292. California Road Trip (Part 5)

Hi listeners, I hope all’s well. Here’s part 5 in this series which I’m doing about my California road trip. In this episode I’m hoping to talk about these things: The Church of Scientology, Yosemite National Park and our slightly dramatic adventure there, more British and American English, and if time I’ll talk to you about San Francisco, where among other things I met and interviewed AJ Hoge. So let’s get started. [In fact I only managed to talk about Scientology and the Yosemite experience – British & American English, and AJ Hoge will be in the next episode].

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While recording this I’m also doing a live-stream on Periscope. You might be thinking – oh, I wish I’d known about that, I would have watched it! You can watch the videos of the live feed here: (and there’s about 45 minutes of extra stuff in the videos that you don’t hear on the podcast)


The Road Trip Continues… 11 August
Prepare to drive to Yosemite – we go to CVS and stock up on water and other supplies, program the SatNav (GPS) to take us via Bakersfield and Fresno, then up Highway 41 into Yosemite, where we have managed to book a spot in a camping ground. We’re both really looking forward to being in the fresh air in the mountains.

Before leaving we stop for breakfast in a recommended cafe where they do awesome pancakes with whipped cream, maple syrup and free refills of coffee. We park the car and walk up the street and then suddenly come across a huge imposing blue building. It’s massive and weirdly painted bright blue. It’s the headquarters of the Church of Scientology. At this point I’d like to talk a little bit about Scientology, which I consider to be a fascinating and (here’s that word again) mysterious aspect of California life.

What’s the Church of Scientology?
Here’s a recording I made at that moment.
Play the first recording.

It’s a religion, and quite a controversial one. Some people call it a cult. Some of its members are famous celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Apparently the church has a lot of influence in Hollywood, and lots of people think it’s really weird and secretive. There are even suggestions that the church has been involved in criminal activity, threats – again these are just allegations, but it’s pretty mysterious and fascinating, like something from a mystery novel.

I recently saw a really interesting documentary about Scientology, called “Going Clear” in which lots of ex-members (people who decided to leave) of the church explain what it’s really like, and they don’t say very positive things. In fact the documentary seems to suggest that it’s a power-hungry cult which takes money from its members and threatens them with retribution if they try to leave. There are also suggestions that the church committed crimes like burglary, theft and intimidation in order to avoid having to pay a huge tax bill to the US government. Bold claims indeed. What’s really going on in this blue building?

A brief history of Scientology
This time I’m going to paraphrase a summary of Scientology that I’ve found on the “For Dummies” website. “For Dummies” is a series of books that help to explain various complex subjects in simple terms. You might know the series – they have distinctive yellow covers. It’s a really good series and they have books on almost every subject. A quick look at the For Dummies series on Audible shows titles like… (read some titles).

Recently I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of “British History for Dummies”, and it’s really good and yes I got that from Audible. You can get it too if you want – just click an audible button on my site or go to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke and sign up for a trial and you can get a free audiobook. You could choose one of the “For Dummies…” books. Just search Audible for “For Dummies” and you can see all the books available.

Anyway, For Dummies also have a website with clear and fairly brief summaries. So, let’s check out the summary for Scientology. You can check the link here: www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-is-scientology.html
So, what I’m about to say is based on information in that summary, but also what I learned from the Scientology pamphlets I’ve read and what I learned from several documentaries I’ve seen.

The church was set up in 1953 by a writer called L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was already fairly successful as a writer of both science fiction stories, and then self-help books. His most successful self-help book explored the relationship between body and mind, and he called it Dianetics. This book became the basis of the religion he then set up called Scientology. Some critics say that Diabetics is just quackery (not proper science or psychiatry) he only set this up as a religion because it was a tax-dodge. In the USA religions don’t have to pay tax, so Hubbard is criticised for having a cynical reason for making his religion in the first place – so that he could make money, or worse – that he was just power-hungry. Whatever the reason, Scientology was set up as a religion in the USA.

Hubbard is loved by the Scientologists, but viewed with a lot more suspicion by many non-members of the church. For example, the French government, who considered him to be a fraudster and tried to convict him of customs violations in the 1970s. “Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Venezuela all closed their ports to his fleet in the 70s. At one point, a court in Australia revoked the church’s status as a religion.” (Wikipedia page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Ron_Hubbard#Life_in_hiding) These are all reasons why he went into hiding in 1970. To go into hiding means to leave the place where you live and go to a place where nobody can find you. He was the leader of the church right up until he died in 1986.

What do Scientologists do?
You can walk into a Scientology centre in many cities in the world now, and have a counselling session. In fact you might be invited in for one. When I used to live in London I used to walk past the Scientology centre in central London and they would sometimes as me if I wanted a stress-test. I always said no because I felt it was just a way for them to get me into the centre. I imagined it would be like this:
“Hi, are you feeling a bit stressed today? Would you like a free stress test?”
and then you go in and they check you out and tell you that you’re feeling all stressed out and that stress is really harmful and that they have all the solutions to how to combat stress and live a more effective life – and it’s Scientology. “Here’s a leaflet” or “Would you like to sign up to a course?” and then you’re in.

Sounds okay doesn’t it? I expect it is helpful at the beginning, for many people. It’s just not for me.

A counselling session at the church is called an audit. Essentially, this is a bit like a psychotherapy session. You’re invited to share deeply personal things in order to free yourself from emotional burdens. It sounds a bit like Freudian psychoanalysis doesn’t it? In fact Scientology completely rejects psychoanalysis. Apparently, Scientology is the only way. During these auditing sessions you are hooked up to a machine which is called an E-meter. According to scientology this can measure your thoughts, well – it’s not just as simple as ‘thoughts’ – apparently it’s related to immortal spirits from space which inhabit our bodies and prevent us from living a healthy and happy life. Auditing allows us to set these spirits free, which makes us feel better. Critics say the e-meter just measures electromagnetic energy in your hands and is no more revealing about your mind than a crude lie detector test. But, according to Scientology if an e-meter is used by a Scientology minster then it really works. Freeing yourself from levels of emotional burden in these auditing sessions is called going clear, and there are different stages of clarity. In order to achieve those levels of clarity you need to do more and more audits, share more and more personal problems, and also contribute more and more things to the church. This costs quite a lot of money as courses of auditing are not cheap, and all of this goes to the church, and also all the private and personal things you’ve said in auditing sessions are recorded and kept by the church. The aim is to free yourself of all your emotional burdens and achieve a state of perfect clarity. Apparently the church of Scientology is very rich as they have purchased some incredible pieces of real estate around the world, such as this massive building in Los Angeles. It’s not clear exactly how much power they have. Some say they exert some influence in Hollywood’s entertainment industry.

What do Scientologists believe?
Scientologists believe that people are in fact just receptacles for immortal spirits which came down to earth many years ago. The church doesn’t like it if these spirits are called aliens. Because, it sounds bad if you believe in aliens. It sounds a bit mad doesn’t it. So let’s not call them aliens. Apparently, these immortal ‘spirits’ live within us. They’re trapped inside us, and they can only be freed by going through auditing sessions, until you get to the top of level of clarity when I guess the aliens, sorry spirits go somewhere else. I’m not sure of the details of what happens to the spirits, or if we are the spirits, or what they look like.

OK, fair enough I suppose! We’re all entitled to our beliefs. What’s so controversial about them?
Here’s what’s written on the page from Scientology for Dummies, by Scott Barnes: www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-is-scientology.html

Scientology is one of the most controversial religious movements of our time. Many people reduce their world view to nothing more than a cult that brainwashes its members and then fleeces (cons) them by charging outrageous fees for some auditing classes. Critics lambast the church for its rejection of established psychiatry, and many people take issue with the church’s “Celebrity Centres,” which are facilities that are technically open to the public but primarily serve the most famous Scientologists in the arts, sports, and government (think Tom Cruise, Isaac Hayes, and Nancy Cartwright).

Reports from some who have left the Church of Scientology are even more incriminating and include stories of church members being held for years against their wills at “rehabilitation camps” for violating certain policies, or sending members to go through the trash of the church’s critics and former members to find material to blackmail them into silence. In 1979, several Scientology members were convicted for participating in the largest theft of government documents in U.S. history. Scientologists have also been accused of tampering with witnesses in court cases and even murder.

In response to these claims, Scientologists state that their religion is genuine and that the movement has been distorted, and that they are being persecuted.

Among the criticisms are: Scientology preys upon people who want to make it in Hollywood by suggesting that they can help, then they force them to stay in the church with the suggestion that they can harm their careers due to their extensive connections in the business, they illegally resisted an investigation into their accounts by the IRS (the US tax office), they bully their members and they blackmail high-profile members like Tom Cruise and John Travolta into staying in the church – remember the church has recordings of all those extensive and deeply personal auditing sessions. These are all allegations and criticisms which have been made against the church – not necessarily my thoughts. I haven’t decided what I think of them yet and I’m just curious.

Is it possible that all of this sinister stuff is going in within these imposing blue buildings that we saw? I wonder…

Play the second recording.

I decided I’d try and talk to someone. I felt a bit excited and a bit nervous because I know the church can be a bit touchy about people doing recordings or making documentaries about them, which I guess is understandable. Anyway, I decided that I wanted to talk to someone so I went over to some of the people in uniform who were walking around the building. I spoke to a woman who was very nice and normal, of course. I told her I was making a holiday diary, and that I had just come across the building and wanted to interview someone about it. She took me into the building and I spoke to someone in reception. I made a recording afterwards.

Play the third recording.

What do you think about Scientology?
The woman I spoke to seemed very happy and proud to be working at the organisation. The place looked very smart and clean. Many members of the church say that it has helped them a lot. But what about all these allegations? Tell me what you think? Is the church a cult? Is it a force for good? Is there a church of Scientology in your country? What do you think?

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a huge national park, and probably one of the most stunning parks in the world. Most of the tourism there is centred on Yosemite Valley, which is full of meadows, a river and pine trees, and some accommodation and camping grounds. Around the valley you have incredible granite rock formations including stunning mountains. There are granite rock faces like El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Dome and so on, also some of the highest waterfalls in the world. The whole thing combines to be a stunning place to spend time camping, cycling, hiking or rock climbing and it is visited by about 5 million people per year. There are a few roads that go round the central part of the park surrounding the valley. 95% of the park is wilderness and hardly any people go there except experienced hikers, climbers and campers. You might know Yosemite from the Apple Mac operating system. At the time I’m recording this podcast, the most recent OS for mac is Yosemite (I believe the next one is called El Capitan – also a rock face in Yosemite National Park). So if you have a Mac with Yosemite, you’ve probably seem desktop images of the place. It’s absolutely stunning. Being there is a bit like being inside your own Apple Mac, but obviously much much better than that because nothing can compare to seeing it with your own eyes.

We drove out of LA and the through back end of the Hollywood hills. Handsome countryside with a highway which is great for driving. But the land soon becomes flat boring farmland. The driving is fun in the Camaro, which comes into its own on the open highway (which is rarely open because of all the cars). I realise that I’ve hardly put my for down the whole time. Most of the driving in LA has been slow cruising or edging forwards in traffic.
I floor the Camaro with some space ahead and it reveals masses of hidden power, roaring and leaping forwards with yet more revs all the time. It seems to have about 9 gears and they’re all RAAAAA!
We eat up the highway and eventually arrive in Fresno after about 4 hours. Fresno, aka Mall-land. It seems to be one giant shopping mall. I guess we’re in the commercial district but there is just open mall after open mall. We pick one with a Wholefoods and get sushi, which is not that great. Wholefoods is like Mecca to us. London has a few, Paris none.
What’s great about Wholefoods?
They’re normal in USA but this one isn’t that great, or maybe the expectation was too high.
It’s freezing inside and boiling outside.
We wander around mall-land looking for supplies.
Then the drive to Yosemite in the mid/late afternoon. A couple of hours.
The landscape gets more and more interesting as we climb up and up the winding highway. Wonderful driving and lovely smell of pine cones and pine trees. We drive with the windows open and the sun on our faces through the trees.
Eventually we’re in Yosemite and we glimpse views of stunning granite formations but keep going. We go into a tunnel and on the other side (tunnel view) the whole valley opens out on the left side. It’s my Mac desktop but we’re actually there. Can’t see properly from the Camaro. Terrible visibility.
After an hour of driving in a daze we arrive at our campsite.
Describe the tents.
Friendly atmosphere. Our tent is situated pretty well.
There are strict regulations about bears.

Black Bears in Yosemite
This is bear country and they are all around the park. They come out at night to go on missions into the valley to get food.
Apparently they have over 2x the sense of smell of a bloodhound, are very intelligent and more curious and confident than dogs, they have huge claws and padded hairy feet which make them silent. You must not keep any food or scented products in the tent or car. Everything has to be in the bear boxes which are very sturdy, made of metal and bolted to the ground. Apparently if you leave food out and then turn your back, they can appear and start feeding. Apparently at night, all the black bears head down into the valley under the cover of darkness. Slightly scary.
Naturally it’s pretty exciting to be sleeping in a basic hut with just a curtain separating us in bed and the bears which I imagine to be wandering around our tents at night.
I don’t have to imagine much because that night a bear has a go at the bear box just next to our tent. I hear it trying to open the box before moving on to try another one and another one. I later hear two people walking past talking about the bear they’ve seen. I was frozen solid in bed the whole time.
Apparently if you come across one you should shout at it angrily to try and scare it away.
I wonder what I would shout at it.
What should you say to a bear? What’s the appropriate thing?
I wouldn’t want to be too rude but at the same time it would be necessary to talk in rather strong terms.
I suppose indirect language wouldn’t work.
You have to be direct and clear, yet reasonable.
I’m joking of course. I think I would just scream at it and swear and say any old nonsense.
I imagine some of you would be a bit cooler.
Not me – I’m from the UK. We killed all our bears years ago, and made them fight dogs and other cruel things.
I imagine that any bear meeting me and hearing my London accent would not be that friendly.
So, no need to be cool. Freaking out and panicking is the order of the day here.
The place has a lovely summer camp, hippie Boy Scout feel to it, although it’s a bit crowded and there are lots of kids. It would be nice to have the place to ourselves of course but that’s impossible.
Dinner in the Yosemite Lodge down the road. Modest canteen food. Bought some tourist stuff like a cap and some playing cards.
Then bed after making sure all food and smelly stuff is in the reinforced box, then draw the canvas curtains – definitely not reinforced. Tie them with a good knot. Will it make a difference?
Of course bears won’t be interested in us, but apparently they’re really curious. We’re wearing mosquito repellent coil things. They’re quite interesting and smelly. Maybe a bear will find it interesting.
I would. “Oh what’s that on your wrist” – would the bear equivalent of that be “roar! Let me poke my head into your tent and bite your arm off, or just maul you a bit (because that’s what large dangerous animals do, they maul you).
Slept pretty well in the open air, despite these thoughts in my head and an actual bear or two outside the tent. Had to go to the loo in the night. I did so, noisily, checking the toilet quickly for any bears that might be in there hanging out or whatever. I did my business and had to look over the top of the door before leaving the cubicle, just to make sure there wasn’t a huge bear waiting for me. But it’s all fine.

12 August 
Breakfast in the canteen and then a day in the park.
Stayed on the valley floor on bikes. Packed lunches. Wanted to hike but closed. Apparently there was a fire up there.
Amazing seeing the granite up there. Gave me the desire to climb, but that’s not an option without climbing buddies, and my wife hasn’t really done it before. Bikes are a bit awkward – beach cruiser type things. Mountain bikes would have been better. Still, it’s very peaceful and incredibly fresh. Sunshine and cycling are quite tiring so we end up chilling by the river.
I’m a bit worried about tomorrow. What can we do that’s fun and takes advantage of the proper rugged landscape without being too challenging?

