Category Archives: Reading

622. General Ramble (Oct 2019) Learning English / Politics / Recording Setup / Book Recommendation / Beatles / Star Wars / Bill Bailey

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.

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Episode Notes & Videos

Rick Thompson Report/Politics

🤷‍♂️

My Recording Setup

A Shure SM57 into a CL1 Cloudlifter then into a Behringer Q502 and then into the Zoom H5.

Book Recommendation

One Train Later by Andy Summers

The Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary

Star Wars Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker

Episode 9 Trailer

RedLetterMedia predict the plot of Star Wars 9

Bill Bailey & Music

614. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 3)

Here’s the conclusion of this online murder mystery text adventure game. Vocabulary is reviewed at the end. Video available for premium subscribers.

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Video Version for Premium Subscribers

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Episode notes and transcriptions

Hello listeners and welcome to episode 614. In this episode I’m going to continue reading through this online text adventure that I started in episode 612. This should be the 3rd and final part of this murder mystery story.

You have to listen to parts 1 and 2 first before you listen to this. They are episodes 612 and 613. If you don’t listen to them first, none of this will make any sense, ok!

So I’m assuming you’ve heard those two parts.

Let’s just recap the story quickly.

We’re on the hunt for the killers of 3 prominent academics in London 1861. Intelligent and brilliant people keep turning up dead, completely naked and with their hearts torn out.

After lots of investigation by us (a brilliant Holmes-style detective) and our partner Mardler, we’ve worked out that the killings have been done by a weird religious cult that worships King Cobras and likes to eat the hearts of people as a way of absorbing their intelligence. So they’ve been preying on academics, scientists, surgeons, historians and so on.

We’ve managed to catch two of the principle murderers – a wealthy member of the upper-classes, a woman posing as a nurse in local hospital and now we are on the tracks of the main bad guy, an old man by the name of Lynch who we suspect is currently holding a French intellectual hostage with a plan to murder him and eat his heart in the next few hours. Earlier in the story we got shot and had to jump out of a window so we are nursing an injury and not at our full strength.

We’ve managed to track down Lynch to a house outside London and now we are about to enter the house and hopefully save the life of the French man and bring Lynch to justice. Let’s see what happens next and what kind of score I’m going to get at the end of this game!

I have a feeling that we’re getting close to the end of the story, based on how it’s going. I reckon this should be finished in the next 15-30 minutes, but we will see. If there is time in this episode I will go through a list of vocabulary items that I’ve picked up from the story.

By the way, there are videos for episodes 612, 613 and hopefully this one available for Premium subscribers. You can see me reading through the story, and there are also some bonus extras including a song in 613 part 2. Sign up to LEP premium at teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Right, let’s carry on then!

Word list

  • an acclaimed historian
  • the odour of varnish
  • a furrowed brow
  • a loner
  • Julian chuckles
  • I thought I had you for a minute
  • a raving lunatic
  • a bookmark
  • bags under your eyes
  • confident footsteps
  • a mutilated corpse
  • gutted like an animal
  • She has blisters on her left fingertips from the strings
  • Gray rummages through his desk drawer for a moment
  • Marilyn is taken aback
  • Marilyn hastily digs through her bag
  • her hand returns clutching two ticket stubs
  • This is a pretty good alibi, assuming we can hear from some witnesses that confirm her whereabouts
  • you don’t rule her out as a suspect entirely just yet
  • birch tree pollen
  • They got into a violent scuffle
  • scraping your palms on the hard road
  • You stumble back onto your feet and catch up with Mardler
  • sweat forming on your brow
  • sprint across the road
  • tripping on a discarded piece of garbage
  • Dilated pupils, bloody nose, hoarse voice
  • lurking at Hollowleaf Hospital, he’s trying to score some drugs
  • Dr Yates slumps down on the ground, defeated
  • Another dead end!
  • footprints on the floor
  • dried mud
  • following the faint footprints
  • a fist
  • a bruise on Julian’s face
  • The floorboards creak noisily as you walk over them
  • you tackle him to the ground
  • Most of the doctors and nurses have gone home for the night, but a few stragglers are left caring for the sick and wounded.
  • You wince in pain.
  • Your kneecap and head are throbbing.
  • a cane
  • Sorry I have to ambush you like this
  • gears turning
  • Crisp morning air fills your nostrils
  • You feel winded by the time you reach Palomer’s door
  • a shard of glass
  • Mardler ponders your theory.
  • He was brushing up on German translations when we saw him last
  • You limp into the shop
  • Quentin Lynch was cold and out of breath
  • Discerning detective

Previous detective episodes

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

612. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1)

613. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

613. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

Join Luke as we continue to work through this mystery story following a serial killer through the streets of Victorian London. Read the story and play the text adventure game as you listen.

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Video Version for Premium Subscribers

Video part 1 (with a bonus song due to technical difficulties)

Video part 2

Sign up to LEP Premium to unlock this video www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Episode notes and transcriptions

Here is part 2 of this new murder mystery detective story.

You should listen to part 1 of this first! Click here for part 1.

In this episode I’m reading through an online text adventure from www.textadventures.co.uk

This one is Victorian Detective 3, written by Peter Carlson.

Listen and enjoy the story and read along with me if you like.

Here’s the link http://textadventures.co.uk/games/view/itwcu1_epk2b-azzulq6cw/victorian-detective-3

Let’s continue the story!

Word list coming in part 3…

Previous detective episodes

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

612. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1)

612. Another Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1)

Listen to Luke investigating a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ detective story and read along if you like! Learn English in fun ways with stories on Luke’s English Podcast. Video available for premium subscribers.

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Video Version for Premium Subscribers

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Episode notes and transcriptions

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast.

In this one I’m going to go through another online text adventure in order to try to solve a murder mystery set in Victorian London.

It’s been a while since I did one of these on the podcast.

Several times in the past I have read through online detective adventure stories written by Peter Carlson and available at textadventures.co.uk

There were episodes 338 & 339 (A Murder Mystery Detective Story) and episodes 425 and 426 (Victorian Detectives) in which I was joined by Amber in Paul. (links at the bottom)

These are based on stories and text adventures that you can find at textadventures.co.uk I usually use the ones done by Peter Carlson and in fact after recording the first one, Peter got in touch with me to tell me that he liked the way I did it and was welcome to use his other stories. So, kudos to Peter for being behind us on this one.

In the first episode I read through the story entitled Victorian Detective, and then second one was the sequel “Victorian Detective 2” and now we are on to the third instalment of the series, that’s right it’s “Victorian Detective 3”.

So the idea behind these text adventures is that you read through some text on a webpage and there are certain words highlighted which you can click on for extra information and every now and then you have to make a decision which can affect the way the story turns out. Each decision relies on your observational skills and your reading of the information provided. You have to be like a Sherlock Holmes style detective, or a text detective if you will, to work out the right choices based on the evidence you’ve read.

This sort of thing is great for learning English because you can do tons of reading with very specific goals each time. It’s online so you can check out new words when you come across them and the fact that you’re part of the story makes it extra engaging. You can also read along with me as I play the game, or play it on your own later. And if you do that, consider leaving a comment or review at textadvantures.co.uk thanking Peter Carlson for his work.

You can check out loads of these games at textadventures.co.uk and I’ll let you explore them in your own time.

Right, so what about Victorian Detective 3?

