Category Archives: Romance & Relationships

890. The Simulation (Learn English with a Short Story)

Learn English with a short story. This one is about a man called Edward, who lives an ordinary stress-free life in London, until one day he notices something extraordinary while walking to work, and his world is never the same again. Follow the story, and then let me explain some vocabulary to you. To practise your pronunciation, consider repeating the lines of the story after me.


Story slides in PDF form 👇

Read my vocabulary notes 📝 👇

The Simulation

As the grey light of dawn filtered through the curtains,

Edward Wilson stirred in his bed.

To filter through – phrasal verb

The sunlight came through the windows and the curtains acted like a filter. The sun was less bright (describes a texture or certain look)

Other examples
This water is pure and clear, having been filtered through layers of rock and sand
In Van Gogh’s paintings, the world is filtered through his unique perception of the world, resulting in a unique style

Air – filtered through a purifier

To stir = move slightly (like a person or an animal waking up)
(also stir meaning mix a drink – homonym)

His hazel eyes blinked open, and he yawned, stretching his lean frame.

Hazel – eye colour (brownish green with some amber or gold)
Most common eye colours: Brown, blue, hazel (includes amber), green, grey
Lean = (adj) thin, but healthy – without a lot of fat We also use lean for business processes – meaning efficient and without waste
Frame = his body, especially with reference to his size or build (in this case – lean)

The pale sunlight streamed across the perfectly clean sheets of his bed, and across his spotless floor.

To stream across
stream = when air, light, liquid or gas flows out continuously
A stream = a continuous flow of liquid, air, or gas.
“Jane blew out a stream of smoke”
To shine across but in streams
(shafts of light, rays of light, beams of light, streams of light)
The light shone, beamed, streamed out/down/across/in etc
Streams of water. To stream music or movies.

Spotless = perfectly clean
“I want that car to be completely spotless by the time I get back – I want to be able to see my own reflection in the roof of it” “But it’s a convertible!” etc

He moved back the curtains, pulled open his window blind and stood, squinting at the silent city below his window.

Window blinds

Roller blinds, venetian blinds (in slats), Roman blinds (fold as you raise them), electric blinds
shutters (on the outside) curtains (we know)

To squint = To look with your eyes partly closed because you are trying to block out light (like me in the Walk & Talk Paris episode)

Another day in the sprawling metropolis of London awaited him, or so he thought.

Sprawling = spreading out far and wide in a haphazard fashion (in a disorganised or random way) like the way a city does

It could also be:
things in nature (a forest or desert)
A sprawling story
A sprawling universe
Anything that spreads out large and wide

A metropolis = a very large city, particularly a huge capital city

Awaited him = waited for him (a more formal/literary style – sometimes more formal language is used in literature to create a more serious tone)

Edward was a software engineer, working diligently at a prestigious tech firm in the city.

To work diligently / to be diligent = to work hard, with a lot of care and attention
Prestigious = high status, a lot of people respect it or think it’s good – a top, high level company
A tech firm = a technology company (probably software systems, or AI or something like that)
A firm = a type of company
A law firm, a tech firm, an investment firm

His life was a predictable routine of coding, coffee, and occasional nights out with friends.

Predictable = you know what is going to happen because it’s always the same – easy to predict (and therefore boring)
A routine = the things which you always do, every time (describe Edward’s routine)

His days were ordered, tidy, and conveniently empty.

Ordered = everything arranged in a certain way, things are put in a clear structure or arrangement – no mess
Organised is a synonym, but ordered suggests that things are neat, tidy, structured with no mess
Conveniently empty – empty – nothing in them – no serious commitments.
This is convenient because it makes life easier for him.

He wasn’t troubled too much by anxiety or stress, despite his demanding job, and the busy pace of life in the city.

To be troubled by something / bothered / inconvenienced (that’s less strong)
A demanding job = a job that demands a lot from you (asks you to do a lot of things) – hard work, energy, commitment, time, mental load (a demanding job is a difficult job)
Pace of life = speed of life

He had no specific emotional ties or commitments.

Ties = things that attach you or limit your freedom in some way
Things that tie you down → girlfriend, wife, kids
Ties or commitments (these are synonyms)
(it’s not uncommon to have several synonymous words used together for emphasis or style)

He was free to live how he wanted, spending his free time exactly as he pleased.
However, there had always been a certain feeling in the back of Edward’s mind, a sense that something in his life was not quite right.

In the back of your mind = it refers to thoughts or feelings which are there but you don’t think about them directly or clearly, not dominating your thoughts.

They’re there in the background and might give you a certain general feeling in your life. They might influence the way you think or behave.
For Edward, although life seems ordered and fine, something is still not quite right.

Something was missing.

One brisk autumn morning, as Edward was strolling along the Thames Embankment on his way to work, he noticed something unusual.

Brisk = bright, energetic, fast paced, lively, fresh.
A brisk morning
A brisk walk
Strolling = walking in a fairly relaxed way

An object hung in the air above the pavement up ahead.

Hang – hung – hung
Was suspended (somehow) – just in the air
The pavement (UK) – the sidewalk (US)

Edward walked on for a closer look.

To walk on = to continue walking
“On” is sometimes added to a verb to mean “continue doing it”
To move on
To drive on
To carry on
To talk on
To read on
To ramble on
To dream on

A seagull was frozen mid-flight, suspended in the sky like a photograph.

A seagull (or just gull) is a type of bird that often lives near the sea (but sometimes in land too – often near water)
You often see them at the beach
They can be seen in London, particularly by the river
Mid-flight = in the middle of flying (an adverb to modify the adjective “frozen”)

Pedestrians around Edward seemed oblivious as they hurried on, engrossed in their conversations or with their faces locked to their phones.

Pedestrians = people walking
Oblivious = with no idea that something is happening
To hurry on = to move on in a hurry
To be engrossed in something = completely involved in it, completely focused on it and not aware of other things
Engrossed in a book / engrossed in an episode of LEP (take care when driving and operating heavy machinery)

Edward reached out to touch the frozen seagull, but it vanished in front of his eyes.

Reached out = stretched his arm to touch the bird
Adding OUT emphasises that he has to reach his arm quite far away

Edward snapped his hand back suddenly, and stared at the spot where the seagull had been, just seconds earlier.

Snapped his hand back = moved his hand back very quickly
Snap = a very fast, sudden movement
A crocodile snaps its jaws
It also refers to something breaking and making a sound (I snapped my pencil, a stepped on a piece of wood and it snapped)
In all cases it refers to quick, sudden movement

He glanced around, to see if anyone else had noticed.

He looked around quickly in different directions.
Glance = look quickly
Glance around = in different directions

But nobody was watching. The world around him seemed utterly normal.

Utterly = completely
They’re synonyms – but “utterly” expresses a slightly more extreme feeling.
It’s more emphatic
That was utterly boring
That was utterly disgusting
That film was utterly ridiculous

…and yet for Edward, things would never be the same again.

Slowly, a strange feeling came over him.

A feeling comes over you = the feeling gradually arrives, you gradually start to feel something
A feeling of tiredness came over me.
Nervousness came over me.
A feeling of excitement came over me.

He felt a shiver run down the length of his spine as he remembered a quote from a famous physicist –
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

A shiver = a cold feeling that makes you feel uncomfortable / when your body shakes probably because it’s cold or you’re afraid
To run down the length of his spine = this shiver moved from one end of his spine to the other
Length, width, height, depth
Merely = only, just, no more than (we use it to say something is not that important)
“He’s not important. He’s merely a English language podcaster. He doesn’t pose a threat to us.”
Albeit – this is like “but”, “although” or “even though” but it is followed by a noun, adjective or adverbial phrase, but not a clause with a verb in it. It means “although it is”.
Although is followed by a clause with a verb:
Reality is an illusion, although it is a very persistent one.
Albeit, isn’t
Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
The music was great, although it was a little loud for my tastes.
The music was great, albeit a little loud for my tastes.
Why use it? It gives a slightly more sophisticated literary style.

Edward spent the day working in his usual focused way.

He didn’t mention the bizarre frozen seagull to any of his colleagues, but his curiosity was piqued and that evening he decided to delve deeper.

To pique something (works with fixed expressions)
Fixed expressions
To pique your interest
To pique your curiosity
The title of the episode really piqued my interest
It aroused or stimulated my interest.
It’s not peak (high point) or peek (a quick look) (homophones)

To delve into something (to look/search deeply into something)
To delve deeper (to investigate more profoundly) search for more information

He started by searching online for the quote he had remembered which led him down a rabbit hole of philosophy, quantum physics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

Down a rabbit hole
Like in Alice in Wonderland, when she follows a rabbit down a hole and gets lost.
Going down a rabbit hole means getting very interested in a specific topic and reading about it, researching it and getting lost in the subject.
E.g. if you believe that the earth is flat, you might go down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about it, reading more and more things and sort of getting deeply obsessed with it
In this case, Edward goes down a rabbit hole of philosophy, and physics related to virtual reality and quantum science (in order to investigate what he has seen)

He searched for sightings of similar anomalies, witness accounts and stories from other people like him.

