Tag Archives: documentary

468. Punk – Music & Culture (with James)

Talking about punk music and culture from the UK with James.

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A bit of pop culture history in this episode, talking about the musical movement of punk and the social situation in which it happened.

This year we have several anniversaries in British music.

50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper by The Beatles

40th anniversary of Never Mind the Bollocks by The Sex Pistols

A lot changed in British music between the release of those two albums. 1967 was the height of the peace and love movement but 10 years later music was much more gritty, cynical and realistic. In this episode we’re looking at the whole punk movement, understanding what it was all about, what the music was like, who was involved and how the whole thing has now become a sort of pop culture myth.

I’m joined by my brother James who has been a fan of punk music ever since he borrowed a tape of The Sex Pistols from a chef when he was a teenager (I don’t think the fact it was a chef has any significance to the story, but I just like saying he borrowed the tape from a chef. I can imagine a man in a chef’s hat giving James a tape. Just me? Ok) So he discovered punk music later, in the early 90s. He wasn’t actually there at the time the music was made in 1977, he was too young, but he’s collected a lot of records by punk bands, read all the books, seen all the documentaries and even played drums in a few punk bands himself. I think he knows more about punk than anyone else I know, so I think he’s a good person to talk to.

Check out the page for the episode where you’ll see video playlists chosen by James and also a musical punk mix that he did from his vinyl record collection.

But without any further ado, you can now listen to my conversation with James about punk rock music and culture.

Conversation Notes

  • 40 years since Never Mind the Bollocks by The Sex Pistols was released. Is that the seminal punk album?
  • Why are we talking about punk in this episode?
  • What gives you any authority on the subject? Why should we listen to you?
  • Importance of punk for understanding culture
  • What is punk?
  • Origins of U.K. Punk
  • Youth subculture
  • Musical context
  • Political context – state of the country
  • American punk
  • Main bands
    • The Damned
      The Slits
      X-Ray Specs
  • What was the era like / music scene of the time
  • Spirit of punk
  • Purpose of punk music
  • Reaction to punk – tabloids
  • Punk art / design / fashion
  • 2nd wave / post punk / punk influence
  • Reality vs legend / absorption into the culture / establishment

Some Words & Phrases

  • Subculture
  • Subversive
  • Anarchy
  • DIY – Do It Yourself
  • Back to basics

From the archives: Other episodes you might like

134. The Story of Salvo

115. A Chat About Music (with James)

234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

Leave us your thoughts

  • Is or was punk popular in your country?
  • Is or was there a punk movement where you come from?
  • When did it happen?
  • What was it all about?
  • What was the music like?
  • How did they dress?
  • Is it similar or different to British punk?
  • Are British punk bands popular where you’re from? Which ones?

End song clip: 17 by the Sex Pistols


Sex Pistols on Bill Grundy (the unedited version)

Sex Pistols Christmas 1977 – A must see to show what a weird time / place England was in 1977 – click the video, it should work.

The gig that changed the world (24 Hour Party People)


Classic Albums – Never Mind The Bollocks


The Filth and the Fury trailer

The Sex Pistols absorbed into the mainstream establishment

Brilliant documentary about Joy Division

Cliched memories of punk (parody)

The Damned – New Rose (typical punk song)

Jim’s punk mix

Jim’s Punk Mix

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

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

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Click here to get the book “Touching the Void”

Click here to get the film on DVD.

The Story Continues…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

And he landed hard, on his leg.

It broke, really badly. Not just a fracture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s imagine you’re Joe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there were still these interpersonal things going on.

Apparently Joe kept wondering if Simon was pissed off.

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

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

A race against time.

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

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

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

Things were looking up.

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

God knows how far from civilisation this base camp was.

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

Until suddenly, Joe slipped off a cliff.

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

Describe the problem from Joe’s point of view.

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

From Simon’s point of view.

Simon’s decision. What would you have done?

What Simon did.

