his abilities.
They have their gloves put on and then there’s a moment when they stare at each other.
Moments before the bell rings Muhammad Ali has a moment of quiet prayer in his corner.
Foreman is bending over as the bell rings, showing his ass to Ali. Not much dignity or charisma there.
The bell rings.
Ali immediately is on the offensive, leaping towards Foreman.
Ali dances.
Foreman attempts to start cutting off the ring, using his (rear) right hand like a bear’s paw to deal with left jabs. This is part of his technique.
Some boxing principles.
You have a lead hand and a rear hand.
If you’re right handed, your lead is your left hand.
You don’t stand square to your opponent.
You have your left foot forward slightly and the right foot back. The left shoulder forward, and the right shoulder back a bit. The left hand is closer to your opponent, the right hand further away. This means your left hand can jab forward, from the shoulder. The punches can be fast and direct but less powerful. The right hand, the rear hand, is further away and comes across your shoulders. This means it takes longer to reach your opponent, but it carries a lot more force because it carries a lot of your body weight with it. A powerful rear hand punch can carry your whole body weight behind it if you twist your hips and shoulders behind the punch.
So the left hand for jabs, the right hand for longer punches. You rarely lead with the right hand. This is because it takes ages to arrive and the opponent can usually see it coming, and block it, leaving you exposed.
So usually boxers will do combinations of punches, leading with the left. That’s a jab with the left followed immediately by a powerful punch with the right. Punches can be aimed at the head or the body. The can come in a straight line, they can come around the side or from the bottom. Punches from underneath are called uppercuts. You can also punch over the top of someone’s defences too in some cases.
Part of Foreman’s strength was that he had an extended rear hand. He held his rear hand quite far forward in an extended defensive position. He was brilliant at using that extended rear hand (right) to neutralise the opponents leading left hand. He could block the jabs from the left or counter the jabs with the right hand sometimes, and then attack with powerful hooks from both sides.

He combined this with his technique of cutting off the ring. This involves forcing the opponent into the corners or against the ropes by carefully and steadily stepping forwards and to the side. If the opponent attempts to move around, Foreman would sidestep, essentially trapping the opponent and reducing the space in which they can move, and with that extended right hand cutting off the leading jabs of the opponent he could basically trap the opponent in exactly the position he wanted and would then apply his brutally powerful punches to great effect. Often, just a few of these carefully placed punches would be enough to knock the opponent to the floor, or unconscious, like he did with Ken Norton.

Cutting off the ring was exactly the sort of fighting style that could work against Ali.
Ali and Foreman had never faced each other before, so nobody knew how it would go.
Unlike Ali’s fluid, fast and accurate technique. Foreman’s style was not graceful or beautiful. With his extended rear hand and his relentless side stepping and steady movement forwards, Foreman appeared like a bear or like Frankenstein’s monster, slowly but inevitably closing in on his opponent before causing untold damage with those powerful arms and huge fists. Not graceful, but devastatingly effective. This is what had destroyed the only two fighters to beat Ali previously – Ken Norton and Joe Frazier. Foreman appeared not only to beat them with ease, but smash them to pieces. Ali had lost to both these men, but Foreman had taken care of them in just a matter of minutes. He was in his prime both physically and in terms of confidence. According to Foreman, he felt invincible before the fight and was sure he would beat Ali.

This is what Ali was facing and apparently he was scared. Despite all the bravado, he must have been petrified. Watch the video of Foreman beating Norton and Frasier. He’s like an executioner. Everyone was worried that Ali couldn’t win and that he’d get hurt.

Also, Ali was past his prime. He was relatively old and had already fought his best fights. Since his ban, his legs weren’t the same as they used to be. He couldn’t dance like he used to. He was heavier than before, but he was still fast, and there were dimensions to his fighting technique that we hadn’t seen yet.

Everyone wondered what would happen, and how long it would take Foreman to close down Ali. How could Ali escape Foreman? The bell rang for the first round and Ali leapt forward to engage Foreman.

Then he did something that nobody expected.
Something so reckless and brilliant that nobody could believe what they were seeing, and it seemed to work.
He started throwing right hand leads.
A right hand lead is when a fighter leads with their rear hand, which in this case was the right hand.
This is a high risk strategy but if it works it can be very deadly.

