Category Archives: Food

378. Holiday in Thailand (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of this description of my recent holiday in Thailand. In this one you can hear more stories and descriptions about different parts of the country, learning how to cook, a conversation with a monk, doing yoga every day, a couple of messages from listeners and some reflections on gratitude, forgiveness and guidance. Transcript and notes below.

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Part 1 got a bit rude in places, didn’t it? I told you about a couple of embarrassing and slightly difficult experiences, a dodgy joke, and some cultural details about Thailand itself, including some things that you might not know about the country. You might have noticed that I was trying to make you laugh a bit, rather than just explaining each individual thing we did there. Some people left comments on the website expressing how much it made them laugh.

For example:

Hahahha this is such a funny episode! I was laughing out loud in the metro and everyone thought I was crazy ! Really great thanks Luke!

Hello Luke!
Hilarious episode, and of course a great one. I was laughing out loud while roller skating. Everybody was looking at me like a crazy woman but it was worth listening despite that :). Thank you for your great work.

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

I’m going to carry on in this episode with just a few more descriptions of things that happened in Thailand. If you’re thinking of going on holiday there, I would recommend it. A couple of weeks is enough to see and do lots of things. Thailand has a reliable tourist infrastructure which means it’s not difficult to find accommodation, transportation, plenty of places to eat good food, diverse activities and cultural things to see such as temples, art and craft, cooking lessons, night markets, beaches, snorkelling, scuba diving, trekking, kayaking, yoga and meditation. They have the sea, the city and the hills and forests. It’s a diverse and friendly place and a top place to go for a holiday which can be both adventurous and laid back.

My wife and I had a great time there and in this episode I’m going to talk to you about some of the other highlights of the rest of our trip.


  • Cultural visits in and around Bangkok
  • A couple of dodgy jokes which I came up with and which have to be told
  • Chiang Mai in the north
  • Learning how to cook Thai food
  • In conversation with a monk
  • Koh samui – an island in the south
  • Our yoga retreat – which I expected to be peaceful and relaxing, but which was more like a punishing fitness regime in high temperatures
  • Mouse news (for people who listened to the episode I did before the holiday)

Grand Palace & Wat Pho

This is the temple of the reclining buddha. It’s brilliant, but “Wat Pho” sounds to me like a question, especially if you say it in a kind of hip hop, black American gangster accent.
– I visited the temple of the reclining buddha in Bangkok
Wat pho?
– Just because I thought it would be an interesting thing to see.

Not the strongest joke ever.


Former capital, now a place with loads of impressive old temples and archeological sites. It was extremely fascinating and brilliant but we walked around it all day and get extremely hot and tired, and I came up with this joke.

So, I visited the ancient capital of Thailand today.
– Ayutthaya?
Yes, I’m absolutely exhausted!

Again, not the strongest joke ever. But come on, it’s not bad!

Chiang Mai

How the city looks and where it is.
Walking streets.
Cooking class.
Monk chat.

Koh Samui

Yoga retreat
Relaxing? No – quite a punishing regime.
Early starts, cycling, ‘core foundations’, embarrassing yoga. Mix, repeat.
Food = vegan and veggie.
No beer at all.
Met some very nice people including a German lady called Doris who was a lot of fun. Mui Thai, cross fit etc. She could kick me in the head. Taught me important German words like “shveiss!” For sweat. She discovered my podcast and now might be listening. Hopefully I’ve converted her into being a LEPster.
Lots of funny times at the yoga retreat which felt a bit like being in a cult, or some kind of luxurious jail.
Yoga was quite hard – especially for me – my hips and hamstrings are a disaster. They’re very stiff and inflexible. Eg sitting cross legged is really hard.
My body wants to fall over backwards.
My favourite yoga position – lying in my back!
Great instructors including a couple from England – Ellie and David. David was particularly impressive.
I was basically the only man there except for a few other blokes hanging around doing another program, but in our group I was the only man. All the girls, including my wife I should add, all fell in love with David, especially after they googled him and discovered a few things, such as the fact he was a green beret in the marines, he used to be a fire-fighter, he became a black belt in some obscure Philippine martial art ( trained with a grandmaster)
His sessions, particularly ‘core foundations’ we’re pretty punishing and while the girls found it to be enriching and inspiring, I felt like my ego was slowly being crushed like a grape.
Fitness and yoga sessions twice a day.
Sweating all the fluid out of my body twice a day.
Eating noting but super healthy food.
Getting up at 6 each morning and going to bed at about 9.
All that yoga and tons of meditation.
I felt amazing afterwards, and still do – and that was just 5 days.
In the meditation you are encouraged to focus on things inside you quite deeply.
Combined with the hard fitness work and yoga, which is very humbling and detoxifying I found that in my meditation sessions a lot of painful and guilt filled memories came back to me.
It was like all the bad things were being flushed out of my system.
It was quite painful at times – emotionally as well as physically.
I won’t tell you about all the painful memories that came to me while I was contemplating forgiveness / asking to be forgiven, but I can share one or two – just to give you an idea.
Years ago.
Bad time in life.
Young, immature, directionless, not looking after myself.
Identity crisis.
Full of awkwardness.
Not in a good place or where I wanted to be.
Working all day every day in a crappy job.
It seemed that every day was filled with nothing but awkward encounters.
Just crushing social awkwardness in which I just came across as really weird and unable to function normally. People must have thought I was odd. Either that or I was paranoid and imagining it all. I could not tell.
Felt totally out of it.
I was actually very depressed.
There was just one guy really who I got on with.
Older than me, quite shy but with a dark sense of humour. We got on alright.
We were like buddies.
Doing the job just to get by. Hated it.
Playing in a band in the evenings but I hated that too – lots of personal politics. Couldn’t sleep at nights.
Invaded by weird negativity all the time.
Thank goodness I’m in a much much better place these days although sometimes that kind of feeling comes back.
A lot of those feelings and that whole emotional space came back to me when I was searching for forgiveness.
In the end I was really fed up and decided to basically start again.
Went back to my parents. Always feels like a failure.
Anyway, some of the people at the job organised a little leaving drink for me the day after I left. I basically left with them saying “see you tomorrow evening at the pub”.
Walking out of there felt like a huge relief.
The next day for some reason I just didn’t want to go out.
I didn’t go to the drink.
I stood everybody up at my own leaving drink.
It might not feel like a big deal to you now. Not so serious. In fact, people do shitty things like this a lot – ignoring a so called friend that they don’t want in their life any more. Dumping a girl by text message. Shitty things.
Anyway, for some reason this kept coming back to me and it just really bothers me.
The guy I met and struck up a friendship with, that’s the worst. I feel really bad about him making an effort to come to the drink and then I just didn’t turn up.
Anyway, I was asking for forgiveness for that, and a few other things too which I won’t mention because it’s too personal.
So overall it was quite an experience to flush out all these negative things – physical and emotional.
It’s a good thing too. It feels great.

I think holidays are best when you actually have something to do which takes you out of yourself. It helps you deal with your past, enjoy the present and prepare for the future.

Think about something you’re grateful for, something you’d like to be forgiven for or someone you’d like to forgive, and something you’d like guidance for.

Back in Paris – September – back to work at the BC – also on my online work – I think I’m going to launch a new competition – stay tuned.

Mouse News

In the last episode I told you a quick story about how I nearly caught a mouse in a mousetrap, but it escaped even though its back legs weren’t working. I was worried that the mouse would crawl off and die on some little corner of the flat somewhere, and then would make a smell. I didn’t tell my wife about this by the way, because what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her, but I was worried that we’d come back and there would be a bit of a ‘dead mouse smell’, but thankfully our flat smelled fine and actually quite nice (we have lots of plants). So, weirdly, despite wanting to kill the mouse in the first place I am actually quite glad that the mouse is still alive. I wonder if it’s learned from its mistake or not. Perhaps I’ll get it next time around.

That’s it!

Join the mailing list. Subscribe on iTunes or other podcasting software. Watch out for news of a new competition I’m going to launch, and as ever let me know what you’re thinking and practise your English by leaving a comment on the website.

