Tag Archives: story

453. The 36 Questions that Lead to Love (with Amber & Paul)

Listen to Amber, Paul and me answering questions designed by psychologists to help couples or friends become closer and more intimate.

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Introduction

Hello, welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast, this podcast for learners of English hosted by me Luke Thompson. Hi.

The general idea of this podcast is to help you to improve your English by providing you with content to keep you listening regularly, for longer periods of time, to authentic English as it really is spoken. Sometimes I teach you things on the podcast and other times I play conversations for you to follow, like in this episode.

This episode is entitled 36 Questions that Lead to Love

In this one you’re going to hear the tangential trio of Amber, Paul and me talking about this set of 36 questions, which was compiled by a group of psychologists as part of a study into ‘interpersonal closeness’ or intimacy between people.

Amber first found out about it in a podcast published by the New York Times. Here’s what the NYTimes website says about this study, which is where the 36 questions come from.

The study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one.

The idea is that mutual vulnerability helps to create closeness and intimacy. To quote the study’s authors, “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal and personal self-disclosure.” Allowing oneself to be vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue.

The questions are now used to help build intimacy or personal closeness typically between couples that want to fall in love, but also between anyone looking for ways of finding out more about each other and developing a closer or deeper relationship.

Amber’s going to tell you more about it in a moment.

These 36 questions are available for you to use or read online at NYTimes.com www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/modern-love/36-questions/

In this episode you’ll hear Amber, Paul and me asking each other those questions.

Let’s see what happens.

  • Will the questions bring us closer together?
  • To what extent will the intimacy level rise?
  • Will they make us fall in love with each other?
  • Or will we just learn weird truths about each other that will disturb us, ultimately causing us to drift apart as friends, and then they’ll never appear on this podcast again?
  • Will these questions help you get to know us more?
  • What could be revealed by this set of questions designed by psychologists to become more and more intimate as they go?
  • Is it possible for 3 British friends to take the whole thing seriously enough for the questions to have the intended effect?

Listen on to find out more.

Here we go…


Outtro

OK so if you were counting the questions you’ll see that we skipped some but that’s our choice isn’t it!

I think, on balance, we probably did become slightly closer than before. There were some particularly revealing moments there where Paul was talking about his lack of confidence in social situations, which is a bit of a surprise considering how I often observe him showing no obvious signs of social awkwardness.

Of course, we didn’t take it all completely seriously. For example, you’re supposed to stare into each other’s eyes at the end of the questions, for four minutes, but that wouldn’t have been particularly interesting for you to listen to.

All the questions are available on the NY Times website – here www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/modern-love/36-questions/

So check them out and use them yourselves – either on a date, with friends, or with your language partners or language groups.

They could provide a nice way for you to practise talking about feelings and personal thoughts in English.

And, if you fall in love with someone as a result, that’s a nice bonus isn’t it!?

If you’ve fallen in love with Amber’s voice and you’re wondering when Amber’s podcast is coming out – it’s not ready yet and I will announce it on the podcast as soon as it is online. It takes a long time to get these things ready – getting your head around the technology, writing, recording, working out how to publish, building a website, setting up your podcast feed, getting on the iTunes store and all of that stuff – it takes time and it’s not as easy as you might think, so just hold your horses for a bit, it’s on its way.

 

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

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

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Click here to get the book “Touching the Void”

Click here to get the film on DVD.

The Story Continues…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

And he landed hard, on his leg.

It broke, really badly. Not just a fracture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s imagine you’re Joe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there were still these interpersonal things going on.

Apparently Joe kept wondering if Simon was pissed off.

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

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

A race against time.

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

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

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

Things were looking up.

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

God knows how far from civilisation this base camp was.

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

Until suddenly, Joe slipped off a cliff.

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

Describe the problem from Joe’s point of view.

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

From Simon’s point of view.

Simon’s decision. What would you have done?

What Simon did.

Night fell – Simon dug a snow cave.

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

Day 5

Follow Simon as he goes down.

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

But what about Joe?

Attached himself to the ice wall of the glacier.

Called for Simon.

Pulled the rope.

Saw it had been cut.

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

Joe lost it.

He came face to face with his own death.

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

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

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

Joe’s bravery and refusal to give up.

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

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

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

Day 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where the second most impressive part came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound of water driving him mad.

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

Day 7 – Joe still isn’t dead!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the decision to cut the rope.

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

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

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

Anyway what do you think?

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

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

Let me also leave you with this

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

Thanks for listening.

What happened next?

Returning to Siula Grande

 

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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

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

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

Here are some ways you can do that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just enjoy the story!

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

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

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

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

A Detective Story with Deductive Reasoning

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

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

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

Riddle

Can you answer this cunning Sherlock-style riddle?

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

Answer:

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

Victorian Detective – Episodes 338 and 339

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

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

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

Here’s what it said.

Dear Luke,

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

Peter Carlson

I replied:

Hi Peter,

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

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

All the best,

Luke

Peter replied:

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

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

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

Victorian Detective 2

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

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

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

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

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

OK let’s get started.

We should choose the name of our detective agency.

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

*** The story begins ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** End of Part 1 ***

That’s the end of part 1!

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

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

The story so far

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

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

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

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

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

Any comments? Write something in the comment section below.

vicdec2

395. “Have you ever…?” with Paul Taylor and Robert Hoehn

In this episode I’m joined by Paul Taylor and Robert Hoehn and we do a speaking exercise that I often use in my classes to help my students to practise using different grammatical structures in their speaking. I thought it would be interesting to record some native speakers doing the exercise too, so that’s what you’ll hear in this episode, as well as various little anecdotes, a few jokes and general chat. The conversation contains swearing and a few humourous comments which shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

[DOWNLOAD]

Today I’m joined by a couple of guests. First of all I have Paul Taylor with me, fresh from an appearance on French TV.

