Category Archives: Story

462. British Comedy: Bill Bailey

In this episode I talk to you about one of my favourite stand up comedians from the UK. We’re going to hear some of his comedy and use it to learn English.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Bailey since I first saw him on telly in the 1990s, and I’m glad to say I once saw him performing stand-up in Hammersmith, which is where Bill lives and I used to live too.

Who is Bill Bailey?

Bill Bailey (born 24 February 1964) is an English comedian, musician, actor, TV and radio presenter and author. Bailey is well known for his role in the TV show Black Books in which he plays the part of Mani, and for his appearances on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News for You, and QI as well as his extensive stand-up work, including his DVD specials such as “Part Troll” and “Dandelion Mind”.

Bailey was listed by the Observer newspaper as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy in 2003. In 2007 and again in 2010, he was voted the seventh greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
In this episode

This episode

In this episode we’re going to listen to some of Bill’s comedy and we’re going to understand it all so that you can hopefully enjoy it as much as a native speaker. So, lots of language, lots of listening and all the usual stuff.

Obviously, your enjoyment of comedy is subjective and what’s funny to one person isn’t funny to another, but the vast majority of what goes into appreciating a comedian is being able to actually understand the things they are saying. So, don’t judge it until you fully understand it.

I hope there’s a lot for you to learn from this episode and that you also enjoy it and find out about a very funny comedian, who has a lot of videos on YouTube and DVDs that you can buy and enjoy over and over again.

Let’s talk a little bit more about Bill Bailey and then hear some of his comedy.

Here are a few little things that you should know that might help you appreciate his humour a bit more.

Bill’s Appearance
He’s got quite a funny appearance. He looks like an old hippy (even though he associates more with the punk movement) – he has boggly eyes, a bald forehead, long straggly hair, a round face. That sounds almost mean, my description, but Bill is also a lovely person, quite sort of cuddly and is amusing just to look at. He uses his appearance well, making himself look like a crazy person. It helps gain laughs I think. Inside he is a very down to earth guy with a good sense of humour.

Type of comedy
A bit weird, a bit surreal, quite cerebral and intelligent, considering the stranger aspects of life. He’s the sort of comic that some people would say was “random” – meaning he is a bit strange and tends to look at life from a different angle. He doesn’t just do ordinary observational comedy, but instead his work is full of musical parodies and existential thoughts.

Music – parodies, mixing different styles together, observations about musical tropes.

Left-wing politics – He’s a member of the Labour party and his political views come into his comedy in various ways as he tends to make fun of capitalist culture and the establishment.

Drugs – they come into it sometimes when he makes reference to weed and generally it seems that Bill has probably taken a few drugs in his time, as is evident in his surreal style and his existential musings.

Hammersmith – this is where he’s from. It’s in West London where I used to live, but Bill also grew up in the West Country – so he has a slight west country accent, and Wales too. Generally though, he speaks a kind of RP with a West Country or London twang.

So let’s now listen to a few clips, and then I’m going to explain what you hear. There are so many clips on YouTube and I basically like all of them, but I’m going to play you probably about 5 things taken from various TV appearances and live shows over the years. You can find the embedded videos on the page for this episode.

Most of these videos showcase his musical talents as well as his comedy, his story telling and so on.

Let’s get started.

Beethoven loses a penny

Some vocabulary and language
A lot of institutions had to merge due to funding cuts
I attended the Bovington Gurney School of Performing Arts and Owl Sanctuary
I studied Beethoven.
A fascinating character.
A very lonely embittered man, a very drunken man, slovenly, covered in dust, and filth and beer. He was a very unpleasant man. He was prone to dark fits of temper. He would hurl stuff around the house and then scrawl sonatas on big blocks of cheese and then eat them to spite the world.
He channeled his anger into his work.
Rage Over A Lost Penny – inspired by an argument he had with his cleaning lady.
You know when you lose something… how frustrating.
Have you seen my penny?
Can you think where you last had it?
No I can’t remember where it is!
Have you checked your pockets?
Of course I have you stupid b*tch!

Starsky & Hutch and the jazz news

Things you need to know about Starsky & Hutch – it was a show about two cops in the 1970s with groovy music

Dramatic cop action, sometimes they were on a stakeout, they drove a cool fast car, they had an informant called Huggy Bear, sometimes they’d have fights with criminals, mafia guys etc, they’d often have car chases and they’d always drive down alleyways with lots of cardboard boxes and they’d drive through the boxes because it looked good on TV.

Stephen Hawking / A Brief History of Time

Learning Chinese – Owl story

Doorbells

 

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.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

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

 

448. Film Club: Touching the Void (Part 1)

A film club episode about the award-winning documentary film “Touching the Void” about a mountain climbing expedition which goes wrong. It’s an amazing true story and there are lots of things to learn from it, including lessons about motivation and attitude towards any challenge. The film is available on Netflix and DVD. Check it out and use this episode to help you understand it all.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

This is a ‘Film Club’ episode of Luke’s English Podcast today because in this one I’m going to talk to you about a really great documentary film that you can watch on Netflix or on DVD. It’s about the true story of a mountain climbing adventure which goes horribly wrong and then turns into an epic battle for survival. It’s an incredible story and a fantastic documentary which won 6 awards including a BAFTA for best British film in 2004. The film is called “Touching the Void”.

It’s not a new one, it’s over 10 years old now, but it is a film which has stayed with me ever since I first watched it. I often remember it and I feel like there’s a lot to learn from it – in terms of language that you can hear in the film, but also life in general.

I’m going to talk about Touching the Void in some detail in order to use the film as a kind of case study for understanding the importance of motivation and attitude in achieving difficult challenges – in this case the challenge of learning English.

But it could apply to any challenge that you face in your life, especially ones that can feel overwhelming and insurmountable.

If you’re thinking – “oh, but I don’t like mountain climbing, so I’ll skip this episode”. I suggest you don’t skip it. The story in this film is amazing – it’s dramatic, it’s scary, it’s a bit funny at times and it’s really profound as well. It’s not just about going up a big piece of rock for no reason. So, stick with it ok. I think it’s worth it. I’ve put some work into this episode.

A lot of the text I’m reading is on the page for this episode, so check it out. Some of this is scripted, and some of it is improvised on the spot. But if you want to read the words I’m saying, or if you hear a particular phrase I say – you can see a lot of it written on this episode’s page.
Also, if you’re transcribing this one, don’t forget to copy+paste these words into your google document and then you can just add any extra bits I say.