A sighting – when someone sees something (UFO sightings, ghost sightings)
Anomalies – things which are not normal, not expected – in this case, apparent “glitches” in reality.

He got lost in that rabbit hole for months, as the world moved around him, normal life passing him by.

To pass you by = to go past without stopping
I stood by the side of the road and watched the parade of musicians passing me by.
Focusing on my studies (or being a housewife) means I haven’t lived a full life! So many opportunities have passed me by!

Every day was the same.

The busy world of work and commuting, somehow softened by that pale London sunlight.

Commuting = travelling from home to work (when you live in a different place to where you work)
To commute
A commute
A commuter
A commuter train

But in the evenings, and at night time, he studied.

The more he learned, the more convinced he became that his world, his life, was not actually real. It was just some sort of illusion.

Every day, the world around him – the people at work, the office spaces and lunchtime cafes, the passers-by in the street – everything became less and less convincing.

A passerby (one word) is a person who walks past you, or passes you by in the street
The plural can be passersby (one word) or hyphenated passers-by
Not ❌ passerbys and not passersbys ❌

Edward began to feel trapped. Like a prisoner inside a huge trick.

One evening, as he stared into the glow of his computer screen, Edward received an unexpected email.

Glow = the light which comes out from his screen
The glow of a fire
The glow of a screen
The glow of the city lights

The sender’s name was ‘Seraphina’.

The message was mysterious and intriguing:

“Meet me at Westminster Bridge, at midnight.”

it read.

Intriguing = very interesting because it is unusual or mysterious
An intriguing question
She has an intriguing personality
An intriguing fact

The invitation, the name, the sudden yearning for human connection – it leapt into Edward’s heart.

To yearn = to have an intense feeling of longing or desire for something, especially something you can’t have. It has romantic or emotional connotations.
Yearning for human connection
Yearning for love
Yearning for solitude
Yearning to travel the world
Yearning for a simple life in the countryside
Yearn for something / yearn to do something

To leap = to jump quickly and quite a large distance
Leap – leapt – leapt
A tiger would leap at an animal it wanted to attack
To leap into – We we were driving through the safari park, a leopard leapt into the car!
Fear leapt into my heart

He knew it could be a scam, but he just couldn’t resist the temptation.

A scam = a trick to deceive someone, usually in order to steal their money
You get a message on your computer saying that there is a security problem and a data breach and you need to download certain software, or to give your bank details to pay for someone to repair your computer.
It’s a scam because either it’s fake and they just want your money, or because they want to get access to your bank account.

Scam emails – asking for you to send your personal information because they have money to give to you.
Often the email looks like an invoice – it says “Please find attached your invoice for $568. Let us know if any information is missing.”
but it’s a phishing scam designed to make you download the attached file, which actually contains some sort of malware which hacks your computer.

In this case, Edward is worried that it’s a scam and someone just wants to rob him.

He arrived at the bridge at the stroke of midnight, the imposing Big Ben looming out of the shadows above him.

At the stroke of midnight = when the clock “strokes” midnight – when the hand of the clock touches 12
When the clock strikes 12 (this means a bell ringing or chiming at 12 o’clock)

To loom (over/above/out)
If something looms – it’s a large object or thing, which appears in a threatening way – often over you or above you.
A building looms out of the shadows.
A huge ship loomed above us.
Clouds loomed over us in the sky.
A huge monster loomed over us.
The mountains loomed in the distance.

In the story, Big Ben (actually the Tower of Westminster) looms out of the shadows – creating a scary atmosphere.

The streets were deserted, and the moon cast eerie shapes on the ground in the half light.

Deserted – nobody there
Cast – projected, sent out (broadcast, podcast)
Eerie – strange and a bit creepy, scary or unsettling
Eerie music played during the horror film
An eerie atmosphere in the church at night
The moon cast Eerie shapes – the moonlight projected strange, scary shapes on the ground)

As he waited, the tower’s chimes resonated through the night, and he turned to see a woman emerging from the shadows.

Chimes – the sound of a bell
Resonated – when sounds carry through the air, ring out, reverberate
Sounds can resonate – the sound carries or continues
Things can resonate with you – meaning they have an emotional impact – you feel the emotional resonance (vibration) of it.
Luke, your story really resonated with me. I felt similar to the main character. I was able to identify with him.
To emerge = to come out

Seraphina appeared to Edward like an enigma, her features shrouded in darkness.

An enigma = a mystery or puzzle that you have to work out
Someone’s features = the shape or characteristics of their face or body – the way their face or body looks
Strong features, soft features.

To be shrouded in darkness
A shroud is like a long cloth that might wrap around your body and head, protecting you.
In this case, Seraphina appears shrouded in darkness.
The darkness covers her body. Maybe she is wearing a dark coat and a hood. Maybe she is standing in the shadow of the tower or trees. Edward can’t see clearly what she looks like.

“You’re Edward, the one who’s been searching for answers,” she said.

Edward nodded. “Yes, I am”.
He paused
“… and you are?”

To nod your head
What’s the opposite?
to shake your head

“Call me Seraphina. I’ve been watching you, Edward. I believe you’re right, about this world.”

Her eyes met Edward’s. She paused.

Edward’s heart raced.

“What do you want from me?” he said.

“I need your help, Edward. We need your help” Seraphina replied.

“What are you talking about?” said Edward.

“Edward. You are not alone. There are others. We’re forming a resistance. We want to break free from all this and uncover the truth behind what’s really going on.”

Edward paused.

“What, like in The Matrix?” he said.

“Don’t mention that” whispered Seraphina, glancing away for a moment.

She turned back to Edward.
“Look. Just join us” she said.
“We need someone like you. With your skills.”

Edward hesitated but found himself drawn to Seraphina.

If you are drawn to someone, you feel like you are moving towards them, like you’re being pulled in their direction.

For once, things didn’t seem so ordered, and empty.

Ordered – neatly organised, tidy

“Wait” said Edward.
“One question.
Are you… real?”

“Yes. I am real.” said Seraphina, resolutely.

Resolutely = done with firm determination, with strong resolve
She said this with strength, integrity, courage and self-assuredness.
She’s definitely telling the truth and she means it.

Edward paused.

“But how can I be sure?”

He said.

“Well” Seraphina replied.
“You’ll just have to take my word for it, won’t you?

Now, will you join us Edward?”

You’ll just have to take my word for it
= you’ll just have to believe what I say, without further proof or evidence.
I can’t prove it with evidence, so you will just have to take my word for it – you’ll just have to believe what I say.

Edward stood still, his mind turning.

He glanced at Seraphina again.

“OK. I’ll help” he said.
“But how?”

In her hand Seraphina held a small, unassuming device.

Unassuming = doesn’t look very special. Modest, Humble.
Ordinary looking.

“This is a disruptor. It can manipulate the fabric of our world, of… the simulation.”

A disruptor is something that disrupts things – to interrupt or disturb.
To stop something from working normally. Stops a system, process or event from working normally.
The traffic was disrupted by an accident.
The the government’s website was disrupted by a hacker, who wanted to cause problems, as a protest.
This disruptor probably disrupts the simulation, somehow. (conveniently this is unexplained but you just have to go along with it)

To manipulate something = to control it
The fabric of our world / the fabric of time / the fabric of space
Fabric literally means a kind of woven material, like wool or cotton.
The fabric of space/time/reality/our world = our world is like a fabric made up of lots of strands woven together
It means “the structure of our world”

“The what?” Edward interrupted.
“What did you call it?”

“There’s no time to explain, Edward, but I think you know, don’t you?”
Seraphina continued.

“Edward. You have skills that I don’t have, ok?
I need you to locate the core, the central computer that controls our world, and disrupt it, with this.”

She held the device out to him.

“So? Are you in? Will you come with me?

Edward took one look into Seraphina’s dark eyes and felt himself hurtling through time.

Hurtling = moving at a very fast speed, in a slightly uncontrolled way

He nodded resolutely. “OK”

Done with firm determination

Together, they embarked on a journey that would challenge everything Edward knew about his so-called reality.

To embark on a journey (formal, literary – to set off, to start a journey)
So-called ← we use this to say that people call it this, but we are skeptical about it, and want to question it
“The so-called expert couldn’t answer basic questions about the subject.”
“Her so-called friends abandoned her when she needed them most.”

They visited hidden pockets of the city – places that he had never noticed before.

Pockets of something = small isolated places or groups of things (in this case – hidden ones)
Pockets of civilisation in the wilderness
Pockets of wealth in an otherwise poor country
Hidden pockets of the city

Doorways he had passed without a second glance

Without looking at / without noticing / without checking again / without thinking about
“She’d always walked past him without a second glance – assuming there was nothing interesting about him at all”

Dark corners where walls left gaps into vast undiscovered chambers and corridors,

Gaps – empty spaces
Vast – huge, massive, enormous, gigantic
Undiscovered – nobody had discovered them before
Chambers – huge rooms, or caves

shadows under trees which revealed themselves to be the mouths of unseen tunnels, all leading to the underworld.

The mouth of a tunnel

Here they met others who had also seen through the reality of the simulation, each with their own stories to tell.

