Category Archives: Politics

744. The Rick Thompson Report: Fuel Crisis / Brexit Rant (Autumn 2021)

Talking to my dad about the latest in the Brexit saga, including the current fuel crisis due to lack of lorry drivers and other problems which were predicted in the run up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. Video version available on YouTube and below.

Audio Version (with some extra bits and pieces)

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This is The Rick Thompson Report, where I talk to my dad about politics, news, current affairs – which almost always means an update to the ongoing Brexit saga.

What’s going on in the UK at the moment? How is Brexit going? Remember before the referendum when predictions were made by experts who recommended that Brexit was a bad idea – do you remember any of the predictions? They were labelled by the pro-Brexit camp as “Project Fear” suggesting that critics of Brexit were just trying to make everyone scared about leaving the EU but it was all baseless and everything was going to be wonderful in a very non-specific way. Well, we are now getting to a stage where we can see if those predictions are coming true or not? 

So, how long has the UK actually been out of the EU now? How’s it going?

719. Amber & Paul are on the Podcast

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

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Episode Introduction Transcript

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

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

Yes, the tangential trio are at it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Episode Ending Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some questions for your consideration:

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

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

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

Here’s a little taster of things to come:

Bahar from Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links for Craig’s podcast and website

Podcast links for Apprender Ingles con Resa 7 Craig

Website link for InglesPodcast.com

Ending Transcript

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

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

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

334. Interview with Craig Wealand (from InglesPodcast)

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

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

www.inglespodcast.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song

Tired of Waiting For You by The Kinks

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

709. The Stoicism of Groundhog Day (with Mum)

This is a conversation with my mum about philosophy, how the film Groundhog Day can help us understand the principles of stoicism, and how this can all help us to feel a bit better about the world.

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Links & Videos

More information from experts on stoicism modernstoicism.com/

The Stoicism of Groundhog Day by Tim LeBon modernstoicism.com/the-stoicism-of-groundhog-dayby-tim-lebon/

Derren Brown talking about stoicism on the Joe Rogan Experience

Groundhog Day Clips

708. Tasha Liu from China (WISBOLEP Runner-Up) 🇨🇳

This conversation with competition runner-up Tasha Liu is a way to get to know Chinese culture in a more personal way including the story of how Tasha’s father gave up drinking alcohol, and other interesting details about real life in the world’s most populated country.

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Introduction Transcript (after the jingle)

Hello everybody,

How are you doing? Thanks for choosing to listen to my podcast today. I hope you enjoy it.

In this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with Tasha Liu from China, the listener of this podcast who came 2nd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Let me explain quickly what the WISBOLEP competition is, for that one person who doesn’t know.

If that’s you, and you don’t know what WISBOLEP is → Hello! I’m now going to explain it to you in one single sentence. You’re welcome.

Here it is. The competition, summarised in one single sentence.

WISBOLEP stands for Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and is a competition I ran at the end of last year in which the prize was to be interviewed by me in an episode, the winner of the competition being the one who received the most votes from listeners after I played all of the 2-minute recordings sent in by the competitors in episode 692 of this podcast.

There you go.

Walaa Mouma from Syria was the overall winner. You may have heard her episode. It was published last month. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you do so! It’s episode 703 and Walaa explained in some detail how she improved her English to a good level, despite the hardships that she faced in her life. It was an inspiring episode, to say the least. We focused on Walaa’s approach to learning English – both her attitude and specific things she has done and continues to do to improve her skills. So the focus was definitely on learning English.

The conversation in this episode though, focuses mostly on cross cultural understanding.

Walaa is quite a hard act to follow, but we’re not comparing here. It’s not a competition you know! Wait, it is a competition, isn’t it? It totally is competition, isn’t it. It was a competition anyway. But for me, the competition part is done, and now it’s just a case of listening to LEPsters who were chosen by the people who voted in this competition.

And the spirit of this competition was always about this: Finding some interesting guests to talk to on the podcast and letting some LEPsters speak a bit and share their experiences. Let’s see what insights we can learn from other learners of English around the world. And let’s celebrate the citizens of LEPland! Everyone has a story to tell. We can all learn things from each other. All we have to do is just listen.

So, now that I have said that, here’s a brief overview of the content of this chat.