And also, Robert Hoehn is back on the podcast.

Last time Rob was on was in episode 143, in which we hung out together in Rob’s kitchen, we made some tea cocktails and then Rob offended everyone with some obnoxious comments about American foreign policy.

Since then I have never invited Rob back onto the podcast.

Until now.

I thought it was time to bring him back on since his name has been mentioned a few times recently.

First of all, we have to deal with the fallout from his last appearance (which actually wasn’t that bad) before going on to talk about some other stuff.

How Rob offended everyone last time (well, not everyone…)

Last time Rob said some comments which were not supposed to be taken seriously. Just some stuff about America bombing other countries.

He hasn’t been on the podcast since. (except for a brief appearance during one of the Star Wars episodes, and a telephone call to Paul once)

So I think we need to deal with that and perhaps roast Rob a bit before moving on. Once he’s been roasted, his name will be cleared and his debt to my audience will have been paid.

Jokes from Rob’s roast

A roast is something that American comedians do. It usually happens on someone’s birthday. All the comedians take turns to insult the roastee. It gets pretty harsh and insulting, but that’s the whole point and everyone gets roasted. You’re not supposed to get offended. It’s a tradition.

Here’s what I said during Rob’s roast.

Hanging out with Rob is a profound experience. After you spend time with him you might have a crisis of religious faith. Not because he has persuasive arguments against the existence of god, but because if god does exist that means he has created everything, including Rob – and the question is “Why?” “Why would he bother?” “Why would an intelligent creator choose to invent Rob Hoehn? what would be the point?” It’s impossible. It wouldn’t have happened. So, Rob’s existence is basically proof that we are alone in the universe. No intelligent designer would have decided to create Rob, so there is no god and this is all the result of random chance.

But it’s exciting hanging around with Rob.

I imagine it’s a bit like spending time in the company of a great ape, like an orangutan.

It’s exciting, because you never quite know what he’s going to do next, and it’s fun to speculate on just how intelligent he really is. Whenever he manages to do something, like communicate a complex message it’s always very exciting, “Ooh! he asked for a banana! Ooh he offended everyone! Amazing!” but there’s always a fear that he’s going to get confused and start throwing things around or pull someone’s arms out of their sockets.

Rob of course is American. He’s from Minnesota in the mid-west of the USA, and he’s a great ambassador for the USA because he basically embodies all of the values that we associate with the united states. Basically I’m saying that he’s fat and ignorant.

I invited Rob onto the podcast a few years ago. I thought it would be a good idea. I’d now like to read a selection of comments that I got in response to that episode.

The first one is a message from a regular commenter, someone who regularly commented on every episode I uploaded.

“Hello Luke, as you know we all love your podcasts because they’re authentic and full of life…”

That’s nice.

“…However…”

Ooh

“However, this American was utterly arrogant and full of himself. I’ve never heard such a smart alec person in my whole life, I feel like jumping off a bridge.”

I never heard from that person ever again. Never left a comment ever again. He disappeared. I don’t know what happened to him.

Here’s another one.

“Hello Luke. I’m afraid…”

That’s not a good start.

“Hello Luke. I’m afraid I am completely disgusted by Robert. At 42mins50seconds…”

So this person continued to listen, despite being completely disgusted.

“At 42mins50seconds, on the subject of American attitudes to other countries, he said ‘The truth of the matter is that we just do not fucking care. We do not care at all what anyone thinks, because we Americans know that we can completely dominate everyone and if someone pisses us off too much – BOOM! Smart bomb.”

I’m actually quite proud of these comments because I don’t know if you noticed but they are very well written. In fact, I have used Rob’s comments a few times in class because they are very motivating. The students can’t wait to give all kinds of angry and abusive responses to what he said. They just keep producing more and more English in response to his statements. So thanks Rob you have definitely helped to improve the motivation and productivity of my listeners.

Rob originally moved to France to train to become a clown, which wasn’t necessary, let’s be honest. He wanted to become a clown because he was so inspired by his hero Ronald McDonald.

So there we are Rob – all is forgiven. You’re back to square one again. Welcome back to the podcast.

Have you ever…?

This is a conversation generator that I use in class. I usually use it in fairly low level classes in which they’re just learning to use structures like:

  • present perfect for life experiences – “Have you ever ridden a Segway?” “Yes, I have / No, I haven’t”
  • Questions in past simple tense – “When did you ride it?” “How was it?” “Did you enjoy it?”
  • ‘would like + infinitive / wouldn’t like + infinitive’ – “Would you like to ride a Segway?” “Yes, I would / No, I wouldn’t”

Have you ever…?

  • seen a ufo
  • eaten an insect
  • flown in a helicopter
  • done a jump in a car
  • made a complete fool of yourself in public
  • killed an animal by mistake
  • had a public argument or fight
  • gone scuba diving
  • slept outside (not camping)
  • met a famous person

Tell us about them in the comment section. Have a good day, evening, morning, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon. Bye.

Luke

Paul’s TV Show

Paul is currently having a lot of success on French TV (and on YouTube) with his series of mini TV shows in which he makes fun of French culture. The show is also produced with the help of Rob Hoehn, and Amber and I have writing credits on some episodes. Check out a couple of recent episodes below.

 

Photos

grasshopper-guacamole

Paul’s grasshopper guacamole

377. Holiday in Thailand (Part 1)

This episode contains stories and descriptions of my recent holiday in Thailand. You’ll hear some facts about Thailand, some descriptions of Bangkok and a few stories about funny experiences that happened while we were there. Part 2 is coming soon. More details and transcriptions below. Enjoy!