To see through something
= to see something as it really is, to see beyond the way it looks on the surface

Over time, Edward and Seraphina grew closer.

As Edward’s love for Seraphina blossomed amidst the chaos of their quest, he felt a growing sense of purpose.

Blossomed = developed, grew, like blossom (on a tree)
Describes something growing and in bloom (with flowers growing)
Amidst = in the middle of
Chaos = total disorder, a situation where everything is completely confusing and disorganised
A sense of purpose = purpose = a reason why something is done = a sense of purpose is the feeling that there is a reason or objective for what you are doing
You understand the purpose of it, you understand why you are doing it

It was a love forged in the belief that they were both fighting for the ultimate truth – the chance to live a human life, in the real world.

To forge something = to make it from metal, using a lot of heat
This is a metaphor, meaning to make something with a lot of work and time
“We forged a strong friendship while travelling together, or while working together”
Passive: “Our friendship was forged on the battlefield”
Sounds literary and quite impressive, dramatic

But their journey was not without peril.

Peril = danger / a situation in which there is a lot of risk or threat of harm
To face the peril of crossing the street in Hanoi as a tourist.
Climbing to the top of the mountain involves great peril as you have to walk along very narrow paths and climb up vertical cliffs

On their way, they encountered those who guarded the simulation, and who had been watching them

To encounter someone or something = meet, come across
On our walk through the forest we encountered a bear with its cubs.
The bear saw us as a threat and attacked us, and we died. 🤷
Those” = the people / those people
Again – literary style
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious
anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers
And you will know
My name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee! (Pulp Fiction / The Bible)

There are those who disapprove of all forms of gambling.
Those who saw the performance thought it memorable.

Formidable adversaries programmed to maintain the illusion of reality.

Formidable – strong, big, powerful – inspires fear, respect, awe – like a big, powerful warrior which you have to fight against
An adversary = someone you have to fight against, an opponent or enemy
Not just used for battles – could be for legal cases, sporting competitions etc
Adversarial (adj)
Strong enemies

Fierce battles ensued, sometimes beyond the confines of normal life, blending the lines between digital hallucination and tangible reality.

Fierce = very aggressive, intense, violent
Often for dangerous wild animals “The fierce lion roared, displaying its dominance over the territory.”
But other things too “Fierce winds battered the ship throughout the night”, or “Fierce battles took place”
Ensued = happened after, followed – happened as a result
Beyond the confines = outside the limits – in this case (on the edge of normal life, or on the edge of reality/the normal world)
Blending the lines = making the lines less clear (the lines between reality and a digital simulation)
A hallucination = things that you see or har which aren’t there – like if someone has taken a drug or is mentally ill
Digital hallucinations = somehow caused by digital code (I don’t understand how that could work)
Tangible = something that can be touched, felt and is therefore real and not imaginary or abstract
Tangible evidence of fraud
Tangible improvements in productivity
Tangible assets = physical assets that a company owns – e.g. buildings or machinery (as opposed to intangible things like debt owed to the company)

One moonlit night, Edward and Seraphina faced their most formidable adversary yet,

Moonlit = lit by the moon (to light – lit – lit)

a towering figure cloaked in shimmering pixels and black light, barring their way.

Towering = very tall, like the Tower of Westminster
Cloaked = wrapped in some kind of large material (a cloak) synonym of “shrouded”
Shimmering = shining and glittering
Pixels = individual units of light used in computer displays
Black light = a kind of ultraviolet light which is invisible to the human eye
Barring – to bar – barred – barred = to block someone from going somewhere
He was barred from entering
A car barred the way.
They were barred from the competition for cheating.

Edward activated the disruptor.

The world around them trembled, and the guardian faltered.

Trembled – shook slightly
Faltered – hesitated or stumbled (he lost his balance, fell slightly, stopped, was disrupted)

Seraphina seized the moment and struck a decisive blow, shattering the guardian’s code into fragments.

Seized = grabbed / took (normally take or grab with your hands, but you can also seize a moment, seize the day)
Strike a blow = strike = hit, a blow = an impact (she hit him or kicked him)
Shattering = breakinging into many little pieces (fragments)
Like if you drop a pint glass out of a window, or if you drop a big piece of glass on the ground, or if you do a roundhouse kick to a formidable warrior made of pixels in a digital simulation

With the guardian defeated, they pressed on, beyond the city limits, following a faint signal emanating from the disruptor in Edward’s hands.

Press on = keep going with some difficulty, like on a tough journey
Faint = weak (faint signal, faint sound, faint writing)
Emanating = coming from, coming out from (coming from a point of origin)
Resonate = vibrating through (the chimes of big ben resonated through the streets, the sound emanated from the bell in the tower)

It led them deep into the industrial wastelands on the far outskirts of the city, to a seemingly ordinary building.

Wastelands = areas where things used to happen but not any more – there are old things lying around, everything is old and damaged and wasted
Industrial wastelands = areas that used to be used for industrial activity (factories, warehouses) but now are unused
The outskirts = the areas on the edge of the city
Outskirts vs suburbs
Suburbs = residential areas around the outside the city (often nice places where there’s a bit more space and lots of homes)
Outskirts = also areas around the city, but the very edge, where the city becomes more rural – less populated, might include unpopulated areas

Inside, they found an unassuming room with one single computer terminal.

Unassuming = looks normal, not special, ordinary no reason to believe there’s any danger

A single cursor blinked on the screen.

Cursor = the little thing that blinks on a screen, showing where you can type. You move it with the mouse or trackpad, or with the keyboard

Edward approached the terminal, his hands trembling with anticipation.

Trembling = shaking slightly
Anticipation = with expectation of what’s going to come, getting ready for what’s coming

As he connected the disruptor, the room seemed to ripple, revealing its true nature.

Ripple = move in waves, like the surface of water (e.g. a calm pond if you throw in a small stone – the pond ripples)

It was a control centre, the hub of the simulation.

Hub = central point where things are all connected together
An internet hub = a kind of router where all the computers are connected to the internet
A transport hub = a place where lots of transport systems all meet (like Heathrow Airport or St Pancras station)
In this case – it was the central control centre for the simulation, and where all branches of the simulation were connected (or something)

The screen displayed a message:

“Welcome, Edward Wilson. You have come far. But do you really want to know the truth?”

Edward hesitated, his mind racing with doubts and fears.

He glanced at Seraphina who nodded encouragingly.

With determination, he typed a single word, “Yes.”

Instantly, the simulation began to unravel.

Unravel = come apart into different strands
If you have a woolen sweater, with one loose piece of wool. Pull it and the whole sweater will unravel.
The strands of the fabric will come apart.
If you have wound up some string and it all comes apart.

The cityscape dissolved into streams of code, and Edward and Seraphina found themselves standing in a vast, featureless void.

Dissolved = something solid turned into lots of tiny particles and disappeared
Dissolve some aspirin in water
The cityscape = the landscape of the city – turned into lots of tiny streams and disappeared
Vast – huge, massive, enormous, gigantic
Featureless = with no features, blank, empty
Void = a space with nothing in it at all (like a vacuum)
The world around them slowly disappeared leaving them in a completely blank, empty space

Edward looked at Seraphina.
“That was too easy”, he said.

Suddenly, the sound of a voice echoed around them, a voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.

Echoed = The sound bounced around and repeated (like when you shout in a tall stairwell or in a large stone room with a high ceiling, or a cave)
To echo / an echo
There’s an echo on the line. Your voice is echoing.

“Congratulations, Edward Wilson. You have chosen the path of truth.

But remember, reality is a complex tapestry,
and the threads of your existence are intertwined with the lives of countless others.”

A complex tapestry
A tapestry is a kind of work of art made from many threads of material – often making a large picture (a bit like a curtain or a carpet)
You start with a kind of mesh, and attach lots of threads of cotton or wool of different colours, making designs or a picture
Reality is a complex tapestry with many threads of existence all woven together.
Intertwined = the threads are all attached or wrapped up together – all connected
(like the cables of your headphones when you leave them in your pocket – tangled, but intertwined suggests something more organised)
Countless others = so many other people that you can’t count them
In real life your existence is connected very closely to millions of other people – you don’t live alone, but everything you do affects people around you.
Edward lived a sort of convenient isolated life in the simulation, but it’s not like that in the real world. It’s more complicated.

“Life in reality is neither simple nor easy. You must always choose, and choose wisely, for yourself, and for others.”

“What’s he talking about?” said Edward, turning to Seraphina.

But all of a sudden Seraphina seemed to slip away from him.

Slip away – move away gradually, as if she was standing on an icy hill and started sliding back

In the next few moments, Edward felt a profound sense of disorientation as his memories and experiences shifted and merged with the things around him.

Profound = deep and strong
Disorientation = confusion – not knowing where you are, which direction you are in, up, down, left, right – lost and confused.
Shifted = moved, changed position
Merged = combined or mixed together
(mergers and acquisitions)

(he’s coming out of the simulation)

He saw glimpses of different lives, different choices, all part of the intricate tapestry of the simulation.

Glimpses = quick looks
Catch a glimpse of something
To glimpse something
To glance at something
To glance around, etc

He saw himself and Seraphina living different, separate lives, never meeting, never knowing each other.

