Tag Archives: podcast

517. Professor Stephen Hawking

I woke up this morning to the news that Stephen Hawking had died and I thought – I really must talk about this. He was a British scientist who must be considered one of the most significant people of recent years – a brilliant mind who contributed so much to our understanding of the nature of reality itself while also struggling against some extreme personal difficulties and for those reasons he’s a great inspiration to many people around the world.

In this episode I’m just going to talk about him, his life, his achievements and how he will continue to be an inspiration to people for many years to come. Let’s learn some English along the way. Vocabulary list & links available below.


BBC Obituary


Adversity, challenge or difficulty can somehow focus you and force you to concentrate your energy in one direction. It must have been tough, but it’s almost like he thrived on the adversity.

Hawking’s popularity in China

Hawking was popular and inspirational all over the world, but according to a BBC News report he was particularly loved and respected in China.


Hawking talks about depression

As well as contributing so much to our understanding of the universe, he also was an inspiration to people struggling against difficulty of various kinds – both physical and mental.

Stephen Hawking Has a Beautiful Message for Anyone Suffering From Depression

A scene from The Theory of Everything

Hawking interviewed by John Oliver (Hawking obviously had a sense of humour)

Monty Python – The Galaxy Song

This is a song written by Eric Idle, for Monty Python’s film “The Meaning of Life”.
Hawking agreed to record a version of this song for Monty Python’s recent live shows.
It’s all about how we should remember that in the context of everything, our problems are actually rather small and insignificant, and by extension we should realise that there are no frontiers in our minds and we should realise that many limitations that we feel inside ourselves are actually imposed on us by ourselves.

Lyrics & ukulele chords: stewartgreenhill.com/ukulele/TheGalaxySong.html

Vocabulary which came up in this episode

  • motor neurone disease
  • he was left almost completely paralysed
  • a tracheotomy
  • a layman’s guide to cosmology
  • He was reportedly offered a knighthood in the 1990s but later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science.
  • He was renowned for his extraordinary capacity to visualise scientific solutions without calculation or experiment.
  • Undeterred by his condition, he continued his work
  • his condition inevitably made him dependent on others
  • Police questioned several people about allegations that he had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse
  • He was known to be an erratic, almost reckless driver of his electric wheelchair
  • the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness on board the so-called “vomit comet
  • “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster”
  • aliens might just raid earth of its resources and then move on
  • Stephen Hawking: China’s love for the late physicist
  • the world mourns Prof Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76
  • His 2006 visit to China was covered with breathless excitement
  • the adulation and respect he has always commanded in China is perhaps in another universe altogether
  • a role model ideal for the Chinese state to champion emerged.
  • the Chinese government preaches that scientific prowess is crucial to the country’s future power
  • he didn’t let it deter him from doing his best to live fully and passionately
  • If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you
  • My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field

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

In this episode I’m talking to friends of the podcast Amber Minogue and Sarah Donnelly about the subject of raising children in a foreign country – in this case, France. So this is an episode all about cross-cultural experiences, specifically relating to parenthood. It’s also about a new podcast and stage show which Amber & Sarah have just started. Transcriptions, notes and links below.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

In this episode I’m talking to friends of the podcast Amber Minogue and Sarah Donnelly about the subject of raising children in a foreign country – in this case, France. So this is an episode all about cross-cultural experiences, specifically relating to parenthood. It’s also about a new podcast and stage show which Amber & Sarah have just started.

If you’re a long term listener then I’m sure you know Amber, and you should also remember Sarah because she’s been on the podcast a few times too.

Amber and Sarah are both ex-pats living in Paris, like me. They’re also stand-up comedians who perform on stage in English here, like me. They’re both with French partners, like me. They both have kids here in Paris with their French partners, again, like me; and now they are both podcasters, like me.

Amber (who is from the UK) has been a podcaster for a while, as you may know, with her charming and quirky podcast about the history of Paris – called “Paname” (available at panamepodcast.com and on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts) , but now Amber has joined forces with Sarah (who is from the USA) in order to work on a new project which is called “Becoming Maman”. “Maman” is the French word for “mum” or “mom”.

The project is primarily a stage show – a kind of “two-woman show” which is all about their experiences of having kids in Paris. I saw the first performance of Becoming Maman a few weeks ago and it was brilliant. The two of them are very funny as a double act and the show was full of very astute and amusing observations, jokes and sketches about life as an English-speaking ex-pat bringing up children in Paris.

As well as the stage show, they’re also doing some videos for Facebook and YouTube and the new podcast which is also called “Becoming Maman”. In the podcast episodes Amber and Sarah typically sit down together and discuss certain issues and experiences relating to raising children in France – particularly the differences in the parenting culture between France and their home countries of the UK and the USA.

If you’re an email subscriber or a regular visitor to my website, you might know all of this already (you might be going “yep, yep – got it, been there, seen that, got the t-shirt, already subscribed to Becoming Maman – I have already become Maman) email subscribers might already know about this because I wrote a post last week to let you know that I had been interviewed by Amber and Sarah on their podcast, and I shared links so you could listen or download that episode and subscribe to the podcast. In that episode of their podcast they asked me about my experiences of becoming a dad, and we talked about how children learn languages. Check it out here.

For more information about their project, check out all the links below.

Becoming Maman – podcast page

Becoming Maman on iTunes

Becoming Maman – RSS feed

Becoming Maman – Facebook page

So – raising kids in France when you’re not French and the differences in the parenting culture between France and the UK and the USA. These are the things that we’re going to talk about in this episode, as well as a few of the usual tangents including some thoughts about differences in the behaviour of boys and girls and whether these differences are caused by innate factors that children are born with or subtle ways in which we encourage certain kinds of behaviour as parents.

Well, just before we begin I’d like you to consider how this topic relates to your life experience in some way. You might not have kids, but since you’re out there, probably learning English, there’s a good chance that your life is, has been, or will be affected by cross-cultural experiences, not just relating to parenthood. Thinking about how you have things in common with us should help you to generally relate to our conversation better, and by extension that should help you just get more out of it in terms of language learning and general enjoyment.

So, here are loads of questions for you to consider before we get stuck into this conversation.

Also, pay attention to certain bits of language relating to childhood and raising kids and let me also remind you of episode 68 which is full of the language of childhood – and that’s vocabulary like “to bring up children” “to raise children” “to grow up” and so on – all explained.

68. Childhood / Growing Up / School Days – Phrasal Verbs and Expressions

Before you Listen – Questions for your consideration

  • First of all, what kinds of cross-cultural experiences have you had?
  • Have you ever lived abroad or spent a good deal of time with people from other cultures?
  • Did you notice any differences in the way you or other people do things? That could include anything in life – like slightly different ways of doing business or eating food or communicating, but also ways of dealing with children.
  • What were the challenges associated with the experience you had with another culture or in another country? How did that make your life more difficult, crazy, funny, strange or interesting? E.g. Did you find it hard to work out the administrative system, the work-life balance or the approach to education at school?
  • Could you imagine settling down in another country and bringing up children there?
  • If you already have kids, in what situation did you raise your kids or are you raising your kids?
  • Are you and your partner from the same country, and are your kids growing up in that country too? That’s a monocultural and monolingual situation.
  • Can you imagine bringing your children up in a foreign country, perhaps with a foreign partner, with several languages involved? So, a bi-cultural or bilingual situation.
  • How would that make things different?
  • How could it make life more complicated?
  • For example – consider the identity of your child or children. Where would you consider your children to be from? How would you feel if they grew up to be from a different culture to you?
  • Let’s say, if you’re Spanish (or Polish or Chinese or Russian or Brazilian) and you’re bringing up kids in London are your kids still Spanish, Polish or Chinese or Russian or Brazilian, or are they now English – because that’s where they were born and have grown up?
  • How would living abroad affect your parenting style?
  • Should you, for example, adapt your parenting style to fit the new culture, or keep doing it how it’s done where you’re from?
  • What if the parenting style in this other place is quite different to how it’s done where you’re from? What if you don’t really understand the way they do it in this other place?
  • How would that be challenging for you?
  • Would you feel somehow stuck in a grey area between the country and culture where you are from, and the country and culture where your kids are growing up?
  • Are there certain advantages to that situation? Perhaps it can be much a more exciting, diverse and broad-minded lifestyle.
  • What have you heard about parenting in France, or in the UK or the USA? Do those places have a reputation for particularly good or bad parenting? For what reasons?
  • Would you like to raise your kids in any of those cultures? The UK, France or The USA?
  • Have you heard of a book called “French Kids Don’t Throw Food” by Pamela Druckerman? How about any other parenting guides which are about “how they bring up kids in another country”? Do any other countries have a good reputation for bringing up kids as far as you know?
  • What if you ended up falling in love with someone from France, the UK or the USA or indeed any other place, moving there for love, having an adventure and then finding that you’re starting a family in a completely foreign place? How would you feel?
  • Maybe that’s exactly what’s happened to you, or you’re in a situation in which it could happen.
  • And if you don’t have kids in your life, perhaps you could consider the situation in which you grew up. Would you rather have been raised by parents from the same country, or parents from two different countries? How might that have affected your language skills and your identity in general?
  • Do you think boys and girls behave differently because they’re born that way, or because we encourage them somehow?
  • And how could you put all of these thoughts into words in English?

With all those questions in mind, let’s now listen to my chat with Amber and Sarah all about the challenges of bringing up kids in a foreign country and what it really means to become not just a mum or a mom, but a “maman”.

Let me remind you that Amber & Sarah’s podcast is now available for you to listen to, including the episode in which they interviewed me about becoming a dad.

Those links again for “Becoming Maman”

For more information about their project, check out all the links below.

Becoming Maman – podcast page

Becoming Maman on iTunes

Becoming Maman – RSS feed

Becoming Maman – Facebook page

As I mentioned before, I do plan to do another episode about raising bilingual kids at some point.

I can also refer you back to episode 68 in which I talked about childhood and school days and explained a lot of phrasal verbs and other vocabulary.

Links for everything on the page for this episode!

In the meantime – I look forward to reading your responses to this episode in the comment section. Did you have any thoughts while listening to this? (I hope so!) Share them in the comment section. Don’t be shy – give it a try.

A couple of other reminders:

  • Join the mailing list to get a link in your inbox when I post something to the website – it’s usually once or twice a week and my emails aren’t very intrusive or anything.
  • Download the LEP App for your phone. Check the app store for the Luke’s English Podcast App – it’s not just a place to listen to the podcast, there’s also a lot of other content in there including videos, episodes of my phrasal verb podcast and various app-exclusive episodes and other bonuses.
  • Thank you if you have donated to this podcast – you’re helping to keep the whole thing alive and I consider your donation to be a very sincere way to say thank you for my work.

Have a lovely morning, lunch, afternoon, evening, night!

Speak to you soon,


Vocabulary List for Episode 515 – Provided by Jack from the Comment Section

a labour of love
Dig these episodes
Stuck in a grey area
Scream your lungs out
Beat the living day lights out of
Cheese course
Main course
On site
Flip side
Crouch down
Pay stubs
Athleisure clothing ( fat Americans feeling good wearing gym clothes while chewing fat)
Goldfish crackers
Toned down
Jacket potato

TV shows and videos which we mentioned

The BBC’s gender experiment

TV and films that Sarah was watching when she was about 10 years old… a bad influence?

“The Kids on the Hall” – I’m crushing your head 

Absolutely Fabulous

Planet of the Apes (quite scary and weird) “Human see, human do!”


514. What’s on the table? (with Fred & Alex)

In this episode you can hear me chatting to Fred Eyangoh and Alex Quillien and discussing various topics including growing up in different countries, recognising different accents in English, religious backgrounds, movie re-boots, Arnold Shwartzenegger going “nyarrrgh” and more. Fred and Alex are both stand-up comedians living in Paris who perform in English. Check them out at shows at Paname Art Cafe, including the Paris Open Mic (with Vanessa Starr) and French Fried Comedy Night.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]


This episode is called “What’s on the table? (with Fred and Alex)”

I’m joined by Fred Eyangoh and Alex Quillian.

First we’re going to just get to know them a bit – we already know Fred from his appearance on the podcast in episode 430.

Then, the whole “What’s on the table?” concept – which sounds like a concept but actually it’s not really.

I know what you’re thinking. What is the concept of “What’s on the table?” Luke?


I’ve written some questions and topics onto pieces of paper and then placed them face down on the table.

We’re going to flip them over one by one and discuss the heck out of them. That’s it.

I was also thinking of calling it “Discuss THIS” – like in a movie or something.

Like – “You feeling hungry? EAT THIS” Boom.

Or “You want to watch something? WATCH THIS”

But I’ve chosen “What’s on the table?” (with Fred and Alex)

And we have some topics which are on the table for discussion.

That’s an expression by the way.

If something is “on the table” it means it has been put forward for discussion.


E.g. in a business meeting

I wouldn’t wait too long to accept the job offer—it might not be on the table for very long.

Before this meeting begins, we’d like to make sure that the topic of salary bonuses is going to be on the table.

Our best offer is on the table.

In this case:

What’s on the the table for discussion today?

You can also use the word ‘table’ as a verb. It’s a bit formal. It means present something for discussion. E.g. to table a motion – to formally put forward a topic for discussion or perhaps a proposal for a new law.

I have to say these things, because it’s a learning English podcast.

That’s in British English.

In American English, it means the opposite. It means “shelved” – postponed until later.

The healthcare bill has been put on the table until the Spring.

This topic has been tabled for later discussion.

That’s American English.

But we speak British English here, or at least I do.

Types of English – that’s one of the points which is on the table I believe. We’ll come back to it.

Listen to the whole episode to hear Fred, Alex and me discussing various topics including – learning English, accents, religion, films, Arnold Schwarzenegger going “nyarrrgh!” and more!

Alex & Fred

513. General Ramble / News / Comments

A general ramble about things like: dishwasher sounds, online clickbait, updates to the LEP app, my recent appearances on some OPP (other people’s podcasts), LEPster meetups and some responses to recent comments on the website. Notes, links & videos available below.


Notes, Links & Videos etc

First, some stuff about clickbait and dishwashers… and then…

News, etc

This will be the last episode I upload until March.

Actually, that’s not such a big deal is it because February is short and so March is less than a week away… anyway…

Why is it the last episode until March?

Upload limit reached!


The LEP App


I’ve been filling up the LEP app, with:

  • Videos (some stuff from my YouTube channel including some videos from nearly 10 years ago when I was younger, single and living in my London flat and I had a terrible haircut) and some more recent videos that are not on YouTube and are only available in the app.
  • A Phrasal Verb a Day (40 episodes uploaded so far)
  • App-only episodes (a recent new one with Lindsay from AEE – more info in a moment)

Check out the app if you haven’t done so already. I’m going to be adding more stuff there all the time. It’s more than just a place to listen to LEP. It’s a place to get loads of content from me straight to your phone.


Other stuff

I’ve been on some other people’s podcasts recently

I was on All Ears English in their app 

Search the app store for All Ears English Listening, or click the link below.

All Ears English Listening for iOS

I was on Becoming Maman – Amber & Sarah’s new podcast.

Search iTunes and all other podcast places for Becoming Maman, or check the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk – I posted it there too.

