Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report.
In the Rick Thompson Report I talk to my dad about the issues of the day, news and current affairs from the UK, especially politics.
The last time we spoke was in episode 652 at the beginning of the lockdown. We talked about COVID-19, how the government was handling it, what kind of crisis it could become.
Now, recording this at the start of July 2020, the world is coming out of lockdown in many areas. Are we out of it now, or are some places still affected? What’s been going on in the UK all this time? And will the government be ready to properly leave the EU at the end of the year when the transition period ends?
With his usual clarity then, here is my dad, Rick Thompson, to talk about these things.
And here we go.
There you are then. That was the Rick Thompson Report for July 2020 here on planet earth, specifically focusing on the UK sector.
Thanks again to Dad for taking the time to talk to me on the podcast today and for taking me to Wembley Stadium once in 1991 to see the FA Cup Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest. I was a Nottingham Forest fan but I also liked Tottenham and we went along and it was amazing. I saw some of my heroes like Stuart Pearce, Gary Linaker and Paul Gascgoine. So, thanks for that Dad. Forest lost the game but it was still amazing.
Anyway, what’s up with you? How’s your English? How’s that lockdown treating you?
Hey, can you do me a favour? Could you send me a message telling me what your favorite kind of LEP episode is?
What’s your favourite kind of LEP Episode?
Here are some categories
Talking to guests I don’t really know
Talking to guests I do know, like my family and friends, James, Amber & Paul
Talking about learning English with strategies and advice
Episodes about specific topics like 666, films, music and so on, often with James
Conversations with my wife
Listening to comedy and breaking it down
Explaining jokes and dissecting the frog
Made up stories and improvisations
Voices, impressions and characters
The Rick Thompson Report
Gill’s Book Club
Luke’s Film Club
Vocabulary, Idioms or Slang
Exploring a British TV show
Detective Stories and Mysteries
I think that’ll do for now.
Let me know what your favourite type of episode is. It’ll help me think of more ideas in the future.
You can write an email to me, leave a comment under the episode, or tweet me @EnglishPodcast
Hello ladies and gentlemen of the world, I hope you are doing alright in both body and mind at this particular moment in time.
Welcome to this new episode of my podcast which is here to help you develop your English skills simply by listening to some authentic, unscripted and spontaneous conversation – because we know that regular exposure to spoken English is vital in the learning process, and if listening to this can just keep you company for a while too, then that is an added bonus.
In this episode you’re going to hear a chat with Cara Leopold, an English teacher from the UK currently living on lockdown in the east of France.
Cara has been on this podcast before, two times as you may remember.
The first time was back in episode 523 in which we talked about learning English with films and TV shows.
Then more recently we talked in episode 618 about the climate crisis.
This time you can hear us chatting about social distancing and being on lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic, and some more comments about how to improve your English during this period at home using TV series and films.
Yes, there is quite a lot of talking here about the coronavirus. I hope you’re not completely fed up with this topic now. As I’ve said before, I don’t plan to talk about it too much, but I do still want to address the subject a bit, just because it’s on our minds so much and if I ignored it completely it would just end up being the elephant in the room.
Here is a quick rundown of the main points that came up in this conversation, just to help you understand what’s going on.
First we talk about the complex feelings and emotions we’re experiencing during this covid-19 lockdown, including things like anger, guilt, compassion, empathy, helplessness and general feelings of cognitive dissonance as we try to make sense of what’s going on in the world at the moment.
Then we talk about trying to balance the seriousness of the situation with your general mental health on a daily basis. Weighing up the positives and negatives of being stuck inside while the TV news reports on serious events going on around the world every day.
We talk about how much people are following the lockdown rules in our local areas and the vagueness of government positions on those lockdown rules in both France and the UK.
We speculate about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude towards social distancing (if you describe someone as ‘cavalier’ it means you’re criticising them for being a bit careless, reckless or not really taking the situation seriously enough) so we talk about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude a few weeks ago which resulted in him personally catching the virus.
Breaking news at time of recording: he is now out of intensive care, which seems to be a good sign for his health, even though I expect it might have been touch and go for a while. Of course we wish him well, and anyone else who is suffering at this time.
We discuss the challenge of trying to work out a moral position on all of this, specifically several approaches to dealing with the crisis: social distancing vs herd immunity.
We chat about managing daily life at home, with a 2-year-old child (in my case), and what happens when I leave her unattended for more than 10 minutes.
Then we turn our attention to you and your English – and how you can use online content like TV series and films (for example on Netflix or perhaps on OpenCulture.com) to improve your English at home.
We did cover a lot of that kind of advice in episode 523 – link above.
but I will sum up the main bits of advice we made in that episode at the end of this one, so stay tuned for more comments about how you can use TV series and films to improve your English nearer the end of the chat.
By the way, Cara’s last episode was transcribed by the Orion Transcription team and apparently it was quite a tough transcribing job partly due to the sound quality from Cara’s side of the conversation. I think she may have been in an echoey room or at least a room with lots of flat surfaces around (a kitchen maybe) which caused her voice to be a bit difficult to hear.
So this time Cara made a special effort to create better recording conditions. In fact for the whole conversation she was in a cupboard surrounded by coats – the point being, she was doing her best to get good quality sound. Hopefully she will be a bit clearer this time.
Clarifying Some Reference Points / Vocab
I’d like to clarify a couple of reference points, particularly in the opening minutes of the conversation, to help you follow what we’re saying.
Like an episode of Black Mirror Black Mirror is a TV show which many of you will have seen, but also plenty of you won’t know about it. Episodes of the show typically involve some kind of scary situation, like perhaps a post-apocalyptic world or a world in which certain technology has completely changed our every day lives and not for the better, or it could be life in the context of an environmental or economic crisis or something. But basically “like an episode of Black Mirror” has become a phrase meaning “like we are living in a scary version of the future” or something.
France 3 / BFM –> These are news stations which you get on French TV.
Canal+ –> a TV station / online platform which you have to pay for in France
There are plenty of other reference points and bits of language that I could explain and clarify now but actually I think it’s best to just let you listen to the conversation and simply try to follow it all, notice things as you go, work them out from context and try to find things that you can relate to personally, but in English.
So let’s begin…
Thanks again to Cara for climbing inside a cupboard and staying there for the duration of our conversation in a bid to improve the sound quality on her side of this conversation. Nice one Cara.
As ever, you can leave your comments on the website. I’m curious where you stand on all of this.
I mentioned before that I would sum up the main points Cara and I made in episode 523 about using TV and films for learning English, with and without subtitles.
I’ve decided to put that into a separate episode, because I think that rather than tacking it onto the end of this conversation it deserves to have a whole episode of its own. Plus there will be people out there who would appreciate having all the advice in one single episode. So that will be the next episode of the podcast – a summary of advice for using Netflix (and other platforms) for improving your English, plus some more specific recommendations for shows and films you can watch.
Cara’s free course on udemy.com “Improve your English Listening Skills with Movie Quotes”
Long term listeners will remember that I have a cousin called Oli who used to be on the podcast quite a lot until he moved to Bristol and I moved to France and we didn’t get the chance to see each other very often. Well he now works for Netflix as a producer at their offices in Los Angeles (I swear I am not sponsored by Netflix!) He moved there a couple of years ago and coincidentally enough I recorded a conversation with him the other day about moving to the USA, what it’s like working for Netflix as a producer and what it’s like to be a Brit living in the USA and communicating with American people every day. That is coming soon. Again, I’m not promoting Netflix – they don’t need me to do that. But anyway, it was a good conversation that covers details of his work and the communication and cultural differences between the UK and USA.
