Category Archives: Story

530. More Murder Stories (with Moz)

My friend Moz (Michael J. Buchanan-Dunne) from the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast tells us some more true stories about murders from London’s past. Contains some gruesome details and explicit descriptions, and some fascinating and unbelievable true stories! Intro and outtro transcripts available. *Adults only: Contains gory details and explicit descriptions*

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Introduction Transcript

This episode features another conversation with one of my friends for you to listen to as part of your learning English diet, and yes let’s imagine that learning English is a bit like having a diet plan, but instead of limiting your intake like you do with a food diet, with this English diet the plan is just to consume as much English as possible and really enjoy it. Just binge on English as much as you like – yum yum yum yum yum.

So yes, here is some more natural English conversation for you to indulge in.

The friend I’m talking to in this episode is my mate Moz, who has been on the podcast a couple of times before. You can find all his episodes in the archive. Just search for Moz – m o z. The long-term listeners will know Moz but if you’re fairly new around here, here is a 2-minute summary of what you need to know about him.

I met Moz (whose real name is actually Mike or in fact Michael J Buchanan-Dunne) doing stand-up comedy back when I was living in london a few years ago.

He lives on a canal boat, spending most of his time in London where there is a canal network that crosses the city.

Moz gives guided walking tours around parts of central London – especially Soho. The theme of these walking tours is murder, and Moz takes groups of visitors to different locations and then describes real murders that happened in those places. The tour includes stories of serial killers, crimes of passion and mysteries that have never been solved. Quite a lot of my listeners have actually taken his tour when visiting London and you can do it too if you’re in town. Just go to murdermiletours.com to get the details and to book a tour. It’s a really different way to explore parts of central London with a local person. It’s much more interesting than the normal boring tourist walks, and it has a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. Not bad.

Moz also has his own podcast called the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast in which he describes, in plenty of detail, the stories that he tells briefly on his walking tours, and more. He started the podcast just 7 months ago and since then it’s gone from strength to strength. It got a nomination in this year’s British Podcast Awards in the True Crime category.

So Moz is something of a specialist when it comes to describing the stories of true crimes in London. His stories are painstakingly researched using court and police records from the national archives, and Moz is a well-experienced and enthusiastic storyteller.

And it’s the storytelling that I’m interested in here, as much as anything else, because stories can be really great resources for learning English, especially when the storyteller is enthusiastic and the content of the story is gripping. They help to draw you in, make you focus on the details and just get more English into your ears, which is so important, as we know!

Well, Moz is certainly keen to describe the events in his stories and you have to agree that there is something fascinating about the subject of murder. Of course it’s horrible and tragic – especially for the victims and their families of course – these are often appalling crimes, but at the same time it’s hard not to wonder about the motivations of murderers, the lives they led, the conditions in which it could be possible for one person to take the life of another.

This is why crime and mystery novels, TV shows and documentaries are so popular. Apparently we can’t get enough of this kind of thing. So, although their subject matter is dark and quite explicit, I think that these stories are compelling and well-told and that is reason enough for me to present them to you in this episode.

Now, as I usually say when Moz comes onto the podcast and talks about murder – I think I should warn you here – Moz’s accounts often contain some very graphic and explicit descriptions of some truly horrible acts of violence and moments of horror.

So, if you’re sensitive to this kind of thing – if you don’t like blood and violent imagery – if you’re squeamish – you might want to proceed with caution. If you’re playing this with children around, like if you’re in the car and the kids are listening – you should probably pick another episode. My episodes are usually aimed at adults anyway, but this one in particular is not suitable for children. So, that should be clear – if you don’t like gory details, proceed with caution, if kids are present, listen to this later when they’re not around.

Ok we’re very nearly ready to begin here.

A coot – “as bald as a coot”

At the beginning, you’re going to hear Moz’s quick report from the British Podcast Awards ceremony which he attended just a couple of weeks ago and then he goes on to tell us about some of the murder stories he’s been researching over the last year or so.

So, without further ado, let’s go!


“Outtro” Transcript

Moz is getting very good at telling these stories isn’t he?

If you enjoyed this conversation, let me recommend Moz’s podcast – just in case you’re looking for more stuff to listen to in English. As he said it is available on all the usual platforms that you use to get your podcasts. Search for Murder Mile True Crime Podcast. Quite a lot of you already listen to his show, which is great.

The next episode is going to include a Vocabulary Quiz focusing on the language of crime – different nouns and verbs for various types of crime. So vocab hunters, watch out for that.

Well done for listening to the end. Good luck with your English. Keep it up!

Leave your comments on the website as usual. Join the conversation and practise doing some writing in English.

Download the app for convenient access to the whole archive of episodes and some bonus content.

Speak to you again soon!

Bye bye bye!


Links

Murder-Mile Walking Tours

Murder-Mile True Crime Podcast


Listen to serial killer Dennis Nilsen Speaking

521. Talking about Pets (with James)

Usually when I talk to my brother on the podcast we talk about fairly obscure topics, like cult films, musical subcultures or skateboarding, but this time we chose a universal topic; pets. Listen to this conversation to hear James and me remembering the pets we had as children and discussing some issues related to keeping animals as pets.

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Introduction

It’s national pet month in the UK from 1 April – 7 May so here is an episode all about living with animals, domesticated creatures, our furry companions, our four-legged friends – pets in their various shapes and sizes.

National Pet Month is actually a registered charity in the UK and its aims are to promote responsible pet ownership, and to make people aware of the mutual benefits of living with pets. You can find out more by going to www.nationalpetmonth.org.uk/

Just like everywhere else in the world, British people love pets – the most common ones being dogs, cats and fish.

Since it is national pet month I thought I would talk about pets with James, my pet chimp, I mean, brother.

We both had pets growing up together as children, so we thought we’d take a little trip down memory lane in this episode and remember some of those cute little animals that we loved so much when we were young.

Yes – pets! It’s a simple topic. It’s a universal topic – I think pets are popular the world over. And it’s a fun topic which we can use as a way of presenting you with some authentic listening practice in English.

When you think about it humans have a pretty diverse relationship with animals. Sometimes we farm them and breed them for various purposes, sometimes we ride around on them (for transport or sport), sometimes we eat them (quite often, for lunch maybe), sometimes they eat us (less often, admittedly) sometimes we just like to watch them eating each other (in BBC nature documentaries for example) and sometimes we like to offer them a friendly invitation into our home so they can live with us, like little hairy members of the family almost, just because we love them, we find them cute and they help to lower our blood pressure. Apparently they are good for us, they can keep us healthy. They’re like little furry doctors with no qualifications except a degree in being warm and cuddly.

That is something people say – having a pet can help you live longer. But surely it depends what kind of pet. If you have a silverback gorilla or a saltwater crocodile as a pet you’re probably not going to live to a very old age. In fact, you’d be lucky to survive beyond a couple of minutes with a crocodile in the house. “Oh that’s a lovely 23 foot long crocodile you’ve got. Oh how original. They’re basically dinosaurs aren’t they? Oh what’s his name – Bitey? Bitey the crocodile. There there Bitey, hello little bitey – CHOMP. Oh he’s bitten my arm off, how adorable… CHOMP CHOMP oh and now he’s grabbed me by the leg and is pulling me underwater where he’ll drown me and then eat me in one go. How lovely.”

It does depend on the pet you choose of course. Crocodiles don’t usually make great pets I expect. But I don’t know maybe they’re very loving and gentle. Let me know if you have a croc as a pet.

Anyway, the most common pets in the world are generally lovely and fluffy and not usually our natural predators of course. Here’s some data.

Pet data stevedalepetworld.com/world-pet-population-data-mixed-bag/ www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/5845-infographic-most-of-world-owns-pets-dogs-are-tops?utm_source=KnowledgeMarketing&utm_medium=Watt%20Products&utm_campaign=Pet%20Weekly%20Roundup%20All%20Others%20List&eid=237316200&bid=1430132

Around the world there may be different cultures of pet keeping, for example whether it is normal to neuter or spay your pets (that means giving them an operation on their reproductive systems so as to make them infertile – unable to breed – in some places that’s normal, in other places you might consider that to be a horrible thing to do!) or whether it is normal to keep your pets mostly indoors or outdoors. In some countries you wouldn’t dream of letting your dog or cat stay outside all night, whereas in other places it’s the other way around.

The cultures may be different, but one thing’s for sure – humans seem to have the desire to live with animals as companions and over time we have developed a symbiotic relationship with certain animals – notably dogs, who seem to express a sense of duty towards their owners and perform various functions for humans.

There are ethical issues relating to keeping pets too of course – it’s always hard to escape issues of morality and ethics even in a seemingly innocent topic like this. For example, is it somehow cruel to keep animals as pets and how do pets affect the natural world around them?

My conversation with James touches on some of these things, but the main reason we chose to talk about this topic was to let you hear a conversation in English about a subject that I’m sure you can all relate to and the main focus of our conversation is to remember the various pets we had when we were growing up as children.

So listen out for some little stories and memories and also descriptions of typical behaviour in the past. See if you can notice certain features of grammar and vocabulary in the way we express these ideas.

The specific vocabulary and grammar relating to that are things I can deal with specifically in another language-focused episode.

But this one is all about listening to some real British English conversation and so, without any further ado – let’s talk to James about pets.


Ending

So there you go, that was my chat with James about pets.

In the comment section please write about pets that you have or that you have had in your lives. Tell us about cute or funny things your pets do. Do you have an unusual pet? Have you got any good little pet stories? Put your thoughts into words and add them in the comment section.

Now, in terms of language – this conversation obviously contained some vocabulary that would be worth reviewing and clarifying.

Also, there was some grammar there. We were talking a lot about the past, so there were the usual past tenses, but also some very specific aspects of grammar that you might not have noticed  and I’m talking about the ways in which we don’t just tell stories in the past but the way we describe habits in the past. There are certain grammatical forms that we use for that, and it might not be immediately obvious to you how it is done.

I can help you learn these things – learn how to notice them, learn how to understand them and learn how to use them to listen and speak like native English speakers.

It would be useful if I published a follow-up episode to this in which I go through all that language. THat’s the sort of thing you can expect from LEP Premium when it arrives.

You’ve heard me talk about LEP Premium in recent episodes. I’m setting it up at the moment. If all goes according to plan then at some point soon I’ll make that service available to you and you’ll be able to sign up, support my work and gain access to some extra episodes in which I focus more carefully and specifically on the aspects of language that you need. Analysing and explaining the grammar and vocabulary in my conversation with James is an example of what you could expect from LEP Premium Episodes.

Also, not just language that’s come up in conversations and monologues, but also it could be a way for me to focus on  other aspects of language that I think you need to know.

As I said, I’m still in the process of setting this up at the moment. I’ll be setting it up with my host Libsyn, so that I can publish the premium content into the App (you’ll be able to sign in to get premium content there) and also online from a computer, so expect more information soon.

Thank you again for listening. Visit the website to see my transcriptions for the intro and outtro to this episode. Join the mailing list. Download the app to get all the bonus content there and to be ready to get LEP premium episodes. Send me a donation through the website if you want to support the show.

Have a great day and if you have a pet, give them a little treat like a snack, a stroke, a scratch or a nice walk in the park.

Speak to you again soon, but for now…

Bye bye bye.

Luke

Phrases and vocab from episode 521. (contributed by Jack)

I don’t know if you can tell but my voice sounds a bit funny
Domesticated creatures
Furry companions
And since it’s a national pet month I thought I’d talk about pets with my pet chimp James.
We thought we’d take a trip down memory lane…..
Pets are popular the world over
Humans have a pretty diverse relationships with animals. Sometimes we farm them and breed them for various purposes. Sometimes we ride around them for transport or for sport.