[Website-only] I was on the “Becoming Maman” podcast with Amber Minogue & Sarah Donnelly

In December I was on The Earful Tower talking about the Paris Metro, on the Paris Metro.

Search iTunes and all other podcast places for The Earful Tower – but also it’s in the episode archive.

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

Upcoming episodes of LEP

  • A chat with Amber & Sarah about the complications of raising kids in another country
  • A chat with comedian friends about a bunch of things
  • Planning an episode about raising bilingual kids because people keep asking “Which language will your daughter speak? Are you going to speak French to her or English? How do kids learn two languages at the same time?

Also I really want to just have some stupid fun on the podcast.

I haven’t been doing a lot of comedy recently, because of the baby. I’ve taken a step back because of lack of time etc, except for opening Paul’s show sometimes.

I miss doing comedy – when a show goes well it is an amazing feeling, but also I feel like I’d like to refresh my material.

One of the things I love about doing comedy is coming up with new stuff, improvising.

Also, on the podcast – I’ve always enjoyed just messing around being a bit stupid and having some fun doing voices, or just improvising some nonsense. Haven’t done that for a while.

So, I should, right? OK then.


LEPSTERS IN Nizhniy Novgorod

There’s a Meetup happening on Sunday 11 March 18:00 Time Cafe Geronimo in the centre of Nizhniy Novgorod.

Everyone is welcome!!

FB page: The “Nizhniy Novgorod LEP Club” on Facebook

From Nick Wooster

Hi Luke!

How are you? I can’t even imagine how busy you are now with all those parent activities! You must be very happy, anyway :))

It’s been more than a year since we first established the LEP Club in Moscow. Also, last spring we launched our second Club in Saint Petersburg. Both clubs have become very popular and are now visited by a lot of people. For example, in January we had 9 meet ups and in each one there were 5 to 25 people!

Luke, do you remember we also tried to arrange a LEP Club in Nizhniy Novgorod last Summer?
(Note: In English, this means “Lower Newtown”)
We failed then because of the huge flood. Anyway, our LEP Nizhniy Novgorod page on Facebook has been quite popular recently. So, we are going to try again to organize the first meetup of LEPsters there.

The meeting will take place on March 11 at the time cafe Geronimo right in the center of Nizhniy Novgorod.

WOULD YOU PLEASE ANNOUNCE IT ON THE PODCAST? it would be great if you also shared it on FB (here is the link www.facebook.com/Conversational-English-for-Free-Nizhniy-Novgorod-LEP-Club-1929010714048755/?fref=ts)

BTW, Luke, we are wondering if it is possible to place a link to all your Meet-Up groups (Tokyo, MSC, SPB) in the Podcast – it would help LEP ninjas to find like-minded friends easier!
Thank you, Luke!

New LEP Meetup page in the website


Some recent comments

About “The Birth of my Daughter”

Kristina Fadeeva • a month ago
Hi Luke, congratulations to your lovely family! And thank you for sharing this wonderful story, for your genuine emotions and authenticity, for being brave enough to talk about something so private.
I absolutele love the ideas of comprehensible input and storytelling in language learning that you mentioned. I was listening to that episode of Olly Richards’ podcast with Stephen Krashen a couple of weeks ago thinking “If only we had a Luke’s English podcast for every language!” I think, content like this is why I enjoy learning languages in the first place – it’s a door to a different world where you can meet people, learn what they are thinking and feeling, how they live their lives and what they value. It’s an endless world of stories that you can experience. With every language you learn, you are getting a glimpse into another life, another point of view, another culture, and that is priceless.
Have the best of luck, joy and happiness in your new journey! And please invite your wife more often, she has the loveliest voice :)

About my frustrations with French

Sebestyén Balázs
The longer I learn English, the more I think that this whole problem is more about psychology and social skills rather than grammar or vocabulary. We need more a good therapist than a teacher. My therapist is you, Luke, and this episode was a pretty successful session.
My understanding and speaking have improved over the years, but very slowly. More importantly, my attitude has changed. I don’t care anymore if I don’t understand something, or can’t express something accurately. If I can avoid high expectations from others and from myself, language learning is just learning anything else, like chemistry, literature or math. You would never say that you are frustrated because of your lack of knowledge in chemistry. So why should I frustrate myself because of the language? Yes, my English is rubbish, but my chemistry also, and on the other hand, I have a lot of other skills and values that can base my self-esteem.

Hello Luke,
Are you doing all right? It’s been a long time since I last commented on your website. I listened to the reasons you’ve listed to explain why you’ve not reached a level of French where you would feel comfortable to get by and I believe they make sense.
As I see it, with all due respect, you’re another victim of the sway that the English language holds worldwide. English has developed to become such a powerful language that it is a no-brainer which language non-native speakers should learn other than their own. Non-native speakers have clearly a lot to gain, both professionally and culturally, from learning English. That decision has already been made for them.
However, when it comes to its monolingual native speakers, English is both a blessing and a curse. Native speakers don’t have to spend years of their lives worrying about getting very good at another language if they want to succeed in business, entertainment or academia. They’ve got the grammar, the vocabulary, the pronunciation, basically the whole package by a strike of what many English learners think is luck.
English speakers are just as good language learners as everyone else, but they carry a curse that is often overlooked. This curse is their own language. For a start, I don’t believe it is that straightforward for most teenagers living in the UK, the US or any other English speaking country which second language they should choose to learn. Is it Spanish, French, German or Mandarin? There’s enough research in psychology that backs the idea that when confronted with too many options, people will make poor decisions. After making their choice, people feel they have to stay motivated and overcome all the challenges that the new language poses: difficult grammar, tricky phonemes, unintelligible sounds. When any of those barriers makes itself seem insurmountable, there’s often the option to switch back to English. So, why learn another language if English enables them to get by?
Another factor is that the cultural industry in English floods the whole world with its productions. By doing so, it is the richest worldwide and, consequently, they have the money available to invest in expensive projects and sell them afterwards. This is a vicious circle that stifles low-budget local productions and makes them unattractive. Take Hollywood as an example. Although people all over the globe can be creative enough to match (and surpass) the quality of Hollywood, the sheer output of expensive blockbusters guarantees that there is little to no competition from films in other languages. Why would any native-English speaker learn another language if the biggest hits of the moment are in English?
Among other things, the answers to both questions I raised in the two last paragraphs constitute what motivates any English speaker to learn a second language: So, why learn another language if English enables them to get by? Why would any native-English speaker learn another language if the biggest hits of the moment are in English? While there’s good cause for some, for others there might be none.
Luke, I believe there are only two ways for you to overcome the frustration of learning French and to stop making (your very good) excuses. The first is to drop the idea of learning it entirely and face the consequences. I know it seems quite harsh, but we cannot deliberately motivate ourselves to do something we don’t feel like doing. We either feel it or we don’t, that’s the way it is.
The other way is to learn French once and for all. Even though I said in the previous paragraph that we cannot pretend to be motivated, sometimes we have to do things with no motivation at all. Humankind would be under serious threat if parents had to feel eager every time they woke up at night to check on the crying baby. And they recognise afterwards that the effort paid off. We will never do anything if we wait for the perfect conditions to fall into place – we live in a imperfect world after all.
I would also consider whether the material you’re using is suitable for your needs. I know you’re an English teacher with many years of experience, but I think we should take every material we use with a pinch of salt. Do the books you have meet your current needs? I’m saying this because most beginner materials I’ve used to learn English and other languages seem to hinder conversation. They postpone far too much things like conditionals, subordinate clauses, how to use ‘but’ and ‘because’. If I do not learn those things early on, I’ll not be able to show reasoning and, consequently, I’ll the dumbest person there can be speaking that language. Feeling dumb is one of the biggest confidence killers for language learners.
By the look of what you have told us, I would go for improving my conversation skills if I were you. This is what will give you the confidence boost you need to soldier on. You need to find someone who takes a professional approach to teaching conversational French and allows you to speak freely. Maybe a teacher on Italki, I don’t know, but definitely someone outside your social sphere. That way, you’ll be able to keep French learning issues and personal matters apart. The last thing you need here is to listen to judgemental people who don’t know what they are talking about. Please make as many mistakes as you can because Luke version 2.0 will not develop without them. Do a 30-day challenge of learning French and record yourself speaking every day to keep track of your progress.
I hope I might have been helpful somehow.
Best wishes for the whole family,

506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

Elena • a month ago
I absolutely loved and enjoyed it! Thank you, Luke! And I do feel like an imposter now. I’ve decided to take a CAE preparation course. I passed the test which gave me the right to take the course but I can’t stop feeling that l’m much worse than others who is doing it🙈 but I hope that I’ll survive and get better!

507. UK comedy shows

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows

Hi Luke and everybody else,

that was another really good subject for an episode and I imagine that many of the listeners are comedy fans as well.
You mentioned some of my favourite British comedy characters, like David Brent and Alan Partridge. Only last year I discovered and particularly enjoyed some actors (and writers) from the IT Crowd’s cast, like Chris Morris, Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade, who I found out is also a quite talented director – I recommend ‘Submarine’.
I hope you’ll make a similar episode about interesting not-necessarily-comedy British radio shows, because I’m having some trouble finding any.

Also, I’d like to listen to you talk about the Flight of the Conchords and the kiwi accent sometime.

(About “Life’s Too Short” with Ricky Gervais) I’ve never watched a full episode of the show but I’ve seen this video an infinite number of times over the last 2 weeks and I can’t help laughing really hard every single time.

That clip of Liam Neeson on Life’s Too Short

508. 6 True Crime Stories from Victorian England (with Dad)

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

King, convey my regards to uncle Rick, please. And tell him that he is a very consummate and eloquent speaker and presenter.

509. What’s it all about? Philosophy & Language Learning

509. What’s it all about? (Philosophy and Language Learning)

Jose Miguel Carrizo • 20 days ago
I´m glad you chose philosophy as subjet of your podcast. Besides, you made it really amusing. Basically you talked about “how should we live?”. I prefer another topic: “know yourself”. Maybe it could be interesting for another podcast in the future. Cheers from Spain!
By the way, if you could hear my neighbour´s laugh, I bet it would change your mind about the most annoying laugh in the world. And besides he is actually crazy.

510. Philosophy Quiz with Amber & Paul

510. Philosophy Quiz (with Amber & Paul)

No episode is boring,Luke.
Thank you PodPALs, I enjoyed listening and playing same test with you.
I ended up with the same philosophical school of thought, “scepticism”.
When I first listened the episode 509, I was confused and I felt even if it was Japanese, I think I would struggle to understand.
But after the episode 510, 509 is more interesting to listen and I feel easier to understand.
WE NEED both FUN and SERIOUS episodes!

511. My Experiences of (not) Learning French [Part 1]

Sharing my experiences of learning French (or not learning it). My French and Me – How I learned some French as a child and how I’m failing to learn it properly as an adult. Includes conclusions about language learning, immersion and the importance of motivation, habit and simply applying yourself. Notes & transcriptions available. *Includes some swearing and general frustration!

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]


Some rambling about attempting to record while holding the baby, and new content in the LEP app…

In this episode I’m going to talk about my experiences of learning French (or not learning it as the case may be), I’m going to read from an old diary I kept for a while when I was taking some French lessons a few years ago and I’m going to reflect on the things I have done, or more specifically have not done and how these things have affected my progress, or lack of progress, in French.

I hope that you find this interesting and applicable to your experiences of learning English. Perhaps we can use my experiences to consider various things about how we learn languages as adults in classroom environments, using self-guided learning and by being immersed in the culture and language of another country.

I’d like to start the episode by speaking some French. I know you will now be judging me, even if you can’t understand me, but what the hell, here goes – and I’m doing this just as a sort of act of solidarity with those of you who have struggled to express yourself in English. Perhaps you’ll get some comfort in hearing me struggling in another language…

And by the way, if you don’t speak French – keep listening because I will switch back to English in a moment I promise. Perhaps you can just try to work out what I’m saying? Here we go…

*Luke speaks French quite badly*

So that was some of my French. There you go, if you find it tricky sometimes speaking English – I know how you feel, I really do.

Aims for the episode (some are dealt with in part 2)

In this episode I just want to talk about my experiences of learning French, tell you a few stories and use them as a way to consider things like:

  • What it’s like to learn a language in a classroom environment vs learning on your own
  • How to learn a language in a classroom and indeed whether you should study in a group class at all
  • What it’s like to teach language in a classroom environment
  • Just other little things that occurred to me about learning languages during my experiences with French

Backstory: My French and Me – How I learned some French as a child and how I’m failing to learn it properly as an adult

My first words in French on holiday.

I was sent on a mission to the boulangerie to get the bread and stuff for breakfast.

My parents taught me the phrase: “Bonjour, quatre croissants et deux baguettes s’il vous plait!”

The interaction went something like this:

“Bonjour! blah blah blah blah blah?”

“Quatre croissants et deux baguettes s’il vous plait!”

blah blah blah blah blah! Blah blah blah blah blah! *shouting to someone in the back of the boulangerie* BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAAAH BLAAAH!

*Gives money*

Blah blah blah blah!!

*Gives croissants*

“Merci!” *leaves quickly with delicious bread and croissants*

Anything outside this interaction was impossible. E.g. if someone asked a question or did anything else, I’d just look sweetly at the person and perhaps repeat the line.

In a way, not much has changed – I’m still doing it today!

French lessons at school – not really learning anything, feeling awkward, the other kids were hopeless and so was I. I wasn’t in a great class. They streamed you. I should have tried harder because then I would have been in a better class and then I would have learned even more – I’d have been with better kids. All I remember of my French classes at school was mucking about in the language lab recording rude messages over the top of the French tapes, our teacher bringing in a dusty old tape player and listening to dialogues in the street. “Tricolore”

One day the teacher rolled in an old TV and video, and played us a video of young people (13 or 14 years old) of our age socialising. I was horrified. They all dressed like adults and acted like adults. They all kissed each other and brought each other gifts. I feel like they drank wine with lunch but this is just my imagination. It seemed like they were just socialising like a bunch of adults, and it all happened on a Wednesday. It seemed so far from my life where I was incapable of communicating with other kids of my age unless it was via a game of football, piss taking or very awkward giggling and embarrassment, especially if there were girls around. The French kids in this video all seemed so confident, sophisticated and grown up and they felt a billion miles away from us.

It didn’t help also that the sex education videos we watched were French I think (translated into English) again I might have misremembered this I’m not sure, and they showed a French family naked on the beach and that was tremendously awkward. I imagined these French kids just hanging around naked with their family and friends and being so confident and the whole time speaking in this French that made them sound so grown up and scary.

One of the other things I remember from French class was the fact that the other kids misbehaved so much. First of all it was almost impossible for the teacher to get them to actually speak French and I witnessed a number of awkward meltdowns by teachers who just couldn’t hack it. Once, one of the girls at the back of the class (seemed like a trouble maker type girl, and it felt like she was a good 2 years older than me and she probably was in terms of her hormone levels). She pretended to faint in class and there was a big drama with lots of the other girls making a big fuss and the whole class stopped for ages while the teacher attempted to deal with it and obviously didn’t really know what to do and I’m certain the whole thing was fake just so this girl could get out of class, and I even felt that the teacher was playing for time as well because she couldn’t wait for the lesson to end, and the whole time I just sat there and probably talked about Super Mario Brothers with the kid next to me or something, in English.