Coronavirus Mini Interviews 1-3 on Zdenek’s English Podcast
If you enjoyed listening to this conversation with Cara, and you enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences of living in lockdown in different countries then I’d like to recommend that you listen to several recent episodes of ZEP including episode 2 which is with me. Links on the page for the episode or just subscribe to Zdenek’s English Podcast.
Episode 1 – Alexander from Russia, Musa from Turkey who is currently living in the UK, Daniel from Switzerland who is also known from My Fluent Podcast, and Daria from Ukraine.
A vocabulary episode with lots of phrases for describing the experience of living in self-isolation. It also includes a bit of a ramble about the situation in the UK, my personal experiences of living in Paris during the lockdown and a song at the end. Vocabulary list & notes available.
Hi everyone, here’s a new episode to keep you company and to help you learn some English that you can use to describe the experience of living in self-isolation. We’ll be looking especially at vocabulary to describe the feelings and emotions that you might be going through during this experience.
Something like 2.5 billion people in the world are in self-isolation at the moment, including me, my wife and our daughter and no doubt many of you too. Not the band.
Some of you out there won’t be in isolation, confined at home or on lockdown, for whatever reason. It depends on the approach that your country is taking to this pandemic.
Maybe you are making personal choices to stay at home even if your government hasn’t imposed it. In the UK for example, the government has only recently imposed it, a week or two late in some people’s opinions. I’m trying not to talk about politics here though, just how it feels to be stuck inside, and as I said – this is mainly a vocabulary episode so I will be talking about expressions like “on lockdown”, “in isolation”, “confinement” and also loads of other things.
In France we are on lockdown and we’re only about a week and a half into it. I’m not sure how long it will go on for. Some people say a couple of weeks, some say it will continue into May, others suggest longer.
If you aren’t sure, being “on lockdown” means being ordered by the government to stay at home for an extended period of time, without a lot of human contact in an attempt to prevent the spread of this virus.
Plenty of countries in the world are on lockdown.
So you might be starved of human contact at this time, or perhaps the opposite. You might be having a bit too much human contact if you are locked up with members of your family, boyfriends, girlfriends, children, flatmates and so on and you’re trying your hardest not to become homicidal under the circumstances.
There are various possibilities in terms of what you might be going through at the moment.
You’re just lonely because you’re not used to spending so much time on your own.
You’re frustrated because you can’t stand not being able to do what you want to do (i.e. go out and live normally).
You can’t stand being confined with other people, who you are trying your best to get on with. You might be craving a bit of solitude at this time, just to get away from your family or something.
You are worrying about work.
You are worrying about family and friends who might get the virus, especially those who are in the “at-risk” category (e.g. those with underlying or existing health issues, or elderly people).
You’re strangely enjoying this time.
You are really enjoying having more time to yourself.
You’re managing to do things.
It feels a bit like a stay-at-home holiday, or a “staycation”.
You don’t mind self-isolation. In fact it’s kind of normal for you.
I’m slightly concerned about talking about this, because I am very aware that for some of you out there this is a really hard time and I don’t want to be frivolous about it.
I know that a lot of you are not having a sort of “staycation” (a holiday at home / a vacation in which you stay at home). I mean, this is not a holiday for many of you, but a very difficult and worrying time.
But having said that, I am now going to talk about this a bit.
Here’s the general plan.
In this episode
Teach you some vocabulary to describe isolation, lockdown and the things that might be going through your mind as you experience this – particularly feelings and emotions.
Comment on some recent news about this situation, focusing on the UK mainly again
A couple of corrections from the previous episodes in which I talked about this (651 and 652)
Ramble a little bit about what I’ve been doing these past couple of weeks
I’m not talking about symptoms and health issues. I’ve already done that in episodes 651 and 652.
Basics – Some trending words & phrases
First some basics to describe this situation – words which are trending
Self-isolation To be in self-isolation – “I can’t stand being in self-isolation. It’s doing my head in.” To self isolate – “Boris Jonson has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-isolating at home” (more on this later) To isolate yourself (from) – “Those people who are displaying symptoms have been told to stay at home and isolate themselves from other family members.”
Lockdown To be on lockdown – “We are on lockdown. We’ve been on lockdown for a few weeks in Paris.” To be locked down – “Paris is almost completely locked down. You’re only allowed to go out for certain things. You might be stopped by the police and you could face a large fine if you don’t have a written justification for being outside.” The lockdown – “The lockdown is going to last indefinitely”
Confinement To be in confinement – “We’ve been in confinement for nearly 2 weeks now” To be confined at home – “Billions of people around the world are currently confined at home, listening to Luke’s English Podcast and washing their hands.”
Quarantine To be quarantined (keeping a possibly infected person or animal separate from others) “Lots of people have been quarantined at the airport.” To be in quarantine – “They’re currently in quarantine until further notice” To quarantine someone – “If you arrive at immigration, you will be immediately quarantined in an effort to contain the spread of the virus in the country”
Containment To contain the virus – “Visitors to the city have been quarantined in an effort to contain the spread of the virus” The containment of the virus – “We’re confident that the lockdown will result in the containment of the virus.”
Vocabulary to describe this experience – Feelings & Emotions
Words and phrases you might need to talk about what you’re going through (mainly for those of you who are just stuck at home, not the symptoms of the disease)
Bad mood / Relationships Bored / boredom
I’m just so bored of being stuck indoors
I’m so sick of this boredom To be at a loose end – “I’m just knocking around the house at a loose end” = bored and with nothing to do Frustrating
It’s frustrating not being able to do what you want to do To be/get frustrated
I’m starting to get frustrated. I need to go outside and get exercise. Depression – “It’s normal to suffer from a bit of depression in conditions like this.” To get depressed – “Try not to get depressed” To feel down – “I must admit I’ve been feeling a bit down today.” It’s getting to me – “It’s getting to me, being locked up. It’s started to get to me.”
It’s starting to get to me To be locked up (with) someone – “I’m not sure I can face being locked up with my family for another 6 weeks!” To irritate someone / To annoy someone / To get on someone’s nerves To be irritating / to be annoying
“Could you use headphones while you’re gaming? It’s just really starting to irritate me.”
“The neighbours have their TV on really loud. It’s so annoying!”
“The sound of them talking is really starting to get on my nerves now” To be at each other’s throats – “They were at each other’s throats after just 3 days!” Familiarity breeds contempt To have enough of someone/something – “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going out.” To be fed up with someone/something – “I’m just so fed up with being stuck indoors all day” To miss people – “I’m missing my friends” To be / To feel cut off (from) someone – “It’s quite hard feeling cut off from my normal circle of friends”
Mental issues / Struggling to deal with the situation I’m struggling to cope = I am finding it difficult to deal with this situation, i.e. I am mentally struggling. I’m feeling upset, emotional, depressed, unable to do anything.