I want to say thank you

  • people who have left me comments following the latest Annual General Meeting episode in which I asked lots of questions. Thank you for your answers – it all helps me to get an idea of what you’re thinking and how I can adapt my episodes slightly to your preferences and things like that
  • people who I have met in person and who have spoken to me personally about the podcast – you know who you are
  • people who have made donations to LEP – you are now LEP stakeholders or patrons and I appreciate it very much indeed. You’re the life-blood of LEP and you help to keep the whole show on the road.
  • transcript collaboration
  • similarly – I would like to thank those of you who chose to use my url codes when signing up with italki and audible. Whenever someone does that I get a small kickback and it all helps to keep the podcast alive, and also to convince people around me that all of this is worth doing. I could be spending my time doing more private English lessons, or doing more teaching at university etc, but both you and I would rather I produced episodes of this podcast, right? Well, donations and sponsors allow me to do that. If I didn’t have those forms of support, it would be hard to justify to myself and my family that I spend so much time doing this. I still plan to make it more of a career for me, with the aim of doing just online content creation as my full-time job, and that’s a work in progress. I know I’ve been saying that for years and it’s way overdue, so watch this space for more content which can help you improve your English in new and improved ways.

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

On the podcast today I am in conversation with Alex Love, who you might remember from some previous episodes of this podcast. Alex is a friend of mine who I first met while doing stand-up comedy in London 7 years ago. He has featured in podcast episodes before, like the Brighton Fringe Festival podcasts (ep 104, 105 & 106), 109. The Drunk Episode and 226. On a Boat. All those episodes also featured our friends Paul Langton and Moz – both of whom have been guests on the podcast recently.
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Recent Episodes with Moz and Paul Langton:
Moz’s episode:
Paul’s episode:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Episode Begins*

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

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

Title: Alex Love – How to Win a Pub Quiz

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

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

Alex on Twitter: @thisalexlove

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




End of Part 1 – ‘Outro’ – Transcript

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

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

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


345. ELTon Award Nomination / Phrasal Verbs & Idioms / Brooklyn / The Revenant / Museum of Natural History & More

Breaking News! LEP Nominated for a British Council ELTon Award for Digital Innovation.
In this episode you’ll hear me talking about what’s been going on since I recorded the last episode, including: LEP’s nomination in the British Council ELTon awards, Leonardo DiCaprio fighting a bear in The Revenant, my adventure to the American Museum of Natural History and more. Also – for all the vocab hunters out there – watch out for some phrasal verbs and idioms.

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Luke’s English Podcast is nominated for a British Council ELTon Award!

The first thing I’d like to say is that I have some great news for the podcast, and certainly great news for me, and I’d like to share it with you. I’ve been nominated for a British Council ELTon award. This is really fantastic and I feel absolutely delighted. The ELTons are basically the Oscars of the English teaching world. Really, they are. It’s a real honour to be nominated for one. It’s top-level stuff. The ELTons are run by the British Council and by Cambridge English – these are top institutions in the world of English teaching. The ELTons happen every year and they celebrate and reward innovation in English language teaching. I’m nominated in the Digital Innovation category along with 5 other nominees.

You might be thinking – can we do anything to help you win? Is there a vote or something? Nope. It’s all decided by a panel of judges and they are taking it very seriously, with judging being done following a very thorough and impartial method. I am aware that at this moment, some industry people might be investigating my podcast. Some of the judges might be listening to this right now in fact! If you are a judge in the ELTons or a bigwig of the TEFL industry – hello! Welcome to my podcast. I hope you like it. I hope you consider it to be a genuine innovation in the world of EFL, in its own way. I’m delighted to be nominated and to receive some recognition from the industry after working on this podcast for over 7 years! Let me introduce you to my audience. TEFL industry people, meet the LEPsters. Industry people – lepsters. LEPsters – industry people. There. You’ve been introduced! Everyone’s very nice and friendly around here so just make yourself comfortable. Pull up a chair. Can I take your coat? Feel free to have a biscuit or a cup of tea, or indeed both if you fancy that. Anyway, just relax and take it easy. This is a no-pressure zone. There are some bean bags over there if you want to get more comfortable. Mi casa su casa. That’s Spanish – I don’t normally do that. It’s pretty much 99% English here. Anyway, I’m rambling… but that’s the idea of this podcast as you will see if you stick around!

OK that was a little nod to the ELTons judges or any other high level industry executives listening to this.

There is a red-carpet award ceremony on 2 June and I’ll be going to that. I don’t think I’ll win – I’m competing with some excellent work by the other nominees and I wonder if my work on a podcast will be recognised – I have no idea. I do think podcasting is an innovation because I think it allows teachers to connect with learners of English in a new way and it allows learners to connect with the English language in a new way. I’ve got a sort of long-running relationship with my listeners that I think is tremendously important in allowing you, my listeners, to really plug yourselves into an authentic source of English. I could go on about that more, but I won’t here in this episode. I’ll just say I’d be surprised and completely bowled over to win because the other nominations are brilliant, but I really hope I do win of course because that would just be incredible and unexpected.

As I said – I’ve basically been working away on this podcast on my own for years and, well, you know the story. But anyway, I’m delighted to be nominated. Please keep your fingers crossed for the podcast. I think the more established it becomes the more I am able to do this podcast regularly, and I have so many plans for other entertaining online services for learners of English which I could work on if I had the chance.

So, back to this new episode of the podcast

I’ve been away from the podcast for about 3 weeks! I’m very happy to be back because there are so many things to talk about. Some of those things are about what I’ve been up to (which are not that important really) and other things are about what’s been going on in the world in general (more important), because it seems to be an intensely busy and dynamic time at the moment with all sorts of big events in politics, sport, entertainment and stuff like that.

5 Phrasal Verbs and 5 Idioms

What about Language? Will there be language teaching in this episode?
Well, mainly in this episode I’m just talking to you directly about some topics and anecdotes. But if you are in the mood to focus only on the language, and you couldn’t really give a monkey’s about what I’m saying (ha ha) then here is a little task.

During the course of the episode I am going to use (at least) 5 phrasal verbs and (at least) 5 idiomatic fixed expressions, at certain points.

I’ve randomly chosen these words and expressions from a couple of dictionaries that I have just lying around. This time I’m using the Cambridge Phrasal Verb dictionary and the Oxford Idioms dictionary. Both very nice dictionaries published by very lovely publishers, (hello industry people).
So your challenge is this: Try to notice the 5 phrasal verbs and the 5 idioms as they come up in this episode.
Got it? I’ve picked out 5 phrasal verbs, and 5 idioms and I’m just going to randomly include them in the episode as I go – that’s going to be difficult for me because I don’t want it to be too obvious and easy – and you just have to notice them.

So, as we move forwards you’ll be looking out for any phrasal verbs that come up, and you’ll be keeping your eyes peeled for idioms. I say keeping your eyes peeled – obviously, you’ll be trying to hear them not see them, but you know what I mean.

Don’t you?

Do you know the expression ‘keep your eyes peeled‘?
Well, that was an idiom. ‘To keep your eyes peeled (for something)’ means to be on the lookout for something – to be ready to see or notice something. It means ‘keep your eyes open’. You can imagine an orange – you know you peel and orange – remove the skin. Similarly you can keep your eyes peeled – keep the eyelids open. I like that one. In this case of course you’re listening not looking, but still… Perhaps the equivalent for your ears would be ‘prick up your ears‘ – like a wild animal in a field that hears something, its ears go up a bit – like a cat or a fox, you can imagine its ears suddenly standing to attention. It’s pricking up its ears. So, prick up your ears. If you’re reading a transcript of this then you can keep your eyes peeled. Look out for idioms and phrasal verbs, or listen out for idioms and phrasal verbs.
And yes, there were a couple of phrasal verbs. “Look out for” and “listen out for” – they’re quite easy ones really because the meaning of the phrase is quite obvious, quite literal. Others might be idiomatic – the meaning might be less obvious.

Phrasal Verbs

They’re very common in English. They’re not slang, but they are often a bit more informal than the longer equivalents. They are used all the time in many situations, and are absolutely essential if you want to learn natural English – British and American. Some of you know all about this because you listen to my other podcast, “A Phrasal Verb a Day” – and if you haven’t heard of that, just go to to check out my phrasal verb podcast where you can learn a different phrasal verb in each episode – and I teach them to you properly, quickly, without any messing about or rambling.

Click here for my phrasal verb podcast:

So we’ve already had 2 idioms and 2 phrasal verbs and the episode hasn’t even started yet. “To listen out for something”, “to look out for something”, “to keep your eyes peeled” and to “prick up your ears”.

So, I’ve set up a language challenge for the episode – just try to notice 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms. At the end I will tell you the answers – I’ll tell you which phrasal verbs and idioms I picked from the dictionary, and I’ll explain what they mean.