Sometimes they eat us – less often admittedly.
Warm and cuddly
Salt water crocodile
Silver back gorilla
Chomp
He’s bitten my arm off
You’ve got to throw in some data
Neuter or spay your pets
You wouldn’t dream of…..
We have developed a symbiotic relationship with animals.
Morality
My conversation with James touches on these things.
About a subject that I’m sure you can all relate to
So listen out for some…..
Do you think the audience are expecting this to be riveting and hilarious
I wouldn’t want to build it up too much
Are you a pet person?
A pair of gerbils
Distraction
They come from the Gulf
They tend to gnaw on things
I suspect dad probably named them
The idea of keeping them in a little cage is a bit messed up
Deep ethical implications
They’re not immortal

Luke: One of them had escaped
James: I didn’t remember that, no

Run out of food
Bullied by mice and cats

They thought we’d be traumatised
It was rigid, stiff as a board and it was half way through a loo roll tube.
…..at that moment something clicked.

They’d make bedding out of them
The cats were obsessed with catching the gerbils
I don’t remember there were any gerbil cat crossover

Luke : Just so I can…..
James : fill me in on bits of my life

….and she would curl up in the casserole dish.
Spare bedroom
You try and stroke her, tickle her or something and invariably she would strike out or hiss…..
They had a litter of cats
Kitten
Posy (bunch of flowers)
We took it to the doctors to get it checked out.
She never quite got over that really. He was always screwed up about that.

James : He was mental. Really manic looking face, wild looking eyes. White flash very fluffy. White flash running down its front. And just Bizarre weird animal

Luke : Bonkers

Hyperactive
Running up your trouser leg
Always go for the liveliest one when choosing a cat.

Went to the doctor not to just have it checked out but have it spayed.
Castrated
They spray pheromones and stuff
Vet
Climbing underneath the underside of the sofa.

Introduce a pet into a wild ecosystem where he’ll just ravage all the wild life.
….and somehow he dragged this rabbit through the cat flap as well.

Luke :Several times I would come back, we had a little room between the kitchen and the back garden which is where we’d put the cat’s food down and there was a cat flap….to let the cat into that little space. We wouldn’t let the cat into the house at night. He (posy) would have that utility room area and outside and he would bring in the animals into the utility room onto the door mat and then eat them there. Couple of times I went into the utility room and saw posy in a moment of wildness.

Lions taking down a wilder beast.
Door mat
Bitting the rabbit’s head off
Spleen
Fluffy tail
They’ll stick around and pretend to be cute for food.
Cat isn’t really self aware
…..but yet it is petted, softened and domesticated. They are kind of bipolar.
Run over a dog
They’re pretty nasty psychopaths
Crossbreed to make them smaller, cuter and more manageable
A waste of space
Poker faced
Squashy faced

Luke :They have those creased up faces. And they have those broad front legs, stocky little back legs. And they have the lower jaw sort of…..

James : protruding

Luke : prominent lower jaw…..

Lower centre of gravity
It’s harder for other dogs to flip them over.
Wrinkles and creases in their face are so that the blood can drain off.
That sounds a bit far fetched
Medieval times

Luke : like if people in the city were rioting.

James: bring out some bad tempered cats on leads and sort out the protestors.

Leopard
I think they’d be too skittish to be of any good.
Do you think you could disperse a riot by introducing a bunch of big cats into the streets?
All the big cats that are just loose in London.
Drug sniffing cats
Cat nip – It makes them all high
Drool
I think we are going on a bit of a tangent here.
Dalmatians
We may need to fact check that one
Sleeping on a window sill
We used to put out the cat at night.
Posy was getting up to things at night outside.
Howling and screeching sounds going on in the garden.

James : It’s like having a Mexican stand off. Staring at each other, wailing.

Luke : staring wailing and just arching their backs.

Full moon
…….have a big stand off around a flowerbed; the patio in our garden.

Posy was just lounging like some sort of mafia boss
So he was either the alpha male or the most beta-ish male.
………Lowest rung of the cats.
Debating the best way to overthrow the humans.
a stick insect
Intact you might as well just get a stick
Brown twiggy thing – Stick

James : Now he’s picked the most obscure, not obscure the sort of random words to explain…. They can understand all this but the one word they get hung up on is stick

Luke : I might have been teaching English for 15, 16 years!

James: Stick is something you throw to a dog if it’s fallen off a tree.

Sawdust
They’d be gnawing a piece of wood which would be like rattle and tap against the glass.

Suburban farce
Posy would sort of trot through the kitchen and would be on the floor by the door just casually and he’d spot one of the gerbils out of the corner of his eye and just go bonkers and just launch himself at the gerbilarium and scrabble in the corner.

Metal edged aquarium
Their fins start drooping and you start fretting – May be I haven’t fed them enough
Morsels of food.
It was really very lively.
I don’t know the workings of a gold fish.
We had a tiny little pond; basically an overflow from the gutters. Fairly clean water. It was rain water.

Luke :They’re probably happier there then in a bowl or in a box

James : oh yeah I would have thought so!

A ferret
They are like a mink.
Pole cat
They are pretty versatile, pretty tough little creatures.
They are lively……
They are very good at crawling through tunnels in the ground.

And also up north they have a sport of putting ferrets down your trousers.
Blokes tie strings down the bottom of their trousers and shovel load of ferrets down their trousers and they wriggle around.
Chuck em down their trousers
Mishaps
A dog can around a whole load of sheep and get it through a fend a gate.
Paper round
Some of the dogs are very yappy
Ring the creature in half (break the neck)
They can be mean.
Roulette
It would come tearing towards you.
Whippy stick
It’s a reflection on the owners of how the dog behaves.
Tug of war
It would come bounding up to you.
Bit far fetched
We’d have to walk past the house to get to the station.
I always thought it would leap over the fence.
They are cold blooded animals and they need to be kept warm and I can’t be bothered with that.
Wardrobe full of snakes. She bought a wardrobe and adapted it. Put a glass front on it; I think it might be on the side of it. And there’s two compartments.

Quite affectionate, they purr.

Boa constrictor
Babboon
Scratch his face
Vibe
But you can tell he’s panicking and scared
Where they decided to bring up a monkey or a chimp.
Bunch of hippies decided to rear it.
And it’s miming back
And as it gets bigger it gets more and more unruly.
They start giving it booze and they start giving it weed. And this f***** chimp is smoking spliffs around a table with them.
It’s a bit of a symbiotic relationship.
The ethics of having a pet.
All that is contributing to deforestation
And those cows fart all the time apparently.
And they cut down rain forests to put down cattle farms and stuff
If you’re vegan and you have a pet – You’re a f***** hypocrite.

James : let us know if you’re a vegan dog owner. Actually don’t bother.
How do you justify that?

Cultish following for these dogs.
If they are well looked after they can be very cool.
Dog straining on the lead.
I think that’s a suitable note to end this chat.

He’s gone into the cheesy radio host voice now in case you are wondering.
In the comments section please write about the pets that you’ve or that you’ve had in your life.

Now, you might have heard me talk about LEP Premium in recent episodes. I’m setting it up at the moment.

And if you’ve a pet give them a little treat like a snack or a stroke or a scratch or just a nice walk in the park.

519. Idioms Game & Chat (with Andy Johnson) + 25 Idioms Explained

A conversation with Andy Johnson including loads of idiomatic expressions and their explanations. First you can listen to a rambling chat with Andy and then I’ll explain 25 idioms that came up during the conversation. Part 2 coming soon… Transcriptions, Vocabulary list & Definitions available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks – in this episode I’m talking again to Andy Johnson from The London School of English, and while we’re talking we’re going to play an idioms game, so you can practise your listening with this conversation and also learn some natural English expressions in the process.

Alright Andy? I’m going to do the introduction to this episode, with you here. Sometimes I’ll check in on you, just to see if you’re still there and to see if you’re ok with what I’ve said. OK?

Andy’s been on the podcast a couple of times before but if you haven’t heard those episodes here’s some intel on Andy J, to bring you up to speed. This is the Andy Johnson Fact File.

Andy Johnson started out working in marketing before becoming an English teacher. He’s been teaching English for … a number of years (I think it’s about 15 years now). He did the DELTA qualification at the same college as me (name of that college? That’s UCL in London) and has worked for The London School of English for over 10 years, first as a teacher and now as the Director of London School Online – that’s the London School’s online operation, and yes – I’m calling it an operation, which makes it sound either like they’re surgeons, or special agents and perhaps they are somehow a combination of both of those things – but for online English courses. London School Online offer various online courses for learners of English and other things of that nature. Get more details at www.londonschoolonline.com

Actually the correct link is www.londonschool.com/lso

Andy is a runner. He runs marathons, which is great considering he nearly lost a leg when he was younger, and when I say “lost” a leg I don’t mean that he just couldn’t find it for a while, like “oh where’s my leg? I put it down a earlier and I can’t find it… Ah, there it is! Oh, I nearly lost a leg there!” no, I mean he nearly had to have it removed permanently, which sounds like it was a very frightening and horrible experience. There’s an emotional and inspirational story that explains what happened, which you can hear if you listen to episode 472 when Andy talked about it.

472. Andy Johnson at The London School (Part 2) Why Andy runs marathons

So, despite an early issue with his leg, Andy is a runner and in fact at the moment he is training for the London Marathon which happens next month.

Andy is married and has two children who are boys. He sometimes steps on pieces of their lego, which I understand is incredibly painful. Lego comes from Denmark but Andy Johnson is half Swedish.

But Sweden and Denmark are both scandinavian countries, so the link still works somehow.

However, this does not lessen the pain he experiences when he steps on Lego.

Andy has a good joke about Swedish military ships having barcodes so that when they come into port they can “scan the navy in”, which sounds like “scandinavian”. It’s a good joke, despite the way I just told it just then.

As an English teacher Andy often attends teaching conferences where he presents talks to other English teaching professionals. Previously we talked about his talk on millennials in the English language classroom which he has done at various conferences including the IATEFL conference, which is like the Glastonbury Festival but for English teaching.

Andy also looks a bit like Moby (the American musician, DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, photographer and animal rights activist) but a better-dressed version. Sometimes people mistake him for Moby, with hilarious results, as we have heard on the podcast before.

So, Andy is like a better-dressed, half-Swedish half-English English teaching Moby look-a-like who runs marathons, steps on his kids’ lego and talks about teaching English to millennials at conferences. But he’s so much more than that.

Andy Johnson everybody…

Spot the Idioms

As well as having a conversation, in this episode we’ve also decided to play a game as a way of including a language-focus – in this case idioms. You have to spot at least 6 idiomatic phrases in this conversation, although there will definitely be more than 6.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms to include in our conversation.

What are idioms?

Remember – idioms are fixed expressions with a particular meaning – a meaning that might not be obvious when you take them on face value. The meaning of the phrase is different from the words used in the expression. They don’t have a literal meaning.

Really common idioms (which you probably already know) are things like “That was a piece of cake”, meaning “That was easy” or “It’s just not my cup of tea”, meaning “I don’t really like it”. Those two are really common and well-known ones that just happen to involve food. A third example might be “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there” – to hit the nail on the head, which we use when someone has made exactly the right comment – the sort of comment which perfectly explains or sums up the situation. “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there”.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms – but we haven’t told each other what they are yet. We’re going to play a little game while taking part in our conversation.

Idioms Game

The rules of the game are this:

  • We have to seamlessly include the idioms into the conversation. We should find a way to include the idioms in a natural way – so they are used correctly for the context of the conversation, and not too obviously. They shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, for example.
  • Both of us have to try and identify which idioms we chose, and when we hear them – write them down.
  • At the end of the conversation we will state which idioms we thought were the the pre-prepared ones. For each correctly identified pre-prepared idiom, we get a point.
    It is possible and indeed encouraged to slip in some other idioms as distractions, but these must not be pre-prepared. They can only be expressions that could naturally have come up in moments during the conversation.

So basically – I have to spot Andy’s 3 pre-prepared idioms, and he has to spot my 3 pre-prepared idioms.

A strategy could be – to insert your pre-prepared idioms into the conversation without them being too obvious, while perhaps attempting to distract each other or tempt each other with other idioms that we just include on the spur of the moment.

You can play too, ladies and gentlemen. Try to spot the 6 idioms we have pre-prepared. Also watch out for any other expressions that might not be on our lists, but which are worth learning too, like for example “to stick out like a sore thumb” or “on the spur of the moment”.