This is like Groundhog Day = A film in which Bill Murray repeats the same day again and again
How am I going to get through this? – to get through something means to progress from start to finish. To be able to move from the start of the experience to the end of the experience without stopping or failing. To get through a tunnel. To get through an experience. To be overwhelmed by fears / doubts / worries – “Try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by fears / doubts / worries” (e.g. about the knock-on effects on the economy, or even more paranoid thoughts about what’s really going on) To get carried away / To let your mind get carried away – “You’re getting carried away. I don’t think things are that bad.” Try not to think too much – “Look, don’t think too much. Try not to think too much. Just take it one day at a time.” To feel paranoid – “I started feeling a bit paranoid the other day when I was outside.” To feel anxious – “It’s easy to feel anxious in this situation” Nervous vs stressed vs annoyed vs angry Try not to worry Don’t panic! Don’t freak out Panic buying – “You see footage on the news of people panic buying toilet roll and pasta. Apparently these are the two most essential things for us. Eating pasta and then wiping our arses when we poo it out.” [?]
Going mad To climb the walls – “My teenage kids are climbing the walls, almost literally” To lose it – “Any more time spent in this room and I’m just going to lose it.” He’s lost it – “Uh oh, Luke’s lost it.” To lose your mind – “I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind.”
Locked in To go stir crazy – “I’m going a bit stir crazy to be honest” = feeling upset, angry, emotional, mad, mentally unwell because you are locked in somewhere, like if you were in prison. (in the 19th century “stir” was a nickname for prison, or specifically Newgate Prison in London, but now it refers to any situation in which you are cooped up)
I’m getting cabin fever To be cooped up = to be locked inside, like you’re a chicken in a chicken coop. “I can’t stand being cooped up all day”. Feeling claustrophobic Feeling trapped To be stuck indoors Stuck (past of stick) To be stuck somewhere – “I’m stuck at home” “They’re stuck in Morocco” “He got stuck in his car for hours” “I was stuck to the TV watching the news for 9 hours.” To be stuck indoors – “I’m stuck indoors and it sucks.”
My hands are chapped – “Have you got any moisturiser? My hands are so chapped from constantly washing them.”
On the front line – to be on the front line means to be doing the hardest and most important work. It was originally used to talk about soldiers in a war, specifically those people who are on the front line of the conflict, facing the enemy and fighting with them directly. This is the first meaning, but these days it is used to refer to the people who are doing the hardest and most important work in any situation.
In the past, working in a language school I have heard people talking about the teachers being the ones who are on the front line, meaning they are the ones who face the clients in the form of students in class, so if the students are unhappy for whatever reason, it’s the teachers who have to deal with that directly, rather than the marketing people, the management, the agents etc.
At the moment this phrase is being used a lot for those people who are working in hospitals, so health workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and so on. In fact these are the real heroes of the moment.
Any of the negative things I’m mentioning in this episode, including all the boredom, the friction with those you live with, the fears about work, the frustrations and isolation – none of it compares to the struggles, risks and sheer exhaustion of those working on the front line of this situation.
Every evening here in Paris at 8pm people open their windows or go out onto their balconies in order to applaud together as a public display of gratitude for all the health workers who are working on the front line. It’s started happening across the UK as well, and I’m sure it’s the same in many other countries.
And I’d like to echo that. Thank you, if you are a health worker or if you’re involved directly in the fight against this fucking virus. Thank you. (applause)
Oh and by the way, we will beat this. It’s not the end of the world.
This could be a chance for you to do things Every cloud has a silver lining
Spending a lot more time together Quality time To spend quality time with someone Toreconnect with your family Reconnecting with family To catch up on things
Finally catch up on things you’ve been meaning to do for a while
My friend Vanessa on FB shared this
“Day 9 of lockdown My inner Emily Dickinson is loving this (Emily Dickinson was an American poet who was very withdrawn, introverted and reclusive) I’ve never felt less pressure to go out or accomplish anything. I’m loving the mandated family time. My around-the-world loved ones actually have time to write back to me, quickly! The air quality is the best it’s been in 40 years. There have been no traffic jams, nor annoying honking out my window. The sun shines against a beautiful blue sky. I’m thankful the tragedy of losing someone to covid has not yet become a reality for me. What are you lockdown silver linings? Tell me ⬇️”
Not having to wear a bra to go to work. Lol.
Taking care of your mental health www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Try to stay optimistic Focus on the positives
If you’re with other people, just accept that there will be friction. Work on being generous if you can. Keep to a routine Keep active Get as much sunshine and fresh air as possible Keep your mind stimulated Focus on a hobby Meditate Do yoga Play music Read and write Write a diary. Pour out your thoughts into the diary. It can be very rewarding. Cross things off your to-do list To binge watch TV series
To binge listen to podcasts / audiobooks To binge on something To spend time doing something To daydream To let your mind wander
The next episode of Gill’s Book Club:
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Coming in a couple of months I expect
2. Some of the recent news in the UK at the time of recording this
Since I spoke to my Dad in episode 652 and we talked about how the UK government had been pursuing a plan of herd immunity, which basically means → don’t make people stay at home, don’t close restaurants, pubs, gyms and other places (don’t put the country on lockdown) just let everyone get the virus, let every become immune and so what if some people die, at least the economy will be ok.
*I’d like to add a point here after having listened to the recent episode of the Adam Buxton Podcast with Dr Xand Van Tulleken in which they talk about lots of things relating to the situation (I highly recommend it) and I just wanted to add that actually it’s really hard to calculate the human cost of either the coronavirus or the effects of the containment measures. Which will kill more people or cause more suffering? The virus itself or the knock-on effects of all these containment measures and the impact they will have on the economy and also on people’s lives? It’s hard to balance the two things…
Anyway, let’s carry on*
Since then, the government has changed its position and has put the country on lockdown but it was only imposed at the start of this week. Probably a bit late.
I’ll have to talk to my Dad again about this to go into more detail about what’s going on in the UK, although I don’t want to overload you all with coronavirus content.
Also there’s the fact that Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus and today so has Boris Johnson, and you might want to know what I think about those things.
Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus. This doesn’t mean he likes it, it means he’s got it. What do I think? Well, I wish him well of course, like anyone who’s got this. He is in the at-risk category being 71, but apparently his symptoms are fairly mild. I expect he’s got excellent medical care so he’ll probably be alright.
I reckon most people when hearing the news just thought “But what about the Queen, is the Queen OK?” because if the Queen got it that would be very bad news. She’s got good medical care too of course, but still, she’s 93. We know that when The Queen dies it will be so significant that the country will definitely change. It’ll signify the end of an era, there will be national mourning on an unprecedented scale, not necessarily because everyone loves her, but just because she is such a significant figure and one of the only symbols of national unity that we have left. I say national unity, I suppose I mean continuity in the sense that she has been a constant thing for decades, while so many other things have changed and I think the whole of the UK gets some sense of security from that sense of continuity. It’s a complex situation and of course there are various opinions on the monarchy, including many who think that it’s an outdated institution and represents inequality and privilege in society, but still, it’ll be a hugely significant moment when she does die, and the country will grind to a halt (again) for days, with public holidays and various other things happening. So, if she died during this coronavirus lockdown that would be devastating.
And if she got it, died and everyone thought that Charles had given it to her, they’d chop his head off! Obviously they wouldn’t, I’m joking, but let’s just say that the knives would be out (an expression) and it would be extremely bad for his popularity which is already quite shaky. Anyway, this isn’t about the monarchy!
Boris Johnson has tested positive for it too. Apparently he has mild symptoms and is staying at home, working from home. Ironically so does the health secretary Matt Hancock. To be honest, it’s no surprise because until about a week ago the government’s position on this whole thing was to just let everyone get infected, let the population develop herd immunity it’s no big deal really, and if loads of elderly people die and the NHS collapses under the pressure then never mind we’ll just keep calm and carry on.
