Tag Archives: stories

545. The Hitchhiker by Roald Dahl (Short Story)

Learn English with this short story by British writer Roald Dahl. Intro transcript and story script available below.

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Introduction Transcript (story script available as a pdf below)

Hello folks, how are you doing?

Summer is over, everyone’s going back to their jobs and their normal lives. Sun tans are fading fast. The days are getting shorter. The leaves are turning. It’s back to reality.

I hope you had a good summer. As I said to you in June or July, my podcast uploading was quite inconsistent over the summer. I didn’t manage to post as many episodes as normal. That’s because I had quite a busy time, going away on hols to different places and also looking after our daughter who was not in day care, because day care was closed during August.

In fact, her day care still hasn’t started again, so I’m being a stay at home Dad this week, looking after her during the day time. This means that it’s a bit difficult to record and upload episodes of the podcast. The baby (and she’s still a baby) tends to demand all your attention, whether it be playing, feeding, cleaning, changing, bathing or all manner of other things, it’s hard to do anything else when I’m the only one looking after her. This week my wife has some important work related deadlines which she has to attend to, so I’m looking after the little one.

What this means is that I still can’t get fully back into my podcast rhythm. That’ll happen probably mid next week when day care starts again properly and I have time to work on episodes of both LEP and LEP Premium.

By the way, LEP Premium is going well. There are now about 14 episodes – including audio and video content, with PDFs. If you want to sign up, go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium The premium episodes are where I really focus on language, helping you to improve your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

I have lots of plans for new episodes coming up, but they all require some time and also silence in the background.

I wanted to upload something fairly quickly and simply in this episode, so I’ve decided to read you a short story written by Roald Dahl, who is one of the UK’s favourite authors. This doesn’t take much preparation from me, so it’s pretty easy to do.

Roald Dahl is most famous for his children’s stories – like The BFG, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, George’s Marvellous Medicine, but also he wrote some books of short stories for adults. I grew up reading his children’s books, but then also took an interest in the books of short stories too when I’d grown up a bit. So, I’ve always enjoyed Roald Dahl’s work.

I’d like to recommend his books of short stories for you to read. If you’re looking for something to read in English (and you should always have an English book on the go – it’s vital) then these could be great.

Here are some reasons why Roald Dahl is so great for reading (for your English)

  • The stories are short, so it’s less demanding and less intimidating. You can finish them. Yey!
  • They’re very well written – descriptive language and just good plain English that is easy to read and modern in style
  • They’re great little stories full of curiosities, mystery, strange things, funny things.

You could get any of Roald Dahl’s books of short stories, but a good recommendation from me would be “The Complete Short Stories: Volume 1 & 2” by Roald Dahl. Should be available from all good bookstores, including Amazon.

So, I highly recommend that you check out his work. It could be great for your English. Roald Dahl’s work is also available as audiobooks, which you could check out using Audible. Remember they still sponsor my podcast. If you use my link, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial which includes a free download of any audiobook you like.

www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke check it out. You could get a Roald Dahl book – and many of them are read by great British actors that you might know.

Now, in this episode I’m going to read out one of Dahl’s short stories. This one always sticks in my mind. I read it when I was a teenager. One of the things that always stuck in my mind was the descriptive language – describing the car he drives and the people he meets. Those descriptions really stuck with me. It’s one of the reasons I’m sure his stories are great for learning English.

It’s quite simple. I’m going to read the story to you. You can check out the story by following the link on my website, or if you have a copy of his book you can read it with me. This one is called The Hitch Hiker and it appears in volume 2 of The Complete Short Stories.

A hitch hiker is someone who waits by the side of the road and hopes to get a lift from someone. They don’t have a car or money for a bus or train, so they stick out their thumb and hope someone will stop and take them where they want to go.

I don’t know if you’ve ever hitch hiked. I’ve done it a couple of times. It felt a little risky. These days I wouldn’t do it probably. Feels a bit dangerous.

Anyway, here is the story called The Hitch Hiker. It’s only a few pages long. There’s a link on the page for this episode (below) which will allow you to read the story too.

Things I like about it / What to look out for

  • The various descriptions of the high performance car (very modern for when the story was written)
  • How it looks, the electric windows and sunroof, automatic radio aerial, the sounds of the engine, the responsiveness of the steering and brakes. He doesn’t just drive at 70, he whispers along. He doesn’t just slow down, he touches the brakes.
  • His descriptions of the hitch-hiker – comparing him to a rat
  • The descriptions of the appearance and manner of the police officer
  • The mystery surrounding the hitch hiker
  • The way the hitch hiker’s “job” is described in rather exciting and glamourous ways
  • The little twist at the end of the story

That’s it! Let’s start reading.

Click here to see the pdf of The Hitchhiker by Roald Dahl

516. Paul McCartney’s Spider Story

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

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Pre-Jingle Vocabulary

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comprehension Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Serafinowicz Show – The Beatles go for a poo

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

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

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

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

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

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Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other episodes dealing with Narrative Verb Tenses in more detail

29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses 

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

176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review 

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

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

The Six Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

More episodes of LEP coming before too long.

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



474. Holiday Diary (Part 1) New Arrival, New Destinations

Hi everyone, I’m back from my holiday so here’s a new episode of the podcast. In this one you’ll hear me talking about some recent news (including quite a big announcement) and then an account of what we did on holiday including some descriptions, opinions and stories. There’s talk of disturbing political events, dodgy car rental experiences, and a couple of beautiful cities where urban life meets wild nature. Enjoy!


Notes & Transcript

Some of this text (below) is a full transcript of what I say in the episode, and other parts are just basic notes which I used while recording. So it’s not a 100% complete script.

Hello! I’m back from holiday!

How are you? Did you have a good August? Did you go anywhere?

Let us know in the comment section what you’ve been up to.

In this episode I want to just tell you about my holiday.

As you know, I’ve been away and it’s become sort of customary for me to give you a sort of holiday report whenever I come back from a trip away, so that’s what I’m going to do in this episode.

I’m going to describe places we visited, things we saw and I’ll tell a few little anecdotes along the way and give you my opinions on some things.

You will find some notes and transcriptions on the page for this episode if you want to read some of the words I’m saying, for example if you hear me say something in particular and you’re not sure what it is, check the episode page it will probably be there.

I don’t know how long this is going to be. I might divide it into a couple of episodes. It’ll be as long as it takes for me to just feel like I’ve told you the things that are on my mind and were on my mind while we were away.

Just before we start

  • Andy interview part 2 (Episode 472) – it seems a lot of people were quite moved by Andy’s story. It was an emotional one. Andy deserves some respect for sharing it with us and for managing to get through such a terrifying experience when he was relatively young. It’s also interesting to see in the comments that many of you have had similar experiences to Andy or your lives have been affected by cancer in some way, and you have used running as a way to deal with it and so you found his account to be particularly poignant. Unfortunately cancer touches many people’s lives in one way or another. But a story in which someone beats it is always a reassuring boost to anyone who knows about it.
  • Website only stuff – I hope you enjoyed some of the website only material I uploaded while I was away. There are three things in the episode archive that you won’t know about if you just subscribe to the audio podcast. One is an episode of Zdenek’s English Podcast in which he recorded us speaking in London when we met there and we had fun teaching some crime-related idioms and just making up some stuff about my supposed criminal past. The second thing is a DVD commentary track that I recorded with James for Star Wars Episode 4. We just sat down in his flat one evening, put on his Star Wars DVD and recorded our own commentary. That’s just for the Star Wars fans I suppose. You can just listen to it, or watch the film and listen at the same time and you’ll hear James and me discussing the various scenes, making fun of the film, doing some impressions of the characters and generally messing around over the top of the film. Then the third thing is a long musical mix that James and I did using his vinyl record collection. He has a lot of vinyl records, many of them original 7inch and 12inch singles from the 60s, 70s and 80s. We went through his records in a long mix and the plan was to go through a history of British music. THe mix has some speaking between the records and you’ll hear music all the way from 1961 to the mid 90s when we ran out of time. If you like music and you’d like to learn a bit about the UK’s musical history, check it out.
  • Transcript projects – The Orion Team and Andromeda Team have been busy producing more and more transcripts. You can now find over 250 finished scripts and also many scripts which are 100% proofread. Go to the transcripts page on my website for more info. I’ll be updating that page soon to make it easier for you to find the transcripts.

So, the holiday.

Where did we go? And why?

We wanted to have kind of a blowout – that’s a fairly big holiday as a celebration because my wife is pregnant. Yes, she’s pregnant, we’re going to have a baby so we wanted to go on another big trip while it’s just the two of us before the baby arrives.

That’s right – my wife is pregnant. We’re going to have a baby in December.
That’s kind of a big deal isn’t it?

If you are now thinking of writing to me by email or in the comment section to send me a message about this, and you’re wondering what to write exactly. Here are some things that would be appropriate.

Very happy for you!
Fantastic news!
That’s great!
When is it due?
Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?
Do you have any ideas for names?
Are you ready?

Those are some appropriate things.
Basically, congratulating us and wishing us well.

Needless to say, anything other than that would be inappropriate, right?

No doubt some of you will choose to think about the podcast and how that might be affected by this oncoming change in my life.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop doing the podcast because I’m having a baby (correction: my wife is actually the one who is going to have the baby, I’m just going stand there, let her dig her fingernails into the back of my hand and hope for the best.)

It’s true, things are bound to change in my life because of this and certainly at the beginning when the baby is newly born it might be hard to record and upload episodes as regularly as normal, but I definitely plan to carry on the podcast because honestly, this podcast is like my job these days – it is a job because I get income from sponsorship. It is a job I thoroughly enjoy and that I chose for myself.

Confucius: Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.


But it is a job nonetheless.

So there are several reasons why I plan to continue doing it. I’m not about to just abandon it.

So we chose to have a big trip to celebrate our last summer holiday just the two of us.

This would be our last holiday just the two of us! We kept saying, “It’s our last summer together!”

We’ve always gone abroad for our recent holidays – it seems alternating between parts of Asia and North America. Indonesia, California, Thailand, Japan.

But we think that with kids it would be easier and also safer to go on holiday in France or the UK.

So, this year we wanted one more fairly big trip!

2 years ago we had our honeymoon in California – we had an amazing time and had a few mini adventures involving bears outside tents and injuries on hiking trails (I made something like 8 podcast episodes about it! Called California Road Trip)

But there were things we didn’t manage to do or see on that trip and we always said “We’ll come back and do it next time” – at the time it helped deal with the disappointment of knowing were missing something, like for example the Grand Canyon or something else we really wanted to experience. “We’ll get it next time” we would say.

You can’t always see everything you want.

So this time we decided to have what we’re calling a ‘babymoon’ by going back to that part of the world to do the things we missed out on last time, just as a big final holiday just the two of us.

So, we went back to the USA – to Southern California for some days and then quite a lot of time exploring the National Parks and areas within the Navajo Nation territories. Places like Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Monument Valley, Lake Powell and The Grand Canyon. Incredible landscapes, natural scenery and wild beauty – but also the kind of infrastructure that would make it possible for my pregnant wife to see all that stuff without it being too inconvenient or risky.

So this is like the California Road Trip 2 but this time we went to lots of other states too, including Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

Back to the USA and for some reason I feel slightly sheepish about telling you that.

Feeling sheepish = slightly embarrassed, uncomfortable or unsure about something.



Maybe because of the political situation over there which is throwing a weird shadow on everything. It feels like a controversial time to go over there, as if you’re somehow taking part in it, validating it or making a statement about it.

There was nothing political about our trip so that has nothing to do with it.

It was hard to escape the politics there though, but only on the TV, mostly.

In our everyday experience we didn’t see any trouble, unrest, no anti-Trump rallies, no white nationalists marching around. We saw a couple of bumper stickers saying MAGA and also a poster that said “Hillary for Prison 2016” but that was it. A couple of people we met talked about how ashamed they were that Trump was their president and seemed surprised that we still wanted to visit the country.

But generally speaking, everyone we met – including people I imagine had voted for Trump and others who hadn’t – everyone was very polite and nice to us and apparently to each other too.

On the TV though, there were scenes of violence and chaos as fighting broke out between white supremacists and anti-facists in Charlottesville Virginia, on the other side of the country.

On TV it was fighting, chaos, debates, angry tweets, all kinds of drama. I took a look at Twitter a few times and there was a lot of quite angry debate on there with strong opinions on both sides – those who were clearly against the white supremacist groups and those who defended them. It felt at times like the country was in turmoil.

Then we looked out of the window and it was just silence, maybe a car driving by.

It just showed me the sharp contrast between the reality of TV and the internet (because I think the internet is the new mainstream media – despite what all the YouTubers think – it’s fast becoming the mainstream media, especially when they get more views than many TV shows). It showed the contrast between what you get in the media, and what you actually experience, but then again we were just tourists and were probably just scratching the surface.

Reminds me of Bill Hicks www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGjuPJskNRE

I could go into all the complicated politics of what happened in Charlottesville but I think I won’t, in this episode.

I could describe the reasons why white nationalists were marching through a town in Virginia (on the other side of the country to California), why they were waving confederate flags, why some of them had swastika flags, why they were shouting Trump Trump Trump and MAGA. I could go into how they fought with anti-facist protestors, and how we’re not sure who started the fighting. I could talk about how someone from the white supremacist side drove a car into the anti-facists, killing a woman and injuring 20 others, and I could go into why many people feel so upset and angry with their president for not taking a clear position on these people who some describe as fascists and neo-Nazis, and how lots of people believe Trump is somehow encouraging these people.

I could go into all of that, but this episode is supposed to be about a travelling experience, not about a fight in a town on the other side of the country.

I might come back to it in another episode. I’ll see how I feel.

The Holiday

Paris – Montreal (half a da) – L.A. (a few days) – Vegas (one evening is enough!) – National Parks & Canyons – Vegas (for about 2 hours) – L.A. (a few more days) – Paris – Bed!

Cities and national parks. Urban areas with metropolitan life and amazing geological features in desert canyons.


One afternoon and an evening.

We hung out mainly in the Mont Royal area and the old town.

  • Reasons Montreal is an awesome place
    People are really friendly and polite.
    Everyone’s bilingual, which is amazing. It’s shows that it’s totally possible for a whole city to be bilingual. No need to panic and freak out about several languages being spoken in a city at the same time.
  • It’s really diverse and in a good way because everyone’s really chilled out and there seems to be a lot of mixing between ethnic groups and not a lot of tension or anything.
  • They have this food called “poutine” which is basically French fries covered in cheese and gravy – not that healthy but it is seriously tasty.
  • The city has this nice colonial vibe to it and there’s loads of greenery everywhere. In the streets we walked down there were leafy trees, big bushes outside people’s houses, just plants growing everywhere – some of them planted, some of them weeds, but it felt like there was lots of plant life almost taking over the city, which is great. In Paris, it’s all stone and as a result it can feel a bit brutal. The greenery adds some much-needed calm to the place and also oxygen.
  • The buildings are really cool-looking, with really interesting looking staircases outside them and awesome wrought iron balconies and verandas.
  • Montreal has access to some amazing wilderness areas like local mountains, lakes and forests so you can get into nature really quickly while also enjoying the benefits of living in a city.

