Monthly Archives: July 2016

367. Talking about Nothing with Alex Love (Invaded by Robot Aliens) PART 2

Hello and welcome to part 2 of this conversation with my friend Alex Love. If you haven’t already heard part 1 I suggest you go back and listen to that. I’ve divided this episode into two parts just because I thought it was a bit long and that it would be easier for you to deal with two slightly shorter episodes than one epically long one.

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So, just to remind you – I invited Alex on the podcast to talk about his Edinburgh show called “How to Win a Pub Quiz” but we spent most of the episode talking about stuff in general, including quite a lot of unspecific rambling about nothing in particular – which is one of my favourite topics. If you remember, part 1 ended with Alex going into his bathroom in an attempt to get a better internet connection on his phone because the signal kept breaking up, making it sound like our Skype call was being invaded by evil robot aliens or something.

So, we carry on now with Alex in the bathroom in Manchester and me in the SkyPod in my flat in Paris. So here we go.

*Conversation Continues*

Title: Alex Love – How to Win a Pub Quiz

Venue: The Stand 5 & 6 (Venue 319)
Dates: Aug 4-14
Time: 12:00 lunch time
Length: 1 hour

Description from the Ed Fringe website: This highly interactive show is part stand-up, part actual pub quiz. Expand your trivia, compete against other teams, witness results. After playing to capacity crowds in 2015, this unique hour is back with more facts, prizes and niche-referenced nonsense.
Reviews: ‘Alex Love is great fun’ (Scotsman). ‘It takes quite a show to create such a sense of engagement that one music question can become a full-blown sing-along, but this is the spirit of How to Win a Pub Quiz.’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Such a quick brain’ (We Are Funny Project).
Bookings:  tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz

Alex on Twitter: @thisalexlove twitter.com/thisalexlove

Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast twitter.com/englishpodcast

Find me on Facebook: Luke’s English Podcast

Join the mailing list

Feel free to send a donation

Check out italki and get 100ITC at www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

Download a free audiobook from Audible at www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke

Now, go and make a jet-pack and your dreams of flying will come true! Yes you can!

;)

Luke

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366. Talking about Nothing with Alex Love (Invaded by Robot Aliens) PART 1

On the podcast today I am in conversation with Alex Love, who you might remember from some previous episodes of this podcast. Alex is a friend of mine who I first met while doing stand-up comedy in London 7 years ago. He has featured in podcast episodes before, like the Brighton Fringe Festival podcasts (ep 104, 105 & 106), 109. The Drunk Episode and 226. On a Boat. All those episodes also featured our friends Paul Langton and Moz – both of whom have been guests on the podcast recently.
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Recent Episodes with Moz and Paul Langton:
Moz’s episode: teacherluke.co.uk/2016/03/23/337-murder-mile-walks-stories-of-londons-most-infamous-shocking-murders-some-explicit-content-swearing/
Paul’s episode: teacherluke.co.uk/2016/05/24/349-whos-the-best-superhero-with-paul-langton/

Alex Love regularly performs stand-up comedy gigs in London and in Manchester where he now lives. At this moment he’s preparing for the Edinburgh Festival where he will be performing a one-hour show which he has written himself, called “How to Win a Pub Quiz”. The show is a mix of stand-up comedy and pub quiz trivia and it has had some good reviews at previous festivals. If you’re in Edinburgh this August you can see Alex’s show at a venue called The Stand in rooms 5 & 6 (venue 319) at 12 o’clock midday from 4 to 14 August.
Bookings:  tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz

As well as doing comedy Alex has also done a number of different jobs in his life, including doing a paper-round, working in a call centre, and writing journalistic pieces for The Guardian newspaper.

I invited Alex onto the podcast today mainly to talk about his Edinburgh show, but in fact, the conversation mainly involves Alex and me just wittering on about nothing in particular! That’s why I’ve called this episode “Talking about Nothing with Alex Love” because although we do talk about his show a little bit, I’ve found it quite hard to put my finger on exactly what it was that we talked about for the majority of this conversation. We just seemed to be talking about nothing and I actually think that’s a really great thing and a worthwhile thing for you to listen to.

Because, in my opinion, regularly listening to unplanned and slightly rambling conversations between friends, like in this episode, is genuinely good for your English, long-term. This is, after all, the way that we communicate with friends in the real world, isn’t it? Real conversations are not scripted or planned out in advance like the recordings you hear in published English learning course books, like this www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MVxesy1AFI 5.22. That’s an extract from a Headway course book published by Oxford University Press, which is a very good book and everything, but the audio conversations are a bit fake sounding because they’ve been written in advance and are being used to present certain bits of language. Of course, the vast majority of conversations we have with our friends in the real world are not planned in advance and usually involve responding to little moments that come up in the conversation, changing from one topic to another and simply rambling on about stuff in general. And we build relationships with people by rambling on about stuff in general, we have fun with each other by rambling on about stuff in general and we release stress by just rambling on about stuff in general, and this is why simply rambling on about stuff in general is actually rather a wonderful thing indeed.