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Transcript

Hello everybody, I’m back from my holiday so here is a brand new episode for you to listen to. If you’re new to Luke’s English Podcast, then “hello” and welcome to the show. I have no idea how you found the podcast. It was probably on the internet, that’s how it normally happens. I doubt that you actually tripped over it in the street or anything. Oops ,what’s that – oh, it’s Luke’s English Podcast. I might as well have a look. You probably found it online, perhaps through iTunes or a friend recommended it to you perhaps. In any case, regardless of how you found me, welcome. My name’s Luke – and this is my podcast. It’s primarily for learners of English although I also have native English speakers listening to this too. In these episodes I talk to you in a personal way, telling stories, sharing some things about my life, discussing different topics, teaching you English and giving you the motivation to improve your English for yourself. I try to keep the podcast varied and I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything at all as long as it’s interesting. I’m an English teacher from the UK. I speak British English – with a standard accent from the South East of England. I’ve been teaching for more than 15 years so I have lots of experience to draw from. I’m also a stand-up comedian which means that when I’m not teaching English or doing the podcast I like to stand up in front of audiences of people and make them laugh with jokes and stories and things. I regularly perform comedy shows in Paris.

One of the principles which underpins what I do in episodes of this podcast is the understanding that simply listening to natural, spontaneous speech is a vital part of the process of learning English to a good standard. Obviously, you have to get an understanding of the grammar rules, develop an extensive set of active vocabulary, practise pronouncing the language and so on, but doing plenty of listening is an essential foundation. I usually recommend that LEP is best enjoyed as part of a balanced study program. For example I suggest that you also do plenty of speaking in order to activate the English that you passively pick up from these episodes. There are lots of ways to improve your English and you can just listen to previous episodes of the podcast to get my advice on that. At the very least, you can just relax and enjoy listening to my words on a regular basis, and I hope that it’s a fun process too. Certainly, I am sure that my podcast can really help all the other aspects of your English, not just your listening. I also believe it’s important to listen to English which is spoken at a pretty natural speed, which is spontaneous (i.e. not just written from a script) and I think you should listen regularly for fairly long periods, long term. Make it a part of your lifestyle to listen regularly and don’t give up.

I want my podcast to help you to do exactly those things, and so I try to make my episodes genuine, personal and humorous. So, if you’re new to the podcast – welcome and thanks for listening. I hope you stick with it. I believe that if you do continue to listen, you’ll see significant results in your English. Check out the episode archive on my website teacherluke.co.uk and you’ll see that you have plenty of other episodes to explore and enjoy.

If you’re not new to the podcast, and you are in fact a long term LEPster then welcome back! How are you? I hope you’re well. Did you have a good August? Have you listened to all the episodes I published before I went away? I hope so.

In any case, here is a new episode of this podcast and it is about my recent holiday in Thailand.

Holiday in Thailand

Yes, we went to Thailand this year and I’m going to tell you about it in this episode. In fact, in this one I’ll talk about these things:

  1. Why we went to Thailand
  2. Where we went in Thailand
  3. The things most people know about Thailand
  4. Some things you might not know about Thailand
  5. A few anecdotes about what we did and saw during the holiday
  6. A few dodgy jokes!
  7. An embarrassing story involving nudity
  8. A sad old memory that came back to me at a specific moment in the trip
  9. A mouse-related update (if you heard the last episode of the podcast, this will make sense to you)

We got back just the other day. I’m still a bit jet-lagged. I woke up at stupid o’clock this morning. My body is still on Thailand time, so at about 5AM my body woke up saying “hey it’s time to get up and go walking around temples in very hot temperatures! We’re on holiday come on!” No doubt I will randomly fall asleep this afternoon when my body decides that it’s bedtime. I have a sun tan – correction, I had a tan, until the flight back. As a very white English man, I have a slightly tricky relationship with sun tans. At the moment I am sporting the typical English man’s tan.

I have no idea how long this episode will be but I can just split it up into different chapters and it’s all good.

You will find some of this episode transcribed on the episode page on my website. Not all of it is transcribed, but a lot of it is, and you can read my notes too, which might be a good way to check out the spelling of any words you hear me use. They might be written on the page. By the way, if you’re just reading this – I strongly recommend that you listen instead of reading. Remember, anything that is written here is supposed to just accompany what I’m saying in the audio recording.

Why did we choose Thailand?

– My wife and I wanted to go somewhere exotic and far away (we want to explore places which are a bit further before we have kids)
– A break and a chance to get away from it all
– Never been before
– We like food !
– It’s quite diverse in terms of the things you can do – city, culture, beaches
– It’s not too expensive

Why didn’t you do an LEP Live event?

It was a holiday – so I was not working. That means I didn’t organise some sort of LEPster meet-up, or live podcasting stand up comedy extravaganza. I didn’t meet up with Olly Richards even though I have since learned that he was out there too learning Thai – no, it was all about walking around sweating, visiting temples, sweating, exploring street food markets, sweating, worrying about food poisoning, sweating, going to the beach and sweating there, learning how to cook local food, eating the local food with lots of chilli, sweating, doing yoga and meditating, drinking water and sweating! Just the average holiday abroad for a British person!

Where did you go?

In a nutshell, here’s where we went.

Bangkok for a few days, then up north to Chiang Mai for a few days, then down south to Koh Samui for a few days and then back to Bangkok for a few days and then home! Boom!

That’s the usual tourist route. It’s Bangkok in the middle, temples, treks into the forest, elephants, night markets and cooking classes in the north, then islands, beaches, diving, snorkelling and full moon parties in the south.

We didn’t go to the islands on the west side like Phuket because of the climate in August.

Also, just before we left and even while we were there, there were some explosions – some bombings, which was a bit worrying. We even considered not going, but then we thought – well, we live in Paris and we’ve got as much chance of being blown up there as in Thailand, so what the hell!

In fact our time was very peaceful.