You’ll also find links, some other youtube videos and more content you might want to look at because you’ll find it interesting and you can use it to help you learn English, like for example some of the specific vocabulary that you’ll hear me using in this episode.
I said before that in this episode I’d like us to consider the importance of motivation and attitude when dealing with a challenge.

Let’s start by considering the learning of English

Learning English can be tough. There’s no doubt that if you want to get to a really advanced level in adulthood it’s a challenge which must be met with effort and determination. But it can also be really enjoyable of course, and it should be. But if you’re really serious about learning English properly, it is quite a challenge that demands time and effort. You could compare it to climbing a mountain.

Learning English is like Climbing a Mountain

I’ve mentioned this mountain climbing metaphor before on the podcast, but let’s flesh it out a bit more here. When you look at the whole challenge of learning a language from the beginning, from the start point, it can seem really difficult.

It’s comparable to standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up at the whole thing you are about to climb. Even getting to this point was a long journey, but there it is – the mountain is stretching up to the sky thousands of metres above you. The summit might even be invisible to you – you can’t even see it because it’s above the clouds.

Now, you might think – let’s go! Let’s do this! In fact, I’m sure that many of you relish that kind of challenge! That’s why you’re into learning English. Excellent!

But, I wouldn’t be surprised if sometimes you look at the whole challenge – the whole mountain and think – there’s no way I can get up there, it’s so high and massive, it seems so remote. Certainly, when you compare yourself to the mountain – the relative sizes of you and the mountain, you can feel dwarfed by the challenge.

If you’ve ever climbed a mountain you’ll know what I mean.

Also, if you’ve ever had to learn a language from scratch, you’ll know what I mean.
Sometimes just getting up off your sofa to switch off a light seems like a massive effort. Just getting out of bed in the morning can seem like too much to achieve, especially on those bad days when you’re feeling depressed or something.

Now imagine standing at the bottom of a huge and ancient mountain and looking up to the top. It feels like it’s miles away. It doesn’t seem real. It feels almost unimaginable that you can get to the top of it.

For me, when I consider my French, I feel a bit like this. Every single day I am reminded of the challenge ahead of me, because I hear fluent French being spoken all around me, and even though I do understand a lot of it, it’s like each time I’m trying to play a computer game at an insanely high difficulty setting. I play the game but I rarely feel like I’m winning. So I open my French study books at home and I see the challenge ahead of me. Sometimes getting through just a page is difficult – each verb conjugation, each bit of syntax, it’s a mini challenge of its own, and then I think of all the thousands of other words and sentences I have to master in order to get the level of mastery I want and I get a bit demoralised. I get into a negative frame of mind. I know I shouldn’t, but truth be told – it happens.

I wonder if you ever feel the same about English.

Anyway, the point is, we can do it! We can achieve our goals in the language we’re learning. It’s definitely possible! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s just like any big challenge. Half the battle is in the way you approach the challenge, the way you look at it and the way you choose to deal with it. In fact, some would say it’s all in the mind.

It’s about attitude as much as it is about having the stamina and doing the leg-work. If you get the attitude and motivation right, the work doesn’t feel like work, the impossible challenge becomes possible. It’s mind over matter.

Tips for Mountain Climbing and Language Learning

Here are some tips on how to approach that challenge – the challenge of trying to climb up a mountain or to get to a high level in English, just to give you some motivation to make it up to the top: (in no particular order)

  1. Stop focusing on the top! Instead, aim for a point which is not too far ahead – somewhere attainable, just over there ahead of you and within reach and try to get there, then do that again. Each time, just place the target a few steps beyond you. Break the whole thing down into small chunks. Sometimes that means going one step at a time, just focusing on each single step you make. Sometimes you might even slip back a bit, but you keep going. With the mountain you’re trying to reach the peak of course, but with learning English the sky’s the limit – there’s always more you can learn and more ways you can become a better and better communicator. The end of the process is just the point at which you decide there is nothing left to learn, so really there shouldn’t be a top. (Tbh, this is where the metaphor breaks down a bit!) Instead it’s a repeated, systematic process which you do bit by bit every day. It’s like going to the gym. You don’t stop when you get fit, you just keep doing it, maintaining, improving, diversifying, consolidating, reviewing and covering more and more ground each time.
  2. Be positive! Accentuate the positives, rather than worrying about the challenge as a whole. Enjoy each step, take time to enjoy the view, breathe the air etc. In terms of language, enjoy the things you learn, remember to feel good about what you can do and what you’ve achieved, while also pushing yourself further. It might be difficult and even painful sometimes (for example when you make mistakes or fail to express yourself) but you are capable of great things, you just need to push yourself. When climbing a mountain, you’ll be surprised – you’ll feel exhausted, but if you ask your body to go further, it will. Similarly with learning a language – your brain can remember everything, you can string all these sentences together. It’s just a question of pushing yourself a little bit further and not accepting defeat.
  3. Remember, it’s about the journey not the destination.
  4. Enjoy the process! People climb large mountains all the time and they do it because it’s enjoyable. There’s no reason you can’t do it too as long as you take the right approach and enjoy the journey. Similarly in English, it’s vital that you enjoy it while it’s happening and that you consider it to be something you can enjoy – listening to or reading interesting and entertaining content, discovering a new way to think and express yourself, meeting interesting new people, finding out more about the world and finding your own unique voice and expressing yourself in a new language. It’s all part of the fun, like discovering a new place on your mountain climbing trip.
  5. Rhythm is important. Get a rhythm going and let that rhythm drive you forwards. Getting started is the first challenge, but keeping a habitual rhythm going is the next thing. Keep that up and you’ll make the progress you need! In climbing, it’s good to set a certain pace and keep it up. You don’t notice each step after a while because you’re beating out a rhythm. Similarly in English, set a rhythm of daily practice.
  6. Prepare yourself. Get the right equipment, food and check the weather and all that. For learning English this means – get the right attitude, make a learning plan, get some materials. Notepads, apps, grammar books, podcasts, and then using them!
    You might want to get a guide – on the mountain you need someone, maybe a local, who can help lead you along the correct path. In language learning you could find a teacher, italki or something like that, or a language partner, or someone who has already learned English and is a few steps ahead of you.
  7. Do it with other people – it’s fun to share the challenge with a group. It fun to climb with others and enjoy the camaraderie, similarly in English it’s good to have a peer group – e.g. in the comment section or with your conversation club.
  8. Train yourself with some controlled work. Go to the gym and do some intensive strength and fitness work to prepare you for the challenge of climbing the mountain, or for your English do some episode transcriptions with the transcription team here, do some shadowing – listen and repeat drills, or get a grammar self study book and work from that.