We were walking around going, “oh my word this is the perfect city for us”.

But, the bad side is that in winter it’s totally freezing and everything gets covered in 4 feet of snow, which makes life really inconvenient.

I know some of you listening to this live in similar places. What’s that like? How bad is that really?

Anyway, I loved Montreal and would gladly return there one day.

I like all the space, the convenience, the feeling of being in the ‘new world’, the vast natural landscapes and all that, but it’s Canada so you don’t get the feeling you’re in a completely crazy country where people shoot each other and stuff like that. I’d love to go back to Canada again one day. I did travel there for a month when I was 19 with my cousin Oliver and we had an amazing time then too. We’d very much like to go back there. We were even talking of moving there, but we don’t want to leave our family and friends behind.

Left Montreal and Flew to Los Angeles

Nightmare rental car experience with “Right Cars”.

Arrive and the woman at the info desk doesn’t know the company. Not a good start.
We work out that we need to get a shuttle to a car park a couple of kilometres away from the airport. A car park.

Everyone else is getting out of the shuttle at the proper rental places, getting greeted with smiling service agents from Enterprise and Avis.

We’re the last ones on the bus. Dropped off and told to go around the corner. “Round the corner! Round the corner! Just go on round the corner sir.”

At least they called me sir.
Tried to call them. Call centre hell.
Now I’m on hold in blazing sunshine in a car park, or parking lot.

It’s even called the cell phone lot. There’s no chance of not standing there on your cell phone, that’s the name of the place.

Finally get through to someone. There’s a driver coming.
We’re expecting a shuttle.
Dude turns up in a rental car.

We get in, asking questions. He tells us the shuttles are in the garage. Both of them just broke down this week.


We pick up the car, they add some other charges we didn’t know about like a toll road charge. Never went through a toll road.

And the bill and the receipt didn’t match but we were told it would be sorted out because the guy wasn’t there.

Shady dealings.

I’d ordered a GPS with it too and he said “Do you still want the GPS?” after we’d already paid.

Nah, that’s fine I took a good look at the city from the plane window, I think I’ve got it all worked out. I’ve played a lot of GTA5 I think I know my way around this city.
I watch a lot of movies, I know LA like the back of my hand, I’ll be fine.
Of course we wanted the GPS. “Do you still want it?”
No it’s ok, I’ve decided to just use the force. Thanks.

What’s it like walking around in LA? (I talked about this a bit in previous episodes)
Like being in a movie
Sunset Boulevard
Cool looking little shops and bars.
Hippie stuff everywhere.
Shops selling jewelry and cool clothes.
Constant smell of vaping, but not seeing where it came from.
Vegan coffee shops and stuff.
Amazing sunshine, lazy cars drifting past.
50s style burger joints and dudes on cool bicycles.
Tattoo’d people, bikers.
Stopped at a sports bar.
First hearing of Hotel California (this ubiquitous song that you hear everywhere)

Los Angeles is a big city with millions of people, an urban place where everyone drives, but there is a surprising amount of nature there with lots of wild plants, cactuses, trees, animal life, and hills with tree-filled canyons. You feel like it’s not difficult to get into nature quite easily. It’s not exactly like it is in the movies. In many ways, it’s better.

To be continued in Part 2 with some content about: Modern art, astronomy vs astrology, flat-earth conspiracy theories and more descriptions & stories!

Thanks for listening.


Oasis of calm - in the middle of Silverlake, Los Angeles.

Oasis of calm – in the middle of Silverlake, Los Angeles.

443. The Trip to Japan (Part 2)

Describing my recent trip to Japan and exploring the culture of the Land of the Rising Sun.

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*I’m just an English guy trying to understand Japanese culture. Please forgive me if I get anything wrong! :) ❤️ 🇯🇵

Food & Drink

It’s simply delicious and I don’t know why! What’s the secret, Japan? Why is your food so delicious?

Communication style & language (but I’m planning a whole other episode about English)
Saying “no”
Constant sounds of “gozaimasu”
Heeeee, hoooooo etc
Certain words you always hear and could use: arigato gozaimasu (levels of politeness) doitashimashite, sumimasen, onegaishimasu, nama biru no futatsu onegaishimasu, kawaii, sugoi, gaijin, chotto, dekimasu, desu, desu ka, hai, so desu ka, ne, so desu ne.

Weird and scary things that people don’t often talk about
Natural disasters
North Korea
Some weird sexual stuff
No need to dwell on anything else. Every country has its dark side. I guess that it seems a bit more interesting in Japan because there’s so much emphasis on the cute, childish things. Also, because of the slightly ambiguous religion in Japan it makes you wonder where the moral lines are. A lot of that stuff seems a bit vague, probably because I come from a christian culture where morality is written down in the form of rules – very clear lines which we’re always aware of.

Before coming my brother was staying with me and we watched the new Godzilla film – not the Hollywood version directed by Gareth Edwards, but the recent Japanese one directed by Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi.
Shin Godzilla

What does Godzilla mean? What does it tell us about Japanese culture?
He’s created by nuclear tests in the ocean. He kind of represents the consequences of nuclear testing on nature, or the destructive power of nuclear weapons in Japan, or simply the vast destructive power of nature. At one time or another Japan has been subject to massive levels of destruction from either natural disasters or nuclear weapons. The nuclear attacks are obvious of course – but there were also nuclear tests by the US army after WW2 in waters affecting Japanese fishermen etc. The metaphor of natural disasters is easy to see. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami which affected Fukushima’s nuclear power plant – lots of scenes of destruction similar to what you see in the films. Godzilla kind of represents all of that. It’s interesting that Godzilla has been accepted as a sort of mascot in Japan. They love Godzilla, and in fact he’s sort of a protector of Japan, which I see as them owning this destructive power and turning it into something positive and uniquely Japanese.

The film also portrays the government as very inefficient and unable to make decisions quickly. So many people at various levels of status – all asking for second and third opinions and approval from above before making a decision. Some say this is a comment about the way the government responded to the Fukushima situation – slow to react, a lack of transparency, an inability to make the right decision quickly enough.

I don’t have all the answers about this place. There are a lot of mysteries. I think of all the sliding doors, the silence, the shadow, the ambiguity of the religious aspects of life, the weird things in Japanese cartoons that I just don’t understand, and simply wondering what Japanese people are really thinking behind their exterior which is hard to read, and the polite manners. Part of me believes there is just open space inside people, which is a kind of peaceful place where there’s no judgement, where there is no dogma, but there’s a kind of natural balance, like the space between rocks in a zen garden. But maybe I’m romanticising it just a little bit! I expect Japanese people are just as mysterious as the rest of us, because ultimately who does understand the secrets at the heart of the human soul?

One thing I can say is cool – I have made friends with some Japanese people in a more sincere way than many others I have met, and I’ve had moving connections with Japanese people that I don’t tend to have with others. I don’t know why. My Japanese friend for example, he said some moving things to me on my wedding day, and on the day I left Japan that seemed to come from some deep place of ancient Japanese wisdom. Yoda stuff, basically.

What did you do?

The basics of where we went and what we did.
Met by our friend, drove to Asakusa, sushi place. Food, beer.
Kamakura – drive – Tokyo skyline etc. Back in Kamakura – “natsukashii” – ‘good old’ or ‘Wow, it feels amazing to be back!’. Cherry blossom in the hills. Time with Moto’s family. Dinner at Matchpoint.

What is special about Karaoke?
Perfect way to have a party. There are whole buildings devoted to it in Tokyo. There are girls in the street who are like karaoke room dealers. You speak to them, book a little room. Go to the building and usually there are loads of drunken salary men pouring out of it. You get into your room – somewhere on the 9F of a big building. They bring you beer and food, direct to the room. There’s a computer database with thousands of songs on it. They’ve got everything. Everyone becomes a performer with their favourite song. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, the machine helps you a bit. Some people are brilliant. Everyone comes out of themselves a bit. It’s just you and your friends. Favourite songs get everyone in the mood. Singing is amazing fun. The videos on the machine are hilarious too – totally nothing to do with the lyrics of the song. Usually it’s a couple of people on a date in a random city. Often the lyrics are completely wrong too. We sang a lot of British pop and rock. David Bowie, Oasis and Pulp. My Japanese friend dances like Jarvis Cocker and really gets into the performance. He’s a “plastic gallagher”.

A day in Kamakura – Daibutsu, Cherry blossom avenue, noodles for lunch. Hookokuji temple & bamboo forest. Car drive to Ishiiki beach in Hayama with views of Mt Fuji. Yakitori restaurant in the evening, then another dinner of Japanese barbecue after that! Taxi ride back to the guesthouse – pristine taxi, automatic door.

Travel to Kyoto on Shinkansen. Bento boxes. Arrive in Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan during many important periods and was also the base of Buddhism. Also there are plenty of Shinto temples there since it was such an important place. Impossible to see everything in just a couple of days. More yakitori that evening and a lovely stroll by the river in the dark.

Kyoto shrine day. Early start and then these temples: Ninna-ji (beautiful rock gardens and pools, plus tons of cherry blossom everywhere. Interesting buildings – It is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor. Various interesting buildings including the Goten, the former residence of the head priest in the southwestern corner of the temple complex. Built in the style of an imperial palace, the graceful buildings are connected with each other by covered corridors, feature elegantly painted sliding doors (fusuma) and are surrounded by beautiful rock and pond gardens.
Then to Ryoanji Temple – with its amazing rock garden.
Then Kinkakuji – the golden temple.
Lunch at a convenience store – just rice balls!
Then across town to Ginkakuji – where there is an amazing sand garden with a kind of replica of Mt Fuji. It’s bizarre. Crowded.
Philosopher’s Walk – cherry blossom everywhere. Also crowded :(
Some shopping for Yukata – found a place selling second-hand yukata in perfect condition. One for me, one for the wife. Lovely patterns. Not too expensive. Met a friend from London, dinner. Matsusaka beef! Apparently it’s more tender because it comes from virgin cows. What, less trauma because the cow had never had sex? How does that work? I remember being distinctly more relaxed after sex (and not just immediately after) but perhaps for cows it’s more traumatic, anyway…
Hot bath at the guesthouse in the communal area. Far less “public” than my experience in Thailand.
Tiny room.

Next day – early start for Fushimi Inari Shrine, an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of red torii gates, which cover a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.

Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.

Basically there are these trails that go up to the top of a hill and most of the way is covered by these red gates. The red tori gates are common in the entrance to shrines and represent your movement from the normal world into the spirit world. They’re beautiful and this shrine with rows of thousands of red gates is stunning. The gates are donated by local businesses.

Then more walking around and some shopping for gifts and souvenirs. Shinkansen back to Shinagawa station – meet our friend again. Hotel in the Meguro area.
Gig that evening.

How was the comedy show in Tokyo?

I didn’t know what to expect.
No people, loads of people? Not sure.
Arrived, place was already totally packed. Got upstairs, room goes “huuuuuuu!” as I enter. People are going “luku? Luku? Heeeeee~!” Gasps etc.
Upstairs with other comics, introduce myself etc. We chat. People are surprised and going – can’t you stay? Let’s arrange other shows!
There’s a scene there but mostly for expats in English. This room was full of Japanese people (and a few others) and they’re all here for me!
I walk around upstairs trying to get myself ready, trying to decide what to do.
Audience is lovely, but I think they’re mainly waiting for me.
Apparently some people can’t get in the place. There are people in the stairs just listening.
I did about 45 minutes. Lovely audience of course. They’re lepsters. Interesting to see what worked and what didn’t work. The bits that didn’t work were some of the film references – e.g. Ratatouille, and surprisingly Taken
A lot of my routine is for a French audience. Taken is actually quite specific to a French crowd because the film is set in Paris.
Some bits the audience took on face value – like they took it as being true. E.g. some bits in my star wars routine about how my Dad is an evil strict overbearing tyrant like Darth Vader – not true, but just full of parallels about my life and Star Wars.
Especially the bits about Japan. I’ll play you some extracts later.
A few requests:
The jingle. The italki promo. Some impressions, Obama, Hobson’s Choice!
I wish I’d gone bye bye bye at the end!
Then after the show there was a massive queue of people who wanted to get my autograph. So bizarre.
Also, selfies, handshakes, talking to each person. Gifts.
It was actually an incredible experience meeting each person and hearing about how they listen to my podcast and how it obviously means a lot to them. I’m very glad to know that as always, because I put a lot into it myself.
It was bizarre – I was a celebrity for that evening, with people staring at me and taking my photo and stuff.

*This is where the episode ends, but feel free to read the rest of my notes which I didn’t read out*

Rest of the trip – in Tokyo. Hanging out in Meguro avenue, Daikanyama, Shibuya, Shinjuku. Shopping, sightseeing, eating tasty food. Taking photos. Just enjoying the sunshine.
Dinner at The New York Grill – where Lost In Translation was filmed.
Another day in the Ginza area – shopping for some more gifts like tableware and stuff from Muji which is my wife’s favourite shop. Driving around the imperial palace. Views of Tokyo tower – like The Eiffel Tower but sort of misshapen and not quite as beautiful but iconic in its own way. Went up the World Trade Centre for amazing views of the sunset. Everyone on a date.
Visited a couple of friends – including one at a super cool photography studio that allows you to take 3D photos.
Shabu shabu dinner in Shinjuku with Peter who I used to live with. He was featured in this episode actually (below)

203. The Flatmate from Japan

Visited Asakusa temple – one of the biggest in the Tokyo area and very crowded.
Airport and home! So quick!


You Are Here by John Lennon

Photos & Video



436. The Return of The Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) [Video]

Amber, Paul and I play another round of The Lying Game, in which we each tell a story and the others have to guess if it’s true or a lie. Listen for story telling, questions and general fun, plus some jokes at the end of the episode. Video available.




First, this comment from a LEPster

Jan Struve
Last year when my listening skills in english improved I started listening to an english podcast which was spoken at normal speed. Two men and a woman took part in the podcast and they spoke and played a game like this : One of them started telling a story and the others had to guess whether the story had really happened or was only fictional. They called it the Lying game. I remember that I was listening to the podcast when I was driving by car to work. My workplace was about 35 km away from my hometown and I was heading towards the highway. On the way, I got very deep into the conversation of the three guys and their equally fascinating and exciting stories. I was driving and listening and felt happy having improved my english so far and was able to listen to such driven and awesome podcasters that I forgot everything around me.
I drove and drove and after half an hour when the podcast finally ended I found myself way north on the wrong highway. I had missed the exit west and had driven more than 60km without noticing anything but the podcast. That was my first experience with the great and awesome Luke´s English Podcast.

