Author Archives: Luke Thompson

About Luke Thompson

I've been teaching English for over 20 years in London, Japan and France. I also do an award-winning podcast for learners of English called "Luke's English Podcast". In my free time I'm a stand-up comedian who regularly performs shows in English in Paris and sometimes London.

719. Amber & Paul are on the Podcast

Talking to pod-pals Amber & Paul about diverse topics including organ harvesting (yes), favourite fruits (exciting), accent challenges, guess the punchline, British Citizenship tests, What the “great” in Great Britain really means, and Amber’s son Hugo’s astonishing fluency in English.

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Episode Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. How are you doing today? Doing ok? 

I won’t talk at great length at the start here, suffice to say that as the title of this episode suggests, Amber & Paul are on the podcast again, after a one year absence. 

Yes, the tangential trio are at it again.

I’ve been wondering What on earth I should call this episode. As you will hear, the options I had for a snappy title for this one were a bit tricky because our conversation covers some pretty diverse topics, including some quite dark themes, some potentially controversial moments and the usual fun rambling nonsense. It’s hard to sum it up in one pithy clickbait title. I think I’m just calling it “Amber & Paul are on the Podcast” but that does seem like a bit of a cop out. Anyway, we will see what I ultimately choose as a name for this episode. 

Here’s a quick hint of the diverse topics which we explore. 

Organ harvesting – yes, that’s right, organ harvesting. To get this, you will need to have listened to the previous episode of this podcast (#718), which was a conversation with Michael the hitchhiking shaman from Poland. In that episode Michael explained how, when hitchhiking once, he almost got kidnapped by several people who he suspected were organ harvesters – people involved in the illegal trade of human internal organs. Amber heard that podcast and was sceptical.

This prompted nearly 30 minutes of conversation about the ins and outs of organ harvesting, including how, where, why and who would do this. 

Then we go on to do various random questions & challenges from my list of random questions and challenges, so you will get some accent fun, a thrilling discussion of Amber’s favourite fruit and vegetables, a story about Amber’s son Hugo and his surprising articulacy in English, a joke about Spanish firemen, some British citizenship questions about Easter holidays, British overseas territories and why Great Britain is actually called Great Britain, and plenty more besides. So, other than organ harvesting, there isn’t just one theme for this episode, hence the rather generic title.

It’s a thrill ride of an episode which has everything you could expect from a a conversation with Amber & Paul. I hope you enjoy it. Nothing more needs to be said except that you are about to hear a rapid conversation between friends and it might be difficult to follow, so strap in, hold on tight and let the tangential chat commence…


Episode Ending Transcript

Well, there you have it. Amber & Paul reunited on the podcast once more. We’d been waiting for ages for that to happen, and I hope you were not disappointed.

Just in case you were wondering what “tangential” means (and you’re not a long-term listener)

A tangent or a conversational tangent is when someone starts talking about something that is unrelated from the main topic of the conversation. To go off on a tangent.

Tangential is the adjective and it refers to something different from the subject you were talking about. This is typical of all my podcast conversations, but especially those ones with Amber & Paul, and so we are the tangential trio.

As ever I am curious to know what you think about all of this. 

Sometimes our conversations become quite rude and inappropriate, but I’m just presenting you a natural conversation between friends, and this sort of thing is normal when socialising in English. 

Here are some questions for your consideration:

  • What do you think of Michael’s organ harvesting story? Do you believe it? Is it possible?
  • What is your favourite fruit or vegetable?
  • Why is Great Britain called Great Britain?
  • Did you hear about the Spanish fireman and his two sons?

Let us know your thoughts and comments in the comment section.

I’ve got a ton of episodes in the pipeline which will be coming out over the next few weeks and months.

Here’s a little taster of things to come:

Bahar from Iran

A couple of episodes about expanding your vocabulary using word quizzes and dictionaries with a returning guest

More episodes in the vague Beatles season including some stuff about the psychology of John Lennon, adjectives for describing personality traits and some analysis of Beatle song lyrics, with a sort of expert guest.

Various stories which I have been searching for and then reading out on the podcast, with YouTube versions (this is because the recent Roald Dahl story I read out was a popular one)

More special guests for interviews and collaborations, more bits of comedy analysed and broken down, and plenty of other things too…

I am still waiting for my shiny thing from YouTube but when it arrives I will be doing another YouTube live stream. Who knows, I might do one before it arrives, but I will let you know. 

Premium subscribers, I have the rest of the “What did Rick say” series coming up, and then a similar series called “What did Gill say?” focusing on language from my recent conversation with my mum about The Beatles, following a suggestion from a listener.

So, new premium content is either being published, written or recorded all the time, so watch out for new episodes. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you’d like to find out more.

I will be back soon with more episodes, but for now it’s time to say goodbye…

718. Michael the Shaman 🇵🇱 (WISBLOEP Runner-Up)

Talking to competition runner-up Michael from Poland about two top English learning tips, scary hitch-hiking stories and the practice of shamanism using psychoactive substances.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you today? I hope you’re doing well as you listen to this, wherever you are in the world at this particular moment in time.

This is the 5th in the WISBOLEP competition series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast, talking to winners and runner ups from the listener competition I did at the end of last year. 

So far I have spoken to Walaa from Syria, Tasha from China, William from France and Robin from Germany. Now it’s the turn of Michael from Poland, also known as Michael the Shaman (this is the nickname that he often uses, for reasons which will become clear later in this episode). Michael actually came sixth, and Bahar from Iran was fifth, but at the time of recording this I haven’t spoken to Bahar yet. Her interview is coming soon though.

So, let me tell you a little bit about Michael the Shaman, from Poland.

Michael, who for the record is not an English teacher, has a lot to offer both in terms of language-learning tips that have worked for him and some very interesting stories and insights into some pretty deep and fascinating things, and I think this should be a great episode. So, listen closely.

Here’s a quick overview of the things we cover.

First we talk about language learning and those specific tips from Michael. These are resources and approaches that he has used to work on his English, especially his vocabulary and pronunciation, with some success I would say. I won’t go into them now, but pay attention so you can hear him describe these things, how he uses them and how they have helped him make some significant improvements to his English. I will summarise them again at the end and give a few extra comments.

Secondly, Michael tells us some of his hitch-hiking stories. Michael has spent lots of time travelling around in neighbouring countries near Poland and doing it by hitch-hiking, which basically means getting picked up by drivers who are going in the direction he wants to go, and hitching a ride with them as a way of travelling around. Now, this sounds adventurous and possibly a bit risky, because it does involve travelling in the cars of strangers, and Michael has some genuinely frightening and incredible stories of doing this. Again, listen closely to hear the specifics of the edgy situations that Michael has found himself in. 

Then, thirdly we have the topic of shamanism, or being a shaman. Michael is probably better placed to describe this than me, but being a shaman basically refers to the use of certain rituals and practices to enter different states of consciousness, which can lead to new discoveries, new perspectives, new ways of thinking and different ways of seeing the world, or the universe in fact, and our place within it. This is something that Michael has explored and for him it has been very beneficial to his life in various ways. So let’s listen to what Michael has to say about shamanism and the use of psychedelics.

At this point I feel I need to say something about the use of psychedelic substances, which is part of what Michael describes as being a shaman, and we’re talking about using substances that occur in nature, like certain magic mushrooms and ayahuasca as well as the synthetic chemical LSD or acid as it is also known. 

So I would like to just say one or two things about this topic as a sort of disclaimer or preface to our conversation.

First of all, the substances I just mentioned are controlled substances in most countries, which means that they are illegal to some extent. So, we are certainly not suggesting that people go out and start using them. 

By the way, I’m referring to these things here as controlled substances, but in many cases they are also called drugs, and they’re not just prohibited by law, but also in the general culture. For a lot of people drugs are a serious taboo and people often have quite strong and negative feelings towards this subject. I am aware of this, and I hope that you are comfortable listening to us talking about it on this podcast. I think it’s alright, but I am aware that for some people drugs are just not ok, and that’s fine.

I feel it’s necessary to say that in talking about psychedelic drugs here we are not condoning their use in any kind of flippant way, and “condoning” means promoting or supporting something. We take this seriously and as you will hear Michael is very articulate and quite serious about the subject. He’s very well-read and knowledgeable, and we are just talking about his personal experiences and knowledge, which I do think are interesting as well as being new as a subject on this podcast. I’ve never really talked about this kind of thing in depth before on the podcast.

Also I think it’s worth making a distinction between different types of drug or substance.

There are many different types of drug, and they are extremely different to each other. 

People often just say “drugs” without making any distinction between them. They just lump them all together as if they are all the same, basically. But I think it is worth making a distinction. Despite that fact that controlled substances are often grouped together as drugs, they are not really the same as they have very different effects and different levels of risk and we are certainly not talking about things like cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin, which are obviously very dangerous substances and very serious substances. We are not talking about those things here.  

So, I thought it would be worth making that distinction and I’m trying to be responsible about this topic, but I’m also attempting to manage your expectations here because I don’t want you to get the wrong impression or to be shocked or to have a knee-jerk reaction while listening to us mention psychoactive substances in the latter part of this conversation. For many of you, these words are not really necessary, you’re fine with it, but there it is. I felt I should make those points. We’re not promoting any kind of illegal behaviour, we are not talking about those damaging and addictive things that ultimately will destroy a person’s life, instead we are taking what I hope is a more reasonable and rational approach here and discussing the more intellectual and spiritual aspects of shamanism and how certain psychoactive substances are part of that.

Right, now before we get to the talk of psychedelics in the second half of our conversation, you can first hear Michael’s specific language learning tips, which I think are really useful, and then his crazy hitch-hiking stories, which are pretty mind-blowing and entertaining.