Now, there are so many things to talk about that I’m not sure how long this is going to take. I will just keep recording and when I get to about an hour I’ll pause and carry on in the next episode. IS that alright by you? Yes? I’m glad you said that because you haven’t got any choice really have you. No, you don’t.

Anyway, let’s get started properly. I’m going to now ramble on about various things including some personal news, some travelling stories, some world news, some politics, some movie-related stuff and probably some other things that just come to mind while I’m talking – and remember to watch out for those 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms.


Mayumi’s comment: “Hi, Luke. Hope you are well.”
Hi Mayumi, I’m fine thanks. In fact I’ve been really busy lately so it’s good to be back.

Columbo “My wife…”

The podcast episode continues…

Did you notice any phrasal verbs and idioms?

Do you remember that at the beginning of the episode I chose 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms from the dictionaries?

I only used 1 phrasal verb and 2 idioms from the list. Here they are:

to come up against something – “Leonardo DiCaprio comes up against all kinds of problems in the film” = to face difficulties

to be on the edge of your seat – “I was on the edge of my seat while watching The Revenant” = to be very excited and interested in something you are watching

to get your knickers in a twist – “This guy was really getting his knickers in a twist in the museum” = to get upset or angry

Part 2 – coming soon

336. Drinking Scottish Whisky at a German Business Meeting While Wearing a Kilt and Playing a Flute… and other stories (with Carrick Cameron)

This episode features another natural conversation with a native English speaker. This time I’m talking to my mate Carrick, who I’ve known for about 10 years now. He is a teacher who used to work in the same school as me, back in London. We have a few things in common, like the fact that we’ve both had strange travelling experiences as English teachers, including the time when he once attended a meeting in Germany that involved not only the usual business work but also the drinking of some very rare and expensive scotch whiskies, which meant that the meeting turned into a kind of musical party with guitar and flute playing, quite a lot of whisky drinking, a late night and then, unsurprisingly, a bit of a hangover the next day. Listen to hear a few anecdotes, some authentic English conversation and more.

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All this took place in Germany as I said, so you could say that he had a “hangover in Hanover” (Hanover is a city in Germany). Although to be honest he was actually in Frankfurt not Hanover – yeah, I just wanted to use the line “a hangover in Hanover”. Yes, that was supposed to be clever and funny, but never mind. :P


We also share a few other anecdotes about travelling experiences we’ve had, including the time when I ended up being invited to my Japanese doctor’s house on New Year’s Day to make a kind of traditional cake by bashing a ball of wet rice over and over again with a big wooden mallet while being laughed at by a group of small children. Does that sound familiar at all? Have you ever done that? You might have, if you’re Japanese, or if you’ve spent new year in Japan. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Well, keep listening to find out.

Sound Quality

Another quick thing to say now is that admittedly the sound quality during the interview is a bit poor. I recorded it over Skype because I’m in France and Carrick is in England, and Carrick wasn’t able to get to a computer with a good microphone because he was (and still is) completely stuck to his sofa with a very bad back, the poor guy. He’s got a nasty slipped disc in his back which means he can’t move. So during this conversation he was basically lying on his back, talking to me over Skype with his phone in his hand.

So, yes, I know the sound is not 100% great and it might be difficult to hear his words at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually very common these days to speak English over Skype or on conference calls – like for example if you’re in an international business meeting talking to someone who’s in another country. The sound isn’t always perfect in those situations, is it? So, I think you need to get used to hearing English in less than perfect conditions. So, Audio quality is a bit bad, but don’t give up – you’ll get used to it after a while. It’s good practice.

While You Listen

As you listen, watch out for these things: the moments when Carrick (intentionally) switches from an English accent to a Scottish accent and back again, the way he describes different types of Scotch Whisky including words to describe their tastes and where they are made. So be mindful of vocabulary and grammar that you’re hearing, but above all – just enjoy being able to listen in on this conversation between a couple of mates. You can imagine you’re in the room with me listening to the conversation on speakerphone.

Ok, that’s it for my introduction. I’ll now get out of the way and let you listen to conversation in full. I’ll speak to you again when the conversation is over.

*Conversation Begins*

Talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking.

*Conversation Ends*

So, that was Carrick. I really hope his back gets better soon because it must be pretty miserable for him to be just lying there all the time. I expect all of us sometimes think “Ooh, I’d love to spend 3-4 weeks lying on my back all day watching TV, high on a cocktail of prescription drugs.” (well, not everyone thinks that but you know what I mean) but when that lifestyle is forced on you as a result of an accident, it’s not that much fun is it. So, I hope Carrick gets well soon for his own sake, but also I hope he gets well soon for the sake of his wife and kids too, who might want to actually sit on that sofa and watch TV themselves at some point, and I also hope Carrick gets back on his feet soon for the sake of the kids in his school who are probably missing Mr Cameron in their classes!

More Stuff about Sound Quality (actually, it wasn’t that bad, was it?)

So, this is nearly the end of the episode. I wonder how the sound quality was for you? I expect it was a bit difficult to hear every word but you got used to it. Is that right? What’s that? It was difficult at the start but you got used to it? Ah good, I thought so. Sorry? You couldn’t understand everything – it was difficult and possibly a bit frustrating at times? Ah, sorry about that, but I think it’s good practice because your brain has to work a bit harder to guess the things you don’t understand. It’s good training. What was that you said? You’d expect the audio quality to be much higher in future please. Oh, alright, well – sorry but this is a free podcast right? So, you get what you pay for ok?

No, I agree. It would be better if the quality was always perfect, but that’s not always going to happen. Sometimes when I interview people on Skype the sound might be less than perfect, but as I said before – that’s normal in the real world, sometimes the sound quality will not be perfect when you’re using English over the phone or on a conference call. It’s good for you to get used to it.

Things to remember about learning a language (encouragement)

Just remember these things: learning a language is a long-term project and you will encounter various obstacles but you mustn’t give up. One of those obstacles might be that you can’t understand every word in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, or in a conference call. So, even if you didn’t understand all of that. Don’t give up. I realise I’m preaching to the converted here, because if you’re listening to this it means that you listened to the whole conversation and you didn’t stop. So, well done you.

Shall I do an episode in which I explain the vocab, like in episode 335?

But really, I wonder if you’d like me to record a follow-up to this conversation in which I explain and clarify the content, like I did after the Craig Wealand interview. If you would like me to do that, let me know by leaving a comment or giving me an email at I value your feedback.

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Don’t forget to use italki to find a native speaker for conversations or a teacher for lessons. It really is a great way to push your English to higher and higher levels. Visit to get started and when you make a purchase italki will give you 100 free credits which you can spend on lessons in the future.

One tip: use the “search teachers” function to find the right teacher for you, and that includes special skills like Cambridge Exam preparation and business English. or click an italki logo on my website.

italki teacher search page

A couple of comments at the end, just before we finish up here.