At the end I’ll go through all of the idioms and clarify them.


Conversation begins – and then pauses before Andy tells us about being abused on Twitter.


More Transcript…

Hi everyone,

I’m pausing the conversation right there. Andy is about to tell us about he got abused on Twitter, but you’ll have to wait until part 2 to hear that story and the rest of the conversation and the results of our idioms game.

But Luke, why are you pausing here?

The whole conversation went on for about 90 minutes and this time I thought I’d split it into two episodes – mainly because I want to take a bit of time to highlight certain features of language that you have heard already in the conversation, namely – all the idioms that have come up so far. We’re focusing on idioms in this one.

You know that we’re playing an idioms game in this episode and I wonder if you’ve been paying attention, trying to spot the idiomatic phrases that we prepared in advance.

But as well as the pre-prepared expressions, there are loads of other ones that are just coming up naturally.

So I’d like to highlight all the idioms which have come up so far. I’ve listened back to the conversation and made a list of all the idioms I could hear.

Let me now go through them. I’m not going to tell you which ones are the pre-prepared ones, except to say that only one pre-prepared idiom has been used in the conversation so far. That’s one out of the 6 pre-prepared ones. Only one has been used so far. The other 5 will come up in the next conversation.

So, I’m not telling you which one that is. What I am going to do though, is explain every idiom that has come up in part 1.

Here we go.

Vocabulary List + Definitions

Idioms and Expressions that you can hear in this episode (Part 1)

  • Here is some intel on Andy J to bring you up to speed.
    Intel = intelligence. This is just information but it’s a word used by the secret service. “Our agents have collected some valuable bits of intelligence.” “What’s the intel on the British Prime Minister’s security guards?”
  • To bring someone up to speed = to give someone the latest information so they are as informed as everyone else. “Hi, welcome back. Let me bring you up to speed on where we are with the negotiations.”
  • If Swedes have beef with anybody it’s with the Norwegians
    To have beef with someone = to have a complaint to make about someone/something, or to have a long running resentment or grudge against someone/something. E.g. you hear this a lot in rap music. Let’s say Notorious BIG insulted Tupac (maybe he said something about his mum) and then Tupac had a beef with him. (he also held a grudge against him and had a score to settle with him)
  • You’re holding a grudge against someone = you have an long running bad feeling against probably because of something bad that happened in the past. E.g. Mike stole Dave’s girlfriend, and so Dave’s had a grudge against him ever since. Murray has had a grudge against Nadal ever since he humiliated him in front of the crowds of spectators at Wimbledon a few years ago. Obama made a joke about Trump and so Trump had a grudge against him. He had beef with Obama.
  • You’ve got a score to settle with someone = you need/want to take revenge on someone
    Have you got your idioms Andy? I’ve already used one. I think I might have jumped the gun a bit there.
  • To jump the gun = to do something too quickly. Like runners who start the race before the gun.
  • Swedes use Norwegians as the butt of a joke
    The butt of the joke = the object of the joke. E.g. Years the Irish were the butt of a lot of jokes in England.
  • There’s some bad blood between the two of them.
    Bad blood = a bad feeling between two people because of something that happened in the past
  • A meaning that might not be obvious if you take them on face value.
    Take something on/at face value = you just accept something as the way it is, without realising there is a deeper meaning, or another aspect to it. E.g. if you take an idiom on face value, you might take it literally without realising it has another meaning. Or you might take a joke on face value, and not realise it’s a joke – take it literally.
  • That was a piece of cake = easy
  • It’s just not my cup of tea = I don’t really like it
  • You’ve really hit the nail on the head there = you said exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment
  • The idioms shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb = to be very obvious or different from the surroundings or other things
  • You shouldn’t shoehorn them in = force them in unnaturally
  • To include some unprepared idioms on the spur of the moment = on impulse, without planning in advance
  • The Notting Hill Carnival goes on just on the doorstep of the London School = very close to a building
  • The guy was clearly half-cut = drunk
  • He was sitting on the barrel, two sheets to the wind = drunk (also – 3 sheets to the wind)
    www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/three-sheets-to-the-wind.html
  • Did you ever have those socks with the days of the week on? Oh man, that was a minefield.
    A minefield = a very difficult situation in which failure or problems are very likely to happen so you need to take great care.
  • Wait, what’s a street walker? You’re going to have to spell it out.
    A street walker / A lady of the night = a prostitute
    To spell it out = to make it absolutely clear
    It made her look like a lady of the night.
  • What’s amazing is how many trolls creep out of the woodwork on international women’s day.
    to creep out of the woodwork = (a negative expression) when people who are previously hidden or silent, reveal themselves or their opinions.
  • If you’re feeling a bit peckish and you eat your thumb, the thumb will grow back.
    Peckish = a bit hungry
  • It’s jaw-dropping the amount of misogyny that comes out on days like this
  • It’s really eye-opening.
    Jaw-dropping = surprising and amazing. It makes your jaw drop open. Wow!
    Eye-opening = surprising and you learn something new from it
  • For him to shine a spotlight on these people and to call them out for their ignorance and their general dickish behaviour, while still raising money and raising awareness for the cause, I just thought it was really really good.
    to shine a spotlight on someone = bring attention to someone. Like pointing a theatre spotlight on someone on stage.
    To call someone out for something = to publicly bring attention to someone’s bad actions (Hey everybody – this guy criticised millennials!!)
  • Who is this guy to slag off a whole generation?
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a really unpleasant way. (a slightly rude expression)

Now that’s the end of the idioms in this episode.

There are more in part 2 and there should also be a bit at the end where I explain the vocabulary too.

I think this is really useful when I do this. What would really help you now is if you listened to the conversation again. Now that I’ve highlighted the idioms, listen to the conversation again and I 100% promise you that you will notice them more easily and you are also far more likely to remember them and be able to notice them again.

Listening to conversations I have on my podcast with my guests is definitely important, but I think that just highlighting some of the language you’ve heard by picking out certain phrases, repeating and explaining them – this can make a crucial difference in your ability to really learn English from my episodes.

It’s something I think is valuable and I’m looking at ways of introducing this sort of thing more permanently.

For example – an idea I’m thinking of and I’m nearly ready to do it – would be to introduce a paid premium service for just a few Euros a month, where you’d get regular language review episodes where I go through language you’ve heard in episodes. The episodes would be available to premium subscribers in the app and online via a computer.

Preparing language reviews is time consuming for me and adds a lot more work than just preparing a conversation, recording it, editing it and publishing it as a free podcast. I have to listen again carefully, note certain language features and then spend time clarifying them on the podcast.

A paid premium subscription option would allow me to do it more properly and regularly and would mean my time and work is being rewarded, and you’d get really valuable episodes in which I explain the language you’ve heard but might have missed in episodes.

Let me know what you think. From your end, it would be like this. You could sign up for LEP premium online via my host Libsyn. You’d need to pay a little bit of money per month, not that much – probably just the price of a pint of beer per month for me. Then you’d be able to sign into my app and get access to a certain number of premium episodes. Those episodes would be primarily about language. I do various types of episode on LEP – some of them don’t involve language teaching or a language focus although of course it’s all good for your English because you’re getting valuable exposure to the language and I’m here to help. BUt the premium episodes would all be about language and mostly they’d involve me explaining, clarifying and demonstrating English that you’d heard occuring naturally in normal episodes of LEP. So they’d be like Language Review episodes. You’d be able to listen to normal episodes of LEP and then several Premium episodes too which would explain, clarify and expand on the vocab, grammar or pronunciation you’d heard in the normal episodes.

I’m also planning to include other things for the premium package – including finishing off APVAD. I think the only way I can continue the phrasal verb episodes is if they’re part of a premium package.

And don’t worry – if you can’t get the LEP app, you’d still be able to access premium content from a computer on the premium page.

Anyway, this is in the pipeline. Things move a bit slowly here at LEPHQ but I’m getting there.

In the meantime, get the LEP app. More free extra stuff keeps popping up there. I recently uploaded Episode 518b which is part 2 of the grammar questions episode. Check it out.

Also, sign up to the mailing list on the website if you haven’t already done that.

Time to go now!

Speak to you again with Andy in part 2 of this episode where you’ll learn some more idioms and also find out what happens in our idioms game.

Cheers!

Bye.

Luke

516. Paul McCartney’s Spider Story

Learn English from an anecdote told by Sir Paul McCartney. Let’s listen to Paul telling a sweet story about something funny that happened to him and George Harrison when they were teenagers, before they became world famous musicians in The Beatles. Let’s listen to his story , do some intensive listening practice and then I’ll help you understand everything. Also, let’s have a laugh with some funny Paul McCartney impressions. Video and notes available below.

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Pre-Jingle Vocabulary

This episdoe is called Paul McCartney’s Spider Story and if you keep listening you’ll hear what happens when a couple of Beatles meet a couple of spiders.

You can also do some intensive listening practice focusing on every single word, and then later there are some bits focusing on Paul McCartney’s voice – including a few fun Paul McCartney impressions.

But right here at the beginning, before the jingle even, I just want to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that appear in the episode. I’ll tell you the vocab now and while you’re listening and hopefully enjoying the episode, just try to spot these words and phrases as they come up, and when you do spot them you can just go – oh, there’s that word, there’s that phrase.

  • a bed and breakfast (a B&B) = a simple guesthouse where you pay for a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning, a bit like a basic hotel which is just someone’s home. (e.g. We hitch-hiked around Cornwall and stayed in a few little B&Bs along the way)
  • to turn out (phrasal verb) = when you discover a fact or when something is later revealed to be true or to be the case ,turn out + infinitive (e.g. we got talking to this guy and made friends with him and it turned out that his mum owned a B&B up the road or I was standing in a shop and I overheard someone talking about recording music and a concert and it turned out to be Paul McCartney!)
  • menace (noun) = something dangerous that can cause you harm (e.g. next door’s dog is a real menace to my chickens, or he has an air of menace about him, or there was a hint of menace in his voice)
  • as blind as a bat = totally blind, e.g. I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses! (Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes)
  • a nativity scene = a set of models or statues depicting the birth of the baby Jesus Christ, with Mary & Joseph often sitting over the baby Jesus. Every Christmas my school used to display a nativity scene in the school’s entrance. Sometimes people display nativity scenes in their homes or even outside the house if they’re particularly religious at Christmas.
  • to bury the hatchet = to stop a long running argument and become friends again. E.g. I wish you two would just bury the hatchet so we can get the band back together. (bury the weapon you might use to fight with someone)
  • to bury the hatchet in someone’s head = a joke! If you bury a knife, sword or hatchet in this case in someone’s head – it means you stick it deep in their head – to kill them. E.g. I’m ready to bury the hatchet – in your head! – Makes it sound like you’re ready to stop fighting, but actually you still want to kill the other person!
  • showing off = behaving in a way to attract attention and show people how great you are, but in a way that’s annoying. E.g. Dave is really good at the guitar but he’s always showing off doing these ridiculous guitar solos. He just wants to impress everyone. or Stop showing off in front of all the guests!

OK – so, no information yet about the context that those words come up in, but I just wanted to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that definitely do come up at various points during the episode. See if you can spot them all as they naturally come up. Now, on with the episode!

Introduction

What are we doing in this episode? Listen to an anecdote – a real one, told by none other than Paul McCartney.

This is a video I found on YouTube (see below). Listen to the story, and just work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a few questions to guide you. Then I’ll go through the recording again and explain it, clarify, highlight any features of language and generally help you to understand it as well as I do. So, this is a great chance to learn some English from a real anecdote – a personal little story, in this case told by Sir Paul McCartney.

I love The Beatles. I love listening to Paul talking about, well, anything really, and I love this particular video and this little anecdote.

It’s not a story about how he conquered the world in The Beatles, or how they played Shea Stadium or how they sold millions of records or whatever.

It’s just a sweet and funny little story about something that happened to him and his mate George Harrison when they went hitchhiking in Wales – before they were even famous or in The Beatles.

I think the video originally appears as an outtake from the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World”, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. Highly recommended.

He was just asked if he could tell a story about a good memory of George. Of all the things they must have been through together, this is the one he picked.

