Category Archives: Reading

449. Film Club: Touching the Void (Part 2)

Part 2 of this Film Club episode looking at the award-winning documentary “Touching the Void” which tells the story of a mountain climbing expedition which goes wrong. Listen to this episode and then watch the film on Netflix or DVD for that extra bit of English input.

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Click here to get the book “Touching the Void”

Click here to get the film on DVD.

The Story Continues…

Their plan was to climb back down the North ridge and then abseil down a part of the north face.

Abseiling is when you use ropes to kind of lower yourself down. But the clouds started coming in again.

The walk along the north ridge was much harder than expected. It was vertical on one side (with overhangs) and steep flutings (like grooves going down) on the other side. You wouldn’t know if you were stepping on something safe or not.

As they were descending, with the weather setting in, things got a bit out of control.

They got lost and they were in a whiteout – unable to see anything.

Their plan was to get down that day. But, by the time the sun went down they were still very high up the mountain, still over 6,000m up.

That night while they were making a brew of water, their gas ran out.

Day 4

The next day they could see that they’d managed to get down the worst part of the ridge and Simon thought they’d get down the rest of the mountain that day. He thought the whole climb was “in the bag” (if something is ‘in the bag’ it means you’re certain to achieve it, you’re definitely going to get it.)

Simon thought it was in the bag. He was wrong.

Joe was climbing in the front, before Simon. He reached a vertical wall, a fall in front of him, so he started to lower himself off it.

The method of lowering yourself down an ice wall, using pick axes and spikes on your feet.
Joe swung his pick into the ice, and it made a strange sound, so he decided to take it out and place it in again.

He was about to swing again, and the whole piece of ice he was attached to with his left hand just came off like a pancake, so he fell through the air.

And he landed hard, on his leg.

It broke, really badly. Not just a fracture.

Pain flew up his thigh from his knee. Incredibly painful.

I’ve never broken my leg and I hope I never do because I’m sure it’s horrible.
I have injured myself before. Of course, I’ve cut my fingers on knives etc. When you do injure yourself there is a shock, especially a kind of shock where you think it could be serious. That kind of shock lasts a few moments, when you don’t just feel pain but you feel a kind of panic, thinking “I’ve seriously hurt myself”. Most of the time that feeling goes away when you realise it’s not bad.

But if it is serious, you get this dreadful feeling that comes on. A truly dreadful feeling that comes from the realisation of just how difficult and inconvenient things are going to get. Not just the pain, but the fact that you now have this injury which is going to make everything so damn hard for you.

Now imagine that feeling when you’re 6000 metres up the side of a freezing mountain in Peru with no water and no medical services anywhere near you.

I don’t know about you, but I would feel more than dread, I’d feel pretty hopeless. I imagine I would feel more than the pain and the inconvenience, there would also be all this emotion coming, like anger, tragedy, sadness.

Anyway, Joe at this point was mainly feeling the intense pain of a badly broken leg.

Here’s what happened, and this is really horrible, ok?

The impact of the fall caused his knee joint to actually split. The joint split and the bone from the lower leg went up through the knee joint, split the end of his femur (the thigh bone) and carried on up the leg.

Unimaginable really. All those ligaments completely ruined, the bone, cartilage, nerve endings, and of course the blood vessels broken by it.

The whole leg would have been unusable of course, and there was a lot of internal bleeding inside his leg.

Apparently he couldn’t cope with the pain at all at the beginning, but after breathing for a while he started to get a grip on it.

But he thought he was done for. He was still level with the peaks of some of the other mountains.

He tried to stand on the leg – impossible.
Simon eventually arrived, and he describes seeing Joe’s face – a complex mix of terror, pain and anguish.

Simon said “Are you ok” and Joe nearly said “I’m fine thanks” – because that’s what we say to that question, even if you’re not fine!

But he said “No I’ve broken my leg” and immediately Simon thought, “Oh god, we’re stuffed”
Now. What would you do if you were Simon and Joe here?

Let’s imagine you’re Joe.

You say, “mate, you’ve got to help me” or “Go ahead without me, I’m stuffed!” or “Don’t you dare leave me!”

Let’s say you’re Simon, what do you say here?
“Mate, don’t worry. We’ll get you down this mountain.”
“Look, you’re not going to make it. Do you have anything you want me to say to your parents?”
“Wait here, I’ll go and get help. I’ll come back for you I promise!”

Obviously, Joe is the one with the broken leg and the pain, but Simon also is in a difficult situation here because they’re partners.

According to Joe, Simon gave him some painkillers which did nothing, and they didn’t talk about it for a few moments because they both knew that Simon was going to have to leave Joe there, because they couldn’t get Joe down from the mountain without risking both their lives in the process.

Joe thought Simon would leave him there because there was no other choice.

Meanwhile, Richard, the third guy is sitting at base camp wondering what has happened to them, thinking that they both might be dead and that he’d find them at the bottom of the mountain because they’d just fall all the way to the bottom! There wasn’t really anything Richard could do because they were many many miles away from civilisation. There was no ambulance service to call. No mobile phones in the 80s. He just had to wait and see.

Back on the mountain, Simon pulled himself together to think about how he was going to get Joe down the mountain.

He decided to try and save him and had to come up with a practical solution.

The plan was, he’d just lower Joe down the mountain on a rope. Just slide him down.

He tied two 150ft ropes (there are about 3.3 feet per metre) together, with a knot in the middle and Simon was attached to one end, and Joe on the other.

Slide Joe down, letting the rope through the belay device. When the knot got to the belay device, stop letting Joe slide. Joe would stand up to take the weight off the rope. Simon would then unattach the rope from the device, let the knot through, then reattach the rope and then let it continue for the rest of the 150feet.

Then when Joe was at the end of the rope, Simon would downclimb to join him.

They continued like this for quite a long time, repeating the process. Letting Joe slide down, then letting the knot through the rope, letting Joe slide down further, then Simon climbing down.

Simon was letting Joe slide down quite quickly, conscious of the time running out and the fact they needed to get down to the bottom as quickly as possible.
It must have been excruciating for Joe.

But there were still these interpersonal things going on.

Apparently Joe kept wondering if Simon was pissed off.

These are the things you think about when you’re with a friend, doing something. Is he pissed off? Does he mind? Apparently Joe was wondering if Simon was annoyed by it all.
But I think Simon was also suffering from shock and panic too, and to an extent he held a lot of responsibility now for both of them, because Joe was out of action. It was basically a single-handed mountain rescue by Simon, in extremely difficult conditions.
It must have been a desperate desperate feeling for both of them.

What they didn’t know at the time though, was that this was just the start and that it would get a lot worse, and that something awful was approaching that they had no idea about.
They continued going down the mountain in this fashion – Joe badly injured, in shock and losing blood into his leg, both of them exhausted, both dehydrated at altitude and close to hypothermia.

A race against time.

The weather turned bad again, and within an hour or two they were descending in a full storm, with wind chill factor of something like -80 degrees.

They couldn’t dig a cave and rehydrate because they’d run out of gas. There was nothing they could do. Apparently at this point they lost control and started panicking, flying down this mountain in this desperate fashion.

As they made some good progress, albeit in such awful conditions, Simon started feeling a sense of hope because he could see that they were virtually down. Almost down at the bottom.

Things were looking up.

I say “reach the bottom” – in reality there were lots of different sections and terrains between the summit and the camp. From top to bottom it was like this:
Peak
Ridge
Face
Less-steep part of the face (approach to the face)
Glacier (like a huge river of ice that flows from the top of the mountain range down to the river bed at the foot of the mountain – slowly moving down, carving out the valley as it goes, crushing rock underneath it) – full of crevasses (massive cracks in the glacier with drops that went down all the way to the floor – to the river bed of the glacier)
The bottom of the glacier – full of huge boulders and stones, with water trickling deep underneath them.
A long section of this rocky terrain.
The base camp next to a glacial pool.

God knows how far from civilisation this base camp was.

Anyway, they were nearly down the mountain face, approaching the glacier. For Simon, he could see a glimmer of hope.

Until suddenly, Joe slipped off a cliff.

Neither of them realised it was coming, but Joe suddenly felt the ground under him get icier and more and more steep, and he started slipping faster and faster – going like a rollercoaster downwards, screaming at Simon to stop, but Simon couldn’t hear him and had no idea it was happening, just assuming that Joe was going faster over some steeper ground..
And then -whoosh, Joe slipped right off the edge of a cliff and was left dangling in the air, right above a massive crevasse – a huge crack in the mountain that went straight down into pure darkness. Joe was dangling over a huge abyss. About 80 feet between him and the opening of the crevasse.