In fact Boris was bragging only recently during a press-conference about how he had met loads of coronavirus sufferers in hospitals and how he’d shaken their hands and he was shaking everyone’s hands. I expect he is eating his words now. What’s perhaps more serious and shocking is how irresponsible he’s been. Sure, he’s got it now which a) doesn’t help him or the country, or his pregnant girlfriend but also b) he’s possibly spread the virus to loads of other people, potentially thousands (due to the way the virus spreads exponentially) → so congratulations Boris, you have directly helped to make the situation much much worse than it could have been.
Here he is, talking about it in that press conference.
I said that flu was a form of coronavirus. Apparently that’s not true. Coronavirus and flu are totally different, and while flu is a killer, Coronavirus is potentially a much bigger killer, because of the way it spreads.
And for those people out there saying “Flu kills more people per year than Coronavirus, what’s all the fuss about?” here’s a clip of stand up comedian Nico Yearwood talking about it on stage before the lockdown when the comedy clubs were still open.
I accidentally said that we should be washing our hands for 20 minutes. Obviously that was just a slip and I meant to say 20 seconds. (We corrected that in the RT report)
I also said that masks don’t stop you from getting the virus. I realise now that I had almost no actual evidence to back that up. It turns out there are several types of mask and some are more effective at protecting you from this than others.
Disposable face masks vs N95 respirator masks
CNET.com Disposable face masks block large particles from entering your mouth (which I suppose means that small droplets containing the virus might still be able to get in, and anyway you can probably still get infected through the eyes and ears too, potentially – but maybe these disposable masks can help prevent you spreading it around),
So that’s the disposable face masks. Then the more tight-fitting N95 respirator masks are far more effective at shielding you from airborne illnesses. Those are the ones with the filters fitted in the front.
Both of these masks could potentially help protect you from getting a viral infection, but US government officials have emphasized that the American public should not purchase face masks to prevent themselves from getting infected. Instead, only people who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus should wear masks to prevent the spread of the disease to others.
Apparently the N95 masks are much harder to find than the standard disposable ones.
ADDITIONAL (added after recording – this doesn’t appear in the episode)
I have just been sent this video on Twitter. The message is clear. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Masks help to prevent the spread of the virus. They might not be perfect, but they’re better than nothing. In the Czech Republic they seem to have been very successful in containing the spread of the virus.
4. Personal experiences of lockdown / self-isolation with a 2-year-old child
Some details about what we’re doing and some of the challenges we’re facing
France has been on full lockdown for nearly 2 weeks now. Almost everything is closed except certain shops selling “essential items” –> note that the wine shops and cheese shops are very much open in our area :)
My daughter isn’t going to creche so we have to look after her all the time. That’s great but also exhausting. I’m not complaining, we knew what we were doing when we created her, so, you know, it’s our fault. Anyway, the thing is, it takes a lot of time and all that, and my wife and I have work to do but it’s not bad, we divide the day and I look after her in the morning and in the afternoon it’s the other way around.
I still teach classes for the British Council but now they are happening on Zoom – the videoconferencing platform. Actually, Zoom are doing pretty well out of this, aren’t they? I had just a few hours to learn how to use the platform but it’s pretty good. It’s not as good as teaching in real life, but it’s not bad. → Talk a bit about teaching on Zoom.
One thing I thought the other day is that this crisis is going to force us to change and will be a driver of change in various ways. Certainly we’re all becoming a lot more familiar with videoconferencing and I think a lot of employers and employees will realise that working from home is really doable and will become more and more normal.
Let me now talk about going outside and staying indoors. Most of our time is spent indoors of course, but we do go outside from time to time.
Feeling a bit guilty and also a bit nervous (don’t want to catch the virus, but don’t want to spread it), but going outside is vital for our mental and physical health.
Strict instructions from the government, which we are trying to comply with.
People are getting pretty angry about this on social media.
Only going outside for a bit of exercise, staying max 1km from our home.
Only ever just one of us, or one of us with our daughter.
We just walk around the block, choosing quiet streets, crossing the road to avoid people etc.
It’s like a ghost town
It’s quite eerie
It’s also quite peaceful and wonderful
Paris is a very beautiful city and usually it’s very busy and stressful. Not at the moment. Well, not busy anyway.
The weather has been fantastic, which makes this much easier to deal with.
But it’s also a dirty place, like most inner-city areas.
Rubbish and also general uncleanliness.
I wonder what condition the place will be in after weeks of this. Are the streets usually this dirty or is it just more obvious now?
Rubbish on the floor, dog poo not cleaned up.
I’m teaching my daughter to count and we often count things we see in the street. She now counts the dog poo. There’s nothing I can do about it. At least she knows she should avoid it. (I’m still not sure if there is a taboo about talking about this in Paris, which would be odd. Surely the taboo would be to let your dog do it and then not clean it up.)
Actually, I think Paris is always like that!
Anyway, let’s not dwell on it too long.
Some shops are open – those ones for essential food, supermarkets, boulangeries (bakeries), cheese shops. Yep, I live in Paris!
Queues are more orderly. There are lines on the ground. People know that they have to stay at least 1m away from each other. There’s more politeness actually.
Not touching anything.
Getting our daughter to run while holding my hand.
Jumping onto manhole covers.
Looking into the windows of guitar shops.
Spotting things in the street and counting them.
The main challenge for us is: keeping our daughter busy, keeping up her education (even though she’s just two and 3 months), limiting screen time, maintaining our mental health – I mean just trying to stay in a good mood, getting enough physical exercise for all of us but especially the little one, managing to get work done and also keeping in touch with friends and family. I feel like we’re only partly successful in all areas.
Yoga for kids
Reading, reading, reading
Using a pre-school app on the ipad
Worrying about screen time
Playing games for numbers, colours
Listening to music
Limiting screen time
Speaking a lot more English
Washing hands and singing happy birthday to celebrities
Overall → things are really not that bad for us at all. We are incredibly lucky.
For some others this might be an impossible time.
Some people have been laid off
Some people who are self-employed are unable to do their work
Some people will be unable to feed their kids because schools are closed (and they rely on those schools to provide a decent meal once a day)
A lot of people will have lost money
Some people will be worried about loved ones who are in vulnerable positions
And of course some people will be sick with the coronavirus and feeling terrible, wondering if they should go to hospital etc.
An update from my dad about Brexit, including details about Boris Johnson’s deal, the shutting down of Parliament, the upcoming general election and more. Includes some chat about Premiership football at the end.
Last time we spoke it was early August. Boris Johnson had recently become the PM and was going to negotiate a new Brexit deal after Theresa May had failed to get Parliament to accept the deal she spent over 2 years to get. Brexit, at the time was due to happen on 31st October.
I just have one question, which is “What’s been going on?”
I’m getting a sense of deja vu
it’s afudge / it was fudged
“I’d rather be dead in a ditch than ask for another extension” – Boris Johnson
Whips / The party whip
To put/throw a spanner in the works
To upset the apple cart
To stand your candidate down
None of this is spelled out but that’s what it means
You can jump to your own conclusions
Boris Johnson has refused point-blank
He’s saying Parliamentary Democracy is now defunct
The proroguing of parliament was null and void
Is that a political coup?
It would have been the biggest constitutional crisis since they cut Charles I’s head off
They didn’t get away with it
So there you have it. That was the Rick Thompson Report, recorded on Wednesday 13 November 2019.
The comment section is open if you’d like to share your thoughts there.