So, I don’t remember learning much more than “Je m’appelle Luke. J’habite a Solihull. J’ai treize ans. Je joue le football and le babyfoot” etc. Hilarious moments in class were when certain words sounded like something rude in English, notably the words “banque” (sounds like “bonk”) and “piscine” (sounds like “pissing”).

But I came out with a B at GCSE level so I must have been ok. I remember in my spoken interview I felt that I did pretty well. I seem to remember holding down a conversation that wasn’t too bad. I actually feel quite proud of myself.

Then I grew up and decades passed before I had to speak it again.

Now I actually live in France and I feel that I carry so much baggage that holds me back, or maybe that’s just another excuse.

Got together with a French girl. Our relationship is in English.

Moved to France.

Just before I moved, I took conversation classes with colleagues in London.

That helped quite a lot.

What were those classes like?

Who were you with?

What did we do?

Then moved to France

I expected to be able to speak French as a result of just living here. I thought – it’ll happen as a consequence because I will simply have to learn, or being here will mean I’ll just pick it up like magic.

The thing is, I think my life is fixed in a certain way and it doesn’t involve much need for speaking French. As well as that, hand-on-heart – I think my heart isn’t in it. Frankly, I didn’t move here to learn French, I moved here for love – which is probably the most French thing about my life!

But really, I don’t need that much French, or I can get by without it.

There are moments when it would definitely help, and moments when my lack of French reflects really badly on me. But basically I can get by without it and the vast majority of how I live my life is in English.

However – you should know that I am very ashamed of this for lots of reasons, but also because I feel like a hypocrite. I spend most of my time preaching about second language acquisition and I don’t do it myself. I don’t practise what I preach.

Some of you might be thinking “How is it possible that you haven’t learned the language?”

Well, I say “I haven’t learned the language”. I can speak a bit, but my level is nowhere near what it should or could be after 5 years here. I’m genuinely not proud of it and sometimes I feel genuinely bad about it, like when I’m with friends or family who have known me for years now and have seen no development really. I sit there at the dinner table with everyone speaking in French around me and it’s like I’m watching a tennis match, but after a while I have no idea where the ball is any more. I can follow the conversation for an hour maybe, but then my head starts spinning and I just can’t keep up or even stay conscious. It’s terribly exhausting, but nobody seems to really realise. Perhaps they think I’m being modest. Most French people will say “Oh my English is terrible” but then they’re just being modest or something and in fact their English is pretty good on balance. I say “My French is terrible” and they think I’m being modest too, like them, – they think they know what that means, but when I start attempting to say something, they realise and are shocked like “holy shit your French really is terrible!” and I feel like saying – “Yes, I told you!”

Also, Parisians can be very judgemental, I have to be honest. They’re extremely judgemental of each other’s English, and I’m certain they’re judgemental of my French. They can be just very direct and seem to spend a lot of time being brutally frank about things, including their assessments of other people. I just feel like rather a sad case in some people’s eyes. It’s rubbish, I have to tell you. I also believe that some people have no clue who I am. They think I’m this timid guy or something, with no personality – I’m certain. I’m sort of invisible or just one-dimensional. I’m sure of it. So much of who I am is connected to my understatement, sarcasm, irony, humour and general ironic detachment from everything – and all those things are communicated in my subtle use of language in English. In French I am just a completely one-dimensional person, and that one dimension is a kind of 14-year-old who hasn’t developed a personality yet. I’m basically my 14-year-old self, surrounded by all these very confident and well-dressed French kids in that video except that we’re all adults.

Imposter syndrome – yep. Then we speak English and it’s better, but I feel a bit bad about speaking English so I don’t really let go in that situation either.

I’m making it sound worse than it is – I have lots of French friends now that know me well and I am myself with them, but sometimes I get stuck at a party or at a dinner and it is exactly as I’ve described it.

I have lots of excuses.

Like I’ve said before “My French isn’t very good, but my excuses are improving all the time.” I’m fluent in excuses.

I don’t want to make excuses for what I consider to be a lack of French, but I can give reasons why my French hasn’t improved as much as I want.

I’m wary of doing this, because frankly I think it will make me look bad, especially considering how I often give advice on language learning. But perhaps there will be some of you out there who take some comfort in hearing me talk about my hangups, failures and general rubbishness in language learning. As a learner (or non-learner) of French, let me tell you – I’d love to hear other people’s stories of how they struggle. It would bring me a lot of comfort to know that there are other people out there like me who feel generally awful about their language learning. We so often hear from successful language learners, who deliver their advice like a sales pitch for how to learn a language and although I know there’s a lot of great advice in there, sometimes it feels a bit sickening to hear about other people’s great successes in language learning. I personally want to hear about people who are crap at learning languages, or at least crap at applying themselves. That would make me feel better.

So in that spirit let me talk about doing all the wrong things in learning French.

The first wrong thing is to make loads of excuses, which is what I’m going to do now.

By the way, there’s a difference between an excuse and a reason. A reason is why something happened or didn’t happen. An excuse is also a reason but it also is a way of passing the blame onto something else, or a way to avoid taking responsibility.

Here are my excuses, which ultimately are my ways of avoiding my personal responsibility for learning French, but perhaps they’re also legitimate reasons…

I think, ultimately, it comes down to motivation. Clearly I’m not that motivated to learn the language. Even though I live here, I have to go out of my way to learn the language, and the fact that I don’t makes me feel bad because I’m basically not adapting to my host culture properly.

But, I feel I should at least list some of the reasons why my French hasn’t improved as much as it should – just to get them out-of-the-way. But I realise they are all excuses.

As a teacher I feel added pressure to be an excellent language learner, and I hardly ever meet my own high standards. A lot of my friends who learned French didn’t have that expectation. They were just young and living in Paris and it happened as a consequence of their whole journey of discovery here.

I live in an English-speaking bubble – I work in English, I speak English at home, I listen to English podcasts (there are so many that I can’t give up), I watch YouTube in English, I do stand-up in English, I do LEP in English, in fact I find that I am often studying English when I prepare for lessons or do other language work in preparation for teaching or content creating
My world is predominantly in English but this doesn’t mean I have no interactions with French people. I regularly interact with local people but it often happens in English!

People’s level of English is often better than my French, so they automatically switch to English. This includes waiters, people in the street, and also people at parties etc.

Sometimes people speak good English to me, but they say their English is no good. A lot of French people are hung up about their English and are convinced they’re no good, but they’re capable of having a conversation quite confidently, but they talk about their lack of English and there’s a lot of competition here. People are very competitive about it but also quite modest, or perhaps self-critical. Then I say that my French is no good and I think they assume I mean the same thing – that it’s just not excellent. They assume that, but the fact is I really mean it! My French is no good! Then it’s embarrassing when they really hear it.

Once at a party a guy I was talking to said to me “You need to start speaking French, ok? So, don’t talk to me until you’ve learned French. He just walked away from me and left me standing on my own at this party. I felt terrible – both because of my shitty French, but also because the guy was a dick head.”

I really shouldn’t feel like this – but I often feel really ashamed and embarrassed about my level of French. This means I end up in a vicious cycle of having an embarrassing experience or a failure, and then feeling bad, and that affects my confidence, which leads to more failures – because you have to be confident to communicate well.

I actually think I’m quite a wordy person. I tend to ramble a bit and sometimes I don’t get straight to the point. In French I can’t do this, so I find it hard to really be myself. I still haven’t found myself in French yet. I feel like every time I open my mouth, I just make things more complicated and I bring more problems, because people misunderstand and misinterpret.

That’s just shyness and social awkwardness though, and I must not let that get the better of me.

People want to practise their English and they want to be nice, so we switch to English.

My wife often helps me when I need help. She’s nice like that, but it means that I don’t face the sort of ‘survival challenges’ that are necessary for developing in the second language.
I’m not making time for moments of French in my daily routine. I already feel like I have too many things to do and so I don’t fit French into my life. It’s the same with sport. I don’t do any because I think “when the hell am I going to do it?” God knows what will happen when my daughter arrives on the scene. In terms of language learning – people tell me I’ll learn because I’ll have to do more things in French for her. But also I just wonder if there’ll be any time for anything.

Note to self: Don’t be negative!!!

More excuses:
Paris is a very busy place and I feel people are impatient and even judgemental. This adds pressure to me. I feel like such a dumbass when I speak French and some people don’t always react in the way I need them to – there’s not that much sympathy and I feel they’re just thinking – oh god you’re mangling my language, let’s just speak English. Again: These are 100% excuses and I know it.
I am very good at speaking English to non-natives and they usually understand me really well, and so it’s just much easier to talk in English! Their English has to be pretty bad for French to be the choice of language!
I am a lazy student. I don’t really do any studying – I have done some but I found it to be impenetrable and frustrating. I used to do conjugation exercises in a big book but I found it hideously dull and boring. For example, I found the example sentences and gap fills frustrating because the sentences were so stupid and idiotic. I feel like a terrible person right now.
Sometimes the fact that English is the global language and most people can speak it and want to learn it – this frankly works against me and I will only learn French if I really go out of my way to learn it, even though I am living in the country itself.

I could go on but I won’t…

What my situation proves is this:

Unless you apply yourself to the task, you won’t learn a language, even if you live in a country where that language is spoken. This contradicts the old adage that immersion alone is the path to fluency in another language. Applying yourself to the language really means being prepared to spend time with that language – consuming it and producing it – either by studying it or by engaging in communication with it. If you don’t apply yourself properly, it won’t happen.

There are three important factors, which you have to have in place to learn a language. Simply living in the country where they speak that language is not enough unless you have these three factors involved.

Motivation – the desire to learn it which drives your behaviour, your curiosity, your patience and your will to continue practising and overcoming obstacles. Motivation is vital. It could be short-term motivation – like, you work as a waiter in French and you just have to understand people or you will have a miserable time – on a daily basis. So, the motivation to just get some control over the panic in every moment of the day. Or it could be a more long-term sort of motivation, which is usually the idea that you’re learning the language because you want to have it as part of your identity. You’re just drawn to it because you simply want to be a person who can speak that language.

Habits – regular practice and contact with the language. The longer and more frequent the better. Also, a certain organised approach to keeping a record of what you’ve learned, and measuring your goals and your progress.

Resources – these are the things that can help you – text books, reading books, listening materials, also people who you can talk to.

It does depend on the person too, I think. I believe some people just soak up the language – but this is down to motivation a lot of the time. The ones who soak up the language and just learn it through contact and immersion seem to be the ones who just enjoy exploring this world of the second language and who embrace their new life in a second language. I haven’t embraced my “french side”.

Perhaps I need a structured system – a regular study plan that I can apply. E.g. working through coursebooks or simply reading and listening to dialogues and doing exercises.

But ultimately motivation is the main one. If you’re motivated – you’ll actually do things to improve your level. I just don’t do enough things. I don’t apply myself. My excuse: I’m just too caught up in my world of English.

These three things (motivation, habits, resources) may be the most important factors for learning a language. Motivation is probably the big one. If you really want to learn a language, you will.

If you’re not that bothered about learning it, you won’t learn it – even if you live surrounded by that language.

So I suppose that I feel bad because my lack of French seems to suggest that I don’t care about it. That makes me feel bad because I don’t want people to think that I don’t care, or that I’m not invested in the country where I live, or that I’m not integrating with the culture. I feel bad that ultimately I’m not learning French because I just don’t care about it. I’m a bit conflicted about this. I think I do care of course, but perhaps not enough to actually do anything about it. Habit is involved here too though, because I think it’s a question of changing certain things in my lifestyle – like, basically, including some French practice into my lifestyle on a daily basis – but it’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime.

I think it is a vicious cycle.

If I don’t learn the language, I can’t appreciate the culture properly and I get alienated, and if I can’t appreciate the culture properly, I can’t really learn the language because I’m alienated from it. Add a sense of shame and the fact that I really should be a better learner because I’ve been a language teacher for a long time – the result is a bit of a mess in my head, and it all blocks my ability to learn French.

I’m also quite modest. I’m probably beating myself up a bit and I’m not utterly hopeless or anything. But my honest assessment is that I’m far from good enough especially after having lived here surrounded by French people for a few years. I think I’m A2/B1. I’m only capable of limited conversations about familiar things. I need help and patience from the person I’m talking to. I frequently come across moments where I just can’t carry on because I didn’t understand something or because I don’t have the words. I can follow a group conversation for about 20 minutes but then I get lost. Honest assessment – Pre-intermediate. Intermediate on a good day. Strengths – listening, reading, general communicative competence (all my other things are good – active listening, body language, I’m very aware of what makes a good communicator – I’m a reactive person and I’m not completely stupid). Weaknesses – speaking (fluency, accuracy, vocabulary range, pronunciation, grammatical accuracy) writing – no idea how to spell a lot of what I’m hearing, for example. Sometimes I can’t distinguish a phrase from a single word. I’m illiterate, basically! I feel like I have a similar level of intelligence as a really clever ape (like a particularly gifted chimp) or an average 4-year-old child.

Also, being a language teacher myself might actually exacerbate the problem. I’m so aware of what I should be doing, of how far I have to go, how much work I need to be doing, that I’m just defeated before I’ve even started. I’m essentially just down at the foot of the mountain, running around doing lots of things, constantly aware of the mountain looming above me and how much climbing I have to do.

Alright this isn’t supposed to be some sort of self-flagellation session or a confessional. Let me get on to those classroom experiences I was supposed to be talking about.

In Part 2:

  • Reading from the diary I wrote while taking French classes a few years ago.
  • Learning language in the classroom vs on your own.

Thanks for listening!

I might be able to respond to your comments in part 2 so go ahead and write your thoughts and questions.



510. Philosophy Quiz (with Amber & Paul)

In this episode you can listen to Amber, Paul and me as we take an online quiz and try to find out what school of philosophical thought we belong to. Are we empiricists, epicurianists, existentialists, hedonists, humanists, platonists, skeptics or stoicists? Listen on to find out more and to hear a full-on discussion of life, the universe and everything.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Click here for the philosophy quiz.

In this episode you can listen to Amber, Paul and me as we take an online quiz and try to find out what school of philosophical thought we belong to. Are we empiricists, epicurianists, existentialists, hedonists, humanists, platonists, skeptics or stoicists? Listen on to find out more and to hear a full-on discussion of life, the universe and everything.

If all those terms are completely new to you (empiricists, epicurianists, existentialists, hedonists, humanists, platonists, skeptics or stoicists), don’t worry. I don’t expect you to be an expert in philosophy or anything – but this can be a good way to practise listening to a slightly complex discussion in English.

I expect those terms aren’t completely new to you actually, because I’m assuming that you listened to the previous episode of this podcast, although it’s entirely likely that some of you have skipped that episode and jumped straight to this one because you were attracted by the prospect of listening to Amber & Paul on the podcast again.

You might have thought “meh, I’ll skip that one about philosophy and language and I’ll hurl myself towards this new Amber & Paul episode instead.”

Well, allow me to gently guide you back towards episode 509 at this moment because in that episode I explained what those types of philosophy involve, using various examples including how they relate to language learning. So I highly recommend that you listen to the previous episode if you want some explanations and general clarification of some of the concepts involved. It’ll help you to make sense of this episode a bit more, I promise.

