205. Summer in London (Part 1)

Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode. This one was recorded last week when I was on holiday in London, and in this episode you can listen to me walking through central London and talking to you along the way. I really enjoyed recording this episode and I think you’re going to enjoy listening to it too because it’ll be like you’re actually there with me, strolling around some of my favourite parts of town, hearing all the sounds of London around you as we go. I think it’s going to be great, but before we start I’d just like to mention a couple of things as a preface to the episode. [Right-click here to download]

Small Donate ButtonLondon can be a noisy place and so, unfortunately, a lot of the recording I made on this day was not completely clear enough to broadcast because my voice got a bit drowned out by atmospheric noise. You might find that some of it is a little bit difficult to hear, and in fact I had to completely edit out large sections of the episode because the noise level was just too high. When I listened back to some of it, I was quite annoyed to discover that the sound of busses, cars, trains and wind made it quite difficult to hear my voice clearly. I’ve managed to edit out some of the bad bits, and explain the missing content by talking to you here in post-production, but some of the remaining parts might still be a little difficult to hear. If you do find some of this too noisy to listen to then I’m sorry and I understand, but I still hope it’s possible for you to follow almost all of what I’m saying.

I really wanted to upload this episode despite the noise. I think it will be quite an interesting one, as you can take a personal trip with me through some of my favourite parts of central London and I expect that most of you are probably not bothered by the noise and are happy to join my on a walk. I love London and I’m proud to present it to you, even in audio form, and I think this episode can give you quite a real feeling of actually being there with me. It would be a pity to waste the several hours of talking that I recorded just because some people would not tolerate the noise. So, I’ve decided to just upload it anyway, even if the audio quality is not perfect.

I know what most of you are thinking – it’s fine Luke, it doesn’t matter! Don’t worry about it! I appreciate that. But for those of you who are sensitive to a bit of background noise I just want to say – I know this episode is a bit noisy – but that’s just London for you! It’s a noisy place! I suggest you write a letter to London’s mayor Boris Johnson to complain!

“Dear Mr Johnson,

Recently while listening to an award-winning podcast by Luke Thompson (I’m sure you know it) I was saddened to discover that parts of the episode were inaudible due to frankly unacceptable levels of noise caused by London’s busses and traffic. So, I am writing this letter in order to complain about this matter, and suggest in the strongest possible terms that you do something about it! Maybe introduce a noise-tax, or simply ban busses and taxis from operating within central London. I appreciate that businesses and services need to operate with vehicles, but this simply cannot be allowed to interrupt our enjoyment of Luke’s English Podcast.

Yours sincerely,

L.E. Pepper
The Republic of Freedonia”

OK, I realise I’m going a bit too far, it’s not that big an issue really. In fact, you could say I’m “making a mountain out of a molehill” or “stretching it out of all proportion”. I’m “going overboard”… yes it’s all a bit “over the top” now isn’t it. Alright, that’s enough, I don’t want to “over egg the pudding” by talking about noise levels too much, so it’s time to get on with this episode, so join me now as we go back in time, all the way to last week, on a trip into central London…

Music: “London Town” by Light of the World – Download it from iTunes here.

First gap:
So, I left the flat in bright, warm sunshine and walked towards the tube station, crossing the street at a busy junction in Stockwell, near Brixton, just south of the river. Some people say it’s quite a rough area, I personally think it’s okay. In fact at that time of day there were a couple of homeless people around, an alcoholic-looking guy stumbled out of a betting shop, but generally the area’s okay. In fact, it’s got good transport connections to central London and the rent is not too high. So I crossed the street and walked to Stockwell Underground Station and I stopped to look at a mural on the wall of the station. It’s the picture of Jean Charles De Menezes, a Brazilian man who was tragically and wrongfully killed by police who thought he was a terrorist, back in 2005…

2nd gap:
I left Victoria Station and walked along Buckingham Palace road. Along that road there is a wall, and on the other side of the wall is the garden of Buckingham Palace. You can’t get in there, so you just have to wonder what it looks like. I imagine it’s a beautiful and well kept garden. There are parks in front of the palace – St James’s Park and Green Park and of course the public are allowed to go everywhere they want in those parks, and walk or like down on the grass. There’s a pond with ducks, swans, geese and even pelicans which are large birds that you normally find near the sea – they have huge beaks that can carry loads of fish. A while ago there was a video going around on YouTube of a pelican actually eating a pigeon in St James’ Park!