Night fell – Simon dug a snow cave.

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

Day 5

Follow Simon as he goes down.

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

But what about Joe?

Attached himself to the ice wall of the glacier.

Called for Simon.

Pulled the rope.

Saw it had been cut.

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

Joe lost it.

He came face to face with his own death.

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

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

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

Joe’s bravery and refusal to give up.

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

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

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

Day 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where the second most impressive part came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound of water driving him mad.

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

Day 7 – Joe still isn’t dead!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the decision to cut the rope.

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

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

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

Anyway what do you think?

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

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

Let me also leave you with this

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

Thanks for listening.

What happened next?

Returning to Siula Grande


6. Vampires! (with vocabulary for describing feelings & emotions)

This podcast episode today is about vampires! It includes a lecture on the myth of the vampire in modern popular culture, with a language focus on really useful vocabulary and expressions to describe feelings and emotions.

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Transcript Available below.

Hello everyone. This podcast feature today is about vampires! The language section is about really useful vocabulary and expressions to describe feelings and emotions.

See below for the transcript for this episode. Just scroll down the page. After the language notes you can read the transcript. 

I hope you’re well. I know I said that I would talk about men & women in this podcast. Well, that podcast isn’t ready yet. Instead, I’ve done this one about vampires.  I can hear you asking the question “Why vampires??”. It’s because there are some movies out at the moment which are about vampires. Actually, there’s always a movie out which is about vampires! If you think about it, we love vampires, don’t we? People seem to think they are interesting. There are hundreds of movies and books about them. They’ve been in literature for hundreds of years… but why? That’s what this podcast is about.

The first part of the feature section is about Twilight. Twilight is a very popular American movie. It was recently released on DVD. It’s particularly popular with teenagers (especially teenage girls) and it’s about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. Hmm, interesting. It’s also a very successful book by Stephanie Meyer. I think it’s the most popular book on Amazon.com at the moment.

The second part of the feature section is about the history of the vampire in literature and movies. The information comes from a lecture by the British academic Sir Christopher Frayling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Frayling) who is a brilliant and intelligent expert on popular culture. He gave a lecture a few years ago about vampires. I listened to it, and have summarised it for you here. It’s all about why we find vampires interesting, and why there are so many movies about vampires in the cinema every year.

The language section is about useful words and expressions to describe your emotions. Here is the language summary of those words and expressions. Remember, if you don’t use them – you lose them!!

Fear / Being Frightened

“I was absolutely petrified / terrified” – This just means, I was really really scared! “I was scared stiff” – This means I was really frightened, and I couldn’t move. “It frightened the life out of me” – This means, it really frightened me. “I jumped / It made me jump” – This is when something scares or surprises you and you jump into the air.

Shocked – I was really shocked

“I was speechless” – This means that I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say. I was lost for words. “I was shocked and stunned” – I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to do. If you are stunned, it means you can’t move. “I couldn’t believe my eyes” – This is when you see something shocking and you can’t believe it! “I couldn’t believe my ears” – This is when you hear something, like some shocking news, and you don’t believe it!


“I was absolutely furious!” – I was really really angry. “I was so pissed off” – Pissed off means angry. It’s informal, and a bit rude. In American English they say “I was pissed”, but in British English ‘pissed’ means ‘drunk’. “I lost my temper” – I became angry. We never use the word ‘temper’ on its own. We only use it in expressions like this. “Don’t lose your temper” “You’re so bad tempered” “I hit the roof” – This is an idiom which means ‘I became really really angry’ The roof is the top part of your house, so if you hit the roof, it means you fly through the top of the house with anger!


“I was absolutely delighted” – This means I was really really happy. “I was chuffed (to bits)” – Chuffed means really happy or pleased. It is informal English. It isn’t rude. “I was over the moon” – This is an idiom which means I was really really happy.


