Continuing the text adventure game about the zombie apocalypse from episode 706, with text on the screen so you can read with me while you listen. Video version available. Play the game with me – follow the links below. [Part 2 of 2] Listen to part 1 first!
Listen to another natural conversation with Kate Billington about some listener comments, Chinese New Year, English festivals & food in February, sports day traditions, more cake recipes, various bits of vocabulary and more.
Hello there, welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. I hope you’re doing well today.
You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay since I published the last episode. It’s been about two weeks, although I have published a couple of premium episodes in that period. So the premium listeners have had something to listen to.
But there’s been a bit of a delay with the free episodes.
You might also notice that no transcript is available for this episode, including no text video on YouTube (although automatic subtitles might still be available).
The reason for this is that I’ve been working with some new software that allows me to edit both the audio and transcription at the same time, which is much more efficient than editing the audio first, then working on the transcript afterwards. This is the software that I’ve been using to make the recent text videos and transcripts.
In theory, this new software is brilliant and should revolutionise the way I work on my episodes – allowing me to produce the transcripts, text videos, and audio all at the same time. This is brilliant in theory, but in practice things are a bit different, and the reason why this episode has been delayed is because for two weeks the software has not been helping me. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I will say that I’ve been pulling my hair out in frustration, banging my head on the table (sometimes literally) and generally raising a fist to the sky while attempting to persuade this software to do what it’s supposed to do.
Eventually, I just gave up on it, because it was taking far too long and it was stressing me out too much.
So – apologies for the lack of text video and transcript this time. I’ll try again with the next episode. I always want to provide you with full and accurate transcriptions – I think they’re a great addition to the podcast, but let’s just say that transcripts and text videos are a work in progress. They might not be available every time for every episode, but I am working on a cost-effective and time-efficient way to produce them for you. It’s a work in progress.
Again, if you’re watching on youTube, try turning on the automatic subtitles – they are usually quite accurate, although they struggle a bit when I’m with a guest, like I am in this episode.
Also, there are lots of vocabulary notes and also transcriptions for the intro and ending parts of this episode on my website, so have a look at that. Just check the archive for episode 705.
Alternatively, you can just forget about transcripts and reading and just focus on your listening skills. It’s a good idea to practise listening to the spoken word without relying on the written word too much, even when it’s a challenge.
So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.
You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast. For more information, visit teacherluke.co.uk
Hello listeners, how are you doing today? In this episode Kate Billington is back on the podcast. You might remember her from episode 689 which was called something like comedy, speaking Chinese and baking cakes, aka “The Icing on the Cake” with Kate Billington.
Just to give you a reminder: I know Kate because we work together, teaching English at the British Council. She is also a stand-up comedian like me. She’s from England. She is fluent in French and Chinese. She is a professionally-qualified baker, who loves making cakes and pastries, which is great for those of us who like eating cakes and pastries because she often brings some when she visits, and this time was no exception – she brought cake with her again, which was very generous. Thanks Kate for the cake.
There’s no specific topic for this episode. Instead, the plan was to just be natural and see where the conversation went, and it did go in various directions. Like last time, we spoke pretty quickly with little jokes and things, so please be ready for an advanced level episode today.
The first 15 minutes in particular might be a bit confusing as we move from topic to topic, but I will help you with that in a moment.
After the first 15 minutes we do settle down and focus on certain specific things, including some comments from listeners, some details about Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year as it is also known, which leads us to talk about some English traditions, especially ones that happen around this time of year, and also some funny activities that you might see at a school sports day in England, and more quirky features of English life. There are also plenty of other bits and pieces as we move through the episode. I’ll let you discover it all as you listen.
Now, I really want to help you follow this conversation, especially the first 15 minutes, so here are some phrases you’ll hear and some questions to help you prepare yourself.
Think about these questions and phrases and then as you listen you can see how they relate to the things we say. This can make a big difference to your ability to pick up English from this conversation, so forgive me for not jumping straight into our chat right away. I’ll be as concise as possible so this will just take a couple of minutes.
Questions & Some Vocabulary for the first 15 minutes(ish) of this conversation
I will give full answers to these questions at the end of the conversation.
What is tinnitus?
Why do I think I might have tinnitus?
Sometimes I wonder if I have tinnitus and if it was making me shout while I was talking to Kate before we started recording, but do I have tinnitus, or was I shouting for another reason?
My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes.
What is a maelstrom?