Please take care when driving or operating heavy machinery.

It’s time to play the Lying Game again

Let’s call this season 2. It’s ‘even stevens’ again.


  • Someone tells us something – often a little story about their life. It can be either true or a lie.
  • We ask lots of questions like a detective and then decide if we think it’s true or a lie.
  • If you guess correctly, you get a point. If you guess incorrectly, the story-teller gets a point.

Listeners – just try to follow the conversation and try to guess if we’re lying or telling the truth.

Final Scores

Amber: 0 / 1 / 0

Paul: 1 / 1 / 1

Luke: 1 / 0 / 1

Jokes you heard at the end of the episode

Why are there no aspirins in the jungle?
Because the parrots-eat-em-all (paracetamol)

What’s the difference between snow-men and snow-women?

I read an article on Japanese swordfighters. It’s quite long but I can samurais it for you. (summarise it)

How do you count cows?
With a cow-culator. (calculator)

Visitors to Cuba always enjoy themselves.
You could say they were “Havana” good time. (having a…)

How do astronomers organise a party?
They “planet”. (plan it)

I saw a band last night. They came from an island just of the south of Malaysia.
Yes, but the drummer was good.
(Was the singer poor? – was he a bad singer?)

My wife’s gone to the West Indies.
No, she went of her own accord.
(Jamaica – “Did you make her (go)?”)

My wife’s gone to Indonesia.
No, she went by plane.
(Did you ‘cart’ her?)

A man got hit in the head with a can of coke
But it was alright because it was a ‘soft drink’.

Why did the can crusher quit his job?
Because it was soda-pressing (so depressing)

378. Holiday in Thailand (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of this description of my recent holiday in Thailand. In this one you can hear more stories and descriptions about different parts of the country, learning how to cook, a conversation with a monk, doing yoga every day, a couple of messages from listeners and some reflections on gratitude, forgiveness and guidance. Transcript and notes below.

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Part 1 got a bit rude in places, didn’t it? I told you about a couple of embarrassing and slightly difficult experiences, a dodgy joke, and some cultural details about Thailand itself, including some things that you might not know about the country. You might have noticed that I was trying to make you laugh a bit, rather than just explaining each individual thing we did there. Some people left comments on the website expressing how much it made them laugh.

For example:

Hahahha this is such a funny episode! I was laughing out loud in the metro and everyone thought I was crazy ! Really great thanks Luke!

Hello Luke!
Hilarious episode, and of course a great one. I was laughing out loud while roller skating. Everybody was looking at me like a crazy woman but it was worth listening despite that :). Thank you for your great work.

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

I’m going to carry on in this episode with just a few more descriptions of things that happened in Thailand. If you’re thinking of going on holiday there, I would recommend it. A couple of weeks is enough to see and do lots of things. Thailand has a reliable tourist infrastructure which means it’s not difficult to find accommodation, transportation, plenty of places to eat good food, diverse activities and cultural things to see such as temples, art and craft, cooking lessons, night markets, beaches, snorkelling, scuba diving, trekking, kayaking, yoga and meditation. They have the sea, the city and the hills and forests. It’s a diverse and friendly place and a top place to go for a holiday which can be both adventurous and laid back.

My wife and I had a great time there and in this episode I’m going to talk to you about some of the other highlights of the rest of our trip.


  • Cultural visits in and around Bangkok
  • A couple of dodgy jokes which I came up with and which have to be told
  • Chiang Mai in the north
  • Learning how to cook Thai food
  • In conversation with a monk
  • Koh samui – an island in the south
  • Our yoga retreat – which I expected to be peaceful and relaxing, but which was more like a punishing fitness regime in high temperatures
  • Mouse news (for people who listened to the episode I did before the holiday)

Grand Palace & Wat Pho

This is the temple of the reclining buddha. It’s brilliant, but “Wat Pho” sounds to me like a question, especially if you say it in a kind of hip hop, black American gangster accent.
– I visited the temple of the reclining buddha in Bangkok
Wat pho?
– Just because I thought it would be an interesting thing to see.

Not the strongest joke ever.


Former capital, now a place with loads of impressive old temples and archeological sites. It was extremely fascinating and brilliant but we walked around it all day and get extremely hot and tired, and I came up with this joke.

So, I visited the ancient capital of Thailand today.
– Ayutthaya?
Yes, I’m absolutely exhausted!

Again, not the strongest joke ever. But come on, it’s not bad!

Chiang Mai

How the city looks and where it is.
Walking streets.
Cooking class.
Monk chat.

Koh Samui

Yoga retreat
Relaxing? No – quite a punishing regime.
Early starts, cycling, ‘core foundations’, embarrassing yoga. Mix, repeat.
Food = vegan and veggie.
No beer at all.
Met some very nice people including a German lady called Doris who was a lot of fun. Mui Thai, cross fit etc. She could kick me in the head. Taught me important German words like “shveiss!” For sweat. She discovered my podcast and now might be listening. Hopefully I’ve converted her into being a LEPster.
Lots of funny times at the yoga retreat which felt a bit like being in a cult, or some kind of luxurious jail.
Yoga was quite hard – especially for me – my hips and hamstrings are a disaster. They’re very stiff and inflexible. Eg sitting cross legged is really hard.
My body wants to fall over backwards.
My favourite yoga position – lying in my back!
Great instructors including a couple from England – Ellie and David. David was particularly impressive.
I was basically the only man there except for a few other blokes hanging around doing another program, but in our group I was the only man. All the girls, including my wife I should add, all fell in love with David, especially after they googled him and discovered a few things, such as the fact he was a green beret in the marines, he used to be a fire-fighter, he became a black belt in some obscure Philippine martial art ( trained with a grandmaster)
His sessions, particularly ‘core foundations’ we’re pretty punishing and while the girls found it to be enriching and inspiring, I felt like my ego was slowly being crushed like a grape.
Fitness and yoga sessions twice a day.
Sweating all the fluid out of my body twice a day.
Eating noting but super healthy food.
Getting up at 6 each morning and going to bed at about 9.
All that yoga and tons of meditation.
I felt amazing afterwards, and still do – and that was just 5 days.
In the meditation you are encouraged to focus on things inside you quite deeply.
Combined with the hard fitness work and yoga, which is very humbling and detoxifying I found that in my meditation sessions a lot of painful and guilt filled memories came back to me.
It was like all the bad things were being flushed out of my system.
It was quite painful at times – emotionally as well as physically.
I won’t tell you about all the painful memories that came to me while I was contemplating forgiveness / asking to be forgiven, but I can share one or two – just to give you an idea.
Years ago.
Bad time in life.
Young, immature, directionless, not looking after myself.
Identity crisis.
Full of awkwardness.
Not in a good place or where I wanted to be.
Working all day every day in a crappy job.
It seemed that every day was filled with nothing but awkward encounters.
Just crushing social awkwardness in which I just came across as really weird and unable to function normally. People must have thought I was odd. Either that or I was paranoid and imagining it all. I could not tell.
Felt totally out of it.
I was actually very depressed.
There was just one guy really who I got on with.
Older than me, quite shy but with a dark sense of humour. We got on alright.
We were like buddies.
Doing the job just to get by. Hated it.
Playing in a band in the evenings but I hated that too – lots of personal politics. Couldn’t sleep at nights.
Invaded by weird negativity all the time.
Thank goodness I’m in a much much better place these days although sometimes that kind of feeling comes back.
A lot of those feelings and that whole emotional space came back to me when I was searching for forgiveness.
In the end I was really fed up and decided to basically start again.
Went back to my parents. Always feels like a failure.
Anyway, some of the people at the job organised a little leaving drink for me the day after I left. I basically left with them saying “see you tomorrow evening at the pub”.
Walking out of there felt like a huge relief.
The next day for some reason I just didn’t want to go out.
I didn’t go to the drink.
I stood everybody up at my own leaving drink.
It might not feel like a big deal to you now. Not so serious. In fact, people do shitty things like this a lot – ignoring a so called friend that they don’t want in their life any more. Dumping a girl by text message. Shitty things.
Anyway, for some reason this kept coming back to me and it just really bothers me.
The guy I met and struck up a friendship with, that’s the worst. I feel really bad about him making an effort to come to the drink and then I just didn’t turn up.
Anyway, I was asking for forgiveness for that, and a few other things too which I won’t mention because it’s too personal.
So overall it was quite an experience to flush out all these negative things – physical and emotional.
It’s a good thing too. It feels great.

I think holidays are best when you actually have something to do which takes you out of yourself. It helps you deal with your past, enjoy the present and prepare for the future.

Think about something you’re grateful for, something you’d like to be forgiven for or someone you’d like to forgive, and something you’d like guidance for.

Back in Paris – September – back to work at the BC – also on my online work – I think I’m going to launch a new competition – stay tuned.

Mouse News

In the last episode I told you a quick story about how I nearly caught a mouse in a mousetrap, but it escaped even though its back legs weren’t working. I was worried that the mouse would crawl off and die on some little corner of the flat somewhere, and then would make a smell. I didn’t tell my wife about this by the way, because what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her, but I was worried that we’d come back and there would be a bit of a ‘dead mouse smell’, but thankfully our flat smelled fine and actually quite nice (we have lots of plants). So, weirdly, despite wanting to kill the mouse in the first place I am actually quite glad that the mouse is still alive. I wonder if it’s learned from its mistake or not. Perhaps I’ll get it next time around.

That’s it!

Join the mailing list. Subscribe on iTunes or other podcasting software. Watch out for news of a new competition I’m going to launch, and as ever let me know what you’re thinking and practise your English by leaving a comment on the website.

I want to say thank you

  • people who have left me comments following the latest Annual General Meeting episode in which I asked lots of questions. Thank you for your answers – it all helps me to get an idea of what you’re thinking and how I can adapt my episodes slightly to your preferences and things like that
  • people who I have met in person and who have spoken to me personally about the podcast – you know who you are
  • people who have made donations to LEP – you are now LEP stakeholders or patrons and I appreciate it very much indeed. You’re the life-blood of LEP and you help to keep the whole show on the road.
  • transcript collaboration
  • similarly – I would like to thank those of you who chose to use my url codes when signing up with italki and audible. Whenever someone does that I get a small kickback and it all helps to keep the podcast alive, and also to convince people around me that all of this is worth doing. I could be spending my time doing more private English lessons, or doing more teaching at university etc, but both you and I would rather I produced episodes of this podcast, right? Well, donations and sponsors allow me to do that. If I didn’t have those forms of support, it would be hard to justify to myself and my family that I spend so much time doing this. I still plan to make it more of a career for me, with the aim of doing just online content creation as my full-time job, and that’s a work in progress. I know I’ve been saying that for years and it’s way overdue, so watch this space for more content which can help you improve your English in new and improved ways.

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

This episode of the podcast is all about telling anecdotes in English. Anecdotes are little stories about our experiences that we share while socialising. It’s important to have a few anecdotes of your own and to know how to tell them properly. In this episode I’m going to give you some advice for how to tell an anecdote and then you’re going to listen to some true anecdotes told by members of my family that I recorded yesterday evening during dinner.

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This episode is sponsored by italki. Speaking practice is very important in developing natural, fluent English and this is now really easy to achieve because with italki you can find plenty of native speakers and teachers to talk to, you can set your own schedule and you don’t even need to leave the house – you can do all of it from your own home. If you want to practise telling your anecdotes, do it in conversation on italki. They have lots of friendly and experienced teachers who are ready to help you to learn English your way. Go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and to get a voucher worth 100ITC when you get some lessons. OK, let’s get started!

I’m at my parents’ house for a few days. My brother and I are just taking a couple of days off and spending some time here doing the usual things like enjoying the fresh air, talking to my parents and taking advantage of our mum’s cooking.

Yesterday evening we were eating dessert at the end of dinner and we started talking about anecdotes. I think I asked everyone, “Do you have any anecdotes?” I asked them to think of an anecdote they’d told before. We were about to start when I realised that it might be a good idea to record the  talking, so I quickly got my audio recorder and then recorded them telling those anecdotes. Each one is about 5 minutes long.

Before we just listen to their little stories, let’s consider anecdotes and how important they are in English.

From the archives: Another episode about telling anecdotes (episode 44) teacherluke.co.uk/2011/10/11/telling-anecdotes/ 

By the way, listen to this episode from the archives about telling anecdotes. I gave some advice for anecdotes and then we listened to a couple of funny ones. This episode develops the ideas I talked about in episode 44.

What are anecdotes and why are they important?

The Collins Online Dictionary defines an anecdote as a short, usually amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one.

So, essentially anecdotes are little true stories about ourselves. We are usually the protagonists in our anecdotes, and they’re usually told in informal social situations. Sometimes there are moments in our social interactions when we just start sharing little stories about things that have happened to us in our lives. This might happen at a dinner, or when you’re generally spending some extended time with other people. Anecdotes are a really common part of the way we socialise in English. They allow us to entertain the people around us, while letting them know a bit more about us.

Both of those things are vital in my opinion. If you’re trying to build a relationship with people it’s important to both entertain them and also share some personal information with them. Entertaining the people around you is important because it just makes them feel good. If you can make people feel good, they’re much more likely to trust you, to give something to you in return and also, it’s just good to entertain people around you. It’s just fun and enjoyable to hear about people’s experiences. Also, giving away some personal information is a good way of encouraging other people to do the same thing. That’s how you build trust. For building a relationship you can do two things: ask questions and be prepared to give away details about yourself. Anecdotes help you achieve the second one in a fun way.

So, how do you tell an anecdote in English?