OK, I think that’s as far as I can stretch this metaphor!

What do you think? Can you think of any other similarities between climbing a mountain and learning English? What about differences?

Obviously the mountain metaphor is just that – a metaphor

Learning a language is in some ways easier than climbing a mountain. There’s a lot less risk involved for a start. I don’t think anyone has been seriously injured while trying to learn a language.

“Learning a language – be careful, you might break a leg!” “I know a guy who slipped on a phrasal verb and he’s now paralysed” said nobody, ever.
Nobody has ever broken their tongue learning a language, right?
“Oh my god, what happened to you???”
“Yeah, I’m learning French…”

Perhaps you might get a bruised ego. Your confidence might take a knock but there’s no need for emergency helicopters, helmets, ropes, first aid or dramatic documentaries about a fight for survival.

“Jose Gonzales was a student who decided to work on his English one summer. He chose to enrol on an English language course at his local college. Little did he know that this would be the start of an epic fight for survival, from which he would barely escape alive.”

It’s not the stuff of Hollywood action movies.

“Coming this summer – one man – one grammar book – no hope for survival.
DUM DUM DUM – It’s too confusing – there are too many verb forms – DUM DUM DUM – help – help! how do you pronounce this adjective? Where’s the word stress – too late motherfucker! Click, bang! – DUM DUM DUM – wait wait wait – it’s a 3rd conditional I’ve got this! – no goddamnit it’s a future prediction based on current evidence – get out of there! – she’s gonna blow! – DUM DUM DUM – in a world where the difference between present perfect and past simple – is the difference between life, and certain death – shoooooOOOO! – – – – DOOOOOOO – – DUM DUM DUM – …it’s a past perfect continuous passive verb form… nooooooo! – DUM DUM DUM – only one man has all the answers – DUM DUM DUM – Arnold Schwarzenegger – “You’ve been conjugated” – Robert DeNiro – “Are you talking to me? – DUM DUM DUM – Al Pacino – “Say hello to my little friend – the auxiliary fucking verb – hoowah! – Christopher Walken – “I like the way you constructed your sentence, but it doesn’t mean shit.” – DUM DUM DUM – Liam Neeson – “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want, because your English is awful…” – Clint Eastwood “Are you gonna conjugate that verb in the 3rd person or are you going to whisle dixie? – Michael Caine – “How many times do I have to tell you – It’s just an auxiliary verb, it’s not that important!” – Al Pacino again “Be – DO – HAVE – You’re breaking my fuckin balls here! – Barack Obama – “I don’t know, why I’m in – this – film” Sir Sean Connery – “If you can say this sentence it’ll save your life – she sells sea shells on the sea shore” – WHat did he say? I don’t know! – tick tick tick tick – BOOOOOM – Just when you thought it was safe to open your mouth – From writer director Raymond Murphy – ENGLISH EXAM 2: Language Feedback
Based on a true story.”

Obviously that movie would never get made. Learning English is not that dangerous or dramatic – thank god.

So going back to the mountain climbing analogy – of course, one big difference between learning a language and climbing a mountain is that learning the language is far far safer!

Also, you don’t need a mountain. You can do it anywhere, so it’s probably a lot easier!

Now, on this podcast I like to help you in your language learning process and I try to do that in a few ways, like telling you some stories to (hopefully) keep you engaged while you practise listening, or recommending some resources that you can use to learn English.

In this episode I’m going to try and do both of those things because I’m going to talk about an amazing documentary film that you can get on DVD or watch on Netflix. It’s an amazing true story and I think you can learn a lot of English from it.

Touching the Void

Director: Kevin McDonald (who also did “The Last King of Scotland” and “Marley” the doc about Bob Marley)

A documentary telling the true story of Joe Simpson, Simon Yates and Richard Hawking.

It features the 3 men telling the story in their own words, with some reconstructed scenes on the mountain using actors.

Released in 2003.

Won 6 awards in 2004 including a BAFTA for Best British film.

It is available on Netflix but also on DVD and I strongly recommend that you get a copy. Remember on both Netflix and DVD you can switch on the subtitles and watch like that, or just watch without, or a combination of the two.

Spoilers

So, you should be aware that I’m going to do spoilers for this film in this episode. I’m going to tell the whole story – so, spoiler alert.

That’s not going to ruin the film I think. It could even help you enjoy it more.

First of all, we already know when we watch the film that the characters survived. So, we know the outcome. How the hell they did it, is another question and that’s the interesting thing about the documentary. You get to follow this guy all the way through an unbelievable ordeal.
I think the story is strong enough for it to be engaging every time.

The purpose, ultimately, is to allow you to learn English from this film, and I’m recording this in order to make the film more accessible for you, opening up the story, hopefully creating more interest for you so you can explore the documentary and book in your own time and pick up language from them in your own way.

Suggestions for how to use this episode

You could do this:

  • Listen to this episode, listen to me telling the story and follow it all, then watch the documentary in English (you can turn on the subtitles if you like) and hopefully you’ll appreciate it more and be able to follow and understand it more.
  • Or you can stop right now, then watch the documentary and then come back to this episode later.
  • Or you just listen to this episode and never see the documentary – which I expect many of you will do because for one reason or another you just don’t get round to finding the DVD or getting it on Netflix. But I urge you to watch it because it will grip your attention and you won’t regret it. You get a proper feeling of the conditions, of the beauty of the mountain, and the harsh conditions and the nature of the environment – with the sounds of the ice and snow. It’s terrifically atmospheric. You’ll hear the characters describe it in their own words, which is fantastic. Plus, it will reinforce a lot of the English you’re picking up right now as you listen to this, and generally the English you’ll hear is clear, well-spoken and full of grammar in the form of narrative tenses, ways of talking about the past, descriptive vocabulary of the experience they had and also things like ways of expressing regrets and conditional, hypothetical language for talking about events in the past.

Touching the void on Amazon (DVD)

www.amazon.co.uk/Touching-Void-DVD-Brendan-Mackey/dp/B000S399II/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489753280&sr=8-1&keywords=touching+the+void+dvd
Touching the Void (book)

I also suggest that you get Joe Simpson’s book, which is also called “Touching the Void” It’s Joe’s full account of the story, so you get all the details in his own voice, and it’s written clearly in good English.