Usual things people think about Thailand

The most typical clichés or stereotypes about Thailand: Busy, crowded, amazing food – specifically green curry and pad thai noodles, weird sex tourism in Bangkok, ladyboys, bizarre sex shows involving ping pong balls, full moon beach parties, buckets full of ridiculously full cocktails, kickboxing, temples, westerners being locked up in prison for drug possession, scooters, Sagat from Street Fighter 2 (Tiger uppercut), snakes, golden buddha statues, amazingly friendly and smiling people and the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

That’s partly true (perhaps for the average western tourist) but obviously it’s not the full picture, especially for the locals.  I will go into more detail about what it’s really like in this episode.

Things you might not know about Thailand

1. Full name of Bangkok. It’s the longest city name in the world. “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”

2. Thailand, or “Prathet Thai” means “land of the free”…

3. Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power, unlike other neighbouring countries which were colonised by European nations like Britain, France and the Netherlands. Thailand had a few wars with Burma, but was never successfully invaded. Well done Thailand.

4. Thailand has more than 1,400 islands. The most famous ones are in the south, and they are beautiful. Probably the most well known is Koh Phi Phi, which is where The Beach was filmed. (By the way, it’s a rubbish film)

5. It’s illegal to leave the house without underwear on. I don’t know how they enforce this law. Are they doing random underpant checks?

6. Thai currency is called the Baht and it’s illegal to step on Thai Baht. Now, you might be thinking – well, I don’t every go around stepping on currency anyway, so that’s not a problem. But the point is that this is because of the high level of respect that the Thai people have for their royal family. Like in the UK, a picture of the monarch appears on every bank note and the image of the monarch cannot be desecrated, in fact it is a crime to disfigure a picture of the king or queen in any way. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a bit like the UK, and they hold their king and queen in high esteem. There are lots and lots of images of them all over the country, sometimes you find little shrines in the street devoted to them.

7. The feet are considered to be very unclean (both clinically and spiritually) and so it is very rude to reveal the soles of your feet to anyone. So, don’t sit with your feet facing outwards, or put your feet up on the table like we do in the west sometimes. It’s also rude to point at people with your feet, which is fine because I literally never do that anyway. I’m sure I heard someone do standup about that and I can’t remember who, but it was very funny.

8. Similarly, the head is the highest point on the body and is considered to be sacred, so don’t touch it, slap it, poke it or whatever. In the west you might rub someone on the top of the head as a sign of affection, or whack someone round the back of the head to express annoyance. Don’t do that in Thailand. To be honest, I wasn’t going to do that either. I rarely touch the head of random strangers that I meet in public. I certainly wouldn’t slap the back of the head of someone. E.g. “Waiter, excuse me – we asked for 2 bowls of rice and you gave me one! Can we have another one? Thank you!” SLAP. No.

9. 95% of people are buddhist. It’s quite common to see Buddhist monks walking around. We talked to one of them and I’ll explain what he said later in this episode. Also there are buddha statues everywhere. There are thousands of them. It’s just buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha. Climb to the top of a mountain, there’s a buddha. Inside a cave? Buddha. Under a nice tree? Buddha. Inside this big temple? Buddha. In front of the big buddha statue, lots of other buddhas. In front of them, buddhas. Buddhas everywhere – which is great. They are beautiful, peaceful images and of all the religions I think Buddhism perhaps makes the most sense. Just try to reach a higher level of consciousness. Realise that everything is connected and that there is one universal vibration which passes through the entire universe. Reject selfish and materialistic urges in favour of achieving individual spiritual enlightenment. Fine.

10. It’s a very hot place – especially Bangkok. The hottest time of year is April where temperatures rise to 40 degrees C or more, with high humidity levels too. In August it’s the rainy season but it still gets really hot – it was regularly in the high 30s and with very high levels of humidity. Showers that happen in the evenings are a welcome break from the heat!

Read more about this on ‘the internet’ http://matadornetwork.com/trips/19-things-probably-didnt-know-thailand/

Bangkok

There are lots of stories about it, like the dodgy ping pong shows, the sex tourism and other weird and lewd things, but of course not everywhere is like that. We avoided the dodgy tourist parts such as Patpong, where there are these weird sex shows. Now, while I am quite curious to learn about the bizarre skills that some women have developed – I mean, some of the things are quite impressive. For example, apparently in these shows, some women are able to launch ping pong balls across the room – and not with their hands if you know what I mean, and some of them can even write letters with a paintbrush or pen, again, not with their hands. THat’s actually quite impressive, but I don’t really need to see it, and apparently the people who run the shows are very dodgy indeed and they lure you in with false prices and then when you try to leave they force you to pay a lot of money and it gets pretty ugly, so no thanks. No ping pong shows for us.

A mix between the chaotic and slightly sketchy places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and the more modern JPN, particularly parts of this area where we stayed.

The streets are vibrant, chaotic, noisy, smelly, polluted, full of life. Scooters, cars, crossing the road. Nobody walks! Traffic is incredibly busy. There’s an amazing metro system called the sky train. Tuk tuks, taxis and so on.

Lots of street food, with people cooking all sorts of things on little mobile carts – chicken skewers, lots of seafood, noodles, fruits like mango and some things I didn’t recognise. People eat in the street sitting on little plastic chairs.

Incredible Japanese BBQ. Daimasu.