We know the word violent, like a violent film or a violent attack but can the word “violent” refer to non-physical things in English, for example the way that you speak to someone?
I tell a little anecdote about a student who I once encountered when I worked at university in Paris. What did the student want? What did I do? How did he use the word “violent”? (he was speaking French by the way)
Friendship and getting older (this all sounds so random, but these things are connected in the conversation)
Think about making friends. Is it harder to make friends as you get older?
Why would this be the case?
Cake & Eating Cake
What kind of cake did Kate bring this time?
What’s the recipe for that cake? The ingredients and the way to make it.
What are some of the different meanings of the word “grooming”?
Why can the word “grooming” be a dodgy word?
Why did I use it?
Maybe Kate somehow implanted the word in my head, like the hypnotist Derren Brown.
Derren Brown (hypnotist)
How does Derren Brown implant words and images into people’s heads, as part of his magic shows?
That’s it for the questions.
As I said, I will clarify those things, and answer the questions at the other end of this conversation.
Right, so let’s now jump into this conversation with Kate Billington.
OK, here we go!
Links & Comments
Derren Brown (apparently) using subliminal suggestions in his TV show
Some Listener Comments from Episode 689
Kate’s Chinese is good enough for me to understand so I think she should believe in her competence for Chinese speaking.
However, there is a little mistake. 恭喜发财（gōng xǐ fā cái）means “may you be happy and prosperous” instead of “happy new year”. If Kate wants to say “Happy new year”, the right one is “新年快乐”（xīn nián kuài lè）.
By the way, I am greedy for a jar of cookies when I listened this episode before bedtime hahaha. 😋😋😋
Hi Luke and Kate, I think Kate’s Chinese is already good enough (I could completely understand. By the way, the translation of librarian in Chinese does make sense and we also say it that way (The library person : ) ). If you really want a more specific way to call them, I would prefer Tú Shū Guân Lî Yuán (Which is the Chinese Pinyin of 图书管理员, But the label on first “a” and “i” should be horizontally symmetric.
Anyway, it is a really interesting episode talking about cake and Kate’s experience. The joke is the icing on the cake!
If this episode was a cake, it would be a “Puncake” :)
There you go luke !
Ps : Thanks to both of you for the episode, kate was indeed a great guest, and for us listeners, we’ve been able to train our listening skills thanks to Kate’s super fast, natural speaking pace and posh-ish accent ;)
Also, thanks luke for reiterating at your own pace what kate said when you were talking about the first lines and what the senior manager had once said to her : “Oh yeah there’s lot of pregnant people here, if you don’t get pregnant in your first year, we send someone from customer services to do it.”
Wow. What a brilliant guest, she’s so clever and fun and also genuinely friendly without it being insincere.
Kate, if you’re reading this, you’re very inspiring, thank you for being.
Thanks again to Kate for appearing in this episode. She is on Instagram – @cake_by_cake_paris And that’s where you can see lots of pictures of the cakes she has made, if you want to really savour them with your eyes at least.
Answer the questions from earlier (see notes in the intro) 👆👆
Some other vocabulary to clarify
To flatter someone / flattery
This is usually used in a negative way – as Kate said, saying nice things because you want something from someone.
“Oh Kate your cakes are so delicious and tasty. It would be wonderful if you could bring some more tomorrow” and Kate might say “Oh such flattery will get you nowhere” – meaning, your attempt to say such nice things will not persuade me to make more cake for you” (although knowing Kate, she would probably bring cake anyway”.
Or “Oh, you’re just trying to flatter me now.”)
Flattering (adjective) is a more positive word, which we use like this:
“Oh thank you. That’s very flattering.”
Or “Those jeans are very flattering.” meaning – they give you a good figure.
Savour / savoury
To savour your food = to take time to really enjoy the flavour. I should have savoured the cake that Kate made for me.
Savoury food = food which is not sweet, like a savoury pancake (which could have cheese and ham on it) rather than a sweet pancake (which would have sugar, chocolate etc on it)
How are you doing today? I hope you are feeling fine. Are you feeling festive? Is it even possible to feel festive this year? Hopefully you’re finding a way to keep your spirits up as we speed towards Christmas.
I’m attempting to get the conditions just right here. I’m wearing a warm sweater, a nice thick pair of socks and I’ve got a log fire going on here (I haven’t really – it’s just a video loop of a log fire – I couldn’t have a real fire going, it’s far too warm for that, I’ve got the windows open! But let’s imagine I’m in front of a lovely cosy warm log fire and that it’s all snowy and freezing outside and I’ve just taken some time out from wrapping presents and drinking brandy to do this recording for you.)
