Kate Billington returns to LEP for the third time, to drink tea, talk about my pod-room, learning the bassoon, exam results, learning Chinese, responding to listener comments and talking about her videos on TikTok.
British Council Mini-English Lesson on For & Since
Previous appearances on LEP
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you are doing fine out there in podcast land.
Kate Billington is back on the podcast today. Of course, you remember her from episodes 689 and 705.
If you heard those episodes I’m sure you will remember Kate and I know that a lot of you out there will be very happy that she is back again and yes, Kate’s return to this podcast is long overdue. She was a very popular guest when she was on the show before. So it’s great to have her back.
Some of you don’t know Kate because you haven’t heard those episodes but there’s no need for me to introduce her fully now in the intro because I kind of do that again during the conversation, except that Kate is an English teacher from England and we work together at the British Council.
People sometimes ask if Kate has her own podcast or YouTube channel or something, because they want to hear more from her.
Well, recently she started making videos for TikTok. We do talk about this during the episode, but that’s not until the end of the conversation, so I just wanted to give you a heads up about that right now at the start.
Kate is part of a team of teachers making content for the British Council’s channel on TikTok. You’ll see that they are making shorter videos (certainly shorter than mine) about things like British English idioms, culture and other entertaining bits and pieces. So, check it out – @BritishCouncilEnglish on TikTok. The link is on the page for this episode on my website.
So, what you are about to hear is another long and rambling conversation with a guest on my podcast. Hopefully you will stay engaged and entertained throughout while practising your English listening in the process.
All you have to do as you listen to this is keep up with the changes and tangents, and enjoy this conversational journey into things like how Kate helped me with the shelves in my pod-room, how Kate doesn’t agree with the way I arrange my books on those shelves, how it feels to be filmed while talking (and yes there is a video version of this on YouTube), we talk about Kate’s academic successes and failures (or maybe I should say “failure” because it seems there’s only been one, and I’m still not sure it counts as a failure), the Chinese classes that Kate has been taking recently, quite a lot of stuff about Korea (hello Korean listeners), our blood types and what they mean, how we both feel about getting older, and how we feel about certain other English teaching video content that you might find on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube. All that, and much more, starting… now.
An unedited conversation with Amber & Paul about toilet habits, Titanic (1997), weird videos on TikTok & YouTube and plenty more. Advanced level listening practice with the POD-PALs. Video version available.
The audio version ☝️ has about 15 minutes of extra rambling by Luke at the end, not included in the video version 👇
Hello, listeners, I hope you’re doing well today. Welcome back to my podcast. This is where you can do plenty of listening in order to improve your English. Because listening is a vital part of the process. You have to listen, listen, listen and generally get used to hearing natural English as it is spoken and my podcast can help you to do that.
In this episode Amber & Paul are back on the podcast. In case you don’t know, Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor are my friends who have been regular guests on this show for many years. They are both stand-up comedians from the UK, living in Paris, like me.
A couple of weeks ago, before I had a haircut, the three of us got together here in my room and had a conversation for this podcast. We didn’t plan the topic in advance. So you’re going to hear a lot of spontaneous natural speaking. We’re not slowing down or trying to use the easy words. This is just how we speak normally when we’re together. As you will notice, I try to explain things or clarify things as we go, in order to help you a bit, but still, it might be difficult, depending on your English level.
If you like you can think of this as a kind of listening test. Can you follow what we’re saying and keep up with all the changes in the conversation?
You’ll see that the episode title is Toilets, Titanic and TikTok which gives you a general idea of what we talk about.
We didn’t have a lot of time, so I just pressed record, and then quite quickly we found ourselves talking about toilets first of all.
So there’s a good 45 minutes of us talking about toilets.
By the way, in British English the word toilet means both the room and the thing in the room that you sit on.
In American English the toilet is just the thing you sit on, and the room in American English would probably be called the restroom or the bathroom, although when we go there we’re not resting or having a bath, but anyway… This is a conversation about toilets.
We talk about what people do in the toilet, on the toilet, near the toilet and even above the toilet in some cases.
So, be ready for some rather specific and possibly disgusting details about this topic.
I don’t know how you feel about this subject. Personally I find it quite fascinating to learn about this very private thing that we don’t always talk about, except maybe when we’re together with close friends like this.
For example, any women listening – do you know what happens in men’s public toilets? And men, do you know what goes on in women’s public toilets? I think we know what basically happens, but what about certain, other, unknown things?
For example, why is there usually a much bigger queue at the women’s loo (“loo” is UK English for “toilet”).
Do men always stand up when they pee or do they sometimes do it sitting down? And which one is actually easier or better?
How do other people deal with public toilets, which can be dirty or messy? And in fact, why are they so messy, especially in the toilet cubicles? What are people doing in there?
And have you ever argued, with someone you live with, about leaving the toilet seat up?
Women often get frustrated with men who leave the toilet seat up.
Toilet seat up? toilet seat down? What’s going on here? Why is that annoying? And who is right?
That’s just a sample of the kinds of things we’re talking about, OK?
So, brace yourself – toilet talk is coming, with some specific references to hygiene and cleanliness too.
Then, somehow we go from the toilet, to the film Titanic, and that will be generally less disgusting and problematic I think, although arguably what happened on the Titanic is much much worse than what normally happens in the toilet, but I don’t know your habits, I don’t know your life.
Then things get a bit more graphic again at the end of the conversation as we talk about some weird, disgusting and yet strangely satisfying videos we like to watch on TikTok and YouTube.