So, I invite you, in this episode, to listen to us rambling on about stuff in general. Your job is to try to follow the meandering flow of the conversation, take note of certain phrases or aspects of language that you hear, and generally just let the English wash over you like some kind of refreshing language shower. An English language shower. A languashower if you like, or perhaps an Englashower.

One technical detail before we start: There are some moments when the Skype connection breaks up and Alex sounds a bit like an evil robot. That happened a few times and it actually really annoyed me during the recording because it was quite disruptive to our conversation. For some reason, whenever we started talking about something serious some connection problems occurred and Alex started sounding like an Aphex Twin remix or a drunk robot or something. You’ll hear it happening sometimes in the conversation and you’ll also hear that I got a bit annoyed by it later in the conversation and I said the phrase “This is doing my head in” which means “this is really annoying me and making me angry and frustrated.” To be honest, I have managed to fix the vast majority of the technical issues in the recording because I have done *a lot* of editing, so in fact you probably won’t notice any of these technical issues and all of this explaining that I’m doing here in the introduction is probably completely unnecessary, so I’m now going to stop doing it and just move on.

I hope to have Alex back on the podcast again soon for another episode in which we do a kind of podcast pub quiz of our own, which you can take part in. That would be good, wouldn’t it? Yes of course it would. Everyone likes a pub quiz. That’s another episode for another time, perhaps while Alex is in Edinburgh and has a better internet connection.

I should also mention that there’s a little bit of swearing in this conversation. So, “there’s a little bit of swearing in this episode.” There you go, you’ve been told, and I know that the vast majority of you are now thinking – “fine, that’s absolutely fine Luke. Not a problem. In fact, good – that’s good. We fucking love swearing Luke. IN fact, swearing is sharing.” Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about but I’m glad you’re happy. I encourage you not to swear too much though OK, even if you hear it on the podcast. Do what I say, don’t do what I do. OK.

Well, right then, without any further explaining, let’s now get started, and we’re going to jump straight into the conversation mid-flow right now so this is it, off we go, it’s time to get started so let’s get down to business right away without any further hesitation or messing around or time-wasting and so here it is then, let’s start, we’re all set, you’re set, I’m set, everything’s set and ready to roll so here we go, on your marks, get set, get ready, get steady, let’s get ready to rumble… OK GO.

*Episode Begins*

By the way, what’s a “Pub Quiz”? Well, it’s a quiz that happens in a pub. Typically, pub quizzes happen in the evenings in pubs all over the country where teams of people get together to answer questions which are read out by the quiz master. It’s just a game and a good excuse to get together, have a few drinks and test your general knowledge. The winning team is usually awarded some sort of prize – typically restaurant vouchers, bottles of wine or something like that. Pub quizzes are very popular in the UK. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “a 2009 study put the number of regular weekly pub quizzes in the UK at 22,445.”

Everyone loves a pub quiz, they’re very appealing. So, Alex’s Edinburgh show is quite a clever combination of a stand-up performance and a pub quiz in which the audience have to answer various funny questions read out by Alex.

Title: Alex Love – How to Win a Pub Quiz

Venue: The Stand 5 & 6 (Venue 319)
Dates: Aug 4-14
Time: 12:00 lunch time
Length: 1 hour

Description from the Ed Fringe website: This highly interactive show is part stand-up, part actual pub quiz. Expand your trivia, compete against other teams, witness results. After playing to capacity crowds in 2015, this unique hour is back with more facts, prizes and niche-referenced nonsense.
Reviews: ‘Alex Love is great fun’ (Scotsman). ‘It takes quite a show to create such a sense of engagement that one music question can become a full-blown sing-along, but this is the spirit of How to Win a Pub Quiz.’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Such a quick brain’ (We Are Funny Project).
Bookings:  tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz

Alex on Twitter: @thisalexlove twitter.com/thisalexlove

Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast twitter.com/englishpodcast

Find me on Facebook: Luke’s English Podcast

Join the mailing list

Feel free to send a donation

Check out italki and get 100ITC at www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

Download a free audiobook from Audible at www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke

Now, go and make a jet-pack and your dreams of flying will come true! Yes you can!

;)

Luke

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End of Part 1 – ‘Outro’ – Transcript

Hello everyone – I’m interrupting the conversation here because I’ve decided to divide this episode into two parts and I thought that this dramatic moment where Alex has moved into the bathroom to find a better mobile internet signal is a suitable moment to do that. So this is the end of part 1. Part 2 should be ready for you to listen to right away – so go ahead and get stuck into it now.

OK then, so that’s it for part 1. Don’t forget to join the mailing list at teacherluke.co.uk and then you’ll get an email whenever I upload a new episode and the email will direct you straight to the page for that episode where you will find notes, transcriptions, links, videos and other details that relate to the episode.

Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you again in part 2.

Bye.