“I was absolutely devastated” – This means I was really really disappointed. I was so disappointed, that I was nearly destroyed. Very serious. “I was gutted” – Again, this means I was really disappointed. ‘Gutted’ is an informal expression. It isn’t rude.


“I was absolutely heart-broken” – I was really really sad, like when your girlfriend has left you… So sad… :( “I was really down in the dumps” – This means I was depressed & sad. E.g. after my girlfriend left me, I was down in the dumps for weeks & weeks.

OK, so that’s it for the language section. Remember: you can email me and ask me more questions if you want to: luketeacher@hotmail.com


Episode 6 – Vampires!

You are listening to Luke’s English podcast. For more information visit teacherLuke.wordpress.com.

Hello to everyone out there in podcast land. Thanks very much for downloading the podcast. It’s a Saturday lunch time right now and it’s a beautiful day outside, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and I am sitting here indoors in front of a computer. So obviously I have got my priority to write, haven’t I? I think that as soon as I finish this I am gonna go outside and enjoy the good weather because to be honest, here in London, the weather isn’t always good. You’ve got to try and make the most of it when it is good, so I shouldn’t be sitting here in front of the computer, should I? I should be out there enjoying the sunshine. So I will be doing that soon.

So first of all I would like to say thank you again for downloading the podcast. On my podcast page I can see all of the downloads that I have had all over the world and it’s fantastic actually because I get like a map  of the world with little flags that show where I’ve been downloaded and people are listening to me in Canada, somewhere way up in the north of Canada, I’ve being listened to in the middle of America , in Toronto, Ireland, all over the UK, in Spain, in Algiers in North Africa – as well as there I am being downloaded in Holland. Some people are listening to me in Luxembourg. Let’s see where else: Milan in Italy, Greece, Istanbul in Turkey. I am being listened to in Kazakhstan and a couple of places in China. Some people are downloading me in South Korea. I am being listened to in Japan in Tokyo and in Sapporo as well so it’s really great to be able to communicate with people all over the world, like this and I am enjoying it very much. Don’t forget to send me a message as well. I really like to hear from you.

Let’s see, in today’s podcast in the feature section I am going to be talking about vampires. Now I know that before I said I was going to be talking about men and women. Well, actually I have changed my mind. I am not going to talk about men and women in this podcast. It’s going to be about vampires instead. That’s because I was planning to talk about men and women but that’s not ready. That podcast isn’t ready yet. I’ve interviewed some people about that but I’d like to interview some more people as well. So it’s not ready yet. You have to wait until probably next time to hear about men and women. So instead this one is about vampires. Now that’s because there are a couple of movies which have come out recently. the first one being ‘Twilight’ which is an American film which recently has been released on DVD and another film is a Swedish movie called: ‘Let the right one in’ and they are both vampire movies, both very popular and so I am going to first of all talk about Twilight which is this very very popular vampire movie –  particularly popular with  teenagers – and then I am going to be talking about vampires in popular culture, the history of vampires in literature and movies and talking about why are vampires so popular. What do they really mean? What is it about vampires that makes them interesting for us, okay?

So that’s the feature section.

Then in the language section I am going to teach you some useful vocabulary you can use to describe emotions and feelings. That’s like different ways of describing being scared or being frightened – being sad, being shocked, being very happy, being very angry, being disappointed. Lots of really good useful language that you can use just when you are describing things,  when you are describing things that happened to you. I will write the vocabulary and the definitions on the web page and then you can start using them and making them part of your normal vocabulary. So you can look forward to that in the language section.

I know what you are – you are impossibly fast and strong. Your skin is pale and white and ice cold.

Are you afraid?

Only afraid of losing you

That’s a clip from the movie Twilight and if you didn’t catch that -she said: I know what you are – you are impossibly fast and strong. Your skin is pale white and ice cold.

And he says: are you afraid? and she said: I am only afraid of losing you.