So here is an unedited talk full of tangents about tea, toilets, Titanic, TikTok trends and more, and here we go…
Ending Transcript (These are the things I say at the end of the audio version + a few spontaneous bits)
OK audio people, how was that for you?
Did you manage to keep up?
Did you learn anything new?
Do you have anything to add to this conversation?
Congratulations for making it this far. You just entered over 1 hour of English into your head. Think of the people who didn’t do that. They now have 1 hour less of English exposure.
As I said at the start, this conversation was fast (as usual) and there were probably things you missed.
I started the recording before we were ready to begin, that’s because I just needed to get started because we didn’t have a lot of time (Amber had to leave at about 3.30 as usual). So I just hit record.
Paul asked about which audience is bigger – the video viewers or the audio listeners. I said the audio listeners outnumbered the video viewers and so Paul said he wouldn’t do too many visual things, like visual jokes.
Then he pretended to take his trousers off (I guess this was in order to make a visual joke). In fact, he unzipped his jeans, but didn’t actually unbuckle his belt.
This led to Paul commenting that men only unbuckle their belt or fully undo their trousers twice each day, and then we were off and the topic turned to the topic of men undoing their trousers in the toilet, and we asked Amber about what it’s like for women to use the toilet when they are wearing a one-piece outfit, like a jump suit. Isn’t that complicated?
And that’s how it all started, you see. I guess if you’re still listening to this, you got that. I wonder how many people just gave up after the first 5 or 10 minutes.
Anyway, that’s enough waffle at the end.
Like I said before, leave your comments (if you have a comment section where you are listening – use my website if you can. The link for the relevant page for this episode is in the show notes for this – check your podcast app of choice. The notes will be there, including a link to the website page)
Actually, could you do me a quick favour? If you enjoy my episodes, give me a rating and a quick review – on the Apple Podcasts page or Google Podcasts page – wherever you listen to this podcast. If you’re able to leave a quick review and a rating, that would really help the podcast.
If you don’t want to help the podcast, then never mind. But if you’d like to help even in a small way – spread the word, leave a review, leave a rating and all that good stuff.
Of course you can also go further and send a donation to help support the show – there’s a PayPal donate button on my website.
And if you have sent me a donation recently – thank you very very much. YOu make this podcast possible and you allow this show to exist. Seriously.
And then there are the premium subscribers. More premium content is coming soon I promise. As I always say, it does take some time for me to produce the premium content because it requires a lot more preparation due to the more rigorous approach that I take to those episodes, with their PDFs and everything. I’m working on more Story episodes for the premium content. I’ve been writing and re-writing some stories about my life – childhood tales and more. That’s coming soon. Thank you if you are a premium subscriber – again you are keeping the show alive.
If you have questions about LEP Premium, including “How do I get the PDFs? How do I find all the episodes?” and more – check my website. All those questions are answered there – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo All the frequently asked questions are there.
Thank you for your support everyone! Let’s keep this thing going.
Take care out there in LEPland. Keep your chin up, keep a smile on your face if you can. Be good to yourself, be excellent to each other, have another lovely morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you in the next instalment, coming soon. Good bye bye bye bye bye!
What do you think listeners? Leave your comments below 👇
In conversation with Mysterious Al, a contemporary artist / street artist from London now living in Melbourne, Australia. The conversation covers Al’s background, how he makes his art, the difference between street art & graffiti, attitudes towards graffiti, how Al needs to use social media (but doesn’t like it!) his recent ghost train exhibition, and more. Al’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mysteriousal/ Al’s website https://www.mysterious.alVideo version also available.
Welcome back to the podcast. I hope life is treating you kindly today and that you’re not being rained on, or baked by the sun or stuck in traffic or being chased by a bear or something. If you are being chased by a bear, well done for managing to press play on this episode of the podcast while also attempting to escape, and good luck. Maybe play this episode to the bear and he (or she) will suddenly become absorbed in the fascinating conversation that you’re going to hear in this episode, and then you can become friends with the bear and bond over a mutual love and interest in listening to Luke’s English Podcast. Or just throw your phone at the bear as hard as possible and hope that it just leaves you alone, I don’t know, but good luck with that.
OK, now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s start properly.
Welcome to this episode. This one is a conversation with Mysterious Al.
Mysterious Al is an artist from London, now based in Melbourne, Australia.
Al is known as a street artist. He is also a contemporary artist in the more conventional sense, but he is often been called a street artist.
So we’re talking about art here, contemporary art, but more specifically street art, and street art is similar to graffiti but it’s not exactly the same thing. We’ll discuss that during this conversation (the difference between graffiti and street art) as well as lots of other things.
Al used to live in London and was working there at around the same time as Banksy, who is probably the most well-known name in this particular world. You’ve heard of Banksy, right? Banksy is famous for his stencilled street art in the UK, particularly in London and in Bristol.
So, Al is a contemporary of Banksy and was part of the same scene as him in London..
These days Al still displays art work in outdoor urban areas but he also produces canvases, fine art prints, and NFTs in his studio, which he exhibits and sells privately.
A canvas is a work of art on a canvas, in the traditional way – a wooden frame with some canvas stretched over it, and then a painting is done on that surface and it’s then presented or exhibited in a gallery. So Al does canvases, and also NFTs, which are a fairly new thing. NFTs in the art world are basically original, unique digital art works which can be bought and sold online, but not copied. If you’re not sure what NFTs are, and blockchains and stuff, then listen on because we do explain that stuff.