  • If you’ve sent me an email recently, or ever, and I haven’t responded I am sorry. I can’t respond to them all but I do read them all I promise! I also send emails to people and don’t get responses and I know how it feels. I’m a huge fan of Greg Proops and Adam Buxton. I met Greg Proops at a book signing in Paris, shook his hand and exchanged a few words (I told him I was a comedian and he nodded sagely). I wanted to talk to him for hours, but I just said “nice one” and left. I then wrote him a long email, telling him how much I enjoyed his podcast called “The Smartest Man in the World” and I wrote a very British invitation to join me on an episode of LEP some time. I never got a reply. I also tweet comments to Adam Buxton all the time, who I am sure is an absolutely lovely person but I never get a reply or a retweet or anything, but that’s ok of course, I don’t mind, but I feel a little bit ignored, you know? Again, I don’t feel entitled to a reply or any attention at all because his part of the deal has already been done – he’s already given me hours of lovely talking on his podcast so he can’t be expected to respond to every tweet or email. Totally fine with it. So, anyway, thanks for your comments, messages, emails, tweets and so on – I appreciate your thoughts very very much.
  • Again, thank you to my Japanese doctor if he’s listening (I doubt it) for not only saving my skin when I was sick by taking care of me, giving me medicine and arranging for me to spend two weeks in Kinugasa hospital. I liked the video you played to me when we were both drunk on that New Year’s Day (at about 4.30pm I believe) in which you and your band were playing a live version of “Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers. It was awesome.
  • Hello to anyone who likes whisky – I hope you enjoyed this episode.
  • Hello to the people of Scotland – I hope you choose to stay in the UK, but I’d understand if you choose to leave. I hope you don’t though. (I didn’t ask Carrick about Scottish Independence – maybe that can be a future episode)
  • Hello to a Japanese LEPster called Satomi who recently came to one of my shows here in Paris. Satomi, it was very nice to meet you and your friends after the show and I am very glad that you chose to introduce yourself to me. Give my regards to Yoshi – that’s a French guy who she was with, who called himself Yoshi, and not the cute dinosaur who is friends with Super Mario. Yes, I had a Yoshi at my show. In fact, not long ago I had a Luigi at the show too. I’m yet to have a Mario there, but let’s hope so. I wonder what it would be like to have Mario in my audience. I wonder how he would laugh. Maybe he’d go “wawawawawa” (Mario noise), or maybe if I talked for too long without making a joke he’d heckle me by saying “Letsa GO!” and I’d say – “can you stop heckling?” and he’d say “It’s MARIO time!” and I’d say, “*securty* remove this man from the room please he’s disturbing the performance”.
  • Hello to the lovely Argentinian couple who listen to this podcast and who also came to another one of my recent comedy shows. It was lovely to meet you too!
  • Let’s go back to Japan for a moment – Hello to all my Japanese listeners. I love Japan very much and I miss it a lot. Whenever I see pics of Japan on Facebook or listen to music from that I used to listen to when I was there I always think “ah 懐かしい” – “Nihon Natukashii ne!” which roughly translates as “Ah, good old Japan!” That phrase is used to express feelings of nostalgia. You know those waves of nostalgia that you feel when you remember something? You might see a photo, or perhaps smell some food that brings you right back, or you might actually go to the place and immediately feel a kind of comfort in being there. That’s exactly how I feel when I drink a really good cup of Yorkshire tea or something, like “Ah, good old Yorkshire tea”, or “Yookusha tea natsukashii da-yo ne?” So, hello Japan, I know you’re listening – “O genki desu ka?” which is a bit like saying “alright?” in English. I do plan to visit Japan with my wife – I must show her around the place a bit, I think she’d love it and I’d be able to say “natsukashii”, “heeee” and “hooooo” all the time. It would be nice to go drinking (in moderation of course) in an izakaya or something. And perhaps someone might go red in the face and fall asleep after having a couple of beers. Look after yourselves, ok!
  • Photos – check below to see some pics of Carrick’s funny experience at the German business meeting in Frankfurt at Deutche Bahn. If you work at Deutche Bahn – get in touch! Perhaps you know someone who was at the meeting. It’s possible. You should also find a pic of me hammering a ball of rice with a wooden mallet to make mochi, while wondering what was going on in my life! (I now realise what was going on – I was having a lot of fun indeed).
  • You’ll also find the names of Carrick’s favourite whiskies and the other brand name whiskies we mentioned in the episode, in case you want to check them out.
  • Thanks again for listening. :)

Carrick’s Top 3 Single-Malt Scotch Whiskies

1. Lagavulin
– from the island of Islay
– It’s delicious
– It’s smokey
– It’s filtered through peat

2. Macallan
– It’s from the Highlands
– It’s got a smooth, creamy texture
– It’s like very alcoholic milk (although it doesn’t look like milk of course)

3. Caol Ila
– It has a subtle flavour
– It’s like Lagavulin but more delicate

Other types of whisky
Blended scotch whisky – it’s made from a blend of different whiskies, it’s cheaper and is easy to find in supermarkets. Typical brands: Teacher’s, Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal.

American brands of bourbon whiskey (they’re not Carrick’s ‘bag’ = he doesn’t really like them, they’re not his cup of tea)
Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark.

That Japanese “best whisky in the world”
I think Carrick was talking about this one – Nikka Whisky (it doesn’t begin with a Y, unless you mean “Why?” – and the answer is – “Because it tastes so good!”)


Other useful episodes of LEP

This episode featured several anecdotes. Click here to listen to an episode about how to tell anecdotes in English.

Click here to listen to the full story of how I got sick in Japan. 

328. Cooking with Luke – Verbs and Expressions in the Kitchen

I’ve been quite busy marking exams recently and haven’t had a chance to upload any episodes for a few weeks, but today I managed to record this episode while preparing dinner. So in this one you’ll hear me in the kitchen, multitasking – cooking a chicken dinner (recipe below) while describing everything that I’m doing. In this episode you can learn some verbs for preparing food, words for different kitchen utensils and other language related to food and eating. Also, I ramble on about a few other things, as usual! Expect more podcasts to arrive in the near-ish future when I have a bit more time. Thanks for listening!

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Here are some verb phrases you will hear me use in this episode.

to clean up the kitchen
to squeeze as much stuff into the dishwasher (as you can)
to do something by hand
to give something (a bit of a) wash
to turn on the tap
to batter fish (noun = batter)
to deep-fry something
to fry something
to chop some potatoes
to chop up some potatoes
to peel some garlic / peel some potatoes
to drizzle olive oil on something
to slosh some white wine over everything
to season food (with salt and pepper)
to do the washing up / to do the dishes
to fill the dishwasher / to empty the dishwasher
to tidy up
to rinse the vegetables under the tap
to pre-heat the oven
to slide the dish into the oven
to brown the chicken in oven
to set the timer

The Recipe

If you’d like to try cooking the dish yourself, here’s my Mum’s simple and easy-to-follow recipe. Enjoy!
Chicken with lemon and garlic


312. The Words of the Year (Part 3)

Here’s the third part in this series about the Collins Dictionary Words of the Year 2015. Listen to the episode to hear Amber, Paul and me discuss the rest of the words in the list. I’ll also explain and clarify some vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation from our discussion. There are vocabulary notes below.

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Welcome back to another episode of LEP. We’re still talking about the Collins Dictionary Words of the Year.
This is the third episode on the series, and we still have about 7 words to deal with.
I think we can wrap this up inside one episode, but let’s see.
I’m going to keep this intro as short as possible because recently my introductions have got out of control.
So, let me keep it short and simple.
This is the 3rd part in a mini-series about The Collins Dictionary New Words of the Year.
I’m joined by Amber and Paul and we’re talking about this list of new words that Collins are putting into their dictionary this year.
These are new words and their use in both spoken and written form has increased significantly over the last 12 months.
Collins consider them worthy of addition into the dictionary.
But what are these words? What do they mean? And why have we been using them a lot lately?
Amber, Paul and I are going to explain them for you and just ramble on a bit as well.
I’ll play you all of our conversation but every now and then I’ll pause the podcast to explain things you’ve heard in our conversation.
That way you get the best of both worlds: you can listen to us talking to each other naturally, but also you can pick up a lot of new language when I break it down and explain it to you.
Alright, so without any further ado, let’s get started, and here’s word 7 in this list of 10 new words.

Word 7 – “manspreading”
manspreading (noun): the act or an instance of a male passenger in a bus or train splaying his legs in a way that denies space to the passenger sitting next to him
To take up space
well-contained within my seat allocated space
Not spilling over
You’re obliged to sit there, coyly, between his legs
Splaying his legs
You’re sitting there, minding your own business, not taking up much space…
His leg is pressing up against your leg.
If they were a bit too scary I probably wouldn’t say anything. I’d probably just cower.
He went out into the, whatchacallit, into the corridor.
a thingamajig
a thingamybob
a widget
The corridor in the bus (or the aisle)
Suddenly the bus put the brakes on and he went flying.
Small kids, the metro stops suddenly or people get on and they crush them, they don’t even notice them, so they stand on them.
Children aren’t that strong holding on.
They’re hyperactive. They want to, like, run around.
A grumpy tired child is not good for anyone.