Panicking, Edward shouted for it to stop.

Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the void collapsed, and Edward and Seraphina finally found themselves back in the real world, or so it seemed.

They stood on a hill overlooking the city, bathed in the warm light of dawn.

Overlooking = above, in a higher position where you can see the whole thing
My apartment overlooks a junction
My balcony overlooks the park
This hill overlooks the city (Primrose Hill in London)
Bathed – covered in light (bathe means lie in water, but also cover something in a warm light)
Dawn – the sunrise
Dusk – the sunset

The cityscape was familiar, yet subtly different.

The cityscape = the Landscape of the city
Subtle = with very slight details, nuanced
Subtly different → different in ways which are not completely obvious, small differences

Seraphina turned to Edward, a knowing smile on her lips.

A knowing smile = a smile which shows that the person knows something
In this case – she knows that they did it. They escaped the simulation, or ended it.

“Welcome to the real world, Edward,” she said. “We made it”.

We made it (doesn’t mean we created it) it means “We did it!”
“We were successful – we managed to arrive somewhere”
We’re late, but we made it! It took a long time but we made it in the end.
We’ll never make it at this rate.

Edward gazed at the transformed city, a sense of awe and wonder filling his heart.

Gazed = Looked at something with wonder (differnt to just “stare” – gaze is with a look of wonder or amazement)
A sense of awe (wow – this is awesome) when something is breathtaking, incredible,
A sense of wonder

The love he felt for Seraphina was real, and the truth they had uncovered was the most exhilarating adventure of his life.

Uncovered = Revealed
Exhilerating = Exciting and intense (like a rollercoaster ride)

As they embraced, the sun rose over the horizon, casting its golden rays upon a world that was now truly their own.

Embraced = held each other in their arms (hug, cuddle, difference?)
Embraced is more formal, literary, dramatic sounding. Hug sounds like what you do when you see your grandma.
Cuddle is what you do with a teddy bear on the sofa – lasts longer.

“You see?” said Seraphina.

“See what?” said Edward.

“I am real”

She said.

A smile arrived on Edward’s face.

And as Seraphina smiled too, he kissed her lips, and she kissed him back.

And that was when the explosions began.

What does the ending of the story mean to you?

872. The Birthday Party (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. This is a story about people watching and what you can notice about people’s relationships if you are observant enough.


📄 Click here to read the story text 👈

Luke’s Vocabulary Notes

  • In your early / late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties
  • To look married (look good, look tired, look happy, look married, look bored)
  • Unmistakably married
  • They were married. It was unmistakable.
  • Mistakable = easily confused for something else
  • Unmistakable = not easily confused for something else – you can immediately identify it
  • The unmistakable smell of fresh bread in the air
  • They looked unmistakably French / unmistakably English / unmistakably yours/hers/his (this handwriting is unmistakably his)
  • Why are they unmistakably married? What does she mean? She’s alluding to subtle behaviour. When a couple are unmarried or perhaps in the early stages of a relationship they tend to give each other a lot more attention. They might be still trying to seduce each other somehow, or to attract each other. There’s still mystery and interest. Brand new couples can hardly take their eyes off each other. I imagine this couple is unmistakably married because they show signs of the relationship suffering from over familiarity. They mystery is gone, maybe. Perhaps they seem very familiar with each other, or very comfortable with each other. Marriage can make people feel stuck (not always!) especially if the marriage is based on the wrong things. 
  • A banquette = a long, fitted seat or bench, typically found in restaurants
  • Narrow – opposite of wide – a long narrow corridor 
  • We get the sense this is a small, intimate space. It’s also uncomfortable, painfully so. 
  • The couple and other guests in the restaurant are all so close and this makes the man’s humiliation and the woman’s heartbreak even more painful. 
  • The narrator is unable to stop “people watching” here – observing this couple opposite.
  • Also the couple sit side by side, not facing each other, which suggests that they’re not all that interested in each other. 
  • You start to speculate – what does this woman mean to this man? Is she there just to sit by his side and look glamorous? 
  • A round face
  • Self-satisfied (definitely a negative word) smug, arrogant, not charming
  • Fadingly pretty 
  • Fading  = gradually becoming less clear, less bright, less colourful. Her prettiness was fading. 
  • A big hat – I imagine it was one of those hats with a big brim, which can be very glamorous but also hides the face. 
  • Conspicuous = noticeable, easy to notice, eye-catching (apparently in those days big hats were not uncommon in New York restaurants)
  • Basically, they looked quite ordinary really, and weren’t trying to grab/attract everyone’s attention.
  • An occasion – a particular event, a birthday, an anniversary, something to celebrate
  • The wife had planned a surprise for him (past perfect because she planned this before any of the events in this story) without past perfect it could mean that the wife planned the surprise there at the table
  • A surprise in the form of a cake – “in the form of” here means that this is how the surprise was actually manifested. I mean, what was the surprise, how did this surprise take shape? The surprised arrived in the form of a cake.
  • The gift came in the form of a beautifully wrapped package.
  • Their support came in the form of encouraging words during a difficult time.
  • The solution to the problem arrived in the form of an innovative new technology.
  • Help arrived in the form of my wife who came to rescue me (from an awkward conversation for example)
  • A glossy birthday cake = shiny & smooth, so the light reflects off the top. It’s one of those smart, fancy cakes that you see in good quality cake shops. 
  • One pink candle burning in the center (American English spelling) – this is a little bit sad, isn’t it? Also, if this guy takes himself quite seriously, he might find that a tiny bit embarrassing – bringing attention to him, and this little cake with a pink candle might make him feel a bit ridiculous, especially if he is full of himself and takes himself seriously. But it is a lovely, sweet gesture and we just want him to be embarrassed but also touched and it would be a great moment for him to blush and smile and kiss his wife and maybe acknowledge the other diners with a smile, but he doesn’t.
  • The head waiter – so the wife probably asked the restaurant to make a special effort here, which again shows how much care she put into this.
  • He placed it before the husband. This means he carefully put it down.
  • Meanwhile = at the same time
  • The wife beamed with shy pride over her little surprise
  • Beamed = her face glowed, she smiled, she seemed proud. To “beam” means that light comes out – like a torch, or a light house. In this case the woman’s face beamed with a certain emotion or an expression. 
  • Pride – to feel proud = she’s happy and satisfied with what she has done. She’s put a lot of effort into this and expects it to go well. She’s trying.
  • It became clear (obvious) at once (immediately) that help was needed (passive voice – needed by who?) We feel that the narrator suddenly sees that this woman is helpless in this situation. She’s in trouble. But nobody can help her without making it worse. 
  • The husband was not pleased.
  • He was hotly embarrassed. – not a common collocation but it tells us that his face probably went red and he was angry.
  • He was indignant = angry, annoyed, frustrated with his wife because of what she’s done. 
  • Don’t be like that = don’t be that way
  • As soon as the little cake had been deposited  on the table = quite formal and impersonal language, meaning put in a certain place. Money is deposited in an account. It’s quite cold, transactional language.
  • The birthday piece – a piece of music
  • The general attention had shifted = moved
  • I saw him say something to her under his breath  = in a very quiet voice, in a whisper, so other people can’t hear
  • Some punishing thing  = a comment which was designed to punish her, to make her feel bad
  • Quick (just a few words) and curt (rudely brief – rude because it is so short) and unkind (cruel).
  • I couldn’t bear to look
  • Can’t bear to do something
  • Can’t stand doing it
  • Can’t bring myself to do something
  • When I finally glanced over there = looked quickly
  • This is heartbreaking!
  • Adverbs
  • Crying quietly 
  • Crying heartbrokenly
  • Crying hopelessly
  • All to herself (she was doing it all by herself, but also crying to herself – a very lonely feeling where you are the only one witnessing your crying – the husband doesn’t care it seems)
  • All to herself / all by herself
  • Under the big gay brim of her best hat. (Gay in it’s original meaning, “carefree” “happy”)
  • The brim of the hat = the wide edge
  • This is a particularly sad image because of the contrast between this lovely hat that should be worn on a happy and carefree occasion, but under it this poor woman is crying. 

851. Rambling about The Beatles “Now and Then” 🎸

A listener left a comment on my website asking for my thoughts on the new Beatles song which was released last week, and I was happy to ramble about it for 45 mins. Listen to hear me give my thoughts and tell several stories related to what is being described as “the last Beatles song”. First I talk for about 10 minutes about burning down my apartment and my thoughts on the content I make for this podcast, and then I start talking about The Beatles until the end of the episode. To skip straight to the Beatles bit, go forward to about 12 minutes into the episode.


843. The Birth of Our Son

Talking to my wife (and daughter) about the birth of our son, who came into the world just a few weeks ago. We describe what happened, and explain how it feels to become parents for the second time. This is a very personal, first-hand account of childbirth and the experience of bringing a child into the world. Watch out for the language of childbirth and children which has previously been explained in episodes 162, 491, 492 and 814.