  • There’s a bit of “getting to know you”, as this is the first time I’ve ever spoken to Tasha, so we talk a bit about her studies, where she lives and so on.
  • Then we move onto the things she hinted at during her competition recording – and overall these things are ways to get to know China and Chinese culture a little bit more, in a personal way. So this is a cross-cultural exchange here and a chance to get beyond the stereotypes and cliches and find out some real things about life in the most populated country in the world.
  • There’s the story of how her father managed to stop drinking, which might tell us some things about family life in China.
  • Then we talk about some of the commonly-held beliefs about China (particularly beliefs held in the west) such as the way Chinese people eat (do they, as the saying goes, “eat anything with 4 legs except the table, and everything that flies except planes”? (and helicopters I suppose), or are they more discerning in their eating habits than that? Another assumption that people might have is that China is quite undeveloped in certain ways compared to the west, or how it could be ahead of the west in various ways too, like the way technology is used – payment systems for example, and the idea of the cashless society.

And there’s more detail about what it’s really like living in China today.

Just a heads up: There were some technical difficulties during the recording, due to a slightly poor internet connection between the two of us. This meant that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other properly or the connection just failed. I think I’ve saved it in the edit, but there may be a few moments where the bad connection affects our conversation. It shouldn’t be too bad, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

OK, now I’ve done my introduction, let’s get started properly, and here we go!


Ending Transcript

So that was Tasha Liu from China. It was really interesting to talk to her and I got that amazing feeling that you get when you actually talk to someone who lives in a completely different part of the world and in a different culture but you just connect as human beings.

That’s always special – talking to people from other places and getting a glimpse of how they live their lives and the fact that although we’re different in many ways, we’re also really similar in the fact that we’re still having human experiences ultimately.

It’s easy to forget but I feel like as humans we have many more things in common than differences. We’re all humans living on earth (as far as I know – you might be an alien on another planet as far as I know) but we’re all having a human experience ultimately, and so there are many more things that unite us than divide us, aren’t there?

I’m sounding a bit pretentious there, possibly, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Here are some reflections – just things that I thought about after having that conversation.

These are reflections about cross cultural understanding.

When we think about other cultures or experience them, there is a tendency to not fully understand those other cultures, and as a result we jump to conclusions about them, probably based on the fact that we’ve never had proper experiences of those cultures, never met or talked to those people properly and never observed things from their point of view. This is normal I suppose because we can’t always be everywhere and see everything.

We end up with limited views of other cultures, which might also be informed by other people’s attitudes, like “these people are just unsophisticated” or “it’s such a backward society” and this could be in any direction. It could be, in a broad sense – the west looking at the east, or the east looking at the west, and not just east and west, any culture thinking about another culture – we often don’t see the whole picture. We are all humans, but there are all sorts of complicated reasons why we behave or live slightly differently.

We are all the same, but our contexts are different.

That’s it really. I could ramble on more, but I think I’ve said enough.

I wonder what your thoughts are, now that you’ve listened to this conversation.
What reflections do you have?

I found it really interesting to talk to Tasha, and I just want to thank her again for telling us her stories, and for being willing to share her comments about her country. Also, congratulations to her! 2nd place is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

Right then. More competition runners up will appear on the podcast in due course.

Next up in the WISBOLEP series will be William from France. That will probably arrive in a couple of episodes’ time. I had a really nice conversation with him, which I think was just as insightful as the other WISBOLEP conversations we’ve had so far. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Tasha and the one with Walaa, then I think you’ll like hearing William’s story as well.

That’s coming up on the podcast soon.

I’m working on new content all the time, including new Premium episodes which will arrive in the LEP app before too long.

LEP Premium www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

LEP App teacherluke.co.uk/how-to-download/get-the-lep-app/

704. The Rick Thompson Report: Brexit Update (February 2021)

Talking again to my dad about UK politics and current affairs, focusing on the latest developments in Brexit, plus a bit of weather and sport. What does Rick think of the government’s trade deal with the EU? How does it affect Northern Ireland? And where are all the benefits promised by Boris Johnson & co? Listen to hear my dad explain complex things in plain English. Full transcript and text video available.

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697. 11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020, Explained

Going through 11 topical Christmas jokes for 2020, then a ramble about podcast statistics for 2020 and more… Merry Christmas everyone!

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Introduction Transcript & Jokes

Hello listeners, 

How are you doing today? I hope you are feeling fine. Are you feeling festive? Is it even possible to feel festive this year? Hopefully you’re finding a way to keep your spirits up as we speed towards Christmas.