I’m in Paris at the moment. I’m not making the usual trip with my wife and daughter back to England to see my parents and brother this year, because of obvious reasons. It’s a Parisian Christmas this year, which is also very nice. “Christmas in Paris is such a wonderful thing, red wine and roses, are perfect for staying in” – you could imagine some crooner singing that.
2020 is nearly at an end. It’s been a weird year hasn’t it!?
In this Christmas episode I’m going to go through 11 Christmas themed jokes that might put a smile on your face. These jokes make fun of the year that we’ve just had to deal with – 2020.
I’m going to tell you 11 jokes, then explain them of course one by one, and then I’ll have a bit of a ramble about podcast statistics, upcoming episodes and my best wishes for Christmas.
11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020
What is a Christmas cracker? What is a Christmas cracker joke?
I probably explain this every Christmas time, but let me cover it again briefly. The Christmas cracker joke is a hallmark of a normal Christmas at home with the family. Everyone’s gathered around the table for a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings and of course there are Christmas crackers decorating the table, one placed in front of each chair.
A cracker is like a tube which is pinched at both ends, and inside the tube there’s a paper party hat, a toy or puzzle or tool and a joke. The jokes are usually pretty awful things like “What does Santa have for breakfast? Snowflakes”. That kind of thing.
But this year I have trawled the internet for some alternative jokes that have some topical elements focusing on things like the British government, the coronavirus and things like that.
These jokes are being shared all over the internet on a lot of newspaper websites at the moment. They’re trending at the moment, especially the one about Dominic Cummings.
It would be good if Christmas crackers contained more topical jokes like these each year, instead of things like “How does Santa keep track of all the fireplaces he’s visited? He keeps a logbook.”
So I’ll read through the jokes, then I’ll explain them one by one. Let’s see how many of these you can get. It might also be a way to review some of the themes which have dominated our lives this year, certainly in the UK.
After I’ve been through the jokes I’m going to have a bit of a ramble again, and will do a little review of the year in podcasting, and wish you all a merry Christmas again.
By the way, this is the official Christmas episode. Happy Christmas everyone! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I’ll say simply “Seasons greetings to one and all!” Also, happy new year and good riddance to 2020.
There will be one other episode arriving after this one – that’s an episode with Paul and a hint of Amber too. I’ll release that during the holidays. Then I might take a bit of a break during the holiday, but I’ll be working on premium stuff to be uploaded when possible, and I’ll probably be doing a few little interviews, maybe a conversation or two with James, Dad, Mum. Those will probably be published in the new year, but we will see.
In any case, let’s now go through this list of dodgy jokes for Christmas 2020 and then I’ll ramble on to you a bit more.
11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020
Let’s see how many of these you get. They’re either word jokes or cultural references to things that have happened this year. Also, there are bound to be words and phrases to learn here, and I will be going through all that properly during this episode.
What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song? Driving Home for Christmas
Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas Eve? They have herd immunity
Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join their work conference call? Because there was no Zoom at the inn
Why can’t Boris Johnson make his Christmas cake until the last minute? He doesn’t know how many tiers it should have
How is the pandemic like my stomach after Christmas? It’ll take ages to flatten the curve
How can you get out of talking to your boss at this year’s staff Christmas party? Just put him on mute
How is Christmas exactly like your job? You do all the work and some fat guy in a suit gets all the credit.
Why is Parliament like ancient Bethlehem? It takes a miracle to find three wise men there.
Christmas dinner is a lot like Brexit. Half the family were told they needed to make room for Turkey, so opted to leave Brussels.
Why doesn’t Jeremy Corbyn ever visit Santa? Because he struggles in the poles.
Why was the snowman looking through the carrots? He was picking his nose.
A Year in Podcasting
Top 20 episodes this year
I released about 100 episodes this year, including all the premium content and other bits and pieces I’ve created and uploaded this year. That’s got to be the most productive year ever for LEP.
I guess since COVID-19 came along I’ve spent a lot of time indoors this year. Not much travelling and as a result I was very productive and you were also very attentive, listening more this year than in previous years.
In 2020 the podcast got over 13 million downloads (13,663,983 to be exact – at the time of counting – 18 December 2020), which is awesome and I think it’s the biggest year so far.