Quick Hello / Notting Hill Carnival Audio

Hi everyone, in this episode I’m just letting you know that I’m very busy at the moment, which is why I haven’t uploaded an episode for a while. Normal podcasting will resume soon. In the meantime, you can listen to the audio track from a video I did in 2009 at the Notting Hill Carnival. There are 40 phrasal verbs in the video. Can you find them? You can see the video below, with a full transcript and all the phrasal verbs in a list + definitions. You’re welcome!

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Notting Hill Carnival Video (+ transcript and phrasal verb list)

The Transcript & Phrasal Verb list with definitions are below the video.

Transcript

Luke: Hi everyone, this is Luke. Hello, and today I’m going to the Notting Hill Carnival. You probably know about Notting Hill from the movie with Hugh Grant, which looks a bit like this… But the Notting Hill Carnival is a slightly different view of Notting Hill, and it looks a bit like this… It’s the biggest carnival in Europe. It happens every year. It’s a Caribbean carnival so you get lots of Caribbean music, Caribbean food, Caribbean culture, and I’m going to take you, my video camera in order to just video the event and give you an idea, give you a flavour of what the Notting Hill Carnival is all about.
So I went out and I got some cash out of the bank, and I got on the bus and I paid with my Oyster card, which I’d just topped up. And I went to the back of the bus, and I got a seat and waited for the bus to take me to the carnival. There’s Notting Hill. You can see lots of people at the end of the street, and it’s just hotting up at the moment. That’s Notting Hill Gate.
I’m in Notting Hill now, and I got stuck in traffic on the way here. The bus took ages because there was so much traffic. I got stuck in traffic for a while but I’m here now and I’m just walking through Notting Hill. The police are here and they’ve blocked offlots of the streets so that cars can’t drive through. So all the streets are just for pedestrians now. So I’m just walking through Notting Hill with everyone, and I can hear some music in the distance, and I’m going to go and meet up with my friend Raph. So, here we go.
So, you have to queue up for toilets at the carnival because there aren’t many toilets around. That’s a bit annoying. There’s a typical street in Notting Hill, and that’s a typical little shop that you might come across if you walk around. There’s one of the musical floats playing a kind of Caribbean music. I don’t know how that child is still asleep, because it’s very noisy. You can see so many people, so many kinds of people at Notting Hill Carnival. And lots of police as well. There’s Raphael in the distance, waving at… waving and pointing at me. He’s with his girlfriend. Yeah, there he is, doing, like, a crazy dance, because he’s a crazy guy. Here’s Raph. He’s a bit surprised to see me I think.
Raphael: Mr Multimedia! How’s it going buddy, you ok?
Luke: You can pick up lots of nice food from barbecues on the street. Lots of, kind of, Caribbean food like jerk chicken. And this is Portabello Road, which is the main road in Notting Hill. And more musical floats, with people dancing on them, and extremely loud music. They have huge speakers, which pump out very loud music. I’m not sure which flag that is, but it’s one of the islands of the Caribbean I think. These people got covered in red stuff. I don’t know what that stuff is, but they got completely covered init. Lots of police again, just looking after everyone, making sure that we’re not doing anything wrong.
Katherine: Hi, I’m Katherine and I’m loving Notting Hill Carnival.
Liam: I’m Liam Foster from Sunderland in the North East [of England] and I’m loving London at the moment.
Holly: Hi, I’m Holly.
Liliana: Hi, I’m Liliana.
Luke: Very loud music. You can hear the bass. So strong.
Raph: My hair’s shaking!
Luke: Not the best place to bring a bicycle, I think.
Luke: So, what do you think of carnival?
Holly: Erm, it’s rammed.
Luke: It’s rammed.
Holly: It’s rammed. No, I like the music, and the loud sound systems.
Luke: Yeah, isn’t it a bit…
Holly: The colours
Luke: The colours, yeah yeah. Is it the first time you’ve been to carnival?
Holly: Yep.
Luke: Okay, alright. Err, great, thank you. Do you usually carry two beers?
Holly: All the time.
Luke: Really?
Holly: Yeah. It’s the best way to live.
Luke: So, it’s not just a carnival thing.
Holly: No, every day.
Luke: You’ve always got two beers, ok. Ok, is that…? Ok, thanks.
Holly: You were gonna ask another question then and you couldn’t!!
Raph: Check out the chopper.
Luke: Check out this big chopper. The police are, like, cracking down on… well, crime. Even using a chopper. So what’s happening Raph?
Raph: As you can see the area’s quite packed. Erm, and it’s just like basically just like loads of floats and everything going past. A bit of police action up top, erm, and everyone’s just drinking loads of, err, Red Stripe, and whatnot. It’s sort of like a carnival staple, if you will.
Luke: Any phrasal verbs, perhaps?
Raph: Check out the Red Stripe!
Luke: Check it out, yeah. Do you need… Do you usually have 4 Raph?
Raph: Erm… Nah, it’s not, it’s not absolutely necessary to erm, see off four beers or anything, you know? But, maybe later on I’ll just like, get a few more down, you know?
Luke: Yeah, crack open a couple more later…
Raph: Exactly, you know, err
Luke: How does it feel having the camera right in your face, like this?
Raph: It’s quite close