Word 6 – “ghosting”
The act or an instance of ending a romantic relationship by not responding to attempts to communicate by the other party
You’re not manning up or womaning up if you do that (to ‘man up’ = to be strong and act like a real man, or woman)
We got jiggy with it (like the Will Smith song, but in this case it means that we’d had sex, or ‘sexy time’)
Ghosting someone as a way of finishing a relationship is lame. All it takes is a bit of honesty.
It did do my head in for a while. (expression)

Word 5 – “dadbod”
An untoned and slightly plump male physique, especially one considered attractive
Broad shoulders
well-toned muscles
I’m a bit more laid back
Comparatively, you’ll feel all saggy and not attractive
Landscape gardener
“Don’t all rush out at once!” (Sarcasm – Paul’s saying that nobody’s going to come. This is a typical way to be sarcastic. E.g. “Don’t all rush out at once!” or “Don’t sound too enthusiastic!” or “Don’t get over excited” or “Don’t everyone rush to my help or anything”)

Word 4 – “corbynomics”
The economic policies advocated by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party from 2015

Word 3 – “contactless”
Referring to payment systems which use RFID technology and do not require the customer’s signature or pin number
To type in a pin or sign
contactless payment
Card details
We’ll be floating around in pods
It’s all going to become fingerprint eyeball scanning, thing.
That’s probably what’s going to happen

Word 2 – “clean eating”
Clean eating
The practice of following a diet that contains only natural foods, and is low in sugar, salt, and fat
If the WHO comes up with it
Audiobook recommendation: Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Word 1 – “binge-watch”
To watch a large number of television programmes (especially all the shows from one series) in succession
I can’t help myself
Flipping heck
Flippin’ ‘eck
I find myself pushing the pram around
YOu’re so tired you can barely stay awake to watch it!
Jack Bauer’s Power Hour (what does this mean? N.Irish accent)
The Beatles book – hefty, fat, an extremely large tome, an exhaustive book,
How much of it have I actually read? (pron – weak form of ‘have’)
I finished the whole thing in no time
Audiobook recommendations: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, read by Martin Jarvis, The Beatles – Tune In: All These Years, by Mark Lewisohn, The Dummies Guide to British History and You Say Potato by David & Ben Crystal.
(stop after I mention “You Say Potato” )

Add some negative comments from The Guardian’s comment section
Here’s a comment from a Guardian reader who basically disagrees with the implied suggestion that there’s some guilt involved in watching many episodes of a TV show back-to-back. RayMullan (pointing out the negative association with the word ‘binge’)
Given that I spent most of my free time last weekend working my way through A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, was I binge–reading? Of course not. That’s the only way to enjoy a good book. The beauty of bulk access to serialised film and television productions is that we can view an interesting programme in much the same way.
The requirement to follow a serial at a fixed point in the day over several weeks or months are long gone, thankfully. I was barely able to follow the broadcast of Wolf Hall last year, missing one and a half episodes quite simply because I had other things to do. In fact I’m sorry I didn’t just wait for the DVD release and enjoy the production in my own good time — no “binging” about it even if I choose to watch all six parts in a single evening.
Collins should really take a leaf from le livre de l’Académie française and exploit some discretion when it comes to faddish language patterns of teenagers and inarticulate young adults. Most of these new “terms” reflect lazy intellects blunted by the networked chatter of buzzfeeds and will amount to little but crude embarrassment a couple of years from now.

But I think that’s the point – Collins will see if we’re still using these words in 2018 when the printed dictionary comes out. Some of them might survive, some of them might fall away. It depends on what we’re all doing in a few years.

Listen to the post-chat – You’ll hear a quick memory test for the words. Can you remember them all? See if you can guess them from memory.


Final thing: I’ve done a lot of explaining in this episode. I want to know if you like that or not. You know I think it’s useful but I want to know what you think.
So, a couple of quick questions:
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I will take your comments into account, but in the end it’s Luke’s English Podcast – I’m the boss and I have the final word!

Thanks for listening to the end, you are a wonderful human being and the universe is smiling on you right now.

Remember, the force will be with you… always…


Here’s some other stuff you heard in the final part of our conversation:
I’m a bloody bloke (bloody – just an old swear word for emphasis, and a bloke is a man of course)
To nationalise the railways (when the state buys something which is privately owned, like the railways for example. The opposite is to privatise something)
Some more chat about drinking games you could play while binge watching, if you want to binge drink and binge watch at the same time (not recommended).
What’s a drinking game? It’s just a fun way to get drunk. There are various games with different rules. I dread drinking games these days because I can’t drink much alcohol any more. People sometimes play drinking games while watching films or TV shows. E.g. taking a drink every time a character in the TV show does something in particular. We mention House of Cards (Frank talks to the camera), Homeland (Claire Danes’ character cries), The X-Files (Scully expresses scepticism etc) and The Walking Dead (when someone kills a zombie, or when you see certain kinds of zombie).
One of the last phrases you’ll hear is “and on that bombshell!” (this is how a comedy character called Alan Partridge ended one of his shows, and then it was taken by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson as the way to end a TV show. It is used as a sensational end to a broadcast. A bombshell is a sensational moment – for example, a sudden piece of news or a shocking moment. POW! And that’s the end!
words of the year 3

295. California Road Trip (Final Part)

Hi and welcome back to LEP. This is episode 295, and it will be the final part of this 8-part series which is inspired by my trip to the west coast of the US recently. I’m going to talk about the final part of our journey from San Francisco, down the coast via Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo and back to LA. I’ll also talk some more about customer service and give you some tips on how to make complaints in English and how to talk to strangers in slightly sensitive situations, like when you want a person sitting behind you to stop talking because you can’t sleep. You can expect to hear those things and more in this episode.

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I started this series on 26 August, which is just under two weeks ago. So, in less than two weeks I’ve uploaded about 8 episodes and each one is about 1 hour 15 minutes long. I realise that’s a lot of content for you to listen to, and I think a lot of my listeners are quite busy catching up with all this new content. I certainly hope that this sudden arrival of 8 new episodes hasn’t put anyone off. I know from experience that when I listen to a podcast and there are lots of episodes that I haven’t heard, that it seems harder to get back into it, like you’re falling behind and it’s difficult to catch up. So, I expect that some listeners are a little overwhelmed by the number of episodes that have arrived. Not you of course! If you’re listening to this I expect it means that you’re keeping up with the series without any problems! If you’re a new listener, then welcome to my podcast. It’s for learners of English. Visit for more information.

Anyway, I shouldn’t be worrying about anything because I have had lots of encouraging comments on episodes in this series and I’d like to read some out and respond to them here – not all of them, just a selection.

Comments from Listeners
One piece of correspondence from a listener in the USA, called “Lea”, which is worth mentioning:
Leah: “I’ve very much enjoyed hearing all about your trip. But I need to tell you that nobody in the U.S. ever says “galoshes”, lol !! Really it’s true. I do remember when I was in school (grade school & high school), in French class, and in language text books I would see this word.
We just say “boots”, sometimes more specific like, “rain boots”, “snow boots”, “hiking boots”, “riding boots” … But NEVER “galoshes”.
Did you hear someone in California use that term??
Anyhoo, I love the podcast!!! Thank you!”

Luke: “Thanks for the correction. I feel like I should now edit the podcast to include what you said! I might do it actually.”

Leah: “Ha! Just to check myself, I asked my 14 year old son if he knew what “galoshes” were. He said “No”, but he had heard the term used in a cartoon once. He further said that he got that they meant something like, “rain boots” through the context.”

So, I just wanted to agree with Lea and emphasise that it’s not galoshes in the USA, but in fact “rain boots”. In the UK it’s ‘wellies’ or ‘wellington boots’.
Google search results:
“Galoshes”: 454,000 results
“rain boots”: 2,090,000 results

Perhaps in the USA wellies are less a part of the every day culture, and so a well-known nickname hasn’t come up. Whatever the reason, it’s ‘rain boots’ rather than galoshes.

Perhaps it’s not that important that you know the correct term for rain boots in the USA, but who knows – perhaps it could be useful. Maybe in some emergency situation, like a flood or something. “Quick we need some wellies!” “What?” “I mean, we need some galoshes! Quick!” “Sorry, I… I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you British? I love your accent :)” “This is an emergency flood situation we need galoshes!” “Sorry – that means nothing to me. Have a nice day now, alrighty then, sorry about all this rain, but I guess you must be used to it because you’re British, right?”
“No, you don’t understand, we need rubber boots to protect us from the water, right now!! Boots, for the rain!” “Oh you mean rain boots? Why didn’t you just say?” etc.

Chriss Benitez
September 3, 2015 at 12:13 am
I love craft beer and california is the most famous place for breweries. Hoped you had lots of good Californian beers and American IPA.

I´m waiting for the Camaro photos :P, you get used to it don’t worry. I don’t have one but my Mustang is almost the same.

Great episode!!

August 29, 2015 at 11:38 am

Hello Luke, This is a very great work you are presenting to us. I thank you for this huge effort you are doing to teach English to people all around the world.

I would say a lot about your new podcasts but even if I knew the adjectives you deserve I can only say that “Je suis resté sans voix” reading your four incredible podcasts.

