In this episode I am happy to present to you a conversation with my mum, dad and brother all about old family stories and anecdotes from the past.
The episode is called Do you remember…? And that’s the title of the activity I chose for this episode. The idea is that we could generate some stories about things that happened in the past and you can follow along and see if you can pick up some English in the process, or simply enjoy a bit of storytelling on the podcast.
So you’re going to hear stories of little accidents, moments when James and I got into trouble, learning to drive and failed driving tests, how my parents first met each other and how my bottom lip was always left trembling at the end of every story.
We recorded this in my parents’ living room, sitting around after dinner and if you like you can imagine that you’re there too, listening into the conversation – not taking part though. For some reason you’re not allowed to speak, you can only listen like a weird audience in our living room just lurking in the background. Anyway, you can imagine that you’re there if you like, if it helps you to tune into the conversation and follow along more easily.
I will now leave you to enjoy this relaxed conversation, follow the stories and little jokes and I will speak to you again at the end of this episode.
So, that was my family, recorded in the living room recently while I was on holiday in England. I hope you enjoyed that.
Apologies if we repeated any stories you had heard before (perhaps all of them?) but then again it can be really helpful to hear the same stories over and over when learning English. You could even try to tell the stories yourself, and then compare your story to the recorded version.
If you want other, similar episodes from the archive, check out these ones.
79. Family Arguments & Debates (Debating things like language and politics)
Continuing to read extracts from this fantastic science fiction story from the 19th century. Follow the plot and pick up some English in the process. Full transcript available, and a YouTube version too.
6 years prior to the main events of the story, explosions are observed on the surface of Mars, but scientists assume they are gas or volcanic eruptions and are nothing to worry about.
Then, one night, a meteor falls to earth in green flash. The astronomer who finds the fallen meteorite in a pit of sand in a nearby common discovers that the object is a cylinder, is making strange noises and is even beginning to open and assumes there must be people inside it.
A crowd gathers, including the narrator of this story. The cylinder opens slowly and people are shocked and horrified to see the hideous and frightening creatures inside. They seem slow and heavy, as if earth’s atmosphere makes things difficult for them. Their appearance is a huge shock to everyone.
One person has fallen into the pit and it’s possible that they have been killed.
The narrator, although terrified, is also intensely curious about these visitors, as are the other witnesses at the sand pits where the cylinder has landed.
V. THE HEAT-RAY. After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging from the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and curiosity. I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate longing to peer into it. I began walking, therefore, in a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and continually looking at the sand-heaps that hid these new-comers to our earth. Once a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an octopus, flashed across the sunset and was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up, joint by joint, bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a wobbling motion. What could be going on there? Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups—one a little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot of people in the direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared my mental conflict. There were few near me. One man I approached—he was, I perceived, a neighbour of mine, though I did not know his name—and accosted. But it was scarcely a time for articulate conversation. “What ugly brutes!” he said. “Good God! What ugly brutes!” He repeated this over and over again. “Did you see a man in the pit?” I said; but he made no answer to that. We became silent, and stood watching for a time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in one another’s company. Then I shifted my position to a little knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard or more of elevation and when I looked for him presently he was walking towards Woking. The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened. The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking, seemed to grow, and I heard now a faint murmur from it. The little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed. There was scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit. It was this, as much as anything, that gave people courage, and I suppose the new arrivals from Woking also helped to restore confidence. At any rate, as the dusk came on a slow, intermittent movement upon the sand-pits began, a movement that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the evening about the cylinder remained unbroken. Vertical black figures in twos and threes would advance, stop, watch, and advance again, spreading out as they did so in a thin irregular crescent that promised to enclose the pit in its attenuated horns. I, too, on my side began to move towards the pit. Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly into the sand-pits, and heard the clatter of hoofs and the gride of wheels. I saw a lad trundling off the barrow of apples. And then, within thirty yards of the pit, advancing from the direction of Horsell, I noted a little black knot of men, the foremost of whom was waving a white flag. This was the Deputation. There had been a hasty consultation, and since the Martians were evidently, in spite of their repulsive forms, intelligent creatures, it had been resolved to show them, by approaching them with signals, that we too were intelligent. Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to the left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but afterwards I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were with others in this attempt at communication. This little group had in its advance dragged inward, so to speak, the circumference of the now almost complete circle of people, and a number of dim black figures followed it at discreet distances. Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three distinct puffs, which drove up, one after the other, straight into the still air. This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and the hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey, set with black pine trees, seemed to darken abruptly as these puffs arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal. At the same time a faint hissing sound became audible. Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the white flag at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a little knot of small vertical black shapes upon the black ground. As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out pallid green, and faded again as it vanished. Then slowly the hissing passed into a humming, into a long, loud, droning noise. Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam of light seemed to flicker out from it. Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men. It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire. Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run. I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell headlong and lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them, pine trees burst into fire, and every dry furze bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden buildings suddenly set alight in the distance. It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle of fire in the sand-pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the sand-pits the dark ground smoked and crackled. Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forth-with the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-like object sank slowly out of sight into the pit. All this had happened with such swiftness that I had stood motionless, dumbfounded and dazzled by the flashes of light. Had that death swept through a full circle, it must inevitably have slain me in my surprise. But it passed and spared me, and left the night about me suddenly dark and unfamiliar. The undulating common seemed now dark almost to blackness, except where its roadways lay grey and pale under the deep blue sky of the early night. It was dark, and suddenly void of men. Overhead the stars were mustering, and in the west the sky was still a pale, bright, almost greenish blue. The tops of the pine trees and the roofs of Horsell came out sharp and black against the western afterglow. The Martians and their appliances were altogether invisible, save for that thin mast upon which their restless mirror wobbled. Patches of bush and isolated trees here and there smoked and glowed still, and the houses towards Woking station were sending up spires of flame into the stillness of the evening air. Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonishment. The little group of black specks with the flag of white had been swept out of existence, and the stillness of the evening, so it seemed to me, had scarcely been broken. It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless, unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came—fear. With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through the heather. The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do. Once I had turned, I did not dare to look back. I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very verge of safety, this mysterious death—as swift as the passage of light—would leap after me from the pit about the cylinder, and strike me down.
Summary of Chapter 5: The Heat Ray
The narrator finds himself irresistibly drawn back toward the crater to see more. He observes a long pole with a circular disc on its end rising from the pit. Other people linger, seemingly rooted to the spot in a mix of horror and curiosity. Heartened by a lack of alien movement for a period, onlookers begin to slowly advance toward the pit. The Deputation (group of scientists) walks toward the pit with a white flag. The narrator later learns Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were part of the group. A flash of light, three puffs of green smoke, a hissing sound, and a dome-like object rise from the pit. With a droning noise, the group of men suddenly burst into flame. As the “invisible, inevitable sword of heat” rotates, everything it touches turns to flame, including grass on the common and trees in the distance. The rotating Heat-Ray stops before it reaches the narrator, and he realizes he was “helpless, unprotected and alone.” He flees in fear with the disturbing feeling he is “being played with.”
Although the Martians seem quite weak and immobile, their technology is far superiour to ours, especially the technology we had in the late 19th century (guns, horse drawn, cannons, pre World War 1 weapons). The heat ray is absolutely devestating. It burns or melts everything it touches instantly and can reach long distances.
Summary of the next few chapters
Nobody understands the technology the Martians are using. Whatever the heat ray points at, bursts into flame.
Plenty of people around the pit have been killed and there are burned remains of their bodies lying around. Horses have also been killed as well as numerous trees and buildings set on fire.
The group of scientists are all dead.
After the Martian attack with the heat ray the crowd of people stampeded in horror and a few people were crushed to death in the panic.
The Martians stay in the pit, and appear to be working on something as little puffs of green smoke can be seen rising from the hole, and there’s noise of work inside.
The narrator runs away in fear and eventually gets himself under control and then goes home, still not completely aware of what’s going on. He comforts himself with the knowledge that the military are now going to step in, and that one shell or bomb landing in the sand pit will be enough to stop the Martians. He sees his wife and has dinner.
The news of the Martians travels slowly. People seem sceptical of the stories they’ve heard. Even the newspaper editor chooses not to print the story as he doesn’t believe the account and it hasn’t been confirmed by any enough witnesses yet. So, news travels slowly. Meanwhile, the Martians still seem to be working on something within the pit.
Some people are still curious about what’s going on in the sand pit, but as they approach it they are instantly killed by the heat ray.
The narrator compares the cylinder ominously to a poison dart, whose poison “was scarcely working yet.”
That night several companies of soldiers with large artillery guns approach the pit.
During the night, a second cylinder falls nearby.
The next day is suspenseful. The military surround the aliens in their sand pit. The narrator is not allowed to go back onto the common. Soldiers tell him that nobody is allowed into the area.
That afternoon there are sounds of gunfire and explosions. The Martians keep using their heat ray which appears to be clearing out all obstacles in its path, creating a wider and wider circle of destruction and a bigger area that nobody can enter.
The narrator is at home with is wife and at one point a big explosion nearby causes him to go outside to check. He sees the top of the nearby church sliding off and crashing to the ground, the tops of nearby trees on fire and in fact the chimney stack of his own house falling to the ground. He realises that his house is nearly in range of the heat ray, which has taken out trees and buildings between the house and the sand pit.