I’m attempting to get the conditions just right here. I’m wearing a warm sweater, a nice thick pair of socks and I’ve got a log fire going on here (I haven’t really – it’s just a video loop of a log fire – I couldn’t have a real fire going,  it’s far too warm for that, I’ve got the windows open! But let’s imagine I’m in front of a lovely cosy warm log fire and that it’s all snowy and freezing outside and I’ve just taken some time out from wrapping presents and drinking brandy to do this recording for you.)

I’m in Paris at the moment. I’m not making the usual trip with my wife and daughter back to England to see my parents and brother this year, because of obvious reasons. It’s a Parisian Christmas this year, which is also very nice. “Christmas in Paris is such a wonderful thing, red wine and roses, are perfect for staying in” – you could imagine some crooner singing that.

2020 is nearly at an end. It’s been a weird year hasn’t it!?

In this Christmas episode I’m going to go through 11 Christmas themed jokes that might put a smile on your face. These jokes make fun of the year that we’ve just had to deal with – 2020.

I’m going to tell you 11 jokes, then explain them of course one by one, and then I’ll have a bit of a ramble about podcast statistics, upcoming episodes and my best wishes for Christmas.

11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020

What is a Christmas cracker? What is a Christmas cracker joke?

I probably explain this every Christmas time, but let me cover it again briefly. The Christmas cracker joke is a hallmark of a normal Christmas at home with the family. Everyone’s gathered around the table for a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings and of course there are Christmas crackers decorating the table, one placed in front of each chair.

A cracker is like a tube which is pinched at both ends, and inside the tube there’s a paper party hat, a toy or puzzle or tool and a joke. The jokes are usually pretty awful things like “What does Santa have for breakfast? Snowflakes”. That kind of thing.

I did an episode last year about Christmas cracker jokes, it’s episode 631. teacherluke.co.uk/2019/12/16/631-29-awful-christmas-jokes-explained/

But this year I have trawled the internet for some alternative jokes that have some topical elements focusing on things like the British government, the coronavirus and things like that.

These jokes are being shared all over the internet on a lot of newspaper websites at the moment. They’re trending at the moment, especially the one about Dominic Cummings. 

It would be good if Christmas crackers contained more topical jokes like these each year, instead of things like “How does Santa keep track of all the fireplaces he’s visited? He keeps a logbook.”

So I’ll read through the jokes, then I’ll explain them one by one. Let’s see how many of these you can get. It might also be a way to review some of the themes which have dominated our lives this year, certainly in the UK.

After I’ve been through the jokes I’m going to have a bit of a ramble again, and will do a little review of the year in podcasting, and wish you all a merry Christmas again.

By the way, this is the official Christmas episode. Happy Christmas everyone! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I’ll say simply “Seasons greetings to one and all!” Also, happy new year and good riddance to 2020.

There will be one other episode arriving after this one – that’s an episode with Paul and a hint of Amber too. I’ll release that during the holidays. Then I might take a bit of a break during the holiday, but I’ll be working on premium stuff to be uploaded when possible, and I’ll probably be doing a few little interviews, maybe a conversation or two with James, Dad, Mum. Those will probably be published in the new year, but we will see.

In any case, let’s now go through this list of dodgy jokes for Christmas 2020 and then I’ll ramble on to you a bit more.

11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020

Let’s see how many of these you get. They’re either word jokes or cultural references to things that have happened this year. Also, there are bound to be words and phrases to learn here, and I will be going through all that properly during this episode.

  1. What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song?
    Driving Home for Christmas
  2. Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas Eve?
    They have herd immunity
  3. Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join their work conference call?
    Because there was no Zoom at the inn
  4. Why can’t Boris Johnson make his Christmas cake until the last minute?
    He doesn’t know how many tiers it should have
  5. How is the pandemic like my stomach after Christmas?
    It’ll take ages to flatten the curve
  6. How can you get out of talking to your boss at this year’s staff Christmas party?
    Just put him on mute
  7. How is Christmas exactly like your job?
    You do all the work and some fat guy in a suit gets all the credit.
  8. Why is Parliament like ancient Bethlehem?
    It takes a miracle to find three wise men there.
  9. Christmas dinner is a lot like Brexit. Half the family were told they needed to make room for Turkey, so opted to leave Brussels.
  10. Why doesn’t Jeremy Corbyn ever visit Santa?
    Because he struggles in the poles.
  11. Why was the snowman looking through the carrots?
    He was picking his nose.