Here are the top 20 episodes from 2020
676. David Crystal: Let’s Talk – How English Conversation Works
660. Using TV Series & Films to Improve Your English
661. An Englishman in Los Angeles (with Oli)
682. Key Features of English Accents, Explained
655. Coping with Isolation / Describing Feelings and Emotions – Vocabulary & Experiences
663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul
637. 5 Quintessentially English Things (that you might not know about) with James
640. IELTS Speaking Success with Keith O’Hare
673. Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks (with James)
669. How to Learn English
Here are the top countries for 2020
It’s the usual list to be honest!
19 Hong Kong
18 Saudi Arabia
7 United States
6 United Kingdom
Top Podcasting Platforms
How are you listening?
Apple Podcasts App
Chrome – which must be Google Podcasts I expect, or maybe web browsers.
The LEP App
Paul’s episode (with a hint of Amber)
Maybe something with James in which we ramble about a load of nonsense.
Something about The Mandalorian (perhaps with James, perhaps with someone else) but I don’t know all the comic book backstories and even the animated series like Star Wars rebels.
Some kind of Rick Thompson report, but we might be waiting until Brexit day, when the transition period ends. Boris Johnson is attempting to create a deal but there’s no way that deal would be better than just being in the EU itself, and anyway he probably won’t even get a deal at this rate. Will there be huge disruption at the borders, lack of stock in the shops and other repercussions?
Gill’s book club – 1,2,3,4 by Craig Brown – the book about the Beatles. McCartney III is out now by the way.
I keep wanting to do something about the Beatles but the topic is so huge that it’s hard to cover it all. Perhaps what I can do is a rambling story of the Beatles episode or series which tells the story, and it is an epic story with many elements to it. It’s hard to tell it because there are 4 people involved and more, but I might have a go at it. I could just try and do it all from memory. Probably be a 10 part series or something like that!
WISBOLEP conversations. These will be dotted out over the next few months I think.
More conversations with guests.
I have something in the pipeline about legal English, which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds as we look at various aspects of the law and legal English, including stories of landmark cases involving dead snails and jaffa cakes. It should be a bit of an eye opening episode if you’re unfamiliar with legal English, but also just the thing you want if the world of law is your thing.
But now I will bid ye farewell for the time being.
When the Paul episode drops it probably won’t have a long intro or anything. It’ll go straight into the conversation. When I talk to you again, I’m not sure but it shouldn’t be too long before new episodes start arriving again.
So, merry Christmas one and all, seasons greetings and a happy new year to you and yours. Stay safe, be excellent to each other and I will speak to you again next time.
This episode of Luke’s English Podcast is sponsored by Luke’s English Podcast Premium. Premium LEPlanders, did you know that in the LEP App, as well as the category for premium audio episodes, there’s a category called Pronunciation Videos? Did you know that? There are currently 13 pronunciation videos in there with drills for you to repeat after me with annotations on the screen, plus a new video which I created and uploaded just the other day – a set of pronunciation drills for present perfect simple and continuous. I just thought I would let you know. I’m also working on a new premium audio series which is coming soon, so keep checking the premium category in your LEP App and also on my website. If you’d like to become a premium listener, then go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
Hello listeners, how are you today? I hope you’re basically doing alright.
Sometimes I get messages from people who say things like this:
“Luke, when you talk on the podcast, are you talking at your normal speed, because I can understand everything you say” and “Can you speak at your normal speaking speed on the podcast please? Because we want to hear natural, fast speech – like the way native speakers usually speak.”
OK then. Actually, I think I do speak at my normal speed on this podcast more or less, most of the time, but as I’ve said before it’s probably easier for you to understand me when I’m talking on my own than when I’m talking to a guest. My conversations with guests tend to speed up. As you may have noticed.
But if you are one of those listeners who is looking for English listening at a fast, natural speed, then this kind of episode (that’s this one, that you’re listening to right now) is for you, because the conversation I’m presenting this time goes at a really rapid pace.
My guest and I got quite carried away during this conversation, which does happen when I speak to guests. We didn’t see the time passing and we covered a lot of different little topics with some bits of humour thrown in and we weren’t simplifying our English throughout. It’s just like when you’re talking to your friends in your native language I expect.
Basically, listeners – are you up for another English listening challenge? If the answer is “yes” then, great. Here you are. Here is this episode.
But it might be difficult, so brace yourself. It depends on your level of English of course. Maybe you’ll have no problem understanding this at all. But I think for some people, it might be a challenge.