Previous episodes on this subject, including specific vocabulary explanations:

161. She’s Having a Baby (with Amber Minogue) | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast 

162. Having Babies: Vocabulary / A Male Perspective | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast (Vocabulary Explanations included)

491. Becoming a Dad (with Andy & Ben) Part 1 (Vocabulary Explanations included)

492. Becoming a Dad (with Andy & Ben) Part 2 (Vocabulary Explanations included)

502. The Birth of My Daughter | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

515. Becoming “Maman” with Amber & Sarah – Bringing Up Children The French Way

597. Growing Up / Getting Older / Becoming a Father (with Paul Taylor) 

814. The Language of Children & Parenting (with Anna Tyrie / English Like a Native) (Vocabulary Explanations included)

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. 


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 –

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 


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


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.


Premium LEPsters – check out the app and the website for the latest premium episodes. If you’d  like to sign up go to 

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!

683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly

Marie Connolly is an Australian stand-up comedian and TEFL teacher who has written a book of short stories about times when men (from various countries) have flirted with her. In this episode Marie shares some of those stories, tells us about English men vs French men vs Australian men and much more. Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Transcripts & Vocabulary Notes for this episode (promos, introduction, ending)⤵

LEP Premium Promo

Before we start – a quick mention about LEP Premium. Premium LEPsters, I just want to let you know that P24 is now finished and uploaded. It is an epic series – homophones, jokes, building your vocabulary (which is so important) and also working on your pronunciation. I’ve also uploaded P25 which contains pronunciation drills for the previous free episode (LEP682) which was all about English accents. I said I’d do a pronunciation episode for that, and I’ve done it. You can practise saying the sentences with my normal accent, and also with several regional accents too. The aim being to strengthen both your listening skills and your speaking skills.

WISBOLEP Competition

Second thing – the WISBOLEP competition deadline is 15 October. Is that clear? Originally I said 31 October but the date has changed! The deadline is now the 15 October 2020. If you don’t know what the competition is, check out episode 681. But this is episode 683, and I’m keen to get started, so let’s go…


Hello and welcome back to LEP. It’s new episode time again! This is an episode with a guest. So you’re going to be listening to another authentic conversation at natural speed in English which can be difficult to follow but is good training for your English. Before going any further, let me explain the title of this episode. “683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly” Feelgood is an adjective (one word) which we use to describe anything that makes you feel good! For example we can say a feelgood film, feelgood food and or feelgood stories, which would be stories that will make you feel good. Feelgood stories of flirting Flirting means interacting with someone in a way that shows that you fancy them, find them attractive, and are probably interested in perhaps getting ‘romantically involved’ with them, let’s say. Synonyms include ‘chatting someone up’ , ‘hitting on someone’ or perhaps ‘trying to pick someone up’. A person can be a flirt, and the adjective is flirtatious. Feelgood stories of flirting with Marie Connolly And Marie Connolly is my guest in this episode.

Marie Connolly

Marie is a stand-up comedian, a ski-instructor, an English teacher and writer. Her latest book is full of short stories about flirting with the opposite sex. Before we meet Marie, let me give you some context to help you understand this conversation, which can ultimately help you learn more English from it. Marie is from Australia but she has lived in a few different countries. It’s a bit of a stereotype that Aussies like to travel away from Australia (this is called Going on Walkabout), but in this case it’s true. Marie has spent time in various places including Brisbane, Syndey, London, Liverpool, The French Alps and now Paris. Marie was born in Australia but her dad was from Liverpool and her mum was from El Savlador in central America, which is quite an interesting combination. For those of you who are interested in accents and pronunciation – Marie has a slight Australian accent because that’s where she grew up. It’s not super strong, but you should be able to notice it a bit. Here are the main things you’re going to hear us talking about: As you might expect we chat a bit about stand-up comedy, what it’s like dealing with tough moments on stage and reasons why it can be hard to do stand-up in front of audiences of non-native speakers. I’m afraid to say that the infamous Russian Joke story makes yet another appearance, which is my fault because as you’ll hear, I’m the one who brings it up. I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m still talking about the Russian Joke, and some of you are now saying “Wait, what’s the Russian Joke?” Long-term listeners will know all about this. Clearly I have deep mental scars from this experience which still haven’t healed. Either that or I secretly love telling this story. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep listening because I am going to tell the story once more. Yes, I know. Marie gives some thoughts on Liverpool where some of her cousins live, and her favourite English shops for buying clothes, which leads to some chat about Marks & Spencer – the quintessentially English clothing and food shop, which also has branches in Paris where you can buy proper tea. (not property, no – they don’t sell flats and houses, no I mean “proper tea” good quality tea) ….I’m now pausing for laughter… Marie tells us about her time living and partying hard in London, and then her decision to move to France to work as a ski instructor at a ski resort in the Alps, while making trips to Paris to perform comedy gigs. You’ll hear some details of Marie’s comedy shows in English and French in Paris. At the moment she is doing her own one-woman show in English called “Sydney, London, Paris, Darling”. You can see it if you’re in town, COVID permitting of course. At the moment, in France, Theatres are still allowed to open and Marie’s show is in a theatre so it’s still on. If you’re in town why not come and check it out? She is very funny and has some great stories to share. Then we move on to talk about the latest book that Marie has written, called “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. It contains 40 short stories. This is yet another book recommendation on the podcast. I think it could be a really good thing to read, if this is your cup of tea. Short stories are perfect for learners of English, because they’re short – do I need to say more? It’s chick-lit, which means books primarily for women that usually include romantic themes. The stories in Marie’s book are all cute anecdotes about times when men have flirted with her, hit on her, or chatted her up. There’s no explicit sexual stuff in Marie’s book. As Marie says it’s just innocent fun. So it’s less “40 Shades of Grey” and more “40 Shades of Hey, How are you doing?” — I’m now pausing for more laughter and applause, thank you — The rest of the episode is mainly Marie sharing some of her stories of flirty moments with men who she has encountered. She also talks a bit about how French men are different to Australian or English men. What do you think the differences might be? What do you think Marie is going to say about the way a French man will approach her, compared to an English or Australian man? Hmmm, have I piqued your interest? I hope so. Listen on to find out the details.


Vocab hunters – Here is some language which you can simply notice as you listen. When you hear these things, take a mental note. I know you are keen to get to the conversation, but bear with me. This will be useful for your English, and that’s what this is all about at the end of the day (and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day, etc) Trust me, I am a professional. I’m not explaining this all now, I’m just saying it so you can notice it yourself when it comes up naturally. If you don’t understand these phrases, don’t worry. I will explain it later in the episode. But you might be able to work it out from context as you listen. *There is some swearing*
  • To backtrack – “You can’t backtrack” [this one comes up twice]
  • To stick in someone’s craw – “It stuck in my craw. It bothered me.”
  • To be over it – “Maybe I’m not over it”
  • Deep scars – “Maybe there are deep scars”
  • To wilt – “I wilted in front of them”
  • To be sick to your stomach – “I was sick to my stomach”
  • To be swallowed up – “Can I please be swallowed up?”
  • A halterneck top (an item of women’s clothing that is quite revealing) “I was wearing a halterneck top”
  • To snuggle under the duvet – “If I could have, I would have snuggled under the duvet and just stayed in bed for a year.”
  • ______ by name, ______ by nature – “Alex Love, our mutual friend; lovely by name and lovely by nature.”
  • A coping strategy – “Every comedian has their own coping strategy”
  • To rectify – “Get back on stage as soon as possible and rectify”
  • Dainty / pastries – “I’m not used to French dainty pastries, I prefer the big fat Australian ones”
  • Self-soothing
  • To pay through the nose – “I will pay through the nose. I just want the best tea I can get.”
  • A hub / antipodeans – “It was a hub for antipodeans”
  • To be up shit creek (without a paddle) – “Because of Brexit I’m up shit creek.”
  • A snapshot of something – “It’s a snapshot of life in France”
  • To be hit on / to be picked up / to be complimented – “40 times I’ve been hit on, picked up or complimented by men”
  • Abs – “One was very white but he had super-fit abs”
  • White vs Pale (to describe a person)
  • Calf muscles
  • A sand castle
  • To blush – “He would blush and I would feel amazing.”
  • The contents (of a book) / to pique someone’s interest – “Can I read through the contents to pique people’s interest?”
  • To mime – “He started swimming with his hands. He was miming and I was laughing.”
  • A man bun – “He had long hair up in a man bun. I called him Mr Man bun.”
  • Chick-lit
Ok so try to notice those things, maybe try to guess what they mean and I’ll be explaining them on the other side of the conversation. But mainly, I hope you just enjoy listening to this chat. Now, get ready because things are going to speed up a bit, as we meet Marie Connolly…


Thank you again to Marie. After finishing the recording, we realised there were other stories we’d forgotten to tell, including the time Jerry Seinfeld turned up at one of our little comedy shows in Paris and performed in front of about 20 people including Marie and me, and how it was just a little bit awkward, but still amazing and quite surreal. Jerry Seinfeld at one of our shows? What are the odds? So Marie will have to come back for another episode in which we can describe that experience for you. Just a reminder about Marie’s comedy show (if you’re in Paris) and her books (which you can get anywhere in both paperback and Kindle versions). The One-Woman Comedy Show “Sydney Paris London Darling” you need to check her Facebook page – Marie Connolly Comedy. Marie’s books, including “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts” Marie’s page on Amazon where you can find her books. The main one we talked about is “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. She writes under the pseudonym Muddy Frank (read the titles of the books available)