Describe the problem from Joe’s point of view.

He gave up hope and would have died as hypothermia began to set in.

From Simon’s point of view.

Simon’s decision. What would you have done?

What Simon did.

Night fell – Simon dug a snow cave.

Meanwhile, Joe wasn’t dead. He survived the fall and had landed on a ledge in the crevasse, not far from the top.

Day 5

Follow Simon as he goes down.

He was suffering from shock and was also in a serious condition with dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion. He was also seriously traumatised by what had happened. Apparently he said he was convinced that he was going to die too.

But what about Joe?

Attached himself to the ice wall of the glacier.

Called for Simon.

Pulled the rope.

Saw it had been cut.

Impossible to get out – broken leg, overhangs. Ice.

Joe lost it.

He came face to face with his own death.

He didn’t have a religious moment. He knew nobody was coming to save him. There was no god, just the abyss. It filled him with fear.

Imagine the worst darkness. Fear of the dark – it’s primal.

He was also extremely angry and felt like this was not the end of his life.

Joe’s bravery and refusal to give up.

One of the most impressive moments that has stuck with me.
“You’ve got to keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions, you know. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.”

Joe could have stayed on the ledge. He could have given up.
He chose to keep making decisions. He chose to keep moving forwards.
It just shows that you must not let things happen to you. Don’t just let yourself be carried away by events. Don’t stop making decisions and let yourself be carried away.
Even if you feel hopeless, like all options are screwed and that you’ll fail no matter what happens. Don’t stop making decisions.
You have to continue and keep going.
Like the famous quote, often attributed to Churchill – “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”
Don’t give up when things are hard and hellish. Keep going.
Don’t just stop and let things happen to you, especially when you’re in hell.
That’s no time to stop! You’re in hell. Keep moving! You’ll get out.
Joe decided he’d use the remaining rope he had to lower himself into the crevasse and possibly reach the bottom.

Bottom.
Crawled along.
Horrible sound – imagine the fear.
A spot of light. Hope.
The incredible joy of the light and emerging, born again.
But out of the frying pan into the fire.
This was still just the beginning of his challenge.
He started following Simon’s tracks.
Night fell. He crawled in the dark until he couldn’t go further and managed to create a snow cave.

Day 6

Simon’s tracks had gone.
He could see the massive challenge ahead of him. He nearly gave up when he realised how far he had to go. The challenge overwhelmed him almost completely.

He was presented with this massive maze near the bottom of the glacier, where it was full of crevasses, creating all these little pathways with huge holes down the sides. Joe had to shuffle through all of this.

He got to the rocks at the edge.
Much harder terrain.

Created a splint using his sleeping mat. Discarded his other gear.

Horrendous experience of trying to get through the boulders and through the rocks. Hopping, falling onto the rocks, getting up, continue. Falling virtually every hop, like breaking his leg again every time.

Just 25 yards but it took so long and with so much pain.

But he describes himself as insanely stubborn at times (spell it correctly this time!)
This worked to his advantage because he was determined not to be beaten. He wanted to have it his way.

This is where the second most impressive part came.

He broke up the challenge into bits. He said – right, I’ll get to that rock in 20 minutes. Everything became about getting to the next rock in 20 mins, then the next 20 minute challenge and so on.
He became obsessed with these targets. If he got to the rock in 18 minutes he’d be over the moon, ecstatic. If he made it in 22 minutes he’d be furious with himself.

This is another thing we can learn about achieving something big. It’s true – trying to achieve one huge thing can seem impossible. You might look at the whole challenge and think, “oh my god, there’s no way I can do that, it’s too big”. But the key to it is to set a series of small goals and just try to reach that, then another small goal. Break it down into little chunks and you will be able to do it. Looking at the whole challenge doesn’t help. It dwarfs you.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – it’s like something my Dad said to me about how to eat an elephant (that sounds weird because you might think – why are you trying to eat an elephant? But it’s just a metaphor that my Dad said to me once).

The thing about my Dad is that he often tends to be right about things. It’s quite annoying when you’re having a discussion or debate because he always somehow ends up being right, but it’s also great because I have learned some pearls of wisdom from him. I don’t know where he got this one from himself, maybe his Dad.

Anyway, when I was a child I think I was talking about how I was finding a school project difficult – I think we were even walking in the garden, but that sounds like it’s too good to be true – walking in the garden with my Dad and he gives me a piece of wisdom, like something out of a Hollywood movie or something. Tell me father, how can I train in the force and become a jedi? Etc.

Anyway, I said “I can’t do my history project Dad…” and he dropped some wisdom on me, saying “How do you eat an elephant?”

The point is this:
Seeing the challenge as one whole thing can destroy your motivation, but step by step, bit by bit – that’s how you get a big thing done. And don’t give up.
Also, you just have to have drive – you have to be stubborn, you have to be motivated. Listen to that army captain you have in your head and obey him!

Joe says that at times he felt like there were two voices in his head. One saying, “let’s rest here in the sun it’s nice” and another part of him which was completely unsympathetic, saying “No, you’ve got to get to that rock. Now get up and go!”

We all have that inside us. That cold, pragmatic voice, which seems frightening or something, but we just have to listen to it sometimes, just to get things done.

Obviously Joe was in seriously bad physical condition at this point. Exhaustion, the badly broken leg, internal bleeding, shock, frostbite, hunger, injuries from his falls.
But also he started falling apart mentally too.
That feeling of there being several voices in his head or several parts of his mind got stronger and stronger – with one part being this cold pragmatic feeling of just relentlessly getting to the next point and the next after that, and the other part of him was just almost disconnected as his mind wandered away from what was happening as if he was observing it all from a distance. It must have been seriously strange and disturbing.

Sound of water driving him mad.

Night fell and he lay on the rock staring up at the stars and his consciousness became quite unhinged, having psychedelic out-of-body experiences. He says he felt like he was becoming part of the rocks and part of the mountain itself, and he lost all sense of time, feeling that he had lain there for centuries.

Day 7 – Joe still isn’t dead!

Meanwhile, Simon and Richard are preparing to leave the next morning.

Joe finds water.
Peeing himself, enjoying the sensation.
Feeling totally robbed of his dignity.
Realises he could make it.
But hit hard by the realisation that Simon and Richard might have gone.

The delusions – thinking that Simon and Richard were, for some reason, following behind him but choosing not to come and help him because they didn’t want to embarrass him.
Then realising that they weren’t there and feeling utterly hopeless and alone and distraught.
Considered just getting in his sleeping bag. But felt it was too pathetic.

Sun went down and he completely lost it. He couldn’t hold his mind together any more.

Confusion and madness. He tried to look at his watch but couldn’t work out what time it was.
The worst thing – he got a song caught in his head. Boney M – Brown Girl in the Ring. It went on and on for hours.

You know when you can’t sleep and you get a song caught in your head, really vividly. Imagine that but 1000x worse.
Like being trapped in hell.
It really upset him because he really wanted to think of other things but he couldn’t because of the song.
“Bloody hell I’m going to die to Boney M”

He would drift off, then wake up thinking he was in a pub car park drunk, he kept losing it. Totally delirious.

He woke up (or became conscious) because of a strong smell – it acted like smelling salts.
He’d crawled into the toilet area of the camp site.
After all that – he ends up crawling through their own shit at the end.
But it gave him hope that Simon and Richard might still be there. He had reached the camp. He called out to Simon, but got no reply.
That was the end for Joe.
This is when he finally knew he was finished.
He described how he lost himself completely at that moment. Ego death.

Simon and Richard were still in their tents, ready to leave the next morning. Apparently, Richard woke up because he thought he heard something.
Imagine you’re in the tent. This is about 4 days after Simon got back. They both thought Joe was dead.

Imagine you’re in the tent, feeling terrible, ready to leave the next day. Darkness.
The wind, blowing across the fabric of the tent. The shadow of the mountains in the background, with the knowledge that the body of your friend is still up there.
You wake up and you freeze because you’re sure you’ve just heard something.

There it is again, but it can’t be true. It sounded like a voice on the wind.
Apparently Richard waited, listening, and heard it again, and it really scared him because he wasn’t sure if it was real, or he was imagining it, or if it was a ghost.
He decided to check on Simon and discovered that he was already up – Simon had heard it too and was convinced it was Joe.

They searched for him shouting his name and found him on the ground a few minutes from the camp site.