That night I drive us back up to Tunnel Point to see the sunset. We end up staying to look up at the stars, lying on our backs. It’s immensely beautiful as there is hardly any light pollution, so the stars are all revealed in their glory. Millions and millions of tiny points of light. Our galaxy the milky way is so rich that it appears to be like a mist across the sky, but in fact it’s a dense collection of many many stars. We see constellations like Orion’s belt and the plough. Driving back through the valley my wife sleeps in the passenger seat and I stop the car again to lie on the bonnet and look up at the stars some more, but I get totally freaked out by the total darkness around me! We sleep soundly that night, ready for a pretty early start in the morning.

13 August
Early start.
Big breakfast.
Coach trip up to Granite Point. Driver very amusing. 26 years and he has perfected his routine. Full of jokes and dry humour and the story of Yosemite. (What’s the story)
Native Americans.
Granite Point.
Panoramic views and start hike.
Some concern over the preparedness, but in fact we’re well prepared. Our shoes are not climbing shoes, but I think some of that is just marketing, and anyway some of the more recent climbing shoes don’t have ankle protection. 8 miles of hike, mostly downhill. Some uphill bits. Some tricky steps. Should take 4-6 hours.
We do the first 3-4 miles without problem except my wife rolls her heel slightly on a rock. As she’s walking she steps on a small rock, and her heel flexes a bit to the right as her foot slips slightly. I worry for a moment if she’s sprained it but she says she’s fine and carries on.
Amazing views.
Stop at Nevada falls, dip our feet in the pools of cold water, chill out and eat sandwiches.
Time to leave and my wife’s ankle has ceased up completely.
Very painful to walk on and we face 5 miles of downhill trekking. Should take a couple of hours normally but it takes us about half and hour to do about half a mile. She’s holding my hand and using me as a crutch. We have to stop. We’re stuck.
Lots of people stop to ask if we’re ok. People are amazingly nice.
Two women called Jenny and Susan stop. Apparently they’ve just done a training course in safety and first aid.

They take our situation seriously and give us water and food, and then call search and rescue for us. I feel bad for not having done this earlier. Anyway, search and rescue take a full description of the injury and say they’ve sent a ranger up to meet us. Suddenly we’re in a kind of emergency rescue situation with the authorities involved. My wife in particular is gutted and embarrassed. They tell us not to move. We wait for about an hour and then the ranger arrives. Apparently he was on the trail already but he made good time to get to us. I’ve bound my wife’s leg in a bandage given to us J and S. The ranger has crutches and more supplies of water and food. He also has material to give the foot support with a splint.

According to him we should climb back up and then down another way. We realise this is going to take us hours and hours of slow and painful movement for my wife. She’s really pissed off and sorry. So am I.

We walk back the way we’ve come, up to the waterfalls again and it’s slow going. Poor wife has to struggle with crutches or one crutch and my shoulder. Very slow. A 2-3 hour trek looks set to take 5-6 hours. That’s a long time for my wife to hobble along a rocky trail up and downhill on crutches with one ankle in pain and unable to take her weight.
But she’s brave and determined. Every time Josh or I asks if she wants to take a break she says “non!”
She’s determined to get down the trail to the bottom, as quickly as possible.

Describe the trail and the things we saw.
Peregrine Falcons nesting above us.
We talk to Josh and he tells us various things:
There are about 5 fatalities from accidents per year.
That sounds like a lot, as if it’s a really dangerous place, but when you consider that about 5 million people visit every year it’s only 1 in a million who die. Imagine London with its 7 million residents. How many deaths are there in London per year? A lot more. So which is the more dangerous – trekking in Yosemite or cycling to work in London?
Nevertheless, there have been some pretty gruesome accidents, usually as a result of stupid tourists who have no sense of safety or no respect for the nature of the park.
Apparently one of the most common forms of death by accident is from people falling over the waterfalls and falling hundreds of feet to their death on the rocks below.
Apparently they jump around on the huge boulders at the edge of the waterfalls with their cameras and selfie sticks, edging forward trying to get the perfect photo or selfie and they edge forward a little too far and suddenly they’re over the edge.

What happens when a tourist falls off one of the highest waterfalls in the world and lands on granite rocks?
Apparently the rangers have nicknamed it the human water balloon. You can imagine what that looks like to the other trekkers and tourists who witness it happening.

Josh tells us other tales of tourists who are unprepared for the wilderness of Yosemite, even though there are numerous warnings written all over the park.

People who attempt to scale the half dome – a huge granite dome thousands of feet above the valley floor with a sheer vertical drop on one side. It takes at least 12 hours to climb up. Most do it over several days. It’s a proper climb for experienced people and it ends with a long ascent up the dome at a 45 degree angle. To get up there you have to hold onto steel cables which have been bolted into the rock, and use crude wooden blocks also bolted to the granite. Some people lose their grip and down they go. Others lose their cool and panic, with the same result. They fall all the way down to the bottom.
The search and rescue Rangers are called up to the mountainside every day. Sometimes it’s necessary to do helicopter rescues.
According to Josh, this year a woman fell from the half dome but didn’t fall to her death. Instead her shirt got caught on a sharp bit of rock and she hung there for two hours before being rescued.

Earlier that day, Josh had to rescue a guy who had fallen out of a tree. Apparently he was climbing the tree, messing around and he fell out and landed badly on a rock. His ribs broke and pierced his lungs. Josh thinks he probably didn’t make it.

This puts things in perspective somewhat. But still, the crutches and the assisted descent are definitely necessary and we count our lucky stars that it’s not worse. Josh tells us that we’re well prepared with water, food and a torch. Yesterday he rescued a Chinese couple who had tried to climb the half dome without knowing what they were doing. It’s at least a 12 hour climb, often more. They’d started after lunch and were quite high up, coming back down when they realised they would never get to the bottom before sunset and then they’d be stranded in total darkness on the trail. Not fun spending a night out there without food or shelter, especially when you know there are bears around, even 9 foot long mountain lions, although they are rare.
Josh heard the couple screaming for help on the trail, and assisted them to the bottom.
Again, 5 million people enter the park every year. Not all of them know what they’re doing.

We continue to make very slow progress down the trail. My wife is in a lot of discomfort, but mainly she’s frustrated at not being able to go faster. Each step is a mini challenge because of the crutches – she has to place them carefully, and then place her foot carefully too, making sure she doesn’t have to put her weight on the bad ankle.
On the plus side, we get to walk with a ranger and we get the sunset on the trail, with magnificent views of the half dome and other domes in the valley. Again, this all seems so familiar to me because of a computer game – this time it’s Red Dead Redemption, which is set over 100 years ago, and you’re basically a cowboy gunslinger in the wild west. The landscape is very faithfully reproduced in the game, and there is a mountainous area with bears which is really similar to the landscape in Yosemite.

As the sun stretches through the trees onto the trail we are basically alone at this point as it gets to about 8pm. We should have been back 3 hours ago but we still have a long way to go. In this quiet I keep expecting to see a bear cross the path in front of us. Everything seems so still and peaceful that I’m sure any moment now we’re going to come across a bear.
Anyway, the main challenge is to get down the mountain, never mind bears and lions. It’s very rocky, there are lots of steps and boulders and so on. It goes on and on forever until eventually we’re walking in the total darkness with torches on our heads.
I carry my wife for some sections, and it’s a chance to go much faster.

Eventually, after ages and ages, we finally get to the end of the trail at a huge water tank, which is like some massive UFO looming out of the darkness. From there we’re all picked up by a local police officer in his 4×4, which is absolutely huge, like many of the cars. It’s giant, with massive tyres. My wife sits in the cab with the police officer. Between them there is a gun rack with several massive semi-automatic rifles, a shotgun and a few handguns. A typical American cop car! Not only is it a tremendous relief to be off the trail and back in civilisation, but we get a ride in what feels like a tank! The police officer drives us through the forests in the closed area of the park, back to where our car is parked at Yosemite Lodge. We stop at the police station and Josh goes in to get us some food. It’s 11 o’clock and we haven’t eaten since the sandwiches at the waterfall. Josh comes out with two US Army meal rations. These are field packs for soldiers and they contain everything for a full meal including macaroni cheese, tea, coffee, a fruit desert, bread, salt, pepper, butter and the whole things heats themselves up without needing fire. Bonus!

In the end, we are completely knackered and go straight to bed, exhausted after I carefully inspect my wife’s ankle. Thankfully it’s not too swollen or discoloured. In fact, I think she escaped bad injury and her ankle will be fine if she rests it. The next 36 hours will be pretty inactive, with a long sleep and then a fairly long car journey so she can rest it.

End of Part 5! Part 6 coming soon…
Granite Point View

291. California Road Trip (Part 4)

Hi everyone, here’s part 4 in this road trip mini-series. How are you? Are you keeping up with all these new episodes? I suppose if you’re listening to this it means you are keeping up, but don’t feel rushed. Take your time, listen to them at your leisure, in your own time and at your own speed. I hope you’re finding this series interesting. In this one I’m planning to cover these things: Hollywood Boulevard and celebrity culture, an analysis of the mysterious lyrics to Hotel California by The Eagles, a visit to the extremely wealthy area of Beverley Hills, some more differences between American and British English vocabulary, the church of Scientology and then Yosemite National Park.

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Let’s see how much of that I can actually get through in this episode. I expect there will be one or two more in this series before we get back to normal podcasting as usual.

L.A. Continued… Hollywood Boulevard
I can’t remember which day this was as I’m losing track of time, but it doesn’t matter. At some point we took a walk along Hollywood Bld – that’s the one with all the stars on the ground and the names of celebrities. If you make it as a celeb, they put a star on the pavement here and you know you’ve made it because hundreds of tourists walk all over you and spill coke and ketchup on you every day. That’s the American Dream isn’t it.

Walking along Hollywood Blvd, and looking at the stars there, I wondered – how do you actually get your name on a star here? (Not that I want to of course) I just wondered – who decides which names are added and how does it happen? Since then I’ve done a bit of research (I read a TIME article based on an interview with a member of the selection committee – you can read it here: newsfeed.time.com/2013/07/16/how-to-get-a-star-on-the-hollywood-walk-of-fame/), and so…

How to get your star on Hollywood Boulevard
Essentially anyone can apply, as long as they have $30,000 dollars to spare, but the application will not be accepted unless it meets these criteria:
1. Do some iconic work in entertainment.
This means that you have to have produced something genuinely notable and celebrated in the entertainment world, like made a popular film, done some great acting on TV or in movies or made some music that’s popular enough to have made you famous. The emphasis is on accomplishing some expertise in the entertainment field, which means that reality TV stars are excluded, because it’s not counted as proper work. So that means no Kardashians. But they do accept animals. In fact several animals have their names embedded into the ground there, including Lassie and even fictional animal characters like Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Weird. You also need to have been working for at least 5 years. The main point is that this is a tourist attraction for the entertainment industry, so your name needs to be famous enough to attract tourists to come and see it. Apparently it’s working because the street is jam-packed with tourists and it’s almost impossible to actually walk along the street in some places.
2. Promise that you really want a star.
All applications require a signed statement from the applicant saying that they really want one, and that they will come to an unveiling ceremony if the application is a success. Basically, the star selection committee that is in charge of the process wants to make sure the celebrities are fully prepared to come and promote the addition of their star on the pavement. Again, this is to make sure it gets the proper media coverage, and those tourists keep coming with their dollar bills, their mobile phones and their instagram accounts.
3. Pay $30,000.
That’s how much it costs to enter the application process. Usually it’s not a problem for celebrities to pay this because other people pay on their behalf, for example management companies or other sponsors who have an interest in the person become more and more famous. Half of the fee goes to the Hollywood Historic Trust which maintains the whole street. The rest is used to pay for the paving stone with he star embedded in it, and also the security and photographers at the unveiling ceremony. It seems that people’s desire to be recognised as a famous person is what fuels the economy around here.
4. Impress the selection committee.
It’s a bit like a job interview process I suppose. In your application you need to impress the committee and show them what you’ve achieved in your career, proving that you really are a big star.
5. Choose your spot on the Boulevard.
It is possible to choose where your star is placed. The bigger you are as a celebrity, the more control you have over this. Do you want to be placed in front of McDonald’s or in front of the famous Chinese Theatre Cinema where all the premiers happen? Your power to negotiate this depends on your status in Hollywood. Apparently Clint Eastwood, a high ranking member of the Hollywood establishment, was accepted by the committee years ago but never completed his application, but nevertheless they have kept a space free for his star in a prime location – in front of that famous cinema. That’s how much of a star he really is in Hollywood – they’ve kept the best space free for him. Muhammad Ali didn’t want people walking on his name, so the committee agreed to put his star on the wall – the wall of what? You might ask. Ali’s name is on the wall of the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Centre. I wonder if you can buy a George Foreman grill in that shopping centre.

So that’s how you do it, if you’re interested.

What’s it really like there on Hollywood Boulevard?
Essentially, it’s like a bigger version of Oxford Street. It’s full of cheap attractions and huge crowds of tourists, and it’s a bit tacky. You can’t get much decent food there except burgers and pizza. I don’t recommend it really.
As we walk along the street, squeezing between people, we see names of people. Most of them are dead. There are loads that I’ve never ever heard of.
I’m struck by the thought that fame is fleeting. I mean that it doesn’t last. What’s the attraction of fame? To be so well-known that your name is embedded into the ground or onto a monument so people never forget you. Maybe people are attracted by this because they feel like it’s a way to live forever. But true long lasting fame is only gained by a tiny minority and even then it isn’t immortality it’s just a version of yourself that lives on in popular culture. A ghost.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: L.A. is a mysterious place.
I’ve tried to describe this already in this series. It’s just a general feeling that’s hard to put into words.
There’s a lot of light and dark here. Movie stars shine bright, and there’s so much glamour, but there’s also poverty, homelessness and broken dreams. So many young people have come to L.A. and then ended up corrupted by the place, or hurt by their own idealism and naivety. Some of them died young in tragic circumstances. Think of the girl Peg Entwhistle who jumped off the Hollywood sign in 1932, or young movie stars who died or hurt themselves as the result of a dangerous intake of drugs. River Phoenix for example. He was a fresh faced young movie star and musician, who died from an overdose on the doorstep of the Viper Club, which at the time was owned by Johnny Depp. Why so much oblivion?

Also, so much of the writing, films and music – the really good stuff at least, seems to be essentially about some sense of a loss of innocence, the end of the American dream, the darkness under the surface of American values or dealing with vice – particularly in the form of alcohol and drugs, and the dark side of these things. As if California represents the highest attainment of the American Dream, and is also the place that can turn into a grim and empty wilderness of the soul. Think of the detective stories of Chandler, the songs of The Eagles (not as sunny and nice as you expect) and other bands, the writing of Ginsburg, Bukowski, Burroughs, Kerouac, the comics of R Crumb and so on.

I realise that I’m talking about slightly dark themes here, in what you might have expected to be just a description of a romantic honeymoon. Well, we did have some really nice romantic moments together of course, and there was plenty of sunshine and good times, but as well as that we had a really great time getting to know the place and soaking up the atmosphere of the places we visited and one of my aims in these episodes is to get under the skin of California a bit.

Let’s consider some songs that deal with the things I’ve been talking about.

Songs about California
One example is the song Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Californication Lyrics here.

Also, we could go back to “Hotel California” and explore the meaning of the song. In fact, let’s do that.

The Eagles – Hotel California – Song Meaning
Click here for the full lyrics to the song: www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eagles/hotelcalifornia.html

There are loads of interpretations of the meaning of this song, including some pretty far out suggestions that it’s about satanism, drug addiction. I think the latter is far more likely than the former but let’s see.