Explaining the Vocabulary

Let’s go through that vocabulary again, from the beginning of the episode. Did you notice any of the words and phrases I listed before? Did you get a sense of what they mean? Let me go through them again, and I’m going to clarify them as quickly as possible. I’m not giving these phrases the full LEP Premium treatment (because I like to go into lots of detail in those episodes) I might put them into an upcoming episode of LEP Premium so I can make sure you learn the vocabulary properly and we can do the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills as well. But now, this is the sort of quick version. Let’s call it the 10 peso version. The vocabulary is already listed above ⤴️ Still not sure about the meanings? Try using to check them out. Other online dictionaries are available.
And that is the end of this episode. What’s coming up in the future? Who knows – nobody can predict the future, except weather forecasters. As usual I have more episode ideas than time, but I do have a few interviews lined up, including some more friends you might not have heard on the podcast before, and some regular guests that you’re probably waiting to hear from too [yes episodes with Amber & Paul are in the pipeline, it’s just a bit tricky to find times when we are all free]. Basically – more conversations with guests are coming up as well as the usual episodes on my own on various topics. So, it’s going to be more of what you normally get with LEP! Right, I will let you go now. Thank you for listening. Check the episode page on my website where you’ll find transcripts for 95% of what I’m saying in the introduction and ending parts of this episode, plus other things like a photo of Marie and me (oh Luke, a photo!?) plus the comment section and things like that. I often put other things on the website page for you to check out as well, including little YouTube videos relating to the episode or other bits and pieces. I look forward to reading your comments on the website. Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast which is where I am also quite active. Sign up to LEP Premium to access all the other episodes I make, all focused on helping you build your English in various ways. Have a good one. Be excellent to each other, and party on in your own sweet way.

Speak to you soon. Bye bye bye…

664. Lockdown Ramble with My Wife

Chatting to my wife late one evening last week about what it’s like to be with an English guy, raising our daughter to be bilingual and more…



Hello listeners, how are you doing out there in podcastland? What’s going on with you then, eh? Where are you? Who are you? What are you doing right now? Where are you listening to this? How are you listening to this? Have you got headphones on? Are you in a car or something? In public? Are you allowed out at the moment? Have you got a mask on? I mean, a medical face mask, not a metaphorical mask, but maybe you’re wearing one of them too, hmmm….?

Anyway, enough weird nonsense. I just want to give you a hearty welcome at the start here and to make sure you’re really with me here as you listen to this episode of my podcast, which is designed to help you with your English. You see, it helps if you’re fully engaged and listening carefully. It helps with your English, if you’re really paying attention while you listen.

On the podcast today, you’re going to listen to a conversation between me and my wife. Yep, my wife is back on the podcast for the third time now. The 1st time was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502 (just to be clear: my daughter wasn’t born in episode 502 of course, I mean that was the first time my wife was on the podcast and it was just after our daughter was born) The 1st time my wife was on the podcast was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502, and the 2nd appearance by Mrs Thompson was in a premium episode series in which we taught you loads of phrases that my wife has learned from me and that we use all the time (That’s P08 by the way – )

The conversation you’re about to hear took place in our living room late in the evening last week, after we’d finally got our daughter to sleep and had eaten our dinner. We’d been talking about doing another podcast for a while and then finally we managed to record ourselves chatting about our experiences of living in lockdown and also to respond to some questions that listeners asked in the past.

Here are some of those questions…

  1. What is it like to be with an English guy?
    Some people have wondered about this and asked me to talk to my wife about it. What about the differences in culture between us? How does this affect our relationship? We mainly talk about communication style here, and I’d like to refer back to a recent episode – #643, called The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming, as it touches on some similar points.
    So, what does my wife like or dislike about being with an English bloke? That’s what we deal with first.
  2. What have you been doing on lockdown with your daughter?
    Then we talk about living in lockdown with our daughter, including what we’ve been doing to keep her busy and how we’ve been able to observe her development more closely during this period. I should say, there’s quite a lot of conversation about our daughter in this episode. After the recording we both were concerned that it’s just two parents going on about their child. Again, if you have children, you’ll probably relate to what we’re saying. If you don’t have kids, I don’t know what you’ll think. You might not be into that stuff. Often, parents talking about children bores the pants of single people. But this has always been quite a personal podcast and a conversation with my wife is bound to include stuff about our daughter – I mean we’ve been locked up with her for about 7 or 8 weeks, so there you go. Just a little heads up – there’s more kid-chat in this episode.
  3. How are we raising our daughter to be bilingual?
    The third main thing we talk about is the bilingualism of our daughter and our approach to that. How are we making sure that she learns English as well as French? What are the main ways of doing this and what are the main factors to bear in mind when raising a child to speak two languages?

There’s also some chat about other things, like some comments from listeners, going to visit the castle near where my parents live, and whether my wife likes Star Wars and The Beatles.

Listening back, I noticed that sometimes I was speaking really fast during this episode, especially in the second half. I have mixed feelings about this, about fast speech on this podcast. For some listeners, this will be great news because some of you want to listen to fast natural conversation. For others this will be challenging.

I think I speak quickly in this conversation because my wife and I are very close (we’re married, you see) and she has no qualms about interrupting me and so I have to raise my speaking speed in order to prevent that happening. It’s a bit like when I’m with my brother. There’s this feeling that we’re going to talk over each other so we end up speaking more quickly as we try to get our ideas out before we get cut off.

I suppose ultimately this is good for you to listen to, because this is how people really speak to each other. They interrupt, they finish each other’s sentences, they make false starts and correct themselves and they don’t always finish the points they are making. It is good to listen to that kind of speaking because it’s how people really speak, unlike the kind of contrived listening you get in textbooks where everything is written in advance and read out fairly awkwardly by actors. I’m not having a go at English course books – they can be incredibly useful, but at the same time they aren’t very realistic.

My Wife’s English (actually she’s French)

You might be curious about my wife’s English, and her background with English.

Just in case you don’t know, my wife is French, and English is not her first language. She had some lessons at school and at university like most French kids but mostly she learned her English in adulthood. We speak English at home together. Sometimes we speak in French together, but as anyone with experience of this will tell you, it’s quite hard to shift the language of your couple once it has been set, and our relationship definitely started in English and my wife’s English is better than my French, so English is the language of our couple. We sometimes speak French together, but in French I am quite incompetent – I am a lot like Mr Bean, and when she married me, that’s not what she signed up, so, English is how we communicate, and there it is.

Ok then so now I would like to invite you into the living room of our flat in Paris. Would you like a glass of wine? Maybe a cup of tea? Take a seat. Don’t speak, you can’t actually speak, you can only listen (this is a bit weird), but you can write some notes to us after we’ve finished  – I mean, you can share your thoughts in the comment section under this episode if you wish. Otherwise, can just sit in the corner there and listen to us talking, if it’s not too awkward.

All right, that’s enough of an introduction. Let’s get on with it, here is my lovely wife, here is her lovely voice and here we go!


So here is that bit at the end where I talk to you for a while before the episode finishes.

I hope you liked that conversation. Did you think I was talking a bit quickly at some points or did you not notice? I wonder what you think of my wife? It’s a bit weird publishing these conversations with my family sometimes. I wonder if I’m giving away too much of my personal life, but it’s not like I’m doing a reality show or anything is it? Maybe I’m being precious about it. Who knows.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed spending a bit of time in our flat during this episode, but I’m afraid we’ve got to go to bed now, so err…. would you like me to call you a taxi or…?

Nah, I’m joking of course hahaha, but please do leave now, thank you.

Actually I do have a couple of things to say.

Push notifications for the app are not currently working, which is a drag. Sometimes things take ages to get done around here, but I’m working on fixing the issue. As a result, app users and premium users might not know that I’ve been uploading premium episodes. I’m now onto premium series 22 and I recently uploaded parts 4, 5, 6 in that series. Check them out, they’re in the app in the premium category. You can also get them online at That’s just a heads up in case you didn’t realise they were there.

646. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 5)

What did Alan do on Valentine’s Day? Listen to find out, as we break down some more clips of this award-winning comedy and use them to learn English.

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Welcome back to this episode about comedy legend Alan Partridge, a character played by Steve Coogan. This is part 5 in a series I started back in 2018. You should listen to the other parts before you listen to this.

What we’re going to do is continue to listen to some clips from an episode of I’m Alan Partridge – you should check out all the AP content out there including the DVDs you can find online.

We’re going to listen to some clips.
I’ll give you some things to watch out for.
We’ll see how much you can understand.
I’ll break it all down and point out funny moments and bits of language.

I hope to be able to cover all of this in this part, so we’ll have to keep things a bit brisk in order to stop the episode going on too long, but there might have to be another episode after this one, depending on how much we get done.

Let’s quickly sum up what happened in the last episode.