Who’s Paul McCartney? (as if you don’t know…)

He’s got to be one of the most successful musicians to have ever lived.
He was in The Beatles – you must have heard of them!
I don’t know if you like their music, but you can’t deny that they’re one of the most significant bands ever and also one of the most significant moments in cultural history. I have no doubt that their music and their story will forever be remembered, studied and considered ultimately to be like classical music.

But I don’t mean to build it up too much. For me, I’m a fan of the Beatles not just because of their place in cultural history, but because of the fascinating story of these apparently ordinary guys from Liverpool, their lives, their friendship and the amazing pool of creativity that seemed to open up between them once various factors were in place and the career of the Beatles happened.

Comprehension Questions

Watch the video of “Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison” (below)

Try to answer these questions. Listen to find out the answers.

  1. Why did they hitch hike to this place called Harloch in Wales?
  2. Where did they end up? Why did they spend their time there?
  3. Where did they stay?
  4. What did he realise later on?
  5. Who did they hang out with? What did they do?
  6. What was their reaction to the spiders in their room? How did they deal with the spiders?
  7. Who were Jimmy & Jemimah?

Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison – “The Menace! The Spiders!”

The second anecdote – Buddy Holly and John Lennon’s poor eyesight

What’s the funny thing Paul says about John’s eyesight?

Answer: John Lennon famously wore glasses because he was very short sighted. He used to take the glasses off if girls were around. Later, Buddy Holly became a famous pop/rock star and suddenly it was quite cool to wear horn-rimmed glasses. Anyway, one night after writing songs at Paul’s house one dark evening at Christmas time, John walked past a house and thought he saw some neighbours still sitting outside in the freezing cold playing cards. Paul later realised that it was just a nativity scene, and John was so blind that he’d thought the statues of Mary & Joseph bending over the baby Jesus were a couple of people playing cards outside their house.

Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan do Beatle Impressions in The Trip to Spain

Rob and Steve do their Paul McCartney impressions. Rob talks about how Paul’s voice has been affected by the fact that his mouth has lost some mobility now that he’s quite old. Steve disagrees and says that he thought Paul was quite articulate. They then start doing John Lennon impressions.

Peter Serafinowicz Show – The Beatles go for a poo

A parody of the Beatles in their Let It Be period, when there was lots of friction in the band and they couldn’t agree on the musical direction for the group. British comedian Peter Serafinowicz does impressions of all the Beatles.

Listen to Episode 414 – “My Uncle Met A Rock Star” – My uncle’s account of how he once met Paul McCartney in a shop

414. With the Family (Part 2) My Uncle Met a Rock Star

508. Six True Crime Stories from Victorian England, Told by My Dad

Learn English by listening to Rick Thompson telling some true stories of petty crimes committed in an English town in 1851.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody, and welcome to this brand new instalment of Luke’s English Podcast – a podcast for learners of English.

In this episode my dad is going to tell you some true crime stories from England’s history. There are six stories in total and they all involve curious crimes and their punishments which can tell you quite a lot about what life was like in England in the mid 19th century.

We have established the value of listening to stories on this podcast before, right? Listening to stories can be a great way to improve your English, especially when they’re told in an interesting, clear and spontaneous way and of course I’m always happy to get contributions from my dad on this podcast – so I’m feeling good about this episode. I think it should be a good one.

These days my dad is semi-retired but he keeps himself busy doing various things, including some volunteer work for an organisation based in the town where my parents live – Warwick, in the midlands, in England.

The organisation is called Unlocking Warwick and it is a volunteer group based in a restored building in the centre of town.

This building used to be a court-house – a place where, in the past, people who had been accused of committing crimes were sent to be tried and possibly sentenced to various punishments, and back in the Victorian times those punishments could be quite harsh. The building operated as a court room from the early 16th century all the way through to the 1970s when it eventually closed. Then, a few years ago the building was fully restored to its former glory and is now a cultural centre for the town of Warwick. The volunteer group that my parents belong to, Unlocking Warwick, does various events and activities in this building as a way of helping people to explore the history of the town, which is also the site of one of the UK’s best medieval castles. Warwick is a place that’s worth visiting if you’re into English history and it’s only about 30 minutes away from Stratford Upon Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Last year you heard me talk to my Mum about the Unlocking Warwick project and she mentioned the regency ballroom in the building, where they organise events like dances with historical themes, and since the building used to be the location of a court room, the group also presents dramatic reconstructions of real court cases that happened there.

These are like plays based on real records of the court proceedings which are stored in local archives, and my dad is the one who writes these dramas. He reads the details of old cases from the archives, picks the ones that sound interesting and then turns them into plays which are performed for the public by volunteer actors. They even get members of the audience to shout things out and generally play along, a bit like they would have done during the real trials back in the 19th century.

So, because he’s written these plays, Dad has a few stories at his disposal and I thought it might be fun, interesting and good practice for your English to hear him describe these stories in an episode of the podcast, so that’s what you’re going to get; six true stories of crimes that actually happened in Warwick, told to you by my dad – and almost all of it is told using past tenses – so straight away, there’s some grammar and pronunciation for you to look out for. I’m not going to go into all the details of those narrative past tenses here, but if you’d like to listen to episodes in which I explain those tenses, give examples and help you to pronounce them then you can check out episodes…

Other episodes dealing with Narrative Verb Tenses in more detail

29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses 

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review 

They’re all (also) in the episode archive on the website. 

But right now, let’s jump into this conversation that I had with my dad just the other day when my parents were visiting us. So, without any further ado – let’s get started.


The Six Stories

I’d like to summarise those six stories again now, just to make sure you got the main details and to help reinforce some of the language that you heard in the conversation.

You can find the notes I’m reading from here, written on the page for this episode on the website.

  1. The Case of the Notorious Window Smasher
    A woman who would go up and down the high street in Warwick and also in Birmingham, smashing shop windows (cutting up her arms in the process) and stealing goods, including a roll of top quality French material – and she was sentenced to time in the house of correction where she probably had to do hard labour all day, including walking in the treadmill – a kind of human-powered machine for grinding corn or wheat. Imagine being a sort of hamster in a wheel all day long – like going to the gym, but doing it for 10 hours or more and I’m sure the conditions were very dusty and awful. The Victorians, being sort of puritanical and protestant had a strong work ethic, and believed that hard work was the right remedy for people’s problems. You can see how this went together with a certain industriousness that marked that period of British history.
  2. What Happened to the Extremely Drunk Man?
    He was brought into the court by a policeman simply for being very very drunk, and was sentenced to 6 hours in the stocks.
  3. The Story of the Poor Lunatic Woman
    Her husband took her to the authorities claiming she was hysterical and completely impossible to live with, and she was promptly taken to the local lunatic asylum where she probably spent the rest of her life – but was she really mad, or did her husband just want to get rid of her?
  4. The Woman Who Ran Away from the Workhouse
    There were different places you could end up if you were found guilty of a crime, or simply didn’t have the means to look after yourself. The worst would be Australia, which was probably a very tough place to try and survive back in those days and the long boat journey would probably kill you anyway. Then there was prison, and I’m sure 19th century prisons would have been full of disease and all kinds of hideous misery. You heard about the hulks – these broken old ships that were moored on the river Thames in London, which worked as prisons. I expect the ones on the land weren’t much better. Then there were the houses of correction – essentially prisons where you did hard labour all day long. Then there were workhouses – not exactly prisons, but places that would house people who had no money. They’d give them accommodation and food in return for work. Honestly, I think places like this still exist in many parts of the world and it’s really sad and terrible, especially when we realise that some of the products that we consume might have been made in places like these – we call them sweatshops these days – places where people work long hours in awful conditions. The woman in this story ran away from her workhouse because, as she claimed, they weren’t feeding her. I expect that could be true. I think the food given to people in workhouses was often just very weak and watery soup (called gruel) which probably contained next to no nutritional value, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were denied food as punishment in a workhouse. There was so much cruelty in those days. This woman ran away, and was caught – but she hadn’t really committed a crime, had she? A workhouse wasn’t a compulsory place to stay. It’s not a jail. She ran away of her own free will. But they caught her and charged her with theft of the clothes she was wearing. I expect the clothes were provided for her by the workhouse – so that’s how they got her. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t some sort of personal revenge or some kind of personal vendetta against this woman, or some kind of conspiracy against her. Her sentence? 3 months hard labour in the house of correction. I’m sure some people profited from all this free labour.
  5. Why did Joseph Smith Break a Lamp in the Market Square?
    Just to get arrested and put in the house of correction – because he had no money and no food. So he did it just to get fed and housed, even if it meant having to do menial work. It sounds like he was pretty desperate. There was no such thing as welfare or social security in those days. That didn’t arrive for nearly another 100 years, after WW2.
  6. What Happened to the Shoemaker’s Rabbit?
    It was stolen – and footprints were found in the garden of the house where the theft happened. Emmanuel Cox was charged with the theft – and accused of stealing the rabbit and cooking it in a pot.  The police officer that arrested Cox seems to have been tipped off by someone. The constable mentioned “Information received” – so did someone tip him off about Emmanuel Cox? Was someone trying to set Cox up, or did they have genuine information about Cox? In any case, when Cox’s place was searched they found a rabbit skin hanging up in the kitchen, which the shoemaker identified. It looked like an open and shut case. The evidence was a dead giveaway! But during the trial a woman in the audience defended Cox (she turned out to be someone he lived with – so probably not a great witness) and it was claimed that there was a witness who could testify to Cox’s innocence – but he couldn’t be found. In the end Cox was acquitted – the magistrate let him go without a charge, because he said the evidence was not sufficient. I wonder what the punishment would have been, for stealing and eating a pet rabbit? I’ll hazard a wild guess at 3 months in a correctional house, because it seems that doing pretty much anything would land you in the correctional house for 3 months, if you were a petty criminal and you lived in Warwick.

Well there you have it, the case of the shoemaker’s rabbit and 5 other stories.

I hope you enjoyed it, that you learned some English or at least you had some nice and nourishing listening practice – yum yum yum.

You can find notes and some transcriptions on the page for this episode on the website, where you can see some of the words and phrases used in this episode.

Don’t forget to download the LEP app for your smartphone. It’s free – that’s where you’ll find the entire episode archive on your phone and there are various app-only episodes and other bonuses for you to check out.

Join the mailing list on the website to get an email whenever I upload new content. That email will contain a link that’ll take you straight to the page for that content – usually a new episode and sometimes some website-only content, like when I’m interviewed on someone else’s podcast or if I want to write to you about something in particular that I think might interest you.

Sometimes episodes arrive on the website a day earlier than everywhere else, so being an email subscriber might be the fastest way to find out about new episodes when they’re released.

So, be an email subscriber, be an app-user and if you enjoy my episodes and find them useful and if the spirit moves you – please recommend this podcast to at least one person who you think might like it, leave LEP a review on iTunes or the Google Play store, and you could consider sending a donation to the podcast to help with running costs and perhaps as a sincere way to say thanks for my work.

In any case, I’d just like to say thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Bye! 

Luke

503. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 1)

Talking about the new Star Wars film including the audience reaction, English accents you can hear in Star Wars, and a run-through of the plot with my thoughts about the events and characters. Plot spoilers throughout the episode! Transcript available.

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Transcript (95% complete)

This episode is all about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Some of this stuff that I’m saying is scripted, some parts are not – but if you want to read along with me while I’m talking, which can be a great way to work on your English, see specific phrases I’m using and so on – if you want to read along with me, check out the page for this episode on my website.

In fact there will be two episodes about Star Wars. This one, which is just me talking about the film, going through the plot, giving my thoughts and discussing the audience reactions to the film, and also the next one, which will be a conversation about the film with my brother and my dad. We went to see the film together while they were here at Christmas time and afterwards I managed to record a conversation with the them and you can hear their reactions and some general rambling about it – that’ll be in the next episode.