New episodes of LEP Premium are coming. To sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Also download my app to get the entire archive plus loads of bonus extras like the phrasal verb series, various videos and also bonus app only episodes. You can also access the premium subscription through the app.
Thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon!
Rambling on my own about all sorts of things including Brexit news, describing my recording setup and microphones, a book recommendation for you, comments about the Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary, the latest Star Wars Episode 9 trailer and Bill Bailey dissecting music in a brilliant way.
So, what about this episode of the podcast which is called “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts”?
In this one I am joined by English teacher Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com to talk about what must now be the number 1 issue facing the world, and that is the climate crisis. It’s bigger than Brexit, bigger than the latest scandal involving Trump or other leaders, it’s bigger than the fact that you’ve just made a cup of tea but there’s no milk in the fridge. This is bigger than all those things.
The title “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts” is actually the title of an article on The Guardian’s website which is all about certain key facts and figures explaining the climate crisis.
In order to get a bit more specific and look at some data on the subject Cara and I decided to go through this article which contains various graphs and charts illustrating the way climate change is happening and what the likely knock-on effects are. There are also charts about the growth of green energy and other possible solutions.
In terms of learning English, there is language here to look out for. Obviously there’s the language we use to talk about the climate, changing weather systems and the other aspects of this issue. But also you’re going to hear us using language to describe data, charts and graphs, which is very useful language if you have to write reports in English or when you write the Writing Part 1 task in the academic version of IELTS.
So listen out for descriptive verbs and other terms for describing changes and trends.
Cara helps intrepid travellers and adventurous expats improve their English listening skills through movies and TV shows so they can understand native speakers, even when they talk fast. Her website is Leo-listening.com. She has been on this podcast before, talking about learning English from TV and films in episode 523.
In this episode, first Cara and I talk about our personal experiences of recent changes in the weather and our concerns for the future and then we get stuck into the article. You’ll find a link to that article on the page for this episode on the website. You can hear us describing the charts, and discussing the significance of the data.
So, let’s get started. All you have to do is keep up with the conversation and spot the useful bits of vocab.
I’ll speak to you again on the other end of this conversation. But now, here we go…
Notes & Links from Cara
The Drilled podcast is all about climate denial and the fossil fuel industry.
This is the theory (and I guess this as well) I mentioned about why we haven’t come into contact with aliens. I first heard about it on the Sam Harris podcast.
This article by George Monbiot explains the environmental impact of meat and dairy really well.
This explains the CO2 impact of flying really well.
So there you have it. Just a conversation about the climate crisis.
I’m not sure what else to add here so I would like to throw it over to you and to invite you to make comments in the comment section for this episode.
What do you think?
Have you noticed changes in the climate where you are living? How are these changes having an impact on people’s lives?
Have there been any climate crisis marches, strikes or other events where you are?
What is the political climate regarding climate change where you are?
Are there any things that you’re doing these days in an effort to play your part in the fight to reverse climate change?
And generally, what are your thoughts? I would very much like to know.
Leave your comments below. Share your thoughts on this subject.
Listen to my mum talk about a social history project focusing on the lives of everyday people in the UK. Includes discussion of things like protests, plastic, identity, sex education, loneliness, and milk!
Hello everyone, this is LEP episode 608 and it’s called The Mass Observation (with Mum).
What’s that all about? You might be thinking. This sounds like some kind of Big Brother thing – like maybe the government observing everyone in some kind of dystopian future, and somehow my mum is involved in it.
Well, I’m afraid it’s far less dramatic than that.
In fact, the mass observation in the title is a social history project that has been going on in the UK, probably for 70 years or more. It’s a project that my mum has fairly recently got involved in.
Basically, the mass observation (now administered by the University of Sussex) aims to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of volunteer observers who either keep diaries or reply to open-ended questionnaires (known as directives). My mum is one of those volunteers and since this project is all about collecting information on everyday life in the UK we thought it might be an interesting episode of Luke’s English Podcast.
So that’s what you’re going to get here. A conversation with my mum on a variety of topics which have come up in the quarterly questionnaires from the Mass Observation.
So, you can expect some rambling conversation between the two of us on things like this:
identity and gender identity
sex education in school
loneliness and belonging
There’s also some chat at the start about Prince Harry & Meghan Markle, following on from the last time my mum was on the podcast when we talked about the royal wedding.
So now you can enjoy about an hour’s worth of my mum’s nice voice and accent talking about a variety of issues relating to everyday life in the UK.
I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back to talk a bit more on the other side of the conversation.
In terms of language learning, your task as ever is to just keep on listening. At the very least, that’s all you have to do here. Just listen, follow the conversation, see what you can learn from it and try to notice any features of English or vocabulary along the way. But the main thing, just enjoy this chat between my mum and me.
I hope you enjoyed that. I’d like to say a big thank you again to my mum for being on the podcast again, and to all members of my family who make a huge contribution every time they’re on.
So what’s up? Nearly the end of the summer holidays. We’re approaching the end of August.
I hope you’ve had a good summer.
Remember in July I mentioned a couple of times the LEP meetup that was happening in London? Well, I went to it and met about 25-30 LEPsters, had some drinks and conversation with them for a few hours, and what a pleasant experience that was!
In fact we recorded some samples of audio during the meetup, with everyone talking for a minute or two. I think I’ll be putting an episode together with that.
Hello folks, here is another new episode of the podcast. This is a free episode for everyone.
Premium subscribers may be waiting for the latest series of premium episodes and so let me say that premium episodes are coming very soon. I am on holiday but I have been working on a premium series in spare moments and it’s nearly ready to be recorded and published and that will happen soon, so rest assured that your premium content is coming… www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
But now, here is a new episode of the free podcast for you and I’m keeping it in the family again this time as we have another Rick Thompson Report, recorded just yesterday evening.
Most of you will know that The Rick Thompson Report is a series in which I talk to my Dad about politics, usually Brexit.
Every time another milestone in the Brexit story happens in British politics, like when we get another new prime minister or something like that, listeners get in touch with me requesting a new episode with my dad to somehow explain it all! Well, recently Boris Johnson became the UK’s new Prime Minister (you know him – crazy hair, crazy ideas) and he immediately assembled a new cabinet of ministers in line with his position on Brexit, which is basically – let’s try again to get some kind of deal with the EU but if that’s not possible let’s just go without a deal and everything will be great because… I don’t know… sausages or something! British sausages and Winston Churchill!
So naturally I’ve had requests for an episode with my dad to talk about this and about what might happen between now and October 31st when the UK officially leaves the EU (unless that date gets pushed back again for some reason, or the whole thing just gets called off and we can all just carry on like normal and pretend it never happened – have a cup of tea and wait for it all to just blow over – fat chance of that!)
Yesterday evening I sat down with my dad in order to attempt to discuss what’s been going on, and that’s what you’re going to listen to now.
I don’t need to say much more really, except that this conversation will probably be quite complicated and possibly difficult to follow – but don’t blame us, blame David Cameron.
I hope you can keep up with it, and that you manage to spot the various bits of meaty, chunky vocabulary that come up in the conversation.
The main thing that you, as a learner of English I expect, should do while listening to this, in my opinion, is simply try to follow what we’re saying and let your brain’s natural language learning potential take care of the rest. That’s right. Your study aim for this is simply to listen to it. That is it. This is your regular dose of English input through listening.
So, what do we think of Boris Johnson? What about his new cabinet? What might happen next in this crazy Brexit saga? Could The Queen even get involved somehow?
Listen on to hear us talk about these things, and more.