What they found was the body of Joe, like a ghost or some kind of monster.
Joe was in such bad condition, covered in earth, crap, frostbite and sunburned, thin, starving, dehydrated and nearly dead.

They carried him to the camp and began the process of trying to rebuild his strength.
That’s where the story ends. We know that eventually Joe was brought down to a nearby civilisation where he received medical attention.

The challenge was not over there of course. I understand that he received some poor medical help in the basic hospital he ended up in, had to be flown back to the UK and his leg had to be amputated.

About the decision to cut the rope.

Joe has always defended Simon’s decision, saying that he would have done the same thing.
I can’t really understand why anyone would have a problem with what Simon did. Why should they both have died? It doesn’t make sense.

In fact, when you think about it, by cutting the rope, Simon saved Joe’s life, or helped to save him.

If Simon hadn’t cut the rope, they both would have fallen and it’s likely that one of them would have died. Let’s say that Joe would have landed on the ledge like before. Simon would probably have died. It’s unlikely that he would have landed on a ledge too. He probably would have fallen into the crevasse, dragging Joe in too. They both would have died.

Anyway what do you think?

Again, I urge you to watch the documentary film on Netflix, on DVD or on what other platform you can find.

Also, consider reading the book, or Joe Simpson’s other books – because apparently he had even more near death experiences on mountains too!

Let me also leave you with this

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.
  • How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. How do you get down a mountain? One step at a time too! Or you slide, or you drag yourself, or you hop. But you break down the challenge into achievable steps.
  • Nobody even broke their leg learning English – so, enjoy your studies and seize the day!

Thanks for listening.

What happened next?

Returning to Siula Grande

 

440. This Pile of Books on my Desk

In this episode I just want to talk to you about this pile of 16 books I have on my desk. These are (mostly) books I haven’t read yet but which I picked up recently. I have lots of piles of books like this lying around and I must read them all but I can’t find the time! Anyway, I think they’re really interesting. I either received them as presents, was recommended them by friends and family or I bought them for myself when visiting book shops over the last year or two. I love books, and browsing bookshops is one of my favourite things. If only I was a faster reader!

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Part of the reason I’m doing this is because I just want to encourage you to read more and I would like to arouse your interest in books. Perhaps I can give you some encouragement to read a copy of one of these books, or perhaps this will encourage you to pick up a book (in English) from the pile of books that you probably have in your home too, and start reading it.

In any case, I hope you join me on this little exploration through this pile of books I have on my desk.

Here’s the list of books I talk about in this episode (also in the picture)

The Xenephobe’s Guide to The English, The French, The Japanese
The British Empire: A Very Short Introduction by Ashley Jackson
:59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman
William Shakespeare: A Very Short Introduction by Stanley Wells
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Mo Meta Blues by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
The Call of the Cthulu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Sartori in Paris by Jack Kerouac
David Bowie: The Last Interview Various journalists and publications
The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy: You Must Unleard What You Have Learned
Terminator and Philosophy: I’ll Be Back Therefore I Am
The Girls by Emma Cline
The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes graphic novel)

books

439. Reading Books to Learn English

Here’s an episode for you to listen to while I’m on holiday. I’m recording this the day before I go to Japan. So by the time you’re listening to this I’ll be on the other side of the world, trying to remember how to speak Japanese.

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Introduction

This episode is all about reading books in English. I probably won’t upload another episode for a week or two. That little break will give my listeners a chance to catch up on the recent episodes. Also, there are loads of episodes in the archive that you might not have heard yet and you might want to listen to if you are suffering from LEPaholism and you can’t get enough.

Every episode of LEP is available in the archive on my website, even if you can’t see them all on iTunes. They’re all still here. Just go to teacherluke.co.uk and click “Episodes”.

Just before we get started let me just remind you of several things:

  • Please vote for Luke’s English Podcast in the British Podcast Awards. I need every single one of you to vote. If you are next to a computer or you have your phone just go to www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote and vote for LEP.
  • If you’re in Toyko on 13 April, come to Gamuso in Asagaya for my comedy show. I will be performing comedy there with a few other people. It’s free to get in. Doors open at 7. I expect the comedy will start at 8. No idea if it will be busy. You can’t book in advance, so just turn up and get a seat!

Books

This episode is all about books. I’m going to recommend some self-study books for learning English, talk about the value of reading books in English and then go through some of the books which I have in a pile on my desk and talk to you about them – just to inspire you to do some more reading this year, in English of course!

Hi Luke! My name’s Matias, I’m from Uruguay, South America. Also, I’m a British English lover haha. I’ve been studying the language on my own for 7 or 8 years maybe, and English culture as well.
I found your podcasts just a few months ago and you gave me a whole new perspective on the language and I really appreciate that.
I emailed you because I want you to recommend some self-study books. I’m already using English Grammar In Use and doing exercises almost every day. What other books could I use?
Thank you a lot for all of your work. Have a great day!

Some self-study books for pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar

You’ll find the names and authors of all these books on the page for this episode on my website.

Pronunciation
Ship or Sheep by Anne Baker (minimal pairs) CUP
English Pronunciation In Use series – CUP
Work on your Accent by Helen Ashton (Collins )
Sound Foundations by Adrian Underhill (Macmillan) – for the teachers

Vocabulary
The ‘In Use’ series is good – English Vocabulary in Use
They also have Professional English In Use – different titles.
Practical Everyday English by Steven Collins
Also Advanced Everyday English and High Level Everyday English

Grammar
Grammar for Business by McCarthy, McCarthy, Clarke & Clarke
Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (reference book)
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy

Writing
Email English by Paul Emmerson

The value of reading books

I did an episode all about this a couple of years ago – you should listen to it. It includes a list of recommended books. Check it out here teacherluke.co.uk/2015/02/01/reading-books-in-english/

There’s also a reading list on my website which includes every single book I’ve recommended or mentioned on the podcast. Check it out here teacherluke.co.uk/useful-websites/the-uks-favourite-books/

  • Practice practice practice practice practice practice practice
  • You can go at your own pace
  • It’s seriously relaxing – certainly compared to staring at a screen. Try reading for 15 minutes before sleeping, it’s very good for you. Also you can take a book anywhere.
  • Vocabulary and grammar development
    Perhaps the best way to work on your grammar and vocabulary is to see it being used in context. Reading gives you access to the living language. Simply interacting with it by reading it is a great way to learn it. You can practise being mindful while you read, which is a question of noticing features of the language as you see it. This can be more efficient than reading grammar explanations.
  • Often the most useful parts of grammar study are the examples where they highlight certain bits of usage. Grammar is often unsatisfying because ultimately there aren’t always logical reasons why the language is the way it is.
  • Stop looking for explanations and just accept it. Let the language flow through you and get to know it. Don’t expect it to follow the same rules as your language or to be logical.
  • Grammar books are great for reference and self study. So, if you notice a pattern or a feature of the language you don’t understand – you can check it out in the grammar book, like “Practical English Usage”. The same goes for vocabulary and a dictionary. But by interacting with the written word you will find that the grammar goes in as a consequence.
  • Exposure = developing your instinct for the language. Reading an entire book is very good for your grammar. Imagine all those sentences that pass before your eyes and go through your brain. It’s a great way to study structure without even studying it really.
  • The importance of visualising the written word
    A word exists in many different dimensions – the way it sounds, the way it feels when you say it, all the meaning associations you have with it, the way it looks and the way it feels to write it by hand or on a computer. You should get to know every single side of a word and that means reading a lot in order to fix the visual side in your mind.
  • Educational value
    Learning about the culture of the language you’re learning is vital. It helps you get into the mindset of the language so you can get a sense of the rhythm, but also the humour and how certain things are suggested, hinted at, referred to and so on. Also you just learn some information that will help you. It’s not just a question of learning the words, but learning the whole culture within which those words exist.
  • Books can be a great way into a culture.

How to choose the right book for you

  • Not too old (think of the style of language – although old fashioned English is rather beautiful – watch out, anything written before about 1800 is going to sound pretty outdated and might be difficult to follow.
  • Not too long – obvs, you want to finish it
  • Something you’ve already read in your own language
  • Something that just appeals to you – it’s vital that you like the book, so go with your gut.
  • Something with fairly ‘normal’ English e.g. beware of something like The Martian – it contains loads of technical language – but then again it’s also quite a riveting page turner. But be aware of the type of English you’ll be getting.
  • Go for page turners – remember, your objective is to read as much as possible and to get the satisfaction and motivation of having finished the book. Don’t be afraid to read some trash. It doesn’t have to be the most high-class book.
  • Consider graded readers, like the Penguin Reader series – and choose the advanced level books. They’re shorter, easier versions of brilliant novels in English. There are various versions of readers – but check out readers.english.com/readers for more info.
  • Consider reading graphic novels. They’re easier to read and the visuals help to move the story along. It’s a bit like watching a movie but with all the advantages of a book.