Massages

Onsen experience

Expectations vs reality.
Naked bald midget.
Only had a tiny towel. Not big enough to go around me.
A bunch of other naked guys, including a group of old men in the corner watching. They broke off their conversation to have a look at me when I walked in.
Only foreigner there.
Not normal in my culture.
I felt really embarrassed. Not because of my size – because I have nothing to be ashamed of in that department. Some might say I’m gifted, I would prefer to say I am average for a guy of my height, but I should add that I have massive hands and feet. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t really need to be ashamed of myself but this was very awkward for me but because I’m not used to being seen, and the natural response is to be self-conscious about your size, even in front of other men. You might think it’s not important what other guys think, but I’d never had to rationalise it before and the fact is, is still matters for some reason.
Size is important, even when it’s other guys. I can’t really explain that.
Of course I shouldn’t be bothered by it at all, but I’m English and it’s just part of our culture. First we don’t ever get naked in a public situation, except perhaps at a sports club but then it’s brief.
Also, for some reason it feels like you’re being judged. I did feel judged. I felt incredibly self co anxious.
Maybe I was being a bit paranoid, maybe not, but people weren’t shy about having a look. The old guys stopped their conversation to take a look at me. Others turned their heads etc.
Nerves = natural body response to protect the Crown Jewels.
Stayed in jet bath.
One by one the guys came over to the adjacent bath and had a look at me. Every time I thought “oh for fucks sake!”
I stayed there for 20 minutes not knowing where to look and absolutely boiling!
Tried to make a break for the next nearest bath but it was the cold one – no way.
Went for the soda bath. High CO2 apparently good for me but I thought I was going to die.
Left and got changed.
An absolute fountain of sweat.
Wife waiting for me, totally dry.

The massage was quite brutal, but ultimately nice.

Holiday = sweating, great discomfort, great comfort and relief, good food, discomfort, sweating, relief, sweating etc.

Rude massage joke

 

Thanks for listening – subscribe to the email list at the top-right of the page. :)

Luke

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

This episode of the podcast is all about telling anecdotes in English. Anecdotes are little stories about our experiences that we share while socialising. It’s important to have a few anecdotes of your own and to know how to tell them properly. In this episode I’m going to give you some advice for how to tell an anecdote and then you’re going to listen to some true anecdotes told by members of my family that I recorded yesterday evening during dinner.

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This episode is sponsored by italki. Speaking practice is very important in developing natural, fluent English and this is now really easy to achieve because with italki you can find plenty of native speakers and teachers to talk to, you can set your own schedule and you don’t even need to leave the house – you can do all of it from your own home. If you want to practise telling your anecdotes, do it in conversation on italki. They have lots of friendly and experienced teachers who are ready to help you to learn English your way. Go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and to get a voucher worth 100ITC when you get some lessons. OK, let’s get started!

I’m at my parents’ house for a few days. My brother and I are just taking a couple of days off and spending some time here doing the usual things like enjoying the fresh air, talking to my parents and taking advantage of our mum’s cooking.

Yesterday evening we were eating dessert at the end of dinner and we started talking about anecdotes. I think I asked everyone, “Do you have any anecdotes?” I asked them to think of an anecdote they’d told before. We were about to start when I realised that it might be a good idea to record the  talking, so I quickly got my audio recorder and then recorded them telling those anecdotes. Each one is about 5 minutes long.

Before we just listen to their little stories, let’s consider anecdotes and how important they are in English.

From the archives: Another episode about telling anecdotes (episode 44) teacherluke.co.uk/2011/10/11/telling-anecdotes/ 

By the way, listen to this episode from the archives about telling anecdotes. I gave some advice for anecdotes and then we listened to a couple of funny ones. This episode develops the ideas I talked about in episode 44.

What are anecdotes and why are they important?

The Collins Online Dictionary defines an anecdote as a short, usually amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one.

So, essentially anecdotes are little true stories about ourselves. We are usually the protagonists in our anecdotes, and they’re usually told in informal social situations. Sometimes there are moments in our social interactions when we just start sharing little stories about things that have happened to us in our lives. This might happen at a dinner, or when you’re generally spending some extended time with other people. Anecdotes are a really common part of the way we socialise in English. They allow us to entertain the people around us, while letting them know a bit more about us.

Both of those things are vital in my opinion. If you’re trying to build a relationship with people it’s important to both entertain them and also share some personal information with them. Entertaining the people around you is important because it just makes them feel good. If you can make people feel good, they’re much more likely to trust you, to give something to you in return and also, it’s just good to entertain people around you. It’s just fun and enjoyable to hear about people’s experiences. Also, giving away some personal information is a good way of encouraging other people to do the same thing. That’s how you build trust. For building a relationship you can do two things: ask questions and be prepared to give away details about yourself. Anecdotes help you achieve the second one in a fun way.

So, how do you tell an anecdote in English?