I’ll speak to you again at the end, but now, let’s begin.
Ian Hislop vs Priti Patel on capital punishment (Question Time)
David Cameron resigns, and then sings a happy little tune to himself
Danny Dyer vs David Cameron (again) “He should be held account(able) for it!”
So that was my dad and another conversation about Brexit. Apologies if we went over the same ground as in previous episodes on the subject, but there it is – that’s the situation!
Let us know what you think, even if you totally disagree with us of course.
I’m sure many of you will be interested to know more about Boris Johnson and our opinions of him. I would very much like to do a more in-depth episode or two about him, and in fact I’ve been planning that, so watch out for something in the future. I wonder how long he will be our PM.
Expect some more episodes soon, including premium ones which I have been working on in spare moments during my holidays, while my daughter has been napping or at the end of the evening when everyone else has gone to bed. I am working on it and they will arrive soon I promise! The series I’m working on is currently titled “Bad Science” and it covers things like medical science, the misuse of data and also whether vitamin pills are actually good for you. The main thing is that there are tons of very useful, quite high-level vocabulary items that I’m teaching you and it’s the sort of language that you need in order to sound intelligent and articulate in English. I’ll let you discover it when it arrives – which will happen as soon as it’s all been written and recorded!
Now I have to go to bed in order to catch up on some much-needed sleep and to get my energy back in order to survive another day chasing my daughter around a park, or around a farm or something! My daughter is quite obsessed with farmyard animals, which she points at very enthusiastically while saying hello to them in a mix of French and English. It’s adorable, but I need all the energy I can get!
So, I’m going to bed now. Hopefully I will actually be able to sleep. The last couple of nights I’ve had our daughter next to me in bed after she’s woken up in the middle of the night. She has a habit of kind of turning sideways in her sleep and sort of resting her legs on my face. It’s actually wonderful, funny and adorable, but also knackering. But enough about all that now, I will speak to you again on the podcast soon. But for now… Bye!!
Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you? It’s boiling hot here. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and today the temperature is expected to be in the high 30s with a feels-like temperature somewhere in the 40s.
I’ve never understood that. So the temperature is 39 but it feels like 43. So isn’t the temperate 43 then? I don’t get it.
In any case, it is boiling. So if at some point I stop talking, you hear a thud and the podcast goes silent – don’t worry, I’ve just passed out from heat stroke or exhaustion or something. Just joking, but it is very hot.
These aren’t exactly perfect conditions, but my dauntless British spirit is unbowed by any crisis, as we heard in the last episode, so I will be just fine, thank you.
I wonder how it is where you are.
Now, enough idle chit chat, let’s on to this episode.
This is episode 602 and it’s the second part of this episode I’m doing about British comedy TV show “The Day Today”.
You should listen to part 1 before listening to this, and also know that there are notes, videos and bits of transcription on the page for this episode on my website. Just go to teacherluke.co.uk and check the episode archive where you will find all the other episode pages, plus some bonus website-only content too.
In the first part of this episode I talked to you about The Day Today – what kind of programme it is, who made it and so on. Then we listened to three clips from that show which you can find on YouTube and then I broke them down for language and to help you understand the humour.
That’s exactly what we’re going to continue doing in this episode. I have 3 more clips, available on YouTube, so let’s do it like this:
First I’ll talk to you about the clip we’re going to see, explaining the context, giving you the main details and asking you to listen out for certain things. This part is necessary because it will really help you understand the reference points and bits of humour that you might otherwise miss.
Then we’ll listen again bit by bit and I’ll explain specific things including phrases or other features of English
Hopefully through this process you will understand and appreciate the humour and you’ll also pick up some English in the process.
Just a reminder – The Day Today is a parody news programme. None of the stories we’re going to hear about is real. It’s all completely made up parody for comedy purposes. This show makes fun of the conventions and clichés of TV news and current affairs programmes, and does it with a weird and surreal twist.
Also, I want to appeal to you to write to me about these episodes. Whenever I do episodes about comedy I wonder what people are thinking. Part 1 of this is doing well in terms of listens, but in terms of comments there are only a couple on the website and I’ve received maybe one email about this, so I’d like to appeal to you to get into the comments section. As a teacher in a classroom and a stand up comedian in a comedy club I get instant feedback on what I’m saying and doing. On the podcast it’s not like that. I record episodes, publish them and then I have no idea beyond just a few numbers, what people think. So, write to me and let me know what you think of this. Do you understand it all? Does it entertain you or disturb you? What are you thinking? Let me know.
Get The Day Today DVD Box Set on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Today-Complete-BBC-Disc/dp/B000171RU4/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+day+today&qid=1560774228&s=gateway&sr=8-1
OK, so let’s carry on with the first of our three clips.
It’s your blood – “Chopper of Doom” 22:30 (Episode 1)
This is from a feature called “It’s your blood” which is exactly like those old TV shows that told stories of bad accidents and how the emergency services responded to them. We used to have a show called 999 which was exactly the same as this.
They always used reconstructions with actors to remake the accident, and they were very cheaply done with the victims telling the story with a voice over. The presenter was Michael Buerk (again) and he had a certain kind of tone which was serious and stern with a patronising edge as if to say “If you’re stupid enough not to take precautions then you deserve to have an accident” perhaps with a little pause, looking at the camera to say “Don’t be an idiot”.
A little snippet of 999 (12:00)
Listen out for the stern, dramatic and slightly patronising tone of it. Also, it’s presenting itself as a public safety broadcast but really it’s just stories of bad accidents reconstructed for our entertainment.
So this is a little clip from BBC 999. (12:00)
On the Day Today it was called It’s Your Blood.
“Every week on It’s your blood we feature an actual bad accident”.
It’s a parody of that kind of show. Did you have shows like that in your countries? Someone tells the true story of a bad accident that they had and then it’s reconstructed using actors and sometimes the real ambulance workers themselves, who are always terrible actors.
In this clip, the accident is that a farmer flies his helicopter above some fields, but passes out while flying. The helicopter is dangerously out of control in the sky and might crash on some children. Luckily the farmer’s dog is in the helicopter, so the authorities manage to save the situation with the help of a local shepherd who whistles to the dog through the CB radio, instructing him how to land the plane, which he does.
If you’re not listening carefully you could easily miss the fact that the dog is the one that lands the plane, because everything is told in such a serious way. The dog even has a voice over at one point as it explains what it was like to fly in the helicopter.
Listen out for
How Chris Morris ramps up the drama by suggesting that the blades of a helicopter could easily kill humans “Helicopters, machines for cutting air, air that’s soft and easy to slice, like human beings.”
The perhaps unnecessary levels of drama, violence and suspense in the retelling of the story
Making the reconstruction had ethical questions because it forced the victims to face their ordeal again
“All bodily fluids are the ones that actually emerged at the time.” Ridiculous and impossible, but somehow exactly the kind of thing they’d say on a show like this. For example, the first 20 seconds of the real BBC 999 show.
The way he says “For this reason and many others, you may find that the following sequence produces a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” Listen out for how he says the final line “a very powerful sensation in your brain and body” in a kind of tragic way because it involved an actual bad accident. They could just not show this, but for some reason it’s their duty to show it and for us to watch it because a man had an accident and we shouldn’t do it too.
The voice over from the sheepdog Lindsay “It was smooth and exhilarating like an aerial motorbike” – that’s the sheepdog actually speaking in voice over
Question: What causes the farmer to pass out?