Luke: So, you’re the sergeant, are you?
Sergeant: Yes
Luke: So, how many times have you done carnival?
Sergeant: This is my 25th carnival
Luke: Really? So what’s it about? What’s carnival all about?
Sergeant: It’s about culture, it’s about people enjoying themselves, it’s about everyone having a good time in a good atmosphere, erm, just partying on. It’s the second largest carnival in the world. We could learn a lot from Rio. We could, sort of like, have it more organised, but it’s the spontaneity. It’s the nature of the event.
Luke: Ok. Is it… it’s the second largest in the world is it?
Sergeant: Yes
Luke: I didn’t know that. I knew it was the largest in Europe. Do you normally have any trouble?
Sergeant: Only minor, but then you have trouble at any large public gathering.
Luke: Yeah, ok, thanks very much.
Sergeant: No problem

Luke: So, can I interview you then? So, what’s carnival all about guys? What’s it all about for you?
French guy: So, an English boy, so French boy…
Luke: Huh?
French guy: So, French boy…
Luke: You’re French?
French guy: Yeah
Luke: Where in France are you from?
French guy: From Paris
Luke: Ah, did you come here today?
French guy: Yeah
Luke: Just for the carnival?
French guy: Yeah
Luke: Really? How many times have you been to carnival? Is it your first time?
French guy: First time
Luke: So, what do you think? [They blow their whistles!!]
Luke: Yeah?
Someone off screen (in French): Ca va bein?
Luke: Ok, have a good time yeah…

Luke: Hello, hi, just get everyone in, hello. So, what’s carnival all about for you guys? What’s it all about?
Pirate guy: I dunno, coming onto the street, having a bit of fun, I dunno, not having a massive race riot
Pink hat guy: You sound like a tory
Luke: Not having a massive race riot
Pirate guy: Yeah, definitely. It is, that’s that’s the history of it.
Luke: Have you dressed up today?
Pirate guy: Err, what are you saying?
Pirate girl: It’s so we can spot each other. This is my normal clothes, but we can see him from very far away because he’s in pink.
Luke: Right
Pirate guy: He’s very boring, he never makes any sense though.
Pink hat guy: I dunno who you’re teaching English to, but do they have fake tan in wherever they’re from?
Pirate girl: Yeah, my fake tan went very very wrong.
Luke: That’s fake tan?
Pirate girl: But it tastes really really good
Luke: What’s it made of?
Pirate girl: Chocolate
Luke: Ah, ok, lovely. Ok, well, have a great time.
Pirate guy: You too man. Good luck with the EFL
Luke: Nice one, thanks a lot, bye!

Luke: Err, what do you think of carnival?
Rabbit: I don’t think about it
Luke: You don’t think about it
Rabbit: I don’t think about it, I’m just a f*cking rabbit, man.
Luke: Are you enjoying it?
Rabbit: Err, in a way.
Luke: Have you had any carrots?
Rabbit: People, they are so greedy. They didn’t give me one.
Luke: They didn’t give you any?
Rabbit: Nah
Luke: You can get carrots, right, if you just go in that direction there’s loads of carrots.
Rabbit: Yeah, sure man.
Luke: Ok, have a good one, bye!

Luke: So, you can just see lots of people dancing, walking along Portabello Road, in all their different costumes and things. All sorts of weird and wonderful people, like this guy. This is Bongoman.
Luke: Hey, err, what’s your name?
Bongoman: Oh, I’m Bongoman
Luke: Sorry?
Bongoman: I’m Bongoman
Luke: Bongoman?
Bongoman: Yeah
Luke: Where are you from Bongoman?
Bongoman: Africa
Luke: From where?
Bongoman: Africa
Luke: Africa, okay. So, err, what’s carnival all about for you?
Bongoman: It’s all about peace and love, being together, and sharing love for one another.
Luke: Yeah, nice. Ok. Is that… how does the bongo fit into all of that?
Bongoman: Oh, through African roots culture going back centuries, so…
Luke: Yeah, like the rhythm, the heart beat, all that… Thanks a lot
Bongoman: I’d like to say to my fans, I love you all. Part of my soul is with them. If they’re watching, or if they’re watching on YouTube or Facebook, here’s to them – I love you all, my fans. Keep supporting me all the way. Love you.
Luke: Cheers man

Luke: Thanks Bongoman. I’ve no idea who Bongoman is, but he may be famous on YouTube. These people were completely covered in Chocolate. Someone had a big load of chocolate and they were throwing it at everyone. She’s doing a kind of carnival dance. And that woman got chocolate on my face.
Luke: They got me! Argh!