In this series we play the part of a brilliant detective who has skills similar to those of Sherlock Holmes. You have perfect memory, demonstrated by the fact that you can re-read any text so far. Your super fast decision making ability is represented by the unlimited time we have to make our choices in the game. And our vast knowledge is represented by the internet and we are encouraged to google any things we don’t know about.

As a detective we have a police partner that we work with called Mardler. He’s a bit like the Lestrade character in Sherlock Holmes in that he is a police officer who often gets things wrong and is a bit competitive with you. So Mardler is our partner.

So here’s how it’s going to go.

I’ll read through each section and read all the other peripheral info that you get by clicking on different words. I’ll explain things as we go if I think it’s all getting complicated. I’ll invite you to think about the right option each time and if you want you can read along with me by following the link on the website.

textadventures.co.uk/games/view/itwcu1_epk2b-azzulq6cw/victorian-detective-3

I have no idea how long this will take! It might be several episodes, we’ll see. I haven’t done the game before so I don’t know how long it will last. In this episode I think I’ll go for about an hour and then I’ll find a good place to pause the story. Some kind of cliffhanger would be good.

Your task is just to try and keep up with the story, perhaps think about each decision too. If I make a mistake at any point, jump into the comment section and explain your thoughts.

But mainly, just try to follow the story and I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable as a way to learn English through listening.

I’m slightly concerned that my reading of texts might distance you from the story slightly. I really want you to concentrate on imagining the surroundings of each scene. It helps if you really visualise each situation as you listen to it. Use any descriptive language you can find to help you paint a visual image of what you’re hearing in the story. This can make a big difference to your ability to keep up and to stay involved all the way through.

So for this story we’re in London in 1861. Victoria is on the throne. The American Civil War is breaking out in the USA. London is probably quite a dirty, smokey, foggy sort of place with some very upmarket areas and also some slums. People used horses and horse-drawn carriages to get around and do things. It’s the world of Sherlock Holmes basically.

Right, so without any further ado, let’s begin the story.

There’s a little bit of chess at the beginning and I admit that I’ve done this several times to get the right sequence of moves. QUEEN – PAWN – PAWN

Also, as we go through I’m picking up or losing points based on my decisions. I think it’s not possible to die in the game, but the outcome might be different and your score can be different each time.

textadventures.co.uk/games/view/itwcu1_epk2b-azzulq6cw/victorian-detective-3

Previous detective episodes

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2)

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Word list coming in part 3…

576. Talking about Comedy, Books, Films & Music with James

My brother James is back on the podcast for a 90min+ mega-ramble about things like: taking sick days from work, snowboarding, doing stand-up for the first time, the new film about Laurel & Hardy, Steve Coogan / Alan Partridge, The Beastie Boys and making mix tapes on cassette tapes in the 1990s. Intro transcript available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners. In this episode I’m talking again to my brother James, who has appeared on this podcast quite a lot over the years, usually talking about things like books, films, music and other bits of pop culture, and in fact that’s what we’re talking about in this episode too.

The conversation is about 90 minutes long so if this was the 1990s we could have recorded almost the entire thing on a C90 cassette tape and then just posted it to you. Do you remember those days? When we all used cassette tapes for our music and you had to rewind them, and stick labels on them and sometimes the tape would get all chewed up inside your walkman? Ah good times.

Anyway, this is a 90min+ mega-ramble with James that covers quite a lot of different things, but I think that’s what you’ve come to expect from this podcast over the years, isn’t it?

You are mainly listening to this for your English of course, in the knowledge that listening to natural conversations like this is generally a healthy thing for your language learning.

Your English is more likely to benefit from this if you know generally what we’re talking about throughout the episode, even if you don’t get every single word. So, to help you follow the whole thing, let me now give you a quick overview of what you’re going to hear in this conversation.

First James tells us about how he’s been feeling a bit unwell recently after he got something in his eye while skateboarding, and we kick off the episode by explaining a few nice bits of language for talking about that.

Then he describes a recent trip he did to the French Alps where he did some snowboarding.

After that we talk about his experiences of doing stand-up comedy for the first time (he recently started doing it), and we talk about what he’s learned from that particular challenge, including some details about coming up with funny ideas and dealing with the nervous tension that you get from speaking in front of people. We also talk about the recent gig that I did with Paul Taylor at the comedy store in London. James was in the audience at that show.

There are lots of tangents, moments when we’re just making each other laugh and also references to some things that you might not know about. For example there are some references to comedy TV shows, including a tangent about the BBC science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf (actually the second time that show has randomly been mentioned on the podcast recently) and also we mention Alan Partridge, who I did some episodes about in October.

We mention the new film about Laurel & Hardy (the old comedy double act from the black and white film era). That film is called Stan & Ollie and it stars Steve Coogan in one of the roles. James saw the film recently, so he shares some of his thoughts on that and we then make fun of some TV voice overs and advertising that you see on television these days.

Following that we talk about a couple of books James has read recently, including the Alan Partridge book Nomad and then we talk about The Beastie Boys book, which was published at the end of last year.

I’m not sure if you know about The Beastie Boys. Some of you definitely will, but others might not. They were a very famous band in their heyday – three guys from New York called Adam Yauch (or MCA), Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock) and Michael Diamond (Mike D) that made rap, punk and jazzy instrumental music in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Sadly the band stopped making music after Adam Yauch died in 2012. That’s the Beastie Boys.

I’m pretty sure the Beastie Boys were famous in many countries around the world. They released their memoir last year – The Beastie Boys book, which James got as a present for Christmas. I also listened to the audiobook version. It’s a collection of stories about the band written by the two surviving members.

So, we talk about The Beastie Boys, what they meant to us when we were younger (because we are both big fans) and we then talk about the pros and cons of listening to music on cassette tapes in the 1990s.

So there you go, that’s the “road map” for the episode.

This is a long episode, so don’t forget to hit that pause button and come back later if you’ve got stuff to do. If you haven’t got stuff to do, then you can just brew up a nice pot of tea, put your feet up and listen on.

Alright, now you’ve got your brew in your hand and maybe a pack of chocolate digestive biscuits open on the table in front of you, let’s get started properly.


Ending Transcript

So there you are. Thanks again to James for coming back on the podcast.

Leave your comments on the website in response to any of the things that came up in the conversation. Generally, we’d love to know what you’re thinking, unless you’re thinking something really disgusting – in which case, please keep that to yourself.

We talked a bit about books there.

For me I tend to use audiobooks these days. I just can’t seem to find the time to actually do much normal reading, so using audiobooks is a good solution for me.

I use Audible for my audiobooks, and I just wanted to remind you that they sponsor this podcast and in fact they have an offer that you could take advantage of – a free audiobook of your choice. Audible have a free app which you can get on your phone. You buy the audiobooks on Audible’s website or on Amazon and then download them onto your app so you can listen anywhere. It’s a really cool way to consume books while doing other things, and often the books are read out by interesting people, like talented actors and voice-over artists.

About that offer from Audible.

They’re offering you a 30 day free trial that includes a free audiobook of your choice.

If you like you can just sign up for the free trial, get a free audiobook, listen to it and then cancel your subscription and you don’t pay anything. Audible are totally cool with that. Or you could keep the subscription and get more books, including one book each month as part of your package.