So, at least 2 episodes about Star Wars. I was wondering if I should devote so much time to this, especially considering that some of you probably aren’t into Star Wars at all. Then I thought to myself – “Well, how do I choose my topics when I know that I can’t please everyone?” Often the deciding factor is – do I want to talk about it myself? Would I want to listen to it? The answer to those questions is yes. When I came out of the cinema in December having just seen this film I just wanted to hear other people’s comments about the film, and I looked for podcasts about it and youtube videos and stuff, and if I was learning English I would definitely like to hear someone talking about this film in English. Certainly for my ideal learning French podcast I would want to hear someone discussing the film in some depth in clear French – I am still yet to find this elusive perfect French version of Luke’s English podcast! And also, you know what? I just really want to talk about Star Wars for a while just because it pleases me to do it. So there you go, that’s my justification for doing these episodes.

SPOILERS

There are spoilers for the film throughout this episode – so if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, you might want to wait before you listen to this. I’m pretty sure the film has been out for a while in most places. I understand that it came out in China on 5 January – a bit later than in other countries. So I think there’s been enough time now for me to do some spoilers.
If you’re not a fan of Star Wars (which is totally fine of course), I understand that this might not be for you. I don’t expect everyone to be into Star Wars – it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed since childhood. So if you’re just not a Star Wars fan – I totally understand, but you’ll just have to put up with an episode or two about Star Wars this time, or you can just skip them – it’s totally up to you.

If you want to listen to something else from me, like perhaps an episode about vocabulary, or an episode with various jokes, an episode with a mystery adventure story or an episode with grammar and pronunciation questions answered – let me remind you that you can download the LEP App completely free and there you will find at least 7 exclusive app-only episodes that deal with those things specifically.

Just check out the app store, download the LEP app, check the App-Only Episodes category and away you go.

And of course you have the entire episode archive there which you can peruse at your leisure.
But for this one and the next one, it’s all about Star Wars – and if you are a fan, I hope you will enjoy being immersed in the world of Star Wars The Last Jedi for a couple of episodes.
Let me say again very clearly there will be spoilers coming as I am going to talk about exactly what happens in The Last Jedi in quite a lot of detail. Please don’t let me spoil this film for you – even if you’re keen to listen to this new episode I strongly recommend that you wait until you’ve seen the film first.

So, perhaps the people I have left with me now are:
Fans of Star Wars who have already seen the film.
And maybe some other LEPsters who might not be big fans of Star Wars but are just happy to listen to me talking about it, even if it includes plot spoilers.

I should also say that I might lose some more of you when I say that I really liked Star Wars The Last Jedi – not everything, but on the whole I really enjoyed the film and I feel like the good things definitely outweigh the bad things.

I have seen it twice now, and so there’s always a chance that I might change my opinion after seeing it a third time, but I don’t think so.

I said I might lose some more of you when I say that I enjoyed this film and that is because the response to this film has been very divided. Plenty of people like it a lot but having said that plenty of people dislike and even hate this film.

This reaction mainly comes from so-called “hardcore fans” online who are posting very negative reviews on YouTube as well as on film review websites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
But I’m quite a hardcore fan and I loved it.

In terms of my fandom, here is a summary. I grew up with the films. Watched the original trilogy over and over again throughout my life. Watched ROTJ in the cinema. As a teenager I used to have lots of fun speculating about the back story of certain characters and so on. As a child I used to think I was Luke Skywalker, as I’ve said in previous episodes. I was quite obsessive about it growing up. In the 90s and 2000s I saw the prequel films and was disappointed by them. I found them to be badly written and directed, with pretty bland characters and too much CGI. Not everything was bad about the prequels – I like the Darth Maul scenes, the pod-race, the scenes between Obi Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett but that might be it I think. I found the rest of it to be more like a Saturday morning cartoon in places.

More recently I saw reviews of the prequel trilogy on YouTube that cemented my opinion of those films as being rubbish. I’m talking about Mr Plinkett’s reviews, by RedLetterMedia.

Very astute criticisms of the prequels, with some twisted humour thrown in.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the prequel trilogy “ruined my childhood” as some fans have said (and are also saying about The Last Jedi). I think if your childhood can be ruined by a fantasy film that you watch as an adult, then perhaps your childhood was already quite flimsy in the first place. What this phrase really means is that the films spoil the Star Wars franchise, which was such a key part of your upbringing… Anyway, the prequels didn’t ruin my childhood but they did disappoint me a bit.

Then it was announced that more Star Wars movies would be released, after Lucasfilm was taken over by Disney. 2 years ago The Force Awakens was released and I really enjoyed it, even if it was very derivative of the original Star Wars films (episode 4). It basically copied the plot of Episode 4 – but I’m alright with that. I thought it was done in a way that was far closer to the original spirit and aesthetic of Star Wars and that was really pleasing. Also they introduced a few new characters that was interesting.

Also, in 2015 Rogue One was released – a film set just before Episode 4. This was a sort of war movie inspired episode that didn’t have any Jedi or lightsabers, but told the story of how the rebels managed to get the plans to destroy the Death Star. I really enjoyed that too! It feels like Star Wars is good again.

I love reading about fan theories and speculations on forums (like Star Wars Leaks on Reddit) and I do watch lots of dumb YouTube speculation videos about Star Wars, and there were a lot of them released onto YouTube before The Last Jedi came out.
But I like to think that I have my fandom under control. I love the world of Star Wars and I feel invested in the stories, but I try not to expect too much from the films. I remember the prequel trilogy – I used to get my hopes up really high before each film was released and I was disappointed each time.

Also, I know that your enjoyment of these films is largely a question of taste and a question of subjective experience. What makes a bad film for some people makes a good film for others.

The relationship between the fans of Star Wars and the films is very complicated. A lot of people feel very personally invested in this franchise. The fans feel that they own the franchise or that it represents their own personal life, childhood, dreams, imagination and everything.

It’s strange how Star Wars can do that. When it is at its best it manages to touch people in the most personal and profound ways. Also, the level of speculation and theorising among the fans has created such massive expectation from the films that it’s almost impossible to please everyone now, and when a film fails to meet people’s specific vision for the story and characters it can feel like a very personal disappointment.

But I think some fans are expecting too much from Star Wars now. They’ve put it on a pedestal – which is a way of saying that they expect it to be perfect and to live up to their highest expectations all the time. But it’s just a movie franchise and to an extent it’s a children’s movie franchise. I think some people just need to chill out a bit and stop expecting so much from the films. Saying that, there is bound to be someone out there listening to me who disagrees, who says I’m being an apologist, who says there’s no excuse for what they’ve done.
When I read some of the negative reactions, I honestly think – “did we see the same film?” Some people are so angry! It makes me wonder if perhaps there are other things going on, like that these people are not just angry with the film, but they’re angry with what they see as a certain political agenda being expressed through the film. This probably feeds into the ongoing saga of the war between right-wing people (who don’t say they’re right wing) and what they describe as liberal social justice warriors. I see these arguments all the time online in comments sections and so on. The angry ones (whatever their political position) get furious when there’s a suggestion that a film is being used to promote feminism, or to promote ethnic diversity or perhaps animal welfare or environmental issues. A hint of this in a film makes some people really mad. There’s a bit of this in The Last Jedi – some strong female characters, black, asian and hispanic actors in prominent roles, a storyline about animal cruelty… Part of the hatred aimed at SW is fuelled by this stuff.

But also, some people don’t like it because they think it’s bad storytelling, and because of the way some characters are dealt with – particularly Luke Skywalker. A lot of people can’t stand the way he is represented in the film.

Added to that, there’s the humour. Some people have really taken against the moments of humour which they think don’t fit in with the tone of the film as a whole or the whole franchise in general.

I’m talking there about some reasons why the film is disliked by some people – but not everyone of course. Plenty of people like or love this film too although it’s hard to tell what the overall audience reaction has been. I think it’s fair to say that the film is dividing people, particularly the more serious fans.

I don’t know what you thought of The Last Jedi. There are some pretty strong feelings out there. You might disagree with me when I say I like it, but I hope you hear me out on this. Of course the film is not 100% perfect or anything but generally I think there is a great deal to be enjoyed about it.

Story recap

I’d like to now go through the film from start to finish, describe what happens and give my thoughts on each part.
You remember the numbers don’t you?
OT – Original Trilogy (4, 5, 6)
PT – Prequel Trilogy (1, 2, 3)
ST – Sequel Trilogy (7, 8, 9)
Also Rogue One that fits in before episode 4.

The Force Awakens
The Resistance are searching for Luke Skywalker because they need his help. There’s a missing piece of a map hidden inside the droid BB8.
A scavenger girl called Rey finds the droid.
Han Solo and Princess Leia had a son who turned to the dark side.

The Last Jedi – Opening Crawl

How did it feel in the cinema at this point?
I was trying to keep my expectations realistic. I thought – if I expect too much from this I might be disappointed. It’s just a film and ultimately it’s just a space fantasy. It seems silly to invest so much into it.

Having said that, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into some new Star Wars and I had no idea what was coming.

The Lucasfilm logo appeared and I was really trying to just stay calm but I have to admit it was difficult. I felt really nervous.

Star Wars logo + music and I was already getting chills and started welling up. I know it’s a bit pathetic or something, but there it is. Somehow these films just take me directly back to my childhood. It’s like stepping back in time and going straight back to my living room when I was 7 years old and my Dad was younger than I am now and I’d never had any real experiences, I’d never left home, never had my heart-broken, never fallen in love…
I was a bit emotional during this film. I just can’t help it. Also bear in mind that I was watching this while fully expecting my wife to give birth to our baby at any moment. I literally had my phone in my hand and every single vibration I expected was a text from my wife saying that her water had broken. Anyway, I was feeling very emotionally susceptible while watching the film, which is fine – I’m in touch with my feelings, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
The opening crawl started and it’s impossible not to get excited by this, if you’re a Star Wars fan. For some reason I can never really read it and take it in.

Episode VIII
THE LAST JEDI
The FIRST ORDER reigns.
Having decimated the peaceful
Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke
now deploys his merciless
legions to seize military
control of the galaxy.

Only General Leia Organa’s
band of RESISTANCE fighters
stand against the rising
tyranny, certain that Jedi
Master Luke Skywalker will
return and restore a spark of
hope to the fight.

But the Resistance has been
exposed. As the First Order
speeds toward the Rebel base,
the brave heroes mount a
desperate escape….

The First Order are now in complete control of the galaxy after having blown up the republic with Starkiller Base.
The Resistance are on the run, escaping from their base. The First Order are closing in, with vastly superior weaponry, ships, and so on.
They blow up the base as remaining resistance ships escape, but they’re being pursued by a First Order fleet.
In an effective but costly counterattack led by Poe Dameron, Resistance fighters manage to destroy a First Order dreadnought.
One of the FO officers is played by Ade Edmondson, and all the Brits are delighted.
Admiral Hux is played by Domhnall Gleeson, Irish actor. He really “hams it up”.
First bit of controversial humour. “Holding for Admiral Hugs” etc.
FO officers are pretty incompetent and Gleeson plays a lot of his scenes for laughs – it’s a completely over the top performance. Old fashioned RP, and general frothing at the mouth.

A note about accents:
In SW almost all the Imperial Officers have old fashioned heightened RP accents. This is because this is the accent that Americans associate with an evil old empire – because the British Empire was an evil old empire for the USA. This association still exists – more so in the 70s but still today. Also, it means stuffy formality.
Obi Wan Kenobi also had an old school English accent, but that was to suggest that he came from an era that no longer exists – the old republic. It just fits the character. His British accent gives him class, dignity and suggests that he is more than just a “crazy old man”.
Vader also had a bit of an RP British accent, but this gradually changed into a trans-atlantic American accent. Still old fashioned and formal in tone, but a bit American. That’s just because the voice actor – James Earl Jones – was a classically trained American actor. These great actors really brought a lot of weight and class to the original films and this was repeated in the prequel trilogy. They chose more well trained British actors because they have class. This includes people like Terence Stamp.