So these days Al works in his studio in Melbourne creating canvases and NFTs, and putting on interesting exhibitions but he also works with councils and brands, making huge murals for buildings, and various other projects.
Al is an amazing artist, his work is really distinctive, and he’s also just an interesting person to talk to and so I thought it could be fascinating to interview him about his art, the specific ways that he makes it, and generally to make an episode about the issues related to street art, graffiti, and what it’s like to be a working artist today.
I hope you find it interesting and that you are motivated to keep listening.
By the way, this podcast is for adult learners of English around the world. I say that because some people listening to this or watching this might not know that. This is a podcast for people in different countries learning English and who want to listen to natural, authentic conversations as a way of developing their English skills.
This conversation might be a bit difficult sometimes because it’s not graded for a particular English level, but I have made a premium episode series in which I explain a lot of phrases that come up in this conversation. If you listen to that and use the accompanying pdf, it’ll really help you to understand this episode properly and you’ll definitely learn more English vocabulary from it, as well as work on your pronunciation too. So, to get the most from this, you could check out Luke’s English Podcast Premium series P42 and you can get it in your podcast app through Acast+ by signing up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
So, English learners, we’re about to start this episode, but to get your mind in the right space for this, which will help you understand it all a bit better, here are some questions for you to consider.
If you like, you can discuss these questions maybe with your English teacher or conversation partners in English, or just on your own, out loud or in your head.
Some questions for you
We’ll start with graffiti
Do you live in a place where there is graffiti?
Do you see graffiti around you?
What do you think when you see graffiti? How do you feel about it?
Is graffiti a form of art? Or is it a crime? Or both?
What do you think when you see a piece of graffiti in a certain spot which must have been very difficult to reach, like high up on a building, or next to the train tracks?
Who is graffiti for? What’s the purpose of it?
Do you know the names for the different types of graffit or street art?
Tags, Posters (paste up – paper posters which are pasted to walls with paste), Stencils, Stickers (slapped onto walls, signs etc), Murals (large pieces on walls), Blockbuster murals (huge pictures that take up the entire sides of buildings), Wildstyle – which is the large letters and words painted on a wall or train or something in a very stylised way
And other types probably
This conversation is not all about graffiti though, it’s also about art and the life of an artist.
What do you think of the world of art?
The way art is presented to people, and also bought and sold?
There’s the big, famous, expensive pieces, but also plenty of other art which is made and sold every day at much more reasonable prices.
Where should art be exhibited? Just in art galleries? Or other places?
Do you find it interesting to look at art in galleries or do you think they could present art in a different and more exciting way somehow?
What do you think the life of an artist is like?
How do they spend their time?
What are the challenges and the advantages of living as an artist?
How might social media be important for artists today?
Which platforms do you think artists can use?
What might be the good and bad aspects of having to use social media as an artist?
Do you know what NFTs are?
Have you ever heard of NFTs?
What is a block-chain?
How could NFTs and blockchains change the way digital artists sell their work?
I could go on, but I think that’s enough in terms of questions and info to get you in the right headspace for this conversation.
This is a long episode. No need for me to make it even longer here in the introduction, but you know – you can listen to as much or as little of this as you like. You can pause and continue later, and that is the joy (just one of the joys) of podcasting.
Personally, I hope you listen until the end. I’ll have another little word with you then.
So that was Mysterious Al. I really enjoyed catching up with him after not having seen him for over a decade. He’s exactly the same as he used to be which is nice.
You might be thinking – Luke you didn’t ask him about Banksy!
You said that he used to hang around with Banksy in London.
So, has he ever met him and does he know the true identity of Banksy?
Banksy is a fascinating figure and part of the intrigue and mystique is that we don’t know who he is.
I asked Al by email if he has met him and if he can tell us his true identity.
This is his response.
Yes I have met Banksy, a few times. I think everyone who’s been in the London scene a long time would have crossed his path, but nobody would ever give away his identity because it would give away the fun and he’s worked so hard to protect it.
There are various theories about who Banksy is, including that he’s a member of Massive Attack or that he’s one of the founding members of Gorillaz the band, or even that Banksy is not just one person. I guess we will never know, which is all part of the mystique.
Anyway, this episode was not about Banksy, it was about Mysterious Al, and if you are curious about Al’s work, yes you can find him on Instagram, but also his website is a great place to go if you want to find out about exhibitions in Melbourne, and also if you want to buy some of his work. Mysterious.al
Remember, P42 is all about phrases from this conversation – not just language to describe art, but any phrases which I think you might not have noticed, or understood and which could help you push your level of English higher and higher. Check it out at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Stephen from SEND7 podcast becomes the host to interview me about how I started LEP, the ins and outs of doing this, plus some advantages and challenges for podcasting to learners of English. Video version available.
Special Guest Mark Steel joins me to discuss cultural and linguistic differences between the UK and France, plus accents in the UK and a little tour of some places in the UK that you don’t know about. Also includes a discussion of swearing and rude language in Britain. What is the R word which you should never say in a specific part of the UK? Listen on to find out. Video version available.
Learn English with another short story. In fact, this episode contains two stories. Listen until the end for the 2nd one. Repeat after me to practise your pronunciation. Learn some vocabulary & grammar in the second half of the episode, with an explanation of modal verbs of deduction in the past and present. Video version available.
Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing out there in podcast land? Surviving?
Here’s a new episode. It’s time to do some more English learning with a story.
In this episode, I’m going to read another short story to you, and use it to teach you some English.