You could listen to the Alan Partridge audiobooks which are read out by Steve Coogan himself and are genuinely hilarious, or if you’re a Beastie Boys fan, check out the Beastie Boys audiobook, which is amazing in my opinion. To get the offer and for all the details go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/audiobook

Click here for the Audible special offer

Also, consider signing up for LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get the benefit of my teaching skills as I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. New premium episodes come out every month, and I expect to do a premium episode focusing on language that came up in this conversation with James in fact. So you can use my premium episodes to maximise your English learning with my podcast. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Click here for LEP Premium

But for now – that’s it. Congrats on making it to the end another super-long episode in 2019.

Do live long and prosper, and please remember to be excellent to each other.

Speak to you again on the podcast soon. But for now, goodbye.


Links, Videos and Other Bits & Pieces

The Classic Breaks Megamix

Here’s the classic breaks megamix I did with my PlayStation and a minidisk recorder back in 2001. My “MCing” will either make you laugh out loud, or just annoy you. I’m not sure! But I am sure that the music mix in the background is 100% pure solid gold.

For more of my music mixes – click here

Stan and Ollie Trailer (James’ review: It was fine.)

Some dude unboxes the Beastie Boys book

545. The Hitchhiker by Roald Dahl (Short Story)

Learn English with this short story by British writer Roald Dahl. Intro transcript and story script available below.


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Introduction Transcript (story script available as a pdf below)

Hello folks, how are you doing?

Summer is over, everyone’s going back to their jobs and their normal lives. Sun tans are fading fast. The days are getting shorter. The leaves are turning. It’s back to reality.

I hope you had a good summer. As I said to you in June or July, my podcast uploading was quite inconsistent over the summer. I didn’t manage to post as many episodes as normal. That’s because I had quite a busy time, going away on hols to different places and also looking after our daughter who was not in day care, because day care was closed during August.

In fact, her day care still hasn’t started again, so I’m being a stay at home Dad this week, looking after her during the day time. This means that it’s a bit difficult to record and upload episodes of the podcast. The baby (and she’s still a baby) tends to demand all your attention, whether it be playing, feeding, cleaning, changing, bathing or all manner of other things, it’s hard to do anything else when I’m the only one looking after her. This week my wife has some important work related deadlines which she has to attend to, so I’m looking after the little one.

What this means is that I still can’t get fully back into my podcast rhythm. That’ll happen probably mid next week when day care starts again properly and I have time to work on episodes of both LEP and LEP Premium.

By the way, LEP Premium is going well. There are now about 14 episodes – including audio and video content, with PDFs. If you want to sign up, go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium The premium episodes are where I really focus on language, helping you to improve your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

I have lots of plans for new episodes coming up, but they all require some time and also silence in the background.

I wanted to upload something fairly quickly and simply in this episode, so I’ve decided to read you a short story written by Roald Dahl, who is one of the UK’s favourite authors. This doesn’t take much preparation from me, so it’s pretty easy to do.

Roald Dahl is most famous for his children’s stories – like The BFG, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, George’s Marvellous Medicine, but also he wrote some books of short stories for adults. I grew up reading his children’s books, but then also took an interest in the books of short stories too when I’d grown up a bit. So, I’ve always enjoyed Roald Dahl’s work.

I’d like to recommend his books of short stories for you to read. If you’re looking for something to read in English (and you should always have an English book on the go – it’s vital) then these could be great.

Here are some reasons why Roald Dahl is so great for reading (for your English)

  • The stories are short, so it’s less demanding and less intimidating. You can finish them. Yey!
  • They’re very well written – descriptive language and just good plain English that is easy to read and modern in style
  • They’re great little stories full of curiosities, mystery, strange things, funny things.

You could get any of Roald Dahl’s books of short stories, but a good recommendation from me would be “The Complete Short Stories: Volume 1 & 2” by Roald Dahl. Should be available from all good bookstores, including Amazon.

So, I highly recommend that you check out his work. It could be great for your English. Roald Dahl’s work is also available as audiobooks, which you could check out using Audible. Remember they still sponsor my podcast. If you use my link, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial which includes a free download of any audiobook you like.

www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke check it out. You could get a Roald Dahl book – and many of them are read by great British actors that you might know.

Now, in this episode I’m going to read out one of Dahl’s short stories. This one always sticks in my mind. I read it when I was a teenager. One of the things that always stuck in my mind was the descriptive language – describing the car he drives and the people he meets. Those descriptions really stuck with me. It’s one of the reasons I’m sure his stories are great for learning English.

It’s quite simple. I’m going to read the story to you. You can check out the story by following the link on my website, or if you have a copy of his book you can read it with me. This one is called The Hitch Hiker and it appears in volume 2 of The Complete Short Stories.

A hitch hiker is someone who waits by the side of the road and hopes to get a lift from someone. They don’t have a car or money for a bus or train, so they stick out their thumb and hope someone will stop and take them where they want to go.

I don’t know if you’ve ever hitch hiked. I’ve done it a couple of times. It felt a little risky. These days I wouldn’t do it probably. Feels a bit dangerous.

Anyway, here is the story called The Hitch Hiker. It’s only a few pages long. There’s a link on the page for this episode (below) which will allow you to read the story too.

Things I like about it / What to look out for

  • The various descriptions of the high performance car (very modern for when the story was written)
  • How it looks, the electric windows and sunroof, automatic radio aerial, the sounds of the engine, the responsiveness of the steering and brakes. He doesn’t just drive at 70, he whispers along. He doesn’t just slow down, he touches the brakes.
  • His descriptions of the hitch-hiker – comparing him to a rat
  • The descriptions of the appearance and manner of the police officer
  • The mystery surrounding the hitch hiker
  • The way the hitch hiker’s “job” is described in rather exciting and glamourous ways
  • The little twist at the end of the story

That’s it! Let’s start reading.

Click here to see the pdf of The Hitchhiker by Roald Dahl

489. A Rambling Conversation with Mum (Part 2) + Vocabulary

Here’s part 2 of this conversation with my Mum in which you can hear us wittering on about the bookshop where Mum works, some of the books she’s read recently, and some of her podcast and film recommendations. Vocabulary is explained at the end, and there’s a vocabulary list with definitions available below.

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Vocabulary List

  • we’re proud of our shop, we take a great pride in it (or ‘take pride in it‘)
    • to be proud of something / to take pride in something. ‘To take a pride in something’ is less common.
  • Alan Bennett and Geoff Boycott impressions (quite bad ones)
  • Talking about Beyond The Fringe – a comedy group from Cambridge and Oxford Universities
  • second-hand books / used book
  • We get a lot of cook books books with recipes in them
  • A lot of celebrity biographies and autobiographies
    • a biography = the story of someone’s life, written by someone else
    • an autobiography = the story of someone’s life, written by that person
  • A lot of the books I’ve been reading are quite obscure
    • obscure = known only by a few people
  • The Citadel by A J Cronin
  • A lot of problems were caused by infrastructure, like the sewers
    • infrastructure = the basic facilities such as transportcommunications, power supplies, and buildings, which enable a town, city or country to function. (Collins Dictionary)
    • sewers = the underground tunnels that carry all the toilet waste (i.e. the piss and shit) away
  • Lots of enteric diseases
    • enteric diseases = diseases caused by unclean water
  • Entirely preventable diseases, but not easily treated
    • to prevent a disease = to ensure that a disease never infects people
    • to treat someone / to treat a disease = to give treatment to people who are suffering from a disease
    • to cure someone = to make a disease disappear completely, through treatment
  • They find the sewer and they blow it up so the authorities have to replace it
    • to blow something up = make something explode
  • How did they blow it up? With a bomb? With some sticks of dynamite.
    • a bomb = an explosive device
    • sticks of dynamite =  things that look a bit like candles but they explode because they’re made of nitroglycerine (not wax) and have a fuse (not a wick)
  • It starts out with this man who starts out being incredibly idealistic and wanting to improve things and he gradually gets worn down by the system and ends up becoming one of these quacks who gets himself popular with people who have lots of money and treats them for things they haven’t really got, before he’s finally brought up short