Book www.amazon.co.uk/Touching-Void-Joe-Simpson/dp/0099771012/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Simpson is a writer of a few books actually, all exploring the experiences of climbing and the mad adventures he’s had. Apparently there is a sequel to Touching the Void, which I haven’t read. He’s a successful writer, so you could check out his books.

Right, now let’s get stuck into the story of this film.

The STORY

I hope you’re feeling comfortable and that you’re somewhere warm and cosy, because things are going to get a little bit chilly in this story.

The main protagonists. Joe Simpson and Simon Yates.

Passionate young climbers from the UK. In their 20s. Quite experienced, in peak physical shape, but still a bit immature and probably reckless, like many young men are at that age.

Their reasons for climbing. They did it for fun.

The mountain – Siula Grande (6,344 meters) in the Andes in Peru.

They met Richard, travelling in Lima. He wasn’t a climber, but they convinced him to join them so that he could hang out at base camp.

He didn’t know what he was letting himself in for.

Siula Grande – it had been climbed on the North Face in the 1930s but nobody had ever climbed the west face, although lots of people had tried and failed.

The West face was the one they would attempt to climb.

They, perhaps arrogantly or maybe justifiably, assumed they were better than those others who had failed in the past.

They used ‘alpine style’ – you pack everything in a bag, then you just try and climb the whole mountain in one go (i.e. you don’t go up and pitch your route and then come back and do it again etc) you just go up on your own in one go. It’s risky. If something goes wrong, you’ll die.

No helicopter rescue. No facilities at base camp.

Also, no pre-set route. They just climbed up attached to each other by a rope, the first one attaching pins, devices, screws into the rock or ice and attaching the rope to it, the second one presumably unattaching as they go, so if one person falls they’re caught by the attachment to the rock or by the other guy.

If one fell, you both had to trust the few attachments that had been put into the rock, and the other one had to just hold on too. Absolutely nuts! Trusting your life to a spike of metal hammered into a crack, or screwed into the ice.

To be honest, this was a risky, even stupid thing to do.

But that’s what they lived for, and they were good at it.

The movement of climbing – it’s like ballet and gymnastics. How does it feel to climb? The joy of climbing. Getting away from all the clutter we have in our world.

The fact that they were attached to each other going up meant that they had to have an immense amount of trust in each other. There would have been moments where they thought “Do not fall here for goodness sake”. If your partner falls and his gear rips out – if it all comes out of the wall, you’re going to go to.

Trust is absolutely vital in this kind of climbing. You’re putting your trust in the other person completely. You have to rely on your partner completely.

My experiences of falling.

But for them, the risk was exactly what they were looking for.

We live in a world where there is not so much risk any more. In fact, there are whole industries around the reduction of risk. The world is relatively safe now, compared to before. It’s rare that you’re in great danger. Crossing the street is probably as dangerous as it gets, or driving.
So, some people go searching for risk because it makes them feel more alive.

Day 1

They did a lot of climbing and felt good.

To sleep/rest each night they created snow holes, ate supplies and drank water which they ‘brewed’ from snow by melting it using a gas cooker.

In any day, water is vital of course. Apparently we’re supposed to drink about 2 litres in a day, and that’s just a normal day. Now, imagine going to the gym and getting really hot and doing loads of exercise. You’d need more water, right? Imagine spending the day in the gym. Now imagine doing the whole thing at 4,000-5,000-6,000 metres up. You get a lot more dehydrated at altitude. Your body has less oxygen so it’s generally working a lot harder. I’m not sure of the science, but your body needs more water.

Apparently they needed about 4-5 litres per day, each.

Doing it with a gas stove – it takes about an hour to brew the water, again because of the altitude.

Up there the air is thin, there’s pressure, your heart beats faster and heavier (it goes like nobody’s business – meaning, a lot or fast), it makes you panic a little bit sometimes, you gasp for air, your body gets tired easily, a few steps and you need to rest. Everything takes ages. The air is actually thinner but it’s like somehow the air is thicker because you’re heavier and the air doesn’t satisfy you so much, it almost suffocates you a bit.

Water was essential, and so was the gas that they used to brew water at night in their snow caves.

They brought enough gas for what they expected was just about 3-4 days of climbing.
They also didn’t brew and drink as much as they should have done, because it took so much time and they were conserving their gas.

Little errors, which may have contributed to greater problems later.

Day 2

The started again at an altitude that they’d never climbed at before.

Much of it on day 2 involved ice-climbing. Using ice picks in both hands and spikes on your feet. Hammering in and spiking into the ice and rising bit by bit. I can only imagine that there must have been a lot of moments where they weren’t attached except for their spikes. It terrifies me, if I’m honest.

After a certain amount of time the higher they got the colder it got and the worse the conditions became.

Strong wind, heavy snow. Apparently the powder snow was coming down and across like avalanches. Imagine being on the beach with high wind, the sand gets whipped up into the air and you can’t see. It must have been like that, but at altitude and freezing cold.
The snow would stick to their clothing and then freeze and stick, and it was like wearing a suit of armour.

According to Joe, the last part of the face was some of the most nightmarish climbing he’d ever done. The snow was very unstable because it was made of powder and so he couldn’t get secure footing or anchors.

It took them 5-6 hours to climb 200 feet.

Remember, they were doing Alpine climbing, so while one climbed, the other waited. So, while waiting for Simon to climb, Joe was just motionless on the mountain, getting close to hypothermia.

Hypothermia is a condition caused by getting too cold, as the body loses more heat than it can generate and body temperature drops below 35C (95F).

Symptoms
– Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops.
– Clumsiness or lack of coordination.
– Slurred speech or mumbling.
– Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes.
– Drowsiness or very low energy.

As the sun went down and everything went dark they decided they couldn’t go on so managed to dig a snow cave and rest.

Day 3

In the morning they saw what they’d tried to achieve the previous afternoon and evening.
Apparently the powder snow was all stuck to the side and top of the mountain in these extraordinary shapes – like big marshmallows, meringue and mushrooms, with large fluffy round lumps of snow overhanging from the top. It must have been an absolute nightmare to see. I can’t imagine how they climbed up and over it.

Apparently in the Alps, this kind of powder snow just falls off the mountain but for some reason in the Andes it stuck and formed these extraordinary shapes. For me, seeing the documentary (which contains reconstructions of the climb filmed on the same mountain) it looks like an alien planet or something, and it gives the impression of a strange unknown place with it’s own character, different to the mountains in Europe. Remember, that nobody had ever done it before. It must have been like going into outer space or something – scary but exciting, and otherworldly.