I recommend that as well as listening to me read the story out loud to you today, that you read this story out loud too, and I will give you a chance to do that by repeating after me.
We’ll also look at some vocabulary and grammar from the story during the episode. And if you listen until the end, I will tell you another story too.
That’s all going to come later in the episode. If you’re watching the video version – hello. Don’t forget to like & subscribe.
If you are listening to the audio version. Click the link in the description to visit the page for this episode where you will be able to read a transcript for the whole things. You’re welcome.
Recently I have been looking for short stories to help me teach English, the shorter the better, and I found lots of 100-word stories on several websites. A 100-word story is a story with no more than 100 words.
Anyone can submit a story to these sites. The stories are then checked by the website editors and then published for everyone to read.
The only rule for the writers, is that the stories have a 100-word limit. I think the minimum is 75 words, but the maximum is 100. So, a story with no more than 100 words.
That’s quite a challenge.
The writers need to be very disciplined. They have to choose their words carefully, and as a result these stories are very minimal and manage to convey descriptions and emotions using only a few words.
As a teacher of English, I think these stories are great because it gives us compelling and concise samples of English to work with.
Get the book
I want to just point out that there is a book full of these very short stories, which you could buy.
It’s called Nothing Short of 100: Selected tales from 100 Word Story
OK so let’s start with a story which I’ve selected from the Nothing Short of 100 book.
This story is called DOPPELGÄNGER
By the way, we don’t usually use an umlaut in English → ä
What is a doppleganger?
A doppelganger is someone who looks exactly like someone else, but it’s creepy and scary, like a ghostly copy of someone.
I think the word has its origins in German (hence the umlaut in the title), and translates directly as “double goer”. So your doppelganger is your double, a copy of you, who looks exactly like you and who goes around, walking the earth.
In my case, that would be Luka Modric, the Croatian footballer. That’s what people say anyway, that Luka Modric is my doppelganger.
Yes, he is my doppelganger. I’m not his doppelganger, ok? He’s my doppelganger. I was here first!
We do use the word in conversational English.
We say things like “Oh, I saw your doppelganger in the street today!” (meaning, “I saw someone who looked just like you”) or “It’s amazing, he’s your complete doppelganger!” etc.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that. Has it ever happened to you? Have you ever seen someone who looks exactly like someone you know? Have you ever done a double take and been confused for a split second? Has anyone told you that they’d seen your doppelganger?
OK, I’m now going to read the story
Just one question 👇
How did the person feel at the end of the story? Why?
Answer: She felt shocked, upset, sad, surprised and possibly heartbroken. Maybe she couldn’t believe her eyes, because she saw her lover with another woman, or she saw someone who looked exactly like her lover with another woman.
Listen to the episode to hear me summarise and explain the story.
Let me give my comments and explanations, line by line (listen to get my comments)
DOPPELGÄNGER I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you. I was walking past the outdoor tables of the French café, and just at the last second, I caught a familiar hand gesture, and looked again. It couldn’t have been you though, my love, because your other hand was clasping the hand of the woman opposite. Your heads were too close. She was laughing, that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment, totally in love. I walked on, heels tapping out a staccato rhythm, as I no longer wanted to look at the you who wasn’t you.
It was her husband/boyfriend, cheating on her, having an affair with another woman.
It wasn’t her husband/boyfriend. It was just someone who looked like him, but it still disturbed her because she’s terrified that he could cheat on her.
It was her ex, someone she is still in love with. They’re not together any more. He’s moved on, but she hasn’t.
It was a guy who she loves but they’re not together and she can’t bear the fact that he’s with someone else.
Perhaps she lost her husband (he died) and she just saw someone who reminded her of him.
Vocabulary & Grammar
The you who wasn’t you (Although you normally takes are/were, it is not plural, and so the relative pronoun who is singular)
Just at the last second
To catch (a look at) something (to get a glimpse of something)
Clasping her hand
To be totally in the moment
To walk on
A staccato rhythm
It couldn’t have been you, my love 👇
Modal Verbs of Deduction
Who is that?
I’m sure/certain it’s Dave
It must be Dave
It’s possible (that) it’s Dave-not sure
It could be DaveIt might be DaveIt may be Dave
It’s impossible (that) it’s Dave
It can’t be DaveIt couldn’t be Dave
Who was that?
I’m sure/certain it was Dave
It must have been Dave
It’s possible (that) it was Dave-not sure
It could have been DaveIt might have been DaveIt may have been Dave
It’s impossible (that) it was Dave
It can’t have been DaveIt couldn’t have been Dave
Repeat the story after me, line by line.
Try to say each line with no pauses between words.
Notice which word has the main emphasis (stress) in each line.
Don’t sound like a robot! 🤖
I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you.
I was walkingpast the outdoor tables of the Frenchcafé,
and just at the last second,
I caught a familiar hand gesture,
and looked again.
It couldn’t have been you though, my love,
because your other hand was clasping the hand of the woman opposite.
Your heads were too close.
She was laughing,
that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment,
“This book says everyone has a doppelganger, a mirror image, and if you meet yours face to face, you’ll die.”
Janice, my flatmate, closed the book, finished her tea and toast, and slammed out of the door for her A&E shift at St. Margaret’s hospital just down the road. She loved any kind of fantasy literature, always immersed in some supernatural genre book. Not my cup of tea at all. Give me a good Nordic Noir mystery anytime.
After taking a shower I went to brush my teeth. If you meet your doppelganger face to face you’ll die, my reflection in the bathroom mirror laughed as I recited the words, but they’d begun to worm their subliminal way into my subconscious, waiting to claw their way to the surface and pounce.