I am waiting for the next podcast as impatient as people are waiting for the sixth book of the Game of Thrones.

I really only can say “BRAVO!” AND “CHAPEAU BAS MESSIEURS” (This means “hats off” or “well done!”)

Big Hug Luke

p.s. Why don’t you make a periscope each time you are going to work on a podcast?

Because watching AJ’s Periscopes for several weeks, I am surprised seeing myself waving the hand and saying bye when AJ finishes every Periscope video. I finally have the feeling that he is in front of me. It is a strange feeling, but it is really present.

Try it and be sure you are going to enjoy it, because you are going to have a real direct contact with your students. You have nothing to lose and a lot to find mainly our love and admiration.

See you
August 27, 2015 at 3:06 pm
FANTASTIC journey with so much to offer . You give us amazing luxury through your account . What a romantic way of teaching English . WELCOME BACK ! Keep it up ! Million thanks !

August 27, 2015 at 9:40 am
Dear Luke! Thanks for two very interesting and cognitive episodes. I found out a lot of new stuff about the US.

Hi Luke, this’s just a trivial comment, but I want to tell you that I like your jelly’s wobbling around noise making. It’s funny and cute. 😀

Rasul Ksirov
September 5, 2015 at 7:56 pm
The Eagles are single-handedly responsible for lots of people in my country mispronouncing the English word hotel as /’houtel/ – i.e. with the stress on the first syllable instead of the second. Which is funny, given that we have the same word in our own languages (Russian/Ukrainian – well, the Russian one lacks the initial h) – and it is stressed on the second syllable. But even fact is overlooked as a clue for correct pronunciation, against the popularity of the Eagles’ hit and its damaging influence on the unsuspecting English learner.

Explain yourself, I hear you say. All right, I will.

The musical metre (or rhythmic structure) employed in the chorus of “Hotel California” dictates that the word “hotel” is stressed on the first syllable thus overriding the actual word stress. Indeed, they do seem to be singing “welcome to the hOtel /’” in the chorus.

This, coupled with the general notion that English learners tend to have about most two-syllable English words being stressed on the first syllable, gave rise to the infamous pronunciation error.

Myself, I was lucky enough to hear Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” first, before the Eagles had led me astray with their confusing stress patterns.

Thanks for your comments everybody. Now let’s carry on with this series!

The Road Trip Continues – San Francisco
Dinner in Liholiho – an amazing Hawaiian influenced place
We’d never tasted food like this before. Some kind of battered and fried chicken, with fried broccoli and kale with cashew nuts. The broccoli in particular was amazing. Apparently they marinade it overnight and then deep fry it in soy infused oil, and the result is an amazing crunchiness combined with juiciness. We just made loads of noises during the dinner and couldn’t stop raving about the taste. Of course, we ordered way too much because we underestimated the size of the portions and ended up completely stuffed.

In fact, there’s quite a lot of Hawaiian influence in SF. It’s amazing to think that across the ocean there’s Hawaii and then Japan. It’s cool to be on the Pacific Coast. I’m more used to being near the Atlantic myself.

August 18
Extend our time in SF.
More acai bowls.
Lombard Street.

Grab some coffee in one of the many great looking coffee places on Polk Street.

Comments about annoyingly rude customer service, which happened a couple of times
Generally speaking, the customer service we experienced in California was really amazing and impressive, and maybe we got used to it because when we had bad service it seemed really obvious and annoying. This was usually from young people doing jobs they probably believed were below them, causing them to treat you with a kind of cool disdain, as if to say “I’m above this”. For example, we had a bad experience in a coffee shop in San Francisco. Two trendy girls who were far too cool, in their minds, to be serving people coffee, served us coffee in a really snooty and dismissive manner and it sort of spoiled my morning a little bit (I can’t stand unnecessary rudeness – it really gets my back up and bothers me a lot). I don’t know why. Perhaps it was my accent. Perhaps it was the fact we were tourists. Maybe it’s because it was Monday. Maybe the cafe management treats them so badly that they put in zero effort, maybe it’s the slightly specific coffee request I made, or maybe it’s just because I didn’t order the coffee just right. Maybe I’m making a big deal of it, when in the end it really doesn’t matter at all! In fact I’m probably reading way too much into this encounter and thinking about it too much. But anyway, here’s what happened:

We stood there talking about what we wanted, and there was nobody in the queue behind us. I stepped forward to make my order. There are two girls behind the counter and they’re standing back a bit, having their own private conversation. I notice that the girls are talking about us, and not nicely. They’re sort of talking under their breaths and glancing at us. I wonder what we’ve done wrong and try to ignore it. Time to get the coffee. I wait a little bit for the girl to come over. I feel like I’m annoying her. I start talking to the girl at the cash register.
Her: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Hi, can I have one black coffee of the day…”
Her: *sighs* “So, you mean one regular dark coffee?” (she says, putting the order into the till. There’s probably a button that says “dark coffee” but no button that says “black coffee”)
Me: “Ok, sure. And an espresso, with…”
Her: “And a single espresso”
Me: Yes please, with just a little bit of hot water added.”
Her: *Sighs again and gives her friend a look*
Me: *Thinks: what the f*ck is going on here?*
Her: That’s gonna be 5.25.
Me: OK, here you are.
Her: “Your coffee will be delivered over there”
Me: “Thanks”
Her: No response. She’s already turned away from me. The transaction is finished.
The other girl then shouts “Single espresso with hot water!” even though there are no other customers around and she heard the entire transaction and I’m just standing right there, and puts the coffee on the top.
I go to pick up the coffee from her, and I say thanks, but she’s not looking at me. She’s turned away and is doing something else. I feel totally unwelcome and I don’t know why. Did I just destroy the environment again without realising it? What did I do wrong?
This really ‘did my head in’ for some reason. What happened? Did I order the coffee slightly wrong? Is it because of my accent? Why is it necessary to serve me my coffee in a miserable way because you feel that you’re above this job?
Maybe I’m way too sensitive, and after all it’s just a couple of coffees but this put a downer on me for about an hour until I got over it. (My wife got over it instantly, but I had a little dark cloud over my head for about an hour as a result of it) As we walked around I speculated about why they seemed so rude.

It reminded me of a routine by Louis CK about exactly this topic. I might play it to you right now because you might find it amusing, but there are some swear words that I’ll edit out because I’d like this episode to be a clean one. So, I think I’m going to play that to you, or at least just embed the video on the page for this episode. We’ll see…

So, in the end, there’s no excuse for being so rude!

How to make the right impression on a waiter
I just want to reiterate something I said in an earlier episode about dealing with waiters and other staff, because this struck me as being quite important, and as I was a foreigner in an English-speaking country it made me realise how important this is.
Remember that staff are just doing their job and you can help make it a little easier for them by showing that you understand that.

So, help them to do their job, don’t make it extra hard for them.
Smile, be friendly and respectful. Don’t have the attitude that this person is your own private slave for the evening and they should have infinite patience and they have no right to complain or be unhappy about your behaviour. This is unrealistic and rude. The waiter is a human being and they might be tempted to spit in your salad.
So, smile and be nice.
When the waiter asks how you are, respond positively, and ask how they are too.
Don’t forget to say please and thank you. Definitely show your appreciation if a waiter has done something special for you.

If in doubt, tell them it’s your honeymoon.

-How to ask for an upgrade in a hotel (this worked for us a few times)
Tell them it’s your honeymoon.

-How to make small requests

Certain phrases are useful.
“Is there any chance you could…?”

Tell them it’s your honeymoon.

E.g. “Is there anything you can do or recommend in order to make our stay even more special? It’s our honeymoon, and we want this to be a really special and memorable stay.”

We got a few hotel room upgrades, and also some free fruit and wine, and in one place they wrote a special message on our mirror, and another place gave us a card. One guy gave us some free bottles of water because it was the only thing he could offer. Everyone seemed genuinely happy for us and it broke the ice quite nicely.

California Diary Continued… 18 August
Union Square.
Drive to Monterey.
Another Japanese restaurant!

August 19
Next it’s Monterey. Beautiful coastal town, but not much more than the aquarium.
Touristy place near the old cannery, where the aquarium is now.
I visit, and the wife goes to the beach.
Wildlife from the waterfront (whales, otters, sea elephant “it’s a whale!”)
Then to Carmel.
Beautiful sunset on the beach with whales and dolphins in the water.
All about Carmel.