Because the right hand has to travel much further, the other fighter has a lot more time to stop it.
However, if a right hand punch connects, it can do a lot more damage, because it carries more body weight.
Remember that Foreman’s technique was to neutralise left hand leads with his extended rear hand – his bear paw. Ali chose to completely avoid this, by leading with heavy right hand punches, taking Foreman completely by surprise.
Ali hit Foreman with 10 or 11 right hand leads. Unbelievable. What a shock! Nobody could believe it.
Some of the right hand leads connect perfectly and you can see Foreman’s head jerk back quickly from the impact. Sweat sprays off his head as the punches land.
The crowd goes wild as Ali manages to land so many right hand punches to George’s face.
Again, Ali is fast and the influence on Bruce Lee is obvious here. His right hand punches are expertly executed. He feints with the left hand and applies the right. He then feints with the right hand, and then strikes with the right. He’s playing a guessing game with Foreman – which hand is going to come next? Foreman keeps being taken by surprise by the right hand of Ali. This just was not what he expected and he keeps falling for it in the first round. At least 10 times, with a few left hands in there too. This didn’t happen with Norton, or Frasier.
This took massive amounts of guts from Ali. It was a very risky move, completely unexpected and unpredictable. Only someone like Ali – who was cocky enough, fast enough and unconventional enough, could have done this. What an extraordinary fighter.
I think Ali’s plan was to knock Foreman down in the first round in a way that nobody could have suspected.
Again and again he hits him with right hand leads.
But Foreman does not go down. The punches hit him and his face puffs up, but he’s just enraged and he continues to advance on Ali and hits him with several punishing blows which must have hurt Ali.
Foreman is incredibly powerful, and the right hand leads must have put him in a huge rage. Some of the punches he delivers to Ali look very heavy. One connecting to the left side of Ali’s head, another to his heart under Ali’s outstretched arm.
But Ali doesn’t seem affected and in fact is visibly talking to Foreman throughout this.
Wrestling – head locks, holding his left glove against Foreman’s neck, talking to him.
Apparently saying things like “Is that the best you can do George? Come on hit me with a real punch!”
The round ends.

Moments in the corner.
Ali whips up the crowd again.

Round 2
Ali’s plan to knock down Foreman in round 1 with unexpected right hand leads hasn’t worked.
Despite landing the punches – about 10 of them. Foreman is still standing and seems ok.
Ali starts to take some punishment here.
This is phase 2 of his strategy.
He stops dancing and goes to the ropes.
To everybody watching it looks like Ali is going to be slaughtered by Foreman.
It’s quite a sad sight, because Ali is not dancing. He’s retreating, letting Foreman come to him and then leaning back against the ropes as Foreman starts laying into him with huge heavy punches to the body and head.
But Ali knows what he’s doing. It’s incredibly brave of him, but it’s calculated.
Most accounts of this fight just say that Ali went to the ropes, blocked most of the punches, let the ropes take the impact and let Foreman ‘punch himself out’, which means to exhaust himself from punching.
This was part of the plan. But Ali’s technique here was more sophisticated than that.

Foreman’s heavy punches – Ali blocks them. He leans back deep into the ropes, ensuring that the ropes take a lot of the force of the punches. The punches hit Ali and the force is transferred into the ropes. Also, Foreman has to lean forwards to hit Ali’s head. Ali is so fast that he avoids or blocks many of the punches. Ali was also a master of absorbing punches.
There were many aspects to Ali’s abilities and he used them all in combination, often highlighting one technique, allowing the other technique to be a surprise. This is part of that.
In a sense, this was a trap for Foreman. It was a risky move by Ali because it involved exposing himself to a lot of punishment, but Ali used one of his techniques – avoiding punches and absorbing impacts with body movement. He was a fluid fighter who relied on speed and quick reactions to limit the effect of punches.

While it looked like Ali was shutting down – not dancing, going to the ropes, essentially letting Foreman attack him, he was using his defensive skills to lure Foreman into a trap.
Foreman had one technique. Use his right hand to prevent left jabs coming around, close off the ring, and then apply massive swinging punches and uppercuts to maximum effect. This is how he’d managed to smash Frazier and Norton.

But Ali got around Foreman’s right hand by punching under it or inside it, and by leading with his right hand, which fighters never do.
Also, when Foreman got too close, Ali would hold his neck, pushing him off balance, preventing him from being able to swing properly. He would place his left hand on the back of his neck and pull his head down. He’d put his weight on Foreman, making Foreman carry some of his weight. Over time this exhausted Foreman.
Also, because Ali kept backing away, Foreman kept moving towards Ali, which gave extra force to Ali’s jabs and counter attacks from his defensive position on the ropes. Foreman was always moving into Ali’s punches, which multiplied their damage.