Tips for Telling Anecdotes

  1. Find the right moment. Usually they take place in informal anecdote sharing sessions. Don’t just jam your story into a conversation. It should add something to the subject of the conversation. E.g. you might be sharing travelling stories, or stories about weird people you’ve met, or university stories, or dangerous experiences. That’s when it’s appropriate to add your story too. Maybe you’re talking about a particular subject and your anecdote will add something to that conversation. E.g. you might be talking about the difficulty of finding accommodation in your town, and you could tell the story of the crazy landlord you used to have. Perhaps someone has just told a story, and you’ve got one that relates to it too. All of those are good moments to introduce your anecdote. Only tell your story if it relates to the conversation you’re already having.
  2. Keep it short! Don’t get stuck in the details too much. Focus on the impact of the story. What emotion are you attempting to elicit in people? What is the feeling you’re trying to get across? Is it frustration, fear, danger, humour? Focus on communicating a feeling and try not to let the details get in the way. You need to communicate that feeling by explaining the right events. The best anecdotes allow the listeners to discover the same feelings as you did when you felt them, so describe the events and aspects of the situation that made you feel that way. Don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it pretty short and simple. Say the word “anyway” when you get stuck in the details and want to move on to the main stuff.
  3. Use the right narrative tenses. Usually we tell anecdotes in the past. That means you’ll be using past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Here’s a really quick and simple explanation of how you use those tenses. Past simple – this is the tense you use to explain the main actions in the principle part of the story. E.g. I saw a spaceship, I stopped my car, the spaceship flew above me, all the objects in my car started floating, I saw a bright flash of light, then I woke up lying down in the forest with a pain in my backside.” Past simple is usually used for short actions that happen one after the other. Past continuous – we use this to explain the situation at the time the main events happened. It’s for context. It sets the scene. E.g. “I was driving in my car through the countryside late one night when I saw something strange”. Also, it’s for moment by moment action, and it’s when two things happen at the same time. Past continuous is for the longer action of the two. The action starts, is interrupted by a shorter past simple action, and then may or may not continue. E.g. “I was trying to remember where I was when these guys in black suits turned up and started asking me questions.” Past perfect – this is for giving back story. Use past perfect to talk about events that happened before the main events of the story. E.g. I told the guys that I’d just been camping in the forest and that I’d got up in the night to go to the toilet and I’d lost my tent, and that’s why I was sleeping outside like that. I told them I hadn’t seen any aliens or anything like that.” Past perfect is a difficult one to notice when listening. The “had” is often contracted and can be impossible to hear. It’s possible to identify past perfect because of the use of past participles, e.g. “I’d seen it before” and “I saw it before” but when regular verbs are used it can be almost invisible. Compare “I’d finished” and “I finished”. They sound very similar. Sometimes ‘had’ is not completely contracted but pronounced using a weak form, like ‘/həd/’ e.g. “He had been there before”. It might also be part of a continuous form, like “He had been talking to someone else”.
    So, there are the narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous, past perfect. Past simple is the most common one – you could probably just tell the story with that one on its own, but adding the other two will give your stories more depth and range. Think about how you use these three tenses when describing events in the past.
  4. Tell us how you felt. That’s pretty simple. Just give us some emotional content.
  5. Use direct speech. Don’t worry about using reported speech, just use direct quotes. E.g. “He said “What are you doing here?” and I said “I’m just camping!” and they both said “Where’s your tent?” and I said “It got stolen in the night, or I lost it, I can’t remember”. I don’t think they believed me but they told me to be careful and to go home.
  6. Introduce your story with a quick sentence, like “I got abducted by aliens once” or “I saw a weird thing once” or “That sounds like something that happened to me once”. That’s generally a sign that you’ve got a little story to tell. However, if people aren’t really listening, don’t worry about it, this might not be the moment for your story.
  7. When someone has just told a little story, ask a few questions or respond to it in some way. Show some appreciation of the anecdote – like, “Oh my god I can’t believe that!” or “Wow, I can’t believe that you got abducted by aliens!”
  8. Try to make it quite entertaining! If the story doesn’t have much entertainment value, keep it extra short. You can exaggerate the story a bit, but don’t lie, that’s just deceptive. For example, don’t just make up a clearly fictional story about being abducted by aliens. Obviously, it should be very much ‘based on a true story’. Repeating anecdotes a few times is quite common. In fact, people carry anecdotes with them through their lives and repeat them again and again. You probably have a few experiences that you’ve described a few times – they’re your anecdotes. Try converting them into English, and it’s ok to practise those anecdotes a few times because you’re learning the language. Think about experiences you’ve had in your life – how would you describe them fairly quickly in conversation, focusing on the main events and how they made you feel at the time?
  9. Show us when the story is finished. Typically we might say “That’s what happened.” or “And that’s it” or even “That’s my alien abduction story.” It’s nice if your anecdote can end with a funny line or a punchline, but that’s difficult. It might also be good to say what you learned from your experience.

Now, let’s hear my family’s anecdotes shall we? (yes)

By coincidence, all these anecdotes relate to meeting strange people and most of them involve some element of danger (in the case of the boys’ stories) or embarrassment in my Mum’s story.

Imagine you’re at the dinner table with my Mum, Dad and brother. As you listen, think about the things I’ve just mentioned, and try to notice them. You could listen to this episode a few times. Try to notice different things I mentioned about telling anecdotes. Which anecdote do you think is the best? Why is it a good one?

Here are some key points to watch out for.

  • Narrative tenses used – in particular, can you hear when past perfect is used? It’s only used in 3 out of the 4 stories. Watch out for past continuous to set the scene. Is that one used in every story?
  • When someone says “anyway” in order to avoid getting caught in the details
  • What is the main feeling that the person is trying to communicate? Is it danger, embarrassment, weirdness?
  • How does the anecdote end?
  • Any new vocabulary?

I’ll let you listen to the anecdotes, and then I’ll deal with some vocabulary and make any other points afterwards.

Mum’s Anecdote – Meeting the King of Tonga

(Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of more than 170 islands, many uninhabited)

*some past perfect is used to explain what the king had been doing before mum arrived

It’s going to fall very flat = it’s going to fail to have the intended effect. E.g. if a joke falls flat, it doesn’t make anyone laugh. If a story falls flat, it is not impressive or amusing.

It’s been built up too much = We say this when people’s expectations have been raised. To ‘build something up’ means to raise people’s expectations of something. You’d say this before telling a joke if you feel like everyone’s expectations have been raised. E.g. “What’s this Russian joke? I’ve heard you talking about it a lot, so it must be amazing.” “Well, it’s been built up too much now, it’s just going to fall flat.” or “Have you seen the new Spielberg film Bridge of Spies, oh my god it is amazing!” “Don’t build it up too much!”

I was nothing to do with it = if you have nothing to do with something it means you are not involved or connected to anything at all. E.g. “Mr Thompson, I want to talk to you about the bank robbery that occurred in the town centre last year.” “Bank robbery? I had nothing to do with it officer, I promise!” or simply “There was a royal visit happening, but I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to pick up my husband.”

I was just a hanger-on = a hanger-on is someone who just hangs on. This is someone who is nothing to do with what’s happening but they just hang around. E.g. musicians often have hangers on. These are people that hang around the band even though they’re not contributing to the show at all. They’re just hanging on because it’s cool or fun to be with the band.

I was skulking in the corner = to skulk means to kind of hide or keep out of sight, often in a slightly cowardly way.

He beckoned to me = to beckon to someone is to wave someone over to you with your hand. It’s to do a motion with your hand which encourages someone to come to talk to you.

He was eyeing her up = this means to look at someone because you fancy them – to look at someone with sexual interest. E.g. the king of Tonga was eyeing up my Mum all evening.


James’ Anecdote – Hastings Story

a skate park = a place designed for skateboarding

the ramp’s in the church = a ramp is a thing for skateboarding on. It has sloped sides so skaters can go up and down on it

a hog on a spit = a hog is a pig, and a spit is a stick that goes through the pig, suspending it above a fire

we had too good a time = we had a good time – but if you want to add ‘too’ you need to say “we had too good a time” not “we had a too good time” – this works with the structure in general. “It was too big a pizza for me to eat” or “It was too long a journey to make at that time of night”

I was too drunk – not in a lairy way = to be lairy means to be aggressive and anti-social. It happens when some people get drunk. They get lairy.

I’m bigger than him, I can take him = to ‘take’ someone means beat them in a fight

We crashed out = to crash out means to fall asleep, usually quickly and often in a place where you don’t usually sleep.

I’ve painted everything in hammerite www.hammerite.co.uk/ = hammerite is a kind of metallic paint

He was coming round = to come round here means to wake up, or come back to consciousness

I didn’t get interfered with = to interfere with someone could mean to touch them in a sexual manner

*just past simple


Dad’s Anecdote – Hitchhiking in Italy

*all the narrative tenses used

We got a few good lifts = a lift is when someone takes you somewhere in a car. E.g. “Could you give me a lift to the station?”

This car pulled up = this is when a car stops by the side of the road (also – pull over)

He was a slightly dodgy character = dodgy means untrustworthy or suspicious

The car broke down = stopped working

They turned on him and said “What are you doing?” = to turn on someone (not turn someone on) means to suddenly start criticising or attacking someone. In this case, there were curious neighbours listening to the argument and after a while they turned on the guy – they decided that he was wrong and they started criticising him

I managed to jump in and grab the keys from the ignition = to manage to do something (this is an important verb structure) – also ‘the ignition’ is the part where you put the keys in order to start the car, e.g. “You left the keys in the ignition”

I dangled the keys over a grating / a drain = to dangle something over something is to hold something in the air so that it swings from side to side slightly. E.g. We sat on the edge of the bride with our legs dangling in the air.


Luke’s Anecdote – Liverpool StoryLEPcupPOLARIOD

*Includes quite a long passage with past perfect when I described what had happened to the man before he arrived at our front door.

There was some sort of commotion going on in the hallway = a commotion means a period of noise, confusion or excitement

He ran through all the alleyways = alleyways are passages between or behind houses

That’s it for vocabulary!

Which anecdote did you like the best, and why?

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118. Sick in Japan

In this episode I will tell you the story of how I ended up in a Japanese hospital for two weeks. Full transcript available below.

Right-click here to download this episode.
Read the notes below to see some of the sentences, phrases and words I use in this episode. A full transcript is also available below.

Click here for a previous episode in which I teach you lots of vocabulary about health and feeling ill. I also tell a brief version of this story there.

Sick in Japan – Full Transcript
[STARTS AT 00:00:00]
Hello there! You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast and this is Luke and I’m talking to you right now in your ears.

You’ve probably realised already that this was Luke’s English Podcast, because, well, first of all there’s a jingle at the beginning of the episode which says:

-”Hello you’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast”

probably when you heard that you thought:

– ”Oh, yeah. This must be Luke’s English Podcast or something”.

So that was probably quite a big clue. Also just the fact that you’ve probably decided to listen to this and it wasn’t just an accident. I doubt that you’ve just started listening to it by accident by, I don’t know, putting a coffee cup down on your computer and then, somehow the computer, just where you put the coffee cup on the keyboard that somehow typed in Luke’s English Podcast into Google and then it opened and then somehow it just started play as a surprise. I doubt that’s what happened. It probably wasn’t an accident. You probably said to yourself: – “I think, I’ll listen to Luke’s English Podcast now” and then you did, and so it, I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that that is actually what’s happening right now.

I don’t really need to keep saying that you’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast even though you are. I’m just telling you what’s happening. Okay? I’m just giving you information. Okay? Good. Right.

Now, I’m glad that I’ve established that. So, anyway, welcome, and I hope you’re well. I hope you enjoy yourself as you listen to this. People tend to do lots a different things while they’re listening to this. That’s one of the joys and one of the brilliant things about podcasting that you can listen to this wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

Apparently some people like to listen to this while they’re in the gym working out. If you’re on , like, a rowing machine or cycling machine, don’t feel like stopping. Okay? Keep going! Keep pushing yourself! Push yourself to the limit!

In fact, to be honest, I think, you’re probably, the setting that you’re using on that machine is little bit easy, I reckon. I think you can probably work a bit harder. Why don’t you just push the setting up a little bit higher. Just work harder! Come on! You could do better than that! Okay? Push yourself. l I wanna see, I wanna feel your sweat. Okay? I wanna smell the sweat coming through the Internet. That’s how much I believe that you can push yourself harder if you’re in the gym right now. Okay? You’ve got no excuse. I’m telling you push it harder, do a few extra weight lifts or turn up the setting on your running machine or whatever it is.

You might just decide that this is a good thing to listen to while you’re relaxing, which apparently a lot people like to do. Some people will brew themselves a nice relaxing cup of tea, and then sit down on the sofa and just get into a comfortable position. Maybe with some blanket as well just to make them feel extra comfortable – a pillow perhaps, maybe a teddy bear, something like that. Bring that nice and close around so it’s lovely and warm and so you can enjoy that lovely cup of tea you’ve just made. Just relax. Just allow the beautiful sounds of Luke’s English Podcast to enter into your ears and just get you into meditative learning state, where you can just pick up loads of natural fresh English.

Maybe you’re even lying in your bed, because a lot of people like to listen to this while they’re sleeping. I hope that…,I hope that doesn’t mean that somehow you find my voice boring that puts you to sleep. I prefer to believe that I’ve got a soothing tone of voice rather than just generally, extremely boring, monotonous voice which puts people to sleep. I don’t think that’s true. I think that people just generally find it relaxing and soothing, right? So if you’re lying in bed and you’re using this to help you go to sleep then, I hope you’re having, you’re in lovely comfortable position. Isn’t it wonderful just lying there in bed? You can just feel the lovely warmth of the blanket around you in the comfort of that mattress beneath you. I’m jealous personally. I’m very jealous. I’d love to be just lying in bed right now, doing what you’re doing.

Apparently they say that you can learn English when you’re sleeping, I wonder if that’s true. Well, if you do listen to this while you’re asleep then, and you feel like you wake up in the morning and feeling like:

– “Suddenly I feel the incredible potential that I’ve amassed during my sleep to be able to speak or write or understand fluent English”.

Just let me know if that’s the case, because I’d like to know. I just feel like it will help me understand everything a little bit better.

If you’re driving while listening to this – take care! Don’t drive too fast. Don’t break the speed limit! Okay? Don’t tailgate, because that’s dangerous. You should leave at least two car lengths between you and the car in front of you at at all times. Okay? Because if you’re one of those annoying drivers who sits right up behind the car in front of you then, just stop it! Okay? Because you’re probably not going to, it’s not going to help. You’re not going to make that driver go any faster. You’re just going to annoy them. Okay? So, stop doing that, because when I’m driving I can’t stand it when there’s another car sitting right there on my back bumper as if I’m not going fast enough. Well – “Just back off mate, okay? Back off, because that’s dangerous!” So just take it easy, just drive at a nice speed within the legal limits, and try not to piss off any of the other drivers, because road rage it is a problem. Okay? You shouldn’t be part of the problem, you should be part of the cure. Okay? Right. Good, good, good. Now, I’m glad that I’ve sorted that out.

If you’re jogging while you’re listening to this keep jogging. Don’t stop until, well until you get to your destination. Do you go jogging? By the way I’m quite interested in jogging, because well, I don’t go jogging myself. I’ve talked about this before. I must admit, I’ve talked about jogging before. I’m slightly obsessed with it. Obviously I know it’s really great exercise very good thing to do, but I just, I can’t…, my simple mind can’t get over the fact that one would run around somewhere and yet, not run to get somewhere or to get away from something. I don’t know. It’s just me. It’s just me.

Enjoy your jog, and you should feel very good about yourself, because that’s an excellent way to stay fit and healthy. That’s what this episode is about. I usually do this sort of rambling introduction at the beginning, just to get my mouth warmed up, but feeling healthy and keeping yourself in good condition is what this episode is about.

