Category Archives: Story

739. The Escaped Man by CT Platt (Learn English with Short Stories)

Reading a short story presented on Commaful.com. The Escaped Man is a mystery full of tension and intrigue. Listen closely as I break it all down and explain the vocabulary fully. YouTube video version also available.

Audio Version

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Introduction Transcript & Links

Hello listeners and video viewers,

It’s time to do another story on the podcast. This time I’m going to be reading a story called The Escaped Man which was written by CT Platt and is presented on the Commaful website.

Commaful.com is a website where you can find short stories, fan fiction and other reading texts and it’s all presented in quite a nice and easy-to-read format.

I’m going to read the story to you once and all you have to do is follow it, and hopefully enjoy it. I have a couple of questions for you to help you stay focused on your listening.

Then I’ll read through the story again and break it down line by line, explaining, pointing out and teaching you bits of vocabulary and grammar as I go.

Learning English through stories is a great idea and tends to work because it places language in a vivid context and is generally quite entertaining and fun.

So listen to the story and then let me break all the language down for you bit by bit.

Just before I read the story, here are a couple of questions for you.

Where does the story take place? How do you know?
Is this American English or British English? How do you know?
What is going to happen next?

OK, let’s start.

commaful.com/play/lisa/the-escaped-man/

Full Script of the Story

www.wattpad.com/543021670-suspense-stories-the-escaped-man-c-t-platt-2017

738. Do you remember…? with Mum, Dad & James / Family Stories with The Thompsons

Chatting to my family about some old anecdotes and stories from the past. Listen for some enjoyable chat, memories, descriptions and tales from days gone by.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. 

In this episode I am happy to present to you a conversation with my mum, dad and brother all about old family stories and anecdotes from the past.

The episode is called Do you remember…? And that’s the title of the activity I chose for this episode. The idea is that we could generate some stories about things that happened in the past and you can follow along and see if you can pick up some English in the process, or simply enjoy a bit of storytelling on the podcast.

So you’re going to hear stories of little accidents, moments when James and I got into trouble, learning to drive and failed driving tests, how my parents first met each other and how my bottom lip was always left trembling at the end of every story.

We recorded this in my parents’ living room, sitting around after dinner and if you like you can imagine that you’re there too, listening into the conversation – not taking part though. For some reason you’re not allowed to speak, you can only listen like a weird audience in our living room just lurking in the background. Anyway, you can imagine that you’re there if you like, if it helps you to tune into the conversation and follow along more easily.

I will now leave you to enjoy this relaxed conversation, follow the stories and little jokes and I will speak to you again at the end of this episode.


Ending Transcript

So, that was my family, recorded in the living room recently while I was on holiday in England. I hope you enjoyed that.

Apologies if we repeated any stories you had heard before (perhaps all of them?) but then again it can be really helpful to hear the same stories over and over when learning English. You could even try to tell the stories yourself, and then compare your story to the recorded version.

If you want other, similar episodes from the archive, check out these ones.

79. Family Arguments & Debates (Debating things like language and politics)

teacherluke.co.uk/2012/01/23/family-arguments-and-debates/

322. With the Thompsons (Answering random conversation questions)

teacherluke.co.uk/2016/01/07/322-with-the-thompsons/

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Telling 4 Family Anecdotes

teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes/ 

413. With The Family 1 Talking about cooking christmas dinner

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/03/413-with-the-family-part-1-mums-cooking-vocabulary-with-uncle-nic/

414. With The Family 2 – My Uncle Met a Rock Star – Nic tells stories of meeting famous musicians including Paul McCartney

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/05/414-with-the-family-part-2-my-uncle-met-a-rock-star/ 

415. With The Family 3- Meeting Famous People – We tell stories of meeting famous people and what happened

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/10/415-with-the-family-part-3-more-encounters-with-famous-people/

542. Talking Rubbish & Having Fun with The Thompsons (More random topics and fun)

teacherluke.co.uk/2018/08/21/542-talking-rubbish-just-having-fun-with-the-thompsons/ 

554. ODD News Stories with Mum & Dad (Speculating about and discussing some weird news stories)

teacherluke.co.uk/2018/10/18/554-odd-news-stories-with-mum-dad/ 

605. Unexpected Road Trip (The story of a road trip that went horribly wrong, wth James as my co-pilot)

teacherluke.co.uk/2019/07/18/605-unexpected-road-trip-with-james/ 

But for now I will leave you to go back to your life, unless you choose to listen to another episode which you will find in the archive.

Don’t forget to check out LEP Premium. P31 parts 4,5, 6 are on their way and may have already been published by the time you listen to this.

But in the meantime, be excellent to each other, have a lovely day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will chat to you later but now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

736. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 3] Learn English with Stories

The final part of this series in which I am reading from the classic story The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, while explaining and clarifying the English which comes up. Full transcript available and YouTube video version too.

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Video Version

Full Transcript

Please watch parts 1 and 2 before watching this. Links in the description.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Recap of the story so far

Without realising it, the people of earth have been attacked by an aggressive alien species from Mars, with the intention of colonising our planet while escaping their home planet which has become uninhabitable.

The Martians are vastly superior to us in terms of their intelligence and technology. They are also unfriendly. Very unfriendly. Humans are now reduced to mere animals or insects in the presence of these things.

Human society has quickly turned to chaos and destruction as the Martians begin their campaign to take our planet.

The aliens first landed in a cylinder which fell from space with a green flash. After the cylinder opened, revealing the visitors to be awkward and clumsy in our atmosphere, their technology proved to be devestatingly powerful. They are armed with a heat-ray which they have used to clear out all life surrounding the fallen cylinder.

The narrator of the story witnessed the Martians emerging from their cylinder and the ruthless destructive power of their heat ray, but still does not yet realise the full scale of the invasion. He decides to escape the area and travel in the direction of London.

During the night, he sees another cylinder landing, and then sees the first Martian tripods striding over the countryside. These are the vehicles the Martians use and they are colossal and formidable. Suddenly the clumsy Martians are mobile and far more physically powerful than in their normal, naked form.

Reading an extract from chapter 12 (action packed stuff)

Summary of Chapter 11 (next part of the story)
From the upstairs window of his study the narrator observes the destruction of his village and the fires all around the common, as well as the outlines of three creatures moving in the pit, which he can see from a distance.

He hardly recognizes his surroundings. The narrator begins to comprehend that the creatures from the cylinder operate the tripods, comparing them to a human-driven steam engine.

He invites a soldier outside the house to hide inside. The man recounts the futile military efforts against the Martians, who easily destroyed both companies and their weaponry before emerging as tripods from the pit and destroying the railway station and a train. The artilleryman managed to escape.

The two men look again from the window to see three tripods at the pit. As the sun comes up the narrator sees destruction “so indiscriminate and so universal” as to be unprecedented in human warfare.

HG Wells describes the horrific feeling of realising that these Martians are far more powerful than humans. Each cylinder contains at least three tripods, and each tripod is armed with a heat ray. Later we learn more about the martians and their technology as the narrator manages to observe them more, but they are still completely mysterious.