Nevertheless, I’m not going to explain all the main points you are going to hear in advance, like I do sometimes at the start of episodes – that kind of explaining can be very helpful, but I’m not doing it this time, mainly because I want to keep the episode length under control – I don’t want it to end up being tooooo long. In fact, I’m going to stop this introduction in a moment and just let you listen to the conversation in full without loads of support from me. You’ll be alright. You’ll be fine.
My guest this time is Kate Billington, who you haven’t heard on this podcast before – so another new voice for you to get to know.
Kate does a lot of different things – she speaks multiple languages. British English is her mother tongue but she also speaks Chinese, French, Spanish too I believe. She is an English teacher like me. She makes cakes at a professional level (unlike me – I’m not great at making cakes but I’m very good at eating them) But Kate is a pro. I mean she is a professionally-qualified cake maker. She has a particular set of skills as you will hear – and watch out for some descriptions of some classic British cake recipes. Kate is a stand-up comedian (yes, another one), and she is interested in lots of other things too, as you will hear.
Kate and I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you do too and that you just get really involved in listening to us and that you don’t see the time passing. If you do lose track of what we’re talking about at any point, which is quite possible, maybe use your podcasting app to skip back a bit and listen again.
If it is difficult, all I can do now is just encourage you to complete the episode from start to finish, even if you don’t get 100% of what we’re saying. It’s important when learning a language to persevere. It’s worth it. Anyway, if you simply enjoy the atmosphere and the things we say, hopefully that will make things much more pleasant for you.
Remember you don’t have to listen to the whole thing in one go. If you need to stop at any point, your podcast app will remember where you were and you can just carry on again later, which is one of the great things about podcasts.
The icing on the cake
Juuuust before we start, I feel I should explain one idiom in English which comes up near the beginning. “The icing on the cake”
I was thinking of calling this episode “The Icing on the Cake with Kate Billingon” but then I thought “no, people don’t know what that means”. But I want to explain it anyway because it does come up and you’re here to learn English, right?
If you say that something is “the icing on the cake” it means that it is something extra that is added to an already good situation, which makes it even better.
You have a situation which is already good, and then you add a little extra something to make that situation even better.
“The episode was good – but that joke that Kate told at the end was the icing on the cake”.
This is an idiom in English of course. It’s not only used to refer to cakes.
Icing is a sugary frosting which is added as a thin layer on top of a cake. So, the icing on top of a cake is an extra little layer of yummy sweet stuff which is added, making it even better. A cake is already amazing, right? Well, adding icing on top makes it even more amazing.
For exmaple: “It was incredible seeing Neil Young doing a concert in Hyde Park but Paul McCartney arriving on stage at the end of the show was the icing on the cake.”
This idiom comes up at the start. Watch out for it.
OK, I’m going to stop this introduction now. So let’s meet Kate Billington for the first time on Luke’s English Podcast, and here we go…
So, that was Kate Billington in an epically long conversation. Thanks again to Kate.
Hello you! You made it until the end. Nice one. How was that for you? I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
If this episode was a cake, what kind of cake would it be?
Maybe a long fruit cake – rich, quite heavy, fruity, made in the run up to Christmas, very British and best enjoyed with copious amounts of brandy.
Or maybe you found it more like a Victoria sponge cake – light, fluffy, sweet and moreish.
Or perhaps a battenburg cake – it looks like one solid whole, but when you get into it you realise that it’s made up of different sections.
Anyway, thank you for listening all the way up to this point.
Let us know any thoughts or reactions you have by writing something in the comment section on the website.
How was this episode for you?
Did you learn anything from it?
Do you have any specific questions about vocab that came up?
Do you have any thoughts that you’d like to share?
Do you have any thoughts in your head, generally? (I hope so)
Check out the page for this episode on my website where you will see things like transcriptions for my introduction and this ending bit, plus pictures of most of the cake types and pastry types that we talked about → Victoria sponge, fruit cake, Battenberg cake (aka window cake) plus some lovely French things like croissants, pain au chocolate and more.
Kate Billington on Instagram
Check out Kate’s Instagram to see lots of lovely pictures of lovely delicious cakes that she has made – yum yum yum and indeed, yum.
Also you can check out Comedy Croissant on Instagram & Facebook, especially if you are in the Paris area and you’d like to come to one of the shows when they eventually come back. And as I record this ending bit France is again under strict lockdown measures, which means the comedy shows are not happening for the foreseeable future, but when they’re back, which they will be one day, you’ll know about it if you follow Comedy Croissant on Facebook.