Imagine a massive mushroom made of white powder. It’s like a mushroom because of the overhanging snow.
Now imagine that mushroom 6 km up in the sky.
Now imagine trying to climb over it from the base.
How on earth did they manage it? I have no idea.

Apparently it was extremely precarious (something that could fall at any moment – literally, or figuratively e.g. the economy is in a precarious state) and unnerving (makes you nervous).

They were really scared that they might not make it.

When they got onto the north ridge, they promised never to climb an Andean mountain again. In fact, they considered stopping at that point because they were both exhausted, but they thought “we’ve come all this way, we might as well stand on the top”.

So they ascended the north ridge and made it to the top.

What a feeling. They did it – first people to climb the western face and reach the summit.
Extraordinary shots of the mountain and the feeling of epic space around – above the clouds and just sticking out into the sky.

But 80% of accidents happen on descent.

To be continued in part 2…

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!

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

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

436. The Return of The Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) [Video]

Amber, Paul and I play another round of The Lying Game, in which we each tell a story and the others have to guess if it’s true or a lie. Listen for story telling, questions and general fun, plus some jokes at the end of the episode. Video available.

Audio


[DOWNLOAD]

Video

First, this comment from a LEPster

Jan Struve
Last year when my listening skills in english improved I started listening to an english podcast which was spoken at normal speed. Two men and a woman took part in the podcast and they spoke and played a game like this : One of them started telling a story and the others had to guess whether the story had really happened or was only fictional. They called it the Lying game. I remember that I was listening to the podcast when I was driving by car to work. My workplace was about 35 km away from my hometown and I was heading towards the highway. On the way, I got very deep into the conversation of the three guys and their equally fascinating and exciting stories. I was driving and listening and felt happy having improved my english so far and was able to listen to such driven and awesome podcasters that I forgot everything around me.
I drove and drove and after half an hour when the podcast finally ended I found myself way north on the wrong highway. I had missed the exit west and had driven more than 60km without noticing anything but the podcast. That was my first experience with the great and awesome Luke´s English Podcast.

Please take care when driving or operating heavy machinery.

It’s time to play the Lying Game again

Let’s call this season 2. It’s ‘even stevens’ again.

Rules

  • Someone tells us something – often a little story about their life. It can be either true or a lie.
  • We ask lots of questions like a detective and then decide if we think it’s true or a lie.
  • If you guess correctly, you get a point. If you guess incorrectly, the story-teller gets a point.

Listeners – just try to follow the conversation and try to guess if we’re lying or telling the truth.


Final Scores

Amber: 0 / 1 / 0

Paul: 1 / 1 / 1

Luke: 1 / 0 / 1

Jokes you heard at the end of the episode

Why are there no aspirins in the jungle?
Because the parrots-eat-em-all (paracetamol)

What’s the difference between snow-men and snow-women?
Snowballs.

I read an article on Japanese swordfighters. It’s quite long but I can samurais it for you. (summarise it)

How do you count cows?
With a cow-culator. (calculator)

Visitors to Cuba always enjoy themselves.
You could say they were “Havana” good time. (having a…)

How do astronomers organise a party?
They “planet”. (plan it)

I saw a band last night. They came from an island just of the south of Malaysia.
Singapore?
Yes, but the drummer was good.
(Was the singer poor? – was he a bad singer?)

My wife’s gone to the West Indies.
Jamaica?
No, she went of her own accord.
(Jamaica – “Did you make her (go)?”)

My wife’s gone to Indonesia.
Jakarta?
No, she went by plane.
(Did you ‘cart’ her?)

A man got hit in the head with a can of coke
But it was alright because it was a ‘soft drink’.

Why did the can crusher quit his job?
Because it was soda-pressing (so depressing)

428. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show (Part 2)

Analysis of another sketch from Limmy’s Show. Listen to informal English spoken in a Glasgow accent, and understand it.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

Hello and welcome back to this podcast, this ongoing project which aims to help you to improve your English by presenting you with listening content which is not just useful for practising your English listening skills, vocabulary and pronunciation but also useful for broadening your horizons just a little bit by presenting you with content you might not have otherwise discovered.

This is part 2 of a 2 part episode about British Comedy. This time I’m talking to you about one of my favourite TV shows, called Limmy’s Show – a series of bizarre and amusing sketches written and performed by Brian Limond aka Limmy, who comes from Glasgow in Scotland.

In the last episode we listened to a few sketches on YouTube featuring Limmy’s character Mr Mulvaney, the businessman who seems convinced that the police are on his tail for committing some petty shoplifting. We heard some English spoken with a Glaswegian accent and picked up a few words and expressions along the way.

This time we’re going to continue with another of Limmy’s sketches which you can find on YouTube. Whereas the Mr Mulvaney sketches featured fairly formal sounding spoken English in a Glasgow accent, the sketch in this episode features a character who speaks in a more informal way and with an accent and speech pattern that I expect you will find even stronger and more difficult to understand, which is precisely why I’ve chosen to analyse it here on the podcast. In my effort to push your English into new areas, I’m choosing to focus on some speech that you might not have been exposed to before in order to close the linguistic and cultural gaps that might exist between you and this TV comedy, which won a Scottish BAFTA twice.

The sketch we’re going to listen to now is called “Dee Dee – Yoker” which involves a character called Dee Dee who takes a bus trip to a town called Yoker.

Sketch: Dee Dee goes to Yoker (video below)

The Dee Dee sketches are possibly the best thing about Limmy’s Show. Dee Dee is basically an unemployed guy who never really leaves the house and is lost in his own world.

The sketches featuring Dee Dee are funny, but they’re perhaps closer to pathos than comedy.

Pathos is the quality in a film or play that makes people feel sadness or pity. Sometimes comedy can become pathos when it is not just funny, but also quite sad or pitiful. For example, Charlie Chaplin’s films are full of comedy, but what makes them extra special is the pathos – those moments where you feel pity for Chaplin’s character, who is basically a poverty-stricken tramp.

It’s a similar case with Dee Dee. His sketches make me laugh, but they are also terribly sad because Dee Dee is isolated, quite disturbed and unable to fully operate in society.

He basically never goes out, he spends all his time on his own at home, watching the TV and sleeping. It’s a bit sad really, because his state of mind is pretty messed up and he’s losing touch with reality. I don’t know if you know how that feels.