I think, I’ve already mentioned that previously I recorded an episode in which I teach you loads and loads useful expressions, phrases, phrasal verbs, vocabulary about being ill and your health and… If you want to pick up lots of useful words and expressions about health then, I recommend that you go back and revisit that episode. I can’t remember which number it is, but if you visit the website and the page for this episode, which is episode 118. The website of course is teacherluke.wordpress.com If you visit that then you will see a link to the previous episode I’ve just mentioned. You can click on that again, if you’ve never listened to it, I highly recommend it, because it’s a good way to learn some useful expressions about health. If you’ve already listened to it. Hell, why not just listen to it again? Because it’s a good way for revising and refreshing your memory, but for now, in this episode I’m going to tell you the complete story of how I ended up lying down in a hospital bed for two weeks in Japan.
When I went to Japan, I certainly didn’t expect to end up in the hospital on my own. There were no other foreigners in the whole hospital. It was just me and a whole hospital full of Japanese people. I was the only foreigner there. No one in the whole hospital spoke English to a very good level. It was very weird experience and I’m going to tell you all about it.

Now, I have mention this story briefly before in a previous episode. In fact the episode I’ve just mentioned about health, but in this episode I’m going to tell you the whole thing.

Again, I just must suggest that you visit teacherluke.wordpress.com and find episode
118, because you might find various notes or other things there which will help you to either understand this episode or pick up some of the language that I use in this episode. You will find as I read, as I go through this, you’ll find various phrases and things all about health and sickness and stuff, but also I’ll be using a range of verb tenses. So, look out for those, and also very, just phrases that pop out of my mouth as I explain the story. Okay.

Let’s see where should we begin?

Well, “Being Sick In Japan” that’s the title of the story.

Actually just over 10 years ago, I decided to go to Japan. Now, I qualified as an English language teacher in 2001. Just to give you a bit background information. At that time in my life, I’d recently graduated from University. I did a media and cultural studies degree which was really interesting. It’s not one of those degrees that gives you a vocation when you leave. It’s not like being an engineer or being a doctor or something. You don’t get a job at the end of the degree. In fact, my degree was all rather theoretical. I wrote essays about hollywood movies, and understanding the way that advertising works, and architecture, and cultural theories of people like Karl Marx, and the impact Sigmund Freud on modern culture, and that kind of thing. It was fascinating. I wrote a long essay about Lara Croft in Tomb Raider which was really interesting to write, and I got quite good mark for it, but I don’t know really how that, at the time when I finished university I had no idea how that was going to help me to find a job.

So, I was wondering what to do with my life, and so…, for various reasons I decided that I would become an English language teacher. Certainly I needed work. I needed to to find some career in my life. Also I wanted to travel. So, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. Train to become an English language teacher, get a job, and also get the opportunity to travel.

I did the course. I completed it. I got my initial qualification which allowed me to teach English to quite a high standard, and to get work in other countries, and initially, I thought that I would teach abroad in somewhere in Europe. For some reason I had Barcelona in mind, because it was fairly close to London, and I knew that it was a great city to visit. They’ve got the the beach there. They’ve got some, like, a lot of history, a lot of culture, loads of great things about that city that make it very attractive. Plus there are English-language schools in the city that I could have worked for. I looked to work in Barcelona, I looked to work in Poland for some reason, and various other countries in Europe.

Then I remember I went for a drink with my friend Neil who you have heard on the podcast before in the episode about the Birmingham accident. Neil is my friend. I went for a drink with him. We were talking about where I should apply for work. He suggested that I apply for work in Japan, because I mentioned that there was quite a lot of work available there, but I hadn’t really considered working there, because it was very far away. It was like a very different place. I thought it might be very difficult for me to go and live there. I hadn’t really considered it. But he convinced me that it would be a good idea to go. He said to me:

– ”Why not go like to Japan that would be amazing”

I was saying things like:

– “Oh no, it’s a bit far away. No, it’s very expensive to get there”

and things like that. He was really encouraging me to go there. In the end I realised:

– “Wow! He’s right. Why should I.., If I’m gonna go abroad and live abroad for a while and teach English, why go somewhere close? Why not just go all the way up to the other side of the world? Go somewhere completely different. Somewhere, where the culture is really really different to the culture of the UK, and just have an amazing experience?”

On Neil’s advice I decided I would look for work in Japan.

I looked on the Internet and there were lots of teaching jobs there, because obviously there are so many people in Japan. They’ve got quite an advanced economy. Well, one of the most advanced economies in the world, and they have a lot of need to learn English, because they all need to be competitive in their careers and things. Also they tend to be very interested in Western culture. So, a lot of people in Japan feel it is very important to learn English, and there aren’t very many foreigner English speakers living in Japan. So there was lots of work available. I applied for work, I got a job and I thought:
– ” Wow! This is gonna be great!”, because actually for a while, for quite a long time I’d been really interested in Japan, because they’ve got, like, a really interesting culture and I really still love playing Japanese computer games and watching Japanese manga movies and stuff, and I’d always been fascinated in Japanese life. It just seems so different, so funny, and so interesting, and difficult to understand really. Just certain things about, for example, Japanese movies that just seemed really strange. I was quite curious to go and investigate.

I got the job and the company that I worked for helped to find me an apartment, and find me health insurance, and things like that. I saved up money by working in a restaurant. I saved up my money to pay for my plane ticket, and I had a few months to prepare myself. I learnt some basic Japanese. I read up on some, I read up on some books about Japanese culture and then, I started to get myself ready.

I didn’t feel nervous at all. In fact, I was looking forward to it for the whole time, for months and months, up until I actually left to go to Japan. I was really looking forward to it. Then on the day, when it came for to me to leave, I packed all my bags, and my dad took me to the airport. He took me to Heathrow Airport by car, and when I left, my mum was upset, because she was going to miss me, and she cried as I left.

Now, I’d already lived away from home for a few years. In fact, at university in Liverpool. I’d lived away from home in a shared house for four years. I’d already had experiences living abroad. I’d already had experience at living away from home. It wasn’t like a huge deal for me at that time. It wasn’t like…, wasn’t going to be a huge shock for me. I was alright with it. I was quite okay with it. In fact, I was, to be honest, really looking forward to just getting away. Just getting away from the country, because, after the university I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was.., I was a bit fed up with my life to be honest, because I just didn’t feel like I was going anywhere and I was a bit frustrated. I was really looking forward to just getting away from it all and going to a completely new place, and just having an adventure.

Yeah, I felt fine. I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that. I feel really confident until I got to the airport. My dad dropped me off there, at the Heathrow Airport with my bags and said goodbye to me, and he left. As soon as he left I just suddenly felt really nervous, and really scared. I was on my own. I was about to travel all around the world to a completely new country, where I didn’t speak the language really. I suddenly felt incredibly nervous. I’d never taken a long flight like that on my own. I was about, “how old was I?”, I was about 23 years old. Suddenly I felt nervous. It was pretty awful, pretty weird. I remember, I had some bags of English coins. I had all these coins with me, and I just thought that I would be able to spend them in the airport, in duty free. But I remember walking around, I was so nervous. Making sure that I had my passport my ticket my bag and everything. I just couldn’t somehow mentally bring myself to get the coins out the bags and spend them on things. I was wandering around with these coins, all these bags of coins in my hands. In fact, I ended up taking them all the way to Japan with me and I had these bags of coins of English money in Japan for the whole time I lived there, which was pretty strange.

I felt very nervous. I got on the plane and I had a very uncomfortable flight. I just couldn’t really relax. There were lots of movies available for me to watch, but I just couldn’t bring myself to watch them, because I just couldn’t relax enough. All I could do was just – sit in my seat and listen to, they have like radio channels, well I found the radio channel with the relaxing classical music, and just listened to this music. I couldn’t eat, because I was too nervous. There was a guy sitting next to me. He was really annoying. He was like really tall and his elbows used up loads and loads of room. He tried to talk to me, but I just wasn’t interested. I just wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I remember at one point looking out the window, and I think we were flying somewhere over Siberia or something. I just remember feeling really strange, really freaked out. I was just thinking:

– “Oh my god this is…, this is all a horrendous mistake! What the hell am I doing with my life? Why I’ve decided to travel all the way to a different country where I can’t speak the language. I’m making a horrible mistake. This is a terrible idea. I should stay in England. I should focus on my career in London. I should be trying to find a job in the media or something. Why am I flying to Japan for god’s sake to work as an English teacher? This was never part of my plan!”

That’s what I was thinking.

I was having horrible moments of panic and self-doubt and everything, and it was awful. Finally, eventually, the plane landed and for some reason, as soon as the plane landed I felt:

– ”Okay”.

We all got off the plane got into the airport, and I realised:

– “Actually, no, this is all right. This is going to be fine, because it’s not going to be that different. Life continues. They still have the same basic things in Japan as they do in England. They’ve still got gravity and stuff like that. It’s not going to be that different. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to, I’m going to enjoy this. This is going to be great. I’m not really going to miss my life in England. In fact my life in England was boring. This is going to be an amazing experience!”,

And immediately I started to enjoy it, and I started to notice things about Japan that were really interesting, and so strange to me like, for example, coming into the airport, immediately I noticed, there was standing at the doorway, there were two guys in uniforms, really fancy looking uniforms standing there with white gloves, and there were these just these two guys standing at the doorway. I couldn’t really see why they were standing there, what their purpose was, but they just stood there with their white gloves on and their suits and I thought:

– “Okay that’s pretty weird. Who are these guys? Is it really necessary for them to just stand by the door doing nothing?”

That was just really the first weird experience that I…, weird thing that I noticed that I didn’t really understand. I mean, now I realise that in Japan – well, it’s just part of their culture to have like these members of staff who dress very smartly and may be wearing white gloves just shows that they’re extra smart, and they stand there as a way of showing you that they’ve got people standing there like, maybe security guards or something to make you feel like you’re safe that this is a high-quality airport, and they have lots of staff who are very well, very professional, and that kind of thing. Now I understand it, but at the time, I was thinking:

– ”Who the hell is this weird guy in a suit and why, what’s the point of that?”

And so, anyway I settled into my my life in in Japan, and it was fine. It was really great, in fact. I settled in. Obviously, I had my periods of feeling homesick which is normal and it goes up and down. Sometimes you feel really comfortable and really excited about living in another country and sometimes you start to feel homesick, and you you realise that you don’t really understand what you’re doing, and the culture seems to be strange and frustrating, but generally speaking it was great.

The company that I work for, basically looked after me. They helped me find my apartment. Helped to sort out health insurance and a mobile phone contract for me, and things like that. They looked after me although they paid me peanuts. I mean, well, not literally peanuts. They didn’t obviously just every month bring me a bag of peanuts. No, that’s just an expression. It’s an idiom which means that they didn’t pay me very much. They paid me peanuts. They just paid me quite low wage. Particularly at the beginning on my probationary period. After about six months I got a pay rise, but at the beginning, really they paid me peanuts.

But really at that time I didn’t really know to be honest how to look after myself. Even after spending four years away from home, at university, where to be honest, I didn’t really look after myself very well either. I mean, I was 23 years old, but I still didn’t really know how to look after myself, how to eat properly and live like a proper healthy life. I didn’t eat a very balanced diet, because I had hardly any money, I would often survive by eating cheap, stuff that I didn’t have to cook myself. For example, in Japan they have these little fast food places that sell bowls rice and beef. It’s called gyudon They have a shop there called Yoshinoya which I was quite fond of, because it is so cheap, I mean really cheap. You can just get like a bowl of rice, beef and onions for just, well the equivalent to just about one or two pounds, and it was tasty as well. Certainly, at the beginning I thought:

– “Wow! This is nice!”

But to be honest it was a bit like the Japanese version of McDonald’s. It’s like Japanese fast food, but I liked it and I survived on that stuff for a while, just because it was so cheap, and easy to get. To be honest I can’t really believe that I ate that stuff every day sometimes, but to be honest, it helped me to save money. In fact, I even worked out mathematically how I could afford to live on gudon for a few weeks, just I could get through each month, before I got paid.

So I did manage to save money, but I didn’t really save when I went to my local bar. There was a bar that was near to my apartment. I used to go there at the weekends, and that’s where I would hang out with, like, some Japanese people that I just met in the bar. I decided one day that I would just go to this bar because I was bored, and I went in there and I met all these local Japanese people, and after a while, they got to know me and it was great. Those were some of the best experiences I ever had in Japan, actually. I was spending some time in this local bar, hanging out with some the local Japanese people I met, playing darts, and just trying to speak Japanese to them. There were some really funny people. The bar was called “Stone Bar”, near Tsujodou station in the Kanagawa area of Japan.

[26.00 Audioboo timecode]

So I lived near Yokohama which is not far from Tokyo in Japan. So yeah. Going to that bar was really one of the best experiences that I ever had. I mostly loved hanging out there, but I probably drank a little bit too much. It’s, to be honest, it’s quite hard to notice the negative effect that drinking can have on your health, and perhaps, that’s one of the things that contributed to me getting a little bit sick later on.

In fact there are a few things which I think contributed to me ending up really sick in a hospital. One of them maybe was the fact that I would sometimes at the weekends stay up quite late drinking cocktails with these friends of mine in this bar. Also work, I think I worked really really hard in the first six months. It was very stressful, because of a very steep learning curve. It was difficult for me to really learn how to teach English well without really breaking my back every day, because it was hard. It’s hard to teach English especially when you’re doing it for eight or nine hours a day without any preparation time. That’s pretty stressful. You end up in front of the students who are all there expecting to learn from you. They’ve all paid their money. They want to learn from you. There’s a lot of pressure there, and so it was quite a stressful experience for me, and eight or nine hours every day I was rushing around without a moment to to relax was quite tough at the beginning. So that I think perhaps contributed to me feeling a bit exhausted.

Also the weather. In England the weather is basically cold and wet during the winter and dark most at the time, in winter. Right? So winter is cold, wet and dark, but in Japan it’s dry and cold in the winter and yet hot and wet in the summer which is different to England which is wet and cold in the winter and hot and dry in the summer. Well I say hot. It’s not as hot as most countries, but hotter than it is in the winter, that’s for sure. In England when the sun comes out in the summer it’s quite normal and natural to throw off your clothes and just get as much sun onto your skin as possible. But when the sun came out in Japan, I did exactly the same thing. In the summer the sun would come out and I was like:

– “Wow! The Sun! Finally!”

I would go outside at the weekend and I’d try to get as much sun as possible which was a mistake, because I underestimated exactly how powerful the sun is over there. For some reason it’s just a lot more powerful than it is in England. I got, well, on one particular occasion I got really badly sunburned. I remember one day the sun was out, and it was at the weekend, and I thought:

– “Wow! Great! This is my chance to go outside and get some sunshine finally!”