I walked along Buckingham Palace road next to the palace gardens, as I said, and that’s next to a busy main road, and the noise was a bit too much. I talked about what it must be like being the Queen (I expect it’s a lot of hard work actually, it might be a bit lonely although she lives in luxury, she might be very strict on her children & grandchildren, and very controlling), which I have talked about on the podcast before. I wonder about her sense of humour, and what she’s really like.

I also spoke about the Queen’s power, how our democratic monarchy works and the difference between having a president and a monarch. Unfortunately, a lot of this was drowned out by the sound of traffic, so I’ll try and sum up what I said.

People sometimes wonder about why we have a Queen & a royal family in the UK, and also suggest that it might be better to have a republic instead. It might look like an old feudal system – a kind of medieval system in which the Queen has a covenant with god. What is this game of Thrones? But if you disregard the craziness of monarchy, you can just see it for what it is. It’s a slightly strange system, which works pretty well for the UK.

Without wishing to criticise republicanism (it works fine in plenty of other countries), in the UK democratic monarchy seems to work for us quite well. In a republic, such as USA or France, the president has an executive and representative function. He leads the country and also represents the country in state ceremonies, and as the figurehead of the nation. It’s an incredibly important role. That can lead to some issues. People want to look up to the president, and celebrate him/her as he/she represents their nation, and yet the president also has a responsibility to run the country, and answer to the wishes of his citizens. People shouldn’t be too deferential to the president because ultimately he’s a civil servant who works for the people. Sure, we can respect the president if he does a good job, but often people want a figurehead who is above the political system. In the UK the responsibilities are split between the monarch and the PM. The PM runs the country, and the Queen just ‘represents’. They do have tea once a week, so she has an audience with the PM, she does have minimal powers which she doesn’t use. So Brits can celebrate the Queen as head of state, knowing that she doesn’t have any decision making power and that she doesn’t express a political preference, and then we’re free to criticise our Prime Minister without having to be overly deferential towards him. His job is to run the country. We shouldn’t lift him up to the position of someone super special. He works for us. The Queen’s job is to give us a focal point for national pride without letting political views get in the way. So, that’s how we can celebrate the Queen without it affecting the way our country is run. Hopefully. It’s a very complex issue with all kinds of opinions regarding the pros and cons of having a royal family. I’ve dealt with it before on the podcast, in episode 103. “The Queen & The Royal Family” (featuring EnglishRobot4000).

  • Ksenia

    It’s the same in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. When the weather is good, you have to go out and enjoy it because great weather is a rare guest in this part of the world.
    Thank you for these two episodes. They weren’t very enlightening but still amusing in a way.

  • raulito

    you know what? Teacher Luke,I made popcorn for me just to listen this episode along with a drink at home.It was funny because some people would think you r insane talking with yourself walking down the streets XD but the episode was splendid.I’d like to visit London to have a ride in London eye,well that’s one of my dreams to come true so far.I know for sure I’ll bring it on.
    Thank u Teacher and looking forward to listening tomorrow Summer in London part 2.
    bye,bye,bye,bye,bye XD

  • Mohammed K.

    It works only here :
    anyway , I will try later , it might work …
    Thank you ,

    • If that’s the case, it must be an iTunes issue, perhaps only in your region. I really hope they fix that soon. ;)

      • Chi

        Hi Luke.
        My name is Chi, /tʃi/.
        I love you but I have to say that you disappoint me whenever you say ‘better’, ‘pretty’, ‘forty’, ‘it is’ with a /d/ sound instead of /t/. In my opinion, this is the very sign that British English will be Americanized, first replacing /t/ with /d/, then replacing /ɒ/ with /ɑː/, and before you know it, British English is extinct. Everytime I hear bedder, I regret learning British accent (although there is no such thing) because the man who inspires me to do so doesn’t speak like he used to. I feel like nobody is speaking like me – I’m not British but you Brits are becoming Bridish (see what I did there?). So I’m considering adopting an American accent since I want to go to ‘Murica to study.