The local resident who takes 10 minutes to call for help because she’s too busy filming the disaster on her camcorder
Does the story end on a positive note or a negative note?
Clip begins at 22:30
A treat – give a treat to someone, promise someone a treat, get a treat for doing something, to deserve a treat, give a dog a treat A memento – I decided to video it for him as a memento Perilous – the helicopter was perilously out of control To head towards something – the chopper was heading towards a field, heading for a field
REDUNDANCY (Peter O Hanrahanrahan) 5:05 (Episode 6)
Economics Correspondent Peter O Hanrahahanrahan is back. This time the story is that General Motors in Detroit have laid off some workers at their factory.
Some language A factory / a plant To lay someone off / to make someone redundant
How many workers have been laid off? Peter O Hanrahahanrahan has the story, live in Detroit. The thing is, he’s got the wrong number.
Chris Morris presses him on this, forcing him to embarrass himself by showing his notes, which have a doodle of a spider in a spider’s web in the corner of the page.
Chris tells Peter off like he’s a naughty schoolboy.
Listen out for
Peter’s conviction at the moment that this is “Mass redundancy on an unprecedented scale”
How Chris shows his scepticism over Peter’s number.
How Peter quickly admits that he’s wrong when Chris asks to see his notes.
“You’re lying in a news grave” …what does it say on the gravestone? …news
Clip begins at 5:05
The POOL (Coogan’s bit) 24:21
This is from a spoof fly on the wall documentary about a municipal swimming pool in London and the people that work there.
You know that kind of thing – a camera crew follow people around their working life and reveal little human dramas that go on and tell the story of people in their ordinary lives in their own words.
In this one we’re at a swimming pool and we’re following some of the staff there. We see footage of the staff interacting, dealing with problems. We see what it’s really like to work at a swimming pool. There used to be a lot of shows like this on TV, and they spawned parodies like The Office. The bit I want to look at is Steve Coogan as the pool’s security guard. He’s playing a much older man and it’s pure Peter Cook. It’s a great little comedy character that we have never seen again.
He’s the security guard at the pool and he describes his work including several incidents like when a pigeon got into the pool once. It seems his working life is extremely boring and mundane, but then we learn that one year a person was killed at the pool and there’s a question of whether the security guard is somehow responsible for this. I love the way he responds to the suggestion that he’s liable for the person’s death.
Listen out for
Coogan’s tone of voice, accent and other little touches that make this an authentic feeling character
The way Coogan’s story about the pigeon has a very boring ending
What did he do one night when he found a woman’s swimsuit?
What’s his response to the allegation that he was responsible for the death at the pool?
Clip begins at 24:21
Rick Thompson in the DVD extras for The Day Today
The DVD has various bonus extras on it. I remember watching one of those extras with my brother and there was one which was a mini documentary about news broadcasting and how The Day Today uses the style of news for comic effect.
After a couple of minutes, we were surprised to see our dad on screen! He’d been filmed for the documentary and there he was in the BBC newsroom talking about news.
Let’s investigate a brilliant British comedy TV show and use it to learn English. The Day Today was originally broadcast on the BBC in the mid-90s and is now considered a groundbreaking parody of news programmes and launched the careers of various comedians, including Steve Coogan.
Hello folks, this episode is called British Comedy: The Day Today and in this one we’ll be looking at another classic bit of British TV Comedy.
First I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the show and then we’ll listen to some clips and I’ll explain the language for you.
This time, it’s The Day Today which was originally broadcast on TV in the 1990s, 1994 to be exact – yes, that’s probably before some of you were even born. But we don’t care about whether this is old or brand new, it doesn’t matter. I think good comedy always stands the test of time, and The Day Today is no exception. It’s still relevant and funny now just like it was before. And in any case, I think it’s part of the fabric of British culture now, just like many other classic bits of British TV comedy that we all grew up watching on TV.
What kind of programme is it?
It’s a surreal parody of news and current affairs TV programmes. It’s a comedy version of the news.
Imagine the news, like the BBC 10 o’clock news, but with everything turned up to 11, everything exaggerated. It’s more dramatic, more pompous, more self-important and much more ridiculous than the real news.
But The Day Today isn’t just an impressions show of people copying news readers, it had this amazing surreal twist to it, which made it so much more subversive.
The show made fun specifically of the self-important nature of TV news and used surrealism and absurdity under the guise of a news broadcast.
The news always presents itself as being very important, very serious, very heavy, completely trustworthy, stern, authoritarian even. These days TV news has softened a bit, but not much. It still has this air of superiority, which I suppose is a necessary part of attempting to convey information in a factual, serious and balanced way. But TV news language – both oral and visual has become a cliché (had become a cliché back in the 90s) which makes it very ripe for making parody comedy.
An example of real TV news headlines
Here’s an example of the opening of the BBC 9 o’clock news, which was and still is the flagship news programme for the BBC.
Listen out for the serious tone of the newsreader Michael Beurk, the important and significant sounding music and also Michael Beurk’s slightly old school pronunciation in places. All of these things went into The Day Today. (News begins at 00:50)
The difference between the Day Today and other shows which have parodied the news was the surrealism. Basically this meant taking a silly story and dealing with it in the most serious way possible, but there was more to it than that. The phrases used, the images created and the slight sense of twisted insanity create this version of the news that’s part Monty Python, part Peter Cook and part some kind of high tech dystopian vision of the future.
This is absolutely a show that inspired Charlie Brooker to do work like Black Mirror. In fact, the creator of Black Mirror worked with Chris Morris – the main guy behind The Day Today. So, for me, they come from the same creative community. Clever, satirical, twisted, dark and very funny comedy writing in the UK.
The Day Today was broadcast at 9pm on BBC2 – the same time as the national news on BBC1. Apparently some people mistakenly watched The Day Today, thinking it was the real news, and believed the stories.
The parody of news tropes was spot on. It looked, sounded and smelt like news. The opening titles of the show captured that sense of drama, pomposity and urgency that you get from news programmes. The set looked just right. The different characters were weird and bizarre but perfectly captured the sorts of journalists or presenters that you could find on TV.
Alan Partridge made his first TV appearance on this show as the sports reporter with a chip on his shoulder who was always getting things wrong.
The language is a big part of it. The news readers speak in this kind of news dialect, with a certain kind of intonation, complex sentences that go on too long and mixed metaphors, as we will hear.
Excellent performances by the cast, all of whom have gone on to do other great things.
Chris Morris is a talent that people often forget about, but he was fearless, original, very clever, quite ruthless and a bit sick – the perfect recipe for great British comedy. He went on to do another show called Brass Eye, which was similar to The Day Today but more extreme and controversial (and is a potential other episode for LEP), then various weird comedy projects like BlueJam, an ambient mix album with subliminal sketch comedy going on at the same time. Then he became a film director and did the film Four Lions which is about inept terrorists planning an attack in London. The film won various awards, as did The Day Today.
Armando Iannucci went on to make The Thick of It and In The Loop – political satires about life on Whitehall, and then Veep which is the American equivalent following the vice president. He also directed Death of Stalin and has been involved in writing for Alan Partridge and other big projects.
Other notable cast members are Steve Coogan of course who went on to become successful as Alan Partridge but has also starred in a few Hollywood movies and things.
All the other comedians on the show went on to do more great work. Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Patrick Marber, David Schneider.
Other writers on the show were Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews who went on to create Father Ted and later The IT Crowd and Black Books (just Graham Linehan).