A Year in Podcasting

Top 20 episodes this year

I released about 100 episodes this year, including all the premium content and other bits and pieces I’ve created and uploaded this year. That’s got to be the most productive year ever for LEP.

I guess since COVID-19 came along I’ve spent a lot of time indoors this year. Not much travelling and as a result I was very productive and you were also very attentive, listening more this year than in previous years. 

In 2020 the podcast got over 13 million downloads (13,663,983 to be exact – at the time of counting – 18 December 2020), which is awesome and I think it’s the biggest year so far. 

Here are the top 20 episodes from 2020

  • 676. David Crystal: Let’s Talk – How English Conversation Works
  • 660. Using TV Series & Films to Improve Your English
  • 661. An Englishman in Los Angeles (with Oli)
  • 682. Key Features of English Accents, Explained
  • 655. Coping with Isolation / Describing Feelings and Emotions – Vocabulary & Experiences
  • 663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul
  • 637. 5 Quintessentially English Things (that you might not know about) with James
  • 640. IELTS Speaking Success with Keith O’Hare
  • 673. Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks (with James)
  • 669. How to Learn English

Here are the top countries for 2020

It’s the usual list to be honest!

  • 20 Australia
  • 19 Hong Kong
  • 18 Saudi Arabia
  • 17 France
  • 16 Brazil
  • 15 Vietnam
  • 14 Thailand
  • 13 Turkey
  • 12 Italy
  • 11 Ukraine
  • 10 Korea
  • 9 Germany
  • 8 Spain
  • 7 United States
  • 6 United Kingdom
  • 5 Poland
  • 4 Taiwan
  • 3 Japan
  • 2 Russia
  • 1 China

Top Podcasting Platforms

How are you listening?

  • Apple Podcasts App
  • Spotify
  • Chrome – which must be Google Podcasts I expect, or maybe web browsers.
  • Castbox
  • PodcastAddict
  • The LEP App

Upcoming stuff

Paul’s episode (with a hint of Amber)

Maybe something with James in which we ramble about a load of nonsense. 

Something about The Mandalorian (perhaps with James, perhaps with someone else) but I don’t know all the comic book backstories and even the animated series like Star Wars rebels. 

Some kind of Rick Thompson report, but we might be waiting until Brexit day, when the transition period ends. Boris Johnson is attempting to create a deal but there’s no way that deal would be better than just being in the EU itself, and anyway he probably won’t even get a deal at this rate. Will there be huge disruption at the borders, lack of stock in the shops and other repercussions?

Gill’s book club – 1,2,3,4 by Craig Brown – the book about the Beatles. McCartney III is out now by the way.

I keep wanting to do something about the Beatles but the topic is so huge that it’s hard to cover it all. Perhaps what I can do is a rambling story of the Beatles episode or series which tells the story, and it is an epic story with many elements to it. It’s hard to tell it because there are 4 people involved and more, but I might have a go at it. I could just try and do it all from memory. Probably be a 10 part series or something like that!

WISBOLEP conversations. These will be dotted out over the next few months I think. 

More conversations with guests.

I have something in the pipeline about legal English, which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds as we look at various aspects of the law and legal English, including stories of landmark cases involving dead snails and jaffa cakes. It should be a bit of an eye opening episode if you’re unfamiliar with legal English, but also just the thing you want if the world of law is your thing.

But now I will bid ye farewell for the time being.

When the Paul episode drops it probably won’t have a long intro or anything. It’ll go straight into the conversation. When I talk to you again, I’m not sure but it shouldn’t be too long before new episodes start arriving again.

So, merry Christmas one and all, seasons greetings and a happy new year to you and yours. Stay safe, be excellent to each other and I will speak to you again next time.

694. The Crown / The Royal Family (A Royal Ramble with My Wife)

Talking to my wife about the latest season of the Netflix TV drama The Crown, which follows the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II and her family. We talk about Charles & Diana, Margaret Thatcher, The Queen’s accent, Prince Andrew’s BBC interview and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, How are you today? I hope you are doing well. Here’s a new episode of the podcast. 

Several things before we start. 

WISBOLEP

The voting is over in the WISBOLEP competition. Yep, the voting closed on Sunday 6 December at midnight. I will be announcing the results in an episode of the podcast soon. So, stay tuned for that.

LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Premium LEPsters – hello. I just want to let you know that I have uploaded several premium episodes covering language from my conversation with Lucy in the last episode. I went through the conversation again and picked out over 50 words and phrases that you might have missed, or that I think are worth highlighting and then I presented them to you with explanations, examples, a memory test and pronunciation drills. That’s P28 parts 1 and 2 and it’s in the premium section now. Also, Premium series 27 is underway and I recently uploaded parts 1 and 2 of that to the premium section – they contain some grammar and vocabulary language tips and practice, with pronunciation drills too. Parts 3-8 will be coming up in the next couple of weeks. If you want to know more about LEP Premium including how to get the episodes, and how they can really help your English in various ways – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

JINGLE

694. The Crown / The Royal Family (A Royal Ramble with My Wife)

In this episode I am returning once again to the topic of the UK’s Royal Family. This time I’m talking to my lovely wife about the royals because we’ve recently been watching season 4 of The Crown and so royal stuff is definitely on our minds at the moment. 

Just in case you don’t know, The Crown is a Netflix TV series about the British Royal family. I expect many of you will be aware of it too and maybe you’ve also been binge-watching season 4 recently, like us. Here’s an episode all about it. 

My wife, who is French, is particularly fascinated by the bizarre lives of my country’s monarchs and we often talk about the show and the real events it is based on, so we thought it might be interesting to share some of our thoughts with you in an episode of the podcast. 

If you haven’t seen The Crown yet, and you’re worried about spoilers in this conversation, I don’t really think it is possible to spoil this show as it’s all based on real events which most people know about. In fact, listening to this before you watch the show, could even help you understand it and enjoy it a bit more. Also, if you have no plans to watch The Crown, I think that you can still enjoy listening to this. It’s not just for people watching the show.

I know what some of you will be thinking. You’ll be thinking – “Do you recommend this as a good show for learning English?” 

Yes, as long as you genuinely enjoy it.  I think most people agree that The Crown is good and that it’s interesting – high drama, beautiful to look at, great actors, an interesting topic.

You should also be aware that the characters speak in a very posh accent, which is not how most people speak. It’s not massively different to, let’s say, “normal English” but you should be aware that they do sound very posh and have a posh accent. It’s important to hear a wide variety of accents in English, because this is the nature of the language. It’s a diverse language and you need to take that into account when learning it. You should be able to understand the various accents and hopefully be able to identify them to some extent anyway.

So, overall – yes, I think it’s a good show to watch and can definitely be useful for your English.

To get more specific tips about how to use TV shows like this to improve your English, listen to episode 660 of my podcast.

The Crown is currently in its 4th season, which deals with the period in which Maragaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, and when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer – later to be known as Princess Diana. So this is the late seventies, the eighties and the early nineties. 

In this conversation you will hear us talking in the usual rambling fashion about things like:

  • What we think of the show, including descriptions of how it looks and the production in general
  • The performances by some of the actors 
  • Accents you can hear in the show, especially the high RP which is spoken by the Queen and other royals.
  • What the show makes us think about specific members of the family, their stories, their relationships with each other and how they are represented in the show
  • What the show makes us think about the institution of the monarchy itself, including some of the pros and cons of having a royal family – for the country as a whole, but also for the individual members of the family itself who enjoy the luxuries of their privilege but are bound by the duties that they have to the crown 
  • We also assess the reign of Elizabeth II, and talk about “Operation London Bridge is Down”, which is the codename that refers to the official plan for what will happen in the days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, when that inevitably happens. It’s actually quite extraordinary and makes you realise how significant The Queen is to the nation.
  • We also end up talking about the recent scandal involving Prince Andrew, who is one of The Queen’s four children – he’s the third one in fact. I don’t know if you are aware of this scandal, but it was big news in the UK. It is actually a disturbing and shocking story, but it’s also fascinating. I am referring to Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of the trafficking and prostitution of underage girls. Epstein died in prison in pretty suspicious circumstances. The official story is that he committed suicide but plenty of people believe that he was killed in order to prevent the truth from coming out. Anyway, Andrew was allegedly one of Epstein’s friends or “associates” let’s say and in fact one girl who was a victim of Epstein’s has made claims against Andrew specifically. In response to those claims, Andrew chose to conduct an interview with the BBC in 2018 . He wanted to deny all the claims against him, but the interview did not go very well and it was a bit of a PR disaster for Andrew. I find it absolutely fascinating as well as disturbing and I’ve been wondering for ages whether I should discuss it on the podcast. Keep listening to find out more about this whole story.