Tips for Telling Anecdotes

  1. Find the right moment. Usually they take place in informal anecdote sharing sessions. Don’t just jam your story into a conversation. It should add something to the subject of the conversation. E.g. you might be sharing travelling stories, or stories about weird people you’ve met, or university stories, or dangerous experiences. That’s when it’s appropriate to add your story too. Maybe you’re talking about a particular subject and your anecdote will add something to that conversation. E.g. you might be talking about the difficulty of finding accommodation in your town, and you could tell the story of the crazy landlord you used to have. Perhaps someone has just told a story, and you’ve got one that relates to it too. All of those are good moments to introduce your anecdote. Only tell your story if it relates to the conversation you’re already having.
  2. Keep it short! Don’t get stuck in the details too much. Focus on the impact of the story. What emotion are you attempting to elicit in people? What is the feeling you’re trying to get across? Is it frustration, fear, danger, humour? Focus on communicating a feeling and try not to let the details get in the way. You need to communicate that feeling by explaining the right events. The best anecdotes allow the listeners to discover the same feelings as you did when you felt them, so describe the events and aspects of the situation that made you feel that way. Don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it pretty short and simple. Say the word “anyway” when you get stuck in the details and want to move on to the main stuff.
  3. Use the right narrative tenses. Usually we tell anecdotes in the past. That means you’ll be using past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Here’s a really quick and simple explanation of how you use those tenses. Past simple – this is the tense you use to explain the main actions in the principle part of the story. E.g. I saw a spaceship, I stopped my car, the spaceship flew above me, all the objects in my car started floating, I saw a bright flash of light, then I woke up lying down in the forest with a pain in my backside.” Past simple is usually used for short actions that happen one after the other. Past continuous – we use this to explain the situation at the time the main events happened. It’s for context. It sets the scene. E.g. “I was driving in my car through the countryside late one night when I saw something strange”. Also, it’s for moment by moment action, and it’s when two things happen at the same time. Past continuous is for the longer action of the two. The action starts, is interrupted by a shorter past simple action, and then may or may not continue. E.g. “I was trying to remember where I was when these guys in black suits turned up and started asking me questions.” Past perfect – this is for giving back story. Use past perfect to talk about events that happened before the main events of the story. E.g. I told the guys that I’d just been camping in the forest and that I’d got up in the night to go to the toilet and I’d lost my tent, and that’s why I was sleeping outside like that. I told them I hadn’t seen any aliens or anything like that.” Past perfect is a difficult one to notice when listening. The “had” is often contracted and can be impossible to hear. It’s possible to identify past perfect because of the use of past participles, e.g. “I’d seen it before” and “I saw it before” but when regular verbs are used it can be almost invisible. Compare “I’d finished” and “I finished”. They sound very similar. Sometimes ‘had’ is not completely contracted but pronounced using a weak form, like ‘/həd/’ e.g. “He had been there before”. It might also be part of a continuous form, like “He had been talking to someone else”.
    So, there are the narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous, past perfect. Past simple is the most common one – you could probably just tell the story with that one on its own, but adding the other two will give your stories more depth and range. Think about how you use these three tenses when describing events in the past.
  4. Tell us how you felt. That’s pretty simple. Just give us some emotional content.
  5. Use direct speech. Don’t worry about using reported speech, just use direct quotes. E.g. “He said “What are you doing here?” and I said “I’m just camping!” and they both said “Where’s your tent?” and I said “It got stolen in the night, or I lost it, I can’t remember”. I don’t think they believed me but they told me to be careful and to go home.
  6. Introduce your story with a quick sentence, like “I got abducted by aliens once” or “I saw a weird thing once” or “That sounds like something that happened to me once”. That’s generally a sign that you’ve got a little story to tell. However, if people aren’t really listening, don’t worry about it, this might not be the moment for your story.
  7. When someone has just told a little story, ask a few questions or respond to it in some way. Show some appreciation of the anecdote – like, “Oh my god I can’t believe that!” or “Wow, I can’t believe that you got abducted by aliens!”
  8. Try to make it quite entertaining! If the story doesn’t have much entertainment value, keep it extra short. You can exaggerate the story a bit, but don’t lie, that’s just deceptive. For example, don’t just make up a clearly fictional story about being abducted by aliens. Obviously, it should be very much ‘based on a true story’. Repeating anecdotes a few times is quite common. In fact, people carry anecdotes with them through their lives and repeat them again and again. You probably have a few experiences that you’ve described a few times – they’re your anecdotes. Try converting them into English, and it’s ok to practise those anecdotes a few times because you’re learning the language. Think about experiences you’ve had in your life – how would you describe them fairly quickly in conversation, focusing on the main events and how they made you feel at the time?
  9. Show us when the story is finished. Typically we might say “That’s what happened.” or “And that’s it” or even “That’s my alien abduction story.” It’s nice if your anecdote can end with a funny line or a punchline, but that’s difficult. It might also be good to say what you learned from your experience.

Now, let’s hear my family’s anecdotes shall we? (yes)

By coincidence, all these anecdotes relate to meeting strange people and most of them involve some element of danger (in the case of the boys’ stories) or embarrassment in my Mum’s story.

Imagine you’re at the dinner table with my Mum, Dad and brother. As you listen, think about the things I’ve just mentioned, and try to notice them. You could listen to this episode a few times. Try to notice different things I mentioned about telling anecdotes. Which anecdote do you think is the best? Why is it a good one?

Here are some key points to watch out for.

  • Narrative tenses used – in particular, can you hear when past perfect is used? It’s only used in 3 out of the 4 stories. Watch out for past continuous to set the scene. Is that one used in every story?
  • When someone says “anyway” in order to avoid getting caught in the details
  • What is the main feeling that the person is trying to communicate? Is it danger, embarrassment, weirdness?
  • How does the anecdote end?
  • Any new vocabulary?

I’ll let you listen to the anecdotes, and then I’ll deal with some vocabulary and make any other points afterwards.

Mum’s Anecdote – Meeting the King of Tonga

(Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of more than 170 islands, many uninhabited)

*some past perfect is used to explain what the king had been doing before mum arrived

It’s going to fall very flat = it’s going to fail to have the intended effect. E.g. if a joke falls flat, it doesn’t make anyone laugh. If a story falls flat, it is not impressive or amusing.

It’s been built up too much = We say this when people’s expectations have been raised. To ‘build something up’ means to raise people’s expectations of something. You’d say this before telling a joke if you feel like everyone’s expectations have been raised. E.g. “What’s this Russian joke? I’ve heard you talking about it a lot, so it must be amazing.” “Well, it’s been built up too much now, it’s just going to fall flat.” or “Have you seen the new Spielberg film Bridge of Spies, oh my god it is amazing!” “Don’t build it up too much!”

I was nothing to do with it = if you have nothing to do with something it means you are not involved or connected to anything at all. E.g. “Mr Thompson, I want to talk to you about the bank robbery that occurred in the town centre last year.” “Bank robbery? I had nothing to do with it officer, I promise!” or simply “There was a royal visit happening, but I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to pick up my husband.”

I was just a hanger-on = a hanger-on is someone who just hangs on. This is someone who is nothing to do with what’s happening but they just hang around. E.g. musicians often have hangers on. These are people that hang around the band even though they’re not contributing to the show at all. They’re just hanging on because it’s cool or fun to be with the band.