LET’S LISTEN TO SOME CLIPS AND USE THEM TO LEARN ENGLISH
Alright, enough already. Let’s listen to some clips which you can find on YouTube, and which I have posted on the page for this episode, with time codes to help you find the clips.
There are only 6 episodes of The Day Today but they’re pretty packed with classic stuff.
I’ve been through all 6 episodes and picked out some of my favourite moments to share with you.
The plan is to play them, then break them down sentence by sentence to make sure you understand them 100% and hopefully, get the jokes, although this show doesn’t really use jokes per se, but in any case the aim is to help you understand and appreciate the humour and learn plenty of English in the process.
All the episodes are on YouTube so you could check them all out later if you like, or buy the excellent DVD box set from the BBC, which I own and recommend to you. It’s only £5 on Amazon. Other bookshops are available.
I have played some clips of this show before, and explained them for language. You might remember Alan Partridge’s World Cup Countdown or his Sports Roundup, there was Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan interviewing the minister for ships, and I think also we had the interview with the woman raising money by selling jam.
Anyway, let’s get into it.
First I want to play you the opening titles of an episode, just for the music really, because it sets the tone. There are a few ridiculous headlines too.
CLIP 1: THE DAY TODAY – OPENING TITLES
What are the three stories exactly?
Luke describes the opening titles
Those headlines again
Remember the way grammar changes in headlines.
FIST HEADED MAN DESTROYS CHURCH
Presumably a man with a fist for a head has destroyed a church. You can imagine him headbutting the walls or something. Don’t think about it too much, it’s supposed to be funny to hear such ridiculous things spoken in that voice using that register.
CAR DRIVES PAST WINDOW IN TOWN
The most boring story. A car drove past a window in a town. It’s accompanied by a video of a car driving past a building.
LEICESTER MAN WINS RIGHT TO EAT SISTER
Presumably a man from Leicester has taken court action to allow him to eat his sister. You could imagine this was a real story if he wanted to ‘wed’ his sister, or cousin, especially if he’s from Leicester, but this is to ‘eat’ his sister.
“Those are the headlines, now fact me till I fart.”
CLIP 2: WAR
Australia and Hong Kong have signed a treaty to create an amazing free trade agreement which will be very beneficial for both places and marks a new beginning of peace and cooperation between them.
Chris Morris interviews the British Minister with special responsibility for the commonwealth (this is the days when HK was still a British dependent territory) and the Australian Foreign Secretary – both men who are responsible for the deal.
The interview seems to start as a celebration of the new deal, but the newsreader Chris Morris manages to manipulate the two of them into a diplomatic fight which ends in a declaration of war.
This is a great sketch. The newsreader causes a war in order to be able to cover it in dramatic fashion on his news show. For me it’s about how the media can sometimes drive the agenda through their reporting. The BBC isn’t officially biased. In fact I think most journalists have an honest intention to report on what’s happening, but they’re always going to impose some of their world view on the way they explain stories. But also you get the sense sometimes that some TV producers and presenters are a bit seduced by their own power and end up pushing things in a certain direction under the guise of critical thinking.
Also, perhaps news programmes thrive on creating drama and reporting on a war is somehow the dream of many broadcast journalists, or at least seems like that because war correspondents have this air of action and adventure which borders on being romantic, and the efficient and lively way that broadcasters deal with stories of war makes it seem like they’re enjoying it somehow. There’s precise technical information, reporters in the middle of the action and loads of dramatic music, graphics and images.
Let’s listen to this sketch, which is about 4mins long.
Over to you
Here are some things to listen out for
How Chris Morris stokes up tensions and pushes the two diplomats towards war
Chris Morris’s confrontational interview style, typical of BBC presenters like Jeremy Paxman, notorious for bullying politicians on TV
The mixed metaphors and clichés like, “The stretched twig of peace is at melting point” and
“People here are literally bursting with war.”
The glee with which Chris says “YES, IT’S WAR!”
The OTT way that the show snaps into action once war has been declared, like they were ready and prepared for this, and as journalists this is what they live for
The name of the Day Today smart bomb (which I think is an actual bomb fired by The Day
Today, with a camera on it, so they can report from the middle of the fight. The news station have launched their own bombs in this war)
The clunky way the show goes to the weather, after all that war
I will be going through all of this again after we’ve heard it and I will break it down to the bare bones and will explain language and all that
CLIP 3: Peter O’hanrahahanrahan – Ich Nichten Lichten (Episode 2)
Ministers in Europe have been involved in difficult discussions about quota rates for trade with the US. I expect they’ve been debating what the rates should be, with some ministers disagreeing about the final decision.
Economics correspondent Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan is in Brussels because he says he’s spoken to the German minister and knows how he feels about the decision.
Peter O Hanrahahanrahan’s name is a joke on a real correspondent called Brian Hanrahan (an irish name I think) who actually used to call our house sometimes to speak to my dad (who used to be a BBC news man). Michael Beurk also came round sometimes. He was one of the presenters of the 9 o’clock news who is parodied by Chris Morris on The Day Today. In fact, I feel like I grew up in a news household because my dad often reviewed videos of presenters, we always watched the news, there were BBC pens and mugs all around the house and we sometimes met BBC TV presenters and news readers. I never met Alan Partridge though.
Peter O’Hanrahahanrahan is incompetent, stupid and also petulant (disobeys orders and lies, childishly). It turns out that Peter hasn’t spoken to the German minister and just stayed in his hotel room the whole time. He’s making up the information and can’t even speak German.
Listen out for
The way Chris Morris is sceptical about what Peter is saying, and starts to question his story subtly, before full-on bullying him and telling him off like a naughty schoolboy
Peter’s pathetic attempt to speak German, clearly pretending that he knows the language and actually spoke to the German minister, when he doesn’t and didn’t
How Peter finally admits that he doesn’t actually know what happened and didn’t speak to the minister at all, like a teenager admitting that he’s lying
Peter O Hanrahahanrahan – Ich nichten lichten (starts at 19m40sec)
CLIP 4: SOME KIND OF DRUBBING INCIDENT (Episode 3
In this one we start with a sports report from Alan Partridge but it gets interrupted with the news that The Queen and the Prime Minister have had a fight. We then follow the story and learn that during their weekly meeting, the PM (John Major) punched The Queen. This sounds shocking of course, especially now that The Queen is elderly, but that’s not the point.
Instead the show is mocking the way the news would deal with a constitutional crisis, springing into action in order to cover the crisis in full detail. It’s also just ridiculous to imagine The Queen having a brawl with anyone.
Listen out for
The report from Jennifer Gumpets in front of Buckingham Palace. This report is so realistic.
There isn’t much comedy in it beyond the bizarreness of the story. It’s just a perfect little parody of a report from a correspondent.
“And as a result of that broadcast the crisis has deepened dramatically” The news actually makes the situation worse by broadcasting footage of the fight, and then starts reporting on that too.
Spartacus Mills (history expert) – “Can you sum it up in a word? No. A sound?” What sound does Spartacus use to sum up the situation?
The special broadcast which was pre-recorded and designed to be played at times of crisis. It’s basically a way to say “This is Britain, and everything is all right. It’s ok. It’s fine.” and it’s filled with proud patriotic sentiments. The irony is that this kind of thing is either a) needed now in order to make British people feel that everything’s fine or b) the sort of thing used by the Leave campaign to convince people to vote Brexit.
What’s the solution to the crisis which has been agreed by both sides?
Clips start at 5:38 & 19:40/21:10
The PM was seen to leave hurriedly after half and hour