Luke: Hello, what are your names?
Girl 1: Gem(?)
Girl 2: My name is D’Arcy(?)
Luke: What’s carnival all about? Are you enjoying it?
Girls: Yeah we are enjoying it, very nice.
Luke: Do you live in London?
Girl 2: Yeah, we live in London, we live in South East London, yeah
Luke: Oh yeah? So what is carnival all about for you?
Girl 2: Sorry?
Luke: What’s it all about? What’s the main… thing?
Girl 1: We are in London just as tourists, because we are not English speaking, we are French and…
Girl 2: We come just for the carnival
Luke: Right, so what do you think of carnival then?
Girl 1: Very good.
Girl 2: Very good. It’s very nice, maybe we will come back next year.
Luke: Ok, thanks very much!

Luke: That man tried to hit the camera out of my hands.

Luke: What’s carnival all about man? What’s it all about?
Rastaman: All about? It’s a festival, it’s ????? man. Alright? Everybody enjoy themselves, do everything. Enjoy yourself, ???? ?????
Luke: Right, thank you

Luke: Right, I had no idea what he said, didn’t understand a word of it actually. You can see Popeye and Olive Oil having a good time, enjoying the carnival. Much taller than I expected.

MC: Where’s the beer crew!? Stella Artois! Budweiser! Fosters!

Luke: All the jerk chicken there. Massive barbecues with people chopping it up there on the table. Very tasty it is. It’s quite spicy.

Luke: What’s your name?
Ella: Err, my name is Ella.
Luke: Err, how’s the fest… how’s the carnival?
Ella: Pretty good, it’s pretty busy.
Luke: Yeah, have you been here before?
Ella: Yeah, two years ago
Luke: Okay, is this one better or worse than the last time?
Ella: Err, I think better. I’m with more people, so it’s better.
Luke: Ok, alright. What’s carnival all about?
Ella: Err, I don’t know. Partying. I’m sure there’s like, some historical reason, but…
Luke: What’s it about for you?
Ella: I dunno, having a laugh, getting drunk in the daytime. What about you? What’s it for you?
Luke: The same – having a good laugh, listening to the music, getting into the sort of community spirit of it, and all that. Yeah. Okay, thank you…

Luke: I’m an idiot because I didn’t get her phone number. I should have tried to chat her up, but I didn’t.

Koreans: Hello!
Luke: Where are you from?
Koreans: South Korea!
Korean Girl 1: He is North Korea!
Luke: What do you think of carnival?
Korean Girl 2: Sorry?
Luke (shouting): What do you think of the carnival??
Random guy: Yeah!!! Hypnotic brass dot net! Yeah yeah! What’s up maan? What’s up?
Korean Girl 2: Very nice!
Luke: What do you think of carnival?
Korean Girl 2: Very nice!
Luke: Very nice?
(North) Korean Guy 1: This carnival is wonderful, yeah!
Luke: Yeah, brilliant. Nice one, cheers.
Korean Girl 1: You are very nice!
Luke: Cheers

Luke: You can see St. Luke’s Mews, err, named after me actually. It wasn’t really, erm, yeah. So the Spanish tapas bar was open, but the Japanese café was closed. Typical. It’s very difficult to squeeze through the crowds at the carnival. There’s so many people, it’s difficult to squeeze through. … See, more people dancing in the street. Getting down. Another massive speaker. Very very loud. Seriously loud music. And, erm, you see all the people, kind of, getting down, grooving, dancing, blowing their whistles. It’s just a great party in the street. I mean, normally these streets are very quiet, very nice places, but during carnival they just become crazy parties, with everyone just dancing and drinking, it’s great fun.

This here is, erm, Miss Dynamite, and she’s actually quite famous in the UK. She’s got a recording contract. So you can see she’s getting everyone into it. That’s basically the end of this carnival video. After this, my tape ran out. I had no more tape left. It ran out, so I had to leave a final message for you.

Luke: Ok, erm, I’m just in a toilet now, in someone’s house, someone I don’t know. Erm, the sun’s gone down, the carnival’s going crazy out there, completely insane, so I’ve run out of tape, so that’s the end of this, that’s the end of this video, so ciao, peace, rastafari…

So, that’s the end of the video. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, there are loads of phrasal verbs in the whole video. So, did you manage to spot all the phrasal verbs? I’ll give you a list of the phrasal verbs in this video, at the end of the video, but of course you’ll have to listen to Luke’s English Podcast again in order to find all the meanings. I’ll actually explain all of the phrasal verbs and give you definitions for all of them. Every one that has appeared in this show, in this video, okay? So, what you should do now is watch the video again and try and pick up all of the phrasal verbs, ok?
That’s it, bye bye bye bye bye bye byebybybye

Phrasal Verb List & Definitions

What is a phrasal verb?
It’s a verb which is made of two or more words. A verb and one or two particles. Particles are prepositions or adverbs. E.g. To get on with someone. ‘get’ is the verb, ‘on’ and ‘with’ are prepositions, or particles. (to get on with someone means to have a good relationship with someone – e.g. “I get on really well with my brother. We’re good friends”)
There are 2 types of phrasal verbs: Literal ones and idiomatic ones.
The literal ones are quite easy to understand. The meaning of the phrasal verb is not too different to the meaning of just the verb in the phrase. The particle just modifies the meaning slightly, or is used to connect the verb to a noun. e.g. I know about the Notting Hill Carnival ‘Know about’ is very similar to ‘know’, but slightly different. E.g. I know Tom Cruise (I know who he is), I know about Tom Cruise (I’ve read about him, I know information about him).
Idiomatic phrasal verbs are the difficult ones because the meaning is different from the individual words. E.g. to give up smoking (to quit smoking)
The meaning of the word ‘give’ and the phrase ‘give up’ are completely different.