The Royal Family Tree

Before we start properly I think it will really help if I remind you of the basic family tree in the Royal Family.

So there’s The Queen of course. Queen Elizabeth II. She has been Queen since 1952 and that’s the longest reign of a UK monarch in history. Her husband is known as Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. In season 4 of the show The Queen is played by Olivia Coleman and Philip is played by Tobias Menzies.

The Queen’s mother was also called Elizabeth but she was commonly known as The Queen Mother. She died in 2002.

The Queen had a sister, called Margaret, known as Princess Margaret, played in the show by Helena Bonham Carter. Margaret also died in 2002, less than 2 months before The Queen Mother, in fact.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had 4 children. The oldest is Charles, the Prince of Wales and the heir to the throne. Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and she became Princess Diana of course. They had two children. The first is William, now the Duke of Cambridge and married to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. They have three children. The oldest is George and he is third in line to the throne after Charles and William. 

Charles and Diana’s second child is Harry who is now married to Meghan Markle. Harry and Meghan are to some extent cut off from the royal family as they chose to leave their public duties fairly recently, and they were quite heavily criticised for that. William, Kate, Harry and Meghan don’t actually feature in the show, but they do come up in this conversation.

Charles and Diana’s marriage ended in divorce in 1992. Diana of course died tragically in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Charles later married Camilla Parker-Bowles, who he had been romantically involved with since before he married Diana. Charles and Camilla are now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

The Queen’s other children are Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

That’s probably enough information about the family tree there, but I decided it was probably a good idea to remind you of their names and their positions in the family, just so you definitely know who we are talking about.

Anyway, I won’t go on much longer here in the introduction, except to say that my wife  enjoys being on the podcast from time to time and she loves talking about this topic, but she’s a little bit self-conscious about speaking English in front of my entire audience like this. But I assured her that my audience are all lovely and non-judgemental and that she has nothing to worry about – so, listeners, don’t let me down. OK? 

Right then, I hope you now can enjoy sharing some time with us in our living room, having quite a long and rambling conversation about The Crown and all things Royal and here we go…

—–

Video Clips

That moment when Charles said “Whatever love means anyway…”

When The Queen met Michael Fagan after he broke into her bedroom

Ending

There’s nothing more for me to add here except this:

  • What do you think about all of this? I mean about the royal family and all that stuff. Do you feel sympathy for the individual members of the family?  Have you seen The Crown? What do you think of it?
  • We didn’t talk much about Margaret Thatcher, played in this series by Gillian Anderson who first became known for playing Scully in The X Files. We are fans of hers, and my wife thinks her performance in the show was great. I’m not so sure. I partially agree. Anyway, we couldn’t cover everything in this conversation.
  • Finally, what do you think – should I do an episode all about the Prince Andrew interview on the BBC?

Thank you for listening.

Reminders

Premium LEPsters – check out the app and the website for the latest premium episodes. If you’d  like to sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

WISBOLEP – I’ll be revealing the results and talking about what happens next in a forthcoming episode, soon.

Right, so I will speak to you again soon, but for now – goodbye!

672. The Rick Thompson Report: COVID / BREXIT / BLM (July 2020)

Talking to my dad about recent developments in the UK relating to coronavirus & Brexit with a cameo appearance by Gill Thompson talking about statues.

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Introduction Transcript

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.


Outro

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
  • Rambling monologues
  • 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
  • Something else

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

That’s it for this episode, thank you for listening. I will speak to you again in the next one, but for now – good bye!

659. Lockdown Chat with Cara Leopold

Chatting to Cara Leopold about living in self isolation, the global coronavirus lockdown and how you can work on your English at home using TV shows and films.

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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

ICU = intensive care unit

Helicopter parent / helicopter parenting = (informal disapproving) a parent who is closely involved with their child’s life and tries to control it too much, especially their child’s education

Collins Dictionary dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/helicopter-parent

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…


Ending

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”

www.udemy.com/share/1020Lg/

Upcoming episode with Oli

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.

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-291-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-1/

Episode 2 – Luke from England, Rita from Italy, Lavi from Hungary, and Nrup from India.

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-292-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-2/

Episode 3 – Kieren from England, Kais from the Netherlands, Nikita from Canada, and Darkan from Kazakhstan. 

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-293-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-3/

Some of you will be wondering when another RT report will arrive. Soon, I think!

Thanks and speak to you again soon!