Also, Ali was using all his charisma, experience and mental strength against Foreman, and was constantly talking to him, teasing him, breaking down his confidence, breaking down his self belief, bit by bit. Apparently he kept telling Foreman “You can’t punch George, you don’t punch you push! Is that the best you’ve got! I’m your master George, you ain’t nothing, you’ve met your match, you’ll see you’ve stepped into the ring with your master, you’re out of your depth George, your punches aren’t hurting me… etc”

This would have seriously affected Foreman’s state of mind, causing him to be distracted and unfocused. It would have chipped away at his confidence, sowing seeds of self-doubt that you just can’t afford to be thinking in that situation.

When you view the fight again from this point of view, you realise that Ali was in control of the fight. He used Foreman’s strengths against him and he dominated Foreman mentally.

You can see in the video the moments when Ali is teasing Foreman and shouting comments at him, and Foreman is momentarily distracted and Ali takes the opportunity to strike lighting fast punches that are carefully aimed. Foreman is almost blind to them as he keeps bearing down on Ali. Also Ali has won the support of the audience, all of whom are willing him to succeed and Foreman to fail. When two fighters are so evenly matched, the mental conditions will give you an edge. In fact I think in sport it’s all in the mind. So much of it is about having the will to succeed and the motivation – like that song Eye of the Tiger!

Foreman’s determination and single mindedness in the ring is becoming a weakness as he keeps walking towards what he thinks is a target backing away or helpless against the ropes. In fact Ali keeps popping off the ropes to apply punches to Foreman’s head. They’re not super powerful blows, but they’re accurate and Foreman is moving towards them.

However, Ali’s strategy took time and Foreman was young. He had a lot of strength and stamina. He was also full of confidence and self-belief, which took a long time for Ali to drain away and Ali had to take a great deal of punishment on the ropes over many rounds, in fact there were times when Ali was just taking punches, absorbing them, doing his best to limit their force and not managing to get many counter punches in on Foreman. It looked like Ali was being destroyed, but it was a long-term plan.

Eventually after a number of rounds of this technique – drawing Foreman in, deflecting and avoiding the punches, wrestling him off balance, constantly talking to him and breaking his nerve with comments, and managing to strike a few jabs and punches while also taking a lot of punches to the body – Foreman got tired. It’s hard to keep punching as hard as you can, while defending yourself.

As an example, just try holding a 4kg weight straight out in front of you for as long as possible. How long can you do it? I would be surprised if you managed more than 5 minutes. If you did it for 10 minutes that is very impressive. A lot of people couldn’t last two minutes. Now think of the last time you had to run for an extended period of time. I know I have a lot of runners who listen to this – but if you don’t run regularly, imagine running at top speed for about 10-15 minutes. That’s actually quite a long time at top speed, as if a bear was chasing you. You’d be knackered probably – you know the feeling, when you’ve just got no wind left in your body, you’re experiencing pain in your legs and in your chest, your lungs just can’t take in enough air quickly enough, completely out of breath. You know the feeling. It’s awful. Now imagine doing both of those things at the same time, while also defending yourself against very powerful punches from perhaps the best fighter in the world. That’s an idea of the challenge faced by both these guys.

So, Foreman got tired. He punched himself out and lost focus. Eventually his guard started to drop a bit and Ali exploited it, even though he was also exhausted. He came off the ropes and applied lots of fast, well placed punches to Foreman’s head. The end of the fight was quite beautiful in an odd way. Ali applied his excellent footwork by coming off the ropes as Foreman’s guard dropped, stepping to the side forcing Foreman to turn to his left, putting him off balance while applying a combination of punches with both hands, his jabs with the left setting up harder punches to the right, and as Ali stepped to Foreman’s right and as Foreman began to turn he lost balance and began to fall, Ali had hit him with a combination of fast punches and then Foreman began to fall while they were turning, slowly yet inevitably falling towards the ground like a huge tree that had been cut down but still hadn’t fallen, but which had no way of staying upright. The whole time Ali had another punch ready, which he held back, ready to strike, but he held it as Foreman turned, and with a strange kind of beauty, Ali just let Foreman fall to the ground without hitting him again. Foreman’s fall seemed to be in slow motion and had an inevitability to it. Ali let it happen and seemed to guide him round, letting him fall as the big man crashed to the ground.
As the old saying goes, “The harder the come, the harder they fall”.

What Ali had done was use his intelligence against Foreman. When you realise what happened in the fight, how Ali won it, you realise what an amazing achievement it was. In the end, Ali was a far more sophisticated and complex person and he outclassed Foreman. As a test of character, Ali passed with flying colours and it’s one of the reasons he is such a legendary figure today.

He demonstrated extreme strength of character, not just physical ability. He dominated Foreman and proved himself to be the greatest.