Right, no need for me to add anything else here. I really hope you enjoy this conversation. I’ll be recapping and summarising some details later but let’s now meet Michael the Shaman from Poland, another runner up in the WISBOLEP competition. 

Are you ready? Listening carefully? OK, here we go.

Bruce Parry’s short film about Ayahuasca

Ending Transcript

So that was Michael from Poland, and wow, that was awesome stuff, wasn’t it? It got very deep there, and cosmic, didn’t it? I hope you liked it. As usual, I’m very interested to read your responses to the things that Michael said. 

I’m going to sum up some of the things Michael said at the start of the conversation about learning English, because after all that mind-expanding talk of psychedelic trips and also the hitch-hiking stories, it seems like we talked about his language learning methods ages ago, and I think he made some really great recommendations that you could find really useful for your English.

Now, considering Michael’s English again. I think it’s fair to say that it’s good, right? 

I do want to repeat a couple of points.

Don’t compare yourself to others too much

Don’t compare yourself to other people too much. This can lead you to judge yourself a bit harshly, which is totally normal. Whenever we listen to other language learners, the tendency is to either judge their language level, or judge our own level in comparison to theirs, but this isn’t a very healthy thing to do in terms of language learning, and what I’d encourage you to do is only judge yourself by your own success, and rather than comparing yourself to others, try to notice how your English is better than it was before. 

Just compare yourself to yourself at earlier points in your language learning journey. Notice improvements you’ve made, and celebrate them. This is more likely to put you in a better mental space than comparing yourself with others. 

Just think how far you’ve come as a learner of English and take note of your progress. That’s probably healthier than falling into any kind of negative thinking which can happen if we compare ourselves unfavourably to other language learners.

So, try not to judge others too harshly, and don’t compare yourself to others too much. 

And hopefully listening to other language learners can give you some inspiration and some practical ideas which you can use to work on your English in ways you hadn’t considered before. Even little things like changing certain habits can make a big difference to your learning of English. 

And with that in mind, let me quickly just go over the tips Michael had for learning English, which worked for him. Have you tried these things or used these resources?

Michael’s Language Learning Resources

There were two things really:

  • Use English/English dictionaries to expand your vocabulary with correct definitions, examples, phonemic transcriptions and synonyms. My 5 favourites are www.collinsdictionary.com  www.cambridge.dictionary.org  www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ www.macmillandictionary.com and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English www.ldoceonline.com/
    I have been planning to do a full episode on using online dictionaries to improve your English (in fact I’ll be touching on this a bit in a couple of upcoming episodes), but I will just say that these dictionaries are fantastic resources not just for getting definitions, but getting synonyms, examples, phonemic transcriptions and more – all of which are really important ways of really getting to know new words. Bookmark the dictionaries, use them all (because they have slightly different examples and details which you can cross reference) and get into the habit of checking words in them and exploring the information they can give you. Never before have we had access to so many wonderful language learning resources, completely free of charge, and at our fingertips at all hours of the day. It’s like living in a massive library. So, use those online dictionaries to explore new words.
  • The second resource Michael mentioned was the website www.dialectsarchive.com  – a website full of voice recordings used by actors and voice coaches trying to learn different accents, and especially the text Comma Gets a Cure, which is designed to reveal a huge variety of pronunciation features in English. You can hear the text being read in different accents, you can shadow the text, repeat it, record yourself repeating it and more. I plan to do some premium episodes using this text and other similar texts too. There is a lot to explore and use there, including some podcast episodes by the creators. www.dialectsarchive.com 

OK, so just two tips there, but they are solid ones.

And returning to the hitch-hiking stories. I just want to sum up the main one, just to be sure you got it. I think it was probably clear, but I want to retell that story just because I think it was such an exciting story, and maybe you didn’t catch the specifics.

Michael’s Hitch-hiking Story – recap

So Michael and his friend Kuba were hitchhiking from Poland to Amsterdam and they got picked up by a couple of very dodgy guys in a van. They didn’t realise it when they first got in the van but these guys were drinking alcohol and smoking some kind of crystal – perhaps crystal meth, like in the TV series Breaking Bad. Meth is a pretty nasty drug.

Michael is an intuitive person and he picked up on a very bad vibe from these guys and became convinced they were planning to do something very nasty with Kuba and him. Like I said, it sounds like something from a horror film. Listening to their comments, watching their demeanour and generally reading between the lines, Michael became convinced these guys were organ traffickers, who are people that kidnap healthy people in order to steal their internal organs and sell them on the black market. Certainly these guys seemed to be very dodgy and probably involved in organised crime.

Michael decided he would subtly let the guys know that he and Kuba were actually not that healthy and therefore their organs were not worth taking, which would convince them to just let them go.

It’s crazy I know, but I kind of know what Michael is talking about when he said he just knew something wasn’t right and that they were in danger. I feel like I’ve been in similar situations before, where you realise that the people you are with are dangerous and up to something, and so you just have to get out. It’s a weird feeling. I can’t remember any specific stories from my own life, but I’ve met guys in pubs before who just seemed dangerous and untrustworthy, even though there were no specific things that would give me that impression. It’s more of a vibe that certain people give off.

Anyway, Michael said that he heard the guys making jokes about stealing their organs, which appeared to be jokes, but there was a sinister undercurrent which suggested that perhaps they were not really joking. Michael’s friend Kuba was not quite as observant maybe and he didn’t seem to realise something was wrong, but anyway Michael sent him text messages to convince him that something wasn’t right. They managed to persuade the drivers to stop the van at a petrol station because Michael needed to be sick or had diarrhea and then they escaped at a petrol station.

They then decided to continue their hitchhiking trip to The Netherlands, but decided they would not accept lifts from any more Polish people, nobody drinking or using drugs and no vans. This is because they didn’t want to risk running into any similar people or perhaps their friends who they suspected were also on the road, but somehow the next car that picked them up, by coincidence maybe, contained the friends of the dodgy guys they had just escaped from. So, it was a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”.

Michael said that these other guys seemed more intelligent and perhaps were the bosses of the other two they had met previously, and the only way Michael and Kuba got away without being taken, was because the guys ended up liking them, as they played along with their jokes and generally tried not to antagonise them at all. So, phew! What a lucky escape! 

And Michael said that hitchhiking was not that dangerous! 

Actually I do believe that on balance his experiences of hitch hiking have been much more positive than negative, but what a scary story! And I do believe it is true. I find it very believable. There are dodgy people in the world.

And finally, a few more words on the topic of psychedelics like magic mushrooms.

A final note on Magic Mushrooms

All the things Michael mentioned about Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) are definitely worth researching. In his words (from a recent email exchange we had) “I think I talked about maybe 1% of things you can do with this mushroom. I’d like to stress once again that I don’t recommend everybody uses this mushroom. I’m all about education and knowledge. The mushroom can have medical, therapeutic and spiritual effects, but only if one does it correctly. It is not easy to work with this mushroom.

An excellent resource for Amanita muscaria is Amanita Dreamer on YouTube and her website www.AmanitaDreamer.net. Also, a recently published book: ‘Fly Agaric: A compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology & Exploration’ by Kevin Feeney is also great.

These resources are essential as there are many dangerous myths regarding Amanita muscaria. Remember, it’s important to make sure that you are fully knowledgeable about this mushroom. You can’t just pick the caps and eat them. 

I think the same goes for all kinds of psychedelic substance that Michael talked about. Please remember that we’re not condoning the use of these things in any kind of casual way. You must be very careful, very well-read and personally very prepared before going any further.

Right then, what did you think of this episode?

Any thoughts on Michael’s language learning resources, his hitchhiking tales or his comments on the use of psychedelics? If you have things to say, just express your thoughts in English, ideally in the comment section on my website.

That’s all from me. Have a good morning, afternoon, evening or night. Be excellent to each other, good luck with your English and do take care.

Speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

717. Gill’s Book Club: “One Two Three Four – The Beatles In Time” by Craig Brown

Talking to my mum about a book which you could read as part of your English learning routine. The book tells the story of The Beatles and their impact on society. We review the book and then discuss many aspects of The Beatles story, especially the four Beatles themselves.

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Introduction Notes & Transcriptions

Hello listeners, and welcome to the podcast. 

This is a new episode of Gill’s Book club and I’m talking again to my mum, Gill Thompson about a specific book which you might want to read as part of your English learning routine. 

Hello Mum, how are you? 

Introduction

The book this time is all about The Beatles, which is a band from England that you *might* have heard of.

You could read this book, and if you did I’m sure you would learn plenty of things both in terms of language and general knowledge, but there’s no pressure to do so. If you like, you can just listen to this conversation with my mum and hopefully this will be interesting and useful enough on its own. 

But if you are looking for a good book to read in English, then this one could be a good choice, and hopefully this conversation will help you to understand the whole thing a bit more, which in turn should help you pick up more English from it. So, my advice is: listen to this conversation with my mum and if you’re inspired, get a copy of the book and read it, or if you prefer, just listen to us without feeling any pressure to read the book at all. Hopefully this will still be enjoyable and interesting even if you haven’t read the book and have no plans to do so.  

Over 700 episodes and 12 years ago, in the 3rd episode of this podcast, I interviewed my mum about her memories of seeing The Beatles performing live on stage in the 1960s, which she did, twice. 

Now, we’re going to talk about the band again, this time focusing on a book which is all about the Beatles phenomenon and their place in history. The plan is to review the book as a text for learners of English, and then have a deeper discussion about The Beatles. 

You probably know that I’m a big fan of The Beatles and grew up with their music, as my parents were (and still are) fans too. For years I’ve been thinking about doing more episodes about The Beatles story, and mentally preparing myself for it, but I have never actually got round to recording anything, mainly because the topic is just too big and there’s too much to say! But finally I have actually recorded some episodes that might scratch the surface of this topic a bit, and hopefully will give you something insightful and interesting to listen to, whether you are a fan of this band or whether you know almost nothing about them at all. 