Imagine you’ve come down with the flu and you’re off work, sick, just staying in the house on the sofa for a long period, like a week or two. You don’t see anyone. You hardly do anything, you’re just getting over your flu, sitting on the sofa or sleeping the whole time. It starts to mess with your head a bit. The days drag on, morning drifts into the afternoon, which drifts into the evening and you haven’t left the house or even had a shower and got dressed, you’re just wrapped up in your blanket from your bed all day. Your mind starts to go a bit weird and you’re living in a daydream while everyone outside in the real world is going out working and living their lives. You’re just indoors all the time, slowly drifting away from reality.

That’s what DeeDee is all about, but I’m not sure why he’s in this situation. I think he’s just an unemployed stoner – someone who smokes too much weed or something. So, it might be about the condition of someone who smokes too much weed and as a result has lost the motivation to leave the house, get a job or sort his life out.

Every sketch with Dee Dee is like a glimpse into his spaced out mind as he completely over analyses quite trivial details in his every day life, like things he’s seen on TV or stuff that happens in his kitchen. In each episode, these trivial details become blown up into hugely significant events because of his paranoia and delusion.

In this one Dee Dee actually goes outside, in order to pick up his giro (unemployment welfare check) but takes a risk and takes an opportunity to get a free ride on a bus going to a place he’s never been before and it becomes a big adventure, even though in reality it’s not much of an adventure and most of the drama is in his own head.

With this one I’m going to read it out in my voice first so that you can understand the story, then we’ll hear the original version with Dee Dee from Glasgow.

Again, I’ve no idea what you’ll think of this, but at the least it’s just a fun little story.

Adapted transcript (written in ‘English English’)

[So, I was walking along the street the other day to pick up my welfare check. And I passed by a couple of buses at the side of the road. Everybody’s crowding off the front and into the one behind. Old folk’ were all like, “This is ridiculous. Never used to be like this with the city buses.” I was like all like, “I see. We’ve got ourselves a breakdown.” I check to see where they’re all heading. ‘Yoker’. And I just pissed myself laughing.]

Dee Dee: “Haa~!”

[Because Yoker’s one of these places I only know from the front of a bus. I’ve never been there. Don’t know what it’s like. Just this crazy fairytale land that sounds like kinda an egg yolk. So I was watching everybody getting on, trying to show their tickets to the driver. But he wasn’t having it. Just waving them on, all like, ‘Alright I know where you all came from. I can see the other bus, what do you think I am, stupid?’ And I see the opportunity for a free ride, and a little voice in my head says, “Dee dee, I know you’ve got to get your welfare check, but that money’s always going to be there. But this, on the other hand, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go for it”. So I was all like…”]

Dee Dee: “Fuck it”.

[And I joined the queue. As soon as I do, the driver starts checking people’s tickets. I was all like, “Pffft, forget it”. But I just got completely caught up in the slipstream, rushing towards the moment of truth at a hundred miles an hour. Heart pounding. Pulse racing.]

Dee Dee: “I…..uh…..”

Driver: “Go ahead mate.”

Dee Dee: “Thanks, dude.”

[I did it.

So there I was on the top deck of the bus. I had a bird’s eye view. Whizzing by the unemployment office, all like – Ta ta, welfare check, maybe some other day, hmm? Because I’m on the bus. To Yoker. Couldn’t believe what I was hearing in my head. Seriously. This was actually happening! But then I thought, hold on. Don’t get too excited. There could be someone looking at the back of your head right now thinking, “Hey, who’s he? He’s not from Yoker. He’s got no business being on this bus. Let’s beat him up!” I turned round to see if anyone was looking.

Nobody. Got away with it. I totally got away with it. So I loosened up, and started chatting. ‘Thought I’d get a little bit of local knowledge before I got there.

Dee Dee: “So is this ‘bus for Yoker, right?”

Yoker Passenger: “Yep”

Dee Dee: “I’ve just moved there. Is it a nice place?”

Yoker Passenger: “Yes, it’s a wonderful place. I’ve lived there all my life. Yoker born and bred.”

Dee Dee: “So you’ve never once wondered what Yoker’s like? Mind boggling…”

[Half an hour later I start seeing the signs. Yoker newsagents. Yoker post office. Yoker F.C. Yoker everything. They even had a barber that rhymed with Yoker. “Hair by Les Porter”. What are the chances of that?]

Dee Dee: “Hey, listen. Wouldn’t it be, like, totally crazy if his name used to be Smith, or something, and he just changed it to fit in?”.

Yoker Passenger: “What?”

[Gets to the terminus. Everybody starts crowding off. I decided to ask the driver for a favor.]

Dee Dee: “Driver, when do you leave?”

Driver: “5 minutes.”

Dee Dee: “I fell asleep and missed my stop. Would it be possible for you to print me out a ticket while I go out and catch a smoke real quick? Thanks.”

[And I put my first step on to Yoker soil. I was in Yoker. I thought this day would never come. Is it really this easy? Is it really this easy to get the things you want in life? You just need to hold out for it? All of a sudden I just had the urge to be all like, “Listen, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being here”. I was like, “Calm down, Dee Dee. That’s no laughing matter. They’ll tear you to shreds. Now, you’ve got five minutes. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do… in Yoker? …I knew exactly what.

I had to. I had to find out. I couldn’t leave without finding out what this is all about. Bus was a million miles away. I thought, “Dee Dee, you are truly on the outer reaches here, dude. Middle of nowhere.” And I went into the great unknown with a fucking ding; to ask the one big question on everybody’s lips.]

Dee Dee: “Les Porter?”

Les Porter: “Yes?”

Dee Dee: “Has your name always rhymed with Yoker, or did it used to like, be like Smith or something or-?”

[And then I thought, “Dee Dee, you’ve just blown your cover. Big time. ‘Fuck you doing, dude? Go. Go!” Got out of there before they started throwing their scissors at me like Ninja stars. Before Big Les scalped me and stuck my head on the wall. Ten seconds to get to that bus man, that’s your lifelife! What does it start doing? It starts moving. I was like that, “No way, bro!” I felt like giving up. “Hey, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being in Yoker”. Let them finish me off like a pack of crazy wolves. But I just kept running for my life like I had Leatherface on my tail. I get to the bus but he wouldn’t let us in. I was all like, “Set up! ‘Whole thing’s a set up. Those people that were on that front bus? Actors. Actors! ‘Every single one of them, actors.” Door opens and I bolt upstairs. Right under the seat. Didn’t dare poke my head up for the next half hour in case they were going by in a minibus. Eager to feast on me like a group of crazy zombie pirates.