And I think the combination of this episode and the last episode should be quite useful for understanding not just the general concepts we’re discussing but also for your English too. So, as you listen watch out for some of the ideas that I was talking about in the last episode.

Often, understanding something you’re listening to is a question of familiarity with the general subject. If you just listen to this conversation without hearing episode 509 (or without having general knowledge of philosophy – which admittedly some of you might have anyway), the topic area might be unfamiliar to you because it’s not every day that we talk about how we understand the meaning of life is it?

So listening to the previous episode could help you get more familiar with the topic and that will make this episode so much more accessible, the things you’ll hear will be a bit easier to understand and it should reinforce some of the language and terms that come up in the conversation and that should all lead to a more effective and satisfying listening and learning experience.

Are you convinced? Yes? You’ve already heard episode 509? Just get on with it? OK then…

So, in this episode you’ll hear Amber, Paul and me discussing the questions in a quiz that I found on Facebook, called “Which Philosophical School of Thought Do You Fall Into?” and generally talking about our approaches to life in general.

You can take the quiz with us if you like. You’ll find the link on the page of course. Click the link and follow the quiz with us. You can read the questions and different options that we’re discussing. You might need to pause the podcast in order to consider your answers on your own before hearing what we say and which options we choose.


Or you can just listen along without looking at the quiz – it’s up to you of course. You have free will don’t you? Or do you? Maybe all of this is predetermined either genetically, socially or as part of some divine plan by an intelligent (or perhaps not so intelligent) creator.

Now, I would like to just share some concerns with you at this point. I have a few concerns, and here they are.

I recorded this a few months ago and I’ve been sitting on it ever since. Not literally. I mean I’ve just been holding on to the recording, and wondering what to do with it. The reason for that is that, the conversation didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned or hoped. What I planned and hoped was that taking this quiz with my mates Amber & Paul could be a fun and clear way to explore some philosophical concepts for you my audience of learners of English. But what actually happened, as you’ll hear, is that we got quite frustrated by the way the quiz was written. These quizzes are always a bit annoying aren’t they? You always notice the flaws in the questioning and you wonder how accurate they will be. This quiz is no exception. Frankly, the questions and options don’t make complete sense – they’re quite vague and conceptual and you’ll hear that we spend quite a lot of time just trying to work out what each question actually means. There’s a lot of us interpreting the quiz itself, rather than discussing the philosophy.

On balance I’ve decided it’s still worth listening to, but I just want you to know that I know that it might be quite a heavy conversation for you to contend with. Of course, abstract stuff is harder to follow than down-to-earth stuff. I’m just saying – if you get overwhelmed by this one, then don’t worry – I am aware of that. I don’t mean to underestimate you, but there it is. Anyway, I’m just saying – I know that this is pretty complicated stuff, but I think you should listen to it anyway because ultimately we do finish the quiz and we do find out what school of philosophy we all belong to. It will really help if you take the quiz with us, so do get your phone out and click the link on the page or just google “which school of philosophy do you fall into?” and if you’re walking along in the street while listening to this and you’re looking at your smartphone please be careful where you are walking because I don’t want you to be doing a different quiz later, called “which hole in the street did you fall into?”


We did this recording at my place and Amber’s young son Hugo was there in the background watching “Andy’s Wild Adventures” which is a CBeebies TV show (BBC for kids). I realise that you can hear the TV in the background a bit. I don’t think it’s too disturbing, but you can hear it a bit. I don’t expect you’ll mind, but remember that I don’t record this podcast in a studio, so sometimes there might be the noise of real life going on around us.

Of course we kept an eye on Hugo during the conversation and every now and then we had to pause the podcast just to check up on him and so Amber could respond to him when he sometimes said “Mummy!”, which you might hear sometimes.

So, I just wanted to explain some of the background noises you might hear while you’re listening to this.

OK then, so get the quiz ready on your phone or computer – the link is on the page for this episode, or just search for “What school of Philosophical Thought Do You Fall In?” – and get ready for some philosophical ramblings from 3 people who quite possibly don’t really know what they’re talking about!

Alright, no more faffing about. Let’s go…!


I told you it was a heavy one didn’t I?

Are you ok? Are you still alive?

If you found that conversation difficult to follow and yet you are still listening, I just want to say “Well done” for staying the distance and sticking with it. Some people didn’t, they didn’t get here, and frankly they are just weak, generally weaker and will probably die out in the next evolutionary stage, so there. I don’t mean to say that you should feel glad that some members of our species just won’t make it, but rather that you can feel good that you’ll survive. I’m talking nonsense here of course.

Please, leave us your comments. What’s up with you? What are you thinking? What’s going on in your brain-head? We would like to know, and when I say “we” I mean the collective consciousness and the entire human race on a metaphysical level, not just me and the other members of the comment section crew.

Basically, write something in the comment section and express yourself in English!

The podcast will be back, doing it to your eardrums soon. Thanks for listening and take it easy out there in pod-land.

6 quick things left to say:

  1. Get the LEP App – it’s free and there is cool stuff in it that you can’t get anywhere else. All the cool kids are using it.
  2. Sign up to the mailing list to get email notifications of new stuff on the website, like all the cool kids do.
  3. Give yourself another slap on the back for getting this far.
  4. Write something in the comment section, and that includes just the word “something” if you  like.
  5. Check out my sponsor italki for some one-to-one lessons and the chance to talk about whatever you want with your own teacher or conversation partner. www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk
  6. Consider sending me a donation by clicking a donate button on the website. It would be a sincere and practical way to thank me for my continuing efforts to help you with your English in many real ways.Small Donate Button


Take care and for now – bye!!!

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

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

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other episodes dealing with Narrative Verb Tenses in more detail

29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses 

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

176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review 

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

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

The Six Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

Listen to readings of “If—” by Rudyard Kipling, a popular poem from England. Includes analysis of the vocabulary and the themes in the poem and also a chance to enjoy the unique voice of Sir Michael Caine – with some funny impressions too. Transcript, vocabulary and videos available.


Episode Transcript


Hello, here’s an episode of the podcast devoted to one of the UK’s favourite poems.

I thought it was about time we looked at some poetry on the podcast. I was wondering which poem I could look at. In the end I’ve chosen one that is popular with lots of people in the UK. Sometimes poetry is a bit complicated and highbrow, but this particular poem is pretty clear and not too challenging or anything, while also touching upon ideas that most people can relate to. So I think it’s probably a good one for us to do.

We’re going to listen to the poem, understand the vocabulary used, and talk about the general meaning of the poem too.

You’ll also be able to listen to the voice of Michael Caine, and hear some Michael Caine impressions too.

The poem in question is called “If -” by Rudyard Kipling. That’s it… “If -“.

It has been voted the UK’s favourite poem in a number of polls done by the BBC. So, let’s listen to this much loved poem being read out by a couple of different people and then analyse the lines for their full meaning and pick up some vocabulary in the process.

“If-” by Rudyard Kipling

“If—” is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling (a nobel laureate is someone who won the nobel prize for their poetry). The poem was written in 1895 and was first published in 1910.

It is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet’s son. You can imagine that the poet is talking to his son about life and teaching him what it means to be a man.

Grammatically, it’s basically one huge ‘if clause’ with each line beginning with the word ‘if’ and then concluding at the end of the poem. It might actually be the world’s longest conditional sentence – “if you do this and this and this, then eventually, this will happen”. Like, “If you do plenty of practice, stay motivated and don’t give up then eventually you’ll be a fluent English speaker.”

As poetry, “If—” is a literary example of the principles of Victorian-era stoicism. This is a set of attutides that became popular in the UK during the Victorian period. By stoicism I mean a kind of attitude and approach to life that involves being tolerant of difficulty, showing a sort of calm self-discipline, having control over your emotions, being patient, accepting difficulty and having a quiet determination to just keep calm and carry on. It could also be described as the principle of “stiff upper lip”, which British people often consider to be a national virtue. If your upper lip is stiff, or firm, I suppose it means that you have your emotions under control.

Often Brits will talk about how they are proud to be tolerant (not just of things like cultural differences, but of difficulty, discomfort and hardship) and I think we quite like the idea that we are in control of our emotions because it shows strength of character. This is what “If–” is about and because of this, the poem remains a cultural touchstone in the UK.

We’re not always self controlled of course. You can’t generalise. There are times when Brits intentionally lose all self-control – like when they get drunk on a Friday night or when they go on holiday to Majorca or something, and get drunk there. Those moments seem to be like time off from being self-controlled. Also, these days, I think British people are more in touch with their emotions than they used to be.

But this poem is all about the side of the British personality that is all about quiet strength, fair play and not losing your head in a crisis.

It is also like a of self-help mantra which inspires people to try and do the right thing and probably gives people some inspiration for living your life correctly and dealing with times of difficulty.

For these reasons it’s often voted one of the UK’s favourite poems.

Listen to Academy Award winning actor Michael Caine reading the poem

Listen to Michael Caine reading the poem. All the sentences start with IF – how do you think the poem will end.

If you’re already familiar with the poem, you can just enjoy the voice one of our favourite actors. Michael Caine

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling

(video below)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

The audio comes from a YouTube video uploaded by Peace One Day www.peaceoneday.org/

Peace One Day is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1999. In 2001 due to their efforts the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on 21 September – Peace Day.

Peace One Day’s objective is to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September, making it a day that is self-sustaining, an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.

I guess these ideas are universal and this applies to everyone facing the challenges of life.

Girls – I hope you can relate to this too, even though he says “…and you’ll be a man my son”.

Read it again and analyse the words

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you’re in a stressful situation in which everyone else is losing their heads and saying it’s your fault, but you stay cool and stay in control…

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Everyone doubts you but you trust yourself, but you still consider their doubts in you – you don’t ignore them

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, (patience is a virtue)
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

other people are lying about you, but you manage to avoid lying

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

others hate you, and you feel pressure to hate them too, but you resist that pressure and don’t give in to hatred, or give way to hatred – don’t let hatred come in – it’s sounding a bit like the Jedi code here

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

stay modest in your appearance, and also don’t talk like you know it all

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

have dreams, ambitions and ideas but keep them in perspective so you’re not just a dreamer but someone who is still practical and pragmatic – a doer not just a dreamer

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

you can be thoughtful, but manage to actually do things rather than just thinking about things all the time

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

don’t let success go to your head, but don’t let failure get you down either – an imposter is something or someone who is not welcome or someone who is pretending to be someone else – e.g. someone who claims to be an experienced pilot and fakes their ID, or someone in a hospital who claims to be a doctor but isn’t

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

if you can stand having your words manipulated by dishonest people – e.g. in the press or in a court of law) (to bear something = to tolerate something) (twisted = changed, distorted, manipulated) (knaves = dishonest and untrustworthy people, it’s an old fashioned word)

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools:

see your life’s work, ruined and then just start again even though the tools you’re using are damaged by lots of use

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

(you take a big pile of all the money you’ve won and risk it all on one go – if you’re willing to take big risks) (a game of pitch-and-toss is an old gambling game in which you ‘pitch’ a coin – throw it – towards a mark on the ground. The one who gets closest to the mark wins the right to ‘toss’ all the coins which have been thrown. To toss means ‘throw’ but specifically to ‘toss a coin’ means to throw it up so it spins and then lands. If you win you can toss all the coins and you can keep all the ones that land with the heads facing up” – so basically, if you can win loads of money and then risk it all on one game…

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

and then lose but just start again from scratch

And never breathe a word about your loss;

and never tell anyone you lost – that would be hard!

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,

even when you’re exhausted you keep going and force your body to keep going, sinew = tendons, ligaments

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

so, just using your willpower you force your muscles, heart, ligaments to resist and keep going

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

if you can stay honest and moral even when you have the attention of a crowd of people – e.g. you might feel pressure to lie, bend the truth, tell them what they want to hear. Virtue = doing and thinking what is morally right. Adj – virtuous.

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch

if you spend time with rich and powerful people but never lose touch with ordinary life and people

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

Foes = enemies. You’re not affected by criticism or praise.

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you value everyone equally. Everyone counts – everyone is important.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

if you can make the most of every single minute – the unforgiving minute means 60 seconds, no more no less. So, if you have the strength, stamina and determination to do your absolute best in every second of every minute

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Hear Michael Caine’s thoughts on it from the recording

If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.

Films can be either successful or failures. You have to be able to deal with both outcomes.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

When you’re a famous actor the press sometimes takes your words and uses them against you – especially the tabloid press.

He also says that war ruins everything. Also, every single war has been declared by men who are too old to go, and this has made him suspicious.

Impressions of Michael Caine’s Voice

Michael Caine’s voice. It’s quite distinctive. He comes from the East End of London – so it’s a cockney accent, basically – not very strong, but it is there. Also, his voice is unique (just like everyone’s voice is unique) and quite well-known. It’s so well-known that he is one of those actors that lots of people can impersonate, like Sean Connery.

How Michael Caine Speaks

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off! (The Italian Job)

Batman – The Dark Knight Rises “I won’t bury you”

Vocabulary Review

  • keep your head (stay calm, stay in control!)
  • Don’t lose your head (don’t lose self control)
  • (Don’t) Blame it on someone (it was his fault, he did it!)
  • To have doubts (silent letter)
  • Make allowance for something / take something into account (include something in your decision making process – e.g. when I plan lessons I have to make allowances for the fact that students come from different countries and cultural backgrounds)
  • Don’t give way to hatred/anger/frustration = yield, give in (Star Wars)
    (Star Wars: don’t give in to hatred)
  • To be wise / to have wisdom (e.g. Yoda, Gandalf, Dumbledore, ObiWan Kenobi – most old dudes with grey hair and beards)
  • Keep something in perspective (think about things in a reasonable way – e.g. Let’s get things in perspective / let’s keep things in perspective. Sure, we’re locked up in a Turkish jail, but at least we have each other! It’s not that bad! OK bad example. The doctor says I have a 1 in 200 chance of survival!!! Oh shit!!! Wait, let’s keep things in perspective. 1 in 200 is really quite good, and you’re quite young and in good shape. Don’t panic.)
  • Treat someone/something like something (Don’t treat me like an idiot Tony!)
  • Impostors = people who fake their identity in order to get in somewhere. “I felt like an imposter” (common usage) I think it’s quite common for us to feel like an imposter if we feel we don’t deserve the success we’ve had, or when we are in a situation that we don’t deserve to be in, because we feel inferior. Have you ever felt like that? You’re in a situation, you look around and everyone seems so impressive. They’re all so clever and have achieved so much and you feel like you’re not as good as them, and you’re not worthy to be there. You feel like an imposter. It’s a common feeling. I think this might be the situation in which the word “imposter” is most commonly used today, other than when someone has intentionally sneaked into a place by lying.
    If you have ever felt like that, here’s a nice little anecdote from Neil Gaiman – a great author of short fiction novels, comic books and graphic novels.
  • This is from an article I found on Quartz.com and it quotes Neil Gaiman from his Tumblr page. qz.com/984070/neil-gaiman-has-the-perfect-anecdote-for-anyone-with-impostors-syndrome/
    Neil was asked if he had any advice for people experiencing imposter syndrome – that feeling of being an imposter.
    Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
    On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while some musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
    And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
    And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.
    So, there you go – even Neil Armstrong feels like an imposter, and so does Neil Gaiman and many other people who’ve done good things.
    How about you? Do you ever feel like an imposter?
  • Bear to do something / bear to hear your words twisted (I just can’t bear to see him like this)
  • To stoop (bend down)
  • To build something up (create something from the bottom up)
  • A heap of something (a pile)
  • Winnings (all the stuff you won)
  • Don’t breathe a word (don’t reveal a secret)
  • Virtue / virtuous (opposites = dishonor, evil, immorality)
  • The common touch (the ability to appeal to ordinary people)
  • Friend / Foe
  • Count (v) (all opinions count, every second counts) = to have merit, importance, value, etc.; deserve consideration

Finally, listen to Dave Bassett doing it in a scouse accent

I did an episode a while ago called “The Chaos of English Pronunciation” which included a couple of poems which are full of notoriously difficult words to pronounce in English. You can find that episode in the archive. It’s number 144

144. The Chaos of English Pronunciation

Thanks for listening!

504. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 2)

Continuing to talk about the latest Star Wars film at length(!) – going through the storyline and giving my thoughts on the characters, events and the audience backlash. Transcript available below.


Transcript (95% complete)

OK, so if you check the length of this episode you’ll see it’s more than 2 hours long – Yes, this is definitely the longest episode of LEP I’ve ever done! And this is part 2 of a double episode. If you put parts 1 and 2 together that adds up to nearly 3.5 hours of me talking about Star Wars The Last Jedi. Added to that, the next episode will also be about Star Wars – and that will be a conversation between my dad, my brother and me. So, this has become something of a Star Wars marathon on Luke’s English Podcast. Those of you who are fans of Star Wars will probably be happy about that! Those of you who aren’t interested in Star Wars, or if you just think this film completely sucks – of course you could just skip this episode – I’ll be uploading more non-Star Wars episodes soon, I promise. OK, so strap in then, let’s embark on part 2 of this epic Star Wars themed episode…

Transcript – 504. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 2) PDF

Transcript (95% complete)

OK, so if you check the length of this episode you’ll see it’s more than 2 hours long – Yes, this is definitely the longest episode of LEP I’ve ever done! And this is part 2 of a double episode. If you put parts 1 and 2 together that adds up to nearly 3.5 hours of me talking about Star Wars The Last Jedi. Added to that, the next episode will also be about Star Wars – and that will be a conversation between my dad, my brother and me. So, this has become something of a Star Wars marathon on Luke’s English Podcast. Those of you who are fans of Star Wars will probably be happy about that! Those of you who aren’t interested in Star Wars, or if you just think this film completely sucks – of course you could just skip this episode – I’ll be uploading more non-Star Wars episodes soon, I promise. OK, so strap in then, let’s embark on part 2 of this epic Star Wars themed episode.

Hi, welcome back to the podcast. This is part 2 of a double episode I’m doing about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In this one I’m going to continue going through the storyline of the film and giving my thoughts and feelings about the characters and events. I thought I’d be able to do all of this in one episode but I have got a bit carried away so I’ve split it into 2 parts.

You should listen to part 1 before listening to this…

If you’re not a fan of Star Wars you could just skip this one. I’m recording it really for the people who’ve seen the film.

Spoiler alert – I’m revealing lots of details about the film, so you should wait until you have seen the film before you listen to this.

There is a script for most of what I’m saying on the episode page on my website so you can read along while listening, or just check for certain words and phrases that you’ll hear me use.

If you’re listening in the LEP app, just click the link for the episdoe page in the episode description – that will allow you to read the script while you’re listening.

After this episode there will be another one about Star Wars – and that will be a chat with my brother and my Dad that I recorded just after we all saw the film together about a week ago.

I realise I’m devoting quite a lot of podcast time to this new film – but I just really enjoy talking about it right at this moment

and as far as I’m concerned that’s enough of a reason for me to do this on the podcast.

Don’t worry, I won’t be doing Star Wars forever of course and we’ll get back to other topics and themes on the podcast soon.

OK then, so I expect the ones still listening to this are the Star Wars fans – so, let’s now continue where I left off.

I was describing that moment when General Leia gets blasted into space when the bridge of her ship gets blown up.

I said that this is quite a controversial scene…

I admit that this scene is weird and we’ve never seen this before in a Star Wars film, but I really don’t think it’s as bad or ridiculous as some people think.

So, Leia is hanging in space in zero gravity after the bridge of her ship has been blown up. She’s hanging in zero gravity. Apparently now we have zero gravity in space. Now – there is no consistency regarding the science in these films as we’ve seen already many times. This is not science fiction – there doesn’t need to be consistent, logical physics. This is a film series in which there are explosions in space, a huge planet sized space station that blows things up with lazers and a mystical force that allows people to control minds, lift objects and even project lightning from their fingers.

In this particular scene. The science serves the characters, the action and the plot, and it can be bent this way and that. We are supposed to just suspend our disbelief and go with the vague rules of this universe. In this case, in this scene, there is zero gravity in space and so Leia is just hanging there. It seems that her skin maybe beginning to freeze, which is what would happen in space I suppose.

She looks dead.

But then her fingers twitch and her eyelids open. When I saw this I immediately thought – she’s using the force to keep herself alive. It’s a survival thing. Then she extends her arm and floats back towards the ship.

Some people say she flies and they get very angry and upset saying “The force doesn’t let you fly”. Well – first of all, she’s not flying – she’s floating through zero gravity.

It wouldn’t require much force power to do that, right? There’s no atmosphere or gravity so it just requires a little bit of force power to pull herself back to the ship.

Also, we know that Leia is force sensitive but up until this point her power has just been to communicate with Luke through the force, to feel and sense things through the force and perhaps the suggestion that she’s been influencing events through the force for a while – like perhaps helping that bomber in the opening battle sequence, and influencing Kylo’s decision not to attack the fleet and so on.

So she has the force but she’s never used it to her full potential. It’s not hard to imagine that in a crucial moment like this that she’d be capable of keeping herself alive and pulling herself back to the ship through zero gravity.

We see this slightly odd, yet strangely beautiful image of Leia floating through space in the middle of a battle. It’s eerie and we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Again, a lot of people hate this scene, but I think they’re being a bit hysterical.

This has never happened before – it’s not consistent!

Yep, well a lot of people complained about episode 7 because it contained nothing new.

This is something new and it’s not completely far fetched. She’s not flying, she’s floating in zero gravity. Leia can’t fly ok? She’s not superwoman. It’s zero gravity. She’s just floating.

So, I’m fine with this scene, but only fine with it.

They could have done this differently.
Other criticisms of this scene include the fact that Leia uses the force here just to save herself, other characters die and she could have saved them.

Well, let’s face it – this film is all about breaking away from the old stuff and that means that some of the old characters have to die, and that includes someone like Admiral Akhbar- the guy who looks like a fish.

I’m not that bothered that Akbar is gone. I liked him – I had the Admiral Akbar toy when I was a child, but it’s fine – we can let him go. These are tragic events.

But maybe she could have used the force differently – like perhaps she could have somehow contained the explosion and held the bridge together – but that surely would have taken much more force strength and ability. I reckon keeping herself alive and then floating back to the ship is consistent with the fact that she’s never fully trained or developed her force abilities.

This moment is also weird and spooky considering the fact that we all know that Carrie Fisher died just after making this film. Here in the film we see her character apparently die, but then her eyes open and she makes a miraculous recovery. I find this spooky and odd, but it doesn’t make me angry or make me want to throw my toys out of the pram and weep for the death of Star Wars. That’s a bit hysterical.

Also, there’s a sense that in the negative reaction to this scene (and to quite a lot of the rest of the film) there’s a bit of sexism going on. Perhaps people just don’t like the idea of a woman flying. I know one person in particular who expressed this opinion – like “What, women can fly now?” “Women can do anything in movies now – this is ridiculous – it’s just rampant feminism”.

Again, that seems like a slightly hysterical reaction. How many times have we seen flying men in movies? How many times are male heroes celebrated by seeing them fly through the air? Tons of times. Superman, Batman (alright he doesn’t fly but almost) Iron Man, Spiderman, Thor and tons of others. Nobody complains about flying men, it happens all the time and it’s not going to stop happening. Then we get one flying woman (who isn’t even flying) and some people throw their toys out of the pram and start complaining about rampant feminism. It’s not the end of the world.

Some people might say – but it’s not consistent with the films. I’d say – yes it is consistent – she’s using her latent force abilities to briefly preserve her life and to pull herself back to the ship.

You might disagree with me on this one – because it’s a really divisive moment in the film and I think a lot of people just couldn’t handle it and this was the moment when they just gave up on the film. If that’s you – write your thoughts in the comment section. What exactly is wrong with this moment? Put your thoughts into words. I’ve given you my point of view, why not give me yours?

So, Leia gets back to the ship and is in a coma. She’s replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo.

Ahch-To – Luke & Rey

Words I used to describe Luke Skywalker:

  • grisled
  • haggard
  • he looks like a wizened old hermit

Luke chucks the lightsaber away.

I was really shocked – gobsmacked. My jaw dropped at this moment.

I was expecting him to refuse the lightsaber but I didn’t expect him to do that, but I went with it.

I was shocked but I went with it.

This is another one of those moments that’s a deal breaker for a lot of people. Some people see Luke throw the light sabre over his shoulder and they find it to be a fundamental problem.

I can understand that. I think it seems a bit dismissive and casual, but this is where Luke is as a character in the story. He has been on this island for god knows how long and he’s utterly lost faith in the Jedi and in the so-called myth of Luke Skywalker. He doesn’t believe in these symbols any more and he has no time for people who expect him to live up to the legend of Luke Skywalker and that’s because at one point he believed in his own legend himself and as a result of that he thought he could do more than he could and this ended in complete failure. He couldn’t live up to all the expectations that he even had of himself.

Some people say this is not consistent with Luke’s character, but I say – why not? Why can’t Luke have gone in this direction in the 30 years since Return of the Jedi?

I found it really interesting that Luke had undergone such dramatic and traumatic changes since episode 6.

Luke’s character in this film is about learning from failure, about being fallible, about struggling with expectations, about the legacy of the Jedi, about the heavy burden that is being the last jedi.

In this film they could have made Luke a massively powerful hero who takes on the First Order armed only with his laser sword, but instead they went for a more complex study of a man who has failed, isolated himself and then slowly comes to terms with what it means to be a myth and how he can use this to do powerful things.

Rey hangs around but Luke refuses to talk to her.

We get some scenes which show Luke’s weird and eccentric lifestyle on the island. He fishes for massive fish in the sea, he lives among the porgs, he even drinks milk from the breast of some kind of weird sea mammal. Not directly from the breast, but he fills a flask with green milk that he gets from the breast of a weird creature that looks a bit like a walrus or something. He then drinks the milk and it drips down his beard, and he stares at Rey while doing this, looking pleased with himself. He’s being purposefully disgusting, and Rey thinks it’s weird.

The green milk scene is another controversial one – controversial meaning that it has split opinions. Some people say this kind of thing has no place in Star Wars and that the humour didn’t really work.

Personally I was fine with it. Both times I saw this in the cinema I was one of the only ones laughing at this moment.

I don’t mind a bit of weird humour and I think Star Wars has always featured this kind of thing.

For example – Jabba The Hutt is a weird creepy slug which licks its slimy lips in a really creepy way when looking at female characters, and there are plenty of other weird moments in the original trilogy. None of them are as blatant as this, but it’s not a complete departure from the world of Star Wars in my opinion.

And just personally, I found it really funny. I also thought that this was Luke testing Rey a bit, in a similar way to how Yoda tested Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. When Luke first arrives on Degobah to meet Yoda (and he doesn’t know what Yoda looks like) Yoda meets him and makes him think he’s just a weird and annoying little creature. He pretends to fight with R2D2, steals Luke’s food and seems totally eccentric and strange. It’s only later that Yoda reveals himself to be a great master. It’s as if he needed to show Luke that you shouldn’t expect heroes to look like heroes and that true heroism is in your actions not in your appearance.

Also this is a trope in a lot of kung fu movies from the 70s. The kung fu master appears as a sort of crazy fool who tests the patience of the main apprentice, giving him lots of annoying tests – and secretly he’s training the apprentice without him realising it.

I like Luke’s grumpy, weird side in this and I found it to be a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, Rey tries unsuccessfully to persuade Luke to join the Resistance and Luke hides in his cabin.

Chewie smashes the door in.

Luke finds out that Han is dead. This doesn’t change his mind, but maybe a little bit.

He visits the Milennium Falcon – this is a big nostalgia moment. The first time we’ve seen Luke on the Falcon since Episode 5 maybe.

He finds R2D2 and the moment they reunite is pretty amazing. Luke removes his hood in order to see him and it reminded me of when Obiwan removed his hood to look at R2D2 in Episode 4.

Them reuniting made me well up…! I’m not ashamed to admit it. R2 is so important to Luke’s whole journey. He’s the whole reason he ended up on this adventure in the first place.

R2 seems to try and persuade Luke to join the Resistance but Luke says “no way”. R2’s response is brilliant. He just plays the hologram of Princess Leia from Episode 4. Luke says “that was a cheap move” or something – and it’s a bit true, this is a pretty cheap way for R2 to persuade Luke, but also a fairly cheap way for the film to make any Star Wars fan feel emotional.

R2D2 goes straight for the jugular (vein).

This was always one of the most magical moments in the original film. When he was a frustrated farmboy dreaming of having adventures, this hologram of a beautiful princess asking for help completely captured his imagination and catapulted him on this journey into adventure, heroism, the force and self-discovery. The function of it here is that it brings Luke one step further towards remembering who he was and it is a stark contrast to who he has become now.

But he’s still committed to the fact that he can’t be involved because he’s convinced that he’ll do more harm than good.

In fact Luke has cut himself off from the force completely. He’s lost faith in the Jedi order.

But you get the sense that he’s not a lost cause. He acts like he’s definitely against the idea of coming back, but we see that he is quite curious about Rey and there is still a spark of the old Luke Skywalker in there.

At one point Rey seems to be called to a big old tree on the island, which I think is the original Jedi temple – or a force tree – I’m not sure of it’s significance completely but I expect it is mentioned in one of the books or something. The tree also houses the sacred Jedi texts. Rey seems drawn to this place and Luke notices this and follows her from a distance.

That’s when he becomes curious about Rey – when he notices that she’s been drawn to this significant place and there’s an interesting exchange there where we see that Rey is confused and doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t understand how she has her force sensitivity and who her parents are (she’s feeling a bit force sensitive). She’s desperately looking for answers to the questions of her identity while also trying to get Luke to come and help the Resistance. She seems lost and is desperate for guidance.

No idea of how the time works here – all this is going on while the Resistance are battling against time up in space somewhere. Perhaps Ach-To runs on different time cycles. God knows. I don’t think it matters that much.

Luke finally agrees to train Rey a bit. “Tomorrow at dawn – 3 lessons”. Again this is like a kung fu movie or a samurai movie or something, and that is really cool.

3 lessons about the Jedi and why they have to end.

All the while, Rey and Kylo keep having weird force visions in which they are connected and they chat. It’s a bit like secret Skype or something. ForceTime.

She berates him for killing Han Solo and says he’s a monster.