Here is a summary of the song’s meaning – both the narrative of the lyrics and the themes the song explores. In fact, this song seems to sum up pretty well what I’ve been trying to say about LA and the excesses and dark side of the American Dream.

In this part of the podcast I’m going to read from a page on Shmoop.com. Here’s a citation and a link:
Shmoop Editorial Team. (2008, November 11). Hotel California Meaning. Retrieved August 25, 2015 from www.shmoop.com/hotel-california-eagles/meaning.html
So, if you want to follow what I’m saying just click the link above.

LA movies
LA Confidential, The Big Lebowski, Beverly Hills Cop, Pulp Fiction. Any film noir like Chinatown or The Big Sleep.

Beverley Hills – this is a really rich town, which is undeniably beautiful and well kept with palm tree lined streets, lovely properties and very smart shopfronts and boutique stores but some parts of it are filled with unbelievably fake looking people with loads of plastic surgery. There are Kim Kardashian clones everywhere with butt implants that mean they can’t walk properly. The streets are full young guys in rented sportscars which self-consciously zoom between sets traffic lights. It’s quite ridiculous and fairly ugly really.

And yes, I did just mention Kim Kardashian.

I always thought I would never mention that family on this podcast because I don’t really like what they do. I mean, I think it’s a bit empty and I don’t know why they’re so popular but if I’m going to talk about celebrity culture in L.A. then how can I do it without mentioning the Kardashians (reluctantly).

Who’s Kim Kardashian?
She’s the daughter of a rich West Coast socialite, and a powerful lawyer. She’s famous for being famous. She’s like Paris Hilton basically. That’s how she first became known in the media, as a friend of Paris Hilton. What a claim to fame! “So what do you do Kim?” “I hang around with someone who doesn’t do anything”. Wow, that’s like being famous for doing even less than nothing! So she’s famous for being friends with someone who’s famous because she’s famous. That’s actually quite impressive. Well done! Maybe that’s the appeal. She makes it look easy. Then in 2003 I think she decided that in order to get even more famous that she would have to actually do something, so she released a sex tape. That’s basically a home made porno. Classy. In my opinion, that may be the quickest and least respectable way to make a name for yourself in Hollywood, but fair play to her – it worked. She then continued to sell off her private life in a reality show called Keeping Up With The Kardashians in which the viewer is invited to follow her and her sisters through their pampered and vacuous every day life.

An example of what happens in a show?
I just had a look on Wikipedia for some show summaries. Here’s what I found from a random entry in series 3 of the show. “Episode 22. Khloé faces pressure about her weight when she decides to do PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign. Kris and Kourtney confront Kim about her shopping addiction. Kim gets laser eye surgery after struggling to see herself in a mirror at a dance rehearsal. (I imagine that was a huge crisis – not being able to see herself) Bruce is anxious to talk to Kendall and Kylie about his colonoscopy.”
What’s a colonoscopy? That’s when a doctor inspects your colon by sticking a big camera up your bum. Ok, so you’ve got the general idea.

My problem with the Kardashians is that I don’t get it. I don’t get the appeal. I must be wrong because Kim is one of the most followed people on Twitter and it seems that everyone seems to love her. So, I must be wrong – so if you’re a Kardashian fan, let me know why. I’d love to know the appeal.

Is her reality show popular because we just like to look at the lives of the rich and famous? Is Kim Kardashian a role model? Apparently, for some people she is a woman who has taken careful control of her image and is now rich and successful as a result, like Beyonce or something. But, it helps when you start out rich in the first place, doesn’t it? And at least Beyonce can sing and dance. What can Kim Kardashian do? Well, she can take good selfies. She can use Instagram well. She can market herself well. I suppose that’s it isn’t it.

She married Kanye West, the rapper, which I imagine only happened because Kanye West is not allowed to marry himself. Yes, he loves himself, or that’s what people say anyway. Maybe Kim Kardashian fell in love with him just because she was so impressed by the size of his ego. Surely nobody’s ego is as big as mine, she thought – but then she met Kanye and couldn’t resist his charm, and by that I mean his media status. Good luck to them, I suppose. Maybe I’m being cynical and they just really love each other. Well, if that’s the case – good luck to them! I hope they stay together and prove me wrong, and everyone lives happily ever after.

What do you think? I’d love to know.

More American English & British English
These words are all related to food in some way.
UK word – USA word
Chips – Fries
Crisps – Chips
Biscuit – Cookie
Jelly – Jell-o
Jam – Jelly
Sweets – Candy
Treacle – Molasses
Candy Floss – Cotton Candy
Aubergine – Eggplant
Courgette – Zucchini

ukulele-soprano-debutant“Californication” Lyrics & Chords
www.tabs4ukulele.com/bands/red-hot-chili-peppers/californication.html#null

End of part 4. Part 5 coming soon…
Hotel California

290. California Road Trip (Part 3)

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. This is part 3 in what could turn out to be quite a long series about my recent trip around California. Normally I tend to focus on British things in this podcast but every now and then I go travelling somewhere and report back on what happened. This time I went to California on my honeymoon. The itinerary for the trip was to fly to LA, then drive to Yosemite National Park, then across to San Francisco, then down the coast back to LA and then home again. In this series I’m telling you about the trip, but also I’m branching out in order to ramble on about the history and culture of California and some of the differences between British and American English, as well as some other subjects.

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At this point in the series I’m still just a few days into the holiday, and there’s plenty more stuff to cover. In this episode I’m hoping to talk about Venice Beach, Baywatch, Segways, the grammar of telling stories and anecdotes in English, some facts about the Hollywood sign, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, British and American English vocabulary related to driving, the dark side of Hollywood and celebrity culture, and an analysis of the lyrics to the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles. That’s a lot of subjects to cover, so I’d better get started right away!

Saturday 8 August
Drove to Venice Beach which is just along from the world famous Baywatch Beach (Santa Monica beach).
Long Boardwalk with lots of shops, cafes and bars.
People performing and busking.
Muscle beach.
Skate park.
Bikes and segways.
The Segway – the most stupid invention of all time?
What we need is some way of propelling us forwards at just a few miles per hour (you mean like walking speed?), but with the ability to go slightly faster (what, like running speed?) facing forwards so we can see where we’re going, with our hands free so we can hold coffee or mobile phones. How on earth can we do it? (How about our legs sir? We could just walk, jog or run.) Don’t be ridiculous!

And the Segway was born – bringing human laziness to new levels. And you thought escalators and moving walkways were bad enough, now the Segway. It’s very hard to look cool or even dignified on one of these things. I imagine there are some people who cruise around on a Segway all day and then go to the gym to run on a treadmill in order to stay fit. Something doesn’t make sense here. OK, so it doesn’t produce harmful emissions, but neither do your legs. Sure, a person can fart – that’s an emission, but you can still fart on a Segway so it’s the same. Maybe it’s for people with mobility issues, but it seems that in order to use a segway you need the full use of your legs in order to stand on it the whole time, and balance properly. Well, I’m sure it must be useful for something – like maybe doing specific jobs, but it seems a bit silly to use one when you can just use your legs to do exactly the same job. It seems like reinventing the wheel to me. (This is a phrase which means doing something unnecessary – like working hard to do something which is already done by something else)

“Introducing a new innovation in green personal transport – legs!”

Went to the beach or sunbathing. Really huge beach covered in pristine bleached sand.
Swam in the sea. Big waves.
Surfers.
There are lifeguards, exactly like in Baywatch but somehow I expected (or hoped) that it would be more like Baywatch there.
Baywatch: A show which I think was ‘single handedly’ responsible for bringing a whole generation of boys into puberty – no pun intended.

But it was pretty normal, compared to the TV show. I mean, the people looked pretty normal. It wasn’t just hundreds of David Hasselhoffs and Pamela Andersons everywhere, except for me and my wife of course.
Shopping in the huge outlet mall. The place looked like Bowser’s castle from Super Mario Bros. Totally fake modern place that was vaguely like a castle and a huge castle courtyard.
Bargains on jeans. 4 items for the price of one pair of jeans back home.
Seemed incredibly luxurious. Big marble toilets with acres of space.
Yamashiro restaurant in the evening for a romantic candlelit dinner with a stunning view of the city. The restaurant was amazing, with Japanese gardens in the middle and lots of sliding doors – like the scenes from Kill Bill.
Amazing views of the city.
Delicious sushi.

STOP! Grammar Time – A Note on the Tenses Used in this Episode
Usually when you’re describing what happened in the past you use past tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) and so on. So far I’ve been using past tenses in this series of episodes when talking about what we did, but as I’m now reading from the notes I made during the trip, I’ve noticed that I wrote it all in present tenses and it feels tempting to slip into the present tense while reading it. Why? This sometimes happens when we tell stories that we want to make engaging, captivating and in-the-moment. Past tenses accurately report past events, but past tenses can be quite remote. They place the action in a finished time period. When people tell long stories, they sometimes slip into present tenses in order to avoid this remoteness, and make the action and events seem more real and captivating.

Also, using present tenses to tell stories and anecdotes is more common in spoken English. In written English it can be frowned upon (some people don’t like it) but the main thing when writing is that you stick to one perspective (either past tenses or present tenses, throughout). For example, a person at a dinner party might begin telling a story about their holiday using past tenses but then might subconsciously switch to present tenses to make the events more immediate, and that’s considered ok. But if a novelist writes a story and some of it is in past tenses, and other bits are in present tenses, it’s usually considered to be sloppy writing unless it is obviously a stylistic choice. What I’m saying is: you might notice some moments where my tenses move from past tenses to present tenses and this is more acceptable in spoken English than in written English. As my podcast is presented to you as primarily a form of natural spoken English, that should account for this.

Past tense version: So we were sitting in the Japanese restaurant and eating sushi, having a lovely romantic evening, when suddenly loads of ninjas dropped down from the ceiling but I wasn’t worried because I’d spent 3 months in the mountains learning the ways of Chinese kung-fu and so I dealt with them all, and went back to the sushi.

Present tense version: So there we are eating our sushi, having a lovely romantic evening when suddenly loads of ninjas drop down from the ceiling but I’m not worried because I’ve spent 3 months in the mountains learning the ways of Chinese kung-fu, so I deal with them all and then go back to the sushi. (The present tense version is more immediate, and more common in spoken English, although it might sound a bit colloquial).

Slipping into present tenses when telling a story is usually a subconscious thing, rather than a planned thing. I think people just end up using present tenses when they’re recounting events as they actually happened. So, let’s see if it happens to me while I continue to tell you this story.

Another point: This habit of slipping into present tenses that I’m talking about… This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to use past tenses. It’s not a loophole which you can use to avoid making sentences with complex past tenses. This is not a way for you to completely avoid having to deal with irregular verbs and past participles and auxiliary verb conjugations and things. No. If you get a grammar test at school about narrative tenses and you use present tenses, you can’t justify it by saying “But sir I was just using present tenses to make the story more immediate!” Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. You still need to master past tenses before you can abandon them in certain cases. You need to know the rules before you can break them. You need to have full control of the language in order to make these subconscious shifts in tone. So, keep studying those past tenses, practising and being mindful of how you’re using them. If you want to listen to a podcast episode about using past tenses (simple, continuous & perfect) to tell stories, check out episode 29 which is called “Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses”. It’s one of the most commonly listened-to episodes of my podcast. It’s got a short story featuring The Doctor from Dr Who, and a full explanation of how to use narrative tenses properly, pronunciation drills and everything. Click here to check it out: www.teacherluke.co.uk/2009/11/12/mystery-story-narrative-tenses/

So, you can study the tenses directly. Alternatively, don’t worry about it too much and just let the words wash over you and focus on the general meaning of what I’m saying to you, and imagine yourself there and just focus on the meaningful content – the more natural and contextualised English you hear the better it is for your acquisition of grammar at an almost subconscious level, creating that sense of instinct for what is correct or incorrect usage.

Anyway, on with the story…

Sunday 9 August
Breakfast and then took a drive up into the hills for a trek. (Am I using present or past tenses? I’ve become self-conscious now, so I’ll probably stick to past tenses, but I’m sure that if I get carried away with the story I’ll end up using present tenses… we’ll see)
The whole time in LA I felt very bizarre deja vu. This was of course because of the films and movies I’d seen, but more specifically because of Grand Theft Auto 5, which is very accurately modelled on LA, down to lots of small details. I felt exactly like I was in GTA5 a lot of the time. It’s an amazing game.
Stopped off at a pharmacy on the way. Vast.
I think you get the idea – everything in the US is big. Big cars, big buildings, big beds, big meals, big people. Although we didn’t see many of these huge, fat Americans that we all hear about. I think that’s because in California people are generally a lot healthier. Still, people in general are larger than in the UK.
Park the car and begin a trek into the hills around the back of the Hollywood sign.
Very dry. In fact the whole state is on high alert for forest fires. There are fires burning in various parts of the state all the time. California has been experiencing a severe drought for years. In LA they redirect water from hundreds of miles away in the Colorado River Basin. The water then gets used by rich people in Beverley Hills to spray in their gardens to keep their lawns green. Again, pretty crazy right? Welcome to Los Angeles.
L.A. is a city with a little mountain range running through the middle of it (Ok they’re hills not mountains) and if you like hiking a bit then it’s worth going up these hills.
We do get amazing views of the city sprawling away on both sides.
Arranged in lines.
Mild hike behind the sign and then down the right hand side.
Views of the sign.
Here are a few quick facts about the Hollywood sign:
– The sign is about 45 feet high and was originally built in 1923 when it was originally put up as an advertisement for a huge real estate company selling top quality real estate in Hollywood. The company was called Hollywoodland. In fact the sign used to say Hollwyoodland, but the ‘land’ part was removed and the sign became an icon of the region of Hollywood, and everything that represents – glamour, movies, fame etc.
– In 1932 a young actress called Peg Entwhistle committed suicide by climbing up the sign and jumping from the letter ‘H’, falling to her death. Apparently she was depressed because she couldn’t make it as an actress in Hollywood. Ironically, her death made her quite famous.
– The sign used to be covered in lightbulbs, which must have looked pretty cool when it was turned on, but the bulbs didn’t last long as they were too expensive.
– The sign was repaired lots of times and almost completely rebuilt in the 40s, but in 1978 it was in such bad condition after the O fell off and tumbled down the hill and also some arsonists set fire to one of the letter Ls. The city decided to repair it and it cost over $250,000 to do that. Who came up with most of the money? Hollywood’s celebrity class. In fact PLayboy owner Hugh Hefner organised a big party at the Playboy Mansion in order to provide the money. Rock star Alice Cooper also provided money to help repair the letter O.
– It was replaced in 1978 and while the work was being done there was no sign there for 3 months.
– The sign is owned and protected by the city of L.A. and there’s quite an advanced security system which monitors the sign 24 hours a day.
In fact you can’t actually get that close to it. There’s a big fence surrounding it, and a big telegraph aerial. You can get around the back, like we did, but you can only really see the letters “HO”. But when you hike around to the front you can see it pretty well, and it looks cool. Again, it’s amazing to actually see something that you’ve seen so many times on television. But it’s not just the power of TV. It is a great location, with some attractive landscape and a really good view of the city below.
We ended up quite far from the car and got lost in the winding streets under the sign. Lots of properties nestled in to the hills. Attractive places and no doubt expensive but not as expensive as other places like Bel Air etx.
No phone reception so kept walking.
Then uber back to the car.

Life in LA is life in a car.