In this sequel trilogy (ST), accents are also used to create certain feelings and associations with the characters. The FO officers still speak in old fashioned RP in order to give that sense of old empire (think of the naval officers in Pirates of the Caribbean who speak in a similarly old fashioned way). Supreme Leader Snoke speaks in formal British RP. We don’t know much about him (and I’ll come to that in a bit) but basically he’s a bit like the Emperor – probably very old and powerful and he is the Supreme Leader of the First Order so of course he has the old fashioned English RP accent.

Most of the other characters speak American English though, and this seems to be the default accent for “ordinary person” in the Star Wars universe. This includes Han Solo – a kind of cowboy smuggler flyboy kind of guy, and Luke Skywalker- just a farmer from a desert planet – nobody special (or at least that is the background he has come from).

Also, most of the new characters speak with standard American accents – Finn is just an ordinary guy – quite a low level person since he used to be just a stormtrooper and he speaks with an American accent, although the actor is actually from Peckham in South London. Apparently he auditioned in his normal voice but it just didn’t feel right. He auditioned in an American accent and it just fit the character better. Poe Dameron also has a standard American accent. As I said – ordinary people, rebels, not part of the empire.

But then there’s Rey. She speaks with quite a posh English accent, although not in the formal way that the FO officers speak. She is definitely just a normal person too, and according to this film she is nobody special (unless this is just a trick and in episode 9 they will reveal something special about her, but I don’t think so – again, more on this later). So why does she have this English RP accent? I don’t really know! Perhaps the actress doesn’t do a very good American accent and this is just her normal voice. Perhaps they just wanted to arouse our interest in this character by giving her a distinctive and classy voice, like Obi Wan Kenobi. The fans certainly took this point as a big clue about her origins. A lot of people believed that because she is force sensitive and speaks in a posh English accent that she must be related to other force users with this accent like Obi Wan Kenobi or perhaps even Emperor Palpatine. There are other details that support these fan theories. But apparently her accent doesn’t mean this. But still, it’s interesting to note that although she grew up on an insignificant planet and lived as a scavenger for all her life, she still speaks with quite a posh English accent, when all the people around her on her home planet of Jakku don’t have the same accent. Her slave owner for example (because in TFA she appears to be basically a slave or at least someone who works for food rations rather than money) – her master or boss speaks with a working class cockney English accent.
Just a note on accents there. Next time you watch these films in English, think about that.
Back to the plot.

The Resistance avoid getting blown up by the First Order ships – massive battleships called Dreadnaughts.

Poe Dameron bravely and recklessly flies right up to the FO dreadnaught and does some Top Gun style maverick moves, taking out lots of gun turrets and generally being a brilliant pilot. He clears the way for the Resistance bombers.
WW2 style bombers.

Star Wars always took inspiration from WW2 films.

The bombers are laden with cool-looking round black bombs.

Some people say “but there’s no gravity in space!” – but this is Star Wars not Star Trek. It’s fantasy, not science fiction. If your argument is that it doesn’t make scientific sense then sorry, that’s a bit invalid considering Star Wars has never stood up to scientific scrutiny. It’s an emotional character driven fable set in space in a galaxy far far away a long time ago. It’s more like a greek myth or an episode of Flash Gordon than 2001 A Space Odyssey.
There are some classic moments of Star Wars fighter combat in space, including a fat guy with a beard who instantly dies. This is something that happens in so many Star Wars films, beginning with Episode 4 when a fat bearded pilot called Porkins dies, and it happens again in Episode 7 I think, and then here we go again – a fat bearded pilot buys the farm almost instantly. It’s a running joke. I wonder how the fat bearded guy community feels about this.
Poe is an awesome pilot but an incredible risk taker and he ends up getting most of the Resistance fleet destroyed, except for one lone bomber which somehow manages to get through the FO defences.

Super-dramatic sequence with the last remaining bomber.

This feels like the ending sequence of the film rather than the start.

How could anyone not find this exciting and brilliant?

This is Rose’s sister. She’s a gunner on the bomber. All the other crew have been killed. It’s up to her to drop the bombs. Very dramatic stuff with the trigger button. She falls and the button is on a ledge above her. There’s a suggestion that Leia uses the force to help her. She also holds onto a necklace – the other half belongs to her sister Rose. The button drops down but she seems to miss it. This is executed in a slightly cheesy and cliched way by Rian Johnson. The button clearly drops past her and out of reach but in slow motion we see the button dropping from another angle and her hand comes from nowhere to grab it.

It’s exactly the same thing that happens in Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise when he is in a high security room trying to steal some classified information or something. He’s suspended from the ceiling and a bead of sweat drops from his forehead. If it touches the floor, he’s dead basically. The bead of sweat falls and is definitely going to land on the floor but his hand comes in and stops it at the last minute. The magic of the movies, right?

Some people probably found that annoying, but it’s just a trick that’s been used in countless other movies. Movies always play with time, they slow it down, speed it up, use different angles and so on in order to raise the tension. The worst you can say about this sequence is that it’s a cliche. I personally found it to be good old fashioned dramatic tension and the moment when she presses the button and the bombs drop onto the dreadnaught very satisfying. Massive explosion and the dreadnaught is destroyed, although at great cost to the Resistance.

That was a really exciting sequence. I didn’t mind the jokey dialogue between Poe and Hux. I love the way the FO officers are quite ridiculous. I always found that funny in Star Wars anyway.
But there is a hell of a lot of war in this film. Of course – it’s Star Wars. But I remember James saying in another episode that we did about Star Wars once – will this war ever end? Probably not. It’s going to go on and on forever. It’s a pity that this is all about war and that this is great entertainment for us. War as entertainment. That’s a bit of a pity. You see it a lot in other films too, like Avengers Infinity War for example. War war war – explosions and explosions.
The Resistance fleet jumps into hyperspace and escapes, for now.
Poe gets told off by General Leia who demotes him.
Poe’s character arc in this film is that he has to learn how to develop from a reckless if brilliant fighter pilot to a strategic and inspiring leader of the Resistance.
One of the complaints about the film is that none of the characters develop. I disagree. Most of the characters have clear character arcs.
Hux gets told off by Supreme Leader Snoke who throws him around the room and drags him across the floor using the force.
So, I think Hux is summoned to Snoke’s throne room along with Kylo Ren.
Snoke is really pissed off but Hux reveals that they are actually tracking the Resistance through hyperspace – something that wasn’t possible before – hyperspace tracking.
Some fans are pissed off about this – that it’s a new thing that’s come from nowhere but this was mentioned v quickly in Rogue One, so there it is – it’s not completely out of the blue that this is possible.
This kind of gets him off the hook with Snoke.
Then Hux leaves Snoke alone with Kylo Ren who is still wearing his mask from episode 7.
This is a cool scene.
Snoke bullies Kylo – explains how he’s disappointed, how he’s lost faith in him, how he is still conflicted despite having killed Solo. He said when he found him he thought he had so much potential and raw power and that he could be the new Darth Vader but he’s just a boy in a mask who got beaten by a girl. To be fair to Kylo he had been shot when he took on Rey, but still. Snoke really makes him feel small and useless. Snoke is manipulating him but in a very cruel way.
He basically slaps him down. In fact he gives him a jolt of force lightning. Kylo stands up defiantly and Snoke shocks him quickly sending him flying backwards. I suppose to teach him a lesson – like a cruel parent or something. When this happens we see Snoke’s power used casually and also his guards quickly adopt fighting positions when Kylo stands and then return to their original positions after a couple of seconds. These guards look badass and cool, and better than the Imperial Guards that (badly) protected Emperor Palpatine in the original films.
Snoke looks amazing.
Kylo feels utterly humiliated and furious at this point.
Adam Driver’s performance is great.
It’s understated, except for the moments when he flies into a rage. We don’t quite know what’s going on inside him, except for subtle looks he gives, subtle changes in his expression which suggest that he’s feeling hurt, angry, determined, impatient, calculating. He’s a bit of an enigma. He never blinks in the film, I think. He never quite reveals his hand.
I feel sympathy towards him, considering how Snoke bullies him, builds him up and knocks him down.
I actually think he’s a bit more interesting than just a guy in a mask. Vader is of course a brilliant villain, but he’s also really ridiculous. The helmet is a bit over the top.
Kylo removes the mask and this is a good idea – in terms of the film making. It allows us to see Adam Driver’s performance. I like the way he is mostly quite blank in his expression – it’s hard to read him. Then at certain key moments we see the conflict inside him.
I like the fact that we never really know which way he is going. Is he turning good or bad? Or is it possible that he’s going in a completely new direction – against The Resistance & Luke Skywalker but also against Snoke who is using and abusing him?
Kylo is upset and very angry – not only does he remove the mask but he destroys it against the wall of the lift. He smashes it to pieces. This guy is calm and expressionless one minute and completely unhinged the next minute and I love that.
He orders his ship to be made ready.
The Resistance are just licking their wounds from the bomber run on the dreadnaught. Poe is feeling gutted that he’s been demoted.
Finn wakes up inside his bacta tank thing – some sort of medical body suit he’s been wearing while recovering. There’s a bit of comedy when he walks out of the medical ward wearing this ridiculous suit with pipes sticking out of it and liquid going everywhere. It looks pretty dumb, but it doesn’t really do any harm to the film or to Finn. Just a slightly goofy moment. Poe sees him and kind of fills him in on the plot.
I think at this point the First Order ships suddenly jump out of hyperspace right behind the Resistance and The Resistance are shocked to discover that the First Order have somehow tracked them through hyperspace.
The thing is, The Resistance are a certain distance ahead of the First Order ships – just out of range of the FO’s big weapons. I admit that this part of the plot is quite contrived. We now have a sort of standoff, or a low-speed chase in which the FO can’t get any closer because their big ships aren’t quite fast enough and The REsistance ships are relying on their shields and their mobility to keep out of range of the FO’s guns.
I don’t know why the FO can’t just do a really quick hyperspace jump so they’re immediately behind The Resistance ships and then use their big weapons. I don’t really understand why the FO ships aren’t faster and why their big weapons have such a short range – but honestly, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter that much to me. The situation is this – the FO decide to play the long game. They’re convinced that eventually The Resistance will run out of fuel and then their shields will fail and they’ll fall within range and the FO will be able to destroy them. They also know that The Resistance can’t escape through hyperspeed. So they wait. That’s good enough for me! It shows the arrogance and cruelty of the FO – enjoying the feeling that they have the upper hand and perhaps even relishing the dominance of their position.
In terms of the film it allows other things to happen in the meantime and works as a kind of ticking clock device, which is really common in many films. A ticking clock or ultimatum which gives a sense of urgency to everything that happens. The protagonists have to hurry because they’re running out of time.
Kylo then goes out on an attack run against The Resistance with a few other FO fighters.
First time we’ve seen Kylo in his own Tie Fighter. It’s a bit like Vader’s tie fighter or perhaps the fighter flown by Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. Kylo also does some spinning, which is something Anakin was known for doing in the prequels. It’s quite a nice touch since Kylo is Anakin’s grandson.
Kylo destroys a lot of The Resistance x-wing fighters in the hanger on their ship The Raddus.
Loads of Resistance pilots die.
Kylo is a badass pilot. He flies past the bridge of The Raddus, where his mother Admiral Leia is situated. There’s a cool moment when the two of them obviously become aware of each other through the force. Kylo is planning to blow up the bridge, killing everyone, including his mother, but he pauses and seems to be wrestling with inner conflict. We see Leia perhaps reaching out using the force. This is a great emotional moment and really good performances by both Adam Driver and Carrie Fisher. A lot of emotion is shown in their faces. Kylo doesn’t shoot his missiles into the bridge. He can’t kill his mother, apparently. Maybe Leia is using the force to control his mind or something, or perhaps Kylo hasn’t become completely dark yet and the light part of him has mercy on her. It’s interesting anyway – to see his conflict and to consider where his loyalties really lie – with Snoke or with Leia. We don’t really know, but he doesn’t launch his missiles in any case. However, the two tie-fighters by his side do shoot their missiles and the bridge is blown up – sending everyone hurtling out into space, including Leia.
Kylo is then told to return to the FO fleet and he seems frustrated – perhaps because his mother has just been blown up, or because he resents being given orders by General Hux. At this moment I feel like he’s going to turn back to the light side, or at least that he’s not completely loyal to Snoke and the FO. This conflict is really interesting and I don’t see why some people don’t see this as a really positive point about the film. Trying to work out Kylo Ren is fascinating.
I reckon the best things about this film are the inner conflicts in the main characters. There is depth, contradiction, failure, confusion and pain in these characters, and the film shows this to the audience, rather than explaining it in really clumsy dialogue like you get in the prequel films.
Kylo flies back to the FO fleet.
Then perhaps the most controversial and weird moment in this film happens. This is the one that a lot of people really don’t like.
This is the end of part 1.
Part 2 – coming soon.