How to learn English from reading books

Study
You read with a notebook and dictionary with you. When you come across a new word you check it and make a note of it. Remember to write more than the translation. Write an example sentence and a mnemonic if possible. You could highlight the word in the book too and come back to it later.

Enjoyment
Don’t bother checking words all the time. Just read the book because you’re interested in the story. Focus on getting through the story because you want to know what happens next. You will naturally start picking up new words as you encounter them. But try to be mindful when you read – every now and then you can just slow down a bit and focus on some language. Perhaps read a quick passage again and think about the grammar you can see. Why is it written that way? What kind of grammar is it? What’s the effect of writing it like that? What about these words? Do you know them? Could you use them yourself for something in your own life? Ask yourself these questions and then continue. Feel good when you’ve finished the book. Take time to reflect on it. Think in your head, speak aloud, talk to your language partner or write in a diary your thoughts about the book. Move onto the next one!

Next episode: This pile of books I have on my desk

Your comments: What books in English can you recommend?

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Listen to the conclusion of this mystery story in which Amber, Paul and I attempt to solve a series of kidnappings in Victorian London.

[DOWNLOAD]
Welcome back to the this double episode in which Amber, Paul and I are working our way through an online text adventure game. The game is set in London in the Victorian era. We are playing the part of a brilliant detective with a particular set of skills who, with his partner Mardler, is trying to track down and rescue 4 kidnapped girls while also bringing the kidnapper to justice.

This is part 2. We’re halfway through the story. If you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, I suggest you do so. It’s episode number 425.

Thanks to Peter Carlson, who wrote the story. Peter gave me the go-ahead to record us reading it out on the podcast. Nice on Peter, thank you.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

You can find the link to the game on the page for this episode (link above) where you read all of the text that we are reading. So you can either just enjoy listening to us going through the story now, or you can listen now and read the story yourself later, or you can listen to us and read the story at the same time. It’s worth checking the text in the story because you’ll be able to read all the words and check certain things that you might miss, like spellings, definitions of certain language etc.

Whatever you choose to do, try to watch out for descriptive vocabulary (particularly verbs for different types of movement), the language we use while working together as a group and also the language we use when making deductions and speculating about the case (things like “might have” “could have” “must have” and so on).

As I said before, the story does contain some descriptions of violence so if you’re very sensitive to the gory details, then be warned, although it’s not that graphic in my opinion and you expect a bit of blood in a detective story, don’t you?

What’s the story so far?

Let’s recap again quickly.

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper in the form of a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

We were called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe had disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we worked out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They had planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduced that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we discovered that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a strange, creepy yet huge and strong man with an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

4 young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all have similar coloured hair – they all have light hair. Then we start receiving notes from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap, written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin – but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us (I blame Amber). It turns out she’s not at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that he must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place – the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

Let’s find out.

*** The story continues ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** The story ends ***

Here’s a recap of the story, just to make sure you got it.

Part 2 of Victorian Detective – Explained

So, after making a mistake and searching the cemetery for Chloe Worthington, we went to the hospital to track down Mr Burlap the kidnapper, who we suspected was Cade Brewer the weird, big guy from the mortuary. There we find the body of one of the other girls, Amy Anderson, but unfortunately it was too late! We’d wasted too much time at the cemetery and the girl had already died from ingesting poisonous mushrooms. Next to Amy’s body we found a smiley face (the kidnapper’s calling card) and a scratched note from Mr Burlap indicating that another one of the girls was being held somewhere else and that we had a limited amount of time to find her. We then deduced that she was being kept near the Thames river. We went there and discovered another one of the missing girls tied up next to the water. Mr Burlap’s plan was that because the Thames is tidal, the tide would eventually come in and the water level would rise, drowning the girl. Thankfully we managed to rescue her in time. We suspected the Italian uncle of the paperboy from part 1 of the story to be the killer, because Mr Burlap wrote “Good luck” in Italian at the end of the note. Closer inspection of Chloe Worthington’s house revealed that it wasn’t the Italian uncle, and that in fact Cade Brewer had been spying on Chloe and Joseph (the Italian paperboy) and that’s how he knew about the Italian phrase, which he wrote in the note as a distraction. We then worked out that Cade Brewer, who must be Mr Burlap was probably hiding in a forest just outside London – Epping Forest. We went there to investigate, and eventually found a small wooden house where we came face to face with Cade Brewer. There was a bit of a fight at the entrance to the wooden house, Mardler got hit in the face with a shovel, we dropped our gun and Cade Brewer escaped. We then picked up Mardler’s gun and investigated the house, which was full of bear pelts, bear traps and loads of carved smiley faces all over the walls – clearly Cade Brewer was Mr Burlap the kidnapper, and he’d been practising his smiley faces by scratching them everywhere in his house, like the way you practise your signature when you’re young, until you’re happy with it! We decided to chase after Brewer by going down a trapdoor which was hidden by a bear pelt on the floor. In the basement we discovered the 3rd girl, tied up, standing on a chair with a noose around her neck. For some reason we didn’t immediately rescue her from this perilous situation, and instead we chose to try and follow Brewer by shooting the lock on the back door of the basement  and opening it to discover a tunnel. We then didn’t look properly and got our leg caught in a bear trap, badly injuring ourselves. It didn’t make much of a difference to the outcome of the story but it must have stung a bit! Then, with the help of Mardler and some police officers we cut down the other girl, rescuing her (2/3 at this point).

Then the point of view changed and we followed the story from Cade Brewer’s perspective. Playing as Brewer was a disturbing experience because he was obviously suffering from extreme side effects because of the Opiax painkillers he’d been taking. In fact the painkillers had driven him mad and he’d turned into a psycho, completely obsessed with a nurse who had cared for him at the hospital where he’d been a patient with an injured leg. With his mind twisted by the effects of the opiax, he’d killed the nurse. Brewer’s mental illness, caused by the side effects of the painkiller, came in the form of the voice of Mr Burlap, who convinced him to kidnap the other girls and kill them as part of some kind of natural cycle, which he had to complete. Poor Cade Brewer was completely overcome by the influence of Mr Burlap, all because of the effects of this untested drug that he’d been given at the hospital. His next step was to kill not only Chloe Worthington, but also the detectives on his trail – that’s us!

Then we returned to the point of view of the detectives who had somehow worked out that Chloe Worthington was being kept back at the mortuary, and there we discovered her, only to be locked inside by Cade Brewer/Mr Burlap who proceeded to try and burn down the building as the conclusion of his natural cycle – having killed the other girls with earth, water, air and now fire. Thankfully we managed to use our articulate communication skills to trick Brewer into opening the door of the mortuary, where we chose to mercilessly shoot him dead without asking further questions (notice that Amber was the one who chose to do that straight away, immediately saying “shoot the fucker!”)

We escaped from the burning building with Chloe Worthington. But tragically we didn’t get 100% success because we let Amy Anderson die in the hospital due to our poor deductive reasoning at the cemetery.

That’s the end.

Let us know your thoughts

As ever, I’m curious to know what you think.

  • Would you have made the same choices we did?
  • Did you manage to work out what was going on?
  • Do you have any language-related questions or comments?

Let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section.

Other episodes like this

You could try these episodes if you haven’t already heard them.

Thanks for listening!

Luke
Foggy forest house

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

Listen to Amber, Paul and me as we attempt to solve a series of mysterious kidnappings in Victorian London.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here’s a new episode, you’re actually listening to it. It’s really happening and here is my introduction. This was a very fun episode to record and I hope it’s going to be a fun episode to listen to. It’s going to be a two-part episode and this is part 1 and here is the introduction.

Amber & Paul are back on the podcast in this episode, and this time we’re going to play a game in which we imagine that we are detectives trying to solve a mysterious series of kidnappings in Victorian London and you’re going to join us.

In the recording that you’re going to hear, the three of us are reading through an online text adventure game – one of those games where you read part of a story and then make a decision which affects the way the story continues. I have done this on the podcast before. It’s always a fun thing to do so let’s do it again. And the cool thing about this is that the entire text is available online for you to read too. It’s all there if you want to read it, just visit the page for this episode and you can see the link to the game.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

Click that link (or just go to textadventures.co.uk and find the story called Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson) and if you check out the text for this story you can then not only listen to this episode but also play the game and read all of the text too.