You never drive above about 60mph. I wonder why there are so many powerful sportscars. You never drive over about 50-60 mph. Sums up the place a lot. It’s more about show and image than about practical living – for some people. In fact there are plenty of ordinary people living in LA, who drive ordinary cars, and who do all the ordinary business of life. There also happen to be plenty of rich movie industry people here too, rock stars, and their children. In fact, one of those rock stars is Anthony Keidis from The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He used to live in the Hollywood Hills, and he sang about them too. In fact, I’d now like to recommend another audiobook download for you. So, here’s some more promotion for Audible – that company that provides loads of audiobooks, and they’re giving you the chance to sample their service for 30 days and that includes a free download of any book you like. Here’s another California related book you could get…

Audiobook Download Suggestions
“Scar Tissue” by Anthony Keidis
This is the autobiography of the lead singer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Chili Peppers have an amazing story. They’re from L.A. originally, they’ve been going for about 3 decades, they’ve been through numerous guitarists, ups, downs, deaths and near deaths, epic highs and devastating lows, and yet they’re still going. Anthony himself was a heroin and cocaine addict during much of his career and in this book he tells his own very personal story of growing up in Los Angeles and his experiences of living with his Dad who was basically a drug dealer to the rich and famous. He talks about struggling for years with his experimental band the Chili Peppers – doing intense live performances, sometimes naked on stage, developing their funk-rock sound which ultimately catapulted them onto the world’s stage. You can hear exactly what was like and listen to descriptions of all the complicated things that went along with that stardom. It’s a powerful story, full of sex, drugs and rock and roll but also a genuinely moving and candid account of Anthony’s success, strengths, weaknesses, friendship, personal hardship, the music business, his addiction and his eventual recovery from addiction. The book is an international bestseller and you can download the audiobook version from Audible. Get it free by going to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke, or click one of the Audible buttons on my website.

American & British English (Part 1) Vocabulary Related to Cars & Driving
*A note on British and American English*
As you are well aware, there are, broadly speaking, two types of English – American English, and good English, I mean British English. (Just joking – I’m not one of those Brits who has a problem with American English) There are other types of English too of course, like English in Australia, South Africa, Ireland, India and so on.

Can Brits and Americans understand each other? Yes, they can – except for some slight misunderstandings sometimes, there’s no problem in understanding each other.

Really the differences are in the accents, vocabulary, spelling, some grammar and the culture or communication style.
There are definitely some differences in vocabulary. Sometimes these cause misunderstandings. E.g. I said “Are you in the queue? ” and the woman just looked at me. Then I worked out the problem and sad “Are you in line?” and bob’s your uncle. The vast majority of the words we use are the same, but there are differences that are worth knowing. These differences may be more obvious when talking about different systems (e.g. our political and legal systems are a bit different so we’ve developed different terms to talk about them) but in general English there is a relatively small group of key words that are different and it’s worth knowing them all. I’m going to go through a lot of those words with you in this series of episodes.

In terms of culture, although we speak the same language, we don’t necessarily think in the same way and this can cause some problems in communication. For example, Brits tend to be more indirect in their use of language as a way of being polite, diplomatic, tactful etc. It can seem to be a more complicated message, but we see it as being more respectful and considerate. We don’t want to seem bossy or aggressive, but the Americans might take it as weak, unclear and even unsincere (not just the Americans) E.g. “I was wondering if you could…” or “I think there might be an issue…” instead of “Could you…?” or “There’s a problem”. I’m not saying all Americans are direct all the time, but in my experience I think there is truth in what I’m saying. If you want more evidence, read this article written by a Brit who’s done a lot of business communication in America www.forbes.com/sites/sungardas/2014/08/14/lost-in-translation-overcoming-the-language-barrier-as-a-brit-in-america/ So, there is a bit of a difference in communication style and culture, despite the fact that we speak the same language. The old saying goes “Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language” (which I think was said originally by George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and one of the founders of the LSE – not the London School of English, but the London School of Economics).

Accent or dialect can cause problems, particularly stronger regional accents. To be honest I think this is more of a problem for Americans understanding Brits (and other forms of English like Australians, South Africans, Irish etc) I think the average Brit would probably understand most American dialects and accents, but the average American might have trouble with some local British dialects. For example, in the USA they often require subtitles on TV when someone with a strong non-American accent is speaking (e.g. a local Brit from Liverpool, Glasgow or Newcastle). I’ve seen interviews on US television with actor Colin Farrell that had subtitles to help the Americans to understand what he was saying. He’s Irish and has a fairly strong accent, but it’s not extraordinarily difficult to understand in my opinion but apparently it was necessary to provide subtitles for the American viewers, even though he was speaking English. However, I doubt that a UK audience would need subtitles for an American, even if they have a strong accent from pretty much anywhere in the country. I think this is because in the UK we are exposed to lots of American English from TV and films – even the really colloquial stuff, but British English is comparatively less known in the USA due to lack of exposure.

The Brits and Americans do spell some words differently as I’m sure you’re aware (famous differences are things like colour/color and theatre/theater) and there are some differences in grammatical usage, but that’s less obvious and as a result less problematic.

Anyway, the point is – there are differences between British and American English but the vast majority of the time we can understand each other without any problems at all. If you’re wondering what kind of English you should learn (which you’re probably not wondering to be honest, because if you’re listening to this then you’ve probably decided that you like British English, and you’re right of course – you are wise wise people indeed) But seriously, you can choose to learn British or American English, or a bit of both. In fact, I personally think it’s ok to mix it up a bit as long as people understand what you’re saying.

For your learning of English, I’d say the main things are that you’re able to identify the difference between a British and American accent, and that you know the main differences in vocabulary. For more information about the differences between UK and USA pronunciation, listen to a previous episode I did on this subject – Episode 14 “British and American Pronunciation” teacherluke.co.uk/2009/10/19/episode-10-british-and-american-pronunciation/.

The subject of British and American English is really interesting and very relevant so I’d love to come back to it in the future but for now, here are some different British and American words. I’ve chosen ones that are related to driving.

Let’s see how many you know. I’ll define the word first – try to guess it. Did you come up with the British or American version, or both? Let’s see…

British Word – American Word
Petrol – Gas (gasoline)
Petrol/fuel tank – gas tank
Caravan – Trailer
Lorry – Truck
Junction – Intersection
Tyre – Tire
High street – Main street
Windscreen – Windshield
Motorway – Freeway/Highway
Number plate – License plate
Bonnet – Hood
Pavement – Sidewalk
Boot – Trunk

End of part 3. Part 4 coming soon!
California3

289. California Road Trip (Part 2)

Here’s the next part of my description of my recent trip around California. This is a description of my honeymoon, but I’m also going to tell you about the cultural, geographical and historical context of the places we went to, and I’ll give you some practical tips and teach you some British and American English too. This is part 2 of the California series. Let’s carry on.

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In part 1 I told you about the itinerary for our trip, some of our first impressions of arriving in L.A., some notes and advice on customer service and dealing with waiters & staff, some stuff about the car, an audiobook recommendation and California’s marijuana laws. So, let’s carry on in this episode. First of all, I’d like to give you a brief history of California, because it helps to understand what the place is all about when you learn about its history.

A Very Brief History of California Source: michaellamarr.com/cahistory.html A paraphrased and reduced version.
California is known as the golden state, because of the sunshine but also because of the gold that was found there in the mid 19th Century. But let’s go further back to consider the first people to have populated California, a long long time ago (but not in a galaxy far far away this time).

Small Donate ButtonPeople arrived in California about 12,000 years ago. They were descendents of the people who travelled across the Bering Strait from the Asian continent about 40,000 years ago. They travelled into North America to follow food – migrating herds of animals probably. At that time it seems that Alaska and what is now Russia were connected by an exposed stretch of land which later was covered over when the sea level rose, separating America and Russia (or the Asian continent). Those people became the first Native Americans. They eventually found their way to the area we now call California. They lived there in various tribes in different parts of the state, undisturbed for a long time.

Then, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans began travelling across the Atlantic and America was ‘discovered’. It was the Spanish, with Hernando Cortez initially, and then other explorers who were the first Europeans to enter the area that we now know as California after fighting the Aztecs and developing a Spanish colony in Mexico. The Spanish attempted to settle in California and find a route they could use to sail their ships from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast, but they the failed to find one after lots of attempts, with some competition from Sir Francis Drake who to the English is a great explorer, but to the Spanish is a pirate who raided early Spanish settlements, stealing lots of their silver. The Spanish found it hard to settle in California because of the difficult access from the Atlantic side and because of clashes with the native people so they ignored California for about 150 years, although they had named the areas of America that they’d ‘discovered’ and claimed “New Spain”.

It’s not entirely clear how California got it’s name but it seems that the most popular theory is that it comes from a romantic adventure story by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo called “Sergas de Esplandian” or “The Adventures of Esplandián” (1510). This story tells of a mythical island called California, which is populated by a race of beautiful and powerful Amazonian warrior women called the Califia who are ruled by the formidable Queen Califia. In the story, which was a very popular and well known one, the Califia were warrior women “of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength.” The queen and her warriors would go on adventurous missions, fly around on griffins (griffins are legendary creatures with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet) that lived on the island and would capture and kill men they come upon during their travels. Any man found in their domain they would eat. Califia or California in the story is presented as a mythical place near the real world. The island is described as a kind of paradise filled with gold and precious stones.

The original Spanish settlers who came to the area first thought that California was an island, and perhaps it was similar enough to the mythical island in this story that the settlers were inspired to use that name. The story was well known and popular enough, and some believed it was based on an older myth which was part of an oral Spanish tradition. Some people may have believed it was true and this place really existed. Maybe they thought they’d arrived there for real, or maybe they were just inspired by a good story. It’s not entirely clear, but what we do know is that, essentially, California is named after a beautiful and powerful Amazonian warrior queen, who used to fly around on a griffin and eat men for breakfast. Pretty crazy, right? It sounds like something from an Arnold Schwarzenegger film from the 80s or something. It just shows that California has had a fairly long tradition of grand, glamorous and sexy myth making and story telling associated with it.

In 1765 a man named Jose de Galvez, who was an official to the Spanish king decided it was a good idea to have another go at claiming New Spain properly, before the English or the Russians did it. He managed to convince the King to let him go on a mission there, with the intention of claiming the land and spreading the Romain Catholic faith. Although it was a very difficult mission with lots of hardship, ultimately it was successful and several missions (Christian bases) were set up on the Californian coast, including Monterey Bay and San Francisco. The Spanish missionaries managed to convert a number of the local natives into Catholicism, but this was largely due to the threat of violence or because they pacified the natives with offerings of supplies and tools that they’d never seen before, although saying that I’m sure the natives were also genuinely impressed by these new people who had arrived and may have seen them as being sent by god. Again, things didn’t go completely smoothly because there was resistance from the locals who did fight back, but in the end the Spanish were numerous enough and powerful enough to withstand these resistance movements from the Native Americans, even though unfortunately this meant that a lot of native people were killed and severely punished in the process. This is all part of the story of how the Native Americans were eventually almost completely wiped out in the long population of America by Europeans.

The Spanish settlers and missionaries built forts at strategic locations up the California coast. These were basically protected bases which helped them defend their territory against angry natives or possible invasion by other countries wanting to take this beautiful and rich land that they had managed to claim. To provide food for the people in these missions or forts, pueblos were created around them. These were basically towns with farms that could produce food. These places eventually grew and developed to become cities like Los Angeles, Monterey and San Francisco.

Then there was a war of independence in 1810 which ended in 1821. This is a similar story to the war of independence against the British which was fought on the other side of the country. The colonies in New Spain were fed up with the way they were being ruled from Spain and felt they didn’t have enough freedom or independence. The people of New Spain won that war and set themselves up as an independent government under the name of Mexico. The Mexican government took control of New Spain and decided that the missions had too much power, and closed them, freeing up the land previously owned by the missions. The priests in the missions were still allowed to operate churches there, but the land was to be divided between Mexican settlers and the Native Americans. The thing is though, the Native Americans had no real understanding of the concept of land ownership so they either didn’t want the land, didn’t understand that it could be given to them, or didn’t know how to deal with it because they’d been living in the missions so long that they were now dependent on the Spanish and Mexican settlers who ran the place. Some native Americans managed to return to their way of life, and some tribes of natives in California had managed to avoid being captured by the missions so there were still Native Americans in California at the time, but the coastal colonies continued under Mexican control. The Mexicans in California did lots of trade with people from many other places during this period, which enriched the area with the influence of different cultures. Presumably these traders came from Russia, Asia or Europe.

Some people, mainly fur trappers, managed to make the very difficult journey from the East coast by land. Remember that it took me 6 hours to fly from New York to LA? Well in the early 19th century it would have taken years to make the journey and in the beginning only the toughest and wildest people could make the journey, which was essentially a massive exploration into unknown wilderness populated by native tribes and dangerous wildlife like grizzly bears. But, some fur trappers made it to California in the first half of the 19th century. These fur trappers were really tough explorers who travelled west in search of valuable fur pelts – basically the skin and fur of different animals. Beaver was perhaps the most sought after pelt. Why? Because beaver fur was used to make top hats in Europe. You know those tall hats the Victorians used to wear? They were made from beaver fur. It’s light, strong, glossy and warm. Perfect material for a good hat, so there was plenty of demand for beaver fur as well as other animals. The first fur trappers must have been very tough guys who were almost as wild as the natives they met along the way. In fact many trappers got to know the natives and learned a lot of their knowledge to help them survive in the American wilderness. Imagine the challenge of crossing rivers, mountain ranges, deserts, canyons and forests. We’re talking about epic journeys.

By the mid 1800s the independent Nation of the USA was very keen to extend its territory to the west, in order to populate and claim that whole stretch of North America from east to west. In fact the prevailing ideology of the time was a strong feeling that the United States had almost a god given right to claim the land, and that it was the destiny of the USA to do so. This is the idea of manifest destiny – That the USA felt the land was theirs for the taking and that they had the god given right to take it. James Polk was the president at this time and he decided that he wanted to take the lands of Texas, New Mexico and California. Texas was a country in its own right at the time after having broken away from Mexico, and New Mexico and California were still owned by Mexico.

By this time – about 1840. More and more settlers had followed the fur trappers west and had settled in California. This included a man called John C Fremont who was an officer in the US army. He led a brigade of 60 men into California and met Colonel Jose Castro of the Mexican army in Monterey. Castro (no relation to the Cuban leader who came much later, I think) sent the US soldiers out of California, but this army brigade were determined and later re-entered California, gained the support of some of the settlers there and started a revolt in Sonoma, flying the flag with a star and a grizzly bear – the flag of California, and they pronounced it “The California Republic”. This coincided with the general aggressive movement into Texas and New Mexico by President Polk’s US army. Fighting between the USA and Texas had started along the Rio Grande river and this fighting eventually reached California. The bear flag rebels joined the US army during this war and fighting continued into 1848 when when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the war. The treaty brought peace to California and also stated that Mexico had to give more than 525,000 square miles of land to the USA. This included the areas between Texas and California, and marked the extension of the USA’s territory from east to west coast.

What happened next was that gold was discovered in California and this changed everything. The first discovery of gold was in 1848 in the Sacramento valley, which is between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and that caused a few hundred local Californians to move there, and a thousand or so outsiders. A lot of them struck gold and became very rich. Word of this travelled quite far, and fairly quickly. By early 1849 many people around the world had heard the news about gold being discovered in the new world in California and instantly thousands of people were infected with gold fever. “There’s gold in them there hills!”

1849 was the big year for the California gold rush. Something like 100,000 people travelled to California in that year. The people who travelled there are known as the 49ers (which explains the name of the American Football team from San Francisco). About 60% of the 49ers were from America, but the rest came from other countries all around the world and many of them settled in California long term, again adding to the diverse culture of the place. The Chinese certainly moved there in large numbers. Something like 20,000 in total, and many of them settled in the nearest port – San Francisco, which is why there is a large Chinese community there in Chinatown today. 100,000 people is a massive influx in just one year, and the gold rush is certainly one of the most significant moments in American history. By the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852. The non-native population grew by about 1000% in about 18 months following the discovery of gold. This represented a massive injection of culture, development and wealth into California. San Francisco for example, quite quickly became a large metropolis.