Picked a moment. Up the road. Up the stairs. In the house. Lock. Lock. Lock. Scary, dude. Scary.

Original transcript (in Glaswegian English)

[Fucking, heading to the brew, heading to get my giro. And I pass this couple of buses at the side of the road. Everybody’s piling off the front and into the one behind. Old folk’ like that, “This is ridiculous. Never used to be like this with the corporation buses.” I was like that, “I see. We’ve got ourselves a breakdown.” I check to see where they’re all heading. ‘Yoker’. And I just pissed myself laughing.]

Dee Dee: “Haa~!”

[Because Yoker’s one of these places I only know from the front of a bus. I’ve never been there. Don’t know what it’s like. Just this pure, mad fabled land that sounds like
a pure, mad egg yolk. So I was watching everybody getting on, trying to show their tickets to the driver. But he wasn’t having it. Just waving them on like that, ‘Alright I know what you’s came from. I can see the bus, what do you think I am, daft?’. And a wee voice in my head says, “Dee dee, I know you’ve got to get your giro, but the brew’s always going to be there. But this, on the other hand, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go for it”. So I just went like that…”]

Dee Dee: “Fuck it”.

[And I joined the queue. As soon as I do, the driver starts checking people’s tickets. I was like that, “Oh here, forget it”. But I just got pure caught up in the slipstream, belting towards the moment of truth at a hundred mile an hour. Heart pounding. Pulse racing.]

Dee Dee: “What it is is-”

Driver: “On you go, mate.”

Dee Dee: “Cheers.”

[I did it.

So there I was. Bird’s eye view. Whizzing by the brew like that. Ta ta giro, maybe some other day, eh? Because I’m on the bus. To Yoker. Couldn’t believe what I was hearing
in my head, man. Seriously. This was actually happening! But then I thought, hold on. Don’t get too excited. There could be someone looking at the back of your nut right now thinking, “Here, who’s he? He’s not from Yoker. He’s got no business being on this bus. Get his head kicked, man.” I turned round to see if anyone was looking.

Nobody. Got away with it. Just pure got away with the lot of it. So I loosened up, and started chatting. ‘Thought I’d get a wee bit of local knowledge before I got there.

Dee Dee: “So is this ‘bus for Yoker, aye?”

Yoker Passenger: “Aye”

Dee Dee: “I’ve just moved there. Is it any good?”

Yoker Passenger: “Aye, it’s a lovely place. I’ve lived there all my life. Yoker born and bred.”

Dee Dee: “So you’ve never once wondered what Yoker’s like? Mind boggling…”

[Half an hour later I start seeing the signs. Yoker newsagents. Yoker post office. Yoker F.C. Yoker everything. They even had a barber that rhymed with Yoker. “Hair by Les Porter”. What are the chances of that?]

Dee Dee: “Here y’ ‘are. What’s the betting his name used to be Smith, or something, and he just changed it to fit in?”.

Yoker Passenger: “What?”

[Gets to the terminus. Everybody starts piling off. I hit the driver with my charms.]

Dee Dee: “Driver, when do you leave?”

Driver: “5 minutes.”

Dee Dee: “I conked out and missed my stop. Any chance you could print us out a ticket so I can nip off for a fag? Cheers.”

[And I put my first step on to Yoker soil. I was in Yoker. I thought this day would never come. Is it really this easy? Is it really this easy to get the things you want in life? You just need to hold out for it? All of a sudden I just had the urge to go like that, “Here, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being here”. I was like, “Calm it, Dee Dee. That’s no laughing matter. They’ll tear you to shreds. Now, you’ve got five minutes. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do… in Yoker? …I knew exactly what.

I had to. I had to find out. I couldn’t leave without finding out what this is all about. Bus was a million miles away. I thought, “Dee Dee, you are truly on the outer reaches here, man. Middle of nowhere.” And I went into the great unknown with a fucking ding; to ask the one big question on everybody’s lips.]

Dee Dee: “Les Porter?”

Les Porter: “Aye?”

Dee Dee: “Has your name always rhymed with Yoker, or did it used to like, be like Smith or something or-?”

[And then I thought, “Dee Dee, you’ve just blown your cover. Big time. ‘Fuck you playing at, man? Go. Go!” Got out of there before they started chucking their scissors at us like Ninja stars. Before Big Les scalped us and stuck my head on the wall. Ten seconds to get to that bus man, that’s your lifelife! What does it start doing? It starts moving. I was like that, “No, man!” I felt like giving up. “Here, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being in Yoker”. Let them finish me off like a pack of mad wolves. But I just kept running for my life like I had Leatherface on my tail. I get to the bus but he wouldn’t let us in. I was like that, “Set up! ‘Whole thing’s a set up. Them that were on that front bus? Actors. Actors! ‘Lot of them, actors.” Door opens and I bolt upstairs. Right under the seat. Didn’t dare poke my head up for the next half hour in case they were going by in a minibus. Gasping to feast on me like a shower of mad zombie pirates.

Picked a moment. Up the road. Up the stairs. In the house. Lock. Lock. Lock. Scary, man. Scary.

But the best day of my life.]

Here’s a version with subtitles in ‘English English’

If you can’t see the subtitles, you can switch them on using the little button at the bottom of the video – the one that looks like a little white box with some dots and lines in it.

Nae Clue (No clue)

How I would say it (English RP version)

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t really know what you’re doing, in general? Has anybody ever asked you, “What did you do that for?” and you’re like “I don’t know”. Have you ever worn something that you thought looked good, and everyone else thought looked crap? Have you ever said yes to something, to which you should have said no? Something you really didn’t want to do. You were asked the question and you thought “No, no way” but out came “Yeah, alright, why not?” In fact, do you ever get the feeling that from the day you’re born until the day you die, you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing? Do you? Yes, well, join the club.

Limmy Version (Glasgow dialect)

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t really know whit yer dain, in general? Has anbody ever asked you, ‘whit did ye dae that for?’ And yer like that ‘a dunno.’ Have you ever worn something that you thought looked good, and everyone else thought looked crap? Have you ever said aye to something, to which you should’ve said naw? Someting you really didny wantae dae. You were asked the question and you thought ‘naw no way’ but oot came ‘aye awright, why not.’ In fact do you ever get the feeling that from the day you’re born till the day you die, you hivny got a clue whit yer dain? Dae ye? Aye well here, join the club.