This opens up lots of possibilities for using this episode to improve your English.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. You just listen to this. Maybe you’re doing the ironing or something. Just listen to us going through the story, try to follow it all, follow our choices and try to enjoy it as an entertaining detective story even if there are some bits that you don’t quite understand. You will hear the entire story from start to finish in this episode and the next one. So, just listen and enjoy it!
  2. After you listen (like when you get home or whenever you’re in front of a computer) play the text adventure game yourself. That way you’ll get lots of reading done and it’ll be a bit easier to follow the story because you will have already heard us reading through it, it will reinforce the things you heard in this episode, and it’ll allow you to check out words that you didn’t catch by using an online dictionary and so on. Also, as you play the game you can make different choices if you want and you can experience a completely different story.
  3. You listen and read at the same time, following everything we do, clicking on the same things as us, making the same choices and effectively just reading along with us. You can pause the episode whenever you want if you want to use online dictionaries to check the meanings of any words.

So, there are some options – just listen, or listen then read, or listen and read at the same time.

There’s a bit of graphic violence in this story (blood and stuff…)

Another thing you should know is that this is a crime story and it involves some descriptions of violence and a few gory details. It’s no worse than an episode of a crime thriller on TV or something like that, but there are some descriptions of violence involving blood and mortal danger, so if you’re a bit squeamish, then I suggest that you have a bottle of brandy nearby so you can revive yourself in the typical 19th century fashion, or take a few deep breaths or have a cup of tea to calm your nerves if necessary.

I understand that this episode might be a little difficult to follow

Or maybe not – you might have no problem following it all, but I have a feeling it will be a bit trickier because the three of us get quite animated and excited at times and we speak rather quickly, interrupting each other and talking over each other sometimes, but as we’ve established before on this podcast, that’s actually quite good practice for your listening skills – being able to follow a group conversation. There are many situations like that you could face in the future – imagine for example a business meeting involving you and three other people and everyone’s enthusiastically taking part, sharing ideas, working together quickly to make decisions. It’s good to listen to that sort of thing, rather than just always listening to one person giving a monologue or just two people discussing something. In episodes like this you can get used to hearing multiple voices discussing things and making decisions together.

Try to notice specific language – decision making, verbs of movement and modal verbs for speculation and deduction

From a language point of view, I want you to watch out for this type of language:

Try to notice language for making decisions. Listen out for the ways we ask each other for opinions on each decision, the ways we agree or disagree, the ways we speed things up or slow things down, the way we clarify meaning and the way we summarise or recap information. These things are often done very quickly, yet they’re important practical bits of English for team work.

The story has some moments of action, and so there’s a variety of verbs used to describe different types of movement. Watch out for them and remember to read the text to help you.

Watch out for the language of speculation and deduction. Since we are working together to analyse evidence in order to work out what’s going on, there’s a lot of language of speculation and deduction. So that includes simple ways like, like just putting maybe or perhaps at the beginning of the sentence. For example, “Perhaps she ran away” or “Maybe she was kidnapped”, but also more complex ways using modal verbs to speculate about the past. For example, when you’re talking about possibilities with might or could: “She could have run away” or “She might have been kidnapped” or when you’re certain that something happened by using must, e.g. “She must have escaped through the window” (in the past) and “He must be at the hotel” (in the present), and using ‘can’t’ to talk about something that’s not possible, e.g. “He can’t have escaped through the window, it’s not big enough” or “It can’t be the father!”. So watch out for might have, could have, must have, can’t have for deductions about the past, and watch out for the way we say those auxiliary verbs – “He must have gone through the window” – ‘have’ is hard to hear, but you know it’s there because of the extra syllable and the fact it’s followed by a past participle. “He can’t have done it”.

OK, keep in mind that kind of language, and also the fact that you can read the text for this story too whenever you want, and you’ll see there is a lot to be gained from this episode in terms of English learning.

Just enjoy the story!

But also, I hope you just enjoy listening to the story and spending some more time in the company of Amber, Paul and me.

Alright, that’s enough of an introduction. Here we go!

*** The recording with Amber & Paul starts here ***

Hello Amber & Paul. How are you? … What’s the situation while we record this? … We’re sitting in front of the TV screen and we’re going to play a game.

A Detective Story with Deductive Reasoning

  • Have you read any detective stories, or watched Sherlock? (Paul has read the Goosebumps series, Amber has read loads of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie)
  • Are you any good at deductive reasoning? Are you good at working things out?

Deductive reasoning: Your deductive reasoning is your ability to recognise certain clues and then put them together to make correct judgements.

Let’s test your deductive reasoning with a quick riddle.

Riddle

Can you answer this cunning Sherlock-style riddle?

There are three light switches in front of you. The light is in an upstairs room and you can’t see it. You are only allowed to take one trip up to the room. How do you work out which switch controls the light?

Answer:

1.Turn two of the switches on, say switch A and switch B.  Leave them on for a few minutes.  Then turn switch B off.  Run upstairs into the room.  If the light is on, switch A controls the light.  If it is off, feel the bulb.  If it is still warm, then switch B controls the light; if it is not warm, then switch C controls the light.  

Victorian Detective – Episodes 338 and 339

Last year I did a couple of episodes in which I read through an online text adventure called Victorian Detective on textadventures.co.uk . I read through the story, making decisions based on the evidence, trying to solve a murder mystery. The whole thing was written by a guy called Peter Carlson.

I didn’t ask permission from Peter before reading out the story on the podcast, although I did make a point of giving credit to Peter.

Then, the other day I got an email from Peter Carlson in my inbox. Ooh.

Here’s what it said.

Dear Luke,

I’m the author of the Victorian Detective game, which you read on podcast 338. You did a really good job! Thank you for picking my work to read.

Peter Carlson

I replied:

Hi Peter,

You’re the one who did the great job. Your story was excellent. I hope that it brought a bit more traffic to the site and that more people read your story.

Would you mind if I did Victorian Detective 2 on my podcast as well?

All the best,

Luke

Peter replied:

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the game.

 
That would be really great if you read Victorian Detective 2 as well.
 
Peter

I was very pleased to get this endorsement from Peter and he’s clearly quite happy for me to be reading through his stories on the podcast.

Victorian Detective 2

So, let’s do another detective story on the podcast. This one is called Victorian Detective 2 and this time I’m joined by Amber & Paul. Let’s see if we can put our heads together to solve the mystery in this story.

What we’ll do is read through the story as we play it. We can discuss and explain our decisions one by one. The listeners can follow the whole thing and they can even read along with it by going to textadventures.co.uk and finding Victorian Detective 2 – the link is on the page for this episode. That can help you check all the words, the spelling and so on and play the game yourself if you think we are making the wrong choices.

The link: textadventures.co.uk/games/view/rl6-r253x0aca-y-v_vnvw/victorian-detective-2

Remember, listeners, that we will be experiencing this story for the first time as we read it, so we have no idea what’s coming next or what happens at the end. In fact, I understand that there are multiple possible endings for this story.

The game will tell us if we’re making good or bad choices along the way. It counts a score as you go. E.g. if you make a good deduction it says “deductive reasoning success” or “deductive reasoning fail” and gives you a + or – score for each decision. And then at the end you get a score which explains what kind of detective you are. E.g. if you’re like Sherlock or you’re Shernot. 

OK let’s get started.

We should choose the name of our detective agency.

Thompson, Taylor & Minogue? or Taylor, Thompson & Minogue?

*** The story begins ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** End of Part 1 ***

That’s the end of part 1!

Have you managed to keep up with the story so far?

Here’s a brief summary of what has happened so far, just to make it clear.

The story so far

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. So far 3 girls have gone missing. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper. It’s a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

Taylor, Thompson & Minogue (all of us playing the part of one detective with a particular set of skills) are called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe has disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we work out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduce that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we work out that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a kind of creepy loner. Physically he’s huge and strong and he has an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is, so we can’t ask him any questions. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

Four young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all look quite similar – they all have light coloured hair. Then we receive a note from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap. The note is written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin, but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us. Obviously this is Amber’s fault – just listen back to it and you’ll see, but it also didn’t help when I clicked the wrong option at one point, losing us points and valuable time. Anyway, it turns out Chloe Worthington is not being kept at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that Mr Burlap must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place, in the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact the kidnapper Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

I suggest that you immediately check out part 2 (if it’s available) in order to continue this story and to find out if we discover the identity and motives of the kidnapper and how many of the missing girls we manage to rescue.