        I am proud ( should I be?) to say that after my IELTS speaking test, the examiner (native English speaker) asked me : ‘why do you have a British accent?’. Because of you, Luke. But no more, I’m done with British accent. ‘Murica’s impact is just so f#ckin’ great.

        Hope that the last LEP episode I listen to will be your respond to my message.

      • Hi Chi,
        Thanks for your message but I must admit it’s a little confusing. You tell me you love me, then you tell me how I disappoint you. Then you say that you’re proud that I have helped your pronunciation, but that you’re intending to stop listening to my podcast. You say that you’re going to start studying American English, and abandon British English but only because it is becoming too Americanised. If that’s the case, then what is the problem? Why not just stick with British English if it’s going in the right direction? It’s like saying, “Bus A is going to America, so I’m going to leave it and catch Bus B instead” – why? “Because it’s going to America.” Just stay on Bus A.
        Actually, your complaint is that British English seems to be changing, and will eventually die. But, how about the idea that it doesn’t really matter how you pronounce a /t/ sound, as long as people understand the message you’re communicating? Your personality, your clarity, your intentions and your integrity are far more important than the way you pronounce a /t/ sound. It’s not necessary to pick sides. Also, I don’t agree that British English is going to become extinct as you fear. Yes, it is influenced by American English but it’s also influenced by plenty of other factors. It’s never going to become completely engulfed by American English, because Britain is not America. You cite several reasons why British English appears to be becoming more Americanised. Sure, we’ve picked up some vocabulary & pronunciation from America, /t/ sounds may be pronounced like /d/ sounds occasionally but it’s not the end of the world, and I disagree that we are replacing /ɒ/ with /ɑː/.
        Languages change, it’s normal but changes don’t spell the end of languages. British English will always be unique, but perhaps unique in different ways than before. Partly that will be due to influence from beyond its borders, that’s natural. You can feel free to study whatever variant of the language you prefer, but don’t expect it to stay that way forever. When the language bends, you’ll have to bend with it, and in fact when the people bend, the language does too. Nothing is fixed.
        Finally, do I understand correctly that after listening to me for some time, and after I’ve apparently helped you with your English (although I don’t know your the score from your IELTS test) you write to tell me how disappointed you are and how you’re not listening any more? Well, if that is the case you should feel free to do whatever you like. Thanks, goodbye and good luck.

  • Mohammed K.

    I go to iTunes , then search for LEP , after that I download and then , it gives me a message (unable to download podcast – could not be downloaded at this time) ,,

    • That’s strange. I’ve tried it and it’s working for me. I can’t tell you why that’s happening. As an alternative, you could go to audioboo.fm/channel/lukesenglishpodcast then find the episode you want to download, then right-click on the play button and ‘save file as’. See if that works.

  • Mohammed K.

    Still having the same problem ..
    Not able to download any episode to my iPhone , but I could download to iPad ..

  • Przemo

    Great idea for a podcast! I think you’re the best teacher of English :)

  • Mohammed K.

    I am not able to download any episode from LEP !
    I don’t know why !
    There is a problem starting from this morning !

    • I have no idea why that’s happening Mohammed. I hope it starts working soon. Is anyone else experiencing this issue?

      • Eugene

        Yes, the same problem, Luke!

      • How about now? (I fixed the ‘download’ link)

      • Eugene

        It’s working now. Thank you for this extremely atmospheric podcast)

  • Anonymous

    Wow…that’s a nice one! I”ve been to London last week as well for my summer holiday, hoping too meet you Luke somewhere by accident;) It was really hot