Meanwhile, people have become like refugees from a warzone and there is general chaos as people attempt to escape, get resources, look after themselves etc.

Shepperton Station has become a target for the Martians in their tripods and they have been destroying it, the railway lines and trains. This is especially poignant because they are targeting our infrastructure and our technology seems infinitely primitive to that of the Martians, and we are often compared to animals, insects, bugs or even microorganisms in comparison to our alien visitors.

HG Wells makes a point of observing how society reacts to a moment like this and how fragile it is, while also contrasting the familiar cosy surroundings of the English home counties, with the bizarre, grotesque and strange images of these very bad aliens from Mars.

The narrator and the soldier he met choose to leave the house. The soldier wants to go to London and the narrator wants to go back to his wife in Leatherhead.

They end up in Weybridge which a town just on the river Thames, with London to the east and the Thames Valley to the west.

This is a place where the Thames meets The Wey, another river. It’s a sort of port where you can get a ferry across to the other side. Crowds of people are gathered there, hoping to get on a ferry. The army have placed rows of large artillery guns behind some trees as they expect the tripods to come from a nearby town that is currently under attack. This all happens close to the edge of the water and is full of really precise and specific vocabulary to describe the action that takes place.

XII.
WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON. (extract)

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

“What’s that?” cried a boatman, and “Shut up, you fool!” said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud—the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.

“The sojers’ll stop ’em,” said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A haziness rose over the treetops.

Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.

“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.

At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd near the water’s edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck. There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet—a splashing from the water. A man, too frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden. A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get under water! That was it!

“Get under water!” I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the surface.

The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no more notice, for the moment, of the people running this way and that, than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked.

When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian’s hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton.

Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh and glittering metal.

“Hit!” shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.
I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.

The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer heeding its steps and with the camera that fired the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton. The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling to destruction. It drove along in a straight line, incapable of guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smashing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tremendous force into the river out of my sight.

A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam, mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge muddy tidal wave, almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly above the seething and roar of the Martian’s collapse.

For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need of self-preservation. I splashed through the tumultuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so, until I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves. The fallen Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river, and for the most part submerged.

Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air. The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless purposelessness of these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling for its life amid the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.

My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our manufacturing towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed. Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey. The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.

At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until movement was an agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as long as I could. The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.

When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians altogether. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of grey, magnified by the mist. They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Laleham. The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way and that.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises—the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.

Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came down to the water’s edge not fifty yards from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.

In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death.

I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a score of yards of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and lifting again; of a long suspense, and then of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between them, now clear and then presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of river and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped.

Summary (AKA – what the hell just happened?)

The two men reach a chaotic scene in Weybridge as people crowd the railway station and the ferry in an effort to leave.
Suddenly they hear gunfire and a large explosion, and four tripods come into view across the river.
The narrator hides in the river.
Six guns hidden in the woods fire on the nearest tripod.
One shell strikes the tripod and gruesomely kills the Martian inside.
Unguided but still moving, the tripod smashes into a church and falls into the river.
The other Martians come to the fallen tripod, shooting their Heat-Rays at the village and destroying the opposition.
The Heat-Ray from the fallen tripod heats the water in the river and scalds the narrator before he manages to escape.

Final comments and analysis

It’s possible to see various interpretations of this story, or subtexts to the story.

Here are some.

The complacency of humans
As the dominant species on earth for hundreds of thousands of years, we have become complacent about our position in the natural hierarchy, and this is a mistake. Humans could easily be removed from this dominant position by things we aren’t even aware of. In the story this means intelligent creatures from another planet. In reality this could be something like the coronavirus or just something else we don’t usually think about.

How would human society cope with a crisis like this?
This is a common theme in disaster movies, zombie films, science fiction etc. All it takes is for something to disrupt our carefully organised society and things can descend into chaos quite easily, and this often brings out the worst in people. Normal citizens can quickly become immoral and do bad things, when the structure of society collapses and we end up having to fight for our survival.

Treatment of Animals
The story makes us think about the way we treat animals, which are below us in the power hierarchy on earth. Perhaps we should be more compassionate and kind to animals. In fact this is one of the only conclusions the narrator reaches in this story, as he suddenly understands what it means to be ruled over by a superior species.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Microorganisms and viruses might be the most powerful forces on earth.

More themes here including technology, fear, power, and Familiar versus Strange
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/themes/

A sample from coursehero.com
Technology
The benefits, possibilities, and potential threats of technology—represented in the Martian tripods—make technology a pervasive theme in the novel. Following the Industrial Revolution, technology changed society dramatically—from travel, to work, to communication. Virtually no part of life was untouched by new inventions. The benefits provided by these new machines meant people could accomplish tasks faster, easier, and often independently.

But as ever with modern science fiction stories, there is an element of fear regarding advancements in technology and how we may ultimately be surpassed by technological innovations.

This is where we’re going to stop.


I seriously hope you enjoyed this!

If you’re still listening or watching, then “hello”. Thanks for sticking with this. I guess it must mean you’ve been enjoying it.

I’m sure it’s been challenging at times, but to be honest I also feel this is difficult to follow when I read it. There’s a sense that things are just beyond your imagination, and that your mind has to do quite a lot of work to understand the fairly complex descriptions being given. This is not quite the same as watching a film where everything is shown. Or maybe it’s like watching a really well-directed film where you never quite see clearly what is happening, and this adds to the drama and excitement.

Anyway – thank you for sticking with this and listening all the way through.

Let me know what you think of this, and I highly recommend reading the rest of the story. There’s a lot more action and a few more close encounters with the Martians and their tripods, and of course the ending is very clever. I won’t spoil it. The book is better than the film though, I assure you!

In terms of English, I hope you have found it interesting to hear some samples of old fashioned English from the 19th century. I would say it is broadly modern English, but with a more formal style. It’s really enjoyable though. I love the descriptiveness and the general command over the language is a joy to behold.

Don’t forget you can get the full text for this episode printed right there on the page for this episode, and there’s the YouTube video version as well to enjoy where you can see text on the screen as you read it.

Listen to LEP wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

Leave a positive review on iTunes and check out my free app.

And consider signing up to LEP Premium to get specific lessons on vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Thanks for listening.

All the best,

Bye bye bye bye

735. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 2] Learn English with Stories

Continuing to read extracts from this fantastic science fiction story from the 19th century. Follow the plot and pick up some English in the process. Full transcript available, and a YouTube version too.

Audio Version

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Watch PART 1 before you watch this! Links in the description.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 3

Recap of the story so far

6 years prior to the main events of the story, explosions are observed on the surface of Mars, but scientists assume they are gas or volcanic eruptions and are nothing to worry about.

Then, one night, a meteor falls to earth in green flash. The astronomer who finds the fallen meteorite in a pit of sand in a nearby common discovers that the object is a cylinder, is making strange noises and is even beginning to open and assumes there must be people inside it.