What about the native Americans? It wasn’t a good time for them. Essentially, The USA’s expansion west, particularly in search of gold and land just didn’t fit in with the way of the life of the natives. The two cultures just couldn’t live together, and because the American settlers were more numerous, had better technology and weapons, and because the Native Americans were vulnerable to diseases carried by the settlers, the natives just couldn’t hold on to their way of life and were either killed or forced to live in limited areas known as reservations. It’s sad, because the Natives were people who had learned to live in harmony with their environment, and then they basically got wiped out or forced off their land, and treated like animals. It’s heartbreaking really.

By about 1852 even though the surface gold had basically disappeared, lots of people continued to make the journey west in search of their fortune and a better life, and they continued to make that journey for decades as California continued to be seen as a place where people could have a better quality of life.

The 1930s saw another fairly big movement of people into California in search of a better life as a result of the great depression and the dust bowl across the midwest. The dust bowl was basically a huge drought in the early 30s in large farming states from Texas to South Dakota – a big stretch all the way up the middle of the country. There was a huge drought (no water) and so all the crops failed and the earth turned to dust. Within a couple of years there were huge storms that carried the dust into the sky and far along the ground. This made it almost impossible for families to live and grow crops so many of them just left the area and made the arduous journey west towards California in search of a better situation.

Another Audiobook Suggestion
“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck lived in Monterey, so I thought I’d pick one of his books, and I think this one is probably his most celebrated work. It has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on audible, which is really high, and the book is widely considered a great classic of American literature. Written in 1939 after the great depression of the 1930s the book follows the story of a family from Oklahoma who are forced to make a long journey across America to live in California. It tells their personal story of the difficulty of the journey, but in doing so it manages to capture the epic narrative of a whole migration of people into the American west. Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity. Here’s a quote from a listener’s review: “From start to finish each one of the characters, because they were so well formed and realistic, evoked empathy but never to the point of pity. Every character bore their share of hardship. You walk away from this experience feeling stronger for having been in their company. These were people to be admired.” R. Solomon from New Hampshire.
www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Pick the version read by Dylan Baker. It’s unabridged.

A Brief(ish) History of California (continued)
The gold rush was a really important time for America, and the great depression of the 1930s. The migration into the west which was involved in both situations, and to a larger scale across the whole previous century of American history at that point was the embodiment of the American dream. The idea that anyone was free to start from the bottom and if they had the strength and courage they could make their own fortune by driving west, claiming their own plot of land, and delving into the rich American soil to produce shiny gold and riches, or an escape from hardship into liberty! These days people still go west in search for a fortune or some sort of everlasting freedom, but not because of gold, but in search of stardom on the silver screen. Los Angeles and the Hollywood star machine continue to be an attractive goal for many people, although it’s nowhere near the same scale as the original gold rush.

Nevertheless, California maintains its image as the golden state and is still considered to be a golden land where fame and riches can be found. Generations of immigrants have been attracted by the California Dream. California farmers, oil drillers, movie makers, airplane builders, and “dot-com” entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have each had their boom times in the decades after the Gold Rush. California is also a very popular destination for tourists, holidaymakers and honeymooners, and dreamers. It’s still associated with the American Dream and all that it offers.

But that vision of America may eventually have its downside when you’ve basically made it across the country, you’ve made it to the golden land, the gold has run out and yet the dreams remain. What seems to happen is that people lose it a a little bit, or feel that their idealism and perhaps naivety are challenged by the final frontier – the frontier of inner space or spirituality or just general meaning to life. That may be why people are pretty ‘far out’ here – there’s lots of spiritualism, yoga, new age thinking and so on. Perhaps that’s why they’re into movie making too. It’s the dream factory. Also, there’s plenty of entrepreneurialism in business technology, especially into another frontier – cyberspace, as I mentioned earlier with Facebook and other software and social networking companies. In fact here’s a list of companies in the bay area of San Francisco: Facebook, Pinterest, Tesla, Hewlett Packard, Quora, TuneIn Radio, Google, Skype, PayPal, Logitech, LinkedIn, Groupon, Uber, Android, Intel, Apple, EBay, AOL, Yahoo.

LA Continued…
We drove downtown to have a look around, get some food, get used to the place, take it easy a bit, do some shopping.
Driving in the car in traffic.
One thing we noticed was the huge paintings and murals on the walls. There’s some really fantastic and very large artwork on the sides of buildings. It’s more sophisticated than graffiti. It’s really excellent. Check out this link to see some of the murals www.laweekly.com/arts/10-best-la-street-art-murals-of-2014-5279399
In fact there are murals in many places in California, especially the cities like LA and SF.
Downtown market
Grammy Museum – amazing music exhibition, particularly the interactive screens which allowed you to take a journey though all the interconnected musical genres.
Huge Taylor Swift exhibition, probably because she was due to perform a number of concerts nearby. In fact, Taylor Swift followed us around California. Wherever we arrived she seemed to be doing a concert and we kept hearing her hit song “Shake It Off” all the time, including in the museum shop where it appeared to be playing on a loop, all day. I can’t imagine what that did to the brains of the staff working there. I quite like the song actually. I think it’s a great pop song – and is commercial, super catchy and full of hooks and so on. I’m not sure about Taylor Swift herself. She started out as a country artist, and then recently she sort of switched over into R&B a little bit and it’s worked out for her. I don’t really like any of her other songs, but Shake It Off is just a perfect little pop song.
Hollywood Improv. for comedy + food.
Fighting jet lag.
Back to the hotel to watch a bit of American TV and then pass out.
American TV – just commercial break after commercial break, and many of them are about treatments for health conditions. So many adverts for health insurance and medical solutions. It’s really weird. It’s hard to actually find any content on TV because it feels like about 50% adverts. You flick through the channels and it’s just ad after ad after ad. Still, some of the late night comedy and chat shows are pretty good. FOX News is a total joke. CNN doesn’t seem that much better to be honest. It’s all way too glamorous and just doesn’t feel objective or incisive enough.

There’s a presidential campaign going on. Donald Trump is dominating the news. He’s basically a right-wing free market capitalist who says whatever the hell he likes and appears to be running for president purely because his ego is in overdrive. His skin is more orange than the sun, his hair looks like it should be captured and studied by scientists, and his views on immigration are pretty disgusting. For example, he recently said that Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves and that if he was president he would start by building a huge wall between the USA and Mexico, and that the Mexican government will have to pay for it. Right. Is this the man we want to be in charge of one of the biggest and most potentially lethal countries in the world. No. Please no. Hilary Clinton will probably win, but I wonder about her connections to all those corporations. Bernie Sanders is a pretty reasonable left-wing candidate. The other Republicans don’t seem to be any different to each other. Jeb Bush is, well, he’s another Bush! But even he seems pretty normal compared to Trump. American politics is fascinating, entertaining and also a little grotesque and a bit scary. What a country.

End of Part 2. Part 3 coming soon…
California Flag

288. California Road Trip (Part 1)

Hello! Welcome back to LEP. This should be episode 288. How are you? I hope you’re doing alright. I’m fine thanks. I got back from my honeymoon in California just a couple of days ago. I’m dealing with jet lag. It’s grey and windy here (can you hear the wind noise in the background?) and my sun tan is fading, but it’s good to be back.

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Thanks for lots of recent comments on the last few episodes of this podcast. Thank you sooooo much for all the lovely things so many of you wrote in response to the wedding episode of the podcast that I did recently. It’s really touching to read your comments. My wife also found them very sweet and nice.

This episode is about my recent honeymoon trip to California and I have so much to tell you about it. But before we start, let me just say a few things in the first few minutes of this episode.

First of all, I’d just like to say don’t forget to join the mailing list so you’ll get an email whenever I post a new episode, or other bits of content such as videos or blog posts. Also, you can subscribe to comments on this website too. When you leave a comment on a page, you can tick a box that says “Subscribe to comments”. Then whenever anyone else leaves a comment, including responses to your comments, you’ll get an email notification. It’s a good way to keep up with what other LEPsters are writing on teacherluke.co.uk

Secondly, I would like to say a big hello to YOU – yes, YOU – the one who is listening to this episode, and to say thank you for tuning in, using whatever means – either on the website, on iTunes, on your phone, your iPad, your android device, in your car, on your mp3 player, on your internet radio or just hearing it by chance because someone else is playing it to you, like your English teacher or something. If you’re with other people while listening to this, why not just turn to them and say a friendly, “Hi, how are you? Are you alright?”, just as a gesture of goodwill. There, that feels nice doesn’t it? If you’re a regular listener to LEP, then hi – welcome back. If you’re a long term listener then “hello old friend”. If you’re new to the podcast, then welcome to LEP. I’d just like to say that I strongly recommend that you keep listening to this podcast on a long-term basis, because let’s face it – learning a language is a long-term process, and I record this podcast with that thought in mind. Just listen regularly over a fairly long period and you will see improvements in your English – and that’s just from listening. There are other ways of speeding up the learning process by using my podcast and website as a resource (listen to episode 174 for more information on this) but at the very least, just enjoying listening to this podcast regularly is definitely a great way of keeping your English fresh. People often underestimate the importance of doing lots and lots of listening. It can make a big difference to many other areas of your English, including speaking, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. It’s particularly useful if you enjoy what you listen to, and you basically understand most of it, and that you feel that the person you are listening to is speaking to you personally. That’s what I aim to give you in these podcasts. The perfect listening resource to help you improve your English. So, I’d like to say thanks for listening, but I’d also like to say “well done” for listening too, in order to remind you of the benefits that you get from listening to this. Well done, you’re doing the right thing and your English will benefit from it as a result. It’s quite simple really. It’s not rocket science. For more information on this kind of thing, just listen to my other episodes, and have a look at my website which is teacherluke.co.uk. You’ll find loads more information and useful content there.

Introduction
Now, as I mentioned before, this episode is all about my recent trip to California in the USA for my honeymoon! As you probably know, I recently got married and my wife and I decided to go to California, and now I’m back, and my tan is fading, but the memories are still fresh in my mind, and I’d like to share them with you. So, let’s go to the USA in this episode and go on a road trip around California!

Notes & Transcriptions
You will find some notes and some transcriptions on the page for this episode. In fact, if you’re reading them now then you’re reading them now. There they are right in front of your eyes! Just a reminder if you want to find this episode on teacherluke.co.uk – just look in the ALL EPISODES archive for episode 288, or just type in the search bar on the right of the screen the number “288” or the word “California” and you’ll find it easily.

The following words and sentences that you can read on this page are not a full transcription. They’re just notes. Some parts are transcribed, but mostly these are just basic notes, which means that they are not always full sentences. They’re just words and phrases written to help me remember details of the trip.

I wrote these notes on my iPhone during spare moments on holiday, and also when I got back, and I used them to help me record the episode you’re listening to now. I hope you’re listening, and not just reading – remember, this is a podcast and not a blog. It is designed primarily to be listened to.

Here’s what you’re going to get in this episode (or series of episodes)
This is a sort of diary or report of what happened on my honeymoon in California, but it’s not just a description of a honeymoon. It’s more than that, because not only am I going to tell you a few stories about what happened and what we did, but I’ll also explain a bit of cultural and historical information, as well as give you some practical tips, including ways of communicating effectively in various situations.

I’m going to tell you what it’s really like to be in California. It’s a description of the culture, geography, people, history, sights, sounds, smells and more. I’m going to tell you what it’s really like to deal with customer service there, what’s it’s really like to drive in the USA, what it’s like to deal with problems, what some of the linguistic differences are, what the climate is really like, what the food is really like, some of the history and cultural highlights, how to get along with people in the USA, how to develop the right relationship with waiters, hotel staff and other key people. It is a description of my honeymoon, but I also want it to be a lot more than that. I want to take you with me on my holiday, and teach you some things along the way, and it’s all in English of course so not only are you going to join me on a geographical and cultural journey, but also you’re going to plug yourself into a source of natural English spoken from me to you, right here, right now. You can pause it any time you like, you can rewind and listen again, you can slow it down, you can speed it up, you can fall asleep and listen again later, you can transcribe it, you can repeat after me or you can just relax and enjoy listening. So, brew a cup of tea or coffee, get comfortable, get uncomfortable and then get comfortable again, smoke a big cigar, pretend your working on a big excel spreadsheet at work – do whatever you have to do to enjoy the episode. I hope you like it and find it useful.

As usual, I’m not sure how long this episode will be, but I’m pretty sure it will be another mini-series of episodes as I have quite a lot to say about this trip.
You can visit the page for this episode in order to find some of this episode transcribed, some of the notes I wrote in my phone while I was there and other things like links and photographs of the trip.
Now let’s get started with the first part of this story.

Following the tradition, you are going to hear me doing my first recording in a toilet on a plane.

6 August – Recording 1 – In a toilet on a plane again, above the Atlantic Ocean
You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast
Where am I? I’m in a toilet on a plane again.
This is becoming a tradition – recording podcasts inside toilets on different modes of transport.
We are going to California for our honeymoon.
It’s the land of Hollywood, Baywatch, Coastal Highways, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Yosemite national park, the tallest trees in the world and open top cars etc.
I’m hoping to record short episodes at regular times during the holiday.
I’ll try to teach you something in every location, and I’ll just describe what I’m seeing and what it’s like.
I might even interview a few people that I meet because, you know, they speak English in America too of course – a kind of English.
I’m flying to New York.
What happened?
Flight was overbooked. Flight companies overbook their flights to make sure it’s not a loss of money for them.
We checked in, in person, not online. Why? We were hoping to get upgraded because we’re on our honeymoon.
Everyone told us to mention we’re on our honeymoon, as that would be the key to unlock numerous upgrades, rewards and treasures.
We were hoping to be upgraded to business class or something.
In fact we sort of got downgraded.
Talk about the overbooking process.
Mention the change of route.
It’s not that bad.
All’s well that ends well.
Despite the inconvenience and the delay and the stress we are nevertheless on our way. So all’s well that ends well.
(Let’s hope this ends well and that we do get to our destination ok in one piece)
That’s it – this is Luke Thompson in the toilet signing out.

I originally intended to do recordings while I was there, using my mp3 recorder, including some random interviews with American people, but that didn’t really happen in the end. I mean, it was my honeymoon so the main point was to share a special time with my wife. I wasn’t going around with a microphone the whole time, interviewing people and talking to myself.

However, I did manage to get an interview with one person – and that was perfect and really special, and very appropriate to Luke’s English Podcast, which is primarily for people who are learning English as a foreign language. Who did I manage to speak to? Well, it was the one and only AJ Hoge, who you may well be aware of. He’s the internet’s most famous English teacher. You’ve probably come across him at some point. He has an online teaching programme which he has called Effortless English. He’s made a big success of himself as an independent online English teacher, he’s a native speaker of American English and a resident of California, so he’s the perfect person for me to have spoken to. So, in the end that makes up for the fact that I didn’t speak to any locals on the podcast. I got AJ, so that’s fantastic – it happened in San Francisco so you can expect to hear my conversation with him in that part of the story.

Our California Itinerary
California has so much to offer – climate, different environments, famous sights, shopping, good food, beer, wine, musical history, literary ties, connections to counter culture and it’s the place we’ve seen in so many films and TV shows.

Itinerary: LA – Yosemite – SF – Coastal Highway via Monterey, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Malibu – LA.

We only had two weeks, so there was no way that we could do and see everything. In fact, I think you shouldn’t try to do too much on holiday. I’ve said it before: holidays are like pizzas. Don’t put too many toppings on a pizza. Don’t try to do too many things on a holiday. OK, maybe holidays aren’t that similar to pizzas, but you get the idea.