So this is going to be the first in a series of episodes in which I talk about Beatle-related things. There’s this one with my mum and then a few episodes with another guest who is an English teacher and something of an expert on The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular.

So, Beatle episodes are coming. I suppose, for some of you, episodes about The Beatles are like busses. You wait ages for one and then loads of them arrive at the same time. 

And by the way, I am certainly not forgetting the main focus of this podcast, which is all about helping you learn English. I think The Beatles can help you learn English, reading is very important in learning English, and so why not do some reading about The Beatles? 

Plus, later in this Beatles series there will be some language-focused episodes, using The Beatles as a context – focusing on some specific descriptive vocabulary and also some analysis of the Beatles’ song lyrics.

Maybe you’re not a fan of The Beatles. This is fine. I’m not going to try to convince you that you should like their music. That’s a matter of taste. But I do think that their story is something else entirely. I think it is hard to deny the fact that the story of these 4 individuals, the things that happened to them and the impact they had on the world – this is all simply fascinating. It’s an epic story. So, even if you don’t like the music, I hope you stay just for the story.

Now, let’s start this episode of Gill’s Book Club, talking about a recently published book about The Beatles.

LengthIs it a long book?

It’s long (642 pages) but the chapters are short, so it’s possible to read it in little chunks.

It’s available in audiobook and Kindle versions.

Appropriacy for Learners of English

The language is modern and plain in style. It’s quite literary of course, because it is a book and not a screenplay or something, but generally speaking it is clearly written and should be readable for learners with an Upper Intermediate level or above, although there will be some difficult words of course, but that’s good. I would say that overall the style is modern, neutral and definitely the kind of English that I would recommend as a good model of English for my listeners.

The short chapters make the whole thing quite easy to digest. It’s in bitesize chunks.

You can dip into it and you don’t necessarily have to read it in order. It’s almost like a collection of essays.

Audiobook version

The audiobook version on Audible is good – different voices and voice actors doing different accents, including pretty good impressions of the main people involved.

Why is it called “One Two Three Four”?

This is the first thing you hear on the first song on side 1 of The Beatles’ first album “Please Please Me”, released in early 1963 – You can hear Paul McCartney counting the band in at the start of the song by saying “1, 2 , 3 , 4”. Also, there were four Beatles, so…


Ending

So there you have it, after more than 700 episodes I finally returned to the topic of The Beatles with my mum and I think it’s fair to say that we went into quite a lot more depth than we did in episode 3 back in 2009, although episode 3 does include stuff we didn’t mention here, specifically my mum’s account of actually seeing The Beatles perform live, twice. So check out episode 3 if you haven’t done so.

Also you could check out that episode in which I asked my uncle Nic to tell us about the time he met Paul McCartney. He told the story in episode 414, and not only has he met Paul, he’s also played football with the members of Pink Floyd and hung out with The Who backstage at one of their concerts, and more. So check that one out too. Links for those episodes are on the page for this one on my website of course.

I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. I must admit that although I feel compelled to talk about this subject at length, part of me is concerned that this is all too much for my audience but I suppose those people who aren’t into this can just skip this stuff. It’s completely up to you. But do let me know what you think.

Remember, any time you have any thoughts about what you are hearing on this podcast, if you have responses or comments in your head as you listen, you can express them in English and I will read those comments, and so will many other LEPsters. The best place to leave your comments is on the page for the relevant episode on my website. Go to EPISODES in the menu and find the relevant episode page, scroll to the bottom and that’s where you will find the comment section. I am curious to see what you think. Any Beatle fans, get in touch. Non Beatle fans, I want to know what you’re thinking. Remember, sometimes doing this podcast is a bit like talking into the void and not quite knowing what people are thinking while I’m doing it.

I won’t talk much more at the end here, except that of course there are millions of things I wish I could have mentioned or talked about in this conversation.

We didn’t talk enough about Ringo!

There are also loads of other people and events that I wanted to mention.

I hope I didn’t talk too much.

Just in case this wasn’t quite enough rambling about The Beatles on this podcast, remember there are four (count them) four more episodes on The Beatles to come, but hopefully those episodes will be different enough to justify this series. 

Anyway, 4 more Beatle related episodes are coming up.

One is a discussion about John Lennon.

Another two are language focused and we’ll be talking about adjectives for describing personality traits.

And the last one is about Beatles song lyrics and little phrases and idioms that you can learn from them.

So it’s not just rambling about The Beatles, although that will be part of it too.

Thanks again to mum for her great contribution to this episode, and yes I am lucky to have a mum who is this cool. I appreciate that and I’m really glad to get her voice on the podcast along with my other guests.

And thank you as ever for listening all the way to the end, you are the best.

Take care, look after yourselves and each other and I will speak to you again soon. I think the next episode will be Michael from Poland.  But until then it’s time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

716. Interview with a Pop Star from the 1960s – Megan Brady from The Applejacks

An interview with Megan Brady, who was the bass player in The Applejacks – a pop band from Birmingham in the 1960s who had a top 5 record, met The Beatles and performed on TV shows and at concerts in the UK.

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Introduction (After the main LEP Jingle)

Hello listeners. In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Megan Brady who was a pop star in the 1960s. Yes, a proper pop star. She was in a band which had a top 10 single, she was on the radio, she appeared on a lot of the music TV shows, she met loads of other pop stars of the moment including the Beatles – yes she met The Beatles, and in fact John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave her band a song which they recorded – their second single actually, the band were featured in the music magazines and no doubt many teenagers all over the country had her photo on their bedroom walls. Yeah, proper pop star stuff. So this is the story of Megan’s career in music in the 1960s.

You might be thinking – which band was Megan in? Well the band was called The Applejacks – you might not have heard of them. They’re not one of the big bands that we now think of when we look back at the 1960s, and they didn’t really reach fame on an international level but they were certainly part of the scene, and were well known at the time. My mum was a fan of The Applejacks, for example. 

Of course we know about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but there was a whole wave of other groups from all over the UK who were playing a new form of music and so many young people were really into it, and that includes The Applejacks who were from the Birmingham area. 

The 1960s was a really fruitful period in terms of modern British culture and I am proud of that part of our history. I find it fascinating, I like the music and I like the stories of the people involved, and I hope you do too.

My guest is Megan Brady (although she was known as Megan Davies in those days) Megan was the bass guitar player in the band, and at the time it was quite uncommon to have a female musician in a group. We’re talking about the early to mid 1960s. There were female singers, but you hardly ever saw girls actually playing instruments in bands, and so that was one of the unique things about The Applejacks. 

So, yes, you’re going to hear Megan talking about all of this, as well as other details like her other career as a clinical physiologist in neurophysiology in the National Health Service (that basically involves studying people’s brain waves) and just stuff about playing the bass guitar, how she’s still working on her technique and things like that.

I know Megan because I’m mates with one of her sons, Jake – or Jacob as she calls him. I met Jake at sixth form college and we played music together in bands over the years.

I was always really impressed by the fact that his parents were both professional musicians, or had been professional musicians at various times because I was so into music from the 60s and 70s including a lot of the artists that Jake’s Mum and Dad had worked with or brushed shoulders with over the years. 

For example, I was really into Jimi Hendrix when I was 16 or 17 and I remember talking to Jake about Hendrix and he told me that they actually had Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at their home somewhere. A wah-wah pedal is a kind of guitar pedal. Jake wasn’t bragging really, he thought it was cool too, and he just wanted to share it with me and I believed him! “Hey, you like Jimi Hendrix – check this out, we’ve got Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at home! Come over I’ll show it to you!” Whaaat? Etc. 

Also, I went to Jake’s house one day and I was hanging out in his bedroom listening to some of his music, and his mum’s bass guitar was sitting there – a nice Fender Jazz bass – and I picked it up and played it a little bit, and Jake said to me “Oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix played that bass once!” I couldn’t believe it! Hendrix played the same bass that was actually in my hands. It turned out that Jake’s mum knew Hendrix a bit, back in the old days and he once had a little go on her bass guitar – the same one that was in Jake’s bedroom that time.

Eventually I learned more and my parents told me more about Megan and that she had played bass in The Applejacks in the 60s and they were one of the popular groups of the time. 

So that’s how I know Megan. I am friends with her son, and now I’ve finally taken the initiative to interview her on this podcast. Megan is lovely and she was happy to do this, which I really appreciate.

Vocabulary

Before we start, I need to just explain a few words that you’ll hear but you might now know. 

  • The Scouts / The Scout Association / Cub Scouts / Girl Guides / Brownies – The Scouts is a worldwide movement for young people (it used to be just boys, but these days it’s for boys and girls I think), founded as the Boy Scouts in England in 1908 by Lord Baden-Powell with the aim of developing character and responsibility. My brother and I used to be Scouts and so did my dad. What kinds of things did we do?Megan was in the Scouts and so were most of the other members of The Applejacks. That’s how they met.
  • Gang show
  • Cub mistress
  • Scout hut
  • Skiffle
  • Skiffle numbers (songs)
  • The Shadows
  • A cruise / a cruise ship / Cunard Cruises
  • The Queen Mary and the QE2
  • Top of the Pops
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital – a famous hospital in London specialising in pediatric care (medical care for children) Where Megan has worked since the late 1990s.
  • Bass guitar stuff – Just a heads up – things will get a bit geeky and specific sometimes in this conversation as we talk about playing the bass guitar, different types of bass guitar and Megan’s bass playing technique. During lockdown she’s been practising with an online bass guitar teacher called Scott Divine from Scott’s Bass Lessons. I didn’t want to cut those parts out of the conversation because I personally find those things really interesting, Megan was enthusiastic about them and so who’s to say that you won’t find them interesting too?
  • Parts of a guitar – The head, the machine heads & tuning pegs, the neck, the body, the pickups, the scratchplate (or pickguard), the pick, the bridge.
  • Fender Jazz Bass vs Fender Precision Bass

Right, without any further ado then, let’s listen to Megan Brady talking about playing the bass guitar and her story of being a pop star in the 1960s. 