August 20
Another day there, including the beach.
17 Mile Drive.
This is an incredibly beautiful and rugged area with stunning coastline. It’s also right next to the Pebble Beach golf course, which you might know.
More whales and dolphins seen. It’s quite touristy, but nice.
By this time we’ve had lots of sun, sand and sea air and we feel like we’ve really absorbed the atmosphere of the place, so we’re feeling very relaxed and cool.

Highway 1 (coastal highway) through Big Sur. Epic views. One of the most stunning and attractive drives ever. Many romantic moments and photos on the way, with the sunset.
San Luis Obispo – the happiest town in America?

Audiobook recommendations
I just wanted to remind you about the audiobooks I’ve recommended in this series. Here are those titles again, just in case you wanted to check them out. Remember you can get a free audiobook if you sign up to a trial membership with, which is the internet’s top provider of downloadable audiobooks. They have hundreds of thousands of audiobooks available. Go to – you can try it out for 30 days, download an audiobook free, and if you don’t like the service just cancel your membership but keep the audiobook. All the details are on my website. or click a button on my site that says Audible.
Let’s just re-cap the titles I’ve recommended so far.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
The “For Dummies” series – e.g. English History for Dummies
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

August 21
Next day…
Slight miscalculation of distance and a satnav error and we end up missing Malibu and getting stuck in a huge traffic jam in LA.

Last evening – super trendy vegetarian restaurant with a live jazz band. Huge place.

August 22
The problem with the rental car.
Getting fobbed off by Avis.
Fixing it the next day. Describing the story, being clear about what the problem is, taking emotions out of the equation, being clear about what you expect, showing that you’re not happy…
Explaining what happened is very important.
Making sure the person knows exactly what the point is, is very important.

How to make a complaint. (After the Avis situation)
Say that you’d like to register a complaint. Many companies have official channels and ways of dealing with complaints, that might include some rectification. Be clear from the beginning that you are making a complaint, or the staff might just try to fob you off.
Ask to speak to a manager. This shows that you mean business.
Ask for the names of the people involved and write them down. Again, you mean business.
Ask for evidence of anything important – e.g. a print out of a new rental agreement with a price adjustment. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. You’re in a legal area here, so you need paper evidence!
Explain the background story quickly and simply. They need to know what happened.
Be firm and confident and businesslike. Don’t get too personal or emotional.
Explain what you want.
Remember that these people are just doing their jobs.
Tell them it’s your honeymoon.

How to ask people to stop talking on a plane. (During the return flight)
Remember that the people doing the talking are probably going to take it really badly or personally. How would you react if someone told you to be quiet on a plane?
Do not bring all your anger and frustration to the first comment. Be utterly reasonable, giving them no choice but to respect your wishes. If they don’t like you or find you unreasonable, they won’t want to comply.
Say things like “I don’t want you to stop talking, but…”
Explain why you would like them to stop.
Again, don’t get emotional, aggressive or angry, but you can say it firmly without being aggressive.
“I’m really sorry to bother you, I don’t want you to stop talking, but could you please try to do have your conversation more quietly? It’s just that nobody else is talking, and we all need to rest and I can hear every word you are saying!”
It would be pretty hard not to say “Oh, sorry!” in response to this.
If you just turn round angrily and say “shhhhh!” then I’m sure they’d be less willing to comply – remember, they’re not aware of all the anger and frustration that’s been building up inside you, so you’ll just look like an insane person, and you’ll have a couple of enemies on the flight.
Final tip: Tell them it’s your honeymoon.

American English Vocabulary vs British English Vocabulary
This is a mix of things like games, job titles and household items.

Wardrobe – Closet Furniture
Plaster – Band-Aid Personal Care
Ladybird – Ladybug Insect
Noughts and Crosses – Tic Tac Toe Game
Draughts – Checkers Game
Flat – Apartment Housing
Tap – Faucet Furniture (sink)
Lift – Elevator Housing (in a building)
Torch – Flashlight Household Item
Football – Soccer Game
Estate Agent – Realtor Job
Rubber – Eraser Stationery
C.V. (Curriculum Vitae) – Résumé Job
Spanner – Wrench Tool
Autumn – Fall Season
Holiday – Vacation
Canteen – Cafeteria Room

In Conclusion
We had an absolutely fantastic time travelling around California. It has so many things to offer, including lots of things that we didn’t get to see. Two weeks are not enough, and the time went by so fast that it was almost over before it had started! It is a wonderful place for a honeymoon, and in fact for all types of holiday – for single people, honeymooners or families. I would definitely recommend it, although it is a bit expensive in some areas, particularly San Francisco and the coast. All in all the people were really friendly, the weather is fantastic and there are loads of impressive and entertaining things to see and do. There is plenty of really amazing food, which is a contrast to the stereotype of USA with its unhealthy food culture. The landscape is varied and beautiful and there’s a lot of shopping to be done as well. We’d love to go back one day and see lots of other things we missed. We shared a really special two weeks that we’ll remember forever.

I really hope you’ve not only enjoyed this account of my trip, but that you’ve also learned some things too. My intention has been to not just share our travelling experience with you, but also to just invite you to think about the culture, history and geography of the place along the way, as well as teach you some English.

I’m going to upload photos of our California trip on this page, or on each page in this series. Check them out – it might help to bring some of my descriptions to life a bit.

As ever, leave your comments on the pages for these episodes with your thoughts, feelings and questions. Join the conversation at

That’s it for now, until the next episode.

Take it easy.
17 Mile Drive

293. California Road Trip (Part 6)

Welcome to episode 293, which is in fact part 6 in this mini series based around my recent trip to California. There’s still a lot to talk about, and in this episode I’ll tell you about our time spent in San Francisco and that’s going to include these things – my interview with AJ Hoge the well-known online English teacher, more British and American English, earthquakes, a short biography of Robin Williams, a history of the peace & love movement in San Francisco, more descriptions of our trip down the west coast of California, and some more tips about how to talk to waiters and customer service staff.

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It seems pretty obvious to me that this is too much for one episode, so I think there will probably be a part 7 to this series, and after that we’ll return to normal podcasting and English teaching, with perhaps some more UK oriented topics in future episodes, and more episodes featuring authentic unscripted conversations with my friends Amber and Paul.

Here’s a video of the Periscope live feed I did while recording this episode. Watch the video for about 20 minutes of extra video content, and to watch me recording this episode.

AJ Hoge Interview
I think I should start this episode with my interview with AJ Hoge. This took place in San Francisco in the lobby of the hotel where we were staying.

Who is AJ? and
AJ is an American-born English teacher who started his career as a social worker (what’s a social worker?) before going into English language teaching. He taught English abroad in Thailand, Japan, Korea and other places, and at home in San Francisco before becoming an independent self-employed teacher on the internet. He has created his own online English teaching courses and has written a book about learning English, and he sells all those things on his websites (see links above). He’s also a public speaker who has been booked to do conferences, speeches and presentations about learning English, sometimes to thousands of people at a time. He’s probably the most well-known English teacher on the internet (yes – more well-known than me – he’s good at marketing himself!) and I’m sure that you’ve come across him. I’m very impressed by what he’s achieved as an independent teacher and it was really interesting to meet him and find out about his work. I recorded our conversation and I’m going to play it to you right now.

Unfortunately I had a bit of a technical problem during my meeting with AJ. I was using a new portable audio recorder and for some unknown reason it kept turning itself off during our conversation, which was very frustrating indeed. So unfortunately some parts of our conversation are lost. That explains why the conversation cuts out a couple of times, particularly at the end. Fortunately, the main part of our conversation was recorded, so let’s listen to it now!

Part 1 – You’ll hear an introduction, but then the recorder switched itself off after a couple of minutes, which is why the conversation stops abruptly.

Part 2 – I started again after discovering that the recorder in my hand had in fact switched itself off again. We spoke for another 20 minutes or so and then the recorder switched itself off again! This is why the conversation stops abruptly before I had the chance to say thanks and goodbye to AJ. We plan to stay in touch though, and we might talk again via Skype in a future episode of the podcast.

More British and American English Vocabulary (Part 3) – Clothing
Trousers – Pants Clothing
Nappy – Diaper Babycare
Jumper – Sweater Clothing
Tights – Pantyhose Clothing
Waistcoat – Vest Clothing
Trainers – Sneakers Footwear
Braces – Suspenders Clothing
Dinner Jacket – Tuxedo Clothing
Polo neck (sweater) – Turtleneck Clothing
Wellington Boots (Wellies) – Galoshes Footwear

August 14
Let’s go back to the day we left Yosemite, before I met AJ in San Fransisco. Remember that this is after we had our long hike in the mountains and my wife sprained her ankle and had to use crutches to walk down.