One day, a couple of weeks later, I headed for the front door ready to set off into town where I worked at a music store. Doppelganger, I froze as my mind hissed the insidious word. What if I saw me on the train? Or stood behind me in the line at the coffee place? What if I came into the shop to buy a record and had to serve myself? The words shot through my mind. I let go of the door handle as if I had been electrocuted, and phoned in sick.
“Do you fancy a night out at that new wine bar down the street?” Janice bounced through the front door one afternoon, chirpy as a blue bird, her shift trauma-free for once.
“Not tonight, Janice, I’m still not feeling very good.” The image of my other self perched on a stool at the far end of the bar, possibly raising a toast, was too hard to stomach.
‘You haven’t been outside for ages, Natalie, not even for work…you’ll end up getting fired. What’s going on with you?” Janice pressed.
“I’ll meet my doppelganger and die if I go outside,” I burst into tears, knowing how ridiculous I sounded.
“You know there’s no such thing. You need to get help, Natalie. I’ve got a therapist friend who works at the hospital. I’ll fix you up an appointment.” She wrapped me in a comfort hug.
“You’re booked in for ten o’clock this morning.” Two days later Janice grabbed my arm and pulled me through the front door; I didn’t stand a chance.
“You won’t meet yourself between here and St. Margaret’s.” She smiled reassuringly and we set off down the street.
“Excuse me,” a hand tapped my shoulder as we waited to cross the busy main road. I turned around and my shriek froze the blood of everyone close by, before I stepped backwards off the footpath into the path of an articulated lorry.
“I didn’t mean to frighten her,” tears ran down the anguished face of one of the two men who’d been standing behind me. He was holding a large six-feet square mirror which they were carrying across to the framing workshop across the road. “I just wanted to ask her to step to one side.”
Summary of Story 2
The narrator, let’s call her Sue (although I realised after recording this that she’s actually called Nathalie in the story!) lives with her flatmate Janice.
One day Janice reads a line from a scary book she’s reading. It says that if you ever meet your doppelganger, you’ll die.
Sue doesn’t usually believe that kind of thing, but the idea gets into her head and as she is leaving the house one day, she suddenly gets scared that she might meet her doppelganger, and die.
So she decides to stay at home.
In fact she keeps staying at home, every day. The idea of meeting her doppelganger has made her too terrified to leave the house.
Janice gets worried about Sue and arranges for her to meet a therapist, and assures Sue that nothing can happen to her on the way.
Sue agrees to leave the house, but at the main road someone taps her on the shoulder.
Sue turns around and sees her own reflection.
The man who tapped her on the shoulder was trying to carry a mirror across the road.
He wanted to ask her to step to one side, to make space.
But Sue turned around and saw her doppelganger – her reflection in the mirror and screamed!
Then she stepped back, into the road, and was hit by a large lorry.
That’s the end of the episode, but check out LEP Premium.
I’m going to do a premium episode all about this second doppelganger story.
All the vocabulary (with a memory test), some grammar, some pronunciation practice.
I’ll go through the vocabulary and some grammar and I’ll do some pronunciation practice with it too, just like I did with the 100-word story.
Amber and Paul join me in my pod room again for a rambling discussion about everything! Includes a language point about adjective + preposition collocations. Notice the phrases and try to find examples of them in context. Video version available.
Check out the premium series which accompanies this episode (P39 parts 1-3) 👇
Sign up to LEP Premium to get the 3-part series of episodes (audio, video, PDFs) about the language point in this episode.
P39 Part 1 – All about the grammar of prepositions and how they fit into sentences, including plenty of vocabulary and a quick pronunciation exercise at the end
P39 Part 2 – Let’s go through my list of adjective + preposition phrases from the conversation with Amber & Paul. I’ll test your memory and help you notice the target language, while clarifying some of the adjectives. Also includes discussion questions for free practise.
P39 Part 3 – Pronunciation, pronunciation, pronunciation, pronunciation, pronunciation. The 5 Ps. There’s a focus on weak forms of prepositions, -ed endings of adjectives and 40 sentences to repeat after me.
[Part 2 of 2] James and Luke discuss some more “facts” about the UK, but can you guess if they are true or false? Learn some interesting trivia about life in Britain, and improve your vocabulary in the process.
Video Version with facts on the screen – Automatic Subtitles Available
Hello listeners, and welcome back to the podcast.
This is part 2 of a two-part episode called 50 Random British Facts (True or False Quiz) with James.
This is part 2 – so if you haven’t heard part 1, go back and listen to that. It’s the previous episode.
In this one we’re going to go through the rest of the random facts about Britain which my brother and I put together earlier this year.
Just a reminder, of the way this works:
First, James and I will read out some more random facts about the UK
Some of the facts are true, and other facts are not true – they were completely made up by James and me.
You have to decide which facts you think are true and which ones are false
Then, after reading out the facts, James and I will reveal the answers and we will also discuss each fact a little bit.
Hopefully you can learn some odd and interesting bits of information about the UK, spot some useful English vocabualry, generally practise your listening skills and have a bit of fun in the process.
If you’d like to work on your pronunciation, here’s a challenge. Try reading the facts out loud, like James and I did. When you read them out, try to say them clearly and fluently, emphasising the right words, connecting parts of the sentence and adding pauses and intonation in the right places. It’s actually quite difficult but a good exercise. You can read the facts on the page for this episode on my website, or you will see them on the screen if you are watching the YouTube version. You could compare the way you say the sentences to the way James and I say them, and perhaps try to copy us, or shadow us. That could be a good way to push your English a bit further with this episode.