He makes fun of the fact that she is looking for parental figures everywhere.

They grow strangely close, mainly because they’re in similar situations. She’s desperate for guidance. He’s curious about her force abilities, and perhaps is working out if she is an enemy or perhaps a potential ally. They both are alienated from their so-called mentors.

It’s weird and I didn’t know which way this would go. I expected that they’d join forces somehow and fight against both Snoke and Luke Skywalker, but I didn’t believe Luke Skywalker would be a real antagonist.

Like I said before – there’s nothing like watching a Star Wars film when you don’t know what is going to happen next.

Skywalker gives Rey some lessons in the force, but his intention is to break down her misconceptions about what it is, and what the Jedi really are. I could have had more of this to be honest, but then again in the original trilogy there wasn’t much detail about the force either.

With the force I think the more you explain it, the less interesting it becomes. In The Phantom Menace there were these things called midiclorians, which are living organisms that actually carry the force – and it was possible to measure, scientifically, how much force a person had based on their midichlorian count – and because this is physical that this could be genetic and handed down through family connections.

But midichloreans were never spoken of again because they took the magic out of the force. The version of the force we have here is back to how it was in Episode 4 – a mystical energy that binds the galaxy together.

Rey doesn’t understand the force at all – thinking it’s just about controlling people’s thoughts and about moving rocks. This is the childish version of the force. Skywalker tells her it’s a lot more than that, giving a similar version that Obiwan gave to him in episode 4 – that it’s a neutral natural power that exists in the balance between everything.

There are some funny moments where Luke makes fun of her and the way she misunderstands the nature of the force. Again, I’m not bothered by the jokey bits because this is Star Wars not Batman The Dark Knight.

One funny moment is when he tells her to ‘reach out’ and she takes it literally. He means that she should reach out with her feelings, but she reaches out with her arm and he tickles it with a piece of grass saying “can you feel that? That’s the force!” and then he slaps her hand and says “that’s not how the force works” or something. Again, this reminds me of training sequences from kung fu movies which have some humour in them and involve the pupil getting it wrong and the master teasing them.

Then Rey does reach out to the force with her feelings and Luke gives her a little lesson in what it is, and how to connect with it. He’s shocked that she immediately gets pulled towards the dark side, which is represented by a weird dark cave under the island. The rock under her cracks and she has a weird vision of being covered in water.

Luke is shocked that Rey didn’t resist the dark side and he refuses to train her any more because the last time this happened it all went horribly wrong.

He also attempts to explain to Rey how he has lost faith in the Jedi, how they were wrong and arrogant in assuming that they owned the force and how their legacy is failure. In the prequels the Jedi were blinded by their own arrogance – they didn’t see how a powerful sith was taking control of the senate right under their noses. Lack of vision etc. Again – more hubris. They were too sure of themselves and that’s why they failed.

I find this pretty interesting. A lot of that is true, right?

I’m not surprised that Luke has gone this way and I just find it interesting from a character point of view.

Later, I’m not sure when, we get more info about what happened between Luke and Ben Solo (Kylo Ren).

The story is told 3 times, and each time you get a slightly different version of events.

First time is what Luke says to Rey.

He tells her that he sensed growing darkness in Ben and he went to see him during the night to try and reason with him, but Ben flew into a rage and pulled down the building on top of his head, and then destroyed the temple.

The second version of the story is what Kylo tells Rey during one of their ForceTime sessions. He tells her that Luke didn’t give the complete story and that Luke had come with his lightsabre to murder Kylo in his sleep.

A lot of fans can’t handle this and just believe that Luke would never do this and that their childhood is ruined and all that, but it’s not the final version of events.

The third version of the story is the true one.

Luke explains to Rey that he had become aware of a growing darkness in Ben and that he struggled with what to do about it. He went to Ben’s room in the night to read Ben’s mind and was so shocked by the darkness inside him that in a moment of compulsion he ignited his lightsabre in order to kill him and rid the galaxy of another possible evil tyrant, but that as soon as he ignited his sabre, he regretted the decision and realised that this meant killing his nephew, one of his students in a cowardly way. So he immediately changed his mind when he realised what he was doing.

I think this just gives Luke’s character more depth. Remember that he was the last jedi and perhaps he’d taken on too much in agreeing to train these young students. That’s a big job and perhaps he wasn’t really capable of doing it all on his own.

Maybe Yoda and Obiwan’s force ghosts hadn’t visited him for ages so he hadn’t had guidance from them.

As he said – he believed in his own legend and this was his failing. He took on too much and ultimately wasn’t able to handle the task of restarting the jedi order on his own, taking on his sister’s troubled son who was also incredibly powerful in the force but touched by the dark side and was already being manipulated and controlled by Snoke through the force. It was all too much for one guy.

I think there is a lesson here and that is that success can be very dangerous – in this case Luke had success in the fact that he helped to redeem Darth Vader and kill the emperor. This can lead to a false sense of confidence which can lead ultimately to failure. There’s a lot of that in this film. It’s tragic, but at least there’s more depth to it than just gymnastic lightsabre duels and “being badass”.

Anyway, Luke tells his story – of how he immediately changed his mind and was not going to kill Ben, but then Ben woke up and saw Luke standing over him with his ignited lightsabre and that’s when he pulled down the building on top of Luke and destroyed the temple. It’s a sort of misunderstanding that makes Ben think Luke really was going to kill him. In any case, Ben rejects Luke and he then probably gave his allegiance to Snoke.

Luke again tells Rey to get off the island. He’s gone there to die, etc.

This pushes Rey closer to Kylo who is the only one who seems to understand her. Will she turn to the dark side to be with him? Will he turn good? No idea.

Not sure of the chronology here.

At one point Rey visits the dark cave, like Luke does in Empire Strikes Back. This is a really cool and spooky sequence where she seems to see herself trapped in a time line or perhaps it’s just her reflection repeated again and again. She follows this line of reflections until she’s face to face with a mirror and she’s convinced that this will reveal the truth she’s been looking for – her parents. A dark figure approaches her in the mirror. Who is it? Luke? Snoke? Han? Leia? Another figure from Star Wars lore? In the end, she finds herself staring at her own reflection.

What does this mean? I guess it means that she’s on her own and her parents just aren’t important.

Also, at some point here, Luke decides to reconnect with the force. He sits on the stone altar on the clifftop and meditates. I think he makes a connection with Leia, who is in her coma. I think this is where Luke realises a lot of things – but it’s not actually shown in the film. By reconnecting with the force here, I think he gets strength from his renewed connection with Leia, realises that there is something he can do. Basically, by reconnecting with the force he realises his power and perhaps his hope again, or realises the importance of Rey. I’m not sure.

Rey and Kylo have a Forcetime – again they’re getting closer to each other all the time. I think in this one Kylo is topless which kind of amps up the sexual tension between them. Rey seems to believe in Kylo more than she does in Luke at this point and she probably believes she can turn him to the light side of the force etc, but we still don’t really know how Kylo feels. He’s hard for us to read – he’s just blank and unreadable, which is a strength in terms of the acting performance. He could be a bit vulnerable, perhaps a bit lost, but possibly pure evil – we don’t really know!

They actually touch, and when they do Luke bursts into Rey’s hut and is shocked to discover them in contact, and he destroys the hut and breaks the connection.

Then there’s a sort of fight between Rey and Luke, where Rey demands to know if Luke really did try to kill Kylo, and she attacks him with her staff, and Luke defends himself with a stick and disarms her. To me this looks like he’s still training her. When he disarms her, she force grabs the blue lightsabre and appears to have beaten Luke who kind of falls to the ground and gives up – but if you watch closely we see his hand is raised and I’m sure that he could have summoned his green lightsabre whenever he wanted in order to defend himself. I think he let Rey get the better of him.

This is when he confesses that he did momentarily contemplate killing Ben, but that he instantly changed his mind. So – just to set the record straight on this, Luke was not going to kill Ben in his sleep. The idea flashed across his mind when he saw that Snoke had turned him to the dark side, but he instantly changed his mind. I say that because a lot of the hardcore fans have lost faith in this film because they thought Luke was going to murder a child in his sleep – he wasn’t.

Rey then decides to leave the island in order to go to Kylo because she believes she can turn him. Luke says “No, it won’t go the way you think”. It’s a bit like that moment in Empire Strikes Back when Luke goes to confront Vader but Yoda tells him he’s not ready yet.

Rey is delivered to Kylo Ren in an escape pod from the Millenium Falcon and then we get one of my favourite moments in the film. Kylo puts Rey in handcuffs and on the way to Snoke’s throne room they have a conversation.

She explains that she’s confident Kylo will turn to the light because she’s had a vision.

But Kylo explains that he’s also had a vision that Rey will turn to the dark.

I suspected that Kylo would turn to the light, because there was more evidence for it.
I didn’t really believe Rey would turn to the dark side, but there were a few things that suggested that she could – e.g. she was drawn to the dark side during her vision while training with Luke.

She is pretty impulsive and often strikes out in anger, it seems – and that’s often the way towards the dark side.

Then the doors open and Rey meets Snoke for the first time.

Meanwhile, Luke goes to destroy the Force Tree and the ancient Jedi texts.

Yoda appears and stops him.

It’s wonderful to see Yoda again.

He’s not CGI Yoda, it’s puppet Yoda.

They actually used the original mould from Return of the Jedi.

It works.

Basically, he tells Luke that this is all a lesson and that Luke is a good master because he is teaching Rey the value of failure.

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” – he says. Apparently Yoda still hasn’t perfected his grammar, despite failing to speak it correctly for probably about 900 years or something.

Anyway, it’s a good lesson and it brings some redemption to Luke – who feels like he’s a lost cause. Everyone has to fail and it’s your failures that help you to improve. Success brings over-confidence and arrogance sometimes, whereas failure and accepting your failures brings us opportunities to learn.

It’s true for learning English too – our failures are great learning opportunities. We have to say something wrong a few times before we can say it correctly. Expecting to get everything right first time is just unrealistic. Accept failure as the best way to learn, and not something to be ashamed of, you can overcome your problems and learn to be really strong.

Yoda then destroys the force tree and (apparently) the sacred Jedi texts, as if to say to Luke – yes, you’re right – let’s destroy the past and start again. Luke is shocked that Yoda has done this (and apparently force ghosts can summon lightning now in Star Wars – fair enough, we were looking for some new force abilities, right? Apparently force ghosts can interact with the real world now – ok, fine)

The tree burns, containing the books – and Luke says “But the sacred jedi texts!” and Yoda says “Read them have you? Page turners, they are not.” I laughed out loud at this line.

Yoda’s two lessons for Luke:

Failures are valuable learning experiences.
Students always grow beyond their masters.

Back to Snoke’s room.

Snoke reads Rey’s mind, plays around with her – she attempts to fight back several times – grabs her light sabre but snoke makes it fly around the room – she grabs Kylo’s light sabre and Snoke flings her around the room. He seems impressed with her tenacity and he actually says “such spunk!” which made me laugh, because… well the word “spunk”. Do you know what that means?

It’s a bit rude. Here are the two definitions.

Courage, bravery, strength of character.
Semen (offensive)

He means defintion 1, but still – it’s a bit creepy that Snoke gleefully talks about “spunk”. Snoke is a horrible, creepy old git.

He’s also really arrogant and wealthy – he wears a gold robe a bit like Hugh Hefner the playboy guy. He’s horrible. But the CGI motion capture is brilliant. He looks really realistic. Good job Andy Serkis and the special effects team.

Snoke then reads Rey’s mind. I think he was considering whether she could be turned to the dark side, perhaps to become his apprentice and replacement for Kylo. That’s often the way it goes – but he summarises that she’s too pure or can’t be turned or something. So, he decides that Kylo should kill her, perhaps to complete his training.

Meanwhile Kylo looks at the situation quite blankly except for subtle reactions and the movement of his eyes. It reminds me of how Vader observed the Emperor when he was attempting to turn Luke to the dark side. We suspected that Vader was loyal in his heart to Luke. Similarly, I suspect that Kylo hates Snoke and feels resentment towards how manipulative he is, and we suspect that Kylo has feelings for Rey or at least believes that Rey might join him somehow. I wonder if this is a romantic feeling or a strategic one.

Snoke orders Kylo to kill Rey, and we still don’t know what Kylo is thinking. Rey looks up at him and simply says “Ben” – appealing to his good side.

At this point Snoke gets really carried away, proclaiming that he can see Kylo’s thoughts and that Kylo is turning his lightsabre and is going to ignite it in order to kill his true enemy.

But secretly Kylo is using the force to turn Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre which is sitting on the table next to Snoke, and as Snoke is convinced that he’s seeing Kylo’s intentions to kill Rey, perhaps he’s not seeing it clearly and in fact Kylo ignites Luke’s lightsabre killing Snoke.

I found this really surprising and satisfying. The look on Snoke’s face – he’s so shocked! It’s also a really well-directed sequence.

The lightsabre stabs Snoke in the side and then we see the scene from Kylo’s point of view, and Kylo pulls the sabre towards him, cutting Snoke in half! The ignited sabre flies through the air and Rey’s hand comes up to grab it.

Rey stands and for a moment Kylo and her face each other and we wonder whether Kylo is going to attack her, or what will happen…

Then everything goes in slow motion as Rey and Kylo, are attacked by 8 Praetorian guards and they fight back to back on the same side against the guards.

This is an absolutely wicked sequence. The guards are fantastic. They wear this weird red armour which appears to be able to deflect some lightsabre blows. They also have different weapons – swords, staffs, a sort of whip that becomes a sword. It all happens incredibly quickly and the screen is filled with several fights at the same time. Sparks fly, Rey screams and roars as she fights, Kylo’s fighting style is brutal and sketchy. It’s raw power.

At one point the wall catches fire and in the middle of the fight the room starts buring down. One of the guards gets thrown into some kind of fan unit and gets chopped into pieces. It all happens incredibly quickly and intensely.

Rey also has some good moves. Again – I don’t know how she learned to fight like this. Let’s just say that growing up on a rough junk planet like Jakku meant that she had to learn how to defend herself, add to that the fact that she’s obviously gifted with force abilities and has had some light sabre fighting experience now – she’s also brave and intelligent.

The two of them manage to fight off the guards and defeat them, but it’s not easy. At one point it looks like they’ve been beaten. Kylo is unarmed, Rey is held by one of the guards, but she manages to get out of it by dropping her lightsabre, getting out of the guard’s grip and then catching the sabre again in mid air before dispatching the guard.

Kylo is still being held by the last guard, who is kind of strangling him. Rey quickly throws her sabre to Kylo who catches it and ignites it instantly, sending the beam through the guards face, who drops away, dead.

What I like about this moment is that Kylo catches the lightsabre, ignites it, lets the guard drop and steps forward and he never takes his eyes of Rey at any point, and never blinks.

Then, still staring intensely at Rey he steps forward. Rey tells him there’s still time and that they can save the Resistance. She assumes he’s turned good, but he hasn’t.

He tells Rey they should let the past die and start anew – kill Snoke, kill Skywalker, let the Resistance die.

Rey is sort of heartbroken and just says “Ben, don’t do this”.

He also tells her who her parents are – I guess he saw it in a vision or something. He says that they were junk traders who just sold her off as a slave for money and that now they’re dead and buried in the desert. “You’re nobody, nothing…” “but not to me”.