In the morning my wife tentatively tries walking a bit on her ankle and thankfully seems ok after all that rest, and because she managed to keep her weight off it during the rest of trek with the help of the crutches. She’ll be able to rest it even more in the car, and take it easy for the whole day as we won’t do much walking.

We drive out of Yosemite. It’s a bit of a pity to be leaving all these huge rock formations like El Capitan and the Half Dome. We’ve got to know them quite well, and it’s always an exciting surprise to see them through the gaps in the trees. They’re like the big celebrities in this park and whenever you see them they dazzle you with their charisma and charm. As we’re driving out of the valley we stop a few times to just stare up at them for a while, particularly El Capitan, which I think is one of the biggest vertical rock faces in the world. Rock climbers enjoy climbing it, but it can take 4-5 days to go up the whole thing. The climbers actually sleep on ledges on the rock face, or they set up beds which hang from hooks in the rock face. Imagine sleeping on a tiny camping bed, hanging from the cliff, with thousands of feet of air below you. I’d never be able to sleep in those conditions! But it must be an incredibly thrilling way to enjoy the place.

We’re going to miss these mountains and rock formations, but it’s time to drive to our next stop – a place we’re looking forward to very much. San Francisco.

As I outlined in the second part of this series when I talked about California’s history, SF was originally a Spanish settlement for missionaries, but then when gold was discovered at almost exactly the same time that California became part of the United States, the city grew really fast to be a gold rush town, with thousands and thousands of people moving into the area, including many Americans, but also Europeans and Asians. That multicultural mix is still evident today.

SF is also known for its earthquakes. There was a big one in 1906 that destroyed large parts of the city, but it rose again, like a phoenix from the ashes. In fact, the flag for San Francisco shows a picture of a rising phoenix to commemorate the city’s recovery. There have been a few big earthquakes here over the years, including another one in 1989. The city is still expecting another really big earthquake to hit at any time, which is a bit of a worrying thought, and one that I suppose the residents of the city don’t think about too much. Does that idea give San Francisco a kind of laid back and open-minded atmosphere? Possibly. I suppose if you know in the back of your mind that everything could be destroyed any minute by a big earthquake, it makes you a bit more philosophical, or it makes you enjoy every moment while it lasts. That feeling does pervade the place a bit. It’s got a peaceful, meditative and bohemian atmosphere which is really refreshing.

San Francisco is also known for being the focal point of the beatnik and hippie movements of the 1960s. Haight Ashbury in particular is the district that was associated with those movements. More on that later.

Long drive to SF.
First views, Bay Bridge.
Obligatory Wholefoods stop.
Our hotel and the area. Polk Street. Home for the next few days.
We’re staying near a place called “Nob Hill”. In fact our area is known as “tender nob”, which I found particularly funny, because ‘tender’ means soft, and a ‘nob’, well, it’s a bit rude – it’s a willy, a penis… So…

Being in SF was like being back to civilisation, and a really great kind of civilisation. A really bohemian and cool atmosphere, with interesting places, loads of originality, lots of good little shops, cafes and bars with long lists of local beers, coffees, wines and ciders. We pretty instantly fall in love with the whole Russian Hill/Polk Street area. We walk up the street looking for places to have dinner and breakfast the next day.

Bookshops, bars, cafes, the boardgames shop (Sherlock Holmes boardgame) and pizza & beer. Settle in nicely.

August 15
Next day, explore. Russian Hill, Pacific Heights. Those hilly streets and amazing views!

Have breakfast in a place called “Toast” which seems to me like the most American breakfast place ever, and I order a big American breakfast plate loaded with pancakes and fruit, with butter and maple syrup. It’s absolutely delicious, but later that day I feel like my blood-sugar levels are such a mess that I really shouldn’t eat more food like that and decide to try to be more healthy.
Again, I’m reminded of films which are set here, including Dirty Harry and Bullitt.
Beautiful multicolour houses and quirky doorways. Very expensive neighbourhood.
We come across a tribute to Robin Williams outside a house where they filmed Mrs Doubtfire. It’s exactly one year since he died. We hang around there, thinking about Robin Williams.

Who Was Robin Williams, and What Happened to Him?
Let me give you a brief history of the life and death of this great comedian.
Trained at Juilliard School.
Had a particular gift for improvisational comedy.
Became famous in Mork & Mindy.
Also did stand-up.
Had big problems with alcohol and substance addictions, particularly cocaine.
He managed to quit when his first child was born. Lived as a recovering alcoholic.
Went on to do some very popular movies, in both comic and straight roles.
Won an oscar for his role as a psychiatrist in Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s film Good Will Hunting.
Apparently he was a very sweet, very generous and warm guy, but he was affected by bouts of depression.
As a performer I find him incredibly versatile and animated. His comedy seems almost to be compulsive in its nature. He’s a whirlwind when in front of an audience, full of impressions, different voices and many bizarre tangents which are often dialogues between different characters, all played by him at break-neck speed.
In interviews he seemed to occupy two modes – the first was the extrovert comedian, the other was the sweet and sincere actor. He seemed a bit bipolar. I guess part of his talent was that wildly free sense of instant creativity, but it might have been quite difficult for him to deal with on his own.
He fell off the wagon (began drinking again) in 2006 while filming in Alaska. It’s kind of understandable that he turned to alcohol again considering the circumstances – I mean, he was in Alaska. (just kidding)
He went into Rehab but I think the return to alcohol was a symptom of a difficult time in his life.
He later had heart surgery which involved part of his heart being replaced, and apparently this affected him quite badly as his physical and mental condition seemed to get worse and apparently from that time forwards he suffered from depression, anxiety and paranoia. He was wrongly diagnosed with Parkinson’s too, and given medication and treatment that didn’t help the real condition that he was experiencing, which is called Lewy Body Dementia, a degenerative condition in which nerves cells in the brain are blocked by protein clumps (bodies) that interfere with function. Apparently the Parkinson’s medication made the Lewy Body Dementia worse and may have exacerbated his low state of mind, pushing him to suicide.
He killed himself almost exactly a year ago to the day that we found ourselves at the shrine to his memory on this San Francisco street.

I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad about this because I really enjoyed Robin William’s comedy, but also it’s just such a pity that he had to go through such misery, and that anyone has to go through any kind of misery caused by physical and mental conditions. I hope with more research and the right kinds of treatment, this sort of thing can be prevented in the future.

Anyway, I just wanted to mention Robin Williams there, as a sort of tribute.

SF continued…
Korean Barbecue

End of Part 6 (Oh my goodness, will I ever finish this series!?) Part 7 coming soon…

288. California Road Trip (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More in part 2 soon…

227. Sausages, Barcodes & Apple Watches

This is one of those episodes in which I set myself a 30 minute challenge. Can I talk for 30 minutes without pausing or repeating myself, and with absolutely nothing prepared in advance? Listen to the episode to find out. [Download]

Small Donate ButtonI’ve done this kind of episode before, for example on the Ice Cream Episode, in which I rambled on about whatever came into my head until eventually I ended up talking about how I wish everyone in the world could stop fighting and share some ice-cream instead (you may say I’m a dreamer – but I’m not the only one). That’s why I called it The Ice-Cream Episode.

This one is called “Sausages, Barcodes & Apple Watches” and you don’t have to be a genius to work out what came into my head while recording this episode. As well as these subjects I also touched upon the topics of: Evil cheese, a religion based on the hatred of pizza, and more…

Let me remind you again that this whole episode was recorded in a completely unplanned way, and my only conditions were that I had to just keep going without pausing, even when I had no idea what to say next, and that I wasn’t allowed to repeat myself at all. I came really close to failing this (admittedly pointless) task. In fact, maybe I did fail it. Ultimately, you the listener can decide if I failed or passed my mission.

The Missing Two Minutes of This Episode
About 2 minutes of this episode have been edited out because some members of my audience found the content to be offensive. Usually I don’t believe my episodes should be edited for causing offence, but in this case I’ve made an exception. If you’re wondering what I said, basically I expressed some scepticism regarding the fact that pork is banned in some religions. The last thing I want is to attract scorn from any religious groups. I don’t want to offend, and I don’t want to deal with the repercussions. So, in this instance I opted to edit out those 2 minutes.

What do you think? Did I fail this task? Does it really matter anyway?
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