And to lead us into this I’m going to play a little sample of The Applejack’s first and most successful single which was called Tell Me When, released in 1964…


Ending

Ending song – Baby Jane by The Applejacks

Thanks again to Megan for taking the time to talk to us about all of that.

You might be wondering why I didn’t get Megan to play some bass for us, which would have been really nice of course.

I didn’t want to put her on the spot, plus for us to hear it properly she’d need to plug it into something like an amplifier and connecting an electric guitar to a computer and playing the sound during a call is a bit tricky too, so it wasn’t really possible at that particular moment.

But you can hear songs by The Applejacks on Spotify and YouTube.

I’ll be sharing some bits and pieces on the page for this episode, including a video filmed in 1964 I think, of Megan performing with The Applejacks, which is a great little sample of the time and you can see her playing I think her Hohner semi-acoustic bass.

The super-long introduction that I recorded but didn’t use – you’ll find it as bonus audio in the app. I go into more details about how I first met Megan’s son Jake and also some other ramblings about The Applejacks…

Tell Me When (Their biggest hit)

Like Dreamers Do (by Lennon/McCartney)

I Go To Sleep (by Ray Davies of The Kinks)

Baby Jane

The Applejacks on Spotify

715. Catching up with Craig Wealand [LEP/AIRC Swapcast]

Exchanging questions with English teacher Craig Wealand from “Apprender Ingles con Resa y Craig” about COVID-19, living in Europe post-Brexit, my daughter’s English, getting proper tea in France and Spain, teaching English on Zoom, the worst jobs we’ve ever had + more, with a song on the guitar at the end.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

I hope you are doing well today. Here’s another new episode of my podcast for you to get stuck into as part of your regular English listening practice.

This is episode number 715 and this is the very first swapcast I’ve ever done. After over 12 years of this podcast, here is the first swapcast  and I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking “But Luke, what is a swapcast?”

You might be wondering what a swapcast is. A swapcast, in the world of podcasting, is when two podcasters get together to record one episode which is then published, often simultaneously, on the two respective podcast feeds. So, that’s one recording that’s published on both podcasts. It can be a good way to introduce audiences to new podcasts that they might want to listen to, and it’s just a way for podcasters to collaborate with each other. A swapcast. 

And that brings me to the guest I have on this podcast today.

Over 5 years ago now, in early 2016, I spoke to Craig Wealand in episode 334 of this podcast. He also interviewed me on his show as well … and then just recently we decided to do it again, this time in the form of a swapcast.

I feel like using the word swapcast is unnecessary but it’s one of those podcast things. Podcast people kind of like (often say) “OK guys we’re going to do a swapcast this week” and so I feel like “Ooh, I’d like to use the word swapcast too please.” So that’s why I’m saying it! Anyway… Craig Wealand. 

Now some of you will know Craig, not only because you might have heard episode 334, but also because you might listen to his podcast. You’ll hear us talking about it a bit in this conversation, but here are some basic Craig facts.

Craig is originally from England, but for over a decade now he’s been living in Spain, in Valencia, to be more specific … Craig is an English teacher with loads of experience, and he also has a podcast, called Apprender Ingles con Resa y Craig, which he does with his friend Resa, who is also an English teacher. That’s in Spanish. Basically it means Learn English with Resa and Craig.

I really want to recommend AIRC (let’s call it that – as an acronym). I really want to recommend Craig’s podcast – AIRC, as it is also known, to any LEPsters out there who speak Spanish as a first language, because Craig and Resa often focus specifically on teaching English to speakers of Spanish as a first language. They focus on themes and language issues that are relevant to the Spanish speaking world. I think it can also be really interesting for non-Spanish speaking people too, and I think in their audience they have people from various other places as well that don’t have Spanish as a first language, but it is especially useful for Spanish speakers from all over the world. You can find Craig’s podcast in all the usual places, but his website is inglespodcast.com

So for this swapcast we decided to catch up with each other after not having spoken for 5 years. I won’t say much more, but we kind of take turns asking each other questions and our conversation covers things like living in Spain or France post-Brexit, my daughter’s English, teaching English in the post COVID-19 world both in classrooms and on Zoom, and plenty of other things. I’ll let you discover them all as you listen.

One thing I should say is that our interview was plagued by a few interruptions and background noises (on my side of my conversation – for some reason everything was very noisy on this particular day) including the sound of a vacuum cleaner (a Hoover), air-raid sirens in Paris (which make a similarly distracting noise) and also the postman arriving at my door to deliver a package.

*Luke rambles and rants for a few minutes about his postman, who doesn’t want to climb the stairs in the building.

Sorry about all the noises and interruptions that you might hear, but I think I’ve managed to remove most of the noises, so it’s probably not a big issue, and I didn’t even need to say this! But apologies in advance for any distracting noises, and also when you hear Craig and me referring to those interruptions, at least now you’ll know what we’re talking about.

OK, that’s enough for this introduction. I’ll let you now listen to this swapcast conversation which will also be published on the AIRC podcast, between me in Paris and Craig in Valencia. I will chat to you again on the other side of the conversation. But now, let’s get started!

Links for Craig’s podcast and website

Podcast links for Apprender Ingles con Resa 7 Craig

Website link for InglesPodcast.com

Ending Transcript

So that was me talking to Craig Wealand from the Apprender Ingles con Resa y Craig podcast, which is available at inglespodcast.com and wherever you get your podcasts. It was nice to talk to Craig again. It’s always nice to talk to Craig. 

Let’s see. I’m going to ramble a little bit at the end and maybe sing a song right at the end of the episode with my guitar, but I will leave it until the end. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of my singing, that’s fine.

So, what shall I say? I should say that links to our previous conversations are available on the page for this episode. You can find them easily☝️. That includes Episode 334, and also episode 335 which is a language review of the vocabulary that came up in episode 334, and Episode 335 is similar to the kind of thing I do in LEP Premium episodes these days – going through a conversation, picking out bits of language, highlighting them, demonstrating them, giving more examples, collocations, synonyms, that kind of thing. So episode 335 is a bit similar to the sort of thing I do in premium episodes these days but with a bit less detail and no pronunciation drills. But still, I do recommend that you listen to episode 335 either before or after hearing episode 334.

334. Interview with Craig Wealand (from InglesPodcast)

335. VOCABULARY REVIEW: Phrases & Expressions from Episode 334.

So – 334 and 335. Also you’ll find a link to Craig’s interview with me which actually was published in early 2015.

www.inglespodcast.com

And of course there’s Craig’s version of this conversation which will be published to all his AIRCoholics. You might want to check it out too because it might be slightly different to this one, depending on how Craig chooses to edit it.

I’m quite curious to see how Craig has managed to deal with the various audio issues that we had during this conversation, but Craig is a bit of an audio maestro so he should know what he’s doing. But, the vacuum cleaner, the air raid sirens, the delivery of my Herbie Hancock book and so on. I wonder how Craig’s managed to deal with those bits.

I actually had to cut out entire sections of our conversation due to the high-pitched sound made by the vacuum cleaner in the next room. I thought it was just too distracting. I thought, “No, I’m not going to publish that. There’s, like, EEEEEEEEEE. An EEE sound.” We don’t want that, do we? EEE sounds.

By the way, as you know I normally don’t record with other noises in the background, I try and make sure there aren’t noises around although long-term listeners will remember the sounds in previous episodes. I have been interrupted by different noises in the past, like for example the sounds of police sirens, sounds of police cars in the background when I lived in London and I recorded my podcast in my flat there, also the sound of my washing machine spinning like mad in the background, the sound of breaking glass and the bottle bins being emptied in the street below my sky-pod where I used to record episodes where I used to live, and the sounds of angry drivers beeping their horns and arguing in the streets below me and other things. So there have been noises in the past.

But in this particular case, we had a guy round to our flat to do a spring clean … and he was the one doing the hoovering, the vacuuming and there was just no other time he could do it.

I’m not apologising, in this instance anyway. I just thought you might be wondering who was doing the vacuuming, and if it was my wife. I just got this idea that some of you imagined that my wife was downstairs doing the vacuuming. But here’s a revelation for you – I’m normally the one who operates the hoover in our flat, so there. I do hoovering, washing up, dishwasher stuff, and my wife handles laundry, and we share everything else pretty much.

I’m actually not allowed to do laundry because of all the times I’ve ruined items of my wife’s clothing by washing them on the wrong settings … I’ve shrunk sweaters and spoiled other items of clothing … I’m oversharing now, but anyway, there was a glimpse into my domestic life. Talking of my domestic life – my wife and my daughter, I must get them back onto the podcast at some point, in fact.

As you may know, my wife is like the Royal correspondent for LEP. She’s just slightly obsessed with the royal family in the UK and we might record a royal family update at some point, in which we chat about Prince Philip, who sadly passed away recently, and of course the whole Meghan and Harry thing.

I say “might” because it’s not certain. I’m not completely sure that I want to weigh in on the Meghan and Harry vs Buckingham Palace controversy. I’m not sure what to think about it, and anyway, I feel like the world has moved on from the story recently. Anyway, it would be nice to talk to my wife on the podcast again soon, and it’s encouraging to know that the citizens of LEPland enjoy listening to her contributions.

Also, it’s probably time to do another recording with my daughter in order to observe the progress of her English. As I said to Craig, she does speak quite a lot of French, which is great of course, but for this English podcast we want her to speak English, right? As I said, she still uses a mix of French and English in her sentences, often switching between the two languages mid-sentence.