Mmmm, well she should be afraid, really because it turns out that this guy is a vampire, believe it or not. Now, Twilight is a massively popular film. It’s huge. It’s particularly popular with teenage girls. It is based on a series of books by Stephenie Meyer. The books are currently the number one bestsellers on amazon.com. It’s a whole series of books and they are all very very popular all over the world. Basically, this is the new Harry Potter and the first movie which was released last year is massive. Okay, especially with teenagers and especially with teenage girls. Now Twilight is about a girl called Bella, whose parents split up. So she has to move to a small town with her dad and she has to go to a new school. Now, normally in these Hollywood films where a teenager has to go to a new school, you get the usual problems.- for example they find it difficult to make  friends – perhaps they get bullied by nasty members of the school. But this doesn’t really happen in this film . Bella goes to the new school and  actually the other kids are very friendly. She gets on very well with them. But what happens is that, she thinks that the other kids at the school are actually a bit simple. They seem to be quite sort of a  basic, a bit stupid really. She notices another group of people at the school who seem a bit strange and a bit mysterious and they don’t hang around with all the other kids at the school and they look very – kind of romantic looking. They look a bit gothic and very mysterious and interesting and one of them in particular. His name is Edward. She becomes very fascinated with and  – let’s see – she quickly becomes very attracted to Edward and she thinks he is very fascinating but she doesn’t know why he keeps avoiding her. Now, like I said before it turns out that well, he is a vampire. I don’t think I am giving away any secrets about the film there. It is a vampire movie. So it turns out he is a vampire. But he is not a bad vampire. A lot like someone like Dracula for example because him and his little vampire family – they are not bad vampires, they are good vampires because they don’t kill people, they don’t drink people’s blood – what they do is, they catch animals and they drink animal blood and they avoid people if they can. Okay, so, they are basically good vampires. Now basically what happens is that Bella and Edward – they are obviously very attracted to each other – they fall in love. But they are very afraid that they will lose control over each other because basically if Edward  loses control – if he gets to passionate, then he won’t be able to stop himself and he bites her. Okay?

So what we’ve got is a kind of teenage romance high school movie with a vampire scene and romantic elements with the fact that these two people love each other but they can’t really be together because he is a vampire.

Now actually I saw this film in Norway. I was in Oslo a couple of months ago and it was a Saturday night and I had nothing to do because I was there on my own and I decided to go and see this film. It was showing at the local cinema and I went to the cinema and before the film started, I was almost alone in the cinema – so I thought – okay fine, I’m just gonna be able to sit here quietly and watch the movie.

But slowly but surely more and more people arrived  and the cinema basically filled up with lots of teenage Norwegian girls and me. Right? So I am sitting there on my own, surrounded by   teenage Norwegian girls, right? Which I mean I am not complaining or anything –   it wasn’t bad, but it was a bit strange. And the movie starts and the first time you see Edward these girls just went crazy. I mean they were all giggling and laughing and talking to each other. Now obviously Edward is a very popular character with the girls out there and the actor actually is called –  I can’t remember his name,   I think he’s called Robert Pattinson and he’s been in a couple of other movies. Most famously he played Cedric Diggory in a  Harry Potter series and in this film he is made to look very handsome indeed and is very popular with teenage girls. And like I said before Twilight is a very very popular vampire film.

Now, what I’d like to do now is just talk about vampires in movies and in literature and what I’m going to say here is based on a lecture that I heard by the great academic whose name is Christopher Frayling, actually Sir Christopher Frayling. He is also the head of the society of arts here in the UK and he is a great academic and an  expert on popular culture. So that’s things like literature and movies and he gave a lecture about vampires in popular culture. So I am going to give you a kind of summary of what he’d said.