I was skulking in the corner = to skulk means to kind of hide or keep out of sight, often in a slightly cowardly way.

He beckoned to me = to beckon to someone is to wave someone over to you with your hand. It’s to do a motion with your hand which encourages someone to come to talk to you.

He was eyeing her up = this means to look at someone because you fancy them – to look at someone with sexual interest. E.g. the king of Tonga was eyeing up my Mum all evening.

 

James’ Anecdote – Hastings Story

a skate park = a place designed for skateboarding

the ramp’s in the church = a ramp is a thing for skateboarding on. It has sloped sides so skaters can go up and down on it

a hog on a spit = a hog is a pig, and a spit is a stick that goes through the pig, suspending it above a fire

we had too good a time = we had a good time – but if you want to add ‘too’ you need to say “we had too good a time” not “we had a too good time” – this works with the structure in general. “It was too big a pizza for me to eat” or “It was too long a journey to make at that time of night”

I was too drunk – not in a lairy way = to be lairy means to be aggressive and anti-social. It happens when some people get drunk. They get lairy.

I’m bigger than him, I can take him = to ‘take’ someone means beat them in a fight

We crashed out = to crash out means to fall asleep, usually quickly and often in a place where you don’t usually sleep.

I’ve painted everything in hammerite www.hammerite.co.uk/ = hammerite is a kind of metallic paint

He was coming round = to come round here means to wake up, or come back to consciousness

I didn’t get interfered with = to interfere with someone could mean to touch them in a sexual manner

*just past simple

 

Dad’s Anecdote – Hitchhiking in Italy

*all the narrative tenses used

We got a few good lifts = a lift is when someone takes you somewhere in a car. E.g. “Could you give me a lift to the station?”

This car pulled up = this is when a car stops by the side of the road (also – pull over)

He was a slightly dodgy character = dodgy means untrustworthy or suspicious

The car broke down = stopped working

They turned on him and said “What are you doing?” = to turn on someone (not turn someone on) means to suddenly start criticising or attacking someone. In this case, there were curious neighbours listening to the argument and after a while they turned on the guy – they decided that he was wrong and they started criticising him

I managed to jump in and grab the keys from the ignition = to manage to do something (this is an important verb structure) – also ‘the ignition’ is the part where you put the keys in order to start the car, e.g. “You left the keys in the ignition”

I dangled the keys over a grating / a drain = to dangle something over something is to hold something in the air so that it swings from side to side slightly. E.g. We sat on the edge of the bride with our legs dangling in the air.

 

Luke’s Anecdote – Liverpool StoryLEPcupPOLARIOD

*Includes quite a long passage with past perfect when I described what had happened to the man before he arrived at our front door.

There was some sort of commotion going on in the hallway = a commotion means a period of noise, confusion or excitement

He ran through all the alleyways = alleyways are passages between or behind houses

That’s it for vocabulary!

Which anecdote did you like the best, and why?

363. Muhammad Ali & The Rumble in the Jungle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s go!

Muhammad Ali – His Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ali is wearing the white shorts.

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

About his speed he said:

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

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

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

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

Some funny moments

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

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

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

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

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

The Rumble in the Jungle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Foreman describes Ali (min 1.20)

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

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

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

Ali having an intelligent discussion on US TV in 1968

 

Some of Ali’s funny moments

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

Leave your comments. Just tell me what you think.

Thanks for listening…

Luke

346. Rambling on a Friday Afternoon

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms / More NY Stories / Politics / Leicester City / Google Adverts
Welcome back to another podcast episode. It’s nice to be back in your headphones or speakers. In the last episode of this podcast I talked to you about some recent bits and pieces such as the ELTon award nomination, my recent trip to New York and some other stuff. I also gave you a language task to keep you on your toes. I’m going to continue along the same lines in this episode and I have a list of things here to talk about and we’re going to continue with the language spotting exercise.

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It’s a Friday afternoon, I’ve just seen the latest Marvel movie, the weather is mad, and I’m going to talk to you about various things again but first I’ve got to respond to a couple of comments that have arrived here on my website in just the last hour.

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms Listed Below

But first…

Some comments from listeners

Abensour • 4 minutes ago
Hello Luke, Your podcast is fantastic.
Nevertheless, could you please speak a bit faster. I guess you must lower the pace when you record your podcasts and it would be very interesting to hear you with your natural english speaking pace.

Jeremie • 1 minute ago
By the way, I am a french listener as well! :)

Wesley
Hello Luke and LEP listeners,
It’s with absolute delight that I receive the news that LEP has been nominated for the 2016 ELTons and I genuinely believe other long-term listeners share the same feeling. The British Council and Cambridge English couldn’t have a better candidate for the Digital Innovation category.
One thing that troubled me though was when Luke said it was unlikely that he could win. Luke, I don’t know if you’re being far too English or just trying to be modest but, as I see it, you shouldn’t take this defeatist attitude and underestimate yourself. As you said, LEP is a project you have been working on for over seven years and it keeps getting better as time goes on. Because you’re kind-hearted and keep LEP free, people all over the world listen to you. Your episodes have millions of downloads and are a complete success and, even though you’re up against five other great nominees, I cannot conceive why LEP might not be in the running for the award.
LEP is innovative because it allows learners to listen to genuine English – rambling included – outside a classroom environment. Everyone who has reached a proficient level knows how important being in touch with the language is in order to learn it well. LEP is great because it enables us to hear natural English for pleasure and entertainment or while doing housework, cooking and commuting to college. I am not aware of any other equivalent English teaching resource that suits our busy lives just as well as LEP. I believe any sensible judge on the panel will allow for all those reasons when they vote.
I wish you luck and I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
All the best,
Wesley

Language Task – Spot the Phrasal Verbs & Idioms

So, that language task from the previous episode was to listen out for a few phrasal verbs and idioms that I’d taken randomly from a dictionary and which I tried to insert into my speech, seamlessly. You had to identify the ones I had added. The purpose of that is to encourage you to notice lexical items – to notice vocabulary. It’s a good habit for a learner of English. On one hand just follow what I’m saying and connect with that, but also try to notice features of the language you’re listening to. That’s what I’m encouraging you to do.