As I said at the beginning of the 1st part of this double episode, James and I recorded this in August 2022 and that was before the Queen died in September, and so this is a bit anachronistic as we talk about The Queen in the present tense as she was still alive and the head of state of the country at the time we recorded this. So just keep that in mind while you are listening to this I guess.
Oh and by the way, listen out for a cameo appearance by my daughter somewhere in the middle of the episode.
Now, are you ready to keep calm and carry on?
OK then, here we go with more random British facts – are they true or are they false?
Random British Facts 26 – 50 [True or False?] Listen to find out the answers
26. In 1657, England’s puritanical leader Oliver Cromwell passed a law making it illegal to serve richly flavoured food, believing it to be a pathway to sin.
27. It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.
28. It is illegal to put a stamp with the queen’s head on it upside down on an envelope (it’s considered treason).
29. It’s customary to let out a little bit of gas when you accept something which has been offered to you. A small fart or a burp. Keep some gas in reserve for moments like this. This is why English people eat beans.
30. Loch Ness is the largest body of freshwater in Britain by volume. It also keeps a temperature of 6°C all year round, not even freezing in the coldest Scottish winters.
31. More than half of the London Underground network in fact runs above ground.
32. There are 6 official ‘native’ languages in the UK.
33. Queen Elizabeth II was born in the same room that Charles Dickens died in.
34. Recent studies found that skin from British people was more resistant to water compared to that of continental people, due to higher levels of wax residue found on the skin surface.
35. The Glasgow accent is so strong that people there often have trouble understanding each other when they speak.
36. Taxis are obliged to carry a bale of hay in the boot, thanks to old laws regarding the feeding of horses.
37. The Queen doesn’t have a passport.
38. The Queen owns all the swans in the UK, and as a result it is illegal to kill or eat them.
39. The department store Harrods sold cocaine until 1916.
40. The name of the UK’s flag is the Union Jack.
41. The word soccer originally comes from the UK.
42. There are 6 ravens which live at the Tower of London and an old royal decree from the reign of King Charles II states that if one of them leaves, the kingdom will fall.
43. During the time of Henry III (mid 13th century), a live polar bear was kept in the moat at the Tower of London.
44. There are more than 70 beaches in the UK.
45. There are now more parakeets in London than pigeons.
46. There’s a secret underground tunnel which runs directly from Buckingham Palace to Number 10 Downing Street.
47. Under the Salmon Act of 1986, it is an offence to handle a salmon ‘suspiciously’.
48. Until the late 70s it was common practice for doctors to recommend that pregnant women drink Guinness because the high iron content was thought to be beneficial for the pregnancy.
49. Until 1968 tobacco was commonly included in a child’s packed lunch along with bread, fat drippings, and tripe.
50. Until 1982 all buses and taxis were legally obliged to carry a bottle of brandy to revive any passengers taken ill during the journey.
That’s it listeners.
Thank you for listening.
Don’t forget, you can read all those facts on the page for this episode on my website. That could be a good way to just check some of the words and phrases that you heard in this episode.
I’m sure there’s some new vocabulary in there.
Here’s a selection (just read through them)
A pathway to sin
A suit of armour
Gas / wind / a fart
To keep something in reserve
A body of water
A bail of hay
A muzzle / to keep an animal muzzled
To handle something (two meanings)
To be taken ill
To revive someone
That’s just a selection. I’m not going into it all now, but you could pursue that vocabulary and research it and try to remember it and use it, or at least try to notice it again as you listen, read and generally come into contact with English.
Some of them are more frequently used than others. I don’t know how often you will talk about tripe or bails of hay in your life, but that’s the thing about pushing your vocabulary beyond the intermediate plateau. You have to go beyond the limits of the vocabulary that you come across on a daily basis and go into the more uncharted areas of English in order to open things out and expand.
Also, I explained some vocabulary at the end of part 1. I don’t know if you heard that, but I went into various words relating to laws, rules, regulations, government legislation and so on, as quite a lot of those things came up in the 50 facts. So go back and listen to the last 30 mins of part 1, if you haven’t already done so.
You see, it pays to listen to episodes all the way until the end.
Can you guess if these “facts” about the UK are true or false? James and Luke read out the facts and then discuss them one by one. Learn some odd things about the UK, pick up some vocabulary about laws and customs, and try not to laugh on the bus.
Video Version (with facts written on the screen) Try activating automatic subtitles
Hello everybody, before I play this episode I think I should give a kind of disclaimer about the content. I just want to say two things.
So this is an episode about Britain recorded with my brother in August, which is obviously before we all got the news that The Queen had been taken ill and had died, and we do talk about The Queen a few times during the episode, but of course she is no longer with us and now we have King Charles III.
So, firstly, the things we say about The Queen will be a bit anachronistic now as you listen to it – anachronistic, meaning belonging to the past, and a bit out of step with the present. So that’s the first thing – this was recorded when the Queen was still alive and when she was the head of state, which is now obviously no longer the case, so there are a few little anachronisms and we refer to The Queen in the present tense.