For example “Can I have some rigolo fromage, please Daddy cherie? Parce-que je like that, me.

That means, “Can I have some funny cheese please Daddy, darling? Because I like that, me.”

… Luke rambles briefly about being judged for his dodgy French…

We’re still waiting for the languages to diverge. They will, eventually, in time. 

Anyway, this is pretty much it now for this episode. Thanks for listening all the way up to this point.

I think I will do a song on the guitar now, so if that’s not your cup of tea then feel free to hit the ejector seat at this point. You can eject at this point if you don’t want to hear my song.

Otherwise, if you carry on listening I’m assuming you’re happy to hear me sing, and so I don’t need to be concerned about you losing your hearing or anything as a result of this.

OK, so I will say bye bye bye bye bye to you now, but stick around for the song if you want.

Thank you for listening as ever, take care, be excellent to each other, good luck with your English. I will speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now – bye bye bye bye bye.

Song

Tired of Waiting For You by The Kinks

Chords and Lyrics here tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-kinks/tired-of-waiting-for-you-chords-1055168

714. Robin from Hamburg 🇩🇪 (WISBOLEP Runner-Up)

Talking to another runner-up from last year’s listener competition. Robin from Hamburg had a big setback in his learning of English, but worked hard to overcome it. We talk about his English learning trajectory, and ramble about German language & culture, his podcast for learners of German, podcasting microphones and then Robin teaches me some German words which are difficult to pronounce.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are all doing alright today, wherever you are and whatever you are doing as you listen to this.

Here is a new episode, and we are returning to the WISBOLEP series with this one – talking to winners of the competition I did at the end of last year in which listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.

LEPland – that’s Luke’s English Podcast land, you see, L E P land – LEPland. Not LAPland, no, that’s Lapland – a real place, somewhere in the north of Finland. But no, I’m not talking about Lapland. I say this because sometimes people write to me and they say “Another listener here from Lapland” really? Are you from Lapland? Or do you mean LEPland. Maybe you are from Lapland, I don’t know. There are people there. If you are in Lapland, then hello to you too. Maybe you are Santa Claus (because Santa comes from Lapland) Maybe Father Christmas listens to this podcast  during the year, just relaxing, taking a break. Anyway, if you are Father Chrismtas then welcome, “welcome” to everyone. But anyway, where was I? So… The competition, last year, Listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.

This episode now is the 4th in that series and the spirit of this whole competition is to let some LEPsters talk on the podcast so we can learn some things from them including insights into how they learned English, perhaps some things about the countries they come from and whatever else they can talk to us about. 

This time it is the turn of Robin who comes from Hamburg in Germany.

Robin came joint 3rd in the competition with William from France. So William and Robin both received exactly the same number of votes and in fact their stories are not dissimilar (which is another way of saying that their stories are quite similar). Yes, their stories are not dissimilar in the sense that they both first learned English at school in their neighbouring countries, and then both chose to pursue English in higher education, both decided to become teachers of English and both spent time as teaching assistants in English schools in the South East of England, helping English schoolkids and students learn French or German in the case of Robin. So, funnily enough, Robin and William both have many things in common, including the fact that they both got exactly the same number of votes, so joint 3rd position, but anyway, this is Robin.

And yes, Robin is also an English teacher, just like the other WISBOLEP winners that we have had so far.

Now I would like to address something at this point and that is the fact that all the winners of this competition so far have been English teachers. Obviously they’ve been, let’s say, non-native speakers from different countries, but yes, the four people I’ve spoken to so far – they have all been English teachers, and I get the impression from reading one or two comments that some people might think it’s a bit unfair, for some reason, that the winners all seem to be English teachers, right? 

Here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell, and actually I should also say, the vast majority of comments on these episodes so far have been really positive. People have loved listening to the guests that we’ve had so far and I think people have found them to be interesting and inspiring and thought-provoking and so on. But anyway, I do get the sense that there is maybe this feeling of “All the winners are English teachers. What’s going on?” and so here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell. Something like this…

“Hmm, so you can only win this competition if you’re an English teacher. What about the rest of us who don’t have that advantage?”

This sort of comment seems to suggest that non-native speakers of English who are English teachers have improved their level of English as a result of being teachers, that their English improved because they became teachers or as a consequence of being English teachers, and so being an English teacher gave them an unfair advantage in this competition. 

But I think it’s probably the other way round, isn’t it? Surely they reached a proficient level of English before they became teachers, and then became teachers as a consequence of having a good enough level of English. You can’t qualify as a teacher without having a fairly decent level of English first, can you? 

So, I think their progress and achievements in English proficiency are still thanks to their own merit just like anyone else who has got good at English, and so I think this still counts. 

Sure, perhaps their teaching work has meant that they’ve had to do more language study than most people, and that they get to use English in their work on a fairly regular basis. That’s true. So the job has probably tweaked their English that bit further than many other people, but again, I’m sure the majority of their English progress was made before becoming English teachers.

So, I just wanted to point that out in case some people listening felt there was something amiss about the results of the competition. Personally, I think it’s fine and you probably think so too, right? 

But bear with me as I say just one or two other things about this.

Of course there are loads of people who achieve great things in English and who don’t choose to become teachers, and that’s great too. I really don’t mind what people do, as long as they have something to offer to my audience, and I suppose ultimately this is why listeners voted for these people in this competition, because they felt that they would have interesting things to say on the podcast, and probably some insights into improving your English, and I think those things are definitely true. I feel that the 3 interviews we’ve had so far have been very insightful and interesting, and I think that this also applies to the other interviews that you haven’t heard yet. There are three more interviews to listen to. There’s Robin, Michal and Bahar as well.

And I’m sure that even now some people are going “This is unnecessary Luke. You don’t need to justify yourself”. Ok I won’t (as I whack the microphone). 

Anyway, so, after this one with Robin, the next one will be Michal from Poland and he has achieved a decent level of English and he’s not an English teacher. Not yet anyway! I don’t know what he will choose to do in the future, but so far he has not qualified as a teacher. 

Anyway, I don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things, even though I have just devoted a number of minutes to talking about it. I think ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Essentially we are listening to LEPsters who other LEPsters wanted to hear on this podcast and you know what – I am really enjoying these episodes, I think that the LEPsters who voted in the competition made some really good choices, and this series has been very well-received overall, which is great.

And this brings us to our 4th WISBOLEP guest – Robin from Hamburg in Germany (just in case you weren’t sure where Hamburg was. That’s right, it’s in Germany) so here we go. 

So I spoke to a few weeks ago. Robin is someone who learned English at school like most people, and liked it, and then chose to pursue his English studies and broaden his English skills while still living in Germany. There were challenges and setbacks, as you will hear, but ultimately he managed to immerse himself in the language and get his English to a good enough level to be able to train to become a teacher of the language in Germany. Later on he went to England to get some work experience as a teaching assistant in German classes at a posh school in the South East.

Along the way Robin also chose to start a podcast for learners of German. So Robin is a podcaster too, just like me. Robin’s podcast is called Auf Deutsch Gesagt, which I hope I’m pronouncing correctly. Speakers of German, indeed Robin, in fact, you could get in the comments section and tell me if I’ve pronounced that correctly. Auf Deutsch Gesagt!

So if you are learning German and you want a podcast that is similar to mine but in German, you could listen to Robin’s podcast Auf Deutsch Gesagt! Which translates as “In plain German” or “In plain language” which I guess means that the German that you can hear in his episodes is the sort of natural German that people use on a daily basis. As Robin has said, he was quite inspired by my approach to LEP, and so I guess Auf Deutsch Gesagt is along similar lines. So that’s Robin’s podcast for people learning German. It’s on Spotify and is available where you normally get your podcasts. 

There are links for his podcast on the page for this episode too. 

Auf Deutsch Gesagt! (Robin’s German Podcast)

Podcast page aufdeutschgesagt.libsyn.com/ 

Podcast links plinkhq.com/i/1455018378?to=page 

So this conversation ended up being a bit longer than some of the other interviews with WISBOLEP winners, but that’s partly because we found that there were quite a lot of things for us to talk about including Robin’s learning of English after being told by one of his university teachers that he should just give up because he wasn’t good enough, his experience as a teaching assistant at a school in England, some comparisons between English and German language and culture, some slightly geeky stuff about the recording setups and microphones that we use for our podcasts, and then finally we thought it could be fun for Robin to try and teach me a bit of German, so you will hear me struggling to pronounce a few words in German near the end of the conversation, which should give you a bit of a laugh.

So that’s it then for this introduction. I will chat to you again briefly on the other side of this conversation but let’s now meet WISBOLEP runner up Robin from Hamburg, and here we go.


Ending Transcript

So that was Robin from Hamburg, teaching me a bit of German there, which was a bit of fun wasn’t it? I think it was. I hope you enjoyed it, listening to me struggle with another language for a change. 

Again, if you’re learning German and you’re looking for a podcast to listen to, why not check out Auf Deutsch gesagt! (Spell it) So, again, you can just check the page for this episode on my website and you’ll see all of this stuff written. My introduction and this ending part here. It’s all written and you’ll find links to Auf Deutsch gesagt! If you want to listen to it. 

Auf Deutsch Gesagt! (Robin’s German Podcast)

Podcast page aufdeutschgesagt.libsyn.com/ 

Podcast links plinkhq.com/i/1455018378?to=page 

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, and you will find links on the website to help you find it. (I’ve just said that!) 

As you heard Robin say there, his approach is pretty similar to mine so it might be what you are looking for if you are learning German.

Also, I think it was very interesting to note the trajectory of Robin’s English learning. 