    • to start out = to start from the very beginning
    • to be idealistic = to base your behaviour on certain ‘ideals’ or ‘principles’ even if it’s impractical or unrealistic. It’s a bit similar to ‘naive’.
    • to get worn down by something = to become weaker because of difficult experiences over time
    • a quack = a fake doctor
    • to bring someone up short = to suddenly stop someone doing something, often with a surprise
    • to be brought up short (passive version) = to suddenly be stopped (by something) in what you are doing, often with a surprise
  • It’s quite moving = makes you feel a strong emotion
  • There’s this character arc of this guy who starts out innocent and gets seduced by the money
    • a character arc = a narrative or storyline for a particular character which changes from the start to the finish
  • There’s lots of parallels (with today)
    • parallels = similarities
    • there’s a lot of parallels / there’re a lot of parallels
  • It espouses socialist ideas
    • to espouse something = to support it (usually a way of life)
  • Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
  • This one is very short. It’s a novella.
    • a novella = a short novel
  • It’s a tiny book but it contains a heck of a lot
    • a heck of a lot (of something) = a lot (but emphasised with ‘a heck of’ – also ‘a hell of a lot’)
  • It’s about class, it’s about post-traumatic stress after the First World War, it’s about families losing sons
    • PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder = emotional distress or shock which continues in your life after experiencing extreme danger or stress. It’s common in soldiers who have experienced the shock of combat in war.
  • If English is your second language it can be a bit of a slog sometimes to keep going (reading)
    • a slog = a long, difficult and tiring experience
  • The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemmingway is a short book
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film) – it’s not really about spying (says Mark Kermode)
  • The Adam Buxton Podcast (especially episodes with Louis Theroux)
  • People say he (Louis Theroux) is faux naive. He comes across as innocent so he has to ask questions to find out what’s going on.
    • to be faux naive = ‘fake’ naive – pretending to be naive
    • to come across as something = to give an impression of something – e.g. he comes across as a really nice guy (he gives the impression of being a nice guy). Tom Cruise comes across as being a really friendly, fun and hardworking person. I wonder if he is like that in real life. I expect he is hardworking, but I wonder if he really is that friendly and fun all the time.
  • He looks a bit dorky, goofy, geeky.
    • All these are words to describe someone who is not cool. They’re very similar yet slightly different in meaning.
    • dorky = unfashionable, awkward, not socially relaxed and laid back, a bit uptight and uncool.
    • goofy = just a bit ridiculous, but also in appearance – perhaps with teeth that are sticking out or big glasses, big ears – ridiculous looking features. Think of Goofy from the Disney animations.
    • geeky = interested (maybe obsessed) by things like computers, comics, science fiction rather than people. (Louis Theroux definitely isn’t a geek, but he comes across as geeky)
  • He’s quite tall. He’s a bit gangly. His arms and legs are very long.
    • gangly = a description of physical appearance – tall and thin with an awkward appearance and a clumsy manner
  • He’s got this awkward Britishness.
    • Awkward is a word that comes up a lot in my conversations. I often say that British people seem awkward, that I felt awkward in a situation, or that a particular situation was awkward. Louis Theroux can be described as having awkward Britishness.
    • Awkward = uncomfortable, not completely relaxed and loose, a bit embarrassing, a bit shy
  • Do you fancy him?
    • to fancy someone = to find someone physically attractive, in a sexual way (but this is the sort of word that teenagers use)
  • He’d spend time with all sorts of weird fringe groups
    • fringe = edge
    • fringe groups = groups that exist on the edge of society, e.g. cults, religious sects, conspiracy theorists, extremists etc
  • His naive awkward English friendliness is very disarming and as a result people open up to him
    • to be disarming (adj) = to make people less hostile or aggressive, perhaps by being charming.
    • to open up (to someone) = to become more open and revealing with people, e.g. to start talking about personal things
  • The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andrew Miller
  • He’d lost the knack of being able to read for pleasure
    • the knack of doing something = a particular and skillful way of doing something. E.g. There is a certain knack to closing the bedroom door silently in my flat. You have to pull the handle down, pull the door in slowly, let the handle go back and then pull the end of the handle until you hear a little ‘click’. There’s a knack to doing it. In this case, my dad has lost the knack of being able to read for pleasure. ‘to lose the knack of doing something’ is a common way to say that you have lost the specific ability to do a certain thing.
  • Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (book)
  • (It’s about) a doctor in the 1960s who was a junkie
    • a junkie = a drug addict (especially heroin)
  • It was a redemptive tale, a story of redemption
    • to redeem yourself = to change from a life of sin/evil/immorality to a life of good
    • redemption = the process of being redeemed
    • a redemptive tale = a tale of redemption
  • Trainspotting 2 (actually called T2: Trainspotting)
  • They’re all addicted to heroin, and it’s really grim.
    • grim (adj) = unpleasant and depressing
  • It’s directed by… whatsisname, whatdoyoucallim, whojumaflip… Danny Boyle!
    • these are all words for when you can’t remember someone’s name
  • His style – it’s very in-your-face, intense, visceral
    • in-your-face = bold, direct, aggressive, assertive, intense
    • visceral = relating to strong feelings, emotions
  • I was streaming with tears by the end of it
    • streaming with tears = tears were running (streaming) down her face
  • Book: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (written in a dialect)
  • When there’s no more time:
  • The time is getting on and we really ought to draw it to a close
  • We’ve run out of time

Those author, comedy, book, film and podcast recommendations again

488. A Rambling Conversation with Mum (Part 1) + Vocabulary

A conversation with my (lovely) mum in which we generally witter on about a number of different things including some British history, ways of describing rain, different expressions for talking (like rambling and wittering), my mum’s accent, what she thinks of this podcast and some of her podcast recommendations. Vocabulary is explained after the conversation and there is a vocabulary list available below.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast, you’re going to listen to a conversation with my Mum and I’m going to explain some of the vocabulary that comes up naturally in that conversation.

Here are some of the topics that we talked about:

  • a bit of British history from the Regency period (that’s the Jane Austen period of British History) including descriptions of ballroom dances and men in tight trousers
  • some descriptions of how we talk about rain in British English
  • a few expressions related to ways of talking such as the words ‘rambling’ ‘wittering’ and ‘bickering’
  • what my mum thinks of my podcast
  • some of mum’s podcast recommendations – her favourite podcasts that she listens to and how she likes to listen to them
  • and various other things that you can discover as you listen to the conversation in full

At the end I will be going through some of the vocabulary that you are going to hear, which should help you to learn some really nice, natural English phrases, the kind of English that my mum speaks.