A crowd gathers, including the narrator of this story. The cylinder opens slowly and people are shocked and horrified to see the hideous and frightening creatures inside. They seem slow and heavy, as if earth’s atmosphere makes things difficult for them. Their appearance is a huge shock to everyone.

One person has fallen into the pit and it’s possible that they have been killed.

The narrator, although terrified, is also intensely curious about these visitors, as are the other witnesses at the sand pits where the cylinder has landed.

V.
THE HEAT-RAY.
After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging from the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and curiosity.
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate longing to peer into it. I began walking, therefore, in a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and continually looking at the sand-heaps that hid these new-comers to our earth. Once a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an octopus, flashed across the sunset and was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up, joint by joint, bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a wobbling motion. What could be going on there?
Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups—one a little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot of people in the direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared my mental conflict. There were few near me. One man I approached—he was, I perceived, a neighbour of mine, though I did not know his name—and accosted. But it was scarcely a time for articulate conversation.
“What ugly brutes!” he said. “Good God! What ugly brutes!” He repeated this over and over again.
“Did you see a man in the pit?” I said; but he made no answer to that. We became silent, and stood watching for a time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in one another’s company. Then I shifted my position to a little knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard or more of elevation and when I looked for him presently he was walking towards Woking.
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened. The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking, seemed to grow, and I heard now a faint murmur from it. The little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed. There was scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit.
It was this, as much as anything, that gave people courage, and I suppose the new arrivals from Woking also helped to restore confidence. At any rate, as the dusk came on a slow, intermittent movement upon the sand-pits began, a movement that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the evening about the cylinder remained unbroken. Vertical black figures in twos and threes would advance, stop, watch, and advance again, spreading out as they did so in a thin irregular crescent that promised to enclose the pit in its attenuated horns. I, too, on my side began to move towards the pit.
Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly into the sand-pits, and heard the clatter of hoofs and the gride of wheels. I saw a lad trundling off the barrow of apples. And then, within thirty yards of the pit, advancing from the direction of Horsell, I noted a little black knot of men, the foremost of whom was waving a white flag.
This was the Deputation. There had been a hasty consultation, and since the Martians were evidently, in spite of their repulsive forms, intelligent creatures, it had been resolved to show them, by approaching them with signals, that we too were intelligent.
Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to the left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but afterwards I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were with others in this attempt at communication. This little group had in its advance dragged inward, so to speak, the circumference of the now almost complete circle of people, and a number of dim black figures followed it at discreet distances.
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three distinct puffs, which drove up, one after the other, straight into the still air.
This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and the hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey, set with black pine trees, seemed to darken abruptly as these puffs arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal. At the same time a faint hissing sound became audible.
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the white flag at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a little knot of small vertical black shapes upon the black ground. As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out pallid green, and faded again as it vanished. Then slowly the hissing passed into a humming, into a long, loud, droning noise. Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam of light seemed to flicker out from it.
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men. It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell headlong and lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them, pine trees burst into fire, and every dry furze bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden buildings suddenly set alight in the distance.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle of fire in the sand-pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the sand-pits the dark ground smoked and crackled. Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forth-with the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-like object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.
All this had happened with such swiftness that I had stood motionless, dumbfounded and dazzled by the flashes of light. Had that death swept through a full circle, it must inevitably have slain me in my surprise. But it passed and spared me, and left the night about me suddenly dark and unfamiliar.
The undulating common seemed now dark almost to blackness, except where its roadways lay grey and pale under the deep blue sky of the early night. It was dark, and suddenly void of men. Overhead the stars were mustering, and in the west the sky was still a pale, bright, almost greenish blue. The tops of the pine trees and the roofs of Horsell came out sharp and black against the western afterglow. The Martians and their appliances were altogether invisible, save for that thin mast upon which their restless mirror wobbled. Patches of bush and isolated trees here and there smoked and glowed still, and the houses towards Woking station were sending up spires of flame into the stillness of the evening air.
Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonishment. The little group of black specks with the flag of white had been swept out of existence, and the stillness of the evening, so it seemed to me, had scarcely been broken.
It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless, unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came—fear.
With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through the heather.
The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do. Once I had turned, I did not dare to look back.
I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very verge of safety, this mysterious death—as swift as the passage of light—would leap after me from the pit about the cylinder, and strike me down.

Summary of Chapter 5: The Heat Ray

The narrator finds himself irresistibly drawn back toward the crater to see more.
He observes a long pole with a circular disc on its end rising from the pit.
Other people linger, seemingly rooted to the spot in a mix of horror and curiosity.
Heartened by a lack of alien movement for a period, onlookers begin to slowly advance toward the pit.
The Deputation (group of scientists) walks toward the pit with a white flag.
The narrator later learns Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were part of the group.
A flash of light, three puffs of green smoke, a hissing sound, and a dome-like object rise from the pit.
With a droning noise, the group of men suddenly burst into flame.
As the “invisible, inevitable sword of heat” rotates, everything it touches turns to flame, including grass on the common and trees in the distance.
The rotating Heat-Ray stops before it reaches the narrator, and he realizes he was “helpless, unprotected and alone.”
He flees in fear with the disturbing feeling he is “being played with.”

Although the Martians seem quite weak and immobile, their technology is far superiour to ours, especially the technology we had in the late 19th century (guns, horse drawn, cannons, pre World War 1 weapons). The heat ray is absolutely devestating. It burns or melts everything it touches instantly and can reach long distances.

Summary of the next few chapters

Nobody understands the technology the Martians are using. Whatever the heat ray points at, bursts into flame.

Plenty of people around the pit have been killed and there are burned remains of their bodies lying around. Horses have also been killed as well as numerous trees and buildings set on fire.

The group of scientists are all dead.

After the Martian attack with the heat ray the crowd of people stampeded in horror and a few people were crushed to death in the panic.

The Martians stay in the pit, and appear to be working on something as little puffs of green smoke can be seen rising from the hole, and there’s noise of work inside.

The narrator runs away in fear and eventually gets himself under control and then goes home, still not completely aware of what’s going on. He comforts himself with the knowledge that the military are now going to step in, and that one shell or bomb landing in the sand pit will be enough to stop the Martians. He sees his wife and has dinner.

The news of the Martians travels slowly. People seem sceptical of the stories they’ve heard. Even the newspaper editor chooses not to print the story as he doesn’t believe the account and it hasn’t been confirmed by any enough witnesses yet. So, news travels slowly. Meanwhile, the Martians still seem to be working on something within the pit.

Some people are still curious about what’s going on in the sand pit, but as they approach it they are instantly killed by the heat ray.

The narrator compares the cylinder ominously to a poison dart, whose poison “was scarcely working yet.”

That night several companies of soldiers with large artillery guns approach the pit.

During the night, a second cylinder falls nearby.

The next day is suspenseful. The military surround the aliens in their sand pit. The narrator is not allowed to go back onto the common. Soldiers tell him that nobody is allowed into the area.