So, when you see a verb + particle combination (phrasal verb), think about if it is a literal one or an idiomatic one. Luckily, almost every phrasal verb in this video is a literal one (yey!).

Here’s the list of phrasal verbs, and a brief description of their meanings:

  1. To know about something – you have information or knowledge about it. You might have read about it, or heard about it from someone.
  2. To go out – to leave the house, and go outside. It also means to leave the house to go to a pub, bar or club.
  3. To get some cash out – to withdraw money
  4. To get on the bus – to enter the bus
  5. To top up your Oyster card – an Oyster card is an electronic bus/train card. To ‘top it up’ means to put money onto it.
  6. To wait for something – this just means to wait, but we always use the preposition ‘for’ to add an object
  7. To hot up – to become more exciting, busier and more active. E.g. “The carnival is hotting up!”
  8. To get stuck in traffic – to be delayed in a traffic jam. E.g. “Sorry I’m late, I got stuck in traffic”
  9. To walk through somewhere – to walk from one end of an area to the other end. E.g. “I’m just walking through Notting Hill at the moment”
  10. To block off the street – to stop people entering or exiting the street. The police do it with ‘road blocks’. “The police have blocked off the street”
  11. To drive through the street – to drive from one end of the street to the other end. “People can’t drive through the street”
  12. To meet up with someone – to meet someone, usually in an informal/social way. “I’m going to meet up with my friend Raph”
  13. To queue up for something – to wait for something in a line/que with other people. To stand in a queue for something. “You have to queue up for the toilet”
  14. To come across something – to find something while you are walking somewhere, or while you are doing something else. E.g. “I was surfing the internet and I came across a really good podcast about The Beatles.”
  15. To walk around – this means to walk, but not to one destination, just to walk to various places in an area without a specific destination. E.g. “You might come across shops like this when you’re walking around Notting Hill”
  16. To wave at someone – to shake your hand in the air to someone (in order to say hello)
  17. To point at someone – to use your finger to bring attention to someone
  18. To pick something up – to buy it, get it, take it. E.g. “You can pick up loads of nice Caribbean food at the carnival”
  19. To pump out music – to play music really loud. E.g. “The speakers were pumping out music until 2AM”
  20. To get covered in something – to have something all over you (it’s passive). E.g. “They covered me in chocolate. I got covered in chocolate.”
  21. To look after someone – to protect, care for someone. “The police are here, just looking after everyone”
  22. To check something out – to look at something “Check out the helicopter!”
  23. To crack down on something – to try to stop something happening, to become strict on something. Usually the government or the police do this. E.g. “The police are cracking down on drug dealing”
  24. To see something off – to eat or drink something completely. To finish eating or drinking something. “You’ve already finished off two beers!”
  25. To get something down – to eat or drink something. “I’m going to get a couple more beers down later”
  26. To crack open a beer – to open a beer! ‘Crack’ is the sound the can of beer makes when you open it.
  27. To party on – to continue partying
  28. To come out into the street – to leave the house and go into the street
  29. To dress up – to put on special clothes (smart clothes, or fancy dress)
  30. To think about something – to consider something. ‘about’ is the preposition we use to connect ‘think’ to an object. You can also say ‘think of’ something.
  31. To go back centuries – to have a long history (hundreds of years). “The roots of African music and culture go back centuries”
  32. To come back – to return to this place again. “I think I’ll come back next year”
  33. To hit something out of your hands – to make someone drop something by ‘hitting’ it while they are holding it. “That man tried to hit the camera out of my hands”
  34. To chop something up – to cut something into pieces with a knife, sword etc. “These people are chopping up the jerk chicken”
  35. To chat someone up – to talk to someone because you think they are attractive, and you want to make them fancy you. Hopefully, you’ll get their mobile phone number, or you’ll be able to go on a date with them, or kiss them… “I should have tried to chat her up”
  36. To name something after someone – To give someone/something the same name as someone else. E.g.”I was named after Luke Skywalker because my parents are big Star Wars fans.” [that’s not actually true, they don’t love Star Wars (IV – VI) as much as me…]
  37. To squeeze through a crowd – to walk through a crowd of people by making your body smaller. “It’s really hard to squeeze through the crowds”
  38. To get down to the music – to dance to the music “Look at all the people getting down!”
  39. To get people into something – to encourage/make people enjoy something “Miss Dynamite really got everyone into it!”  n>
  40. To run out of something – to use all of something, so you have nothing left. E.g. “I ran out of fuel, so I couldn’t drive all the way. I ran out of water in the desert, and I died – that’s why I’m in heaven now, doing a podcast, in heaven, yes, silly example, sorry.”