I’m lucky enough to be able to travel
I generally get the chance to travel somewhere on holiday about once a year. This trip was a bit special because it was my honeymoon and we planned to go on a slightly more expensive trip. Anyway, I’m still lucky to have the opportunity to go to different places, quite far away. Not everyone has that luxury. You might not have that luxury. Admittedly, you might have that luxury – I’m sure many of you are very well travelled. But I also know that plenty of the people who listen to this free podcast don’t have the chance to go on many foreign adventures. So, I hope you enjoy the experience of listening to my account and that I give you an idea of what it’s really like to drive around California for a couple of weeks. And if you have had the luxury of going there, then perhaps you can compare your experiences to my experience. Did you experience similar things and have the same thoughts and feelings? What are some of the the thoughts in your head as you listen to my account on this podcast?
As ever, please leave your comments on the page or pages for this episode series. That’s not just for my reading pleasure, but also so you can share thoughts and ideas with your fellow LEPsters.

California Diary Continued – 6 August/7 August
In the taxi we heard “Hotel California” on the radio, and even though it’s a bit of a cliché, it was a perfect soundtrack to the trip. From the taxi we saw silhouettes of palm trees swaying in the breeze, the shapes of the Hollywood hills in the distance, Spanish style villas, lines of headlights of cars on long highways, the warm temperature outside and the spacious streets and empty sidewalks. Wow, we’re in movieland – LA, is it real or just a jet-lagged dream? This is how it felt at the beginning. We felt a million miles from home, and in a strangely familiar environment – one that we’d seen before in a hundred movies. It was like entering a recurring dream.
LA is a big place, but so is the USA as a whole.
We flew over it for hours and hours. It made me think of the people, years ago, who made that journey on foot or horseback. It took them years and years. They travelled in groups, families etc. People died and were born on the journey. Now we see it as an annoying inconvenience that takes 5-6 hours out of our holiday.
LA, Hollywood
Arrived and went for some dinner.
Service – very personalised. “Hi my name’s Derek, I’ll be looking after you this evening. Can I get you something to drink before we start?” Mammoth sized cups of water and ice arrived. I ordered one beer, I got two because of some kind of special offer I wasn’t even aware of. There’s always some kind of deal, discount or offer available. Already we had way more than we needed.

A Note on Customer Service
Generally, in my experience customer service in the USA is good, despite a couple of negative experiences I had there. There’s a bit more ‘back and forth’ than in the UK (I mean, standard things that you say in general interactions with waiters or staff), and it’s a bit like a little game you have to get used to.
For example:
Hi guys, good morning, how are you today?
Fine thanks, and you?
I’m good thanks for asking. If you need anything at all, my name’s Stacey.
What if we don’t need anything, then what’s your name?
I’m sorry?
You said, if we need anything, you name’s Stacey. What if we don’t need anything, is your name still Stacey? It’s… I’m sorry it’s just a joke.
Oh, I see! You’re joking! Hahahaha!
Sorry, I’m English.
No problem! I love your humour, so dry, right?
Yeah.
Well, just enjoy you guys. Let me know if you need anything.
Thanks for your help Stacey.
Have a nice day now.
You too.
I will, thanks for asking!

Staff tend to be friendly, attentive and professional, probably because quite a large part of their wages comes from tips, so they have to make the right impression. Sometimes though, as a foreigner, it seems a little tricky to get through to the staff if you have particular requests, or perhaps because of the cultural/language barrier. I think this applies to the UK too. Because you’re not local, you don’t know the normal ways of doing things, so you need to make a slightly bigger effort to help bridge the cultural gap. You might think – but this is exclusively the job of the waiter, he/she should make all the effort.

Be realistic, the waiter is a person and they’re not always an expert in cross cultural relations either. If you want to achieve something, and get what you want, you just need to make a bit of extra effort yourself. This means greasing the wheels with some niceness, charm, a smile and a willingness to make things work. So, what’s my advice for getting good customer service when you’re in a foreign country? Just that – try to be clear, positive, friendly and remember that the waiter or whoever it is that’s giving you a service is just a person doing a job. It’s easy to let things break down because of slight cultural differences. It’s important to make an effort to help the person to help you. I say that because I’ve seen people in the UK who got offended by what they perceived was bad service, but was in fact just a slight breakdown in communication. Give your communication a chance and be patient, friendly and helpful, and don’t expect the staff member to understand everything you say the first time around.

L.A. Continued… 7 August
Space.
Coffee & breakfast
Car
Weather
Location
Phrases “you got it” “you’re all set” “I’m good”.
Palm Trees, hotel California, film noir, Raymond chandler, Charles Bukowski, a million movies. The whole place is like a movie set.
This is a movie town – everything is fake and it’s all about veneer. As well as being sunny all the time, there is a mysterious and slightly sinister feeling to the place too, which is perfectly captured by the classic detective stories of Raymond Chandler and other writers, and the movie versions of those stories, collectively part of the film noir movement. I’ll talk more about this mysterious atmosphere in a bit, but first…

Recommended Audiobook Download – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Let’s take a break from the UK’s favourite books for this series, and look at a few recommendations for California-related audiobooks you could download free by going to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke
Recommendation #1 – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
This is perhaps THE classic American detective story. It’s set in LA and it is absolutely full of dark and mysterious atmosphere, as well as understated cool humour and sizzling tension. It follows private detective Philip Marlowe as he tries to solve a complex case, while dealing with several dangerous and seductive female characters and some violent murderers. It perfectly captures the atmosphere of a film noir movie set in LA, and it’s really well read by Ray Porter. This is the blueprint for so many other detective stories featuring tough and cool, yet ultimately vulnerable heroes. Imagine films starring Humphrey Bogart for example. It’s glamorous, brutal and extremely well written stuff. www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. It’s got an average rating of 4.3 out of 5.

California Diary – LA, Continued…
Nothing is real here. There’s a strange feeling that you’re living in some kind of dream, and I don’t think that is entirely the result of breathing in the marijuana vapours which are floating around in the street in so many places.

It’s hard to date the buildings. They could be old, or they could just be built in an old style. LA doesn’t have the same depth of history as in Europe. There’s evidence of a colonial past, but also so many buildings are new but designed to look like they come from another period, like Spanish villas for example.

It’s all like a movie set, and if you took away the facades of the buildings, it’s just a desert underneath. So, the buildings are a kind of facade. Everything is a bit fake, like in a movie. It’s hard to know what is real. The people also seem a bit distant. They’re sweet, and hippyish, if a bit shallow in some circles. It feels like everyone is high, in fact they probably are, because smoking marijuana is more and more popular.

There’s no evidence of smoke when you walk around, but I’m sure people are ‘vaping’ all over the place. I can smell it. In the corridors of our hotel, in the street outside bars.

California’s Marijuana Laws – An Interesting Legal Conflict
California has an interesting position on marijuana use, and this reveals an interesting conflict between state and federal law in the USA.
Is pot legal in California?
What about smoking tobacco?
Do people smoke in the street?
What is ‘vaping’?
Where do people buy weed in California?
Did you see it or smell it there?

More in part 2 soon…
Hollywood-Sign

287. VOCAB BATTLE!!! WITH AMBER & PAUL (exciting title)

aka “Vocabulary Game with Amber & Paul” or “Fifteen Fixed Expressions” (less exciting titles)

Learn more English expressions in this episode by listening to another vocabulary game with Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor.

The series of episodes featuring ‘fixed expressions’ and vocabulary games continues in this episode. The previous ones, entitled “Ten Fixed Expressions” (283) and “Ten More Fixed Expressions” (285) featured me testing Paul’s knowledge of multi-word expressions in English. He did better in the second episode than the first, although maybe that’s because of the way I explained the expressions rather than because of Paul’s lack of vocabulary. Nevertheless, the wider aim of these episodes is to teach you, my listeners, some vocabulary in the form of multi-word expressions.

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What is a ‘fixed expression’?
Essentially, a fixed expression (according to me) is a vocabulary item comprising of a few words that always go together. That includes idioms, sayings, phrasal verbs, well-known quotes and collocations. All these things are lexical items which are included in the catch-all title of ‘fixed expressions’. The words are fixed together. They’re not just individual words combined, but they are discrete items of vocabulary in their own right.

So, fixed expressions are essentially ‘lexical chunks’. They’re not types of shelf unit or ikea furniture or anything like that. They’re just phrases in English. That should be clear.

I realise that the more I explain, the more confusing it is, so I’ll stop explaining now and we can start playing the game.

Let’s Play the Game
This time Amber is involved.
All three of us have short lists of five expressions.
We’re going to do three rounds of this game.
Round 1: Amber vs Paul (Luke is the Question Master)
Round 2: Paul vs Luke (Amber is the Question Master)
Round 3: Luke vs Amber (Paul is the Question Master)

Rules of the Game
The Question Master defines an expression without using the words in the expression.
The QM can also give little hints if necessary.
The two competitors race to guess the expression.
A point is awarded to the one who guesses the question right. If both competitors guess the expression at the same time, they both get a point.
Listeners can try to guess the expressions too. Did you guess them? Did you beat us?
If you don’t know the expression, listen carefully because we will explain, repeat and give examples.

So, it’s a fun game and a learning opportunity too, in one Great British package.

The Expressions in the Game
Here you’ll find lists of the fixed expressions in this episode. Listen to the episode to get the full definitions and examples, or search for the definitions online.

Luke’s Expressions
1. to be hard up
2. to be in the loop / to stay in the loop / to keep someone in the loop
3. “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”
4. to bend over backwards (for someone) (to do something)
5. to give someone the benefit of the doubt

Amber’s Expressions
1. to get your foot in the door
2. to show your true colours
3. over my dead body
4. in mint condition
5. to bite the bullet

Paul’s Expressions – Theme: Body Parts
1. to have two left feet
2. to be/fall head over heels in love with someone
3. (to do something) by the skin of your teeth
4. (give it some) elbow grease / (put some) elbow grease (into it)
5. to put your foot in your mouth

There are plenty of other expressions in this episode, so if you notice any other good ones please add them in the comments section below.

Enjoy!

p.s. I’m going on my honeymoon in a couple of days so there will be no new episodes for a couple of weeks, but LEP will be back :)
VOCABBATTLE

286. The Wedding Episode

Hi everyone, how are you? As you know I got married a couple of weeks ago (applause & congratulations) and in this episode I’m going to tell you about my wedding day, including the preparation, the thoughts, the feelings, the emotions, and what happened on the day itself. I’m not sure how long the episode will be, but I’ll aim to keep it to just one episode.

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So, this is The Wedding Episode. You’re going to hear specific vocabulary related to weddings and you can just follow this personal account of my marriage in France between an English guy (that’s me) and a French girl (that’s my wife, of course). I’m going to describe lots of things in this episode, including how we organised our wedding, the roller coaster of emotions we experienced, why we chose a civil marriage outside and not a religious one in a church, and what marriage really means to me and to my wife. That’s what you can expect in this episode, so strap yourself in and join me on a little journey in to marriage-land, for this special episode of Luke’s English Podcast.

On my wedding day I got a really fantastic surprise which is related to LEP, so I will talk about that in this episode too.

First, let me make a few announcements
– The situation in which I’m recording this episode
– Welcome to any new listeners. I seem to have picked up a lot of new people recently, and I’ve had quite a lot of comments on the website from people saying they’ve just discovered Luke’s English Podcast and that they’re now addicted. That’s great! Welcome to the club. I hope you enjoy being a part of the LEP gang. Join the mailing list. Hello to these recent commenters ROBERTO BISPO DOS SANTOS, Eriko Kato, Kristina Fadeeva, olgaverb, angela, Roberto Geronimo, CFA, deniz from Istanbul, CalMaFdd, Javier (thanks for coming to a recent live show at The Paname), ptholome, Anonymous (a regular contributor), Martin, lotusmar629, Juan Mora, Rhogen Tandayag – I’m not sure where you are all from, some of you are quire regular commenters, not all of you are new, but thank you very much for your comments.
– If you’ve sent me a donation recently then thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are keeping this podcast alive and I wouldn’t be able to do it without your support.
– I joined periscope and did a live broadcast recently. You can see the video on my website (the previous post) and you can follow me on Periscope by searching for my twitter name @englishpodcast or just search for Luke Thompson. You can watch periscopes without the app by clicking here watchonperiscope.com/users/englishpodcast/6862923 From time to time I’ll do live broadcasts, probably when recording podcast episodes.
– I’ve been quiet recently and that’s for the usual reasons. Life has been very busy. I got married, we went away to Italy for a quick romantic getaway, I’ve been occupied at The British Council teaching English all day every day, and we’ve been planning our proper honeymoon which begins in just a couple of days. Also, I’ve been doing quite a lot of comedy in the evenings – various opportunities for comedy gigs arrived over the last two weeks and so I’ve been quite busy. That includes a 1 hour special show that I did with Paul Taylor. We did 30 minutes of stand up comedy each, last Thursday evening. The title of our show is “Taylor & Thompson – Sorry, we’re English”. It’s a show that we expect to perform on a regular basis here in Paris, on either Thursday or Friday evenings. More details to follow.
– I’ve had lots of positive responses to episodes I did recently with Paul Taylor and Amber Minogue. I do plan to have them both on the podcast regularly, and in fact I have plans to record something with Paul later this afternoon, and with both Paul and Amber on Tuesday afternoon. Amber has a young child to look after, as well as her normal working life and so on, so it’s a little bit more difficult to get her on LEP but she loves doing it (and recording episodes of the podcast! -joke) so she’s happy to come over and talk when she has the chance.
– I’m going on my honeymoon in a few days. I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks. I’m recording a few podcast episodes in the next couple of days and I plan to upload them all before I go so you’ll have some stuff to listen to. I might record some things when I’m on my honeymoon. We’ll see. I’ll be on holiday with my wife so I’m not sure I’ll be in the mood for podcasting, but then again we’re going to California so there could be some great opportunities to talk with American people and give an account of our trip. We’ll see. My wife is totally cool with me recording stuff while we’re there (in fact she wants me to interview some of the locals) but I’m not sure if I want to be thinking about that when I’m on my honeymoon. I might want to just relax and enjoy being a tourist. Still, I am going to bring a microphone and a recorder, so we will see what happens. If I get a chance to record something from inside a toilet on another mode of transport then I will take it. I’ve never recorded something from inside a helicopter or a hot-air balloon, so we will see if I get the opportunity to do that :)

Now, let’s get down to business and talk about this wedding!
So, I got married and I am now wearing a wedding ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. It’s only been a few weeks since the wedding. We’re in marital bliss, or the honeymoon period as it’s known. Hopefully this feeling will continue for some time.

I am planning to do another episode after this one, in which I deal exclusively with the vocabulary of weddings. But, in this one I’m not going to teach you any words directly, I’m just going to tell you about my wedding, but of course plenty of wedding-related vocabulary will crop up naturally during in my descriptions. I’ll go through that more explicitly in another episode.

You might be thinking – are you really going to reveal so much about your wedding? That’s a bit personal isn’t it? Are you sure it’s wise to tell people so much about your wedding?

Yes, I am aware of those things. I know that I’m revealing quite a lot about myself online. I know, for example, that students of mine at the university might hear this and they will then find out this personal information about their teacher at university, and this might affect my professional relationship with them. But, I don’t feel I have anything to hide, and I share this story with my listeners here with the expectation that you’ll listen to it with a sense of respect for me and my wife, and that you’ll be respectful with the personal info I’m giving here. I share this information in good faith, and that is what I expect in return from you as a listener. Of course, I don’t really need to say these things to the LEP community because I think there is an implicit level of respect there, but still… I’ve said it anyway.