LEP App users – There is a little outtake in the app (extra audio – just in case you didn’t get enough from this episode) – tap the gift icon while listening to the episode and you’ll hear a couple of bonus minutes of Kate and me talking about some blue bookends that I have in my pod-room. Bookends are things you put on the end of shelves to stop the books falling off. Usually they are rectangular in shape, but also L shaped – because part of the bookend has to go under the books. My blue bookends, which you might have seen in my videos, look like the Tardis from the TV show Doctor Who. The Tardis looks like a blue telephone box. Doctor Who fans will know. If you’d like to hear us talking about my Tardis-shaped bookends and whether I am a proper Whovian (Doctor Who fan) or not, then find the gift icon for this episode in the LEP app and tap it!
Posh, or not posh? Gap yah, etc…
Another thing is, if you are wondering about posh people – how to know if someone is posh, what a posh accent sounds like, and that whole “Gap Yah” thing, then go to the episode archive and find the “Posh or not posh” episodes – 581, 582 and 584. They should explain everything relating to poshness and how posh people speak.
Thank you again to Kate for this episode. Thanks Kate.
Dear listener, I will speak to you again soon on the podcast in either a free episode or a premium one (I’m working on more content for you), and yes the next part of the WISBOLEP competition is on it’s way. I am working on that too.
Thank you for choosing to listen to my podcast.
If you are feeling up for it you could leave a nice review for LEP on iTunes – it helps the podcast appear in those recommended lists and things. Like and subscribe and leave a comment if you’re listening on YouTube. Consider donating to support the podcast by clicking a donate button on my website. Download the Luke’s English Podcast app from the app store and consider becoming a premium lepster by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
And finally, please remember to be excellent to each other, stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive.
A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!
This podcast is made possible thanks to donations from lovely listeners (click a yellow PayPal button on the website if you’re feeling generous) and also the premium subscription, which costs, per month, slightly less than a pack of 80 Yorkshire Gold Teabags from Sainsbury’s. So if you would like to make sure I never run out of tea, then consider signing up.
There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.
Shall we start the episode? OK.
Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)
I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.
The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.
This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.
Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.
Explaining this episode’s title
The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.
The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!
It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.
What is “a tangent”? Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.
In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.
It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.
“To go off on a tangent”
There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.
I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.
Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.
My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.
What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.
So you’ll have to focus.
Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.
So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.
The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)
We talk about
Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state”
If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.
Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.
Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.
Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.
Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)
Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).
How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.
I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?
I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).
I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many. Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).
Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?
I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.
In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.
I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.
Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.
I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…
Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.
Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.
Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)
OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.
I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.
Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…
Marie Connolly is an Australian stand-up comedian and TEFL teacher who has written a book of short stories about times when men (from various countries) have flirted with her. In this episode Marie shares some of those stories, tells us about English men vs French men vs Australian men and much more.
Transcripts & Vocabulary Notes for this episode (promos, introduction, ending)⤵
LEP Premium Promo
Before we start – a quick mention about LEP Premium. Premium LEPsters, I just want to let you know that P24 is now finished and uploaded. It is an epic series – homophones, jokes, building your vocabulary (which is so important) and also working on your pronunciation. I’ve also uploaded P25 which contains pronunciation drills for the previous free episode (LEP682) which was all about English accents. I said I’d do a pronunciation episode for that, and I’ve done it. You can practise saying the sentences with my normal accent, and also with several regional accents too. The aim being to strengthen both your listening skills and your speaking skills.
Second thing – the WISBOLEP competition deadline is 15 October. Is that clear? Originally I said 31 October but the date has changed! The deadline is now the 15 October 2020. If you don’t know what the competition is, check out episode 681.
But this is episode 683, and I’m keen to get started, so let’s go…
Hello and welcome back to LEP. It’s new episode time again!
This is an episode with a guest. So you’re going to be listening to another authentic conversation at natural speed in English which can be difficult to follow but is good training for your English.
Before going any further, let me explain the title of this episode. “683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly”
Feelgood is an adjective (one word) which we use to describe anything that makes you feel good! For example we can say a feelgood film, feelgood food and or feelgood stories, which would be stories that will make you feel good.
Feelgood stories of flirtingFlirting means interacting with someone in a way that shows that you fancy them, find them attractive, and are probably interested in perhaps getting ‘romantically involved’ with them, let’s say. Synonyms include ‘chatting someone up’ , ‘hitting on someone’ or perhaps ‘trying to pick someone up’. A person can be a flirt, and the adjective is flirtatious.