He begs Rey to join her, but she’s heartbroken and won’t do it.

She sees that Kylo is beyond redemption at this point. I think Kylo has crossed a line and he’s the new Snoke. All these changes of position happen really fast. Surely, this is the interesting part of this film – what is really going on in Kylo’s head? Will he go good or bad? In Return of the Jedi we have similar questions about Darth Vader and ultimately he turns good, but in this one Kylo doesn’t. He’s the bad guy. He wants to kill her friends and he’s being very manipulative. He might be lying about her parents, even though she says she’s always known deep down that they abandoned her. But maybe he’s lying or something. Perhaps we’ll see.

Or perhaps her lineage isn’t important and it doesn’t matter what your family connections are. Anyone can be strong in the force.

She goes to grab Luke’s lightsaber from Kylo and it ends up suspended mid air between them as they both struggle to grab it. The lightsabre explodes.

In the film this part of the story is told in parallel with the other parts which I haven’t mentioned yet – namely the Finn and Rose storyline and the Poe/Admiral Holdo storyline.

Finn and Rose storyline.

Finn is going to escape and find Rey. Rose stops him. They work out together (cheesily) that the hyperspace tracking can be stopped if they disarm it from the lead ship. Finn has intel on the location of the tracker and they work out that they can get in and disable it, and save the Resistance. It’s surely a suicide mission.

Poe agrees, and they call Maz Kanata for info.

Maz Kanata is a crap character, isn’t she? A sort of vague orange Yoda who isn’t as interesting as Yoda.

A complex and contrived plot is set up where Finn and Rose have to meet a code breaker who can help them access Snoke’s ship (is it Snoke’s ship or another ship – not sure).

So they head to Canto Bite.

“The worst type of people”

Just park on the beach – bad move. But these kids don’t really know what they’re doing.

A bit like the Cantina Bar but everyone’s rich.

Weird horse things on a racetrack, they’re looked after by slave kids.

Rose hates the town.

Little drunk creature putting coins inside BB8.

They get caught and thrown in jail. Pretty rubbish.

Then Benicio Del Toro’s character turns up in the film.

He’s great. I’ve always liked him in films. He’s an “engaging screen presence” to quote Mark Kermode.

He overhears them discussing their plan and says he can get them in the room on the FO ship.

Somehow he has a way to pick the lock and get out, and with BB8’s help they get away, so do Finn and Rose who escape on the horses, which smash up the casino resort before being released into the forest. This is a bit cheesy and feels a bit like a “message” about animal cruelty.

I love animals, so fair enough – but it’s a very Disney moment. Anyway, DJ turns up in a ship with BB8 and they get rescued, and the fly towards the FO ship for their mission, which is to go undercover and turn off the hyperspace tracking, while the Resistance are still running away from the FO and slowly running out of fuel.

DJ is an interesting character. He’s one of those ones who exists in the moral grey area between the good and bad sides, a bit like Boba Fett and even Han Solo at the start of Episode 4.

I think this gives some much needed moral ambiguity.

Also, he shows us that the rich people on Canto Bite make their money making and selling weapons to the FO and the Resistance. This adds a bit of complexity to the whole “intergalactic war thing” which underpins this whole series of films, and just shows that there’s more to this than just good guys vs bad guys – there’s a whole industry behind these wars that makes some people really rich. I think for some fans this is a bit too political for Star Wars, which is ironic considering how politics were involved so much in the prequel films.

They make it onto the Supremacy (I think) and go undercover.

BB8 disguises himself as one of those little black droids – a “mouse” droid I think they’re called.

He’s disguised as one of them by hiding under a black dustbin as far as I can see.

Amazingly nobody really notices them, including Finn who surely is a famous traitor by now …

I say nobody notices them, actually an evil black version of BB8 does notice them. I love this evil BB8. He’s actually called BB9-E and it’s interesting how just a few changes in design makes this little droid instantly evil looking. I think I heard Mark Hamill talking about this in an interview – just a few changes – make the droid black, with a different shaped head and it just screams “Nazi!” It does look like a nazi version of BB8. Also, they manage to endow him with a lot of menace and malice. His red eye narrows with suspicion when he sees Rose, Finn, DJ and BB8.

Long story short – they get to the tracker and it turns out that DJ has set them up – he betrayed them and he betrays the whole Resistance and their plan to escape to Crait because the FO offered him loads of money. Finn gets angry and calls him a traitor I think, or says something like “They’re the bad guys” – and DJ says something along the lines of “Good guys, bad guys, what’s the difference. They blow you up today, you blow them up next time…”

I find his cynicism and pragmatism to be refreshing and interesting in the context of this binary good guys vs bad guys conflict. This is a really enjoyable bit of ambiguity and I really hope we see Benicio Del Toro’s character again.

Perhaps the most interesting moments in all of Star Wars are the moments when there’s moral ambiguity – like the character of Boba Fett who is only interested in self-preservation and money, or the moments when Luke Skywalker appears to drift towards the dark side slightly in order to achieve things – specifically when defeating Darth Vader, or when Anakin/Vader goes dark and then light at the end. These are the interesting moments and DJ is an example of that.

So, Finn & Rose are caught, The Resistance are screwed…

Some people complain that the Finn and Rose storyline doesn’t achieve anything. But that’s the whole point – it’s another lesson in failure. Sometimes characters fail in films – it’s boring if they just succeed every single time – and anyway the Resistance were always the underdogs and Finn and Rose were never going to succeed with this plan anyway – it’s was a suicide mission. They’re lucky that they got this far.

Back to what’s happening with The Resistance fleet.

Leia is in a coma, Holdo takes over. Poe disagrees with her strategy – which appears to be just to jump ship and escape the fleet. He thinks it won’t work and it’s cowardly. He attempts a mutiny but gets stunned by Leia who she comes back.

She uses a blaster set to stun. We haven’t seen this since episode 4 – blue rings firing out, rather than red or green laser blasts.

It turns out that Holdo’s plan is not to just escape the ship, but to evacuate to a nearby planet that they’ve been heading for.

Poe wasn’t aware of this because he was demoted.

They plan to escape to Crait where there’s an old rebel base. They can use that as a defensive fortress and can call for support from around the galaxy.

Just as well really, because Finn and Rose’s mission has failed.

Then we discover that DJ has told the FO about this plan to evacuate to Crait and the FO begin attacking the escape vehicles as they head towards Crait. The Resistance is screwed now.

Finn and Rose’s mission to stop the hyperspace tracking has failed and now the FO know about the other plan to escape to Crait and are blowing up the escape transports. Also, at this moment it looks like Rey is about to be executed by Kylo Ren.

Finn and Rose are about to be executed.

Oh yeah and Captain Phasma has turned up too – apparently she didn’t die in Episode 7.

She doesn’t really do much, except being Finn’s nemesis.

Leia and the rest of the Resistance have boarded the escape transports to Crait, but Holdo stays with the main fleet, and when she realises that the escape transports are being attacked she suddenly decides to sacrifice herself and aims the Raddus at The Supremacy (Snoke’s ship) and goes into hyperspace.

WOW – a really mind blowing moment and done really well because the Raddus enters hyperspace and flies at lightspeed through the Supremacy and a bunch of other FO ships causing massive damage and a huge explosion and it’s all done instantly and in total silence, followed by a really cool sound effect.

Silence used to great effect.

The explosion on The Supremacy gives Finn and Rose the chance to avoid being executed and they fight back against Captain Phasma and the storm troopers while the whole hangar bay explodes around them. There are tie fighters falling on the floor and blowing up, AT-AT walkers crashing here and there.

In the midst of all this chaos, Finn and Phasma have a battle and Finn fights with a lot of spirit. Rose shoots Phasma but the blast deflects off her armour. Cool moment.

Phasma appears to have the upper hand in the fight and knocks Finn into a lift shaft, but clearly Phasma hasn’t seen the Original Trilogy – we know that there are moving platforms that go up and down in these shafts and of course Finn hasn’t fallen to his death, he reappears and smashes Phasma in the face, cracking her mask. She says “You’ll always be scum” before falling into an explosion. I doubt that she’s dead. She’s bound to come back next time.

“Rebel scum” – this is the default insult for Rebels or Resistance fighters it seems. Scum is a bit like a dirty layer that floats on the top of old water or something. It’s just a generic insult, but it was used once in Return of the Jedi when an imperial officer said it to Han Solo and it sounded cool – so now the word is used a lot.

These films still trade a lot on nostalgia for the old films, and it works.

Finn and Rose manage to escape the burning ship – how? They’re rescued by BB8 driving a AT-ST “scout walker” thing, which made me go “Yeah, right?!” out loud in the cinema when I first saw it.

People complain that Rey’s character is too perfect and that she can do anything and that this is unrealistic and unfair and some sort of feminist agenda or something, but BB8 (and R2D2 for that matter) is also a perfect character who seems to be able to do anything. He takes out FO guards, he can pilot an AT-ST walker, he can get blown up and assemble himself again, he can fix any problem on an X-Wing – but nobody complains about that.

OK, so now the storylines come together.

The Resistance (Leia, Poe and the few remaining other people) make it to Crait and set up their base there. God knows why it takes the FO so long to attack them here, but it does. Maybe they needed a bit of time to set up all the awesome weaponry that they’re going to use to smash through this big door to this old Rebel base where The Resistance are hiding.

Finn and Rose escape The Supremacy with BB8 and join the Resistance on Crait.

The idea is that The Resistance can defend themselves here, call for help and then wait for the help to arrive.

The thing is, no help comes. None of their allies out in space care. No Lando Calrissian or anyone like that – nobody’s coming to help them. So it’s about a couple of hundred REsistance members vs the FO with their huge AT-M6 walkers.

They have trenches, with some defensive weapons and this huge reinforced door protecting them, and a few very sketchy looking ground fighters, and that’s it.

The FO have a massive battering ram cannon which is “Death Star technology” – basically a smaller version of the Death Star’s big green laser that can blow up planets. This is what they’ll use to break through the door.

The idea is that The Resistance need to somehow destroy the cannon if they stand a chance of surviving.

Now, what about Rey.

Last time we saw her she was locked in a tug of war with Kylo over Luke’s blue lightsabre, which caught in the middle between the two of them, explodes.

Apparently Kylo was knocked out by the explosion and Rey managed to escape in Snoke’s personal ship, and she took the fragments of the light sabre with her.

We see Snoke’s dead body, his tongue sticking out, lying on the floor. Also both his hands were severed when Kylo killed him – this is pretty neat because someone always gets their hand or hands removed in Star Wars films, in this case it was Snoke, but he also lost the whole top half of his body. I wonder if we’ll ever find out Snoke’s back story, but I guess we never learned The Emperor’s backstory in the original films, he was just a powerful old dark side user and that’s it. I think we probably knew more about him than Snoke though, and I admit that we could have used just a little bit more exposition about Snoke – just a bit of detail. I think the hardcore fans are very upset about this, because they spent 2 years coming up with very elaborate theories about his origin – like, he’s Mace Windu, or he’s Darth Plageius (The Emperor’s old master). It seems he’s not that important, and anyway we don’t need an origin story for everyone, do we? I expect there will be a book about him coming out or whatever.

Then General Hux comes into the room and can’t believe what he’s seeing – Snoke is dead, his tongue sticking out and everything. Kylo is still unconscious and Hux actually goes for his gun – he would have killed Kylo in his sleep probably – because they don’t like each other and Hux would probably like to take control of the FO, but Kylo wakes up. They argue and then Kylo force chokes Hux, which is very reminiscent of Darth Vader. Hux capitulates and calls Kylo “Supreme Leader” – “The Supreme Leader is dead – long live The Supreme Leader!” So, Kylo is in charge of the FO now.

So, the confrontation on Crait.

The FO approach the base with the big gun.

The Resistance launch a counter attack with these beaten up old speeder things. There’s almost no way they can win.

The Millennium Falcon turns up at the last minute and helps out by making all the Tie Fighters chase it. This is another big emotional moment, when the Falcon turns up to save the day – or save that particular moment anyway – the music swells (John Williams’ score is brilliant again) – there are some stunning visuals as the Falcon is chased by Tie Fighters through these crystal caves and tunnels under the surface of Crait.

But ultimately, the Resistance mission to destroy the battering ram cannon can’t win and Poe calls it off. This shows us that he’s learned something about leadership and strategy from the beginning of the film.

But Finn doesn’t want to give up and he’s about to sacrifice himself for the Resistance by flying his ship into the cannon in a suicide mission. I was convinced he was going to do it, but at the last minute Rose crashes into him and saves him.

This is a really cheesy moment I have to say.

First of all, you can see from the wide shots as Finn is flying that Rose is nowhere near him – but again, this is a bit like that moment with the detonator button that gets caught by Rose’s sister at the start of the film – movies often break the rules of physics like this – so I’m willing to let it slide. And then there’s the moment where after Rose saves Finn she gives a little speech saying “We don’t do this to destroy the things we hate, we do it to protect the ones we love,” and then she kisses him. So this is a slightly forced romantic moment first of all, but the sentiment is nice. We should protect the things we love rather than destroy the things we hate – and it’s all sweet and good and nice, but I thought about a moment from Episode 3 – a crucial moment when Anakin turns to the dark side. He decides to join Emperor Palpatine precisely because he thinks this is how he’s going to save the one he loves – Padme. He is seduced by the dark side because he wants to prevent Padme from dying. So, it’s all about point of view isn’t it.

Protecting what you love, destroying what you hate – they’re sort of two sides of the same coin aren’t they?

Still, I think the basic message is nice – love conquers hate. I do agree with that. Be careful of doing things for hateful reasons. We should be motivated by love, basically.

But isn’t this a slightly selfish thing for Rose to do? She stopped Finn from potentially saving the entire Resistance just because she personally loves him.

But maybe The Resistance were screwed anyway. I think the point is – we shouldn’t think about this toooooo much. We shouldn’t expect Star Wars to be this perfect flawless thing. As I said before, I think the good things in this film outweigh the bad things

But then again – if you’re angry about this Star Wars film, that’s fine – it’s up to you. I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. Everyone has their own subjective reaction to the film.

So it looks like The Resistance are screwed then.

Somehow Finn manages to fly back to the base or perhaps even drag Rose back there – I’m not sure how, but I dunno, maybe he used some of those trenches or something, or maybe one of the crashed speeders still worked.

Leia looks defeated. She says that hope is lost.

But then Luke Skywalker turns up. There’s an emotional moment when he speaks to Leia – they agree that Kylo wasn’t Luke’s fault, and Luke comforts Leia by giving her a memento of Han Solo – a pair of dice that used to hang in the Millenium Falcon.

Luke then goes out to face the First Order armed with his Light Sabre.

When I saw this I was really excited and yet didn’t know what to expect. Luke said it himself that he couldn’t face the entire FO armed only with a laser sword.

Kylo, in his command ship, orders everyone to fire on Luke, using all their weapons.

The AT-M6 walkers all fire on Luke.

Kylo is enraged – shouting for more more more!

This really is overkill. There’s just a huge cloud of red dust where the lasers are firing.

Hux says “that’s enough” and the guns stop.

Kylo slumps in a seat. He should be satisfied, but he’s not. He’ll probably never be satisfied.