I do realise that revealing personal things about yourself online is a bit risky. The thing about the internet is that whatever I upload here could end up permanently ‘out there’ in the online world. Even if I decide to remove this episode from my website, people could have already (and probably will have) downloaded it, re-uploaded it or whatever – even if I get rid of the original version, it could still be available on torrent sites or file sharing sites, or other places like YouTube or whatever. I don’t mean to say that I’m super important and that information about my wedding, leaked online, could cause world war 3 or anything, no, I just mean that personally I have to be careful about what I upload because ultimately it will be in the public domain forever. Sometimes I think it would be wise for me not to mention anything about myself at all, but I’m willing to do it – but understand that I do it with the expectation that you’ll treat me with the same level of respect that I treat you, and something personal like my wedding I expect you to treat with the suitable level of care and discretion. I’m sure that most of you understand all that, so it’s fine. I just wanted to mention it though.

So let me now tell you the story of my wedding. Remember, I plan to do another whole episode in which I deal specifically with the vocabulary of weddings, so that will come later.

Where on earth should I start?
This series of days was the culmination of not just months and months of planning, but years of a relationship I’ve had with my girlfriend, who is not my girlfriend any more, because she’s now my wife. It was a very emotional few days, full of the joy of life. I’ve never experienced anything like it and my wife and I, and many of our family and friends are still buzzing about it today. It went better than we could have expected. Let me tell you about it.

You might be thinking – but you already got married! You mentioned it in an episode not long ago. Yes, that’s right, but I got married twice! If that’s confusing, don’t worry because I’ll explain it in this episode.

Notes (not a full transcript)

How did you meet your wife?

Was it love at first sight?

Was it hard to keep the relationship going, long distance?

What made you move to France?

Why did you choose to get married?
-I was never a huge fan of marriage, neither of us were. We used to talk about it and agreed that it wasn’t really necessary. It’s never been that important. But somehow, it felt like the right thing to do. In fact, I decided to propose to her not because it was necessary, but because I wanted to do it as a declaration of love and commitment to her – not because I felt any social pressure to do it, because, as I said – I’d never felt any pressure to marry. I’m not from a conservative or religious background. It made my parents happy, and hers too, but they didn’t put pressure on us to marry (I think they’re more keen for us to deliver grandchildren than to get married…)

So, I proposed as a surprise, and as a statement of my love and commitment. That’s the spirit in which we got married.
How did I propose – that’s between me and her. I’m not sharing that.
I’ll talk more about what marriage means to us, and how that affected the wedding day in a moment…

How was the wedding planning?
-Some parts were great, like visiting places in the south of France and doing wine tasting with friends, writing the vows and imagining the event.
But a lot of it was quite stressful and was a lot of work.
We argued a bit, mainly over the fact that she felt she was doing more work than me (I think that was true, but I certainly did a lot too).
We chose to plan it ourselves. We didn’t use a wedding planner. Our parents didn’t organise it. We did it all ourselves. It’s a huge undertaking, with many different things to organise, and it all has to be perfect! That’s a lot of pressure, especially when you’re the ones in the middle of the day. We never really cared about weddings, but suddenly it becomes important because everyone else is going to be there to see it happen, and because of photos and videos, and you only have one wedding day (hopefully) so it becomes more and more important to make it special, unique and wonderful. As a result you end up micro-managing and planning it. That’s time consuming and costly. As a man it’s not my natural position. I mean, I think I can say that most men are more laid back about their wedding. I mean, they don’t require so much detail in the planning. I think that’s generally true. It doesn’t mean we don’t care – of course we care and we want it to be a brilliant day, but we’re probably a bit easier to please. So, what I’m saying is that my wife had a slightly more specific vision of the wedding than me, and that meant she was pretty much the driving force behind the planning. That frustrated her a bit and the argument went something like this: I’m doing everything and you’re doing nothing.
I’m not doing nothing – I’m doing loads of things. That’s unfair, you can’t say I’m doing nothing.
Well, you’re doing less than me.
Yes, well, you don’t let me do more than you. You’re in control everything. You can’t just control everything, and then complain when I’m not doing it.
Hmm, okay I suppose you’re right. In fact, yes Luke I expect you’ll be right about everything from now on and I should just get used to it.
Yes, exactly. Get used to it. When we’re married I’ll always be right. That’s how marriage works.
Obviously, that dialogue at the end became a joke – I’ll never be right again! ;)
Don’t get me wrong – we didn’t argue all the time. Just whenever we did any wedding planning!
No, that was a joke again.
We didn’t argue that much. Most of the planning went fine, and in fact a lot of it was great fun – especially the visiting of locations in the south of France, choosing/tasting the food & wine, writing the vows, practising songs with my brother Jim and my cousin Oli and just looking forward to spending a couple of days in an amazing location with our closest friends and family.

The most difficult things were: choosing the guest list, the table plan, the dress (I was not involved in that), giving people travel and accommodation advice (it was quite complex) and choosing/planning the ceremony.

*Break for Audible offer promotion: www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke*
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
This is the perfect story for this episode about marriage because it is one of the absolute classics of romance fiction. It was published on 16 October 1847 and tells the story of a woman called Jane Eyre who begins her life living through hardships and mistreatment, she gains her independence and education, falls in love with a man who appears to be out of her reach, and enters the tricky world of love, commitment, family and loyalty in the mid 19th century. There are a few twists and turns in the story and plenty of romance! It is read by Juliet Stevenson who is one of the UK’s most beloved actresses. She hasn’t appeared in many international movies, but she’s well known on television, and has an absolutely beautiful and warm voice which is perfect for this kind of story.
The audiobook version has a rating of 4.6 out of 5, which is extremely high. This truly is one of the UK’s favourite books. You can get it from Audible.com free if you’re not already a member. It’s very simple. Just click one of the audible buttons on my site, or go to audibletrial.com/teacherluke to sign up to a trial. You can download any audiobook you want and after 30 days of trial you can cancel your membership but still keep the book. So, the audiobook is free. All the details of this offer are on my website. I highly recommend you make the most of it, and even continue with a full membership of Audible.

What did you have to plan?
-location
-guest list
-invitations
-email addresses and home addresses for contacts
-website
-food menu
-best man and bridesmaids
-music and entertainment (bands, playlists, audio equipment)
-ceremony
-wording and the person to deliver it
-readings in the ceremony
-vows
-location of ceremony
*At this point I skip to the bit below entitled So what happened on the big day? Talk us through it.
-wedding dress
-suit
-dress code
-speeches
-photographer
-gifts for guests
-wine and champagne orders
-other entertainment for the wedding party
-directions for how to get to the wedding (including all the different travel options)
-rental car
-taxis for all the guests
-food for the Sunday brunch

How did you find the location for the wedding?

Did you consider getting a wedding planner?

Why did you get married twice?

What about the London wedding? What happened?

Why did you have a civil marriage? Isn’t it a bit meaningless if you don’t get married in a church?
– No, quite the opposite. I’ll come back to this question.

What about your stag do? And her hen do?

So what happened on the big day? Talk us through it.
-Travelled down on Thursday
-Rented a car and on Friday went to the place.
-Had a small gathering with close friends on the Friday night.
-Rehearsal
-Saturday – less stressful than the London one.
-Late start.
-Very hot indeed!
-Setting up the seats and everything
-Putting up signs and balloons to guide people to the venue
-Getting ready with my best man and friends
-Didn’t see my wife all afternoon
-All guests seated, I lined up with everyone to walk in.
-I walked in with my Mum
-Best man and bridesmaids walked in together
-Flute
-No pictures and no FB please
-My wife arrived on the arm of her Dad and walked very slowly down the aisle.
-Ceremony started, beautiful conditions.
-Readings
-Vows (emotional! Everyone cried)
-Song (too slow)
-Final parts – ring, “you may now kiss the bride”
-Walk out then cocktails, champagne and canapés
-Photo session
-Band playing, people chilling out with their feet in the pool
-Dinner
-Speeches, lighting, food, wine, champagne pyramid
-My song
-Playing music
-The band (Be Combo)
-Dancing & music playlist

THE VIDEO FROM LEPSTERS CONGRATULATING ME!
At this point I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Guillaume and everyone else who contributed to this gift.
So, Guillaume from Switzerland decided to make a video for my wedding day as a way of saying congratulations and also thank you for doing the podcast. He contacted LEPsters all around the world and asked them to record a short video message of congratulations for my wedding day. He then collected the video footage together and edited it all into one video. The cool thing about it is that it looks like a BBC news report, with correspondents from different countries in the world.
There were contributions from Guillaume from Switzerland, Zdenek from the Czech Republic, Jan from the Czech Republic, Daniele from Italy, Denise from Sao Paulo in Brazil, Rafael from Brazil, Sam in the UK, Edison from Colombia, Edgar from Mexico, Chriss from Mexico, Teodora from Romania, Takako from Japan, Trally from Vietman, Gloria from Argentina.
Thank you all so much for the messages. It was absolutely AMAZING to receive them. It was like the icing on the cake. I watched it together with my wife, my brother, my parents and a group of other people and everyone was blown away. They didn’t realise that I was a bit famous around the world. My wife and I were both touched by the messages and the bits of advice about marriage too. We certainly learned that “a marriage is a workshop in which the man works and the woman shops”.
You can see the video on the page for this episode here:

Other stuff (not mentioned on the podcast I think)
-Photo booth
-Bed at 5AM
-Sunday – hangover, hangover cures, food truck, pool, weather
-Sunday evening
-Monday’s plans – massage, lunch, pool, fancy dinner, friends.
-The atmosphere of the location – lavender, nature, landscape, birds, seeing wild boar at night
-Relaxing Tuesday
-The ride home (with too much luggage)
-Back to normal (but marital bliss)

What was good about the wedding?
There are too many things to say really!
The location
The lavender
The weather
The food
The music
The guests

How about the question of the civil marriage – was it meaningless?
It was more meaningful to me than a religious wedding would have been.
Some people, not in our closest circle of friends and family expressed some doubt and scepticism over our decision to have a non-religious wedding in a neutral space (not in a church). Not only is this a little bit disrespectful in my opinion, it’s also a bit short sighted.
Is a non-religious wedding meaningless? Absolutely not. First of all, religion does not have a monopoly on feelings, emotions, sincerity, and sombre promises of faith and respect. These are all things that come from a natural well-spring of humanity that we all have inside us. We’re born with these things, in my opinion, so I believe it’s entirely possible to have a meaningful and emotional wedding without the presence of religious faith. In fact, that’s exactly what happened because it was a very moving and positive marriage.
Ultimately, my wife and I don’t have religious faith, so it would be hypocritical of us to have had a religious marriage.
But it was a very touching wedding – everyone agreed. So many people cried during the ceremony because it was so emotional. But that’s because it was a true and sincere statement of love and commitment from me to my wife. We wrote the words of the ceremony, not a priest. The promises came from us, not from above. The vows were witnessed by our friends and family – and they’re the ones who define the world around us. They’re the communion in which we joined together, and they are the community in which we will continue to be married. It was important for me to share that sincerely with them, and it was their audience that gave the weight and power to the proceedings.
I’ll give you an example. A Japanese couple who I am very close to, but haven’t seen for about 10 years came to the wedding. They travelled all the way from Japan which is a long and expensive flight. It must have been very difficult for them to come, but they did it for us. This is a huge and sincere statement of support for our decision to get married. By travelling so far they reinforced our marriage – I feel the wedding is even more validated by such a sincere act of friendship and support, and I believe the marriage is stronger as a result. They added extra weight to our commitment to be together. We really mean to stay together and hold true to our promise, and we know that our closest friends and family are there to help us stay together. That is genuine, tangible support for our union.
Also, the wedding was a significant moment for me as an ex-pat living away from home in a foreign country. It was an event at which my UK life and my French life joined together (and my online life too). Suddenly my UK friends saw my French life with my French friends. Also, my French friends saw me with my UK friends and understood me more. These friends who didn’t know each other suddenly spent a weekend together. It was very important in bringing my circle of friends closer together, giving me extra security. I feel that my life is less disconnected than it was before. The wedding brought people together and that’s important. Luckily everyone got on with each other and there was very little drama or trouble or anything. That’s just because we’ve got awesome friends and it was really cool to mix them together.
In fact, seeing all my closest friends and family all in one place was quite incredible. Every person there was special to me in some way. It was overwhelming really.
So, the wedding was a celebration of friendship, love and commitment, and it was a success.

What do you expect from marriage in the future?
I don’t expect it to be a solution to problems. I think that’s a mistake. Some people might believe that getting married means that suddenly your problems disappear and that life is all just a mission to get married to the right person, but I don’t agree with that. I’m well aware that it requires work and patience. It can feel restrictive and all that, but I think that if you don’t hide from this reality, and you’re honest with yourself and each other, and you don’t live in fear of conflict, and that you celebrate each other every day in some way, and make an effort to reward each other and communicate and so on, then I think it can be a really wonderful thing. In fact, I already find it very fulfilling and rewarding. How? You might ask… Well, there’s a sense of security and family that you have in joining with someone and becoming an official team. Also, I just enjoy calling her my wife. I’m sure there’ll be moments of hardship, but I really believe you can’t escape the difficulties in life. In the end hardship will come and find you somehow. I was ok with being single, and being alone (because I wasn’t a massive player or anything) but I prefer being in partnership with my wife. I’ve lost my single status and whatever freedoms that involved, but I have gained something more than that – the companionship of my wife and the influence of her on me. I think it’s a good choice. I just hope that we stay close like this for the rest of our marriage and that we find new depths to our relationship, and that it doesn’t go wrong at any point. I think that’s up to us really. As long as the spark is still there, it’s up to us to nurture it and turn it into a warm and nourishing fire.

Are you having a honeymoon?
Yes, we’re going to California (even though it appears to be on fire at the moment, and San Francisco is expecting a big earthquake at any time).
We originally planned to visit South America, but we have postponed that because we left the planning too late. We want to trek the Inca Trail, but it’s fully booked.
It’s easier for us to arrange a Californian holiday, but we will be back in Peru/Bolivia and hopefully other places in the future. We would both love to visit South America, and plenty of other places! In fact, I imagine many of you are thinking – oh Luke don’t go to the USA again, come to our country to celebrate your wedding!

Places we would like to visit:
Mexico
South America (Peru/Bolivia & everywhere else)
Japan
A tour of the UK!

Is your wife going to be on the podcast?
Maybe… we’ll see. Her English is good enough, and I think she’s charming, but I’d quite like to keep her to myself, so we’ll see…
Lavender

285. Ten More Fixed Expressions

It’s been about one month since I last uploaded an episode of the podcast, but now LEP is back! Where have I been? Well, I got married (expect a podcast about that soon) and took some time off after that, and then I had lots of work commitments, comedy commitments and honeymoon-organising commitments and I didn’t have enough time to record an episode, but of course I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to speak into the microphone, and that opportunity came today. So here it is.

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Introduction
Paul Taylor is with me for this one and we’re going to do another round of our vocabulary game, just like we did in episode 283.
That episode was called “Ten Fixed Expressions” but that now seems to be quite a dull title. Certainly, we did teach 10 expressions but the title seems a bit boring don’t you think? I’m wondering what to call this episode and I still can’t decide as I’m writing this. I always think that titles of my episodes should describe what is in each episode, and should also be fun and interesting enough to catch your attention. In this case Paul and I teach you ten expressions again, but we also have a chat about our recent news, and get very sidetracked by a negative review on TripAdvisor of one of our recent comedy shows.

The main aim of the episode is to play the vocabulary game and let you understand the meaning of ten English expressions but it also is a chance for us to mess around a bit and talk about other things if we feel like it, especially if it is entertaining or interesting for you.