Feelgood stories of flirting with Marie Connolly
And Marie Connolly is my guest in this episode.
Marie is a stand-up comedian, a ski-instructor, an English teacher and writer. Her latest book is full of short stories about flirting with the opposite sex.
Before we meet Marie, let me give you some context to help you understand this conversation, which can ultimately help you learn more English from it.
Marie is from Australia but she has lived in a few different countries. It’s a bit of a stereotype that Aussies like to travel away from Australia (this is called Going on Walkabout), but in this case it’s true. Marie has spent time in various places including Brisbane, Syndey, London, Liverpool, The French Alps and now Paris.
Marie was born in Australia but her dad was from Liverpool and her mum was from El Savlador in central America, which is quite an interesting combination.
For those of you who are interested in accents and pronunciation – Marie has a slight Australian accent because that’s where she grew up. It’s not super strong, but you should be able to notice it a bit.
Here are the main things you’re going to hear us talking about:
As you might expect we chat a bit about stand-up comedy, what it’s like dealing with tough moments on stage and reasons why it can be hard to do stand-up in front of audiences of non-native speakers.
I’m afraid to say that the infamous Russian Joke story makes yet another appearance, which is my fault because as you’ll hear, I’m the one who brings it up. I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m still talking about the Russian Joke, and some of you are now saying “Wait, what’s the Russian Joke?” Long-term listeners will know all about this. Clearly I have deep mental scars from this experience which still haven’t healed. Either that or I secretly love telling this story.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep listening because I am going to tell the story once more. Yes, I know.
Marie gives some thoughts on Liverpool where some of her cousins live, and her favourite English shops for buying clothes, which leads to some chat about Marks & Spencer – the quintessentially English clothing and food shop, which also has branches in Paris where you can buy proper tea. (not property, no – they don’t sell flats and houses, no I mean “proper tea” good quality tea)
….I’m now pausing for laughter…
Marie tells us about her time living and partying hard in London, and then her decision to move to France to work as a ski instructor at a ski resort in the Alps, while making trips to Paris to perform comedy gigs.
You’ll hear some details of Marie’s comedy shows in English and French in Paris.
At the moment she is doing her own one-woman show in English called “Sydney, London, Paris, Darling”. You can see it if you’re in town, COVID permitting of course. At the moment, in France, Theatres are still allowed to open and Marie’s show is in a theatre so it’s still on. If you’re in town why not come and check it out? She is very funny and has some great stories to share.
Then we move on to talk about the latest book that Marie has written, called “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. It contains 40 short stories. This is yet another book recommendation on the podcast. I think it could be a really good thing to read, if this is your cup of tea. Short stories are perfect for learners of English, because they’re short – do I need to say more?
It’s chick-lit, which means books primarily for women that usually include romantic themes.
The stories in Marie’s book are all cute anecdotes about times when men have flirted with her, hit on her, or chatted her up. There’s no explicit sexual stuff in Marie’s book. As Marie says it’s just innocent fun. So it’s less “40 Shades of Grey” and more “40 Shades of Hey, How are you doing?”
— I’m now pausing for more laughter and applause, thank you —
The rest of the episode is mainly Marie sharing some of her stories of flirty moments with men who she has encountered.
She also talks a bit about how French men are different to Australian or English men.
What do you think the differences might be? What do you think Marie is going to say about the way a French man will approach her, compared to an English or Australian man?
Hmmm, have I piqued your interest? I hope so. Listen on to find out the details.
Vocab hunters – Here is some language which you can simply notice as you listen. When you hear these things, take a mental note.
I know you are keen to get to the conversation, but bear with me. This will be useful for your English, and that’s what this is all about at the end of the day (and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day, etc) Trust me, I am a professional.
I’m not explaining this all now, I’m just saying it so you can notice it yourself when it comes up naturally. If you don’t understand these phrases, don’t worry. I will explain it later in the episode. But you might be able to work it out from context as you listen.
*There is some swearing*
To backtrack – “You can’t backtrack” [this one comes up twice]
To stick in someone’s craw – “It stuck in my craw. It bothered me.”
To be over it – “Maybe I’m not over it”
Deep scars – “Maybe there are deep scars”
To wilt – “I wilted in front of them”
To be sick to your stomach – “I was sick to my stomach”
To be swallowed up – “Can I please be swallowed up?”
A halterneck top (an item of women’s clothing that is quite revealing) “I was wearing a halterneck top”
To snuggle under the duvet – “If I could have, I would have snuggled under the duvet and just stayed in bed for a year.”