That afternoon there are sounds of gunfire and explosions. The Martians keep using their heat ray which appears to be clearing out all obstacles in its path, creating a wider and wider circle of destruction and a bigger area that nobody can enter.

The narrator is at home with is wife and at one point a big explosion nearby causes him to go outside to check. He sees the top of the nearby church sliding off and crashing to the ground, the tops of nearby trees on fire and in fact the chimney stack of his own house falling to the ground. He realises that his house is nearly in range of the heat ray, which has taken out trees and buildings between the house and the sand pit.

The narrator and his wife decide to leave, and pack a horse drawn cart with as many possessions as possible they head in the direction of London, to Leatherhead. As they travel there is fire and smoke behind them and the sound of weapons. The Martians are burning everything within range of their heat ray.

The narrator’s wife is deeply concerned about the situation, but the narrator assures her that the Martians are severely disadvantaged by their weight and inability to move quickly or breathe properly in our atmosphere. They arrive in Leatherhead and have dinner.

Then the narrator has to go back to Woking in order to return the horse and cart that he borrowed (what a good guy).

As night falls a storm comes in with rain and lightning. As the narrator is travelling through the darkness he sees a third cylinder fall from the sky in a green flash. The horse is very spooked and is hard to control.

Then in the darkness and rain, lit up by the occasional flash of lightning from the storm he sees something monstrous that causes him to loose control of the horse and crash by the side of the road.

Extract from Chapter 10: In the Storm

X.
IN THE STORM. (extract)

At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then abruptly my attention was arrested by something that was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill. At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash following another showed it to be in swift rolling movement. It was an elusive vision—a moment of bewildering darkness, and then, in a flash like daylight, the red masses of the Orphanage near the crest of the hill, the green tops of the pine trees, and this problematical object came out clear and sharp and bright.

And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.

Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were parted, as brittle reeds are parted by a man thrusting through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong, and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed, headlong towards me. And I was galloping hard to meet it! At the sight of the second monster my nerve went altogether. Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse’s head hard round to the right and in another moment the dog cart had heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.

I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly. In another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.

Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.

So much I saw then, all vaguely for the flickering of the lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.

As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that drowned the thunder—“Aloo! Aloo!”—and in another minute it was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping over something in the field. I have no doubt this Thing in the field was the third of the ten cylinders they had fired at us from Mars.

For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness watching, by the intermittent light, these monstrous beings of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge tops. A thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their figures grew misty and then flashed into clearness again. Now and then came a gap in the lightning, and the night swallowed them up.

I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below. It was some time before my blank astonishment would let me struggle up the bank to a drier position, or think at all of my imminent peril.

Summary of Chapter 10 extract

On his way he notices a red glow in the sky and then a green streak, which happens to be the third cylinder.

It begins to storm.

The narrator suddenly encounters “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses,” smashing through the woods next to the road.

As soon as it vanishes into the woods, another tripod appears heading right for the narrator.

He tries to change direction, but the cart overturns and the horse is killed.

The tripod passes by.

The narrator describes the two tripods bending over something in the distance, which he believes is the third cylinder.

He continues on foot with difficulty, happening upon the landlord’s dead body before he reaches home.

End of part 2

To be continued in part 3. 

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734. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 1] Learn English with Stories

Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.

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Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.

The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.

Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.

I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.

The aims of this episode

To entertain you with a really engaging story in English.
Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.

To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English.
It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language.
Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style.
This can really strengthen your English in various ways.

To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way.
Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.

To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book.
Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.

This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.

You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Context of the story and the writing style

War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.

This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.

This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.

The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.

A note about the language and the writing style

The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.

As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.

Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.

There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.

Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.

This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.

This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.

This is quite scary stuff

I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.

Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.

Useful Links & Sources

Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.

Project Gutenberg
I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.

Link to War of the Worlds html version
www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm

CourseHero Study Notes
Also there’s a website called coursehero.com which has useful summaries of the story and other useful information.
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/

Summarising the opening chapters

These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens

That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.

Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.

Ogilvy the Astronomer

The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.

So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.

6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.

Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.

Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.

6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.

As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.

The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.

The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.

Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.

The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.

The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.

The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder.
Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful)
Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.

IV.
THE CYLINDER OPENS.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice:
“Keep back! Keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
“He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one.
“Keep back!” said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
“I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!”
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
[It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one]
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.

Summary of Chapter 4

As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered.
A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.
Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents.
One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd.
The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit.
The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere.
The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line.
The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.

To be continued in part 2…

724. The Mountain (Short Story) + Video

Reading an emotional short story, with vocabulary explanations and differences between British and American English.

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via Commaful

Read the story on Commaful here commaful.com/play/aknier/the-mountain/

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, welcome back to my podcast. I hope you’re doing well and that you’re ready to learn some more English with me in this new episode.

This one is called The Mountain and I’m going to read you a short story and then use it to teach you some English.

There is a video version of this available on YouTube with the text on the screen, so you can read and listen at the same time and you can see my face while I’m recording this, if that’s what you’d like to see. You can find that video on the page for this episode on my website or on my YouTube channel – Luke’s English Podcast on YouTube, don’t forget to like and subscribe of course.

Stories are great for learning English, and I’m always searching for various stories that I could read out on the podcast. I’ve found a few stories and texts, both online and in books that I have on my bookshelves, so you can expect more story episodes like this coming in the future as I read things in different styles, from different texts, including some well-known published work and some independently published stuff and fan fiction that is available online. 

Stories make ideal material for language learning. They are compelling and often the text of the story is also available which makes it extra useful for language learning because it works as a transcript for what you are listening to.

Today I googled “Free short stories online” and I ended up on a website called commaful.com 

This website is described as the largest library of multimedia stories online. Commaful.com 

On Commaful you can read and share stories written by users of the site, fan fiction, poetry and comics, and they have a picturebook format, which means that their stories are presented in a slightly different way, which makes them a bit more pleasant to read online or on mobile devices – more pleasant than just reading text on a screen, which is never a pleasant way to read literature. So rather than just presenting their texts on screen, they put each line of the story on top of an image of some kind (like a picture of a lake or a landscape or something) and you can swipe from one image to the next, reading each line of the story as you go, which is quite nice.

When reading these stories out loud the format encourages you to pause as you read each line, which is quite a good habit. Pausing is a good presentation skill.

It can be a good discipline to practise because pausing can add some space for the audience to think and can change the atmosphere slightly, adding extra weight to each line that you say. So pausing and taking your time can be good presentation skills to practise.

First I’m just going to read the story to you. You can just follow along and try to understand what’s going on.

Then I’ll read it again and I will stop to explain some bits of English that come up, and there are various nice bits of English in here – phrasal verbs, expressions and other nice bits of vocabulary mainly.

The story is written in American English, which is mostly the same as British English really, but I will point out any differences and will give you the UK English equivalents, so this can be a chance to learn some British and American English equivalents.

I’ll do a vocabulary and language summary at the end too.