I reminded you who Alan Partridge is and what the context is for this episode.
We listened to Alan presenting his radio show and plugging chocolate oranges.
We heard Alan talking to the staff at the travel tavern and generally being awkward and weird.
Then we listened to Alan talking to Lynn about having to fire all the staff at his production company in order to avoid going bankrupt and because he’s not prepared to drive a Mini Metro even if they’ve rebadged it and it’s now the Rover Metro.

So in this episode we’re going to follow Alan as he meets all the members of his production company in order to fire them, even Jill the woman that he fancies and often flirts with.

Alan arrives with Lynn at the offices of Pear Tree Productions

Alan and the staff at Pear Tree Productions

Watch out for

  • How Alan flirts with Jill
  • How Alan lies by telling the staff the news about the second series
  • How Alan tries to stop people spending too much money
  • How Alan sacks his members of staff
  • How Alan manages to escape from everyone
  • When Jill asks Alan where everyone has gone, what does he say?

Alan and Jill

Watch out for

  • How Alan establishes if Jill likes him, sex wise, and his reaction
  • How they flirt really horribly
  • How Alan asks Jill out on a date

Alan & Jill at the Owl Sanctuary

Watch out for

  • Alan’s comment about astroturf
  • What Alan used to think when he saw Jill in the office
  • How Alan talks about a line of birds of prey they are looking at. He compares it to death row, and then look out for how his rambling comparison goes all weird.

Alan & Jill in the car

  • What did Alan do on Valentines day 8 years ago?
  • How does Alan ask Jill out on a date?

To be concluded in part 6…

645. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 4)

Listening to some more classic British comedy and dissecting it for language. This time we’re listening to some more clips of Alan Partridge, a comedy character played by Steve Coogan. This is part 4 of a series I started in 2018.

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Hello there, dear listener, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English as a foreign or second language or third, or fourth. In these episodes I try to help you learn English while having a laugh at the same time. We cover a lot of British culture in these episodes including lots of stuff about comedy and there’s lots of English to be learned in the process.

Here’s another episode about Alan Partridge, a comedy character played by Steve Coogan. This is part 4 of a series I started in autumn 2018. 

You should listen to parts 1-3 (episodes 548-550) before hearing this. Seriously, if you haven’t heard the other parts yet – stop right now and go back to hear them. This will not make much sense to you unless you’ve heard parts 1-3 so go back and listen to them instead, before you listen to this. Alright? OK, so only the people who have already heard parts 1-3 (episodes 548-550) are still with me now then… It should be just those who’ve… what about you there?… yes, you I don’t remember you listening to the other parts. Probably best to hear those first, like I said, so… probably stop and go back… in the archive. (episodes 548-550) Ok you’re still listening. No that’s fine, just ignore, yep, just ignore what I said, yeah, because this doesn’t apply to you does it… just carry on then… don’t blame me though if this doesn’t make sense… not my fault, I did say… just one thing though, when you don’t get it, don’t even think about saying “this is British humour”… no this is not “British humour” ok, “this is poor listening skills and bloody mindedness”. OK, fine. Unbelievable.

I’m just kidding, everyone’s welcome! Here is another episode about British comedy legend Alan Partridge and this is part 4.

When I did parts 1-3 in autumn 2018, I wasn’t sure what people would think, but overall the response was really positive, with lots of people saying they’d like to hear more.

Here’s a comment I just got from a LTL called Aritz, which sums it up quite well I think.

Hey Luke! I wanted to write to you about the Alan Partridge episodes. Thank you so much for taking your time to record them! Although I already knew Steve Coogan, you managed to make me understand the character (Alan) and the comedian in more depth. The episodes were educational, funny and somehow brought us a bit of British culture (something that as a London resident I always appreciate). Seriously good (great!!) stuff! Thanks again!

Well then, let’s enter the world of Alan again then.

What we’re going to do here is listen to some clips of Alan Partridge and break it all down for language learning.

Hmmm, which clips should I choose. There’s so much. We’re spoiled for choice.

I’ve decided to deal with clips from “I’m Alan Partridge” Series 1, episode 2 which follows on from the episode when he has that meeting with Tony Hayers and it goes all wrong and he squishes some cheese into his face. 

I’ve chosen this episode because you already know the context of the story and it makes sense to carry on from where we were after hearing that scene. Also, this episode is just brilliant from start to finish (in my opinion of course, other opinions are available)

One thing I would like to say here is that I really want to recommend that you actually buy some Alan Partridge content. It’s really worth it. You should get a DVD or buy a series on iTunes or wherever you can.

I’d strongly recommend getting the DVDs for I’m Alan Partridge series 1 and 2. Also you could check out Mid Morning Matters series 1 and 2 if they’re available. If you’re in the UK you should find most of the AP content on the BBC iPlayer, including the recent series This Time with Alan Partridge (I recommend episode 4).

As well as those, you could get the Alan Partridge books. The first one is called “I, Partridge – We Need to Talk about Alan” and the second one is called “Nomad”. They are both absolutely brilliant and it’s not an exaggeration to say they are literally the best books I’ve ever read. Ok, that is an exaggeration, but it’s really not an exaggeration to say that the audiobook versions really are the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard.

The cool thing about the audiobooks is that they are read out by Alan himself (actually the actor Steve Coogan of course) and this is just amazing. You get hours of Alan reading you both his books and it’s absolutely top drawer comedy writing, and top-drawer voice acting too. Steve Coogan is a genius.

So, you could sign up with Audible and get the two Alan Partridge books.

And it just so happens that my Audible offer is still available!

You download the app on your phone, sign up with Audible and create an account to get the audiobooks, then download them onto your phone.

The offer is: One month of free Audible membership + any audiobook of your choice completely free.

If you like, you can cancel your membership before the end of the month and keep the free book. 

So it’s essentially a free audiobook. or click an audible logo on my website.

And also there’s the Alan Partridge film, called Alpha Papa, in which Alan gets involved in an armed hostage situation at a radio station and ends up being the hostage negotiator.

So – plenty of Alan content for you to purchase, some of it free.

OK, I just wanted to promote the various bits of Alan Partridge stuff that you can get before we begin.

Right then, so where were we last time?


Alan Partridge is this TV and radio presenter from Norwich in East Anglia in England who basically only cares about getting on television and enjoying the status of being a national broadcaster. He’s convinced he’s A-Grade talent, when in fact he’s at best a D-grade broadcaster or worse. He’s pretty much an awful person, although there are obviously worse people out there. Really, Alan is just lost, deluded, cowardly and deceitful rather than being out and out cruel or evil, although he treats his personal assistant Lynn pretty badly. But there’s something compelling about Alan, even though we certainly don’t want to be him, we might recognise ourselves in him. Is he uniquely British? In a way, yes. We tend to enjoy watching comedy characters who are quite awful, who think they’re better than they are, who are unaware of themselves. 

We’re usually quite self-conscious people who try our best to avoid being like Alan, so maybe there’s something quite cathartic about watching someone who is so unaware of himself and so unafflicted by modesty and self-consciousness.

Anyway, I shouldn’t try to explain all of that. I did enough in parts 1-3.

Let’s just get down to business.

So, Alan is a parody (he’s not a real person of course, just a character – that should be clear) a parody of a certain type of TV presenter. He used to be a sports reporter, then he got his own chat show, but accidentally killed a man on live TV. Now he has been thrown out by his wife, their marriage has broken up, probably because of him. In fact it’s all covered in the I, Partridge audiobook. Alan is now living in a roadside motel, or “Travel Tavern”. Somehow he avoided criminal proceedings from what happened on his chat show. Then he failed to get a second series of his show and ended up having a meltdown and punching his boss in the face with a piece of cheese while shouting “Smell my cheese you mother!”

So basically, he doesn’t have a second series and his career is on the rocks.

He’s still presenting a radio show on BBC Radio Norwich, but he’s got the pre-breakfast slot, which is something like 4.30-6.30AM. It’s the graveyard shift, basically. He’s drifting into obscurity.

In this episode, Alan attempts to deal with the fact that he doesn’t have a second series. He’s got to face up to certain financial realities, meaning that he can’t move into his new 5 bedroom house, he has to get a much cheaper car and he’s going to have to lay off (or sack, or fire) almost everyone who he employs at his media production company. He employs about 5 people there, including a middle-aged woman called Jill who he fancies.

Mostly in the episode we follow Alan as he deals with these things, badly in most cases. So he has to sack his production staff, get a smaller car and try to maintain his dignity while living in a shitty travel tavern. 

It’s valentine’s day in this episode, so there’s a kind of romantic theme – I say romantic, it’s not romantic at all really, but Alan ends up chatting up Jill from his production company and takes her out on a date. Lynn, his personal assistant seems a bit jealous. The whole thing goes wrong of course.

We’re going to do pretty much the whole episode here.

I’m Alan Partridge S1 E2

There is a laughter track on this, which is a pity, but honestly after a while you start to ignore it.