So the vampire myth really started in the 18th century and in that time there were stories that people told each other that involves vampires and blood suckers and so on and at that time the vampire was a kind of – let see – a countryside figure, a rural folklore figure from agricultural society, okay? So actually at that time vampires were working class labourers who worked in the countryside and the vampire story when it first started involved lots of superstition and some very primitive societies, Okay? So it’s a kind of…it was part of stories that people told each other by word of mouth and the vampire was related to a kind of folklore myth. These stories were based in Eastern Europe basically. Then in 1816 on Lake Geneva there was a very famous meeting of a number of famous horror writers. They included Byron, Shelley and Mary Godwin. They had their summer holiday there at Lake Geneva and the weather was terrible, so what they did for entertainment was they told each other very scary horror stories. And these horror stories became some of the most famous horror stories that we know now. Things like Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde I think and as well as that the first vampire story which was told by Byron. Now his story was about a Lord who went around corrupting young men. So that means he went around, making these young men immoral, interested in sex and alcohol but not interested in the church. The story was set in Greece where this Lord finally died a romantic death, a bit like Dracula and then is brought back to life in the  moonlight. So it’s really the first vampire story that showed vampires as we know them now and it was different to the old folklore stories because in the Byron story the vampire is not a rural character not in the country side biting sheep and things. Now the vampire is a high class character and is sexualised, a kind of sexual person. Also this new vampire story kind of looks at the bad reputation that upper class aristocrats had in the 19th century. So then later in the 19th century the story gets repeated and rewritten by lots of people. Some of the things change for example you get female vampires as well and some things like that. Some of the things stay the same, for example the location. Pretty much all of these stories are based on the edge of western catholic Europe,  so somewhere out  on the edge were…we  don’t quite know what happens on the edge of western Europe. Now the most famous telling of the vampire story is Dracula by Bram Stoker. This is the version that everybody knows and which has been repeated many many times. Now in the Bram Stoker story Dracula all the basic elements of a vampire story are introduced, okay? So the vampire is a powerful man, a sort of Lord or aristocrat, someone in upper class society related to the aristocracy, okay? He has to bite people and then they become a vampire. He bites someone on the neck, he has sharp teeth, sharp canine teeth. Vampires hate crosses. Sunlight kills them, You can kill a vampire with a wooden stake which is kind of like a sharp stick and you stab the vampire in the heart and that can kill them. You can also kill a vampire by chopping his head off. Vampires in this story can change shape, they can become a bat or perhaps a dog or a wolf. Now, all of these classic vampire elements get repeated in lots of movies after that and lots of other stories. And this is really what we now know a vampires to be. One of the most famous images of Dracula comes from the British Hammer horror movie called Dracula which star the actor Christopher Lee as Dracula and often when people think of Dracula they see the Christopher Lee performance. And Christopher Lee in the movie is a very tall handsome charming Dracula with the sharp teeth. Now, later on, after this image of Dracula is produced by movies and by Bram Stoker, later on the vampire becomes domesticated which means he becomes closer to  home and more similar to us. So this is done for example in books like Steven King’s book ‘Salem’s Lot’ and also  other Hollywood movies. So the whole vampire thing gets updated and is put into contemporary modern America – as sort of normal every day set in. So this is a new way of making vampires frightening and scary. So for example a vampire can live on your street or even in your house. They don’t just live in a big castle in another country somewhere or in the countryside. They can live in your town, okay? Also the vampire becomes americanised, so that’s put into normal American society. Now this is a very common pattern in horror stories. Many horror myths start as a European folk myth so not written down by but shared by word of mouth, then the stories get written by 19th century British writers and then later they are made into American Hollywood movies and they are updated. So it’s a very common pattern in all. And one that we can see has happened with vampires. So, now the vampire is an ordinary person like a teenager in a high school for example. So he gets things like the TV programme ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ or movies like Twilight, for example.  And first of all this is more scary because it makes it a bit more realistic but also teenagers, for example, who are the target market for these vampire movies usually – teenagers can relate to vampires and vampire movies and then these movies are about issues that effect normal American people, okay?