Vocabulary List

I’ve highlighted some words and phrases in bold and there are definitions and comments [in brackets].

  • I typed up the minutes of a meeting of a volunteer group I belong to.
    [typed up = converted handwritten notes into a document on a computer]
    [minutes of a meeting = the notes describing what happened in the meeting, usually written, typed up and then kept as a record of what happened]
  • It’s a very tedious job but someone has to do it.
    [tedious = boring]
  • Did you volunteer to do that or did someone delegate that responsibility to you?
    [to delegate something to someone = to give someone a responsibility]
  • *Mum bangs the microphone and apologises* Mum: Oh, sorry I think I just banged the microphone and made a noise. Luke: Flagging it up like that may have just made it worse than it would have been.
    [to flag something up = to bring it to everybody’s attention]
  • The fact that you brushed against the microphone slightly.
    [to brush against something = to touch something a little bit as you move past it, make contact with something as you move past it, probably by accident] [brush up on something also means to improve your skill, e.g. to brush up on your English – but that’s the idiomatic version of the phrase]
  • The building had a complete renovation which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
    [a renovation = the appearance was changed in order to make the building look new again. The building had a renovation. It was renovated.]
    [it was funded by = it was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A fund = a collection of money which is collected for a particular purpose. Verb – to fund something = to provide the money for something]
  • One of the conditions was that the town council would stage community events.
    [verb – to stage an event = to organise and present an event. Noun – a stage – a platform where performances happen, e.g. in a theatre]
  • It dates back to the 18th century some time.
    [dates back to = it comes from that time, it originates from that time. E.g. this building dates back to the late 1700s]
  • It was used as a petty sessions court.
    [petty sessions = court sessions or court procedures which are for petty crimes]
  • Petty crimes
    [less serious crimes, also called “summary offences” in legal English. The serious ones are called “indictable offences”]
  • Just fairly petty, trivial offences, like drunkenness etc.
    [trivial = another word for ‘not very important or serious’]
  • We have a lovely Regency ballroom.
    [a ballroom = a fancy looking room where formal dances are staged.
    Regency = a period of British history including the very end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century]
  • Going to the ball was a very good way of meeting people.
    [a ball = a dance]
  • The dances were danced en-masse, like a folk dance.
    [en-masse = in a group, together. It’s a French phrase that we use in English]
    [a folk dance = folk here refers to the traditions and culture of ordinary people, not upper class people or nobility. When I think of ‘folk’ I think of the countryside, farming communities, acoustic instruments, simple clothing and group dances that involve old traditions]
  • Men would be wearing these kinds of frilly shirts and tight trousers, and neckties.
    [ frilly = a design of a shirt that has fabric with lots of folds in it – see the pic]
  • Regency style clothing (from the BBC TV series Pride and Prejuduce) The men wore frilly shirts with neckties. The women wore dresses that were fitted 'under the bust'.

    Regency style clothing (from the BBC TV series Pride and Prejuduce) The men wore frilly shirts with neckties. The women wore dresses that were fitted ‘under the bust’.

    Heaving bosoms (!)
    [ a bosom = a woman’s breasts or ‘bust’. Heaving = full and pushed up]

  • The dresses were fitted under the bust.
    [ the bust = the breasts. “bust” is a singular noun used to describe the whole area of the breasts. It’s a woman’s chest, basically]
  • What with the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts, it was quite interesting! [What with (all the) + noun . This is a way to say “because of” but you put the noun at the beginning of the sentence. E.g. It was difficult to hear him because of all the noise. What with all the noise, it was difficult to hear him. It was quite interesting because of the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts. What with the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts, it was quite interesting!]
  • In common parlance we talk about the Regency era.
    [common parlance = the things that people usually say]
  • If it starts pissing down (with rain)
    [raining heavily – a slightly rude but very common expression]
  • It’s raining cats and dogs
    [raining heavily – an idiom that we don’t really use much any more]
  • It’s bucketing (it) down
    [raining heavily – a common, informal expression]
  • It’s “shuttering” down
    [what my Gran used to say, but nobody else said it I think!]
  • Episode 135 – “Raining Animals” teacherluke.co.uk/2013/06/17/135-raining-animals – an episode I did about the subject of heavy rain and whether animals ever do rain down from the sky
  • To ramble / To ramble on
    [to talk for a fairly long time in quite an unfocused way. It’s sometimes annoying because someone doesn’t get to the point. Note – not rumble.]
    [to ramble on  means to continue rambling] to ramble on + about + something
  • To witter / To witter on
    [it’s similar to ‘ramble’. To ‘witter’ means to talk without really saying anything important. It can be used in a negative way, as in “Stop wittering on!”]
    [to witter on = to continue wittering] to witter on + about + something
  • “A ramble chat” as Adam Buxton would say.
    [Adam Buxton calls his conversations ‘ramble chats’ on his podcast]
  • What on earth do people want to hear me wittering on for?
    [what… for? = why. e.g. Why did you do that? What did you do that for?]
  • Why (on earth) do people want to hear me wittering on?
    [Do you enjoy listening to my Mum wittering on? Let us know in the comment section]
  • The kind of English that Jacob Reese Mogg would speak.
    [A Conservative politician who is very posh and upper class, and speaks with an obvious heightened RP accent. My mum doesn’t like him]
  • Don’t go there! Don’t even go there!
    [Don’t start talking about that!]
  • Luke: I think you speak RP. Gill: Yep, I’d go along with that.
    [I’d go along with that = I agree]
  • Some of them are a bit rambly and go on a bit but most of them are excellent.
    [rambly = the adjective for the verb ‘ramble’]
    [to go on a bit = to talk for a bit too long]
  • Backlisted podcast – They do a podcast every fortnight, talking about backlisted books, which are books that are mainly out of print or aren’t popular in bookshops.
    [a fortnight = two weeks – just UK English]
    [backlisted books = books which are out of print – I don’t need to explain that, do I? Still, nice language]
  • They’re so knowledgeable and yet they’re not academic, they’re not stuffy.
    [knowledgeable = knows a lot about things, has a lot of knowledge. Can you say it? He knows a lot. He has lots of knowledge of the subject. He’s very knowledgeable about it.]
    [stuffy = formal and old-fashioned, a negative and disapproving word]
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon – it’s written from the point of view of an autistic child.
    [autistic = suffering from autism. Autism = a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, difficulties in communicating, problems with seeing and hearingrepetitive behavior, etc.]
  • We just peruse the different shelves and tables.
    [to peruse = to browse, read, investigate in a relaxed and casual manner]
  • James is Whatsapping us while we’re on the podcast. How dare he?
    [Whatsapp = a messaging app on your phone. To ‘whatsapp’ someone = to send someone a message on Whatsapp.]
    [How dare he? – usually How dare you? – It’s used when you’re shocked or unhappy with someone’s behaviour]
  • James tweeted to Mark Kermode (Mark had tweeted that he was listening to a couple of soundtrack albums for films by William Friedkin, and James replied saying he’d “snapped up” the soundtrack to a Friedkin film called Sorcerer. Mark is a big fan of Friedkin, especially Sorcerer, and he liked the tweet.)
    [snapped up = took quickly, like a crocodile would take something]Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 18.39.04
  • The Frank Skinner Podcast (Absolute Radio)
  • (Frank Skinner) He’s very witty, very articulate, very quick witted.
    [witty = funny, able to make quick jokes. Quick witted = with a fast brain for making jokes or quick comments]
  • He’s from our neck of the woods. He’s from West Bromwich. It’s in The Black Country. It’s part of the midlands.
    [our neck of the woods = the area where we live]
    [The Black Country is a region of the West Midlands in England, west of Birmingham, and commonly refers to all or part of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It’s called the Black Country because in the mid 19th century there were many iron working foundries and forges that produced a lot of black smoke and because of the coal mines that produced the black rock and dust from under the ground.
  • People say people from Birmingham sound untrustworthy.
    [untrustworthy = can’t be trusted]
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review (aka The Wittertainment Podcast) @Wittertainment
  • (Mark and Simon) They seem to be on the same wavelength, but they play this game of being irritated with each other all the time.
    [On the same wavelength = they think in the same way]
    [to be irritated with someone = to be annoyed by someone]
  • They just witter away with each other.
    [to witter away = to witter on]
  • They bicker with each other. Bickering, getting at each other, a bit like an old married couple.
    [to bicker with someone = to argue but not very seriously]
    [to get at someone = to criticise someone again and again]
  • As far as I can gather, most of my listeners listen when they’re on public transport.
    [gather = to understand. Gather can also mean ‘collect’, e.g. to gather firewood. Here it means ‘gather information’ or just ‘understand’]