Ooh “Trajectory” – there’s a nice word. (spell it)

Trajectory

Let me just talk about it a little bit. Firstly, it refers to the path that an object takes as it flies through the air. Now we’re talking about the trajectory of Robin’s English journey, but I think the first use or meaning of the word trajectory normally refers to objects flying through the air, and the path that they take as they fly through the air. 

For example the trajectory of a plane from take off to landing. Imagine a line going up from the ground soaring into the air, over distance, then going back down to the ground. Trajectory – it doesn’t always mean it goes down, up and then back down again. It could just be from down to up.  

Also you’ve got the trajectory of a rocket, or the trajectory of a golf ball flying from the ground, up into the air, over the grass and maybe landing on the green, hopefully, if you’re a golfer. The path that an object takes as it moves through the air. That’s the trajectory. 

The second use of the word is metaphorical or idiomatic and it’s used to describe the movement or path of other things, like for example someone’s career trajectory, or the growth trajectory of a company, upward trajectory or downward trajectory. Imagine a line showing the movement of something making a curved line going up and over. It could be a line on a graph. 

So, it is interesting to follow the trajectory of Robin’s English learning, especially that moment when he was told he wasn’t good enough to pursue his studies, and then he kind of doubled down on his English, and the results kind of spoke for themselves. 

Arguably, being told “Oh you’re not good enough, I think you should give up” that is a very damaging thing to say to a learner of English, you would have thought, although not in the case of Robin, because this is the sort of kick up the bum that he needed. This is the kick up the arse that Robin needed apparently. I don’t know, I guess it could go either way. For some people, being told that would just destroy your confidence and you’d never achieve anything as a language learner after being told that. Or it might give you a wake up call and if you’re determined, well, this is the slap in the face that I needed – metaphorical slap in the face that I needed to kind of actually get me going.

Anyway, in the case of Robin it was the thing that kind of made him grasp the challenge. 

So, thankfully Robin took it as a challenge and seriously started to immerse himself in English all the time, and probably did self study from grammar books and other things but basically he just put a lot of time and effort into his English and it paid off, and just listen to him now. 

It seemed to make a lot of difference, right? Then he was able to qualify as a teacher and help other people with their English learning trajectory too, but the key thing is that he took the bull by the horns and took control of his learning himself [There’s a nice phrase! + some rambling about how you shouldn’t actually take a real bull by the horns because you’ll probably get gored in the stomach…] 

The thing is that Robin took the bull by the horns, metaphorically speaking, and took control of his learning himself, realising it was all down to him and he did it in his own way.

Again, I hope you agree that this has been quite inspiring – basically as a way to say, you can do it too if you put your mind to it and you put the time in. 

Again, I will echo my statements from the last of these episodes – I often tell you about the importance of motivation and the importance of doing certain types of practice, but also I just want to say, equally don’t worry about doing anything really. Don’t worry about it too much. Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing the things I often say. At the very least, just listen, enjoy listening, be happy, stay positive and enjoy spending time with English in any way that you like. This is probably the most important thing, that you have to maintain a good and positive feel-good relationship with the language, and when the time is right, you can take more control and really apply yourself by doing different kinds of practice, but don’t worry if you just like listening to English and that’s all you do. That’s fine. It’s all good. It’s all good in the hood.

But if you’re always looking for specific tips on ways to improve your English, if you want to take the bull by the horns and you want to improve your English in more applied ways including your pronunciation and your accent then pay attention to some things that Michal from Poland is going to say in the next WISBOLEP episode, which will arrive in a few weeks. Little sneak preview there of the episode with Michal from Poland.

And of course there’s the ongoing LEP Premium project which is designed to be a service that can help you make sure your English is on the right trajectory. Parts 3 & 4 of P29 are coming very soon – and they are going to cover more solid vocabulary, collocations, synonyms and phrases based on things my dad said in episode 704 of the podcast, with listen & repeat pronunciation exercises in part 2 as well. So if you want to hear that, access the PDFs for it and all the other premium content visit www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

But in any case, I hope you enjoyed this episode and thanks again to Robin for his contribution. It was great to talk to him. It was really nice to listen to him and just hear about his story and so on. I apologise if I spoke too much during the conversation, but it was a conversation after all, and that’s fine isn’t it?

As ever, let us know your thoughts in response to this episode in the comments section for this episode, right? 

If you’re looking for the episode page where you can write your comments and also read transcripts for the introduction and ending of episodes like this, you will find the link in the description for this, wherever you are listening. [Luke rambles a bit about the Apple podcasts app] or just go to teacherluke.co.uk and then click EPISODES in the menu.

Well, it’s time to finish, isn’t it? It’s time to end.

Thank you for listening to my podcast again. Good luck with your English and I will speak to you soon, but now it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.

713. Lucky Dip with Paul Taylor

More random questions, talking points, accent challenges and “guess the idiom” with pod-pal Paul Taylor. Includes discussion of accents in English, cancel culture in comedy, some rude Spanish phrases and more. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Luke on Paul Taylor’s Happy Hour (5 April 2021)

Transcript for the Introduction

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re doing well today.

Here is a brand new episode, hot on the heels of the last one and my friend Paul Taylor is back on the podcast again this time and I just wanted to add a few things here before we start properly. This is not going to be a 15 minute introduction though, I promise. It’ll be 14 minutes.

Firstly, there is a video version of this episode and you can watch it on my YouTube channel or on the page for this episode on my website and if you’re watching on YouTube, don’t forget to like and subscribe.

By the way, I reached 100,000 subscribers on YouTube the other day, which is nice. Thank you very much if you wrote me a message saying congratulations. It’s a nice milestone and if YouTube decides I’m eligible, I should receive one of those shiny things from them – a kind of plaque which I can proudly display in my pod-room at home. If and when that shiny plaque arrives I’ll do some kind of YouTube livestream in which I unbox the plaque and do some of the usual live streaming shenanigans. So listen out for announcements about the time and date for that on the podcast soon.

*By the way – this text is all written on the page for this episode*

Talking of YouTube live, after recording this episode, Paul invited me onto his Happy Hour Live – his weekly YouTube live stream, and we had a lot of fun celebrating my 100,000 subscriber milestone with a bottle of nice champagne, some funny accent challenges – reading famous lines and quotes from films in different accents, and also we looked at some common French idioms and tried to translate them into English.

You’ll be able to find that on Paul’s YouTube channel for Happy Hour Live and also that will be embedded on page for this episode on my website, along with the video for the episode you are listening to now. So, plenty of video content for you to check out if you like.

This episode is very similar to the last one featuring Paul, which was episode 698, published just before Christmas last year.

I decided to use the same format as last time, with a few random questions and little challenges and things, the idea being that we’d get a selection of different topics and bits of language during the conversation. So, it doesn’t really focus on one thing in particular, but a variety of things, some of them quite silly and others more serious.

You’ll see that this time I chose to call the episode “Lucky Dip with Paul Taylor”. I also could have called it “Pot Luck with Paul Taylor”.

I thought that would be a slightly snappier title than what I went with before, which was “Random Questions with Paul Taylor” although that is more descriptive. It’s possible to overthink the titles of episodes – it probably doesn’t matter that much as I expect or hope that most of you will listen to my episodes regardless of the title. Anyway, I should probably explain what those things mean now.

Lucky Dip and Pot Luck – they both refer to situations where you don’t really know what you are going to get, but you hope they will be good things.

A Lucky Dip is a game that you might play at a funfair or at a children’s party.

This is when some items, or gifts, are put into a bag and you have to dip your hand into the bag, rummage around and pick something out. You don’t know what you’re going to get, although you know it will be some kind of gift, prize or treat – like a bag of sweets, a little toy or something like that.

I thought that was a good title for this one because this episode is a bit like a lucky dip – Paul is essentially blindly dipping into my list of questions and picking things out, not knowing what he’ll get, and it’s just supposed to be a bit of fun.

Pot luck is another phrase which could be used to describe a game like the lucky dip, but it’s also a general phrase for any situation in which you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get, but you hope that it’ll be good.

Here are some examples of pot luck (A couple are from the Oxford Dictionary for Learners of English – other dictionaries are available)

  • It’s pot luck whether you get good advice or not.
  • When you sign up to English lessons at a school it’s pot luck what kind of teacher or fellow classmates you’ll get.

So I think you can see how those phrases relate to the concept for this episode.

Just a heads-up – there is some swearing in this episode, and not just in English. There’s a bit of Spanish swearing in here too, which I hope you don’t mind too much if Spanish is your first language – it’s probably ok isn’t it? I expect so, but I should say that I hope my mum doesn’t listen to this episode. I’ll let you find out more as you listen.

There was certainly no intention for us to be offensive to anyone in particular during this conversation and we only talk about rude expressions in order to understand them and perhaps laugh about them a bit (because some rude expressions in Spanish seem pretty funny when you translate them into English).

Also, there’s the usual fast talking that you get from episodes with my friends, so I hope you’re ready for that.

Alright, that’s it for my introduction then. I just couldn’t help doing some kind of introduction here at the start of the episode, but you can now listen to our conversation in full and completely unedited. So, let’s begin.

Song Lyrics for “I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles

tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-beatles/im-only-sleeping-chords-1768241

712. A Chat with Charlie Baxter

Chatting with Charlie from The British English Podcast and Real English with Real Teachers on YouTube. We talk about the north/south divide in England, Charlie’s background in psychology & NLP, his decision to become an online English teacher and his travelling experiences in Chile, Germany and Australia. Video version available.

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Links for The British English Podcast

Some language notes from my introduction

Typical responses to “How are you?”

Some of these sound a bit negative, but they’re quite normal.

  • Not too bad.
  • Could be worse.
  • Mustn’t grumble.
  • Can’t complain.
  • Not so bad, thanks for asking.