We’re all thinking – surely Luke isn’t dead! And of course he isn’t. He steps out of the cloud of red dust, unscathed. He looks up at Kylo’s ship and even brushes his shoulder dismissively, which is pretty cool.

There’s something strange about Luke. He looks younger. His beard and hair are shorter. He has no dust on him.

Kylo is furious again and instructs his soldiers to take him down to the surface to face Luke.

Kylo says “I suppose you’ve come here to save my soul”
Luke: No.

This was awesome, I can’t really explain why. Also, Mark Hamill in this film is absolutely brilliant. He’s really developed as an actor since the original trilogy.

He ignites his light sabre – and it’s the blue one. Weird, I thought the blue one got split in two when Kylo and Rey were fighting earlier. Kylo doesn’t seem to notice this because he’s in a rage.

He ignites his crackling red light sabre. I love Kylo’s brutal style and the way he stands sort of hunched over. Luke looks really cool in his classic Jedi clothing. Kylo runs at Luke and attacks him but Luke manages to avoid all his attacks. He does some pretty cool moves where he kind of rolls out of the way, making Kylo really angry.

This is not the epic gymnastic light sabre combat from the prequels. This is a lot more about the drama between the two characters. There’s a lot more emotion and feeling in this than in watching Anakin and Obiwan jumping from object to object swinging their lightsabres again and again until you’re emotionally uninvested in the action.

This is much more like a Japanese samurai movie, where the swordplay is brief but intense. In fact Luke looks a lot like a samurai in this scene and that is fantastic. So atmospheric and powerful.

An interesting detail in this fight is that Kylo’s feet leave red marks on the floor where the salt gets disturbed, but Luke’s feet make no impressions on the floor at all. Apparently you can also see salt particles falling from Kylo during the fight, but nothing falling from Luke. Only later do we realise that Luke isn’t really there at all – he’s doing a force projection from Ahch-to and it’s all part of a plan to mentally defeat Kylo while giving the remaining members of the Resistance a chance to escape.

Luke tells Kylo – “today the Resistance is reborn and you can never defeat me.”

He also does some Obiwan Kenobi stuff to him, saying “If you strike me down in anger I’ll always be with you, just like your father.” That’s got to hurt!

Kylo angrily charges at him and swipes his lightsabre at Luke but the blade passes straight through his body.

At the time I was thinking – wow, has Luke been hiding his power all this time? Is he immune to lightsabres? Then I thought, oh wow he’s a force ghost!

Then it’s revealed that the real Luke is meditating on a rock in Ach-to. This whole thing is a force projection!

Luke then says to Kylo – “see you around kid.” and disappears. That’s a Han Solo quote too!

I think what this means is that Luke is going to haunt Kylo as a force ghost – he’s always going to be there and Kylo will never have peace, he’ll always be reminded of how he murdered his own father.

Then Luke disappears and Kylo is in a rage again.

What I like about this:

We don’t get a big light sabre duel, but that makes a change – at least we have some really interesting character-based interaction.
Luke manages to teach Kylo a lesson without using violence.
He only uses defence.
He defeats Kylo mentally.
He sacrifices himself to save the Resistance.
He shows Rey that the force isn’t just about lifting rocks, controlling people’s actions or being really good with a lightsabre – it’s also about introspection and peace.
Also, I like the fact that in the midst of all this fighting, explosions – Luke has learned how to win a battle without using violence.
In fact, I respect Luke’s decision to just go on an island to live like a hermit. At least he’s decided that he’s fed up with the incessant fighting and war. He’s perhaps the only character to say that he’s had enough of the fighting – and isn’t this a sort of logical progression of what he learned while facing the emperor in Episode 6. He threw his lightsabre away and refused to fight or give in to his anger because he is a Jedi.
Don’t blame Luke for choosing to go to that island and for feeling like a failure – he was actually just trying his best to prevent any further catastrophe.
This feels like the true way of the Jedi – from a certain point of view.

Also, he’s demonstrating incredible force power by doing this projection. This is something new that we haven’t seen before. Again, some people are pissed off with this saying “That’s not how the force works!” but honestly I’m glad that we’re seeing some new force powers in this film. It’s about time we had some slightly new things.

By doing this, Luke also manages to create the myth of Luke Skywalker, which will no-doubt be told again and again. He’s accepted his place as a myth and how important and powerful this can be as a way of inspiring new generations to have hope. This is beautiful. Luke has always been a symbol of hope, but he’s a fallible human who couldn’t always live up to his own myth, but he manages at the end to do it in his own way according to how he understands the light side of the force – using defence not attack, without using violence, fighting a mental battle.

Then on Ach-To we see Luke collapse from the strain of doing this massive force projection. He climbs back up onto the rock and stares out across the ocean at the sunset, and it’s two suns.

This made me cry! I couldn’t help it. It just took me straight back to the moment in Episode 4 when Luke was not much more than a boy staring across the desert at the dual sunset – full of aspiration and dreaming of adventure, and that’s how he ends his life. I can’t put it into words really, but this got me right in the feelings. It’s pretty ridiculous I know, but there it is.

Luke then disappears in the same way Obiwan did and Yoda did. He becomes one with the force.

I guess this means that he’ll be back as a force ghost in episode 9. Good – I really like Mark Hamill and I hope to see more from him.

Meanwhile, the last remaining members of the Resistance have worked out that there must be a way to get out through the back of the caves by following the crystal foxes that live there. There’s quite a magical moment where one of the beautiful crystal foxes leads them to a gap at the back, but it’s filled with boulders.

Rey is on the other side – she’s used the tracking device to follow their position from the surface, in the Falcon with Chewie.

She works out that the pile of boulders is blocking them from escaping and she’s going to need to use the force to move them all.

This is a bit ironic because earlier in the film Luke told her that the force isn’t about lifting rocks! But apparently sometimes it is! Of course she manages to lift all the rocks, freeing the last remaining members of the Resistance and they escape in the Falcon. There must be just about 10 people left! But Leia says they have all they need to start again. They’re the spark that will light the fire to burn the First Order down, etc.

We see also that Rey has managed to keep the sacred jedi texts – they’re in a drawer on the falcon. So I suppose this means she can learn the ways of the Jedi properly and maybe she’ll get some help from Luke’s force ghost.

Kylo and Rey have one more force vision before the Falcon leaves. They stare at each other and Rey closes the door – signifying that she’s closing herself off from him, I suppose. But surely the interesting thing going forward will be their relationship. Will she be able to turn him back to the light, or defeat him somehow? Will Kylo turn her to the dark somehow? What’s going to happen to Kylo? I quite like the idea that he’ll be haunted by Luke – a bit like the way Macbeth is haunted by his friend Banquo in the Shakespeare play Macbeth.

In the final scene of the film we see some of the slave kids on Canto Bight – one of them is telling the others the legend of Luke Skywalker – him standing up against the entire First Order. It reminds me of how C3P0 tells the Ewoks the story of the rebellion. The other children are enthralled by the story and seem genuinely inspired. This shows that the legend of Luke Skywalker gives hope to the next generation.

Then the kids are told off by their cruel slave owner boss type guy and one of the kids goes out to sweep the yard. He grabs the broom using a force pull – showing that he is force sensitive, and then he looks up at the stars and sees a distant spacecraft fly across the sky. The End!

I suppose this scene means that:
Anyone can be strong in the force – you don’t have to be part of a specific bloodline
Luke’s legend is an inspiration to the poor, lost or forgotten people
The Resistance is not dead and there’s still hope left in the galaxy
That’s a nice message isn’t it?

So in summary, I found The Last Jedi to be bold in the way it refuses to pander to the fan theories and expectations, brave in the way it pushes the saga forwards by doing some new things and letting some old things die, nuanced in the way it allowed the characters to develop in complex and quite flawed ways, fun in how it included some pretty weird comic moments and just awesome in the way it dealt with several key moments of action that were fuelled more by emotion than by technical skill. I think it’s an intelligent film, a surprising film, it’s one of my favourite Star Wars episodes and I’m looking forward to seeing it again so I can pick up on some more of the subtle details that made it enjoyable.

I have no idea how episode 9 is going to carry on – and I like that feeling.

Apparently JJ Abrams is going to conclude the saga by directing episode 9. JJ is obviously a very competent filmmaker and someone who understands the core appeal of Star Wars but I’m also a little bit worried because JJ has an approach to making films that involves posing lots of mysterious open ended questions rather than by providing satisfying resolutions. Think of Lost, the TV show – it was brilliant at setting up lots of questions and mysteries that kept the audience guessing, but none of those questions and mysteries were adequately explained in the end. I just hope that episode 9 can at least bring some resolution to the story, rather than just leaving it all open to the interpretations of the slightly unhinged fanbase.

I look forward to reading your opinions if you have them.

502. The Birth of My Daughter

Talking about the birth of my baby daughter, including accounts of the main events and how it all felt. Listen carefully for descriptive vocabulary for describing emotions and feelings as well as the language of childbirth previously explained in episodes 491 and 492.

Small Donate Button

Introduction Transcript

Welcome to the podcast, happy new year. I hope you had a good one wherever you are, however you chose to celebrate it – whether you went out to a party, saw some fireworks or something, or simply chose to stay in and just read a book on your own – whatever you did, I hope you enjoyed it and that now you’re ready to get stuck into 2018 with some positivity, determination and some hope in your heart even if you are still recovering from your night of celebrations on new year’s eve.

Here’s the first episode of LEP in 2018.

I’ve chosen to make this a personal episode of the podcast.

Our baby daughter has finally arrived. She’s absolutely adorable (but I would say that of course) and my wife and I both feel extremely lucky, very grateful and proud. I tweeted about this, put a post on FB about it and also wrote something in the comment section just to let my listeners know – because I feel that quite a lot of you were keen to get updates since you’ve been following this news since I talked about it in episode 474.

This is what I wrote on FB and Twitter:

The response I got was amazing (to me). Hundreds of people wrote lovely messages of congratulation and the post got over 1000 likes on Facebook. Thank you for the lovely messages.

I was wondering whether I’d talk about this on the podcast. After all, this is a podcast which is ostensibly about learning English and not about all the details of my personal life. I don’t want this podcast to become some sort of reality show, and it won’t be.

But I have decided that perhaps I should talk about this very personal experience here on the podcast in at least one episode.

Let me explain why…

I was listening to Olly Richards Podcast on my way home from the hospital – perhaps one or two days after the baby was born. My wife was in the hospital with our brand new daughter and I was going back to our flat to tidy it up, wash some baby clothes, warm the place up and prepare it for the arrival of the baby and my wife but also my parents and my brother. It would be the first time our daughter had come home, having spent the first few days of her life in a room in the maternity ward in hospital – in safe surroundings, with midwives and nurses available around the clock, with all the care she needed – and I was suddenly aware (much more intensely aware I should say) that I needed to make our flat a proper nest for this little creature to be comfortable, warm and safe. I was aware of the importance of this before of course, and we had already done a lot of things in the Flat to get it ready – my wife’s nesting instinct had kicked in months before, but mine was only really kicking in now as the baby had arrived. So I was heading back, leaving the two girls in the hospital ward, which was the whole world as far as the baby was concerned. Feeling pretty raw and lots of emotions. Virtually sleepless night. You know how it is. I decided to listen to something and picked an episode of I will teach you a language with Olly Richards featuring a fascinating interview with Stephen Krashen. He’s a celebrated linguist and the guy behind language acquisition theory.

Olly and Stephen were talking about how people learn languages. Krashen was giving the benefit of his extensive experience and research into the subject. He’s been searching for the answer to this question for years. How do we learn languages? What are the best habits we can adopt? What can language teachers do to help?

He’s convinced that he has the answer and it’s all to do with comprehensible input – exposing yourself to lots of English (in this case) that you can understand (mostly) and that is motivating to listen to. He was particularly enthusiastic about stories. Search for interesting stories. Listen to people telling stories. Find stories in which you want to know what happens next.

He was very convincing about it.

You can listen to the interview on Olly’s Podcast.

“I Will Teach You A Language – Episode 220: Stephen Krashen Interview”

In my sleep deprived and emotional state I felt totally open to what he was saying and it struck me as being so true.

I thought of some of my best English lessons that I’ve taught and I realised that many of them included stories – not just stories in textbooks or whatever, but stories about personal experiences. Telling the students a funny personal story. Having them try to retell the story, write it down, test each other, creatively think of ways to continue the story with their own ideas, and giving them chances to tell their own similar stories. They’ve always been great lessons.

And I thought of times I’ve told stories on the podcast – like travelling experiences or episodes of the lying game. I like those episodes.

Then I thought about this episode which I felt I had to do – trying to explain what it’s like to bring a child into the world. And i thought – I’ll just try and tell it like a story, starting from the pregnancy and then going through the different stages of what happened and how they felt.

Then I started preparing some notes for it, sitting on the sofa and I asked my wife to help me with some ideas and then I just thought – why don’t I just interview her about the experience?

I’ve never had my wife on the podcast before as you know but it just made sense for her to be in this episode because after all she’s the one who did all the work in this birth and she seemed up for talking about it, and so why not just let her tell the story with me?

So, that’s what you’re going to hear – two proud parents describing the birth of their first child. I hope you find it to be interesting and that it’s not too cheesy or sentimental or anything.

So we’re going to start at the beginning (not the moment of conception, we won’t be talking about that) but we’ll start somewhere during the pregnancy and we’ll try and tell you our experience from then to now.

Hopefully this will be an engaging story that will help you learn English according to Stephen Krashen’s theory – remember you can listen to the episodes called Becoming a Dad which I recorded with Ben and Andy – that’s where you’ll find vocabulary explanations for many of the words and phrases relating to this subject.

Hopefully this will also just get across to you the weird and wonderful mix of feelings and emotions that are involved in what is a very significant moment in anyone’s life, in this case mine and my wife’s and of course our daughter’s.

Here we go…



So that was my wife on the podcast for the first time. I hope you enjoyed listening to it and that you managed to follow the whole thing.

Let us know in the comment section what you think.
Feel free to share your own experiences if you have any – that could be a good way to practise your writing a bit. Have you had children? What was it like to you? Was your experience similar to ours, or different?
Do you have any advice for us as new parents?

If you have questions about any of the language which came up, you could ask those questions in the comment section.

If you ever do that – ask specific questions about words or phrases you’ve heard – it really helps if you put a time code with your question – e.g. what did Luke say at 45:30?

It’s nice to be back on the podcast and I’m really looking forward to posting more new episodes in the coming year.

2018 will be the 9th year I’ve been doing this podcast.

Don’t forget to download the LEP app – it’s available in the app store. That’s where you can find some app-only episodes, and also some bonus content for a lot of the episodes. For example, for episode 501 the bonus content is a little video in which I show you one of the presents I received for Christmas.

Also, you should join the mailing list in order to get an email whenever I post something on the website – that’s usually a new podcast episode, but sometimes it’s other content – like for example a couple of weeks ago I posted an episode of The Earful Tower Podcast with Oliver Gee in which Oliver and I recorded a conversation about the Paris Metro while riding the Paris metro. You can find that in the episode archive on my website, but if you’re a mailing list subscriber you’ll already know about it, right?

OK, that’s it for this episode, I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon. But for now, it’s time to say good-bye!