Alan’s radio show

Opening scenes on BBC Radio Norwich

What to watch out for:

  • Alan’s dedication to his PA Lynn
  • Why there’s no telephone Cluedo today
  • What Alan says about the sound effect (the normal morning cockrel and then the sound of a kiss)
  • How does Alan define Valentine’s Day?
  • How Alan gets the tone of a light pre-breakfast radio show completely wrong by talking about syphilis
  • How Alan ruins Dave Clifton’s joke about valentines cards “It’s valentines day! I came down this morning and I couldn’t open my door. I couldn’t open my door because I’d lost my key” ~terrible joke
  • How Alan manages to plug chocolate oranges from Rawlinsons

That’s not the sound of someone kissing me, or kissing a cock… cockrel I mean. It’s simply a way of saying “it’s valentines day”, a day upon which mr Al Capone ruined a romantic night out for many diners by massacring them. Died of syphillis he did, so there is some justice.

Alan in the reception

  • What’s the problem he has with Ben, who he says good morning to?
  • How does he subtly insult Susan on reception?
  • What’s the situation with Alan and the chocolate oranges?
  • What’s Alan’s fat back?
  • Can Sophie exchange her dark chocolate orange for a milk chocolate one?
  • Someone says “Excuse me, are you Alan Partridge?” – why?
  • What’s Alan’s complaint about the soap? (he acts out a washing routine in the shower)
  • Who sent Sophie a Valentine’s card?

Alan and Lynn talk about finances

  • What’s the good news?
  • And the bad news?
  • What about his Rover 800? Is he willing to drive a Mini Metro to save money?
  • What does he have to do re: Pear Tree Productions?
  • How does Lynn feel about Jill?
  • What’s Alan’s scam at the breakfast buffet?

The story continues in part 5…

610. British Comedy: James Acaster

Listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, but there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.

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Transcripts and Notes

This is LEP episode 610. and it’s called British Comedy: James Acaster.

In this one we’re going to listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, and there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.

James Acaster is a popular stand up comedian from the UK who has won various awards, done Netflix specials, Edinburgh shows and who appears on panel shows and TV comedy programmes all the time. He’s now a very popular and well-known stand up in the UK.

I’ve got a clip of one of his performances from the New Zealand Comedy Gala in 2013 on YouTube.

I’m going to play the video in about two parts.

You have to try to understand it – not just what he’s saying, but why is it funny?

Then I’ll go back through the clip, sum it up, go through it line by line, breaking it down for language.

You can then listen again using the video on the page for the episode.

Who is James Acaster? (Wikipedia)
James Acaster is an English comedian originally from Kettering, Northamptonshire. (accent?)
He has performed for several consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won two Chortle awards in 2015.[3] He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe.[4] Acaster has appeared on several panel shows, including Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? He has a 2018 Netflix show entitled Repertoire, consisting of four hour-long stand-up comedy performances.[5] He has also written a book, James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, consisting of true stories, most of which were originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM.[6] He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.

He’s originally from Northamptonshire which is in the east midlands. He doesn’t have a strong northern accent or a brummie accent, although I do think he would say “podcast” instead of “podcast” and “bath, grass, laugh” with that short a sound too.

The main thing is that he drops all his “T” sounds and also “TH” sounds.
So, “bring them” sounds like “bring em”
“Sitting in a tree, eating all the apples” sounds like “si’in in a tree, ea’in all the apples”
“Theft” becomes “Feft”
He also says “Raver” instead of “rather”.
All very common features of local English – dropping Ts and TH sounds is common all over the country.

What is his comedy style?
Whimsical (unusual, strange and amusing)
Thinking of things in a different way, unconventional (quite normal in stand up)
Acting a bit cool even though he isn’t
Geeky looking, wears sweaters, clothes even a granddad might wear
Ginger-ish hair
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker

James bought some ‘ready-to-eat Apricots’ and he went on a lads’ night out

Ready-to-eat apricots

You get these bags of fruit in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) of fruit which is ready to eat.

It’s been cut up, washed, prepared. It’s ready to eat.

For example, you might get “ready-to-eat apricots”. That’s what James is talking about here.

Also, the expression ”You are what you eat?”

Play the clip: What’s the joke about apricots?

Stop and explain it

What kind of apricots are these?
They are ready-to-eat apricots.
How do you feel?
I feel ready. Ready to eat apricots.
In fact, you could say I was ready to eat these ready-to-eat apricots.
Maybe you’re not ready to eat apricots.
Maybe you just want some, which is why they’re in a resealable bag.
So, they should be renamed ready-to-eat-some-apricots.

A lads’ night out / You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard

James went on a night out with a bunch of lads.

For James, this was not an enjoyable night.

It wouldn’t be for me either. I’ve never been one of those guys who likes to go out on a lads’ night out.

Lets me explain what a lads’ night out is like.

Lads are usually English young men, together, doing male things and generally being aggressive, overly sexual, crude, rude and competitive.

  • Lots of alpha male behaviour
  • Heavy drinking
  • Taking the piss and general one-upmanship and aggressive, laddish, competitive behaviour
  • Spending time in bars and clubs that you hate but they think are brilliant (terrible, terrible music, awful people, loud, smelly, horrible)
  • Trying to pick up girls and the general lack of a moral code – cheating, lying, using alcohol – all in an attempt to get lucky with a girl. This includes cheating on your girlfriend if you have one.
  • Medieval-level sexual politics – being openly judgemental about women’s appearances, giving women marks out of ten, saying whether or not you would shag any of the women around, looking at their bodies and comparing notes etc.
  • You get sucked into it through peer pressure and become part of it even though you hate it.

One of the lads, who has a girlfriend and yet plans to pick up a girl at the club, when asked why he didn’t bring his girlfriend, says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”

An orchard is a place where apples are grown. It’s full of trees and there are apples everywhere. You might pay to access the orchard and pick the apples.

You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard. Presumably because you wouldn’t need to bring one because there are loads there anyway.

How about bringing your girlfriend to a night club. Is it the same?

This leads James to kind of question the logic of that statement and go off an a monologue about bringing an apple to an orchard and how that compares to bringing your girlfriend to a nightclub.

To be an accessory to something (like a crime)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Play the clip: Do you understand all the comedy about the nightclub and bringing an apple to an orchard?

Stop and explain it

Going to a nightclub with a bunch of lads
One of them cheats on his girlfriend and you become an accessory to it, like it’s a crime and now you’ve become pulled into it. You’re involved in it, without intending to be, and you could go down, like you’re an accessory to a crime.

In this sense, you just have to keep a secret, you’re being expected to lie on behalf of someone else. The guy is a twat basically.

This lad says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”.
But then James deconstructs this analogy in a brilliant way.

This is nuanced comedy which is subtly making fun of stupid lad culture in a clever and funny way, with some weirdness and surrealism.

Go through it line by line

One of the reasons I like it is that a lot of people might just say James is being weird and that he’s some sort of loser, but he’s absolutely right in my opinion and he’s just clever and not afraid to be himself and he embraces the slightly weird things in life, because let’s face it, life is weird.

Types of humour / how nuanced & subtle humour can be all about changing the context of the situation in order to reveal new perspectives.

This acknowledges the fact that there are many different perspectives or layers to any situation and a good comedian can make you realise a whole different underlying meaning by just changing one bit of perspective.

Despite the fact that I like this a lot and so do many other people, I’m sure plenty of others don’t find it funny because it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough dynamic changes (he doesn’t change his voice a lot, a lot of the jokes are left to the audience’s imagination), it’s pretty low energy, maybe little things like (I can’t get into it – I just don’t like his hair cut or his shoes or something) and also some people just don’t really want to look at the world from a different point of view. Some people prefer more direct humour, perhaps with a more obvious target or more relatable things, like observational comedy or something.

As usual, I’m worrying that nobody will get it, but what’s the point of that? Some people just won’t get it because “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

And it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t find it funny, that’s totally fine. At least you’ve learned some English in the process. :)

Vocab list

  • Ready-to-eat apricots
  • They say “you are what you eat”
  • A resealable bag
  • A lads’ night out
  • Check out the arse on that
  • Big time
  • Normal people perv solo
  • To outnumber someone
  • Sinister
  • A dented suitcase
  • To cheat on someone
  • An accessory to a crime
  • Despicable
  • An orchard
  • Fit birds
  • Eloquent use of language
  • A little bit miffed
  • This godforsaken pisshole of an orchard
  • Who in their right mind compares women to apples?
  • Another saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

Here’s another short clip of James Acaster, this time talking about Brexit and comparing it to a tea bag in a cup.

Should you take the bag out or leave it in?

James Acaster Brexit Tea Bag

Now explain that Luke!

Tea / Brexit

Should you leave the bag in or not?
If the bag stays in, the cup as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the bag is getting weaker in some way but it’s actually part of a good strong cup of tea.
If you take the bag out, the tea is actually quite weak, and the bag goes straight in the bin.

Do I even need to explain how that analogy works with Brexit?

Should the UK stay in or go out?

If the UK remains, the EU as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the UK is getting weaker in some way, but it’s actually part of a good strong union of nations.
If the UK leaves, the EU gets weaker and the UK goes straight in the bin.

Quite clever really.

You can watch James Acaster clips on YouTube.
You can see his Netflix specials “Repertoire” on Netflix
You can read his book “Classic Scrapes” from any half-decent book shop.

That’s it for this episode!