Thanks again to Peter Carlson. All credit goes to him for writing this exciting detective thriller. Remember you can check out textadventures.co.uk to play more of these games – and there are others written by Peter Carlson.

Any comments? Write something in the comment section below.

vicdec2

385. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 1)

This episode is about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. I’m talking about a very common phenomenon in English learning called the intermediate plateau. It usually happens at an intermediate level. I wonder if this applies to you? I would love to read your thoughts so please do write in the comment section.

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234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

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Mailing List, etc

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LEP Anecdote Comp is almost closed. It closes today. Any entries I get after midnight today (CET) won’t count, and remember you only have 5 minutes. I’ll upload an episode v soon about that to tell you what’s going to happen next, and you’ll be able to listen and vote for your favourites.

So now, let’s talk about the intermediate plateau and how to push your English to new levels even if you feel like your progress has stalled.

Transcription / improvisation

Breaking the Intermediate Plateau

What is the intermediate plateau?  Why does that happen and how can you get out of it? Generally, how do you keep making progress with your English?

People often get stuck at an intermediate level. They feel their English is not improving as fast as before. In fact it feels like you can’t progress further and your learning is blocked. It’s very frustrating.

This applies to moving from intermediate to a higher level, but much of it can be applied to making progress at a higher level too.

What is intermediate?

Moving from intermediate to advanced is a tricky phase and it often takes longer than moving from elementary to intermediate. It’s harder to make the distinction between intermediate and advanced than it is to make a distinction between intermediate and elementary.

CEFR B1 descriptions

  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

CEFR C1 descriptions

  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

How do you know if you’re at the intermediate plateau? How do you know if your learning is at a plateau in general (not just at intermediate level)?

We’re talking about 2 things – what your level is, and the progress you’re not making.

How do you know if you’re intermediate?

Take a test, use the criteria for the CEFR, consult your teacher. (See links to tests below)

ExamEnglish www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Dialang dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

How do you know if you’ve reached a plateau – probably at intermediate level?

You started with a low level of English and have made some effort to pull yourself up to a functional intermediate level. Perhaps you studied, maybe you have lived in an English speaking environment in which you were forced to learn the language.

You can basically express yourself and get by in most situations, but when you’re under stress or when it’s a new situation your English crumbles.

Or perhaps you have a jagged profile – you might be good at one area, but other areas are really weak. E.g. you might be good at reading and writing but your spoken English is a disaster. Or perhaps you’re great at oral communication but you can’t write full sentences, can’t spell etc.

You can talk, laugh and have fun in English when you’re with fellow non-native speakers, but as soon as you’re with a group of natives, you suddenly feel lost and don’t understand the humour.

If you really concentrate and focus you can watch a film or TV in English and understand most of it – especially with English subtitles, but if you go to the cinema full of native speakers and watch a comedy film or something you realise how little you understand because everyone else is laughing but you’re just sitting there. You assume that everyone’s a bit stupid or that they have no taste. In fact, you just don’t understand the jokes.

Why do people hit an intermediate plateau?

You can basically survive with an intermediate level of English. In fact, you can get by with about 3000 words whereas the average native speaker is able to use about 20,000. This is the difference between a basic operational intermediate level of English and a fully rounded vocabulary of a native speaker.

Suspected learning curve. You expect learning to be linear. When you start you learn rapidly, the curve is steep. When you have got through the early stages and you can basically express yourself and understand others. It’s harder to see progress. Your progress becomes more shallow and there’s less stress involved.

People expect the learning to continue in a straight line of progress, but they don’t realise that it goes up and down.

The actual learning curve is more like a bell, and it involves many ups and downs too.

The more of a language you learn, the less there is to learn. It’s a process of diminishing returns.

Comfort zone.

Goals and study habits are not well defined. Often the first goal is just to get out of that painful confusion you experience at the start. When you hit intermediate your goals need to be more achievable and specific. Then you need to match them with an organised study plan.

How to break through the intermediate plateau and continue making progress

There’s no magic formula or single way to do it. It comes down to attitude, time and practice.

The study methods you used to get to intermediate might need to change.

Merely ‘getting by’ in the language is not enough any more. You need to explore, push it further, test yourself and increase the challenge.

Follow just one subject in a lot of depth

You want to develop a more advanced level of vocabulary and grammar, especially the vocab but there is so much of it! How can you cover it all? Instead of just scraping the surface of a few topics, try going into loads of depth in just one or two topics.

Following a subject you’re fascinated in will take you down a rabbit hole of English and you will learn a great deal of more complex language on the way. It’s hard to learn all the English of everything, so focus on one specific thing and let that be your entry point to advanced English.

This means finding loads of information on this single topic you’re interested in – reading articles and books about it, finding podcasts and videos about it, video documentaries on youtube and so on. For example, right now I’m reading about The Beatles in French and it’s much better than just reading stuff I don’t care about and it keeps me interested.

Learn how to talk and write about your specialist subject too. Learning one thing in a lot of detail is more achievable than trying to learn the vocabulary of everything. You will learn tons of vocabulary about the subject but also you’ll learn the kind of English you need to construct and understand complex and in-depth ideas – so, not just technical terms but also complex sentences, grammatical forms and linking devices.

Challenge

One of the reasons you made so much progress before was that everything was a challenge. You met a lot of resistance. It was frustrating but you pushed through. Now there is less resistance but don’t stop pushing. Challenge yourself, push yourself out of your comfort zone, teach the language to someone else – or at least prepare yourself as if you’re going to teach, find your weaknesses and push them. Don’t give up. Jump in at the deep end and try to swim.

Habit

Honestly – how many of you are going to do all these things? Not many of you. You’ll probably listen and agree but not take action. Right there – that’s where the difference is between progress and not progress. Choose to do even a couple of these things and you’ll be on the right path. Just make a few little changes and do them regularly and it should become part of your habit. Build habits into your life.

Exposure

Exposure to some comprehensible input combined with some stuff on the verge of what you don’t understand. Some stuff that’s fairly easy to follow, and some stuff that’s hard to follow. So, that means listening to podcasts like this in which you understand quite a lot, but you’re also challenged sometimes, but it also means reading and listening to content designed for native speakers. Get an audiobook, get some real books, listen to BBC radio, subscribe to some podcasts for native speakers (listen for some recommendations soon).

236. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 1)

237. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 2)

Vocabulary & Mnemonics

Keep an organised notebook for vocabulary and use some mnemonic techniques. They’re proven to work again and again, but how many of us use them?

Listen to an old episode of my podcast called Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English.

Basically, the trick with remembering vocabulary is to a) link the new memory to an existing memory and b) make new memories visual, vivid and attached to a space that you know in the real world. This sounds a bit strange, but it’s proven to work. If you can attach a new word to an existing word somehow, perhaps with a very vivid picture in your mind perhaps connected to a space you know, like your house, then memories will stick like glue.

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

Part 2 coming soon…

mountain-climbing-768813_1280

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

Here is the concluding part of this detective story, which is based on a text adventure by Peter Carlson on www.textadventures.co.uk. In the first part you heard me playing an adventure game in which I have to analyse clues and choose the right options to continue a story and solve a murder. Before listening to this episode you should listen to part 1 of the story. Click here here to listen to part 1: teacherluke.co.uk/2016/03/31/338-a-murder-mystery-detective-story/ In this episode (part 2) you’ll hear the rest of the story, and if you don’t understand what’s going on – don’t worry, I’ll explain it at the end and you can read a summary of the story below. Enjoy!

[DOWNLOAD]

Click here to play the text adventure, “Victorian Detective” by Peter Carlson on textadventures.co.uk 

The Story – Explained

“Wait, wait, wait! I still don’t completely understand what happened in the story!”

OK, me neither. Let’s clarify.