So the vampire has really changed and it has survived through from old old eastern European folks stories through the 19th century British horror writers into modern day American Hollywood films. So the vampire is very flexible, very adaptable and the vampire can survive. You can’t kill it, you just can’t kill the vampire. It will always survive in popular culture because for some reason it’s very meaningful for us and we can see lots of important issues, meaningful issues to us in the vampire myth. So the vampire movie is like a metaphor. So on the surface it’s a scary movie but underneath that the vampire movie allows us to think about lots of other issues and a vampire movie can be about more than just being scared,  but it’s also about a number of different issues that relate to us in society, okay?

Right, so I am going to at …just quickly look at some of the themes that you can find in many vampire stories. So one of the first themes that you see in a vampire film is the theme of disease. Now this is a very old thing which you can see in the first vampire film which is called ‘Nosferatu’. That’s a German film from 1921. In that film the vampire is presented  as like a plague of rats. So the vampire’s bite is like the bite of a disease which infects your blood. The disease spreads as well  from person to person through the blood. Although there is a sexual connection with seduction and the exchange of body fluids.  So in that sense Dracula or vampires can be seen as a metaphor for even something like the aids virus which is a big issue in society at the moment. For example if you look at Francis Ford Coppola’s  movie which is called Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There are scenes in that movie which show a doctor looking at someone’s blood under the microscope and seeing that it’s infected by vampire’s kind of micro organisms. So certainly in a lot of vampire books and movies they are a metaphor for disease in society.

Also sexuality is a big theme in vampire stories and movies. Vampires are in a way a safe way for us to look at eroticism. So, the vampire really is a very sexual creature. Often he seduces his victim, he bites women and then turns them into whores, he appears in women’s bedrooms, he bites on the neck, he sucks out body fluids. These are all very sexual images. Also the desire to bite and it’s an __________ like sexual desires which is part of a sinful act.

Now as well as those themes you have a theme of the fear of death or growing old. So vampires can represent both the fear of death and the fantasy of immortality. That’s never dying. So if you like, beating death. So by becoming a vampire you can escape death but you have to hide from society and kill people. So there is the tragedy of becoming a vampire which combines the fantasy of never dying with the tragedy of having to escape from society. Also  the tragedy of seeing your loved ones grow old and die and you can see that theme in the famous movie with Tom Cruise and Brett Pit called interview with a vampire which deals with the whole theme of immortality and the tragedy of having to kill in order to survive and stay immortal.

You can also see the theme of drugs in some of these vampire films. Being a vampire means that you have to live at night. You become very pale skinned. You need to drink blood in order to stay alive and if you don’t, you get sick. So in that sense it’s similar to kind of heroin addiction perhaps.

Now, movies like the Lost boys with Kiefer Sutherland which is an 1980th Hollywood movie. A great movie. I used to watch it when I was a kid with my brother. We loved it. Movies like the Lost Boys are about loss of innocence and the pressure to copy people of your age. So do the same as people of your age. There are about temptation and the night time drug culture of young Californians.

In the Lost Boys it’s about two brothers who moved to a small seaside town in California and how one of them becomes seduced by a group of vampires who live in the area. And for me it’s like – the subtext of the film is like he becomes a drug addict. If you watch the film and imagine-  he is not a vampire but a drug addict it becomes very meaningful, I think.

Okay, so you can see how vampires are kind of very important in a way in our culture and how meaningful they are. It’s interesting how the vampire film consists to survive. It never dies. Instead it gets revised, it changes and it also becomes a way for us to look at various issues in society.

So if you haven’t seen Twilight then I ….I can recommend it. I thought it was very sweet story about first love and how it can be very hard to lose control of your feelings when you first fall in love as a teenager. It’s also about the danger of passion and your emotions and the power of attraction and how it can be very confusing and frightening when you first fall in love because the feelings can be very strong and that can be quite frightening. Now, I thought the film was quite corny, it was a bit embarrassing sometimes.