There’s no language quiz this time. The reason for that is that it takes absolutely ages to create them and I wonder how many of you are actually using them! Let me know if you have used the language quizzes that I’ve done for recent episodes of the podcast. If there is enough demand for language quizzes, I can try and bring them back.

Give me your feedback – I need to know what you think.

Podcast and Book Recommendations from Mum

Also mentioned:

There will be more talk of reading books, listening to podcasts and watching films in part 2 of this episode.

449. Film Club: Touching the Void (Part 2) Learning a Language is Like Climbing a Mountain

Part 2 of this Film Club episode looking at the award-winning documentary “Touching the Void” which tells the story of a mountain climbing expedition which goes wrong. Listen to this episode and then watch the film on Netflix or DVD for that extra bit of English input.

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Click here to get the book “Touching the Void”

Click here to get the film on DVD.

The Story Continues…

Their plan was to climb back down the North ridge and then abseil down a part of the north face.

Abseiling is when you use ropes to kind of lower yourself down. But the clouds started coming in again.

The walk along the north ridge was much harder than expected. It was vertical on one side (with overhangs) and steep flutings (like grooves going down) on the other side. You wouldn’t know if you were stepping on something safe or not.

As they were descending, with the weather setting in, things got a bit out of control.

They got lost and they were in a whiteout – unable to see anything.

Their plan was to get down that day. But, by the time the sun went down they were still very high up the mountain, still over 6,000m up.

That night while they were making a brew of water, their gas ran out.

Day 4

The next day they could see that they’d managed to get down the worst part of the ridge and Simon thought they’d get down the rest of the mountain that day. He thought the whole climb was “in the bag” (if something is ‘in the bag’ it means you’re certain to achieve it, you’re definitely going to get it.)

Simon thought it was in the bag. He was wrong.

Joe was climbing in the front, before Simon. He reached a vertical wall, a fall in front of him, so he started to lower himself off it.

The method of lowering yourself down an ice wall, using pick axes and spikes on your feet.
Joe swung his pick into the ice, and it made a strange sound, so he decided to take it out and place it in again.

He was about to swing again, and the whole piece of ice he was attached to with his left hand just came off like a pancake, so he fell through the air.

And he landed hard, on his leg.

It broke, really badly. Not just a fracture.

Pain flew up his thigh from his knee. Incredibly painful.

I’ve never broken my leg and I hope I never do because I’m sure it’s horrible.
I have injured myself before. Of course, I’ve cut my fingers on knives etc. When you do injure yourself there is a shock, especially a kind of shock where you think it could be serious. That kind of shock lasts a few moments, when you don’t just feel pain but you feel a kind of panic, thinking “I’ve seriously hurt myself”. Most of the time that feeling goes away when you realise it’s not bad.

But if it is serious, you get this dreadful feeling that comes on. A truly dreadful feeling that comes from the realisation of just how difficult and inconvenient things are going to get. Not just the pain, but the fact that you now have this injury which is going to make everything so damn hard for you.

Now imagine that feeling when you’re 6000 metres up the side of a freezing mountain in Peru with no water and no medical services anywhere near you.

I don’t know about you, but I would feel more than dread, I’d feel pretty hopeless. I imagine I would feel more than the pain and the inconvenience, there would also be all this emotion coming, like anger, tragedy, sadness.

Anyway, Joe at this point was mainly feeling the intense pain of a badly broken leg.

Here’s what happened, and this is really horrible, ok?

The impact of the fall caused his knee joint to actually split. The joint split and the bone from the lower leg went up through the knee joint, split the end of his femur (the thigh bone) and carried on up the leg.

Unimaginable really. All those ligaments completely ruined, the bone, cartilage, nerve endings, and of course the blood vessels broken by it.

The whole leg would have been unusable of course, and there was a lot of internal bleeding inside his leg.

Apparently he couldn’t cope with the pain at all at the beginning, but after breathing for a while he started to get a grip on it.

But he thought he was done for. He was still level with the peaks of some of the other mountains.

He tried to stand on the leg – impossible.
Simon eventually arrived, and he describes seeing Joe’s face – a complex mix of terror, pain and anguish.

Simon said “Are you ok” and Joe nearly said “I’m fine thanks” – because that’s what we say to that question, even if you’re not fine!

But he said “No I’ve broken my leg” and immediately Simon thought, “Oh god, we’re stuffed”
Now. What would you do if you were Simon and Joe here?

Let’s imagine you’re Joe.

You say, “mate, you’ve got to help me” or “Go ahead without me, I’m stuffed!” or “Don’t you dare leave me!”

Let’s say you’re Simon, what do you say here?
“Mate, don’t worry. We’ll get you down this mountain.”
“Look, you’re not going to make it. Do you have anything you want me to say to your parents?”
“Wait here, I’ll go and get help. I’ll come back for you I promise!”

Obviously, Joe is the one with the broken leg and the pain, but Simon also is in a difficult situation here because they’re partners.

According to Joe, Simon gave him some painkillers which did nothing, and they didn’t talk about it for a few moments because they both knew that Simon was going to have to leave Joe there, because they couldn’t get Joe down from the mountain without risking both their lives in the process.

Joe thought Simon would leave him there because there was no other choice.

Meanwhile, Richard, the third guy is sitting at base camp wondering what has happened to them, thinking that they both might be dead and that he’d find them at the bottom of the mountain because they’d just fall all the way to the bottom! There wasn’t really anything Richard could do because they were many many miles away from civilisation. There was no ambulance service to call. No mobile phones in the 80s. He just had to wait and see.

Back on the mountain, Simon pulled himself together to think about how he was going to get Joe down the mountain.

He decided to try and save him and had to come up with a practical solution.

The plan was, he’d just lower Joe down the mountain on a rope. Just slide him down.

He tied two 150ft ropes (there are about 3.3 feet per metre) together, with a knot in the middle and Simon was attached to one end, and Joe on the other.