And secondly, when we do mention The Queen and a lot of other things, it’s done in a humorous way – and I’m aware that some people might find that inappropriate, but we aren’t really mocking her harshly or specifically. We copy her voice a bit and parts of the episode are just a bit silly and funny, but our intentions are decent. I don’t think we could be indicted for treason or anything like that. So, I hope you take it all in the spirit of good natured British humour, which is our intention, and let’s remember that The Queen has been praised a lot over the last week or so for her good sense of humour, so hopefully she would see the funny side (but who knows) In any case, I think it’s ok and I’ve decided to publish this. I hope you enjoy it, and actually I hope you see it as a sort of celebration of British stuff, for what it’s worth.
Alright then, now I have said that. Let’s start the episode properly. Here we go.
— Jingle —
50 Random British Facts (True or False Quiz) with James [Part 1]
Hello listeners, welcome back to my podcast.
Are you ready to do some more listening, to improve your English?
If the answer to that question is “Yes” then, good! Keep listening!
Here is a new episode featuring James, my older brother. This is a 2 part episode actually, and you’re listening to part 1.
In this one you’re going to hear James and me discussing various facts about the UK, that’s the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of course. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A few weeks ago, James and I came up with a list of 50 facts about British life, customs, laws, history and culture, which we could talk about on this podcast. We thought you might find it interesting.
So that’s what you’ll hear. But the thing is – some of these facts are true and some of them are not true. They’re false, completely made up, invented by James and me.
So the game is, can you guess which of these facts are true and which ones are false?
Here’s how this is going to work.
First, you’ll hear us reading out our list of so-called facts and you can decide if you think they’re true or not
and then we will discuss each fact, we’ll reveal if they are true or not and we’ll explain some bits of language and culture along the way.
On the subject of vocabulary, two things:
You will find a list of all the “facts” on the page for this episode on my website. They’re all written there for you, so you can go and read them if you like. If you hear a word and you’re not sure what it is, you can check all the sentences there. Also, I recommend trying to read those sentences out loud. All the facts – try reading them out loud. It’s quite good pronunciation practice. You can then compare your version to the the way James and I read the sentences, and perhaps you can shadow us, or repeat the sentences after us. Some of them are actually quite challenging, quite difficult to say clearly as you’ll see. That’s just something you could try doing. There are always other ways to push your English with these podcasts beyond just listening, or if you prefer not really doing any extra practice or anything you can just sit back, listen, enjoy and eat a chocolate biscuit.
Some of the facts presented here are about UK laws, and you might hear a few different words to describe laws – things like this:
To Ban / to be banned
An act of parliament
Provisions in an act
A royal decree
A custom / to be customary
I’ll go through those words briefly at the end of the episode, giving you a little tiny taste of LEP Premium, with definitions, explanations and a couple of examples, just to make sure you understood the full meaning and difference between them, because lots of words like that will just pop up in this episode and you might think “Hold on, how many words for laws and rules are there? What’s the difference between a law, an act, a decree and legislation?
If that’s you – just listen on until end of this part to hear some vocabulary explanations from me, which no doubt will just be really helpful.
This is an audio-only episode, but if you are listening on YouTube you will see that the facts are written on the screen with a few pictures to illustrate them in most cases, which again should help you not only understand everything but also to notice vocabulary, with your eyes, and your brain.
And you can always switch on the automatic subtitles in English on YouTube, which are surprisingly accurate these days.
But now, that’s enough waffle. Let’s get started with part 1 of this, recorded at my parents’ home in England a couple of weeks ago, during the summer holidays, just after we’d eaten a large lunch with the whole family.
OK, so, this is part 1 of 50 Random British Facts, with James.
Random British Facts 1 – 25
True or False? 👉 Listen to the episode to find out the answers.
In a recent poll by The BBC, 71% of British people said that British food was the best in the world. Examples given included curry and lasagne.
8% of British people live in London.
Work meetings in the UK often commence with a short joke before people get down to business. The joke is usually printed on slips of paper or distributed in advance by email.
All pubs must have a picture of the Queen displayed somewhere behind the bar.
Another way to say “thanks” in the UK is to say “Ta”
Big Ben is the nickname of a large clock tower in Westminster.
British people drink 100,000,000 cups of tea a day.
Cockfighting is illegal, but heron fighting is still commonly practiced in rural areas.
During the Second World War a fake “mock up” of London was built in the Kent countryside with an intricate system of lights, to confuse German bomber pilots during nighttime air-raids.
Every year on the 5th November children burn an effigy of a Catholic terrorist who once attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament during the King’s visit.
Every year the Mayor of London is given a dozen oxen as part of his annual pay packet. The livestock are usually donated to a charity of the Mayor’s choice, or slaughtered.
A recent excavation of the site of Shakespeare’s former home in London turned up a number of clay pipes containing the residue of cannabis resin or “hashish”.
In the UK, by law, if one man’s dog gets bitten by another man’s dog, the owner of the dog that did the biting must buy the other man a pub lunch, or something else of equivalent value.
If the UK flag is flying at Buckingham Palace it means the Queen is in the building. FALSE – It’s the Royal standard.
If you live to be 100 years old you will receive a personal letter from The Queen in the post.
In 2020, English winemakers Langham Wine Estate of Dorset won the International Wine & Spirit Competition Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year, which is one of the most prestigious awards a winemaker can win. They beat every top French Champagne brand in the competition.
In 1976 a huge rat was discovered in the London sewer system. The police lost 2 dogs in their attempt to capture and destroy the animal.
In the UK we drive on the left side of the road, but in 1987 the UK government introduced plans to switch from driving on the left to driving on the right, to bring the country in line with European standards. The initiative, which was eventually scrapped, was to be phased in over a period of 6 months, with heavy goods vehicles and buses switching first, followed by cars and then motorbikes and bicycles.