As I said, there will be some pauses between the lines of the story, because of the way the story is presented to me on the website. I don’t normally pause like this when doing this podcast, but it could be useful because it might help you absorb what I’m saying and you can use those pauses to repeat after me if you like. This will be easier if you can read the lines with me, and again you can do that by watching the youtube video, or visiting the story on commaful.com

Or you can try repeating without seeing the lines if you want an extra challenge.

And of course you can simply enjoy listening to the story without worrying about repeating or anything like that. 

The story is about 10 minutes long, just to let you know what to expect.

The rest of this episode is me explaining and describing the language in the story.

By the way, this story was posted on commaful.com by a user called Aknier and I am assuming that Aknier is the author of this, so credit goes to him or her for writing it.

Follow the link in the description to access the story and you can leave comments there if you like.

I hope you enjoy it!

But now let’s begin the story…

Ending Transcript

OK so that is where the video ends, but I’m adding a bit more here to the audio version in order to do a quick language summary of the bits of vocabulary that came up in that. 

How was that for you? Did you enjoy the story? As I said, there weren’t many narrative elements. It was more an emotional story, but quite an interesting one.

Again, I do recommend that you try reading the story out loud, either by repeating after me or not.

Now let me recap some of the vocabulary items and British and American English differences that you heard there, just to sum up and help you remember what you’ve just heard. I’ll be as brief as I can while jogging your memory here.

You can find this vocabulary list on the page for this episode on my website of course.

Vocabulary List

  • I hardly cried (I didn’t cry a lot)
  • To work hard / to hardly work
  • To fuss / to make a fuss (Fuss = anxious or excited behaviour which serves no useful purpose. “What’s all the fuss about?” “Everyone’s talking about this Meghan & Harry interview. What’s all the fuss about?” “Why don’t you complain?” “Well, I don’t want to make a fuss”)
  • To make a scene = do something which attracts a lot of attention, like angrily shouting at staff in an airport terminal or hotel lobby
  • Siblings (brothers and sisters)
  • To bet that something will/would happen (to be sure it will/would happen) “I bet that England get knocked out of the World Cup on penalties” or “I bet it rains this afternoon”.
  • To shrug your shoulders
  • To grit your teeth = (literally) clench your jaw so your teeth are held tightly together (idiom) to decide to do something even though you don’t want to “I had to tell my dad that I’d crashed his car, so I just gritted my teeth and told him”)
  • A cast / a plaster cast 
  • To be able to afford something  “We couldn’t afford it” “We can’t afford it” (use ‘be able to’ after modal verbs when you can’t use ‘can’ – “We won’t be able to afford it”)
  • A cripple (offensive word)
  • To get picked on
  • To get teased
  • To make fun of someone
  • To get bullied
  • To get catcalled
  • To flash a smile
  • A blinding smile
  • To take that as a yes
  • To get upset
  • To get fired
  • To skip lunch
  • A scholarship
  • To be stunned
  • To soften your voice
  • To talk back
  • To sneak into the kitchen
  • To sneak money back into your wallet
  • Fight – fought – fought
  • Buy – bought – bought
  • To cheat on someone
  • To freak someone out
  • To make it up to someone
  • To raise your voice
  • To shout
  • To scream
  • To cave (in)
  • Emotional outbursts
  • To melt
  • To punch someone in the jaw
  • To stare blankly
  • Stand up for yourself
  • A mess
  • Serene
  • Tranquil
  • Deadly / the deadliest

American English / British English

  • Fifth grade – Fifth year
  • Pants – trousers
  • Mad – angry
  • To figure something out – to work something out
  • To yell – to shout
  • A jerk  – an idiot
  • To take out the trash – to take the rubbish out
  • Chores – housework
  • To punch someone in the jaw – to punch someone in the face

722. Discussing John Lennon with Antony Rotunno

The second in a short series about The Beatles, this one focuses on the life of John Lennon, with an overview of his life story, some thoughts about his psychology and some rambling discussion questions about this iconic British musician, with podcaster, English teacher and musician Antony Rotunno.

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Links to Antony’s Podcasts

Glass Onion: On John Lennon

Film Gold

Life and Life Only

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well today and that you are ready for this new episode of my podcast. You join me here in my pod-room as the rain falls down above my head. Conditions are perfect for learning British English. Let’s get started.

This is a continuation of this short series of episodes I’m doing about The Beatles and this one focuses mostly on John Lennon. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about this iconic British musician then this episode is for you. Also, if you’re already a Beatles fan or a John Lennon fan then I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear this conversation too.

My guest for this episode is Antony Rotunno from England and Antony is very knowledgeable about John Lennon and his life. In fact I feel like I couldn’t have found a better person to talk to about this subject.

One of the reasons for that is that Antony is also an English teacher. He’s been teaching English as a foreign language to adults for over 18 years, and for obvious reasons it’s always useful to have a guest who has experience of working with learners of English.

Antony is also a podcaster so he is used to talking to audiences over the internet from his home in England. Antony’s podcast is all about John Lennon.

And he probably knows all there is to know about John Lennon because he’s read everything out there on the subject and for his podcast he has interviewed lots of people connected to Lennon, including authors and people who actually knew John himself – people with first-hand accounts of meeting him.

So Antony really knows a lot about John Lennon.

And we had a really good, really long conversation for this podcast, covering various things like John Lennon’s life story. This is the first part of that conversation.

Let me just explain my reasons for doing this series of episodes about the Beatles. I probably don’t need to explain this, but allow me to give my reasons.

So, this is a 5 part series actually. I published the first part with my mum in episode 717, which was a review of a book about The Beatles, followed by a general Beatles ramble.

The rest of the series will be this conversation I had with Antony divided into 4 parts. But it’s not just going to be us rambling on about Lennon for all that time. I’ve also decided to employ some of Antony’s English teaching skills in order to cover some language too, specifically in parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series as we focus on descriptive adjectives for describing personality traits, and then some analysis of the lyrics from Beatles songs, with various nice phrases and idioms to learn. So there should be plenty of English learning opportunities to take from this whole series.

John Lennon is a hugely significant person in terms of modern history, and of course being English he is very much part of our culture, and as we move forwards in time it seems that the significance of the Beatles and everyone’s interest in them is not waning. If anything, they continue to grow in stature. 

And even if you’re not into the Beatles, hopefully this can be a chance to learn some new things about this band that is held in such high esteem by so many people.

I promise you – I’m willing to say I promise you here, that if you listen to this, you will know more about John Lennon than before you listened to it.

And if you’re wondering when we’re going to get to the music, part 5 will be all about Beatles lyrics and there will be some guitar playing as well.

First we will get to know Antony a bit and ask him about his podcasts, and then you’ll hear him talk about how he got into The Beatles and John Lennon in particular, then Antony is going to give a brief overview of John’s life and career and finally I’m going to ask Antony a few John Lennon discussion questions.

Let’s get started.

Ending Transcript

So that was episode 2 in this 5 part Beatles mini series, all about John Lennon.