I went out without putting any suntan lotion on, and I just had like a pair shorts and a vest and I went out on my bicycle. I had like this of like housewives bicycle in Japan. They call it mama-chari which is a…, imagine the bicycle that housewife would ride. I had one of these bikes, because I bought one really cheaply from a little bike shop around the corner. So I had a big blue mama-chari which had a huge basket on the back, like massive basket which I could put all my shopping in, and a big basket on the front, and I would ride around on this bike. I probably looked completely ridiculous to Japanese locals who would see me. This big weird foreign guy running around on a housewife’s bicycle. They probably thought I was a real freak, but I didn’t really care, because it was a great bike. It was really good. It was a pleasure to ride around on it.

I went out on this particular day on my mama chari housewife’s bicycle getting loads of sun and I spent loads of time in the sunshine and then, I came home that evening and I realised that:

– “Oh my god. Maybe I’ve got a little bit too much sun today.”

Because I was boiling hot, and I remember looking in the mirror, and I realised I was seriously sunburned, and I took off my vest, and it was like, my skin, the skin which had been exposed to the sun was so burnt, it was like pink, like a salmon. In fact when I took the vest off, it looked like, I was wearing a pink t-shirt, like a dark pink t-shirt with a white vest over the top, because the dark pink t-shirt was, well, that was where my skin was all sunburned. That’s what it looked like and then, the white vest was where the other vest, that I’d been wearing, had actually blocked the sun. So it looked like, I was wearing a pink t-shirt with the white vest over the top, but actually I just wasn’t wearing anything. It’s just the pink bits were where my shoulders and my neck had been really really badly sunburned.

They got so badly burned. I was so worried, because they even, my shoulders, they started to blister. I started to get these blisters on my shoulders, which then burst, and they were really painful, horrible experience. I’ve now learned that you must always wear suntan lotion when you go outside, but particularly in a country like Japan, because the sunshine was so much stronger.

Anyway this sunburn didn’t directly cause me to get sick, but it’s just an example of how I wasn’t really prepared for the difference in climate there. It’s just an example of how I wasn’t really looking after myself. Japanese listeners might be feeling a little bit alarmed when I’m telling you all of this, because Japanese people tend to have a great sense of how sensitive the human body is. For example a slight rise in temperature if they take their temperature and realise that it rise[n] just a little bit then, they really can’t go all out. They wrap themselves up in scarves. They take medicine. They wear these ninja style face masks, to make sure that they are looking after themselves. Japanese people tend to look after themselves pretty well, and they can be very health conscious. So, me telling you the stories of how I didn’t really look after myself might be a bit alarming for you. But don’t worry obviously. I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m still standing, and in a way I’m English. I’m naturally tough, even if I am a bit stupid sometimes. So, okay.

This brings me to the Japanese summer. Now, the Japanese summer is different to the summer in the UK as I’ve explained. Generally in Japan its beautiful in May. May comes along and the sun comes out and it’s gorgeous. You get fresh air. It’s not too hot, but it’s nice and sunny. It’s fantastic. It’s a bit like the best days in English summertime. Then at some point in June, it goes very cold and rainy again, and this is something to do with the large front of low pressure which comes across Japan. They call it rainy season, and for a few weeks it’s just cold and it rains all the time. It’s miserable. Okay? But this wet and cold weather wasn’t very strange to me. It wasn’t really a surprise to me, but it was quite disappointing. Obviously it’s a bit depressing when it rains all day every day. Then after rainy season, the humidity and heat arrive. So, that’s like the second half of July. All the way through the rest of July, all the way through August, and to be honest, most of September, and so that period, the humid and hot period was really difficult for me. As I’ve said in the UK, when the sun comes out and we go outside and we enjoy it while it lasts. To be honest a myth about the weather in England is that it rains all the time, and that’s not really true. It does rain a lot, but not all the time. Although our summers recently have been unusually wet, probably due to climate change.

So rather, the main feature of the English weather is it changes a lot. It is changeable. You get.., it might be hot in the summer, but only for a few days and then, it cools down. It might rain a little bit, but then, the sun comes out for a while. The weather changes a lot. I was used to this changeable weather. But in Japan, in the summer, after the rainy season, the weather was just constant. Just consistent. It was consistently very hot and very humid for months, like two and a half to three months of just the same weather all the way through. Now, that was really weird for me, because my body was expecting the weather to change to give me a chance to cool down a bit, but “no”, it didn’t. It was just hot and humid all the time between 30 to 40 degrees (centigrade), and sort of eighty percent humidity or more.

In central Tokyo if you ever go to Tokyo in the middle of summer, it’s about 40 degrees. Because all the air conditioning units are pumping out the heat. The sunlight and heat reflect off all the concrete and so, the heat has nowhere to go. In fact at night it’s even hotter, because the concrete in all the buildings has actually absorbed the heat during the day, and then, at night it releases it. The heat actually comes out of the stone in the ground, and the buildings and everything. It’s incredibly hot.

This was really really difficult for me. My body really couldn’t get used to it. I spent like almost the entire summer sweating. I don’t know how much, I must have lost a lot of weight, but basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I was just sweating. At night I was so hot that I slept without any clothes on, and without any bed clothes covering me, and I would still sweat all night. I’d wake up with a wet pillow. Now about air conditioning. You’re probably thinking:

– “ Why didn’t you just put the air conditioning on, you idiot?”

but I couldn’t actually stand the air conditioning either. I really hated air conditioning. I felt like it was dehydrating me. Because the air for my air conditioning in my apartment felt really dirty, dusty. In England, we don’t use a conditioning very much. I wasn’t very used to using it. I just preferred not to use it, and also I’d been given advice that it was best not to use air conditioning too much, and that you should just try to get used to the heat. I decided that I would try not to use the air conditioning very much and I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in my room with the air conditioning on. Blowing cold air down onto my head as I slept. I just didn’t really think that was very healthy.

Anyway I decided I would sleep without air conditioning, without any bed clothes and yet I would still sweat all night long and wake up with a wet pillow. In the morning I’d be sweaty. I’d have my shower. But because it was so hot and humid, almost as soon as I came out the shower and dried myself off I’d be all wet again and sweaty. I remember going to work in a suit. I had to wear a suit, black suit and tie to work every day. I would walk to the station and I would be pouring sweat as soon as I got to the station. Just pouring sweat and then, I’d get on the train and the train is a very heavily air-conditioned. The train is suddenly blowing ice-cold air down the back of my neck with with my sweaty neck and everything and then, after half an hour of being frozen in the air-conditioned train. I’d get back out into the boiling hot street again and walk to work and then, get frozen by air conditioning there. It was like, I’m sure it was very bad for me. I got pretty exhausted. I got stressed out by work. I didn’t really eat a balanced diet. I didn’t drink enough water. I didn’t sleep enough. I didn’t really cover myself up in bed which is a bad idea. I stayed up late at weekends and I probably drank a bit too much.

Also I remember in summer getting bitten by a mosquito. I was very careful to avoid letting mosquitoes into my apartment because we have one of those insect screens. From my bedroom I had like a sliding glass door which I could use to get onto the balcony. I had some plants on the balcony which I would water every now and then. I would be very careful to make sure that I closed the the insect screen every time I went outside. But I remember this one particular time I forgot to close the insect screen, and of course a mosquito came into my room. One lucky mosquito got in there, and I went to bed, went to sleep without my bed covers on, and this mosquito basically had a.., it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for this mosquito. He just feasted on me. I swear I got bitten about 15 times by this one mosquito. In fact, I remember waking up in the morning, scratching, I was scratching my arm in my sleep and I woke up and I looked at my arm and there was blood on my arm. Because I’d actually killed this mosquito in my sleep. This must have been a very full and very sleepy mosquito at this point. To let it actually be killed by me in my sleep. I’m instinctively scratching my arm where this mosquitoes biting me and then, I realised, …I’m gonna sneeze. Feels good to sneeze…. and then, I realised that this mosquito had beaten me something like fifteen times and that my legs were itching already in my arms were itching. This constant itching was like really annoying it was another thing that prevented me from sleeping properly. I got this weird suspicion that maybe somehow the mosquito got me sick. I don’t know how, but it was about a week after being bitten by this mosquito so many times that I started to feel pretty sick.

I started to feel like I had flu, like I was feeling really tired, headache, chill. Like cold chills, aches and pains in my body, blocked up nose. I felt like my glands were swollen. I felt awful. I took some time off work. I lay in bed resting or at least trying to rest, but of course that was difficult because it was so hot. I couldn’t really rest. I remember one day I felt okay and I thought it would probably be a good idea for me to just get outside a bit, because staying indoors in my apartment was miserable. I just felt depressed. I thought it would be a good idea for me to go out. In fact I went out to a local temple. There was a temple on the hillside. I went for a walk up there and I went to look at the temple. It was an amazing place actually. This place in Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan. Where they have a huge bronze statue of the Buddha sitting there in the temple. I went to check out this Buddha,I took some photos and by coincidence very strangely enough, when I was there I met Dave Grohl, who you might know you might not know him, but he’s the drummer from Nirvana. That’s grunge band with Kurt Cobain, Nirvana.

Well, Dave Grohl is the drummer from Nirvana. He is a huge rock star. He’s also in the band Foo Fighters and a few other bands and things. I mean he’s one of my heroes this guy, and just by coincidence I managed to meet him there, which was really strange. All part of this very strange summer that I was having. As I was walking out of the temple I noticed a group of foreign people walking in, like westerners. It’s not very common to see westerns when you’re in Japan. I made eye contact with them as if to say:

-”Oh, hello! You’re westerns as well.”

I remember looking at one of them and thinking

– “I know him. How do I know him?”

and then, as I walked past him, I realised

– “Oh my God! That’s Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters”

I went back. First of all I thought:

– “No, I’m gonna be cool. I’m not gonna hassle him. He’s probably on holiday”

but then, I went back to him and I plucked up the courage to speak to him. I managed to get a photograph with him. I had a little chat with him. We talked about my mobile phone actually. It was really strange. I said to him:

– “Hey, excuse me. Dave Grohl? You’re Dave Grohl, aren’t you? What the hell are you doing here at this buddhist temple on the side of a hilltop in Japan?”

It was very strange, but they were playing a concert in Tokyo in a couple of day’s time. They were just visiting the temple to do a bit sightseeing. That was amazing. I met Dave Grohl one of my heroes and chatted to him.

Anyway. I felt a little bit better, and I went back to work. I had an eight-day stretch. That’s an eight consecutive days of work. By the end of that eight days I was just knackered. I was absolutely exhausted, and I actually felt worse. I felt ill again. In fact I felt more ill than I did before. I had then three days off. I just tried to rest. I lay in bed trying to sleep. I couldn’t really sleep. I had swollen glands and painful tonsils. Your tonsils are glands at the back of your mouth. It’s quite common to get an infection in your tonsils. Particularly when you’re a teenager or when you’re quite young. I used to get tonsil infections quite a lot when I was exhausted. This particular time I got a really bad tonsil infection. It was incredibly painful. I couldn’t swallow. If you know what swallow means it’s – to go “swallowing” when you eat food or drink. I couldn’t swallow, because it’s too painful. I couldn’t eat. Well all I could eat was banana, because it was soft and miso soup I had always this miso soup and I just tried to drink miso soup, and I tried to eat banana, but really, I couldn’t eat or drink very much.

It was awful. I was in a really bad condition. My girlfriend, I did have a Japanese girlfriend at the time. She was half American half Japanese, because her Dad.., no. She was like quarter American, because her dad was half american and her mom was Japanese. She was like three quarters Japanese in one quarter American. Lovely girl who I was going out with at the time, but she ironically was at that time on holiday with her parents in England while I was in Japan, feeling awful, alone. It was terrible actually. It was a really bad time. All I could do was just try and rest and try and eat. Eventually my girlfriend came back and immediately when she realised that I wasn’t well, she arranged for me to go to the doctors. This was really a horrible experience, because the first doctor that we went to, just I think he just didn’t want to see me because, I don’t know, maybe because I was a foreigner. Over there in Japan they can be a bit strange with foreigners sometimes. I think it was a bit inconvenient for him to have to deal with me the fact that I didn’t speak Japanese. That’s my fault. I didn’t learn Japanese. The doctor was not friendly with me. I had had health insurance, but he still didn’t really want to deal with me.

Eventually my girlfriend persuaded him to to let me into his surgery. It was a very busy surgery too. He didn’t have much time for me. He wasn’t friendly at all. Generally the feeling I got in his doctor’s surgery was that, it was very old-fashioned, kind of Victorian, kind of vibe that I got from it in fact. I got the sense that I wasn’t welcome and the whole thing was just an inconvenience for him. He sat me in this chair which was like an old-fashioned dentist’s chair. I sat very upright with a neck brace around me and what was very, really off-putting for me is that I could see all his medical instruments in a glass cabinet next to me. There were like nurses and other people walking around behind me. It was like a dark room. He took out some of his instruments and he had like a long metal rod with a swab at the end. That’s a piece of cotton at the end.

He dipped it into antiseptic. His way of dealing with my tonsil infection, my throat infection was to, basically, use this swab and paint my tonsils with antiseptic. Now if you can imagine how painful that was, that was awful. It was one of the…, it was just horrible how painful it was. He was there sticking this thing down at the back of my throat covering my tonsils in antiseptic. It was so awful I couldn’t help coughing. I was like coughing the antiseptic back into his face. It was awful. I mean just a disgusting an experience, really really a nightmare. He didn’t even give me any medicine. He didn’t give me any antibiotics for my tonsil infection. He didn’t even give me a blood test to see what was wrong with me. At the time I didn’t really know, I just knew I felt really really bad. He just told me to go away and have rest. I tried to rest. I took another couple days of work. I tried to rest, but it didn’t work. In fact I started to feel even worse, even more exhausted.

Yeah. I continued to get ill. A couple of days later I went back to to this doctor. This was very awkward, because I met my girlfriend’s dad. It was the first time that I’d met her dad which was not really…, it wasn’t really a great situation to be meeting him for the first time. I looked awful. I looked like a zombie basically. It’s as if my girlfriend was going:

– “Well, dad. I would like to meet my boyfriend there he is. He’s an English zombie”

and I walked in


not exactly the best way to make a good impression.

Anyway he was very nice to me. He understood that I wasn’t very well. They took me into the doctor’s surgery again in the doctor this time decided that it might be a good idea to give me some antibiotics. He gave me three days’ worth of antibiotics. Antibiotics are those medicines that you need to deal with infection, for example, penicillin is an antibiotic. He gave me three days’ worth of antibiotics – these tiny little antibiotics pills. I knew immediately that this wasn’t going to be enough, because I quite a big guy, I need quite a large dose of antibiotics. I’d already built up a resistance to antibiotics because when I was younger I had the tonsillitis quite regularly when I was young. Tonsillitis if you don’t already realise what that is, that’s an infection of glands at the back of your throat. Glands are parts of your body which are responsible for producing things like hormones or producing saliva or sweat, things like that. You have glands in your throats, you have glands around the back of your head, you have them in your armpits, and in various other parts of your body. I had tonsillitis that’s like a bad infection of the glands in your throat. I’d had tonsillitis quite a few times when I was younger. My doctors in England had given me antibiotics already a lot of times for that. I knew that I needed quite a large dose of antibiotics in order for them to work. I reluctantly went back home to my apartment with these antibiotics. I took them but it didn’t work. I just continued to feel ill.