Of course you can say:

  • I’m fine thanks
  • I’m good thanks
  • I’m very well thanks

Or (more positively)

  • I’m radiant (a nice word meaning “glowing with happiness” but nobody really uses it)

-ish

My guest on the podcast in this episode is Charlie Baxter. Charlie is an online English teacher, a YouTuber and a podcaster too and you might well know him from his YouTube channel, which is called Real English with Real Teachers (which he does with his friend Harry) and you might also know him from his newish podcast which is called The British English Podcast

  • I’ll see you at 12-ish.
  • Dave’s car is a kind of greyish-blue colour.
  • Charlie’s podcast is newish. He started it about 6 months ago.

Here’s that photo of David Crystal presenting an award to Andy Johnson and me.

David Crystal, me and Andy Johnson

And here’s that tweet from The British Podcast Awards – as proof that I genuinely came 3rd in the competition!

Check out other details of the highly prestigious awards we talked about here teacherluke.co.uk/awards-2/

711. William from France 🇫🇷 (WISBOLEP Runner-UP)

William started learning English at 12 years old and continued at university and beyond, spending a couple of years in England as a teaching assistant and then returning to France to work as a school teacher, in some pretty tough classrooms and less-than-perfect teaching conditions. William talks about how he continues to maintain his English, the importance of finding good language exchange partners, and more.

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Notes for the Introduction and Ending Monologues (not a 100% complete transcript)

Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well. In this episode you’re going to listen to a conversation with another LEPster picked by other LEPsters for an appearance on this podcast. This time it’s the turn of William from France who came joint 3rd in the competition – it was a tie between William and Robin from Hamburg, and Robin will be on the podcast soon as well.

Right so this episode is the latest in the WISBOLEP series and WISBOLEP means Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and it was a competition I launched last year in which listeners sent in short recordings to persuade members of the audience to vote for them to be chosen for an interview on my podcast. So far I have spoken to the winner – Walaa from Syria and the 2nd place contender Tasha from China. Let’s now return to Europe and talk to William who lives in France. Shout out to all the French LEPsters. Salut les francais, et les francophone, ca va? 

I think these WISBOLEP interviews are really interesting and there is a lot to gain from listening to them.

Sure, there will be some people who will decide that they just can’t listen to another learner of English and only native speakers of English are worth listening to. I can understand that to an extent, but I do think that completely dismissing non-native speakers of English like that is a mistake. 

Learning English is a complex and personal process and I think there is a great deal to be gained from listening to other learners describe their experiences and methods of learning English. This can give you inspiration in terms of specific things you can do to improve your learning, and generally it can give you a lot of perspective about what it really means to be a learner of English or a speaker of English as a second language, what proficiency really is, what fluency really means, how important perfection is compared to having the initiative to just go out there and start using English. Also it can give you a sense of camaraderie with other fellow learners, and it’s very healthy to know that you are part of a community of similar language learners around the world, all of whom are trying to work on their English level in various ways. Some people are better than others, but everyone is going through a similar process.

We are all learners of English in a way, including me, and it’s wrong to think that learning English has a specific end point or conclusion to it. It’s a never ending process and there are always things to learn and ways to improve in terms of how we use this tool to communicate with people more effectively.

Perfection is not necessarily the thing to expect from yourself or others. It’s a high ideal to strive towards but if you only accept perfect English, then prepare to be disappointed, both by yourself and by others. Setting perfection as your ultimate goal is quite unrealistic and doesn’t really reflect the nature of English as a pragmatic language. When you’re using English in the real world, it’s not necessarily about having flawless English but about the results that you achieve with your English. It’s “connection not perfection” as the girls from AEE always say. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious or that you shouldn’t try to do your very best in English. It’s important to try to be better at English of course. But little mistakes are inevitable, holes in your knowledge of English are inevitable and you should not let these things stop you on your journey with this language. We have to try to accept that we will make mistakes and we have to learn from them. You have to be philosophical about it. 

Another idea that strikes me as I listen to these WISBOLEP episodes is that curiosity and a willingness to take a few risks are really important. It seems to help your progress in English if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone a bit and throw yourself into situations that will ultimately help your English to develop. Be curious all the time and keep moving forwards in your quest to know more, learn more and get more control over the language, even if you never really get to the end – in fact there isn’t really an end point. Be patient and don’t let little obstacles get in your way.

I could bang on about this kind of stuff all day, but I will conclude by saying that it’s up to you to find your own motivation to keep going with English. There is no “one perfect way”. Everyone has to find their own path, and I think it’s a long-term thing. At the very least, certainly for the next hour or so I hope you simply enjoy listening to William and me talking about his experiences, with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and don’t underestimate the value of listening to fellow learners of English. 

I would say, try not to compare yourself to others too much, and equally, don’t judge others too harshly. Just try to take inspiration from other people’s stories and examples.

This brings us to William from France, and in fact this conversation demonstrates a lot of those ideas that I just mentioned. 

Just a little bit of background info on William before we start, just to give you a sense of the context from which he learned English.

William is from a town just outside Paris, called Combs de Ville. His parents are from the French West Indies and more specifically from an island called Guadeloupe, which is a French overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. So his parents were from there originally and they moved to France in their twenties. William was born in France. He grew up learning French as his first language, but his parents did still speak Creole (the local language from Guadeloupe – but no English. In his own words “Creole and French were the main languages used at home but my parents didn’t want me to use Creole. We were in France so French was the only language I was allowed to use. So it was a bit strange to be able to understand a language without being able to use it.” 

As you’ll hear, English didn’t come into William’s life until he started learning it at school like everyone else in France at the time, at about the age of 12. But he took to it and liked it. I wonder if having several languages in the household growing up had anything to do with that. It’s possible. But in any case, William didn’t get a head start on his peers in terms of English.

I’m not going to explain in advance all the main points in our conversation. Instead, I will let you discover it as you go. What I will say is that I really enjoyed this chat, and you will find that it gets more focused, more specific and more insightful as it goes on. 

That’s it from me now. I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation with a few reflections and thoughts, but now, let’s hear from William from France, who came joint 3rd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Oh one other thing, before I forget. William wanted me to add something at the start of this episode – and that is to say a big thank you to all the people who voted for him in the competition, giving him the chance to be featured in an episode of the podcast. So, thanks from William.

——-

Ending

So that was William from France. I really enjoyed talking to him. He’s a lovely guy and here are some of the things I took away from this. Here are some thoughts and reflections.

  • English is a journey not a destination.
  • There’s no end point in terms of learning English. It’s like being a musician or a sports player. There’s always training to be done and room to improve in terms of technique, general fitness and fluency and so on. You have to practise all the time and there are always ways in which you can gain more control and more efficiency in how you use English to express ideas. This is true for native speakers of the language as well, including me. I see myself as a work in progress too, in terms of how effective I am as a speaker or writer of English.
  • Finding language partners for language exchanges can be a great way to get regular practice into your life, but you have to find the right person, and this can take a long time, but don’t let that stop you – keep searching, keep talking to different people until you find someone who is right for you. This could be true of one to one teachers as well. Sometimes you need to shop around a bit. Remember, like William you can find language exchange partners, conversation partners and English teachers on italki. Italki is both a sort of marketplace for online teachers, but also a social network which you can use to find other language learners, and that could include fluent English speakers who want to learn your language, and like William you could just informally set up conversations with these people and spend some time speaking English and some time speaking in your language, and if you get the right person that can be an invaluable source of practice for you. To sign up for italki you can still use my link, which is www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and if you access italki that way and then buy some lessons with a teacher, italki will send you a discount voucher worth 10 dollars which you can use next time.
  • BUt the point there is → be patient, be dedicated, keep searching, don’t give up and you could find someone who you can practise your English with on a regular basis in a mutually beneficial way. It could be a way to make new friends as well.
  • Finally – stay curious, about English – especially in terms of learning about how the language works in order to work on your grammar in a sort of organic way – just trying to work out how the language works, referring to grammar books (a tip could be Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – a good reference book for English grammar and usage) and also stay curious about other people, because this is really important in developing good communication skills. It’s not just about how well you can speak and express yourself, it’s about how well you interact with other people and listening to others is a big part of that. So, be curious about the language, but just be curious about people you meet and be interested in other people when you talk to them and you’ll find that your communication skills will thrive as a result of that. I feel that that’s something William does – he is interested in other people and that’s a strength of his. It’s one reason why he communicates well. 

OK, just some thoughts that occurred to me at the end of this episode here.

Feel free to share your thoughts too in the comment section.

I would also like to say that talking to William gave me a little boost. He said some nice and sincere things about this podcast, about how it has helped him and how I might be helping other people and I appreciated it. So good luck to you William and all the listeners who are still listening all the way up to this point in the episode. 

That’s it from me,

I will speak to you in the next episode. Again – a reminder that I am also working on Premium series 29 – What did Rick Say? And so premium subscribers – look out for new episodes in that series arriving very soon. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more details and to sign up.

Have a lovely day, morning, evening, night! Stay safe! Stay positive! Stay curious!

Speak to you soon.

Bye bye bye bye bye.

Song: Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles

Lyrics here www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/dontletmedown.html

Podcast Image: Cork Map by “Miss Woods” in Barcelona misswood.eu/fr/collections/mapas-de-corcho

P.S. I think I found my meme 👇

710. The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl (Short Story)

In this episode I read out a short story written by Roald Dahl and then comment on the style, language and plot. Enjoy some storytelling and learn some English in the process. Video version available.

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Transcript & Notes

Hello listeners, how are you today?

In this episode I’m going to read a short story to you, which I hope will be an entertaining and pleasant way to learn English with my podcast. I’ll also give some comments on the story afterwards and I will highlight a few bits of vocabulary at the end, but the main thing is that I’d just like to let you listen to a good-quality and entertaining short story in English.