Thanks again to Antony for his expertise. 

The other John Lennon episodes will follow over the next few weeks.

Do you feel that you know more about John Lennon than you did before you  listened to this?

I hope so.

I wonder what new things you learned from this. Feel free to leave your comments below.

I won’t say much more here, except that it’s been really interesting to talk to Antony and I look forward to the next few episodes in which we go into teacher mode and look at some descriptive adjectives and then song lyrics.

But that’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening. Be excellent to each other and I will speak to you soon.

718. Michael the Shaman 🇵🇱 (WISBLOEP Runner-Up)

Talking to competition runner-up Michael from Poland about two top English learning tips, scary hitch-hiking stories and the practice of shamanism using psychoactive substances.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you today? I hope you’re doing well as you listen to this, wherever you are in the world at this particular moment in time.

This is the 5th in the WISBOLEP competition series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast, talking to winners and runner ups from the listener competition I did at the end of last year. 

So far I have spoken to Walaa from Syria, Tasha from China, William from France and Robin from Germany. Now it’s the turn of Michael from Poland, also known as Michael the Shaman (this is the nickname that he often uses, for reasons which will become clear later in this episode). Michael actually came sixth, and Bahar from Iran was fifth, but at the time of recording this I haven’t spoken to Bahar yet. Her interview is coming soon though.

So, let me tell you a little bit about Michael the Shaman, from Poland.

Michael, who for the record is not an English teacher, has a lot to offer both in terms of language-learning tips that have worked for him and some very interesting stories and insights into some pretty deep and fascinating things, and I think this should be a great episode. So, listen closely.

Here’s a quick overview of the things we cover.

First we talk about language learning and those specific tips from Michael. These are resources and approaches that he has used to work on his English, especially his vocabulary and pronunciation, with some success I would say. I won’t go into them now, but pay attention so you can hear him describe these things, how he uses them and how they have helped him make some significant improvements to his English. I will summarise them again at the end and give a few extra comments.

Secondly, Michael tells us some of his hitch-hiking stories. Michael has spent lots of time travelling around in neighbouring countries near Poland and doing it by hitch-hiking, which basically means getting picked up by drivers who are going in the direction he wants to go, and hitching a ride with them as a way of travelling around. Now, this sounds adventurous and possibly a bit risky, because it does involve travelling in the cars of strangers, and Michael has some genuinely frightening and incredible stories of doing this. Again, listen closely to hear the specifics of the edgy situations that Michael has found himself in. 

Then, thirdly we have the topic of shamanism, or being a shaman. Michael is probably better placed to describe this than me, but being a shaman basically refers to the use of certain rituals and practices to enter different states of consciousness, which can lead to new discoveries, new perspectives, new ways of thinking and different ways of seeing the world, or the universe in fact, and our place within it. This is something that Michael has explored and for him it has been very beneficial to his life in various ways. So let’s listen to what Michael has to say about shamanism and the use of psychedelics.

At this point I feel I need to say something about the use of psychedelic substances, which is part of what Michael describes as being a shaman, and we’re talking about using substances that occur in nature, like certain magic mushrooms and ayahuasca as well as the synthetic chemical LSD or acid as it is also known. 

So I would like to just say one or two things about this topic as a sort of disclaimer or preface to our conversation.

First of all, the substances I just mentioned are controlled substances in most countries, which means that they are illegal to some extent. So, we are certainly not suggesting that people go out and start using them. 

By the way, I’m referring to these things here as controlled substances, but in many cases they are also called drugs, and they’re not just prohibited by law, but also in the general culture. For a lot of people drugs are a serious taboo and people often have quite strong and negative feelings towards this subject. I am aware of this, and I hope that you are comfortable listening to us talking about it on this podcast. I think it’s alright, but I am aware that for some people drugs are just not ok, and that’s fine.

I feel it’s necessary to say that in talking about psychedelic drugs here we are not condoning their use in any kind of flippant way, and “condoning” means promoting or supporting something. We take this seriously and as you will hear Michael is very articulate and quite serious about the subject. He’s very well-read and knowledgeable, and we are just talking about his personal experiences and knowledge, which I do think are interesting as well as being new as a subject on this podcast. I’ve never really talked about this kind of thing in depth before on the podcast.

Also I think it’s worth making a distinction between different types of drug or substance.

There are many different types of drug, and they are extremely different to each other. 

People often just say “drugs” without making any distinction between them. They just lump them all together as if they are all the same, basically. But I think it is worth making a distinction. Despite that fact that controlled substances are often grouped together as drugs, they are not really the same as they have very different effects and different levels of risk and we are certainly not talking about things like cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin, which are obviously very dangerous substances and very serious substances. We are not talking about those things here.  

So, I thought it would be worth making that distinction and I’m trying to be responsible about this topic, but I’m also attempting to manage your expectations here because I don’t want you to get the wrong impression or to be shocked or to have a knee-jerk reaction while listening to us mention psychoactive substances in the latter part of this conversation. For many of you, these words are not really necessary, you’re fine with it, but there it is. I felt I should make those points. We’re not promoting any kind of illegal behaviour, we are not talking about those damaging and addictive things that ultimately will destroy a person’s life, instead we are taking what I hope is a more reasonable and rational approach here and discussing the more intellectual and spiritual aspects of shamanism and how certain psychoactive substances are part of that.

Right, now before we get to the talk of psychedelics in the second half of our conversation, you can first hear Michael’s specific language learning tips, which I think are really useful, and then his crazy hitch-hiking stories, which are pretty mind-blowing and entertaining.

Right, no need for me to add anything else here. I really hope you enjoy this conversation. I’ll be recapping and summarising some details later but let’s now meet Michael the Shaman from Poland, another runner up in the WISBOLEP competition. 

Are you ready? Listening carefully? OK, here we go.

Bruce Parry’s short film about Ayahuasca

Ending Transcript

So that was Michael from Poland, and wow, that was awesome stuff, wasn’t it? It got very deep there, and cosmic, didn’t it? I hope you liked it. As usual, I’m very interested to read your responses to the things that Michael said. 

I’m going to sum up some of the things Michael said at the start of the conversation about learning English, because after all that mind-expanding talk of psychedelic trips and also the hitch-hiking stories, it seems like we talked about his language learning methods ages ago, and I think he made some really great recommendations that you could find really useful for your English.

Now, considering Michael’s English again. I think it’s fair to say that it’s good, right? 

I do want to repeat a couple of points.

Don’t compare yourself to others too much

Don’t compare yourself to other people too much. This can lead you to judge yourself a bit harshly, which is totally normal. Whenever we listen to other language learners, the tendency is to either judge their language level, or judge our own level in comparison to theirs, but this isn’t a very healthy thing to do in terms of language learning, and what I’d encourage you to do is only judge yourself by your own success, and rather than comparing yourself to others, try to notice how your English is better than it was before. 

Just compare yourself to yourself at earlier points in your language learning journey. Notice improvements you’ve made, and celebrate them. This is more likely to put you in a better mental space than comparing yourself with others. 