Some of the sequences were a little bit funny but basically I think it is a sweet film and I think it is a good film and so if you haven’t seen it I recommend it. There is also another Swedish film which is in the cinemas at the moment called: ‘Let the right one in’ and I haven’t seen that but apparently it’s excellent. All the critics are saying this, that it is very very good vampire film, indeed. So I hope to see that very soon. If you have seen that and if you have seen Twilight then send me a message. Let me know what you thought of both of those films. Remember the email address is Luketeacher@hotmail.com and I look forward to hearing from you.

Okay, so this is the language section and like I said at the beginning of the podcast this is going to be about expressing your emotions, describing your feelings. Now all of the language in this section you could use for example when you are telling a story about something or when you are describing an experience that you had. So all the examples  I am going to give will be in the past tense. So you might use this language for example if you are describing an experience like for example how you felt about your exam results or how you felt when you first heard about some news. So  the areas I am going to talk about are being frightened or being scared, being shocked, feeling angry, feeling happy, feeling disappointed and feeling sad.

So obviously very very common emotions and very very common in our daily experience and when you’re describing your experiences it is very very good to use these colourful descriptive language to express how you felt at the time. So all the language I am going to teach you I will write on my web page so you can see all of the expressions on the web page with some definitions. Don’t forget the web page is teacherLuke.podamatic.com  and you can see all of it explained for you there.

So we’ll start with fear or being scared.Being frightened. So one thing you could say if you were very scared, you could say: I was really scared or I was really frightened, of course. You can also say: I was absolutely petrified. I was absolutely petrified. So petrified is an extreme adjective means very very scared. I was absolutely petrified. You could say: I was absolutely terrified, as well. Another thing you could say is: I was scared stiff. I was scared stiff. That means you was so scared, so frightened that you couldn’t move, right? I was scared stiff.

Another one would be: It frightened the life out of me. It frightened the life out of me. That means: I was really really scared. Basically :It frightened the life out of me.

Another one is sometimes when you are very scared, when something scares you – you jump – you kind of go “huuu!”, so you could say: I jumped or it made me jump.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

For example: I woke up last night because I could hear noises from downstairs. I thought it was robbers in my house. I was absolutely petrified. I couldn’t move. I was scared stiff. I managed to pluck up the courage to go downstairs. I picked up a cricket bat and I went into the kitchen. I could hear some really strange noises so I went through the kitchen and suddenly my cat jumped down from the window. “Huu” it made me jump! Right? It frightened the life out of me. I thought it was a robber but it was just my cat. Now in that story I said I plucked up the courage to do something. So if you pluck up the courage it means even if you are scared you kind of become brave enough to do something. I plucked up the courage to do something.

The next one is being shocked


So for example when you hear some really shocking news like for example if you hear on the radio that someone has died or a famous person has died like if you  heard on the radio that John Lennon had died, for example you could say: I was really shocked or you could say: I was absolutely speechless, I was absolutely speechless. That means: I couldn’t say anything. I was so shocked, right? You can say. I was shocked and stunned, I was shocked and stunned and they always go together.

Stunned means that you couldn’t move. You were so shocked, you didn’t know what to do. I was shocked and stunned. And the other expression is: I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe my eyes. So that is if you see something shocking and it’l like: Is that real? I couldn’t believe my eyes. Like when I saw the UFO I just couldn’t believe my eyes. You also could say: I couldn’t believe my ears. That’s if you heard some very shocking news. So for example when I heard on the radio that John Lennon had died, I was absolutely speechless. I didn’t know what to say. When I won the lottery I was shocked and stunned. I didn’t know what to do. And, let’s see, when I saw my exam results, when I saw that I failed my exams, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All right?

The next one is about being angry.