365. BREXIT: 3 Weeks Later (A conversation with my Dad)

Hello! How are you doing? Today on the podcast I’m going to finish this series of episodes I’ve been doing about Brexit in the same way that I started it, by having a conversation with my Dad. Before you listen to that conversation I’m going to say a few words in the introduction and then highlight some vocabulary and phrases which you’ll hear in the main part of the episode.

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I’ve talked quite a lot about politics and Brexit recently because the events since the referendum have just been so huge. It’s been a strange time with lots of uncertainty, turmoil and changes.  It’s a weird time – what’s going to happen? Is this going to be a really costly and difficult couple of decades? Or is this a great opportunity for Britain?

No more Brexit episodes for a while

I’ve covered all of this in some detail already and I’ve had lots of good responses from you, which seems to show that you’ve found these episodes interesting, informative and useful for your English. But this is probably going to be the last time I talk about British politics and Brexit for a while, unless something else comes up in the news.

I should also say that there have been lots of other big events going on in the world, including the situation in Turkey with the recent attempt at a military coup, and the horrific truck attack in Nice the other day, not to mention other trending topics that the world is talking about, including this new Pokemon game which is not quite as innocent and trivial as it sounds. There are big stories going on all the time and they are worth talking about, but my podcast isn’t a BBC news programme or something so I’m not necessarily in a position to deal with absolutely every current topic of course, even though I would like to.

I’m talking about Brexit a lot because this is a subject that is very close to home for this podcast.

My Dad

So, it seems that you enjoyed listening to my Dad in episode 351. In fact, he’s got some big fans out there in LEPland it seems, judging by the comments I’ve read, and you’re right – he’s really articulate, well-informed and brilliant. So now you can have the pleasure of listening to more of his wise and down-to-earth coverage before I put the whole Brexit subject to bed for a while.

Comprehension Questions

Here are some questions which you can try to find the answers to in this episode.

What has happened since the UK voted to leave the EU?
What’s the state of the nation?
Will EU nationals be thrown out of the country?
Why did David Cameron resign?
Why did Boris Johnson then quit the leadership race?
Who is Theresa May, the new PM?
How did she become the PM?
What is the situation with the opposition party, Labour?
What’s going to happen next in the UK?
What 3 words did my Dad choose to describe how he feels about the situation?
Also, listen all the way to the end for the conversation to hear some of my Dad’s comments about football.
What are my Dad’s predictions for the 2016/2017 season in the FA Premiership?
What does he think of the new Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho?

Vocabulary

As I’ve said, my Dad is very articulate on this subject and he always manages to find exactly the right words to effectively express his ideas. As a result this conversation is a good example of clear spoken English and is very rich in vocabulary. I suggest that you try to notice specific expressions that are used. To make that a bit easier for you I have picked out some words and phrases from the conversation and I’ve put them in a list on the page for this episode. I’ve picked these ones out because I think that you might either not be familiar with them or because they’re nice fixed expressions which you could add to your vocabulary. I’m not going to explain them now because there isn’t time, but I will now read them out to you before playing the conversation.

The point is that I’m encouraging you to notice these phrases in the episode. Just try notice them and how they come up naturally. Whenever you hear a phrase you can make a mental note of it. If you want to actually see the phrases written down in context then check out the page for this episode and you’ll see them all written there for you. You can then check the phrases in an online dictionary – I recommend Oxford or Cambridge’s online dictionaries (you’ll need to select an English-English dictionary or English learner’s dictionary), study the vocab and then add them to your word lists.

So, here we go – here are the phrases I’ve selected. Try to listen out for these phrases as they come up in the conversation.

Vocabulary List

it’s so self-evident (to be self-evident)
to throw out the EU nationals who have settled in the UK (to throw someone out)
Some down-to-earth reasons for staying in the EU (down-to-earth)
Legitimising extreme people who say immigrants should go home (to legitimise someone/something)
An increase in hate-crime (hate-crime)
To assimilate immigrants into the country (to assimilate someone into something)
A gender balance at senior levels (gender balance)
To steady the ship (to steady the ship)
Things have been happening at breathtaking speed (at breathtaking speed)
There might be an economic crisis if we fall into a recession (to fall into a recession)
Economic repercussions (repercussions)
Cameron staked his entire reputation on the result of the referendum (to stake your reputation on something)
The candidates started fighting like rats in a sack (fighting like rats in a sack)
They started stabbing each other in the back (to stab someone in the back)
Michael Gove dumped Boris Johnson (to dump someone)
She was persuaded to step aside (to step aside)
Gove stepped down as well (to step down)
A despicable story from a despicable newspaper (despicable)
They splashed the headline on the front page (to splash a headline on the front page)
Scotland will not be dragged out of the EU against its will (to be dragged into/out of something against your will)
To put her own stamp on the new Parliament (to put your stamp on something)
Michael Gove sabotaged him (to sabotage someone/something)
Allegedly / Reportedly
She has a direct stake in the future of the country (to have a stake in something)
The person with the least number of votes dropped out (to drop out)
Someone who does strange sexual practices with a goat (strange sexual practices with a goat??)
He likes to think he’s very witty (to like to think you are something) (to be witty)
Goodwill is like the grease that lubricates the wheels (like the grease that lubricates the wheels)
I’m hoping that Theresa May will turn out to be a good PM (to turn out to be something)
Article 50 is going to be triggered before the end of the year (to trigger something)
The anti-immigration people have come out of the woodwork (to come out of the woodwork)
The European Union establishment must have had a bit of a shock (to have a bit of a shock)
They ought to take stock and re-assess their priorities to a certain extent (to take stock of something) (to re-assess something)