Just think how far you’ve come as a learner of English and take note of your progress. That’s probably healthier than falling into any kind of negative thinking which can happen if we compare ourselves unfavourably to other language learners.

So, try not to judge others too harshly, and don’t compare yourself to others too much. 

And hopefully listening to other language learners can give you some inspiration and some practical ideas which you can use to work on your English in ways you hadn’t considered before. Even little things like changing certain habits can make a big difference to your learning of English. 

And with that in mind, let me quickly just go over the tips Michael had for learning English, which worked for him. Have you tried these things or used these resources?

Michael’s Language Learning Resources

There were two things really:

  • Use English/English dictionaries to expand your vocabulary with correct definitions, examples, phonemic transcriptions and synonyms. My 5 favourites are www.collinsdictionary.com  www.cambridge.dictionary.org  www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ www.macmillandictionary.com and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English www.ldoceonline.com/
    I have been planning to do a full episode on using online dictionaries to improve your English (in fact I’ll be touching on this a bit in a couple of upcoming episodes), but I will just say that these dictionaries are fantastic resources not just for getting definitions, but getting synonyms, examples, phonemic transcriptions and more – all of which are really important ways of really getting to know new words. Bookmark the dictionaries, use them all (because they have slightly different examples and details which you can cross reference) and get into the habit of checking words in them and exploring the information they can give you. Never before have we had access to so many wonderful language learning resources, completely free of charge, and at our fingertips at all hours of the day. It’s like living in a massive library. So, use those online dictionaries to explore new words.
  • The second resource Michael mentioned was the website www.dialectsarchive.com  – a website full of voice recordings used by actors and voice coaches trying to learn different accents, and especially the text Comma Gets a Cure, which is designed to reveal a huge variety of pronunciation features in English. You can hear the text being read in different accents, you can shadow the text, repeat it, record yourself repeating it and more. I plan to do some premium episodes using this text and other similar texts too. There is a lot to explore and use there, including some podcast episodes by the creators. www.dialectsarchive.com 

OK, so just two tips there, but they are solid ones.

And returning to the hitch-hiking stories. I just want to sum up the main one, just to be sure you got it. I think it was probably clear, but I want to retell that story just because I think it was such an exciting story, and maybe you didn’t catch the specifics.

Michael’s Hitch-hiking Story – recap

So Michael and his friend Kuba were hitchhiking from Poland to Amsterdam and they got picked up by a couple of very dodgy guys in a van. They didn’t realise it when they first got in the van but these guys were drinking alcohol and smoking some kind of crystal – perhaps crystal meth, like in the TV series Breaking Bad. Meth is a pretty nasty drug.

Michael is an intuitive person and he picked up on a very bad vibe from these guys and became convinced they were planning to do something very nasty with Kuba and him. Like I said, it sounds like something from a horror film. Listening to their comments, watching their demeanour and generally reading between the lines, Michael became convinced these guys were organ traffickers, who are people that kidnap healthy people in order to steal their internal organs and sell them on the black market. Certainly these guys seemed to be very dodgy and probably involved in organised crime.

Michael decided he would subtly let the guys know that he and Kuba were actually not that healthy and therefore their organs were not worth taking, which would convince them to just let them go.

It’s crazy I know, but I kind of know what Michael is talking about when he said he just knew something wasn’t right and that they were in danger. I feel like I’ve been in similar situations before, where you realise that the people you are with are dangerous and up to something, and so you just have to get out. It’s a weird feeling. I can’t remember any specific stories from my own life, but I’ve met guys in pubs before who just seemed dangerous and untrustworthy, even though there were no specific things that would give me that impression. It’s more of a vibe that certain people give off.

Anyway, Michael said that he heard the guys making jokes about stealing their organs, which appeared to be jokes, but there was a sinister undercurrent which suggested that perhaps they were not really joking. Michael’s friend Kuba was not quite as observant maybe and he didn’t seem to realise something was wrong, but anyway Michael sent him text messages to convince him that something wasn’t right. They managed to persuade the drivers to stop the van at a petrol station because Michael needed to be sick or had diarrhea and then they escaped at a petrol station.

They then decided to continue their hitchhiking trip to The Netherlands, but decided they would not accept lifts from any more Polish people, nobody drinking or using drugs and no vans. This is because they didn’t want to risk running into any similar people or perhaps their friends who they suspected were also on the road, but somehow the next car that picked them up, by coincidence maybe, contained the friends of the dodgy guys they had just escaped from. So, it was a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”.

Michael said that these other guys seemed more intelligent and perhaps were the bosses of the other two they had met previously, and the only way Michael and Kuba got away without being taken, was because the guys ended up liking them, as they played along with their jokes and generally tried not to antagonise them at all. So, phew! What a lucky escape! 

And Michael said that hitchhiking was not that dangerous! 

Actually I do believe that on balance his experiences of hitch hiking have been much more positive than negative, but what a scary story! And I do believe it is true. I find it very believable. There are dodgy people in the world.

And finally, a few more words on the topic of psychedelics like magic mushrooms.

A final note on Magic Mushrooms

All the things Michael mentioned about Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) are definitely worth researching. In his words (from a recent email exchange we had) “I think I talked about maybe 1% of things you can do with this mushroom. I’d like to stress once again that I don’t recommend everybody uses this mushroom. I’m all about education and knowledge. The mushroom can have medical, therapeutic and spiritual effects, but only if one does it correctly. It is not easy to work with this mushroom.

An excellent resource for Amanita muscaria is Amanita Dreamer on YouTube and her website www.AmanitaDreamer.net. Also, a recently published book: ‘Fly Agaric: A compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology & Exploration’ by Kevin Feeney is also great.

These resources are essential as there are many dangerous myths regarding Amanita muscaria. Remember, it’s important to make sure that you are fully knowledgeable about this mushroom. You can’t just pick the caps and eat them. 

I think the same goes for all kinds of psychedelic substance that Michael talked about. Please remember that we’re not condoning the use of these things in any kind of casual way. You must be very careful, very well-read and personally very prepared before going any further.

Right then, what did you think of this episode?

Any thoughts on Michael’s language learning resources, his hitchhiking tales or his comments on the use of psychedelics? If you have things to say, just express your thoughts in English, ideally in the comment section on my website.

That’s all from me. Have a good morning, afternoon, evening or night. Be excellent to each other, good luck with your English and do take care.

Speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

717. Gill’s Book Club: “One Two Three Four – The Beatles In Time” by Craig Brown

Talking to my mum about a book which you could read as part of your English learning routine. The book tells the story of The Beatles and their impact on society. We review the book and then discuss many aspects of The Beatles story, especially the four Beatles themselves.

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Introduction Notes & Transcriptions

Hello listeners, and welcome to the podcast. 

This is a new episode of Gill’s Book club and I’m talking again to my mum, Gill Thompson about a specific book which you might want to read as part of your English learning routine. 

Hello Mum, how are you? 