So, should I call this episode “Another Ten Natural Expressions” or “Ten More Natural Expressions” or “Ten Natural Expressions (Part 2)”? Maybe “Vocabulary Game with Paul Taylor (#2)” is a better title? I can’t decide. I’ll choose the title when I’ve finished writing this and editing the episode together, and whatever title you see at the top of this page is the one I finally went for. I suppose you’ll probably be thinking – “Luke, the title doesn’t really matter. It’s the content that counts.” That’s true of course, but I do think the title is quite important for attracting new listeners to the podcast, and because it helps you to identify the main content of the episode. Let me know what you think about the title of this episode by leaving a comment below.

In This Episode
Anyway, regardless of my indecisiveness about the episode title, here’s what you can expect in this episode.

1. Hi Paul, hi Luke, etc. :)

2. Conditions are almost exactly the same as in the recoding of episode 283. It’s boiling hot. I’m with Paul Taylor. We’re sitting in the shade, mostly, except for my leg which is in direct sunlight again. We’re going to play a vocabulary guessing game like last time we did this (episode 283).

3. What’s new Paul? He’s been doing more comedy gigs. We got a bad review for one of our comedy shows, and we talk about it a little bit. The wording of the review bothers us a bit (also the fact that it’s so negative of course). Here’s a picture of the review (below). What do you think of the description? Ignore the lack of a full-stop at the end of the second sentence. Is the comment slightly ambiguous? What does it really mean? Look at the review and then choose option a) or b).
Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 15.20.45
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One thing’s for sure, this person did NOT enjoy our show! You can’t please all the people all the time, and bad reviews are just a part of putting on comedy shows. So, never mind!

Anyway, in our conversation we use the negative review as a chance to talk about the importance of being dedicated, motivated and positive as a way of pushing through a barrier of resistance that you might experience if you want to really achieve something in life, like becoming a really funny comedian or learning another language to an advanced level.

4. The Ten Fixed Expressions & Vocabulary Guessing Game
The rules of this game are the same as last time. I’ll explain an expression to Paul and he has to guess which one I’m talking about. Listen to my explanations – can you guess the expressions before Paul does?

Here are the ten expressions I explain in the episode. Listen to the episode to get definitions and examples, or just google them for online definitions.

1 all’s well that ends well
2 an eye for an eye (and a tooth for a tooth)
3 and Bob’s your uncle
4 and pigs will fly!
5 that’s another kettle of fish
6 as cheap as chips
7 to ask for trouble
8 to be away with the fairies
9 to be back to square one
10 to be all ears

That’s it!

Listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear some out-takes of my introduction to this episode. What are out-takes? They’re the mistakes that are edited out of the final version of a film, song recording, or in this case a podcast episode. Sometimes it takes me a few attempts to get the introduction right. I might do nearly 10 failed introductions before I finally get it right and continue with the rest of the recording. They’re not normally intended for publication, but sometimes they’re pretty funny so I shared them with you at the end of this episode.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below this episode! Thanks for being awesome listeners and LEPsters and all that. You’re the best. Look forward to more episodes coming soon…

Luke ;)
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tenmoreexpressions

An Experimental Live Video Podcast on Periscope

Periscope

Periscope

Hi listeners,

It’s been a little while since I recorded an episode of Luke’s English Podcast. I’ve been really busy – mainly because of my wedding. I’m now fully married! I’ll be recording a podcast episode about weddings soon. In the meantime, here’s some extra content – my first live video broadcast via Periscope.

Have you heard about Periscope? It’s a smartphone app which is becoming really popular at the moment. All around the world, right now, people are broadcasting live videos of themselves on this app. Lots of people are talking about it, and it is the latest form of social networking and self-publishing. You can download the app from the Periscope website here at www.periscope.tv You can find me on Periscope by searching for @EnglishPodcast. You can also watch Periscope videos from a computer here watchonperiscope.com/users/englishpodcast/6862923

Basically, the app works like this:
– You download the app from www.periscope.tv or the App Store (Apple) or Play Store (Android) onto your phone.
– You can sign-in with Twitter, or create a new profile.
– You can then watch live broadcasts from people anywhere in the world. You can check a world map which shows where people are currently broadcasting, then watch their broadcasts.
– It’s possible to send people text messages and communicate with them directly during the recording.
– Periscope broadcasts (scopes) can be re-played up to 24 hours after the live broadcast.
– It’s also possible for users to save their videos on their phones, and then upload them to YouTube for permanent publishing.

I think this could be a really cool way for me to communicate with LEPsters all around the world, so recently I did my first experimental Periscope broadcast, from the SpacePod(TM) where I record episodes of Luke’s English Podcast. I didn’t really tell anyone that I was going to start – I just published a quick Facebook status and a Tweet, and then 15 minutes later I started broadcasting my live video. 25 people joined my first Periscope live broadcast. Yes, just 25 people – it was an exclusive moment! Most of those people were LEPsters, but some of them had never heard of me or my podcast. They were just random viewers who just discovered me and started watching. I have now uploaded the video onto YouTube and you can see it below.

Some details before you watch:
– The frame rate is pretty low. This means the video quality is not great. I think this is because my internet connection, even using WiFi is not great. I hope this will improve in the future.
– During the live broadcast my viewers were sending me text messages, and they were visible on the screen during the broadcast. Unfortunately, those text messages don’t appear on the saved video uploaded to YouTube :(
– Also, during the recording, viewers can create little heart symbols when they like something – the hearts float up the right side of the screen. Again, these are not visible in the YouTube version, unfortunately.
– What do I talk about in the video? I give a quick tour of the SkyPod (or SpacePod or StarPod or PodShip or whatever you want to call the room where I record the podcast), and also I give a quick tour of my website. Watch the whole video to witness some never before seen details of what it looks like when I record my podcast.

Here’s the video (and sorry for the long text, as usual). Enjoy! (despite the poor frame rate)
Luke
p.s. Expect more audio podcasts soon…

284. Questions from Tea4er.ru (Part 2)

Hi listeners, in this episode I go through some more of the questions sent to me by readers of Tea4er.ru. All the questions and most of my answers are added below, so you can read and listen at the same time if you want to. Enjoy the episode!

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Background sounds created using “Bloom” and “Air” apps on iPhone.
Song snippets at the end from the amazing album “Trojan Presents: Roots”. Get it here on Amazon.
Just a few things to mention:
– Join the mailing list.
– Like the Facebook page.
– Leave your comments on the website.
– Donate if you fancy it.
– Take advantage of the audiobook offer.
– Check out the various features you can find on teacherluke.co.uk including – music mixes, some funny jokes & cartoons, ways to contact me, transcripts, a phrasal verb a day, and other stuff in the episode archive.

Questions & Answers

Babikov Gleb
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia” Moscow Region

Greetings, Luke! Nowadays almost every educator in Russia teaches English using textbooks and common school programs. Don’t you think that teachers should develop more effective ways of teaching students?

Hi Babikov,
I think teachers should always be looking for new ways to develop their teaching. We constantly have to come up with engaging and effective teaching methods and that means understanding how people think, the cultural reference points and so on. It’s often necessary to make your own materials which are adapted from authentic sources, and which are more specifically suited to that group of students. So, thinking outside the box, focusing specifically on the needs of the students, and coming up with new materials regularly are all important ways to develop our teaching skills. Thanks for the question.

Pikalenko Roman

Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hi, Luke!

To my mind, every man should be a gentleman. And I would like to know your opinion. Is it essential for a young man to be a gentleman?

Thanks!

Hi Roman,
If by being a gentleman you mean being polite, respectful and considerate then yes I think young men should be like gentlemen. They can act like gentlemen, but not necessarily look or sound like the classic image of the British gentleman. To be honest I hope everyone lived like gentlemen if it meant treating other people with respect. The cliche of the gentleman in a suit and hat is only something you see in movies these days. Thanks for the question. I did a podcast episode about this recently. You can listen to it here 260. Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Strebkov Sergey
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke.
I’d like to ask you a question: have you been scared when you started to make blogs? Were there any negative comments?

Thanks.

Hi Sergey,
Generally the feedback I get from my podcast is positive. I’m very aware that the internet is a place where people can be strongly criticised and you get aggressive users or trolls who might write very harsh comments about you online, but generally comments on my website are from really enthusiastic English learners so everything’s nice. I’m really conscious of the fact that I’m revealing a lot about myself in my episodes, so that is something I think about a lot. Thanks for the question.

Stepnova Alina
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region
Hello,Luke!
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
What attracted you to work in Japan?
Do the Japanese students wear school uniforms? How do you think whether Russian students wear school uniform?
School uniform lets students be equal. Without school uniforms complexes and envy may arise among students. Don’t you agree with it?
Thanks! I believe you will answer me.

Hi Alina,
You believed correctly, because I am answering you.
I did a podcast episode about living in Japan. You can listen to it here teacherluke.co.uk/2012/10/17/118-sick-in-japan/ I talk about my reasons for going there and some of the experiences I had. About school uniforms, I don’t know about Russian students and school uniforms but in the UK I had to wear uniforms in all the schools I went to. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, and it probably does give the students more equal status and may encourage a closer sense of community. Also, there’s a certain discipline in having to prepare specific clothes for your day every morning. I didn’t mind wearing a uniform most of the time, and I rarely thought of the idea of it being banned. I think you’re right, kids might find it more difficult if they are judged on their clothes, so uniforms help to let them blend in with everyone else. Thanks for the question.

Trusova Dasha
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello Luke!

I know, you are active in social networks. Is it difficult to combine tearcher’s and blogger’s activities?

Thank you.

Hi Dasha,
It’s not hard to combine my teaching and my online work. Generally, they don’t affect each other and I keep them separate. I don’t use my episodes in class, or extracts from them, and in fact I rarely tell my students about my website until the end of the course. This is because I don’t want them to feel pressured to listen to it, and also because I don’t necessarily want them to hear certain things (like the more crazy episodes or personal stories) at the beginning of the course because I am attempting to present a more serious and business like impression. Sometimes my students already know who I am. Others only realise who I am after a while. Once I was teaching in London and at the end of the course I told them about my podcast. One girl in my class gasped! She was a regular listener to my podcast and after 2 weeks in my class she hadn’t realised it was me. She nearly fell off her chair. It was hilarious.

So mainly, I’m concerned about the image my students will have of me if they listen to my podcast. Thanks for the question.

Badalyan Tsogik

Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke!

If you could live the same day over and over again, what would you prefer to do on this day?

Thank you.

Hi Badalyan,
You mean, like the film Groundhog Day? If I had to live the same day over and over again I would probably do lots of different things every day to make it feel like I was actually living a life. Then I would learn how to do things really well, like in the film. I’d learn how to be an amazing pianist or something. I’d try and enjoy myself. Thanks for the question!

Ludmila Guseva
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Luke!
To be or not to be… What does it mean for you???

Thanks a lot in advance for your answer.

Hi Ludmilla,
You mean, the existential questions that Hamlet asks himself when contemplating suicide? I guess we’re talking about the meaning of existence. What’s the meaning of life for me? I’m really not sure what this is all about. In fact, I have a feeling that the whole of the universe is not united in one single purpose and that in fact it’s pretty random. Either that, or we just have no ability to understand the complexity of existence. There may even be parallel worlds or just things we can’t even see. Physics and astrophysics are fascinating to me because they really could learn about what the universe is really doing and how it works. Does it mean anything though? I’m not sure. On a personal level I think we all have a choice to make life run how we want it. We can choose to be positive and take some control over our lives. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything more than just making yourself happy and trying to increase the happiness of those around you. Thanks for the question.

Andrey Kirianov
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hi, Luke!
What should be done to avoid racism in the world?
Thank you!

Hi Andrey,
I think travelling and meeting people is important. That tends to make you realise that people around the world are not that different and they’re all entitled to the same treatment as everyone else. It doesn’t help when racism is used by leaders to claim power over their own people. That’s a common way to get power. Blame all the problems on foreign people and use the fear of foreigners to whip up nationalist sentiment and support for the present government. To battle it we need to make sure we have a fully free press, and to educate children against racist attitudes. I think simply allowing people to know more about other cultures, means that they’re less likely to be racist against them. Also, we should have an open mind.
Thanks for your question.

Ludmila Guseva
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Luke!
Which is better: to teach or to learn? Or to learn while teaching? Will you share your ideas & experience?
Thanks in advance.
Hi Ludmila,
I’ve certainly learned a lot from teaching. If I want to get to know a subject really well, I teach it. It forces you to really know the subject. As a learner I find it harder to get the motivation to do research. As a teacher I do it incredibly quickly and effectively.
Thanks for the question.

Badalyan Tsogik
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region
Hello,Luke!
If you were given a book with the story of your life, would you read it to the end?
Thank you!

Hi Badalyan,
No, I wouldn’t read it! I don’t want to know yet. Everything at its right time. I prefer to discover my life story as it happens. I also don’t want to be constantly expecting the end scene to arrive. Innocence is bliss! Thanks for the question.

Ivanova Evgenia
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke!
I know that you are a teacher.
If you had a chance to return to the past, would you tell about the future to the people there?
Thanks

Hi Evgenia,
If I could return to the past I think I wouldn’t tell them about the future. In the past people didn’t react very well to strange looking people babbling about visions of the future. They might catch me and burn me as a witch! Instead I would travel to the past and then tell the people of the present all about it. I think a good first-hand account of history would help us know the right thing to do now, so that our future is kept safe. The past is something to learn from.
Thanks for the question!

Bezborodova Anna
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke!
I’d like to ask you a question:
How much time does it take you to make your podcasts? Is it difficult?
Thank you.

Hi Anna,
Actually, it takes me a lot of time to make my podcasts. It depends on the episode, because I prepare some episodes more than others. But preparing and recording a podcast, completing all the notes on the website, uploading it and then sharing it via social networks can take from 3 to 10 hours. Some episodes are really easy because I don’t prepare them and they just flow out of my mouth, but others prove to be harder to manage, either because of the subject matter or because of the need to edit the content. It can take a lot of energy to do my podcast, but I like it a lot and I hope to eventually be rewarded for my work in some way.
Thanks for the question.

Gorbunov Nikita
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke!
How do you think, is music a necessary part of our life? Do you often listen to music? What musical styles do you prefer? Do you believe that music helps us to feel better?
Thank you for the answer!

Hi Nikita,
I think music is absolutely vital to my life. I constantly have music in my head or playing through speakers. I also need to play music myself. It’s a great way to de-stress while also achieving something. Music is really mysterious. It’s something innate that we all share. The language of music is written into us when we’re born and it’s all about the way humans are able to hear certain sounds in a particular scale. Why it causes such strong emotional responses in us is a total mystery and one of the wonders of the universe! Thanks for the question!

I’m Lera Kuvshinkina, Umyotskaya school,Tambov Region
Luke!
You know that there are many kinds of subcultures. If you were a teenager, what subculture you would like to belong to?
Thank you!

Hi Lera,
I’m well aware of subcultures in the UK and it’s one of my favourite subjects. I did that at university in Liverpool. When I was a teenager I didn’t belong to a particular subculture but I was somewhere between: indie, casual, mod and retro 70s. Those are rather specific styles, but there are other more well-known subcultures in the UK like skinheads and punks. I used to know skin-heads and punks in Birmingham (I was in a punk band for a while when I was a teenager) and they were all really nice and funny blokes. I love the different subcultures in the UK and their clothing/musical associations. Thanks for the question!

Zhalialova Liliya
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke!

Is it possible to save warm relations being in different cities far away from your sweetheart? How to save this fragile spiritual link from your point of view?

Thanks!

Hi Liliya,
I think it is possible to keep love alive when you live in different cities but it requires communication and a long term plan to be together. You can use Skype and other networks to keep in touch easily, and if you know that you’re going to eventually be together it makes it easier. Also, make the most of the moments when you see each other. The airport greetings and so on. It can be madly romantic and exciting and a period that you will always treasure when you look back on it. Thanks for the question!

END OF PART 2
Tea4er part2