My girlfriend…, I don’t know, I’m not in touch with this girl anymore. We lost touch for various reasons. It’s a long time ago, but if you’re listening then – God bless you, basically. Because you really looked after me. I really appreciate it.

She found me another doctor, because we decided that this other doctor was just a waste a time. She found me another doctor near my school. Actually he had a surgery near the school that I used to work in. I came into this surgery again like a zombie. I walked in feeling awful and by coincidence this doctor was one of my students. I didn’t realise that this guy was a doctor at the surgery he was just another one of my students. Now I met hundreds of students at this school. One of them was this guy. This was good. This was really nice, because I already had a relationship with this guy. He already knew me. The fact is that as a teacher with him I’d given him a lot of attention and care already. I’d already built up a relationship with the guy. This was really good, because he cared about me a lot more than the other guy did, the other doctors. This doctor took a special interest in me. He decided that he was going to definitely try to make me feel better.

I mean, anyway, that’s what a doctor supposed to do. Right?

It was no great surprise, but anyway. I felt more comfortable with this guy because I already knew him. Not that his English was very good, in fact his English was very basic. Despite the fact that obviously he had the most amazing English teacher in the world – me!

Yeah. Right.

He sorted me out a bit. He gave me a blood test. He put me on an intravenous drip. That’s when basically they put medicine directly into your blood. They attach something to your vein in your arm or in the back of your hand. They then hook up a plastic bag full of medicine which then comes down a small tube and goes directly into your blood. It’s an IV drip. He gave me an IV drip of antibiotics, because he realised that I needed a really good dose of antibiotics. That made me feel much better. I lay there in this bed for half an hour while all the antibiotics went into my arm.

I immediately started to feel better. It was incredible actually. I went home feeling a lot better. Not perfect by any means, but certainly better than I had done. The next day I went back to this doctor in order to get the results of my blood test and I was thinking:

– “I’m gonna be alright. I’m feeling better. I’m sure it was just tonsillitis and now I’ve had these antibiotics I’m feeling a lot better.”

But I still felt pretty awful. I still felt pretty exhausted really in a bad way. I went into the surgery and the doctor gave me the results of the blood test. Now bear in mind that this doctor’s English wasn’t very good and obviously I didn’t speak very good Japanese either. So, a lot of what he said to me was lost in translation. I misunderstood really what he was saying. But what he said to me was:

– “Okay, Luke. You have liver damage. Your liver is damaged.”

He showed me my results and he said:

– “This is what you liver should be”

It was something like fifty, I don’t know really what the numbers meant, but he said:

– “You liver should be around 50. Your liver is about 250.”

I was thinking:

– “Okay. That’s really bad isn’t it?”

He said:

– “You’ve got liver damage. You have to go to hospital. You will need an operation.”

Obviously, immediately I started to panic, because I thought:

– “What? I’ve got liver damage. I need to go to hospital and I need an operation.”

Immediately I was assuming that he meant that I had some liver…, he also said to me:

– “You’ve got the EB virus”

I don’t know what the hell the EB virus was. I was thinking

– ”My God. What is this? Some horrific liver disease? I’m gonna need to go to hospital and I’m gonna need to have a liver operation, I’m gonna have to have my liver changed”

That’s what I was thinking at this time. It completely freaked me out. I was so frightened. I broke down at that point. I was just thinking:

– “Oh my God. I’m really ill. I’m gonna go to hospital to have a liver operation. This is an absolute nightmare”
It was awful. It was just terrible. They took me to hospital. Checked me into hospital. The next thing I was lying in a bed in a Japanese hospital. They took me to Kinugasa hospital in Yokosuka which was near to where I was living. I was in hospital. I had no idea what was wrong with me. As far as I knew, I had some liver disease and I was gonna have to have an operation in a day or two. I lay there. I clearly remember the first night that I had there. When I arrived it was about ten o’clock at night. My girlfriend’s mum and my girlfriend took me to the hospital. They couldn’t really explain what it was. To be honest, I was in such a bad way. I was confused and probably quite paranoid. That was a really bad moment. I remember lying in the bed just trying not to panic basically. Just lying there, trying to sleep, just trying to rest, trying to keep myself calm, just trying to play games with myself in my head to stop me thinking, to stop me worrying about my health. I was lying there, thinking:

– “Okay, just try not to think, try not to worry too much. You’re in hospital now. That’s good.”

Just to keep myself calm I played the ABC game over and over again. That’s where you, you might know the game already. That’s where you pick a subject and just try to list things that begin with each letter of the alphabet for that subject. I just played as many ABC games as I possibly could. I was like:

– ”Okay, boys names. Alright. Andrew, Ben, Chris, Daniel, Edward”

– “Girls names. Okay. Ann, Belinda, Caroline, Denise, Elisa”

I just kept playing this game in my head all night, just to stop me thinking about things. I got to…, I can’t remember all the different subjects that I covered., but just some random things like:

– “Okay. Smells. Different smells. Okay. absinthe, battery”

all these sort of things.

For some reason the letter “Q” and the letter “Z” are always the hardest ones to find words for when you’re playing the ABC game.

Anyway, yeah.

It was horrible. They gave me a lot of drugs. They gave me more intravenous drips. In fact every day I had about…, I had intravenous drips for about five to six hours every day.

Now, you’re probably thinking youself:

– “What? What was was it Luke? How ill were you? What did you have? What was wrong with you?”

Well, I still didn’t really know until my girlfriend’s parents contacted my parents and told them everything that they knew, everything that the doctors had told them. They contacted my parents and told them all of that. I had a mobile phone in the hospital which had email on it. I eventually got an email from my parents. Obviously they were very worried about me. They’d checked out all of the symptoms that I had and everything the doctor had told them via my girlfriend’s parents. They’d checked it all out on the Internet and they’d worked out what I actually had.

They sent me this e-mail which explained everything to me and this was a huge relief because it turns out I didn’t have some horrible life-threatening liver disease. I had “infectious mononucleosis” which is otherwise known as “glandular fever” and that’s actually quite a common virus, let’s say. It’s a virus which infects the glands and the symptoms are that it gives you liver damage, because you’ve got a high white blood cell count in your blood, and your liver is working hard to try to clean out the white blood cells from your blood.

It is a quite common thing. I didn’t need to have an operation. In fact, what the doctor had actually meant was, he said:

– “Okay, you’ve got liver damage. That’s a normal symptom of glandular fever”.

… what was the other thing? You’ve got liver damage.

– “You have to go to hospital”

The reason he told me that was because I had to go to hospital in order to rest. I just needed to rest and to get medicine, treatment, and I just needed rest basically for a few weeks.

– “You will need an operation”

What he meant there was that I would eventually need to have my tonsils removed, because of the frequency at which I was having infections in my tonsils. He decided that it would be a good idea for me to have my tonsils removed. So it was nothing to do with having a liver transplant or anything like that. I was just panicking at that point. When I learned that actually I had quite a common virus…, I mean it’s quite common and the symptoms can be quite serious if you don’t rest. Obviously what I had been doing is going to work, not eating properly, not resting and so I felt absolutely awful. I felt like I was on death’s door.

It wasn’t a life-threatening illness. In fact it’s quite common illness. I was in the right place in hospital, there to relax and take it easy. All of that panic and all that worry and paranoia was unnecessary, and then, as soon as I realised that I was going to be alright I relaxed quite a lot.

In fact, being in that hospital was quite fun in a way. It was quite an interesting experience being in a hospital in Japan. I was the only as I said the only foreign person in the hospital except for the Indonesian guy who worked there as a carpenter or he was a caretaker or something in the hospital. Somehow the staff in the hospital decided that this guy, this Indonesian guy called Chandra should be my interpreter.

Chandra didn’t really speak very much English himself, but he was a lot better than the Japanese staff in the hospital. Chandra-san would come and visit me. He would talk to me, asked me what I wanted to eat for from my lunch and dinner. It was great. I basically lay there in the bed all day. My friends came to visit me which was fantastic and they brought me books and music and stuff. I spent about two weeks lying down in bed having people bring meals to my bed. I had a relaxing ice pillow. Nurses would come and make sure I was okay. In fact all the nurses in the hospital in that particular ward decided they would come and visit me, because I think for them it was like quite exciting, novelty to have an English guy in the hospital. They’d all come to visit me. They’d all want to talk to me. I was like the star of the the hospital ward. Most the time they left me alone. I just lay there listening to ambient music on my headphones, reading “The Lord of the Rings”. I read the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy which was fantastic, because I love those books. They’re really really great. I had a lovely time just lying there in a hospital bed being treated like a king. People would come and visit me as I said. It was lovely.

I mean, it was also a very strange place to be. It was just a very bizarre experience to be on my own in this Japanese hospital on the other side of the world. All sorts of weird and wonderful things happened. But generally I had quite a nice time, although, of course, I felt pretty exhausted. My throat hurt a lot. I had other symptoms. But they gave me loads of drugs which really helped me to feel better.

As I said, every day they would give me intravenous drips. They would give me two large bags of a kind of clear pink fluid directly into my arm, and each bag would take three hours to go into my arm, and to this day I don’t know what it was. I don’t know what they were putting into me. I think it was probably a mix of vitamins and stuff like that, to help me recover. But it would take three hours for each of these bags to go in. I’d be lying there with this pink liquid going into my body. I could taste it in my mouth even. It was very strange. They’d also give me a bag of antibiotics every day. In fact they probably gave me too much antibiotics, because after about 10 days of this I was nearly ready to leave the hospital. I woke up one day with a rash all over my body. A really bad rash. A “Rash” – when you get lots of red spots. They can be very itchy. I suddenly had this rash all over my whole body which was a surprise. But apparently it was a result of having too much antibiotics. Sometimes that happens.

I had to stay in the hospital while the rash went away. But what a bizarre experience. Eventually I was discharged from the hospital. I went back home. I still had some time off from work. The company were quite understanding. They gave me quite a long time to recover. The doctors recommended it. In fact, the doctors sent some…, they wrote letters to my company suggesting that I needed to have time off to recover. I had a couple of fantastic weeks, just relaxing in my flat. I learned to look after myself.

So now, obviously now I’m healthy again. I’m absolutely fine. That was ten years ago. Now I have this story to tell about when I got sick in Japan, and also, I learned a few lessons from the experience. I think we can all learn a few things from the experience that I had. What can we learn from this?

Well, first of all I’ve learnt that you should eat healthily. You should eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables, because you’ve got to get all those vitamins and minerals into your system, to make sure that you can stay healthy. Also drink plenty of water. You’ve got to keep yourself hydrated. Particularly when you’re in hot places like Japan in the summertime. Keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water. When you go to live in another country, you’ve got be prepared for cultural differences. You’ve got to be ready for things being a bit different, even stuff like the weather. The climate is going to be different. Prepare yourself. Make sure that you’re looking after yourself. Try to follow the ways in which the locals do things. For example, in Japan they would, in the summer, they’d all just take it easy. I would notice people in the street kind of slowing down a lot. They would try to relax. Particularly the people who lived in the houses near the beach where I used to live. I noticed that they would have a very slow pace of life particularly the locals. They just knew how to deal with the hot summer. Take it nice and slow during the summer. Don’t stress out. Take time to chill.

In your home, in the summertime, when it’s really hot, keep the doors open and the windows open to create a draught of natural cool air that will just come through the apartment. Do that rather than using the air conditioning. Wear relaxing clothes. I learnt to get out of my business clothes. Get out of my work shirt and my trousers at the end of each day and I’d change into my a pair of shorts and a pair of flip-flops. I could really get into a relaxed mode. Sleep, when you’re in bed, even if you’re hot. You should have something covering your body, even if it’s just covering your midsection. You should sleep with something over your body, even if you’re hot. You shouldn’t sleep with nothing covering you at all, because even if it’s hot in the room somehow your body will get cold. You need to have something covering you when you’re sleeping at night.

One thing I learnt from some of my students as a way of keeping cool when it’s really hot. You should take some bottles of water and freeze them in the freezer. You’ve got like litre bottles of water frozen in the freezer and then, you can take them out of the freezer and put them in your bed in the evening and then, when you come to to get into bed, because you’ve had all these frozen bottles in their, the bed is like really cool and really nice and comfortable to go to lie down in. That’s kind of a nice tip. Put some frozen bottles of water around the bed and on top of the bed or even in the bed. It’s nice and cool when you go to lie down. Look after yourself. Get plenty of sleep. Stay positive and that’s just a general rule in life. You should always stay positive, because it might not be as bad as you think.

For example for me, I thought I had some life-threatening disease, but in fact I didn’t. I could have panicked. I could have freaked out, but I had to stay positive. I think that’s a good thing to learn in general. Stay positive, because it might not be as bad as you think.

Don’t give up. By the same token. Don’t give up. Don’t decide that it’s all over. Don’t give up.

Don’t drink too much. I mean, don’t drink too much alcohol. Obviously sometimes it’s great to just enjoy yourself, have fun and enjoy yourself, but you shouldn’t drink too much. Ironically my doctor, who I became friends with afterwards, told me:

– “Right. You shouldn’t drink alcohol for a while”

I didn’t drink alcohol and then, he actually invited me to his house for a New Year’s Day party. When I got to the house, he gave me a beer. I said

– “But I thought you said I shouldn’t drink”

…and he was like

– “Oh, no. You can drink today. It’s fine!”

Apparently it was alright to drink on that particular day. I’m sure he know what he was talking about. He’s a doctor. That was a couple of months after I’d been in hospital anyway. I hadn’t drunk anything for two months. I was very well behaved. I really felt the health benefits actually. I just gave up drinking completely. I didn’t drink that much to be honest, not compared to some people I know. But I gave up drinking completely, I felt really good. I felt really fresh and everything. I went to this party at this Japanese doctors house. He was forcing me to drink beer at eleven o’clock in the morning. It was pretty funny. Actually I had a really good time at that party. It shows that sometimes it’s good to drink, just relax and unwind and enjoy yourself.

If you’re living in a foreign country make an effort to learn the language. You should learn like…, I should have learned Japanese, it would have helped me. It would have meant that…, it would have avoided all those weird misunderstandings which made me believe that I was gonna die in a Japanese hospital. You should take time out of your life to relax and take it easy sometimes. Listen to some ambient music I recommend, stuff like Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, The Orb. Listen to that really nice chilled out relaxing music sometimes. It’s good, it helps. I’m sure it lowers your blood pressure and things like that. Enjoy your life. Just enjoy it. It’s healthy to be happy. Accept friendly invitations. For example, the invitation from this doctor that I had. I had such a good time at his party. It really made me feel good about myself. I felt very healthy afterwards, except friendly invitations. Generally you should be nice to people. I was very nice to the doctor in my English lessons. I took a lot of care and attention to make sure that I was teaching him correctly. I gave him lots of good attention. In the end it paid off, because when I became his patient, and he was my doctor, he felt like he should take extra special care over me, because I‘d been careful with him as a teacher. Be nice to people, because in the end you might not…, it’s a good policy to be generally kind and nice to people. Because it will come back to you in the end.