Story summary (Vocabulary check: Do you know all the underlined words? Check them in a dictionary if you like – perhaps the Cambridge Online Dictionary)

  • First we investigate the scene of a murder. A man has been shot dead but it’s not just a random mugging. It appears to be deeper than that.
  • We work out the victim’s identity by investigating a smoke shop where he bought some Vietnamese tobacco. The owner of the smoke shop tells us the victim’s name, Mr Gaubert Bouvier, and gives us his address.
  • We visit the address and discover that it has been trashed. All the objects in the house have been thrown around. Someone else has been here, searching for something. Who? It was 2 Russian brothers. Why were they searching the place? I’m not sure…
  • We discover a hidden science lab where Bouvier was making bombs. It turns out Bouvier was a chemist who specialised in bomb production.
  • There’s some action when we discover plans for another bomb attack in a theatre.
  • We go to the theatre and it’s the first time we spot the Russians, but we don’t follow them. Again, we’ll come back to that.
  • We manage to prevent the bomb from exploding and then discover that the target of the bomb was a scientist called Sir Joseph Swan. He was planning to patent and sell a new invention called the electric lightbulb. The victim of a previous explosion was also a scientist, working on the lightbulb invention. So, apparently the murderer(s) are targeting the makers of these lightbulbs.
  • We investigate the whaling ship which we work out is moored in the docks. It was sailing off the coast of Belgium, but it turns now it’s moored in London again.
  • Investigation of the ship tells us the navigator of the ship was sending instructions to Bouvier the victim to make bombs.
  • We manage to track down the captain of the ship, who runs away from us. There’s a chase through the streets near the docks. During the chase we glimpse a man with a scar on the left side of his face, but it’s not important. We’re chasing the captain.
  • We catch the captain. Why was he running? Well, it’s not because he knew about the bomb attacks. It’s for another reason – probably because the ship is involved in some other criminal activity, maybe pirating or perhaps smuggling.
  • Anyway, the captain tells us the name of the navigator: Yorick Rozencrantz.
    This is obviously a fake name because it’s taken from two characters in the Shakespeare play Hamlet.
  • We decide to investigate those two Russian brothers. We work out that they must be carpenters working on a construction site near the river, so we go to investigate them.
  • After a fight with the Russians we learn that they were employed by the navigator/Shakespeare/Yorick to plant the bomb at the theatre and to trash Bouvier’s house. (I still don’t know why they trashed Bouvier’s house)
  • After a bit more deductive reasoning, we later discover that the secretive navigator/Shakespeare/Yorick guy is a former French soldier who was posted in Vietnam, where France had a colony. In fact, in Vietnam he met Mr Bouvier, the victim of the murder.
  • So, Bouvier and Shakespeare knew each other in Vietnam, and as a soldier Bouvier was an expert in explosives.
  • With the help of a friend who is an expert on military history, you work out that the Shakespeare character is actually called Renard Voclain. We see a photo of him, and see that he has a scar below his left eye.
  • Using our amazing photographic memory, or eidetic memory, we manage to remember where we saw this guy before. It turns out he was there during the chase with the captain, hiding in the crowd of Londoners.
  • Our amazing memory recall and deductive reasoning tell us that he must be living near the docks, where he keeps cats. We know this because we remember seeing cat hairs on his trousers, and some other clues.
  • We head to the docks and the presence of some cats leads us to the right house.
  • There we discover Renard Voclain, the navigator/Shakespeare character and master criminal behind both the killing of Bouvier and the bomb attacks.
  • We learn that Voclain was also trying to develop electric lightbulbs and was killing off his competitors in order to have a monopoly on the industry – not a bad idea considering the massive profits that could be made, although we know that crime doesn’t pay.
  • After a quick gunfight we manage to catch Voclain, arrest him and send him to Scotland Yard where he’ll be charged and tried in front of a judge in the proper manner.

Results – Am I a Good Detective?

I got pretty average results from my detective work. (Listen to hear me read out my results)
Do you think you can do better? Try playing the game for yourself here.
If you enjoyed it, you can check out other Victorian Detective stories too (I think there are two other ones by the same author) at textadventures.co.uk

What do you think?

Why did the two Russian brothers trash Bouvier’s house?
Did I miss any elements of the story?
Have you played Victorian Detective yourself yet? Did you get a different narrative?

I can’t wait to read your comments. :)

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

In this episode I’m going to read through an interactive text-based adventure story. The story takes place in Victorian-era London (19th century) and we’ll play the part of an expert detective who, like Sherlock Holmes, tries to solve a complex murder mystery. Follow me as I read through the story and attempt to solve the crime in the process. Can you understand the evidence and make the right decisions to solve the case? You can read the text-based adventure story and play the game yourself at textadventures.co.uk. The game is afoot!

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD] [PLAY ‘VICTORIAN DETECTIVE’ by PETER CARLSON on TEXTADVENTURES.CO.UK]

Hello, welcome back to LEP

This is a podcast for people learning English. My main aim in these episodes is to provide you with content that will help you to learn English through listening. Sometimes I teach you directly, and sometimes I just provide you with things that I think will engage your attention, keep you listening and as a result push your English to new levels.

This is one of those episodes in which I take you through a story

Sometimes when I do this I just improvise the stories while recording. At other times I read stories that I’ve written or which I know well. In this case I’m going to read through a story that I don’t know. I have no idea where the story is going and I don’t know the outcome. So, you and I will discover the story at the same time.

What’s the story we’re going to read?

It’s one of those text-based adventures. What’s a text-based adventure? Essentially these are “choose your own adventure” games that allow you to follow a story and make certain choices along the way. Your choices affect the direction of the story. Each choice you make has a consequence, and sometimes stories like these can have more than one outcome.

I’m playing this story online and I found it on a website called textadventures.co.uk

This is a site that presents lots of different text adventures. They’re created by users of the site, they’re all free and they’re very inventive and of good quality. There are mystery stories, horror stories, detective stories, sci-fi stories, and even stories based on real life situations. I really recommend that you visit this site because there are loads of free text adventures that you can play, and I think they are a fantastic way of improving your English.

How do text adventures work?

You read through a story, and at certain points you are given options. Choose an option and the story will go in a different direction. Sometimes you can click parts of the text to get more information that will help you make the right choice. Keep going through the story until the conclusion. This particular site is good just because of the high level of quality. The stories I’ve seen have been intelligently written. Clearly the writers of these stories have put a lot of time and enthusiasm into these stories. They’re rewarding and fun. For your English they could be great because firstly you’ll do lots of reading and that’s just great on its own, but also because it’s all text you can copy+paste any words you don’t know into an online dictionary and get definitions, or add the words to your word lists or flashcard apps or whatever. The main thing is, these stories are fun and engaging and that should make it easier and more rewarding to read, and the more you read the better – just like listening – the more you listen, the better and the more you read the better too.

In this episode I’ve chosen to do a murder mystery adventure story called simply “Victorian Detective”

This is because it ties in quite neatly with the theme of the last episode and because I love Victorian-era London, and of course this makes us think of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, this story is heavily influenced by Sherlock – the old Sherlock, not the new ones. Yes, we love Sherlock Holmes on this podcast, so let’s imagine we’re a Sherlock-style detective and go through the story together.

Your aim in this one is to simply follow the story, and think with me about choices that I have to make

As we progress through the story, we’ll have to think like a detective, make certain choices based on deductive reasoning and then attempt to solve the mystery at the heart of the story.

I hope to be able to complete this in one episode, but I don’t want it to go on forever, so I might divide it into two separate parts.

Now, I imagine that it might be a bit tricky to follow the story and understand everything

I expect this is going to be a little bit complex. I’d say this – if you don’t understand and you feel lost, here’s a strategy: First, keep listening. I always say this of course, but I think it’s good advice. Good learners of English are able to tolerate some level of confusion and keep going. In the end, if you have the patience and motivation to keep going, you might find it confusing in the short-term but in the long-term your English will benefit from it. To an extent, learning English is a bit like being a detective. Even when things are complex and don’t make any sense, you have to keep going, keep thinking and keep investigating, based on limited information. Keep going, don’t give up and you’ll find that things will eventually become clearer over time, as you slowly start to piece together things like grammatical rules, vocab that you don’t understand and so on. This is true for detective stories as well. There is always a period in the middle of a mystery story where all the events are strange and confusing, but everything comes together in the end. Sherlock Holmes solves the case, and explains how it happened. If you persevere, it will be clearer later.

Also, since I’m playing this detective story online – you can do it too – click here to play “Victorian Detective by Peter Carlson”

I strongly recommend that you find this text game and spend some time playing it. That way you can check words you don’t know, actually read the text that I’m reading to you and that will make this episode even more useful for your English. You could even choose to go through the text adventure with me while I’m playing it. Listen to the episode and follow the adventure at the same time. Or, just listen now and then play the game yourself later. If you’re inventive you can find lots of cool ways of improving your English with this episode.

The website again: textadventures.co.uk and this story is called “Victorian Detective”. In fact, the full title of the story is “Victorian Detective: The Shakespearean Bomber”  by Peter Carlson. All credit goes to Peter Carlson for writing this game. He’s done an excellent job, and again I urge you to visit the website where you can read this story, and many others. And by the way, I don’t work for text adventures.co.uk or anything – I just think it’s a great website and I want to credit them and Peter Carlson for the story that I’m essentially reading out in this episode.