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

423. With Andy & Ben from The London School of English (Part 1)

Talking to Andy Johnson and Ben Butler from The London School of English about many things including teaching English for specific purposes, and a couple of funny anecdotes.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Pre-Jingle Introduction

This episode features a conversation with my good friends Andy Johnson and Ben Butler who I used to work with at The London School of English. You’re going to hear us talking about lots of different things in this episode, including a few funny old anecdotes, some descriptions of the unusual location in which we were recording and then some discussion about English teaching methods.

The London School of English, where they both work, is known as the world’s oldest accredited language school and they’ve been teaching English as a foreign language to adults there for over 100 years (not Andy and Ben, but the school itself) LSE is generally known for the high standards of its training courses and in my experience it was a good place to work as a teacher. I was there for over 6 years and it’s where I had some of my best and most formative English teaching experiences. I’ve worked at a lot of English schools, some of them good and some of them not so good, and LSE is definitely one of the good ones. I learned a great deal about English teaching from my colleagues there and from my time spent in classrooms teaching various courses.

Andy, Ben and I all joined London School of English as teachers at around the same time and we regularly worked together on projects, sharing classes, developing courses, writing material and just hanging out in the pub a lot after work. I imagine that some of you listening to this might have studied at London School of English too, perhaps with me or with Ben or Andy. If you are a London School of English student, then hello!

Andy and Ben were both really helpful when I started doing this podcast back in 2009, by generally giving advice and ideas. I left London School of English in 2012 when I moved to France so these days I don’t get to see Andy & Ben as much as I would like so I was very glad to see them and have them on the podcast again as you will hear in this episode.

In the last few years Andy & Ben have both been promoted to senior positions at the school. Ben is now the Academic Manager at their centre in Hammersmith, which is just a couple of minutes walk from where I used to live in London. In fact my flat was so close to the school that I could actually see my own front door from inside one of the classrooms when I was teaching. I could actually stand inside my own flat, and look through the peephole in the door and see the school. You might think that’s living a bit too close to your workplace but it had its advantages. It certainly cut down my commute in the mornings. I would sometimes even take my breakfast to work with me in the morning if I was running a bit late. I’d literally walk to school with my bowl of cornflakes and finish it in the teachers’ room to save time. I felt like I practically lived in the school. So, Ben is now in charge of that centre near Hammersmith, and Andy is now in charge of London School Online, and that’s their web platform, because you don’t actually need to go to London to study at London School of English, you can take one of their online courses, and if you’re looking for a good quality and reliable online course in general or business English you might consider a course on London School Online.

And as a matter of fact since recording this episode, Andy and I have managed to work out a little deal that you might be interested in. “What’s the deal, Luke?” you might be asking. Well, Andy is offering you a 10% discount on all their online courses. So, for a limited time you can get a 10% discount on all online courses at London School of English.

Now, that’s not the reason Andy & Ben are on this podcast today, we worked out this offer after doing the recording, and I’m just telling you about it now before the episode starts properly because I think you genuinely might want to check that out. They have fully-developed and in-depth courses for general English, business English, legal English, IELTS and TOEIC exam preparation, and more… So, these are carefully prepared online courses, from a really good school – and if you or someone you know is looking for an online course in English then this might be for you, and that discount is available for you because you know about this podcast.

All you need to do is go to londonschoolonline.com and use the offer code LUKE10 at checkout to get a 10% discount, and that works on all their courses.

www.londonschoolonline.com and use the offer code “LUKE10” at checkout.

Alright, now let’s start the episode properly!

***

Outro

Actually, this is a natural place for me to divide this episode. So that’s the end of part 1.

Part 2 should be available very soon for your listening enjoyment.

That pretty much wraps up part 1 of this episode.

Thanks for listening, and as ever, thank you for your messages. I’m glad to hear from random people from around the world who get in touch every day. Sorry if I don’t get a chance to get back to you all.

I’m quite curious to know if any of my former students from London School of English are listening to this episode. If you are, then get in touch! It’s been over 10 years since I started working there and I met loads of different students from around the world – so many interesting people from different backgrounds. If that’s you then get in touch.

Lots of people told me they enjoyed listening to Korean Billy in the last episode. Nice one.

Episode Length

Episodes are getting a bit longer again! Judging by comments on the website and emails I receive, people are fine with that. To be honest, most of the time it’s people who haven’t listened to the podcast who tell me that episodes are long. People expect podcasts for learning English to be short. Anyway, most people who actually listen say they like the longer episodes, but maybe that’s because they actually listen! Those people who stop listening because episodes are a bit long for them probably wouldn’t write a comment. Anyway, I go back to my original position on this: I feel longer episodes are completely normal in other podcasts (in fact many of my favourites have episodes of 2 hours or more), radio shows are usually about an hour long or more, many listeners tell me they like the longer episodes, I think it’s better for your English to listen for longer, you can use the pause button if you want, most podcasting apps will save your position so you can continue later, the most popular episodes of last year were all more than 75 minutes long, and in any case – why would you want less of this!? Maybe that sounds a bit self-important or something, but whatever – if you like it you like it and so that’s that. OK, enough rambling – this is the end of part 1, and this will all continue in part 2 – which you should look forward to because there are some good moments, particularly a couple of stories from Andy which I always enjoy hearing.

Part 2 should be available really soon

Join the mailing list on the website to get an email in your inbox whenever I publish a new episode. That’s a good way to stay up-to-date with the podcast. Also, you can subscribe on iTunes or any other podcasting app, although if you’re in the mailing list you’ll get instant access to the website page for the episode where you’ll find notes, transcriptions, links, videos, the comment section and other extra details.

End of part 1

423b

 

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

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

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction (transcript)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

VIDEOS

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

Motorhead – “Fast Eddie” & Lemmy

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

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

Pink Floyd recorded at Live 8, Hyde Park in 2005

Slade in 1973

The Damned

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

audience-868074_1280

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

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

The LEP Anecdote Competition – Final Results

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

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

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

Adverts at the beginning of episodes

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

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

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

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

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

A family story from WW1 – A Turkish POW in Russia

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

Related episodes

183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)

184. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 2)

259. Eulogy for Dennis

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

Deniz’s comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/apostrophe

Rick Thompson’s accent

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

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

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

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

en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/posh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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