It is always raining, somewhere in the UK.
It is customary to buy a packet of crisps to be shared while having a drink in a pub, and the crisp packet is often ripped open in a certain way to allow everyone to take crisps from the bag. (crisps, not chips)
It is customary to make tea for any tradesmen (plumbers, decorators) who visit your house.
When going to the pub with friends or colleagues, it is customary to order drinks in rounds.
It is illegal in the UK to be drunk in charge of a horse.
It is illegal in the UK to be drunk on licensed premises (a pub).
It is illegal to carry a plank of wood along a road in the city of London.
To be continued in part 2…
So, that is the end of part 1. How many did you get right?
You are keeping track of your score, right?
It might be tricky to keep track of your score, which is fine of course.
To be honest, I don’t expect you to do that really. But I wonder if you generally managed to guess which of those things were true and which ones were bollocks.
Did anything surprise you? Did anything amuse you?
Let us know by leaving your comments in the comment section.
That was only the first 25 facts of course. We’re not done yet. This will all continue in part 2 when we look at facts 26-50, in the same way. I guess you can just look forward to that. It will require all your patience to do so, but I believe in you. You can do it.
Now, let me go through some vocabulary, as I said I would earlier.
A lot of these facts deal with things like laws, government actions and also traditions or customs and so I thought I would just clarify some words which relate to those things. Yet again I am doing this on the free podcast as a little taste of the kind of thing you usually get in episodes of LEP Premium these days.
The words I’m going to talk about now are:
Legislation / to legislate
To ban / to be banned
An act of parliament
Provisions in an act
A royal decree
A custom / customary
Words for different types of law or government action
A rule (countable noun)
A rule is just something which says whether you are allowed or not allowed to do something. The difference between a rule and a law is that the word rule is more general and is used in all sorts of situations, not just by governments and the police etc.
Schools have rules (e.g. no chewing gum in the classroom), people’s homes have rules (e.g. no mobile phones at the dinner table).
Also, sports and games have rules, like the offside rule in football.
A law (countable noun)
Laws are the rules which determine wether things are legal or illegal. They are made and introduced by the government and enforced by the police and justice system.
To break a law
We also have the word “law” (opposed to “a law”) which means the whole system of rules which determine what is allowed, not allowed, what people have the right and don’t have the right to do or have.
Legislation (uncountable noun)
Legislation is another word for law, but it is uncountable.
Here are some sentences which basically mean the same thing:
The government created legislation banning the possession of handguns.
The government created a law (or laws) banning the possession of handguns.
So it’s the same as the word law, but we don’t say “a legislation” because it’s uncountable. Instead we would say “a piece of legislation”.
The government introduced new legislation banning the use of diesel cars in urban areas.
The government introduced a new law banning the use of diesel cars in urban areas.
Legislate is a verb
To legislate for or against something – which means to create laws to oblige people to do things, or to prohibit certain things.
The government in 2007 legislated against smoking in indoor public places.
To ban something (verb)
This means to prohibit or stop something and it’s usually used in reference to government laws which make something prohibited.
Smoking was banned in public spaces in 2007.
The government banned smoking in 2007.
Sometimes the word ban is used in situations outside the legal system, for example –
Mobile phones are banned in the classroom.
A person can also be banned from a certain place, for example,
Dave has been banned from the golf club for starting a fight last week.
It can be a noun or a verb.
The smoking ban. There’s a ban on smoking.
The government banned smoking.
An act of parliament
An act is a specific piece of legislation which creates law.
When politicians make laws, for example in the House of Commons in London, there’s a certain process and we use different words for that legislation during the process.
First the law is introduced by a member of parliament as a bill which is a written proposal for a law. The bill is discussed by the MPs in the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is voted on, and when that bill has been approved (including being given the Royal Assent by the Queen) it is written into law in the form of an act.
This act defines the law. It’s kind of like a contract. Each act, which contains various laws, has a name. For example, The Treason Felony Act 1848, which makes it an offence to do any action with the intention of deposing the monarch. This makes it illegal to plan or try to remove The Queen from the throne (or in fact to remove the crown from The Queen) and this includes planning and devising things in written form, spoken form and with the use of images etc. So that’s the Treason Felony Act, which was created in 1848, which makes it against the law to try to depose the monarch.
Another example is the The Data Protection Act 2018, which controls how your personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government. The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
And another example is the Homicide Act 1957, which makes it illegal to kill someone, or commit murder. By the way, it says 1957, but of course murder wasn’t legal before 1957, it’s just that in 1957 the law relating to murder or homicide would have been redefined somehow, and a new act was created, which contained provisions relating to all acts of homicide.
This is like a specific section of an act of parliament, or a specific detail in an act of parliament. You also get provisions in contracts between people.
A (royal) decree
A decree is an order that something must be done. A royal decree is when the king or queen orders that something must be done. These days it doesn’t happen in the UK, so royal decrees are only heard about when referring to history.
King Edgar in 957 decreed that all settlements (towns) in England were restricted to having only one “alehouse” per settlement. This was a law to try to control the number of pubs or places selling ale across the country. The decree lasted until after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 after which more and more alehouses, inns and pubs started arriving.
Here’s an example from The Bible, of a decree by a Roman Emperor.
The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 2 Verse 1
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Join us on a trip to a virtual pub for a couple of pints, a packet of crisps and some advice about how to go to the pub in English, with plenty of funny tangents, with Charlie Baxter. Video version available.