Introduction

The book this time is all about The Beatles, which is a band from England that you *might* have heard of.

You could read this book, and if you did I’m sure you would learn plenty of things both in terms of language and general knowledge, but there’s no pressure to do so. If you like, you can just listen to this conversation with my mum and hopefully this will be interesting and useful enough on its own. 

But if you are looking for a good book to read in English, then this one could be a good choice, and hopefully this conversation will help you to understand the whole thing a bit more, which in turn should help you pick up more English from it. So, my advice is: listen to this conversation with my mum and if you’re inspired, get a copy of the book and read it, or if you prefer, just listen to us without feeling any pressure to read the book at all. Hopefully this will still be enjoyable and interesting even if you haven’t read the book and have no plans to do so.  

Over 700 episodes and 12 years ago, in the 3rd episode of this podcast, I interviewed my mum about her memories of seeing The Beatles performing live on stage in the 1960s, which she did, twice. 

Now, we’re going to talk about the band again, this time focusing on a book which is all about the Beatles phenomenon and their place in history. The plan is to review the book as a text for learners of English, and then have a deeper discussion about The Beatles. 

You probably know that I’m a big fan of The Beatles and grew up with their music, as my parents were (and still are) fans too. For years I’ve been thinking about doing more episodes about The Beatles story, and mentally preparing myself for it, but I have never actually got round to recording anything, mainly because the topic is just too big and there’s too much to say! But finally I have actually recorded some episodes that might scratch the surface of this topic a bit, and hopefully will give you something insightful and interesting to listen to, whether you are a fan of this band or whether you know almost nothing about them at all. 

So this is going to be the first in a series of episodes in which I talk about Beatle-related things. There’s this one with my mum and then a few episodes with another guest who is an English teacher and something of an expert on The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular.

So, Beatle episodes are coming. I suppose, for some of you, episodes about The Beatles are like busses. You wait ages for one and then loads of them arrive at the same time. 

And by the way, I am certainly not forgetting the main focus of this podcast, which is all about helping you learn English. I think The Beatles can help you learn English, reading is very important in learning English, and so why not do some reading about The Beatles? 

Plus, later in this Beatles series there will be some language-focused episodes, using The Beatles as a context – focusing on some specific descriptive vocabulary and also some analysis of the Beatles’ song lyrics.

Maybe you’re not a fan of The Beatles. This is fine. I’m not going to try to convince you that you should like their music. That’s a matter of taste. But I do think that their story is something else entirely. I think it is hard to deny the fact that the story of these 4 individuals, the things that happened to them and the impact they had on the world – this is all simply fascinating. It’s an epic story. So, even if you don’t like the music, I hope you stay just for the story.

Now, let’s start this episode of Gill’s Book Club, talking about a recently published book about The Beatles.

LengthIs it a long book?

It’s long (642 pages) but the chapters are short, so it’s possible to read it in little chunks.

It’s available in audiobook and Kindle versions.

Appropriacy for Learners of English

The language is modern and plain in style. It’s quite literary of course, because it is a book and not a screenplay or something, but generally speaking it is clearly written and should be readable for learners with an Upper Intermediate level or above, although there will be some difficult words of course, but that’s good. I would say that overall the style is modern, neutral and definitely the kind of English that I would recommend as a good model of English for my listeners.

The short chapters make the whole thing quite easy to digest. It’s in bitesize chunks.

You can dip into it and you don’t necessarily have to read it in order. It’s almost like a collection of essays.

Audiobook version

The audiobook version on Audible is good – different voices and voice actors doing different accents, including pretty good impressions of the main people involved.

Why is it called “One Two Three Four”?

This is the first thing you hear on the first song on side 1 of The Beatles’ first album “Please Please Me”, released in early 1963 – You can hear Paul McCartney counting the band in at the start of the song by saying “1, 2 , 3 , 4”. Also, there were four Beatles, so…


Ending

So there you have it, after more than 700 episodes I finally returned to the topic of The Beatles with my mum and I think it’s fair to say that we went into quite a lot more depth than we did in episode 3 back in 2009, although episode 3 does include stuff we didn’t mention here, specifically my mum’s account of actually seeing The Beatles perform live, twice. So check out episode 3 if you haven’t done so.

Also you could check out that episode in which I asked my uncle Nic to tell us about the time he met Paul McCartney. He told the story in episode 414, and not only has he met Paul, he’s also played football with the members of Pink Floyd and hung out with The Who backstage at one of their concerts, and more. So check that one out too. Links for those episodes are on the page for this one on my website of course.

I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. I must admit that although I feel compelled to talk about this subject at length, part of me is concerned that this is all too much for my audience but I suppose those people who aren’t into this can just skip this stuff. It’s completely up to you. But do let me know what you think.

Remember, any time you have any thoughts about what you are hearing on this podcast, if you have responses or comments in your head as you listen, you can express them in English and I will read those comments, and so will many other LEPsters. The best place to leave your comments is on the page for the relevant episode on my website. Go to EPISODES in the menu and find the relevant episode page, scroll to the bottom and that’s where you will find the comment section. I am curious to see what you think. Any Beatle fans, get in touch. Non Beatle fans, I want to know what you’re thinking. Remember, sometimes doing this podcast is a bit like talking into the void and not quite knowing what people are thinking while I’m doing it.

I won’t talk much more at the end here, except that of course there are millions of things I wish I could have mentioned or talked about in this conversation.

We didn’t talk enough about Ringo!

There are also loads of other people and events that I wanted to mention.

I hope I didn’t talk too much.

Just in case this wasn’t quite enough rambling about The Beatles on this podcast, remember there are four (count them) four more episodes on The Beatles to come, but hopefully those episodes will be different enough to justify this series. 

Anyway, 4 more Beatle related episodes are coming up.

One is a discussion about John Lennon.

Another two are language focused and we’ll be talking about adjectives for describing personality traits.

And the last one is about Beatles song lyrics and little phrases and idioms that you can learn from them.

So it’s not just rambling about The Beatles, although that will be part of it too.

Thanks again to mum for her great contribution to this episode, and yes I am lucky to have a mum who is this cool. I appreciate that and I’m really glad to get her voice on the podcast along with my other guests.

And thank you as ever for listening all the way to the end, you are the best.

Take care, look after yourselves and each other and I will speak to you again soon. I think the next episode will be Michael from Poland.  But until then it’s time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

707. [2/2] Let’s Play Another Text Adventure Game – “Zombolocaust” by Peter Carlson

Continuing the text adventure game about the zombie apocalypse from episode 706, with text on the screen so you can read with me while you listen. Video version available. Play the game with me – follow the links below. [Part 2 of 2] Listen to part 1 first!

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Links

Play “Zombolocaust” by Peter Carlson textadventures.co.uk/games/view/5kjlubyvzuitox6z52xipq/zombolocaust

Text Adventures website www.textadventures.co.uk

Part 1 of this episode wp.me/p4IuUx-oBr

Part 1 on YouTube