Okay. that’s pretty much it, I think, for this episode. Wow! My god! I’ve been talking for like an hour and 15 minutes. Okay, that’s it. I’m gonna stop now, because otherwise this episode is going to be much too long. I’ve been rambling on and on and on in this episode, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Please do feel free to leave your comments on this episode. You can share your own stories if you’ve ever had a similar experience. Just tell us about maybe your experiences of living in another culture. Have you ever lived abroad? Were there anything that’s you found difficult. Have you got any good tips for “How to survive hot summers in foreign countries” Have you got any good little health tips for example?

Do visit the page teacher.co.uk, episode 118. You may well find some useful bits of language which I’ve written there.

That is it for this episode. Stay tuned for more episodes in the future.

But for now – it’s bye bye bye.


Here are some of the things I say in this episode, with some phrases and vocabulary I use. You should listen to the podcast while reading these, or check some of the words in a dictionary afterwards (google: “macmillan online dictionary” or “cambridge online dictionary). The sentences won’t make any sense unless you listen to this episode. I hope this is useful to you. There is also a full transcript for this episode below.

Some phrases and sentences you will hear in this episode
1. Hello, this is Luke’s English Podcast. You probably realised that already, because of the jingle etc. “Oh, this must be Luke’s English Podcast”. It probably wasn’t an accident. You probably said to yourself “I think I’ll listen to Luke’s English Podcast now”.
2. Welcome and I hope that you’re well. People tend to do different things while listening to this. Some people like to listen in the gym while working out. Don’t feel like stopping! Keep going, keep pushing yourself to the limit! I want to smell the sweat coming through the internet.
3. Brew yourself a nice cup of tea. Just relax and allow the sounds of Luke’s English Podcast to go into your ears and get you into a meditative state.
4. I prefer to believe that I have a soothing tone of voice rather than a boring, monotonous tone of voice which puts you to sleep.
5. “Suddenly I feel the incredible potential that I have amassed in my sleep!”
6. Don’t break the speed limit. Don’t tailgate, because that’s dangerous. You should leave at least 2 car lengths between you and the next car.
7. I can’t stand it when there’s another car sitting on my back bumper.
8. Just back off mate!
9. Road rage is a problem and you shouldn’t be part of the problem you should be part of the cure.
10. My simple mind can’t get over the fact that one would run around somewhere and not run to get somewhere or get away from something.
11. I’m going to tell you the complete story of how I ended up lying down in a hospital bed in Japan.
12. Various other phrases that just pop out of my mouth…
13. Just over 10 years ago I decided to go to Japan.
14. At that time in my life I’d recently graduated from university.
15. It’s not one of these degrees that gives you a vocation.
16. My degree was all rather theoretical.
17. The impact of Sigmund Freud on modern culture.
18. I thought I would kill two birds with one stone.
19. Initially I thought that I would teach abroad somewhere in Europe.
20. There are English language schools in the city that I could have worked for.
21. I hadn’t really considered working there.
22. He convinced me that it would be a good idea to go. “Why not go to Japan, that would be amazing!”
23. Why go somewhere close? Why not go all the way to the other side of the world?
24. On Neil’s advice I decided that I would go to work in Japan.
25. They all need to be competitive in their careers.
26. For quite a long time I’d been really interested in Japan.
27. I’d always been kind of fascinated in Japanese life.
28. I was quite curious to go and investigate.
29. I saved up money by working in a restaurant.
30. I read up on some (books about) Japanese culture.
31. I was really looking forward to it.
32. I’d already lived away from home for a few years. At university I lived in a shared house.
33. It wasn’t a huge deal for me at the time.
34. I was alright with it. In fact I was really looking forward to just getting away.
35. I was a bit fed up with my life.
36. My Dad dropped me off at Heathrow airport.
37. I had some coins. I thought that I would be able to spend them in the airport.
38. I couldn’t, mentally, bring myself to get these coins out of the bags and spend them on things.
39. I ended up taking them all the way to Japan with me.
40. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the movies.
41. His elbows used up loads of room.
42. I just wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone.
43. I just remember feeling really strange, really freaked out. I remember thinking “this is all a horrendous mistake, what the hell am I doing with my life?
44. I should stay in England, I should focus on my career.
45. I was having a horrible moment of panic self doubt.
46. They’ve still got gravity, and stuff like that.
47. There were two guys in uniforms, like really fancy uniforms.
48. At the time I was thinking, who the hell is this weird guy in a suit?
49. I settled into my life in Japan.
50. Obviously I had my periods of feeling homesick. It went up and down.
51. Generally speaking it was great.
52. The company helped to sort out health insurance.
53. They paid me peanuts. They paid me quite a low wage, particularly at the beginning on my probationary period.
54. I didn’t really know how to look after myself.
55. I didn’t eat a very balanced diet.
56. They have a shop there called Yoshinoya, which I was quite fond of.
57. I kind of survived on that for a while.
58. I even worked out mathematically how I could afford to live on Gudon.
59. I used to go to my local bar at weekends. I would hang out there at weekends.
60. Going to that bar was one of the best expriences I had.
61. It’s quite hard to notice the negative effects that drinking can have on your health, and perhaps that’s one of the things that contributed to me getting a bit sick later on. In fact there were a few things which contributed to me ending up really sick in a hospital.
62. Work was very stressful because of a steep learning curve.
63. In England when the sun comes out it’s quite normal and natural to sort of throw off your clothes and get as much sun on your skin as possible.
64. I’d go outside at the weekend and try and get as much sun as possible.
65. I had a big blue ‘mama-chari’.
65. They probably thought I was a real freak.
66. I was boiling hot and I realised I was seriously sunburned.
67. The white vest was where the other vest I’d been wearing had blocked the sun.
68. I got these blisters on my shoulders that would then burst.
69. The sunburn didn’t directly cause me to get sick but it is just an example of how I wasn’t really prepared for the difference in climate there.
70. Japanese listeners might be feeling a little bit alarmed.
71. If they take their temperature and realise that it’s rised [risen!] just a little bit then they go all out. They wrap themselves up in scarves, they take medicine, they wear these, sort of, ninja-style face masks, to make sure that they are looking after themselves [and other people of course]. Japanese people tend to look after themselves pretty well, and they can be pretty health conscious so me telling you these stories of how I didn’t really look after myself might be a bit alarming for you, but don’t worry, obviously I’m fine, I’m okay, I’m still standing, and in a way I am English so I’m naturally tough even if I am a bit stupid sometimes.
72. Okay, this brings me to the Japanese summer.
73. This is something to do with a large front of low pressure which comes across Japan.
74. For a few weeks it’s cold and wet. It’s miserable.
75. After rainy season the humidity and heat arrive.
76. We go outside and we enjoy it while it lasts.
77. The myth about the UK is that it rains all the time.
78. Our summers have been unusually wet and that’s probably due to climate change.
79. The weather was just constant, it was consistent.
80. My body was expecting the weather to change to give me a chance to cool down a bit.
81. The concrete has actually absorbed the heat during the day.
82. My body really couldn’t get used to it.
83. I must have lost a lot of weight.
84. I’d wake up with a wet pillow.
85. I couldn’t actually stand the air conditioning either.
86. I felt like it was dehydrating me.
87. I’d been given advice that it was best not using air conditioning.
88. As soon as I dried myself off I’d be all wet again, and sweaty.
89. I’d walk to the station and I’d be pouring sweat.
90. I got stressed out by work.
91. I stayed up late at weekends.
92. I remember getting bitten by a mosquito.
93. I had some plants on the balcony which I would water every now and then.
94. It was like an all you can eat buffet for this mosquito and he just feasted on me.
95. I woke up scratching.
96. This must have been a very full and very sleepy mosquito at this point to let it actually be killed by me in my sleep. Me instinctively, kind of, scratching my arm where this mosquito was biting me. And then I realised… I’m gonna sneeze! A-CHOO! Ah it feels good to sneeze!
97. And then I realised that this mosquito had bitten me something like 15 times and that my legs were itching already and my arms were itching already.
98. So this constant itching was really annoying. It was another thing that prevented me from sleeping properly.
99. I’ve got this weird suspicion that somehow this mosquito got me sick.
100. I started to feel like I had flu.
101. I was feeling really tired, headache, Cold chills, aches and pains in my body, blocked up nose, I felt like my glands were swollen. I felt awful.
102. I took some time off work. Lay in bed, resting.
103. Staying indoors in my apartment was miserable.
104. I went out to local temple.
105. They have a huge bronze statue of a buddha, sitting there.
106. By coincidence, very strangely enough, I met Dave Grohl. [Drummer from Nirvana, in The Foo Fighters]
107. As I was walking out of the temple I noticed a group of westerners.
108. As I walked past him I realised “Oh my god that’s Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters!”
109. “Oh I’m going to be cool, I’m not going to hassle him”
110. I managed to get a photo with him.
111. They were playing a concert in Tokyo in a couple of days’ time.
112. I had an eight day stretch. That’s eight consecutive days at work.
113. By the end of that I was knackered. I was absolutely exhausted.
114. I had swollen glands and painful tonsils.
115. It’s quite common to get an infection in your tonsils.
116. I couldn’t swallow because it was too painful.
117. All I could eat was banana, because it was soft, and miso soup.
118. I was just trying to eat miso soup and eat banana.
119. She was three quarters Japanese and one quarter American.
120. She, ironically, was on holiday in England.
121. She arranged for me to go to the doctors.
122. It was a bit inconvenient for him to have to deal with me.
123. That was my fault, because I didn’t learn Japanese.
124. A kind of Victorian vibe.
125. I sat very upright with a neck brace around me.
126. What was very off-putting for me was that I could see all his medical instruments in a glass cabinet next to me.
127. He had, like, a long metal rod with a swab at the end and he dipped it into some antiseptic.
128. His was of dealing with my tonsil infection was to use this swab and paint my tonsils with antiseptic.
129. I couldn’t help coughing. I was coughing the antiseptic back into his face.
130. This was very awkward because I met my girlfriend’s Dad.
131. I looked like a zombie.
132. Not exactly the best way to make a good impression.
133. This time the doctor decided that it might be a good idea to give me some antibiotics. He gave me three day’s worth of antibiotics.
134. I’ve already built up a resistance to antibiotics.
135. Tonsillitis – that’s an infections of glands at the back of your throat.
136. Glands are parts of your body which are responsible for producing things like hormones, or producing saliva or sweat, things like that.
137. I’d had tonsillitis quite a few times when I was younger.
138. I knew that I needed quite a large dose of antibiotics in order for them to work.
139. I, kind of, reluctantly went back to my apartment with these antibiotics and I took them but it didn’t work and I just continued to feel ill.
140. By coincidence, this doctor was one of my students.
141. I’d already built up a kind of relationship with this guy. HEALTH JAPAN
142. His English was very basic, despite the fact that he’d had the best English teacher in the world: Me (yeah, right)
143. He put me on an intravenous drip. That’s when, basically, they put medicine directly into your blood. They attach something to your vein in your arm or in the back of your hand, and then they hook up a kind of plastic bag full of medicine which then comes down a small tube and goes directly into your blood – it’s an IV drip.
144. So he gave me an IV drip of antibiotics.
145. Now bear in mind that this doctor’s English was not very good.
146. A lot of what he said to me was lost in translation.
147. You’ve got liver damage, you have to go to hospital and you will need an operation.
148. Immediately I was assuming that I had some sort of horrific liver disease and I’m going to need to go to hospital and I’m going to need to have a liver operation and I’m going to have to have my liver changed.
149. It completely freaked me out.
150. I kind of broke down at that point.
151. They took me into hospital, checked me into hospital and next thing you know I was lying in a bed.
152. As far as I knew I had some kind of liver disease and I was going to have to have an operation in a day or two.
153. I was in such a kind of bad way, I was confused and probably quite paranoid.
154. (ABC game) Smells: err, absinthe, battery…
155. They checked out all of the symptoms that I had and everything that the doctor had told them via my girlfriend’s parents.
156. They checked it all out on the internet and they worked out what I actually had. So they sent me this email, which explained everything to me, and this was a huge relief because it turns out that I didn’t have some sort of horrible life-threatening liver disease. I had infectious mononucleosis, which is otherwise known as glandular fever, and that’s actually quite a common virus, let’s say. It’s a virus which infects the glands, and the symptoms are that it gives you liver damage because you’ve got a high white blood cell count in your blood, and so your liver is working hard to try to clean out the white blood cells from your blood.
157. What the doctor had actually meant was, “okay you’ve got liver damage, that’s a normal symptom of glandular fever… ”
158. “You will need an operation” – what he meant there is that I would eventually need to have my tonsils removed because of the frequency to… at which I was having infections in my tonsils he decided it would be a good idea for me to have my tonsils removed.”
159. So it was nothing to do with having a liver transplant, I was just panicking at that point.
160. I felt like I was on death’s door.
161. All that panic and all that worry and paranoia were unnecessary.
162. Being in that hospital was quite fun, in a way.
163. Nurses would come… I think for them it was quite an exciting novelty to have an English guy in the hospital.
164. I was kind of like the star of the hospital ward.
165. Most of the time they left me alone and I just lay there listening to ambient music on my headphones, reading The Lord of the Rings.
166. It was a very bizarre experience.
167. They would give me 2 large bags of clear pink fluid into my arm.
168. I think it was a mix of vitamins to help me recover.
169. I woke up one day with a rash.
170. Apparently it was a result of having too much antibiotics.
171. Eventually I was discharged from hospital and I went back home. I still had some time off from work. The company were quite understanding. They gave me quite a lot of time to recover.
172. What can we learn from this:
-You should eat healthily
-Drink plenty of water. Keep yourself hydrated.
-When you go to live in another country you’ve got to be prepared for cultural differences.
-Try to follow the ways in which the locals do things. (The locals had a slow pace of live)
-Keep the doors open and the windows open to create a kind of draught.
-When you sleep you should have something over your body, even if it’s just over your mid section.
-Take some bottles of water and freeze them in the freezer.
-Stay positive – and that’s just a general rule. It might not be as bad as you think.
-Don’t give up.
-Don’t drink too much.
-I should have learned Japanese.
-Take some time out to relax
-Listen to some ambient music (Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, The Orb)
-Enjoy your life! It’s healthy to be happy!
-Accept friendly invitations.
-Be nice to people. In the end it will pay off. It will come back to you in the end.

That’s it!