Being angry. Of course you can say: I was really angry. But you could also say as an extreme emotion, you could say: I was absolutely furious. I was absolutely furious, which means very very angry. A slightly rude expression would be: I was really pissed off. I was really pissed off. And that’s a British English informal expression which is a little bit rude to mean, I was angry. Now in America they would say I was  pissed, just pissed, not pissed off. Now in British English I was pissed means I was drunk. So there is a difference between the British and American English.  In British English we say: I was really pissed off. Pissed off. A little bit rude and a bit informal. If you become angry you could say: I lost my temper. I lost my temper and that means I became angry, okay? And another kind of idiom expression you can use is: I hit the roof. That means I became really angry. I hit the roof. So for example, when my dad heard that I had failed my exams he was absolutely furious. He was so pissed off. He really lost his temper and he hit the roof and was very angry with me.

Now, the next one is about being happy.

Now, of course you can say: I was really really happy, but a more extreme adjective you can use is delighted. I was absolutely delighted. I was absolutely delighted. Probably a good idea to repeat that, right? Practising it by repeating. I was absolutely delighted. An informal British English expression is the word chuffed. Chuffed to bits. I was chuffed to bits. You can read that on the web page if you don’t know how to spell it. I was chuffed to bits. And an idiom you can use when you are really happy would be: I was over the moon. I was over the moon. So for example: When I passed the exam I was absolutely delighted, or if you are a girl you can say: When he asked me to marry him, I was over the moon. And when I got the job I was chuffed to bits.

The next one is about being disappointed.

Being disappointed, okay? So, obviously you can say: I was really disappointed. But you can also use an extreme adjective which is devastated. Devastated. That’s when you are really really disappointed like really badly disappointed. I was absolutely devastated. So for example: When my dog died – I really loved my dog – right, I really loved it. When my dog died I was absolutely devastated. An informal British expression is: Gutted, gutted. I was absolutely gutted which means really really disappointed. So for example, when England lost the football game, I was gutted. I was absolutely devastated. Because obviously football is very important here in the UK, especially in England.

The next one is about being sad


So obviously you can say: I was really really sad, but an extreme adjective would ‘heartbroken’, heartbroken. I was absolutely heartbroken. And an expression you can use to describe someone who is sad is down in the dumps. Down in the dumps. Down in the dumps. He was really down in the dumps. That means really sad, so when my girlfriend left me, I was absolutely heartbroken and then for weeks I was really down in the dumps.

So there it is, some useful language for you to express your emotions and opinions when you’re describing your experiences. Of course you should try to use some of those expressions when you are chatting, when you are speaking in English. It will make you sound  like a more advanced speaker. So, you might not be able to remember all of them, but I’ve given you lots of useful expressions there. Try to use some of them. You don’t have to use them all. Just try to use some of them. Look at my web page you will see all of the expressions written, so you can see what the words look like and how to spell them and you can check them in the dictionary as well if you like.

But that’s the end of the language section and it’s also the end of the podcast. And so I am going to end with a final question: I’d like you to tell me – let’s see – okay

Two questions. One question is: Have you seen the movie ‘Twilight’ or have you seen the other movie ‘Let the right one in’ ? And if you have seen them what did you think of them. Also have you read the book Twilight. For it’s a very very popular book. It’s I think, one of the most popular books in the world on  amazon.com at the moment. So if you’ve read that what do you think of the book? Is it better than the movie or worse and the second question is: Tell me about something, tell me about an experience that was very frightening or maybe disappointing or something that made you very happy. Tell me about it. I’ll read it out on the podcast and you can tell the rest of the world about your experience that way. Okay? So I hope you enjoyed that podcast. I hope you found it interesting. Don’t forget to download and listen to more podcasts in  the future and to download and listen to the old ones again. I recommend that you listen to them several times. Listen to them more than once cause it’s a really good way of practising your listening.

If you have any suggestions for me, if you want me to speak about something or if you want me to do something differently just let me know and I will try to do those things.

Okay, so that’s the end of the podcast. See you later.


Thanks for downloading Luke’s English podcast. Don’t forget to email me at Luketeacher@hotmail.com.

Still want more vampire action? Here’s a really interesting documentary on vampires by Sir Christopher Frayling.