I chose 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms and I managed to slip in just one of those phrasal verbs and two of the idioms.
Remember what they were?

There was “to come up against” something.
Also, “to be on the edge of your seat”
and “to get your knickers in a twist”

There were also plenty of other bits of vocabulary which just cropped up in the episode, including these ones:
– to listen out for something
– to watch out and look out for something (not too complicated)
– to keep your eyes peeled
– to prick up your ears

So, as we move forwards now, watch out for the 4 remaining phrasal verbs and 3 remaining idioms. I’m not telling you what they are in advance. It’s up to you to identify them. You’ll probably hear a few phrasal verbs and idioms, but which are the ones that I took from the dictionary? When we get to the end of this episode I’ll tell you the phrases, and clarify them for you, because I’m nice.

Keep reading – the phrasal verbs and idioms are listed below.

Topics in Today’s Ramble

In this one I’m going to carry on just talking about various subjects, including a couple of other anecdotes about New York, some comments about politics in the USA and in the UK at the moment, some more rambling about movies, and various other bits and pieces that will crop up as we go along.

I’ve got no idea how long this is going to take of course! I could talk the hind legs off a donkey this afternoon, but as ever I’ll just divide the whole thing into several more episodes if necessary. Ultimately – it’s all spoken English from me to you, so here we go…

Some more anecdotes about the time spent in NYC
– The hasidic jews jamming in the music store

– Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar

– Billy Cobham at the Blue Note

Politics
The American presidential elections – Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton
London Mayor – Sadiq Khan is the new mayor
The EU referendum / Brexit
The Panama papers
These are very important political issues that really deserve to be covered in proper depth, and I plan to do that.
I’m particularly keen to talk about Brexit in one more special Brexit themed episodes.
Leicester City won the Premiership.
Small club, 5000-1 odds of winning. The title has been dominated by the big names. Leicester is in the East Midlands and it’s less famous than a lot of the other big cities in England but this is going to help. All in all it’s just fantastic to see a smaller club win this title. They were absolutely fantastic.

Google Adverts
I bought some new trainers online and now the internet is madly trying to get me to buy them again. WTF?

Movies
I’ve just seen the new Marvel movie and also there’s a new Star Wars film coming this Christmas, but that’s going to come in another episode soon…

The Phrasal Verbs & Idioms – Definitions and Examples

Thank you to a LEPster called Valeriya for writing these vocabulary notes in the comment section for the benefit of all listeners.

Valeriya: I wrote some notes. Hope they will be useful for the LEPstors.

to ease off/up – to gradually stop or become less
e.g. At last the rain began to ease off.
e.g. I am leaving soon, but I am just waiting for the traffic to ease off a bit.

to ease off/up – to start to work less or do things with less energy
e.g. As he got older, he started to ease up a little.

to ease off/up – to start to treat someone less severely
e.g. I wish his supervisor would ease up on him a bit.

to fork out (on something) – spend a lot of money on something, probably spend a lot of money in one go in order to buy something; to spend a bunch of money on something in one purchase
e.g. If you advertise nice guitars to me for a long enough period of time, eventually I will fork out on a new guitar.

to splash out (on something) – spend a lot of money on something; to spend a lot of money on something which you want but do not need
e.g. He splashed out on the best champagne for the party.

to go down with something – you catch an illness, you get sick; you become sick; to start to suffer from an infectious disease
e.g. Half of Martha’s class has gone down with flu.

to come down with something – to get an illness; заболеть чем-либо
I came down with the flu at Christmas.
e.g. You need to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, so you’ve got lots of vitamins, because if you don’t, you might come down with a cold.

to bring the house down – if someone or something brings the house down during a play or show, they make the people watching it laugh or clap very loudly; you make everyone laugh as part of a performance; to put on a really great performance and to be a huge hit; to make a group of people or an audience react in a very enthusiastic way, especially by laughing
e.g. I saw Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar, and he absolutely brought the house down.

to go on the offensive – you begin to take strong action against people who have been attacking you
e.g. The West African forces went on the offensive in response to attacks on them.

to go on the offensive – to begin to attack or criticize someone who you think is attacking you
Under pressure from his critics, the minister decided to go on the offensive.
Luke was going on the offensive about Google’s Advertising.

to go on the defensive – in an attitude or position of defense, as in being ready to reject criticism; you start defending yourself or something
e.g. He’s so sensitive. Whenever you give him any feedback he immediately goes on the defensive.

to take/bring somebody down a peg or two – to do something to show someone that they are not as good as they thought they were; to lower someone’s high opinion of themselves
e.g. He’s one of these super-confident types who really needs to be brought down a peg or two.

to dabble in something – to try an activity but not seriously, just as an experiment to see if you like it. To do something for a short time, or not regularly, in order to see if you like it. To do something sometimes, but not in a fully serious way, only in a casual way.
e.g. He dabbled in left-wing politics at university.

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

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

[DOWNLOAD]

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

The Story – Explained

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

OK, me neither. Let’s clarify.

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

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

Results – Am I a Good Detective?

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, welcome back to LEP

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

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

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

What’s the story we’re going to read?

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

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

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

How do text adventures work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, let’s begin

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

*STORY BEGINS*

To be continued in part 2!

Please leave your thoughts, comments and questions below.

vic murder