______ by name, ______ by nature – “Alex Love, our mutual friend; lovely by name and lovely by nature.”
A coping strategy – “Every comedian has their own coping strategy”
To rectify – “Get back on stage as soon as possible and rectify”
Dainty / pastries – “I’m not used to French dainty pastries, I prefer the big fat Australian ones”
To pay through the nose – “I will pay through the nose. I just want the best tea I can get.”
A hub / antipodeans – “It was a hub for antipodeans”
To be up shit creek (without a paddle) – “Because of Brexit I’m up shit creek.”
A snapshot of something – “It’s a snapshot of life in France”
To be hit on / to be picked up / to be complimented – “40 times I’ve been hit on, picked up or complimented by men”
Abs – “One was very white but he had super-fit abs”
White vs Pale (to describe a person)
A sand castle
To blush – “He would blush and I would feel amazing.”
The contents (of a book) / to pique someone’s interest – “Can I read through the contents to pique people’s interest?”
To mime – “He started swimming with his hands. He was miming and I was laughing.”
A man bun – “He had long hair up in a man bun. I called him Mr Man bun.”
Ok so try to notice those things, maybe try to guess what they mean and I’ll be explaining them on the other side of the conversation.
But mainly, I hope you just enjoy listening to this chat.
Now, get ready because things are going to speed up a bit, as we meet Marie Connolly…
Thank you again to Marie. After finishing the recording, we realised there were other stories we’d forgotten to tell, including the time Jerry Seinfeld turned up at one of our little comedy shows in Paris and performed in front of about 20 people including Marie and me, and how it was just a little bit awkward, but still amazing and quite surreal. Jerry Seinfeld at one of our shows? What are the odds? So Marie will have to come back for another episode in which we can describe that experience for you.
Just a reminder about Marie’s comedy show (if you’re in Paris) and her books (which you can get anywhere in both paperback and Kindle versions).
The One-Woman Comedy Show
“Sydney Paris London Darling” you need to check her Facebook page – Marie Connolly Comedy.
www.facebook.com/marieconnollycomedy/Marie’s books, including “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”
Marie’s page on Amazon where you can find her books. The main one we talked about is “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. She writes under the pseudonym Muddy Frank (read the titles of the books available)
Explaining the Vocabulary
Let’s go through that vocabulary again, from the beginning of the episode.
Did you notice any of the words and phrases I listed before? Did you get a sense of what they mean?
Let me go through them again, and I’m going to clarify them as quickly as possible. I’m not giving these phrases the full LEP Premium treatment (because I like to go into lots of detail in those episodes) I might put them into an upcoming episode of LEP Premium so I can make sure you learn the vocabulary properly and we can do the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills as well. But now, this is the sort of quick version. Let’s call it the 10 peso version.
The vocabulary is already listed above ⤴️
Still not sure about the meanings? Try using www.oxforddictionaries.com to check them out. Other online dictionaries are available.
And that is the end of this episode.
What’s coming up in the future? Who knows – nobody can predict the future, except weather forecasters.
As usual I have more episode ideas than time, but I do have a few interviews lined up, including some more friends you might not have heard on the podcast before, and some regular guests that you’re probably waiting to hear from too [yes episodes with Amber & Paul are in the pipeline, it’s just a bit tricky to find times when we are all free].
Basically – more conversations with guests are coming up as well as the usual episodes on my own on various topics. So, it’s going to be more of what you normally get with LEP!
Right, I will let you go now.
Thank you for listening.
Check the episode page on my website where you’ll find transcripts for 95% of what I’m saying in the introduction and ending parts of this episode, plus other things like a photo of Marie and me (oh Luke, a photo!?) plus the comment section and things like that. I often put other things on the website page for you to check out as well, including little YouTube videos relating to the episode or other bits and pieces.
I look forward to reading your comments on the website.
Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast which is where I am also quite active.
Tweets by EnglishPodcast
Sign up to LEP Premium to access all the other episodes I make, all focused on helping you build your English in various ways. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
Have a good one. Be excellent to each other, and party on in your own sweet way.
Professor David Crystal returns to talk about his latest books, and more. The first book is all about the art of conversation in English, and the second one is a spy thriller inspired by real events. David Crystal is one of the world’s leading linguists and an expert on the English language. He is also a national treasure and it’s a treat to be able to talk to him in this episode. Video version also available on the Luke’s English Podcast YouTube channel.