Slide Joe down, letting the rope through the belay device. When the knot got to the belay device, stop letting Joe slide. Joe would stand up to take the weight off the rope. Simon would then unattach the rope from the device, let the knot through, then reattach the rope and then let it continue for the rest of the 150feet.

Then when Joe was at the end of the rope, Simon would downclimb to join him.

They continued like this for quite a long time, repeating the process. Letting Joe slide down, then letting the knot through the rope, letting Joe slide down further, then Simon climbing down.

Simon was letting Joe slide down quite quickly, conscious of the time running out and the fact they needed to get down to the bottom as quickly as possible.
It must have been excruciating for Joe.

But there were still these interpersonal things going on.

Apparently Joe kept wondering if Simon was pissed off.

These are the things you think about when you’re with a friend, doing something. Is he pissed off? Does he mind? Apparently Joe was wondering if Simon was annoyed by it all.
But I think Simon was also suffering from shock and panic too, and to an extent he held a lot of responsibility now for both of them, because Joe was out of action. It was basically a single-handed mountain rescue by Simon, in extremely difficult conditions.
It must have been a desperate desperate feeling for both of them.

What they didn’t know at the time though, was that this was just the start and that it would get a lot worse, and that something awful was approaching that they had no idea about.
They continued going down the mountain in this fashion – Joe badly injured, in shock and losing blood into his leg, both of them exhausted, both dehydrated at altitude and close to hypothermia.

A race against time.

The weather turned bad again, and within an hour or two they were descending in a full storm, with wind chill factor of something like -80 degrees.

They couldn’t dig a cave and rehydrate because they’d run out of gas. There was nothing they could do. Apparently at this point they lost control and started panicking, flying down this mountain in this desperate fashion.

As they made some good progress, albeit in such awful conditions, Simon started feeling a sense of hope because he could see that they were virtually down. Almost down at the bottom.

Things were looking up.

I say “reach the bottom” – in reality there were lots of different sections and terrains between the summit and the camp. From top to bottom it was like this:
Peak
Ridge
Face
Less-steep part of the face (approach to the face)
Glacier (like a huge river of ice that flows from the top of the mountain range down to the river bed at the foot of the mountain – slowly moving down, carving out the valley as it goes, crushing rock underneath it) – full of crevasses (massive cracks in the glacier with drops that went down all the way to the floor – to the river bed of the glacier)
The bottom of the glacier – full of huge boulders and stones, with water trickling deep underneath them.
A long section of this rocky terrain.
The base camp next to a glacial pool.

God knows how far from civilisation this base camp was.

Anyway, they were nearly down the mountain face, approaching the glacier. For Simon, he could see a glimmer of hope.

Until suddenly, Joe slipped off a cliff.

Neither of them realised it was coming, but Joe suddenly felt the ground under him get icier and more and more steep, and he started slipping faster and faster – going like a rollercoaster downwards, screaming at Simon to stop, but Simon couldn’t hear him and had no idea it was happening, just assuming that Joe was going faster over some steeper ground..
And then -whoosh, Joe slipped right off the edge of a cliff and was left dangling in the air, right above a massive crevasse – a huge crack in the mountain that went straight down into pure darkness. Joe was dangling over a huge abyss. About 80 feet between him and the opening of the crevasse.

Describe the problem from Joe’s point of view.

He gave up hope and would have died as hypothermia began to set in.

From Simon’s point of view.

Simon’s decision. What would you have done?

What Simon did.

Night fell – Simon dug a snow cave.

Meanwhile, Joe wasn’t dead. He survived the fall and had landed on a ledge in the crevasse, not far from the top.

Day 5

Follow Simon as he goes down.

He was suffering from shock and was also in a serious condition with dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion. He was also seriously traumatised by what had happened. Apparently he said he was convinced that he was going to die too.

But what about Joe?

Attached himself to the ice wall of the glacier.

Called for Simon.

Pulled the rope.

Saw it had been cut.

Impossible to get out – broken leg, overhangs. Ice.

Joe lost it.

He came face to face with his own death.

He didn’t have a religious moment. He knew nobody was coming to save him. There was no god, just the abyss. It filled him with fear.

Imagine the worst darkness. Fear of the dark – it’s primal.

He was also extremely angry and felt like this was not the end of his life.

Joe’s bravery and refusal to give up.

One of the most impressive moments that has stuck with me.
“You’ve got to keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions, you know. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.”

Joe could have stayed on the ledge. He could have given up.
He chose to keep making decisions. He chose to keep moving forwards.
It just shows that you must not let things happen to you. Don’t just let yourself be carried away by events. Don’t stop making decisions and let yourself be carried away.
Even if you feel hopeless, like all options are screwed and that you’ll fail no matter what happens. Don’t stop making decisions.
You have to continue and keep going.
Like the famous quote, often attributed to Churchill – “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”
Don’t give up when things are hard and hellish. Keep going.
Don’t just stop and let things happen to you, especially when you’re in hell.
That’s no time to stop! You’re in hell. Keep moving! You’ll get out.
Joe decided he’d use the remaining rope he had to lower himself into the crevasse and possibly reach the bottom.

Bottom.
Crawled along.
Horrible sound – imagine the fear.
A spot of light. Hope.
The incredible joy of the light and emerging, born again.
But out of the frying pan into the fire.
This was still just the beginning of his challenge.
He started following Simon’s tracks.
Night fell. He crawled in the dark until he couldn’t go further and managed to create a snow cave.

Day 6

Simon’s tracks had gone.
He could see the massive challenge ahead of him. He nearly gave up when he realised how far he had to go. The challenge overwhelmed him almost completely.

He was presented with this massive maze near the bottom of the glacier, where it was full of crevasses, creating all these little pathways with huge holes down the sides. Joe had to shuffle through all of this.

He got to the rocks at the edge.
Much harder terrain.

Created a splint using his sleeping mat. Discarded his other gear.

Horrendous experience of trying to get through the boulders and through the rocks. Hopping, falling onto the rocks, getting up, continue. Falling virtually every hop, like breaking his leg again every time.

Just 25 yards but it took so long and with so much pain.

But he describes himself as insanely stubborn at times (spell it correctly this time!)
This worked to his advantage because he was determined not to be beaten. He wanted to have it his way.

This is where the second most impressive part came.

He broke up the challenge into bits. He said – right, I’ll get to that rock in 20 minutes. Everything became about getting to the next rock in 20 mins, then the next 20 minute challenge and so on.
He became obsessed with these targets. If he got to the rock in 18 minutes he’d be over the moon, ecstatic. If he made it in 22 minutes he’d be furious with himself.

This is another thing we can learn about achieving something big. It’s true – trying to achieve one huge thing can seem impossible. You might look at the whole challenge and think, “oh my god, there’s no way I can do that, it’s too big”. But the key to it is to set a series of small goals and just try to reach that, then another small goal. Break it down into little chunks and you will be able to do it. Looking at the whole challenge doesn’t help. It dwarfs you.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – it’s like something my Dad said to me about how to eat an elephant (that sounds weird because you might think – why are you trying to eat an elephant? But it’s just a metaphor that my Dad said to me once).

The thing about my Dad is that he often tends to be right about things. It’s quite annoying when you’re having a discussion or debate because he always somehow ends up being right, but it’s also great because I have learned some pearls of wisdom from him. I don’t know where he got this one from himself, maybe his Dad.