*Conversation Starts*

So there you are, I hope you enjoyed listening to my Dad again.

Don’t forget to visit the website where you’ll see some extracts from the conversation written, including a lot of nice expressions and phrases for you to add to your vocabulary.

Remember to follow me on social media – Twitter @EnglishPodcast twitter.com/EnglishPodcast – Facebook Luke’s English Podcast www.facebook.com/LukesEnglishPodcast/ and the mailing list on my website to get an email notification of new content direct to your inbox. It’s the best way to get access to the show notes and download links for my episodes.

I look forward to reading your comments as always.

Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening, night, lunch break, cigarette break, jog, drive, gym session, sleep, work meeting, English lesson or toilet break wherever you are in this crazy world!

Cheers,

Luke

364. TEN TOP TIPS for Learning English

LEP is back after a two-week absence. This episode is about top tips for learning English. Here are some ideas about learning English that have occurred to me in the last couple of weeks of teaching intensive general English classes at school.

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So, how’s your English?

Remember to be responsible for your own learning. Nobody can learn for you.

It’s all about establishing habits for improving your English, and keeping up those habits.

TOP TIPS FOR LEARNING ENGLISH

  1. Watch movies and TV in English. This is what people always say, but it can work really well if you do it right. Here are some specific tips. Repeat watch a movie that you love in English. Watch it with subtitles in English. Then watch it again without the subtitles. Put your phone in front of the TV or computer and record the audio, then listen to it when you’re out and about. Quote some of the lines. Recreate parts of the film on your own. Go the extra distance and think outside the box.
  2. Find a book that you know quite well. Read it in English and also listen to the audiobook. You won’t mind repeating it because you love it. You already know the story, so now you can explore it in English. Imagine hearing all those lines in English again and again.
  3. Keep two notebooks. Go down to the stationery shop and buy two nice notebooks. The first one is for scribbling things down quickly and just keeping quick notes. The other one is where you keep an organised record of words and rules. Keep the first one with you when you’re watching, reading or listening to stuff in English, or when you’re in conversation on italki or something. The other one is going to be like your bible for English and you’re going to write it yourself.
  4. Use mnemonic devices to help you remember.
  5. Listen to my podcast! Listen to episodes more than once. You’ll find that specific things I say will stick in your mind. You’ll also find things funnier and funnier, I promise. Some of my episodes are designed mainly to make you laugh. You need rewards for understanding and learning a language, so let the funny moments be a reward in themselves. Enjoy the process of understanding what I’m saying, and getting the subtleties and nuances. Check out the page for each episode. You’ll often find words written there. Often the introduction or the whole episode is transcribed. You can use that to help you learn.
  6. Get a grammar book and do the exercises, then do them again a few months later. English Grammar in Use is still the best one. Even if you’re pretty good at English already, going through those pages systematically will iron out a lot of the fossilised errors you have. Then when you listen to English, read English or speak to people just try to notice some of the grammar you’ve been studying. Also, if you don’t understand some of the grammar – don’t worry about it, just carry on. The worst thing you can do is stop when you feel confused or frustrated. You don’t have to understand 100% of the grammar. Just understanding 70% is ok. Do your best to understand it all, but it gets pretty complex and abstract (not as much as most other languages). The main thing is: when you experience difficulty or resistance – the worst thing you can do is stop. Just keep going anyway! Work with what you have and make progress in little steps.
  7. Just keep yourself switched on at all times! Be mindful. Notice language and take opportunities to learn. Some learners of English are just not diligent enough. Every error is an opportunity to learn. Bit by bit, step by step.
  8. The pizza analogy.
  9. Enjoy the small victories. Every single positive moment in your learning should be celebrated. If you understand something fully – well done you. If you say exactly what you wanted to say – well done you. If you stopped making a fossilised error, well done you.
  10. Enjoy it! You only get one life. (deep and meaningful moment)

 

More episodes coming soon.

Thank you so much for your comments and messages. I’m sorry I can’t reply to them all.

Have a good day/night/evening/morning, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing!

:)

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