I am currently videoing myself while recording this episode and the video will be available on my YouTube channel and on my website, and I’m sharing my screen in the video so you can read my notes and the text for this story with me, if you like – sort of like an on-screen transcript. The notes and stuff will also be available on the page for this episode on my website. Check the show notes for the link for that.

The story I’m going to read today is called The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl.
I think it was originally published in 1980 in his book “More Tales of the Unexpected”.

Do you know Roald Dahl? I have read a Roald Dahl story on this podcast before – that was The Hitchhiker in episode 545. It was a popular one, so let’s do it again.

Roald Dahl is one of the UK’s favourite authors, and of course he’s popular around the world too. You might already be aware of him and his work. He was born in 1916 and died in 1990 and most of his writing was done in the 70s and 80s. His most famous stories were written for children (Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, James & The Giant Peach, the BFG, Matilda and plenty of others) and my childhood was full of Roald Dahl stories (maybe yours too), but he also wrote a lot of short stories for adults or young adults, particularly earlier in his career. This is one of those stories.

Get some of Roald Dahl’s books!

I’d like to suggest that you purchase some of his work – his books.

I’ve got two books of his short stories for adults. The books are called “Roald Dahl: The Complete Short Stories Vol.1 & 2” and I highly recommend them. They are available from all the usual bookshops. “Roald Dahl: The Complete Short Stories Vol.1 & 2” The Umbrella Man appears in “The Complete Short Stories Vol.2”

Notes on Language & Style
The story was published over 30 years ago now, and was probably written earlier than that. I’m not sure when the story is set, but it feels a bit old fashioned. For the most part the English is the sort of modern, neutral English that you would come across today and so almost all of it is appropriate for you to learn and use, but some of the dialogue is a bit dated. I’ll point out some of that old fashioned language later.

By today’s standards the characters sound quite posh and upper-class (and I’ll try to reflect this in the way I read it out).

I’ll give more comments at the end.

I’m going to start in just a moment.

How to use this episode

1. Just listen, follow what I’m saying, enjoy the story and don’t feel pressured to do anything else.


2. If you want to take it further and push your learning more, then you could get a copy of the story, and use it as a learning resource.

If you want the text of the story you could buy “The Complete Short Stories Vol.2” and read it there.

Alternatively, I found a PDF copy of the book which has been posted by someone online, so you could click the link to the PDF and read that (link in the show notes and on the episode page)

Click here for the PDF of the story

You could read it while you listen to me so you can connect the written word to the spoken word, or you could read it again later and take more time over it.

For pronunciation, you could shadow the story with me – read aloud at the same time as you listen, perhaps with the text in front of you.

You could record yourself reading the story, and then listen back and compare it to my recording, perhaps focusing on different aspects of pronunciation.

For vocabulary, you could find any words or phrases that you don’t know and check them using an online dictionary like www.collinsdictionary.com (Oxford, Cambridge, Longman and Macmillan dictionaries are also available and I often use them as a teacher too)

Or, as I said, just relax and listen to the story without worrying about doing anything else.

Let’s get started! I will summarise this at the end in plain English so you can be sure you understood the main events.


Luke reads the story


I hope you enjoyed that!

A summary of the story

Here’s a summary from www.roaldfahlfans.com It neatly summarises the story in plain English in a couple of paragraphs. This should help you to make sure you got the main plot. As I said if you have specific bits of vocabulary that you’d like to check, you can do that on your own using one of those dictionaries. We might go through a few little details in a minute. First let me read out this summary.

www.roalddahlfans.com/dahls-work/short-stories/the-umbrella-man/

I like this because it’s enjoyable to listen to the way the man persuades even this very suspicious woman to give him some money. I don’t think tricking people for money is good or anything like that, but I do find it interesting when people have fairly complex but effective techniques for fooling people.

It’s also interesting how the woman’s attitudes about class and social status make her quite susceptible to this man’s trick, and I’m sure she wouldn’t be the only one. She judges people by their appearances and seems a bit snobbish, and he uses that to his advantage. He gives the impression of being a gentleman, and this is what allows him to take advantage of the woman.

We all have natural prejudices, which can affect the way we judge people. It seems this old man uses people’s prejudices as part of his trick.

Here are some comments about the way the characters are described and the English used.

One of the strengths of this story is the way the characters are given depth. The story is told in a relatively simple manner with short sentences and not a lot of extraneous detail but the small details that are given make the characters 3-dimensional.

This is done by showing us little contradictions in the things they say or do or at least hinting at some little conflicts that they seem to have inside them, some positive and negative traits, particularly the mother.

The mother is strict, but she’s willing to give her daughter a banana split after her dental appointment. I guess she is kind and loving and wants to treat her daughter to something nice after the frightening ordeal of going to the dentist, but is it a good idea to treat your child to such a sugary dessert after the dentist has filled a hole in her tooth? I guess we all have to balance being strict, giving treats and managing the dental health of our children. But it’s interesting that we wonder slightly about what kind of mother she is. Maybe I’m reading too much into it here, but what did you think? What do you think is going on between the mother and the daughter? Does she seem to be a good mother? I suppose that’s a subjective thing. But I’d be interested to know what you think.

She’s a bit stuck up and snobbish. She looks down her nose at the man when she believes he is begging for money, but then she can’t hide her admiration for him when she believes he is perhaps a titled-gentleman, maybe someone who comes from the upper-classes in society.

Her attitudes about people and their status are clearly revealed by her reactions to the man at different moments. This is a good example of the principle of “show, don’t tell” which I think is a good method for telling stories. “Show, don’t tell” basically means that it’s always better to show the reader how to feel rather than telling them how to feel.

Roald Dahl could have told us directly that the mother was a bit snobbish, by saying something like “My mother was always a bit snobbish and looked down on people lower than her and yet admired the upper classes highly” but it’s more effective for him to show us her attitudes by describing her reactions to the man at different moments in the story. This allows us to work out for ourselves that the mother is a bit of a snob, or maybe she’s just trying hard to get the best life for her and her family.

She dreams of living a more wealthy and privileged life, having a car and a chauffeur. This shows us something about her position in society and that she’s probably middle class or upper-middle class and dreams of having more comfort and convenience in her life, like upper-class people have.

She’s very untrustworthy and suspicious. Are these negative traits or is it wise to be cautious of others? But she’s also willing to be quite adventurous, chasing after the old man when she realises that he’s up to something.

All of these little conflicting things, so efficiently described, help to flesh out her character and make her a lot more human and relatable. We kind of see how the daughter might feel – being a bit wary of her mother’s strictness but enjoying spending time with her, having just been treated to a nice banana split and sharing the afternoon together, also her disappointment with the way her mother treats the old man at first, learning about how to deal with strangers in the street and then the excitement of chasing after him.

Roald Dahl always does this – somehow allows you to experience the excitement of being with certain other people.

Then there’s the little old man who just loves a drink of whiskey but apparently doesn’t have any money of his own, and yet he has cleverly come up with a genius little plan to get money from people in the street. I suppose he won in the end, and the mother was shown up to be a bit of a snob or something. (Maybe I’m being a bit mean to the mother – is she a snob, or is she just wary of certain types of person?)

I wonder if this little event affected the way the daughter saw the mother, if it brought them closer, or if the mother was embarrassed. In the end it seems that the mother and daughter just shared a funny little experience together. Ultimately it is quite adorable the way the two of them interact and I get quite a warm feeling from them.

I like the neatness of the story, the cleverness of the man’s plan, the mischievous elements and the moment when the old man drinks his whiskey – it seems like he really enjoys it.

What about you? What do you think of the story? Leave your comments in the comment section.

Posh / Old-Fashioned Sounding Vocabulary

  • Again, if there are specific words or phrases that you’d like to check, I’ll let you do that yourself using the book or the PDF and a good dictionary, but I mentioned before about how some things sounded quite old fashioned and posh, and I’d like to point those things out.

    Things that sound posh or formal, or at least old-fashioned. (posh people often sound a bit old fashioned for some reason) I wouldn’t really use these phrases in my normal everyday life.

    Obviously you can speak how you like. I’m just pointing out things which I think sound a bit old-fashioned or posh.
  • “I assure you!” → “Honestly!”
  • “Old people like me become terribly forgetful” → “really”
  • “I beg you to believe me, madam” → “Believe me, please!”
  • “Isn’t it the silliest thing to do?” → “Isn’t it such a stupid thing to do?”
  • “I summon a taxi to get me home” → “I get a taxi” or “I call a taxi to get me home”
  • “Oh mummy” (a lot of posh kids call their Mum, “mummy” – I think most British kids call their mother “Mum”)
  • “Don’t be so beastly to him!” → “Don’t be so horrible to him!”
  • “It’s of no importance so long as I get home” → “It’s not important…”
  • “I wanted to satisfy myself that he wasn’t a trickster” → “I wanted to be sure…”
  • Goodness Mummy, what a hurry he’s in” → “Oh my god!” “Wow”
  • Good heavens, it’s a pub!”
  • By golly, he’s got a nerve!”
  • “That’s a jolly expensive drink” → “That’s a really expensive drink”
  • Super” → “Amazing, brilliant”

Fancy another Roald Dahl story?

I have read a Roald Dahl story before on the podcast. Some of you might remember. I read The Hitchhiker in episode 545. You can check it out in the archive if you’d like to listen to it. There’s also a link to that on the page for this episode on my website. teacherluke.co.uk/2018/09/07/545-the-hitchhiker-by-roald-dahl-short-story/

Finally, let’s listen to the author himself introducing the story at the start of an episode of Tales of the Unexpected, the TV show. Check this out.

I believe that Roald Dahl witnessed a real umbrella man on the streets of New York, but I wonder if he really did try the trick himself, and whether you are tempted to try it too, but I’m not sure the whole world needs more tricksters, does it?

Thanks for listening, speak to you again in the next episode, but for now – good bye bye bye…