Anyway, when I was a child I think I was talking about how I was finding a school project difficult – I think we were even walking in the garden, but that sounds like it’s too good to be true – walking in the garden with my Dad and he gives me a piece of wisdom, like something out of a Hollywood movie or something. Tell me father, how can I train in the force and become a jedi? Etc.

Anyway, I said “I can’t do my history project Dad…” and he dropped some wisdom on me, saying “How do you eat an elephant?”

The point is this:
Seeing the challenge as one whole thing can destroy your motivation, but step by step, bit by bit – that’s how you get a big thing done. And don’t give up.
Also, you just have to have drive – you have to be stubborn, you have to be motivated. Listen to that army captain you have in your head and obey him!

Joe says that at times he felt like there were two voices in his head. One saying, “let’s rest here in the sun it’s nice” and another part of him which was completely unsympathetic, saying “No, you’ve got to get to that rock. Now get up and go!”

We all have that inside us. That cold, pragmatic voice, which seems frightening or something, but we just have to listen to it sometimes, just to get things done.

Obviously Joe was in seriously bad physical condition at this point. Exhaustion, the badly broken leg, internal bleeding, shock, frostbite, hunger, injuries from his falls.
But also he started falling apart mentally too.
That feeling of there being several voices in his head or several parts of his mind got stronger and stronger – with one part being this cold pragmatic feeling of just relentlessly getting to the next point and the next after that, and the other part of him was just almost disconnected as his mind wandered away from what was happening as if he was observing it all from a distance. It must have been seriously strange and disturbing.

Sound of water driving him mad.

Night fell and he lay on the rock staring up at the stars and his consciousness became quite unhinged, having psychedelic out-of-body experiences. He says he felt like he was becoming part of the rocks and part of the mountain itself, and he lost all sense of time, feeling that he had lain there for centuries.

Day 7 – Joe still isn’t dead!

Meanwhile, Simon and Richard are preparing to leave the next morning.

Joe finds water.
Peeing himself, enjoying the sensation.
Feeling totally robbed of his dignity.
Realises he could make it.
But hit hard by the realisation that Simon and Richard might have gone.

The delusions – thinking that Simon and Richard were, for some reason, following behind him but choosing not to come and help him because they didn’t want to embarrass him.
Then realising that they weren’t there and feeling utterly hopeless and alone and distraught.
Considered just getting in his sleeping bag. But felt it was too pathetic.

Sun went down and he completely lost it. He couldn’t hold his mind together any more.

Confusion and madness. He tried to look at his watch but couldn’t work out what time it was.
The worst thing – he got a song caught in his head. Boney M – Brown Girl in the Ring. It went on and on for hours.

You know when you can’t sleep and you get a song caught in your head, really vividly. Imagine that but 1000x worse.
Like being trapped in hell.
It really upset him because he really wanted to think of other things but he couldn’t because of the song.
“Bloody hell I’m going to die to Boney M”

He would drift off, then wake up thinking he was in a pub car park drunk, he kept losing it. Totally delirious.

He woke up (or became conscious) because of a strong smell – it acted like smelling salts.
He’d crawled into the toilet area of the camp site.
After all that – he ends up crawling through their own shit at the end.
But it gave him hope that Simon and Richard might still be there. He had reached the camp. He called out to Simon, but got no reply.
That was the end for Joe.
This is when he finally knew he was finished.
He described how he lost himself completely at that moment. Ego death.

Simon and Richard were still in their tents, ready to leave the next morning. Apparently, Richard woke up because he thought he heard something.
Imagine you’re in the tent. This is about 4 days after Simon got back. They both thought Joe was dead.

Imagine you’re in the tent, feeling terrible, ready to leave the next day. Darkness.
The wind, blowing across the fabric of the tent. The shadow of the mountains in the background, with the knowledge that the body of your friend is still up there.
You wake up and you freeze because you’re sure you’ve just heard something.

There it is again, but it can’t be true. It sounded like a voice on the wind.
Apparently Richard waited, listening, and heard it again, and it really scared him because he wasn’t sure if it was real, or he was imagining it, or if it was a ghost.
He decided to check on Simon and discovered that he was already up – Simon had heard it too and was convinced it was Joe.

They searched for him shouting his name and found him on the ground a few minutes from the camp site.

What they found was the body of Joe, like a ghost or some kind of monster.
Joe was in such bad condition, covered in earth, crap, frostbite and sunburned, thin, starving, dehydrated and nearly dead.

They carried him to the camp and began the process of trying to rebuild his strength.
That’s where the story ends. We know that eventually Joe was brought down to a nearby civilisation where he received medical attention.

The challenge was not over there of course. I understand that he received some poor medical help in the basic hospital he ended up in, had to be flown back to the UK and his leg had to be amputated.

About the decision to cut the rope.

Joe has always defended Simon’s decision, saying that he would have done the same thing.
I can’t really understand why anyone would have a problem with what Simon did. Why should they both have died? It doesn’t make sense.

In fact, when you think about it, by cutting the rope, Simon saved Joe’s life, or helped to save him.

If Simon hadn’t cut the rope, they both would have fallen and it’s likely that one of them would have died. Let’s say that Joe would have landed on the ledge like before. Simon would probably have died. It’s unlikely that he would have landed on a ledge too. He probably would have fallen into the crevasse, dragging Joe in too. They both would have died.

Anyway what do you think?

Again, I urge you to watch the documentary film on Netflix, on DVD or on what other platform you can find.

Also, consider reading the book, or Joe Simpson’s other books – because apparently he had even more near death experiences on mountains too!

Let me also leave you with this

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.
  • How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. How do you get down a mountain? One step at a time too! Or you slide, or you drag yourself, or you hop. But you break down the challenge into achievable steps.
  • Nobody even broke their leg learning English – so, enjoy your studies and seize the day!

Thanks for listening.

What happened next?

Returning to Siula Grande

 

440. This Pile of Books on my Desk

In this episode I just want to talk to you about this pile of 16 books I have on my desk. These are (mostly) books I haven’t read yet but which I picked up recently. I have lots of piles of books like this lying around and I must read them all but I can’t find the time! Anyway, I think they’re really interesting. I either received them as presents, was recommended them by friends and family or I bought them for myself when visiting book shops over the last year or two. I love books, and browsing bookshops is one of my favourite things. If only I was a faster reader!

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Part of the reason I’m doing this is because I just want to encourage you to read more and I would like to arouse your interest in books. Perhaps I can give you some encouragement to read a copy of one of these books, or perhaps this will encourage you to pick up a book (in English) from the pile of books that you probably have in your home too, and start reading it.

In any case, I hope you join me on this little exploration through this pile of books I have on my desk.

Here’s the list of books I talk about in this episode (also in the picture)

The Xenephobe’s Guide to The English, The French, The Japanese
The British Empire: A Very Short Introduction by Ashley Jackson
:59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman
William Shakespeare: A Very Short Introduction by Stanley Wells
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Mo Meta Blues by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
The Call of the Cthulu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Sartori in Paris by Jack Kerouac
David Bowie: The Last Interview Various journalists and publications
The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy: You Must Unleard What You Have Learned
Terminator and Philosophy: I’ll Be Back Therefore I Am
The Girls by Emma Cline
The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes graphic novel)

books