Here’s what Foreman himself had to say about the fight, and about Ali. This is from CNN, and Foreman begins by talking about how confident he was after so easily beating all his other opponents in previous fights.

He said that his whole life was devastated, and he’s not exaggerating. Apparently after this fight Foreman had a huge nervous breakdown. Essentially, the loss completely ruined his confidence to the point where he lost all sense of who he was up to that point. He described the experience as like falling into a huge black hole in which he stared death in the face. The previous George Foreman essentially died after that experience – not physically, but mentally or personally. It took him quite a lot of time to come back and piece his life together following the fight. This unstoppable fighter had been seriously shaken by the defeat. Foreman retired from boxing a few years later and over the following 15-20 years or so, he completely turned his life around, and later in the 90s I think he came back as a hugely successful business man. He became a multi millionaire by selling his patented “lean mean fat-free grilling machine” – a grill which cooks meat and drains the fat away. It’s a massive success the lean mean grilling machine. Now he’s a very self assured, charismatic and interesting man and a great public speaker. I think he became a born again Christian actually. He found god – that’s what saved him. That’s what worked for him. In fact, it’s fascinating to hear him describe his experience of having a breakdown after the fight, and then finding god. I think this is an anecdote that he has told many many times in his life.

Here he talks about being filled with hatred, feelings of paranoia, wanting revenge. Essentially his ego could not handle the defeat. He kept making excuses for the defeat, but he couldn’t avoid it and ultimately it caused a breakdown in his personality, which led to a remarkable spiritual experience in which he became a born again christian.

As for Ali, well immediately after the referee counted out Foreman and he was announced the winner, the ring was filled with people who jumped in to congratulate him. Apparently he fainted in the middle of the ring, but was resuscitated. He was the world champion again and had proved that he was truly the greatest, but he had taken serious punishment and apparently for weeks or months even he was suffering from the damage to his body. I imagine he was in extreme pain for a long time and could hardly move. Imagine being punched in the kidneys by George Foreman for 8 rounds. Ouch.

What happened next, was that an even bigger fight was set up, with even bigger stakes. At least £5million dollars to both fighters, in another international location – this time in Manilla, Philippines. This fight was arranged for the next year and was to be between Ali and Joe Frasier, the man who had previously defeated him. Frasier was Ali’s old rival, and the Thriller in Manilla became perhaps even more dramatic, dangerous and incredible than The Rumble in the Jungle. In fact, this fight was perhaps the most dangerous moment that both fighters had ever experienced. Ali described it as the closest thing to death he ever experienced, and it pushed both men right to the very limit of their lives. But that is another story for another time.

As we know, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 1980s and it’s frankly very sad what we all saw happen to him. His speed was gone, his fast talking was gone. What was left of the champ was a man debilitated by his illness. It was incredibly sad to have the man taken away from us, just like it’s sad for the loved ones of anyone affected by Parkinson’s, and I know because I have several people in my family who are affected by the disease. We are still trying to find a cure or find more effective treatments for Parkinson’s and I just want to make an appeal to you at this point and ask you to please consider making a donation to Parkinson’s UK – a UK based charity which funds research and care programs for Parkinson’s sufferers. I’m sure there are also local charities for this too. Parkinson’s affects one in 500 people in the UK. There’s no cure but treatments can make a big difference to the lives of people who are affected by it. So please consider making even a small donation because Parkinson’s is no joke. Visit www.parkinsons.org.uk/ or just search for Parkinson’s charities in your area.

Muhammad Ali has raised awareness of Parkinson’s around the world so I thought it would only be appropriate to mention the charities here, which are doing great work.

By the way, we still don’t know if boxing is what caused Ali’s Parkinson’s. It’s easy to make the link, but there still isn’t conclusive evidence to suggest it is true. While boxing definitely causes brain damage to people, it’s not necessarily the cause of the disease.

Anyway, I don’t want to end this on a sad note. Ultimately Muhammad Ali was a truly great man who was bigger than boxing. He was an inspiration to many people and someone who will always be remembered. He was opinionated, articulate, charming, charismatic, skilful, unpredictable and very entertaining.

George Foreman describes Ali (min 1.20)

YOU MUST SEE ALI IN ACTION – PLEASE WATCH THESE VIDEOS!

This is an absolutely fascinating and brilliantly written analysis of Ali’s fighting techniques

Watch the entire “Rumble in the Jungle” fight here, with commentary from David Frost

Ali having an intelligent discussion on US TV in 1968

 

Some of Ali’s funny moments

Hilarious comedian Richard Pryor talks about George Foreman vs Ken Norton, and Muhammad Ali

Leave your comments. Just tell me what you think.

Thanks for listening…

Luke