So, let’s begin

Here is the link to the Victorian Detective story by Peter Carlson play.textadventures.co.uk/Play.aspx?id=w207ce4zekubenmwgss5pa

*STORY BEGINS*

To be continued in part 2!

Please leave your thoughts, comments and questions below.

vic murder

332. Olly Richards: English Polyglot – Top Advice and Strategies for Language Learning

This episode could make a huge difference to your English learning. So listen up and get ready for a motivational boost! Joining me on the podcast today is Olly Richards – a polyglot who speaks 8 languages. Olly has some very motivating and practical advice on how to learn languages as an adult. There’s so much to learn from Olly in this episode, so I really want you to pay attention and have a proper think about the ways in which you are learning English. (I really sound like a teacher, don’t I? – or your Dad or something – “Now pay attention! Sit up straight! Put that down! Stop fidgeting. Listen to the man! This is very important for your English in the future!)

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Being Committed to Language Learning

What I’ve personally taken away from this episode is the importance of making a commitment to yourself about your language learning. Commitment is really important for giving you the motivation to get things done, and to add language learning habits into your lifestyle. Commitment, motivation, habit, positivity – these are some of the vital elements for language learning. It’s also about being honest with yourself about what you’re doing to really push your learning forwards. It’s about taking responsibility for learning and finding your own little strategies for adding language learning into your daily routine. Olly is a living example of how it really is possible to learn languages as busy adults.

If you listen until the end of this episode you’ll hear me make a commitment to myself about my French, and it’s a good feeling because I really need to get a grip on that, because my French is not as good as I would like it to be – so you’ll hear Olly encourage me to make a commitment about my French, but also Olly and I invite you to make a commitment about your English too – even a small commitment, and write it in the comments section of this episode. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. But first, let me tell you a bit about Olly Richards.

Olly Richards – English Polyglot

Here are some things that people say about language learning.
People say English people are no good at learning languages, right?
Wrong.
They also say that to learn a language quickly you need to be a child.
Wrong too, apparently.
Another thing people say is that the best way to learn is by signing up to group classes in a language school.
Not necessarily.
Also, it’s often said that to learn a language properly you need to be living in the country where that language is spoken. But that might not be the case.
And, a lot of people say “I’m too busy to learn a language. I don’t have time, and I never meet any native speakers!”
Another thing people say is, “I’m just no good at languages. I think I’m language proof!”
Don’t say that to yourself! A lot of excuses and reasons why we find it difficult to learn English.

Keep listening. (because you’re probably listening to this, not just reading it – right?)

Olly is living proof that English people, just like any other nationality, are perfectly capable of learning a foreign language to a proficient level. In fact, Olly is a polyglot, which means he can speak lots of different languages. In fact, at the moment Olly can speak Spanish, French, Italian, Brazilian Portugese, Japanese, Cantonese and Arabic. Not bad for a guy from England – a country where most people just speak one language, and some people struggle even with just one language, especially after a few drinks.

So, what’s the story with Olly? Is he just a specially gifted person? Was he born with the ‘language gene’, or does he have the force or something? Does he have waaaaay more time in the day than anyone else? Did he go to some really brilliant language schools and follow the amazing methods of a language guru? Did he just learn these languages as a child by growing up in different countries?

The answer to all of these questions seems to be no. No, he isn’t, he wasn’t, he doesn’t, he didn’t. Olly says he doesn’t have a particular gift for language acquisition. He wasn’t born with a language gene. He doesn’t really like learning in a classroom environment so he didn’t just attend some great classes in other languages, and these days he has a busy schedule just like the rest of us, with his job and also the great work he does on his website IWillTeachYouALanguage.com. So it’s not like he’s got acres of spare time at his disposal. Also, Olly didn’t learn any of these languages as a child. They’ve all been learned during adulthood.

So, how has he done it? How has he learned lots of languages and how does he keep them all in his head? What are the techniques for effective language learning as an adult? And, what’s Olly like and what stories can he tell us?

That is essentially what you’re going to get in this episode. All those answers and more. You’ll also hear Olly give me a much needed motivational boost about my French. In fact, while talking to Olly I made a commitment to myself to improve my French in one simple way every day – and that’s simply to do a minimum of 10 minutes of study from my French text book every evening. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a starting point and I really believe that if I make that a really fixed daily habit it could make all the difference to my French.

And you can do it too (but with English, not French obviously, unless you’re also learning French, in which case yes you could do it too). In fact in this episode we invite you to make a simple commitment to yourself about learning English, today, and to write that in the comments section. Listen until the end of the conversation to find out all about that.

OK, so it’s time to start the conversation with Olly Richards – the professional English polyglot who has tons of advice on how to learn languages as an adult. Ready? Let’s go!

*Interview begins*

So, that was the interview – I think you’ll agree that there is a lot to learn and to think about.

Make a New Commitment to Your Language Learning – Join Me!

Just think of one specific thing you can do every day, as part of your daily routine. It could be related to pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading or any area you think is important for you. Write your commitment in the comment section of the episode. Then Olly will read your comments and give you some personal encouragement himself. Yes, he’ll write comments to you with some encouragement. For example, your commitment could be, as a starting point, “I will read a novel in English for 10 minutes every morning when I get up.” Just 10 minutes. Think of your commitment and write it in the comment section. Go ahead and give your English a boost! It could make all the difference.

Here are some links to Olly’s work online

Click here to visit Olly’s website, where you can read his blog posts, download his eBook, sign up to his mailing list and listen to his podcast – IWillTeachYouALanguage.com

Here’s a popular post which we mentioned in the episode – My Crazy 5AM Language Learning Routine

You can also find Olly on twitter here, where he tweets things related to language learning: twitter.com/Olly_IWTYAL

Other Links

Want to read a book in English? Don’t know which book to choose? Check out my reading list here.

Check out Flashcards Deluxe on the iTunes store here, or in the Google Play store here. There are lots of other free Flashcards apps available too.

Want to know more about using mnemonics and memory techniques for remembering vocabulary? Listen to my episode about that subject here teacherluke.co.uk/2014/02/05/167-memory-mnemonics-learning-english/

Click here to check out italki

Click here to check out italki

And finally, let me remind you about the sponsors for this show who decided that they wanted to give my listeners the chance to get 10$ worth of free lessons or speaking sessions. With iTalki you can find teachers or native speakers to give you speaking practice from the comfort of your own home. iTalki uses Skype as a platform and you can pick your teachers and schedule classes based around your specific lifestyle and routine. Speaking to native speakers is a vital way of genuinely accelerating your English. And remember that LEPsters – you get a discount if you sign up by going to teacherluke.co.uk/talk.

That’s it for this episode, I hope you enjoyed it. I did. I found Olly to be fascinating and very useful and I’m looking forward to following his advice for my French.

That’s all for now, speak to you soon. Bye!
ollyPIC3

320. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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

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

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

78. Christmas – It’s all about Family

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

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

160. The A to Z of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preface

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

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

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

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

Preface to A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

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

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

PART 1 – Marley’s Ghost

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you want?” snapped Scrooge.

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

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

“Many would rather die.”

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

Scrooge went back to his work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scrooge tried to ignore it, and opened his paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Humbug, I tell you! humbug!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART 2 – The First of the Three Spirits

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

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

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

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

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

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge.

“No. Your past.”

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

“Rise! and walk with me!”

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

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

“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.

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

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

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

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

Scrooge said he knew it. And he cried.

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

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

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

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scrooge answered sadly, “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

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

Scrooge and the Ghost again stood in the open air.

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

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

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

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

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

PART 3 – The Second of the Three Spirits

Scrooge waited again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Touch my robe!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob proposed a toast:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But now Scrooge heard his own name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART 4 – The Last of the Spirits

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

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

Scrooge’s legs trembled beneath him.

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

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

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

The Phantom moved away.

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

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

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

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night, I believe.”

“What has he done with his money?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s next?” said Joe.

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

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

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

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

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

“His blankets too?” asked Joe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Never, father!” cried they all.

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

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

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

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

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

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

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

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

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

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

PART 5 – The End of it

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

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

His face was wet with tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“EH?” returned the boy.

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

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

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

“Hello!” returned the boy.

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

“I certainly do,” replied the lad.

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

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

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

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

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

“What!” exclaimed the boy.

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

The boy was off like a shot.

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

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

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

It was a Turkey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is he, my love?” said Scrooge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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