Observations on the Paris Metro… from Inside the Metro (Listen to my appearance on Oliver Gee’s podcast “The Earful Tower”)

Hello website LEPsters! Here is some more listening you can do while waiting for the next episode of LEP.

I was recently invited onto The Earful Tower Podcast by Oliver Gee (remember him from episode 495?) We recorded an episode all about the Paris Metro while riding the Paris Metro. You can listen to it here.

You’ll hear us talking about our experiences of using the Metro, some of the things we find fascinating, funny, weird, cool and even disgusting about it. You can hear various background noises and experience what it’s really like to travel through Paris on line 2 with Oli and me.

Keep listening to the end to hear a cool story from Paris’s history, read by Oliver’s regular storytelling guest Corey Frye.

Click the link below to see photos from our trip and to check out other episodes of The Earful Tower podcast with Oliver Gee.

Click link below for photos from our trip and more info:

theearfultower.com/2017/12/07/observations-on-the-paris-metro-from-inside-the-metro/

Oliver Gee is a journalist from Australia now living in Paris. His podcast is all about Paris and episodes include interesting stories, bits of history, chats about language and comments about the cultural differences. It’s all in English and you should check out his episode archive – you’ll find several appearances by Amber Minogue, one episode with Paul Taylor and two with me (including this one). Enjoy!

p.s. You might be wondering whether our baby daughter has been born yet. Well – not yet! We are still waiting. She’s currently one day overdue, but everything’s fine. She could still arrive at any time. We’re waiting with bated breath.

More episodes of LEP coming before too long.

Don’t forget to download the LEP App and enjoy listening to some full-length episodes only available in the app, plus more bonus content.

Cheers!

Luke

499. Prince Harry & Meghan Markle / Royal Family Quiz (with Amber)

Talking to Amber about the UK’s Royal Family, including our thoughts on the upcoming wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, some royal gossip & rumours, and also a Royal Family Quiz with questions about the monarchy today and in history. So, expect to hear our thoughts and some facts about this very traitional British institution. Notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

Here’s an episode about the Royal family.

You probably know that recently we had the news that Prince Harry is going to marry his gorgeous girlfriend Meghan Markle. I don’t know if that made the news where you are.

There’s going to be another royal wedding next year. This is actually quite a big deal for the UK.

You might be wondering what British people think about all of this. What do we think about Harry and Meghan and what do we think of the Royal family in general?

Well, I can’t ask every single Brit what they think, but I can give you my opinions and the opinions of Amber, who I am talking to in this episode..

Also this gives us an opportunity to chat generally about the Royal Family on the podcast again, and that’s usually a subject which attracts quite a lot of interest from abroad.

Also, in this episode Amber and I have prepared some quiz questions about the royal family.

I wonder if you know the answers.

So first you’ll get a discussion of Harry and Meghan, and then a royal family quiz.

Let’s see how much you know about the royals and hopefully this episode can help you you learn a few things about the British monarchy that you didn’t know before, including some scandals, some rumours, some big moments in history and other interesting facts about this most traditional of British institutions.

—- Conversation Notes and My Quiz Questions —

Amber mentions “Christmas-abilia” – this is not a word! She just made it up. She meant ‘bits and bobs relating to Christmas, like decorations and things in her flat.

It sounds like “memorabilia” which means: ​objects that are collected because they are connected with a person or event that is thought to be very interesting. (Cambridge Dictionary)

e.g. Beatles memorabilia, or memorabilia from the royal wedding. Stuff like this:

 

Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle next May.

  • Who is Meghan Markle?
    An actress from the TV show “Suits”
    Background – Rachel Meghan Markle[5][6] is of Dutch, English, and Irish descent through her father. Don’t know about her Mum but apparently she was African-American. She was born on August 4, 1981, in Los Angeles.[7] Describing her parents, she has said, “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African-American … I have come to embrace [this and] say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident, mixed-race woman.” [8] (Wikipedia)
    Divorced
    American
    Catholic (sounds like Wallace Simpson – the woman Edward VIII chose to marry)
  • What do we think of her?

Royal Family Quiz – Luke’s Questions

How much does it cost the UK taxpayer per year (on average) to maintain the royal family?

About 66p in 2016. That’s the part that comes from the treasury.

The family also gets money from other places. (see article)

Where do the royals get their money from?

2 or 3 main sources.

Sovereign Grant – about 15% of the profits made by the Crown Estate. That’s money made from all the properties owned by the Queen. I’m not sure how the money comes in – it’s probably rent, ground rent, entry fees for visitors etc. All that money goes to the government, who give back 15% of it two years later.

The Privy Purse – profits from all the land and assets that have been owned by the royal family for generations. Residential, commercial and agricultural properties. It’s about 184 km2. Between 2015-2016 that was about £17.8m. That pays for expenses incurred by other members of the family.

Private savings and personal fortune. The Queen herself owns properties which she inherited from her father, including Balmoral castle in Scotland. She also has a large art collection apparently. This is all worth about £340m.

www.businessinsider.com/where-does-the-royal-family-get-money-2017-1?IR=T

Who was Edward VIII and what did he do?

How many monarchs can you name from the Queen back?
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_monarchs

Who has to die for Harry to take the throne? (Can you tell me the line of succession?)
The Queen, Prince Charles, George, Charlotte – they all have to go before Harry can become king.

Queen – Charles – William – George – Charlotte – Harry – Harry’s Kids (none) – Andrew – Andrew’s kids (Beatrice and Eugenie) – Edward – Edward’s kids – Anne – Anne’s kids – no idea.

Queen Elizabeth II (born 1926)
(1) Charles, Prince of Wales (b. 1948) B D W
(2) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (b. 1982) B D W
(3) Prince George of Cambridge (b. 2013) B D W
(4) Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (b. 2015) B D W
(5) Prince Henry of Wales (Prince Harry) (b. 1984) B D W
(6) Prince Andrew, Duke of York (b. 1960) B D W
(7) Princess Beatrice of York (b. 1988) B D W
(8) Princess Eugenie of York (b. 1990) B D W
(9) Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (b. 1964) B D W

Which living royals (in the nuclear family) are divorced? Did they have affairs?
Charles
Anne
Andrew
(Diana, Sarah Ferguson – both had affairs which were leaked in the press)

Which royal was once given a toe-job?
Fergie’s Toe-Sucking Scandal

What gives the monarch his/her power?
It’s a covenant with god! Haven’t you seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

What would happen if the Queen murdered someone?
Nothing, apparently. She can’t be prosecuted. Amber disagrees.

True or false?

  • The Queen has her own poet. True – poet laureate is officially the poet to the monarch and is paid in sherry. TRUE
  • The Queen can fly and regularly pilots her own helicopters and light aircraft. Her favourite is a Harrier Jump Jet which she sometimes flies over Dartmoor where she enjoys blowing up deer. FALSE
  • By law, all pubs in the UK must display a picture of the Queen behind the bar. FALSE
  • The Queen and Winston Churchill once had an affair. FALSE
  • The Queen doesn’t really like Scottish people. FALSE
  • The Queen smokes cigarettes. FALSE
  • The Queen smokes pot. DUNNO – probably FALSE. Queen Vic used it.
  • The Queen owns all dolphins which swim in British waters. TRUE
  • The Queen owns all the Swans on the River Thames. TRUE
  • The Queen writes ‘the laws of the land’. FALSE – she gives them ‘royal assent’.
  • The Queen is in charge of the government, including the PM. FALSE – not really in charge of them, but she officially invites them to form a government on her behalf.
  • The Queen’s powers include visa free travel, veto (refusal of royal assent) and invisibility. TRUE (except the invisibility – we think)

Will Megan be a princess when she marries Harry?

Which member of the royal family talks to trees and believes in homeopathy?

Outro Transcript

What you just heard there was The Queen’s speech from 2015. That was actually the Queen’s voice. Have you heard her speak before?

She speaks in a heightened RP, or as some might say “very posh English”.

I don’t know if you can recognise it, but to me it’s unmistakable. For you it might just sound like clear speech (which it is – she does speak very clearly), but for me there are certain features of her voice that are a dead giveaway that this person is really posh, and honestly this kind of “posh” accent isn’t how most people speak. For example, my Dad and I speak clearly but we don’t have this posh accent.

Every now and then I’ll hear someone speaking with this kind of accent and it’s a sign that they come from an upper-class background. There’s a lot more to say about this subject and I intend to explore it further in later episodes.

Anyway, thank you for listening to this episode. I look forward to reading your responses in the comment section.

Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and if you are celebrating Christmas this year I hope you’re starting to get into the Christmas spirit.

By the way, our baby hasn’t arrived yet, but it could be any day now. I don’t know how that will affect the podcast, but if there are no new episodes for a week or two, that’s why. I think I should be able to record something for you, so I don’t think there will be a big delay, but anyway – if you don’t hear from me from a bit, it’s probably because I’m changing nappies, dealing with visiting family members, and generally in a sleep deprived condition.

Alright then, thanks for listening and speak to you soon I hope.

For now, bye bye bye!

Harry & James Hewitt 

They look pretty similar, don’t they? 

497. Film Club: Withnail & I (with James and Will)

Talking about a classic British film which not many learners of English know about. Listen for explanations of the film, its appeal, descriptions of the characters and events, the type of people who like the film and a few bits of dialogue too. Notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I am going to be talking about a cult classic of British cinema – a film called Withnail & I.

This is a slightly ambitious episode because in my experience this film is usually very difficult for learners of English to fully appreciate. Even the title of the film somehow fails to register with many people when I tell them.

“Can you recommend British films?” one of my students might say.
And I say “Yes, definitely. You should watch Withnail & I”
And the person’s face creases into an expression of “what was that you just said?”
“Withnail and I” I repeat.
But still, this clearly just seems like a noise to this person.
He doesn’t know what to write. He doesn’t know how many words that is. He doesn’t know how to spell “Withnail and I”. He’s lost for a moment.
So I write it on the board “Withnail and I”.
Still, this doesn’t help much. The person doesn’t even recognise the word “Withnail”. It’s difficult to spell, it’s difficult to pronounce, it doesn’t seem to mean anything.

Then I think – “There’s no way this guy is going to enjoy this film, he can’t even get past the title.”

But something inside me says – “Luke, Luke… I am your father…” No, it says “Luke, you need to make these people watch this film. It is your duty as a British person teaching people your language and culture. These people need to see this film. They need to know what a Camberwell Carrot is, they need to know about cake and fine wine, they need to know why all hairdressers are under the employment of the government. It is your duty Luke, to teach these people about the wonderful world of Withnail and I – even if they don’t want it!”

So now I feel duty bound to tell you all about this cult British film. By the way, the title of the film “Withnail and I” – these are just the two characters in the film. Withnail and another guy whose name we don’t know. He’s simply “I”.

If you’re interested in British films, if you like slightly dark comedies with good acting, interesting characters, an excellent script and some top level swearing – this is a film for you.

You might never have heard of it, I realise, and that’s partly why I’m doing this episode. I like to recommend things that you might not know.

Withnail and I is a cult film which means it’s very very popular with a certain group of people. It’s not a mass-appeal sort of film. It might not be the film you think of when you consider typical “British films” – you might think of something like Love Actually or a Jane Austen adaptation, but Withnail & I is a film that you will definitely know if you a proper lover of British films. It is a cult classic and those who love it – really love it with a passion as if they’ve lived the film themselves in their own lives.

But not everybody gets it. Certainly, in the UK it is very highly regarded by people who have a special love for films, but it’s not a film like Four Weddings or James Bond which seem to appeal to everybody. Plenty of Brits don’t get it. Also learners of English hardly ever know about it (because in my experience most learners of English understand British cinema as things like Hugh Grant, Harry Potter and even Mr Bean). It can be a difficult film to understand if you’re not a native speaker from the UK. It’s not well known in the USA even.

But as I said, it’s a cult success in the UK.

Cult has two meanings. A cult can be a sort of small religious group devoted to a particular person, but when cult is used as an adjective with something like “film” then it means that this film is extremely popular with certain people.

  • What kinds of people like this film?
  • Why do people love this film so much?
  • What is the appeal?
  • What can this film tell us about British culture?
  • Why should you as a learner of English take any interest in this film at all?
  • How can you learn some real British English from this?

Let’s find out in this episode of Luke’s Film Club on Luke’s English Podcast all about Withnail & I.

I’m a huge Withnail & I fan but in this episode I’m also joined by several other Withnail fans who are very keen to talk to you about one of their favourite films.

Those two fans are my brother James and his mate Will.

I just sincerely hope that we can somehow explain this film and its appeal, and make this interesting for you to listen to (that’ll be hard considering it’s three blokes with similar voices talking about an obscure film that you’ve probably never seen).

***

Links & Videos

The Wall of Withnail – superfan Heidi’s collection of objects seen in the background of Withnail & I. wall-o-withnail.blogspot.fr/

Withnail and Us – a great documentary about the making of the film, by the people who made the film.

Bruce Robinson interview

Bruce Robinson & Richard E Grant at the London BFI

The Hamlet Monologue (Act 2, Scene 2, Page 13)

“I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither.”

In plain English:

“Recently, though I don’t know why, I’ve lost all sense of fun —the whole world feels sterile and empty. This beautiful canopy we call the sky—this majestic roof decorated with golden sunlight—why, it’s nothing more to me than disease-filled air. What a perfect invention a human is, how noble in his capacity to reason, how unlimited in thinking, how admirable in his shape and movement, how angelic in action, how godlike in understanding! There’s nothing more beautiful. We surpass all other animals. And yet to me, what are we but dust? Men don’t interest me. No—women neither.”

Outtro

What you just heard there is the final scene of the film in which Withnail repeats lines from Hamlet by Shakespeare and it’s quite a tragic ending, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens.

So that was an ambitious episode! I honestly think this one is as ambitious as the one about the rules of cricket. All the way through that conversation alarm bells were ringing in my head.

Sometimes I get alarm bells when I’m teaching. From experience I know what my learners of English will and won’t understand. For example, if there’s a listening that we’re doing and it contains a few phrasal verbs or connected speech or a specific accent, the alarm bells ring in my head and sure enough none of my students have understood it.

So for this episode alarm bells are ringing like mad. First of all the film is like kryptonite to students of English (which is a pity because there’s a lot to enjoy), but also because you were listening to three guys talking with fairly similar voices in a comfortable way – meaning, not graded for learners of English to make it easier, and also we’re talking about a film that you’ve probably never seen. Also the little clips in particular were, I’m sure, rather difficult to follow.

So a big well done if you made it this far. I promise you that this film is an absolute gem and if you give it a chance it will actually improve your life.

I have talked about this film on the podcast before and in fact I do remember getting a message from a listener who said that she had watched the film on my recommendation with her boyfriend and that now they enjoy repeating lines from the script when they are about the house.

So if they can get into it then you can too, although of course this film is not for everyone, that’s why it’s a cult film.

I’ve just remembered, I promised to play the Withnail & I swear-a-thon. That’s like a marathon isn’t it, but with swearing.

Withnail and I is celebrated for its swearing and there is a lot of colourful rude language in the film. For the 20th anniversary DVD box set someone edited together all the swearwords from the film in order. This is the Withnail and I swear-a-thon. Now, as you would expect the next minute or so is going to be absolutely filled with swearing so brace yourselves. YOu’re going to hear all sorts of rude words like bastard, shit, fuck and also cunt. Here we go.

I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this episode of Luke’s Film Club on Luke’s English Podcast.

Check out the page for the episode for some notes, transcriptions and also a bunch of video documentaries, clips and interviews that are definitely worth watching if you’d like to know more.

Have a great morning, evening, breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleep, commute or run!

482. The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast (with Moz) More Creepy Stories of Murders in London

My friend Moz, who runs a murder-themed tour company in London, is back on the podcast to talk about some more creepy stories of crimes from London’s history and his new podcast. Vocabulary list and quiz available below.

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Links

www.murdermiletours.com

www.murdermiletours.com/podcast

Notes and Introduction Transcript

Moz (aka Michael Buchanan-Dunne) has appeared on the podcast a number of times before, for example in the Brighton Fringe Festival episodes, the drunk episode, the episode recorded on Moz’s narrowboat and also the episode from last year called “Murder Mile Tours”.

337. MURDER MILE WALKS: Stories of London’s Most Infamous & Shocking Murders [Some Explicit Content + Swearing]

If you haven’t heard those episodes, let me bring you up to speed as it might help you understand some of the things we talk about in this conversation.

I first met Moz and made friends with him about 8 years ago while doing stand-up comedy in London.

He used to work for the BBC, making comedy television programmes, but then a few years ago he decided to set up a tourism company and bought a narrowboat which he now lives on. Narrowboats are boats that can be used on the UK’s canal system. They’re long and narrow and they’re boats, hence the name “narrowboats”.

Moz now lives on his boat which he usually moors at different locations throughout London’s canal network (there are lots of canals running through London).

He also runs a successful tour company in London, called “Murder Mile Tours”.
His most popular tour is called the “Murder Mile Walk” which currently takes place in Soho in central London every week. The walk takes in various sites where murders have actually occurred. Some of those murders were the work of serial killers and they all have gruesome stories connected with them, stories which Moz has painstakingly researched by looking up lots of archived material including court records from courtrooms in London.

Last year I invited him onto the podcast to tell us some of those stories. That proved to be one of the most downloaded episodes of the podcast last year. Since then his tours have gone from strength to strength – not directly a result of being on this podcast of course, although that has helped because quite a lot of LEPsters have been on the murder mile walk with Moz, no, the tour seems to be going really well because it seems really fun, it’s original, the stories are fascinating, and the tour has had loads of 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor.

In fact just recently Murder Mile Tours received a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence, which is a really great achievement. TripAdvisor describe it as one of the 150 best things to do in London and Time Out Magazine described it as one of the top 3 themed tours in the city.

Now Moz has decided to start up his own podcast in which he will regularly share some of the stories he has discovered while doing his research. His podcast, called “The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast” will be available from 1 October (you’ll be able to find it on iTunes – or just check www.murdermiletours.com/podcast).

So, I’ve invited Moz to come back onto the podcast to talk about all of this.

Moz and I are friends, so this isn’t just an interview, it’s also a light-hearted informal conversation and a chance for the two of us to catch up on each other’s personal news and just have a bit of fun while we’re doing it, and you are invited to join us.

You should know that this episode contains some graphic content and explicit language
including some fairly detailed descriptions of violence and murder
and some other things that you might find disturbing or disgusting.

I feel I should let you know that in advance, just in case you’re squeamish and you don’t like that sort of thing – but to be honest the content of this episode is no worse than what you would see in the average episode of a TV show like CSI or Game of Thrones.

But still – there are some creepy and gruesome details in this episode, so – you have been warned.

By the way, if you’re interested in some of the items of vocabulary that you can hear in this conversation, you should check out the page for this episode on my website. You’ll see a list of words and phrases there which you learn in order to add real strength and depth to your English.

OK so here is part one of my conversation with Moz, the guy from Murder Mile Tours.

murder mile tours

Vocabulary List

  • “Sacre bleu!” (French – used to express surprise or amazement)
  • “There’s lovely” (this is what Welsh people apparently say a lot – it means “that’s nice”)
  • “Zoot alors!” (an old-fashioned French phrase – it’s used to express surprise, shock etc)
  • More excuses for my lack of improvement in French. [absence of]
  • I’ve got to pull my socks up, pull my finger out and turn over a new leaf. [all these phrases are ways of saying “improve my attitude and approach”]
  • I don’t have long to get the French up to scratch. [improve it to an acceptable level]
  • Rutting [when animals, such as deer, have sex – but also when the male deer fight with each other during the mating season]
  • A deer [an animal with big antlers – click here find out more on Wikipedia]
  • Wild boar [a sort of wild pig – more info]
  • “During the rutting season the male boars have terrible mating battles”
  • It’s a scratchy howl [a howl is the sound an animal makes – usually a dog or wolf at night, e.g. ‘to howl at the moon’. ‘Scratchy’ describes the rough sound of the howl]
  • Foxes, when they’re mating, make a high-pitched scream which sounds like someone being murdered
  • I’m not registered for council tax [tax you pay when you live in a house or flat]
  • I’ve got a P.O. Box [a post office box where you can have post delivered if you don’t have a fixed address]
  • I’m not condoning mass murder [promoting it, saying I agree with it]
  • The police had sectioned off the walkway [used plastic tape to prevent people from accessing that part of the walkway]
  • Someone may commit suicide and the body floats down (the canal) [commit suicide = kill yourself / float = not sink, but stay on the surface of the water]
  • Grisly details [unpleasant, involving death or violence]
  • People think that a canal is a good place to dispose of a body [to get rid of a dead person]
  • The canal has been used for dumping rubbish, but also corpses [dumping = throwing away, getting rid of, disposing / corpses = dead bodies]
  • They decided to take this guy’s card and start withdrawing money [taking money out of the bank]
  • The culprits were found guilty of ‘denial of a proper burial’ [culprits = people who committed a crime / ‘denial of a proper burial’ = a criminal charge which is given in a court – it means when someone didn’t bury a dead person properly, or perhaps didn’t dispose of the body in the legal way]
  • That was the main charge that they could definitely pin on them [a statement by prosecutors in court that someone committed a crime]
  • Eastenders is a soap opera that’s been on TV for years [a TV drama which is about ordinary people, shown on television on a regular basis]
  • “My auntie’s brother’s sister left me 10% of this pub in her will!” [a will = a document which explains who should receive someone’s property when they die]
  • He smoked skunk all the time [a strong and smelly form of marijuana]
  • He had an argument with her, killed her, chopped up the body [cut the body into pieces] and then wrapped up [put inside a sheet or some clothing] her limbs [arms and legs] and her torso [the body, but without the arms or legs], put them in a suitcase and dumped [threw away, disposed of] them in the canal
  • He bought loads of bin bags [bags for rubbish] and saws [tools for cutting something up]
  • Things got out of hand, they had an argument [things got out of control]
  • He dragged her down to the canal [pulled her along the ground]
  • The suitcase floated for about two miles [didn’t sink]
  • Poking out of the top of the suitcase was hair [you could see part of it coming out of the top of the suitcase]
  • I like having a good poke around [looking and investigating, perhaps by looking into something and moving things around] different streets and digging into [going deep into something] murders
  • Most murders are just men having fights, but occasionally you come across [find] a really good one
  • Don’t worry, we’re hung over! [feeling sick because they drank alcohol the night before]
  • I was a cannibal, [someone who eats human flesh] I’d eaten my girlfriend and her body was slowly working its way through my bowel (yuk!) [moving slowly through the lower part of the digestive system] yuk yuk!
  • It was one of the darkest jokes I’ve ever pulled off [managed to succeed bit it was difficult]
  • It didn’t get a laugh it just got a gasp [a shocked sound when people breathe in suddenly
    😱] and for me that was enough
  • It certainly got the evening off to a different start [to get something off to a start = to make something start]

  • Often the murderers are like slapstick movie idiots [a form of comedy involving funny physical movements, like people falling over or hitting each other]

Can you remember the vocabulary in the list?

Were you listening carefully? Take the quiz to find out.


Links

Murder Mile Tours Website www.murdermiletours.com

Murder Mile True Crime Podcast www.murdermiletours.com/podcast

You can also follow Moz on Twitter @mmiletours

Part 2 (with more rambling tangents) coming soon…