The narrator and his wife decide to leave, and pack a horse drawn cart with as many possessions as possible they head in the direction of London, to Leatherhead. As they travel there is fire and smoke behind them and the sound of weapons. The Martians are burning everything within range of their heat ray.
The narrator’s wife is deeply concerned about the situation, but the narrator assures her that the Martians are severely disadvantaged by their weight and inability to move quickly or breathe properly in our atmosphere. They arrive in Leatherhead and have dinner.
Then the narrator has to go back to Woking in order to return the horse and cart that he borrowed (what a good guy).
As night falls a storm comes in with rain and lightning. As the narrator is travelling through the darkness he sees a third cylinder fall from the sky in a green flash. The horse is very spooked and is hard to control.
Then in the darkness and rain, lit up by the occasional flash of lightning from the storm he sees something monstrous that causes him to loose control of the horse and crash by the side of the road.
Extract from Chapter 10: In the Storm
X. IN THE STORM. (extract)
At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then abruptly my attention was arrested by something that was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill. At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash following another showed it to be in swift rolling movement. It was an elusive vision—a moment of bewildering darkness, and then, in a flash like daylight, the red masses of the Orphanage near the crest of the hill, the green tops of the pine trees, and this problematical object came out clear and sharp and bright.
And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.
Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were parted, as brittle reeds are parted by a man thrusting through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong, and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed, headlong towards me. And I was galloping hard to meet it! At the sight of the second monster my nerve went altogether. Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse’s head hard round to the right and in another moment the dog cart had heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.
I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly. In another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.
Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.
So much I saw then, all vaguely for the flickering of the lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.
As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that drowned the thunder—“Aloo! Aloo!”—and in another minute it was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping over something in the field. I have no doubt this Thing in the field was the third of the ten cylinders they had fired at us from Mars.
For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness watching, by the intermittent light, these monstrous beings of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge tops. A thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their figures grew misty and then flashed into clearness again. Now and then came a gap in the lightning, and the night swallowed them up.
I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below. It was some time before my blank astonishment would let me struggle up the bank to a drier position, or think at all of my imminent peril.
Summary of Chapter 10 extract
On his way he notices a red glow in the sky and then a green streak, which happens to be the third cylinder.
It begins to storm.
The narrator suddenly encounters “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses,” smashing through the woods next to the road.
As soon as it vanishes into the woods, another tripod appears heading right for the narrator.
He tries to change direction, but the cart overturns and the horse is killed.
The tripod passes by.
The narrator describes the two tripods bending over something in the distance, which he believes is the third cylinder.
He continues on foot with difficulty, happening upon the landlord’s dead body before he reaches home.
End of part 2
To be continued in part 3.
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Listen to Luke’s English Podcast – over 700 episodes of interesting content for learners of English.
Australian journalist and podcaster Oliver Gee returns to LEP to tell us some stories about the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, meeting famous comedians as a journalist, learning Swedish and French and his honeymoon tour of France on a 50cc Vespa scooter.
Welcome to episode 599 of Luke’s English Podcast, a podcast for learners of English presented by me, Luke Thompson an English teacher and comedian from England now living in Paris.
In this episode you’re going to hear a conversation I recorded last week here in my flat. The conversation is with my friend Oliver Gee who is a journalist and podcaster, from Australia now also living in Paris.
As some of you will remember, Oliver has been on the podcast before, in episode 495, over 100 episodes ago. Can you believe it!? In that episode we talked all about Australian things, including Australian English, so while you’re listening to Oli’s voice and you’re wondering about his accent and other Australian things, check out episode 495.
Oliver is a podcaster and YouTuber who makes content about Paris and France, in English. Recently I joined Oliver on one of his live YouTube video walking tours in Paris, which you can find on the page for this episode and it was a lot of fun talking to him and I thought it was high time I invited him back on the podcast for a chat and to tell us some stories.
And, as a journalist, Oliver is very interested in stories. That’s what journalism is about a lot of the time – finding stories, covering stories, reporting stories and generally reporting events in the form of stories. So, that’s what I wanted from this conversation. I wanted Oliver to tell us some stories – not bedtime stories or fairy tales. I’m talking more about true stories of people’s lives, moments that people experience, big events that happen in the world, etc.
We communicate so much of what we do and see via stories – either in the media, or in the way we just talk to each other and describe things. Stories are central to the way we communicate with each other.
So, the focus for me in this conversation was to let Oliver tell us some of his stories, and I wanted to hear him speak about these things in particular:
The Notre Dame Cathedral fire
When the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire recently (you must have seen it in the news) Oliver went down to the cathedral with his camera in order to see and record what was happening and to capture the moment. He also interviewed to a tour guide all about it for his podcast in which they described it in full detail. So, Oliver can tell us about what he saw that evening, generally what happened at the cathedral and what’s happening next and there are some pretty weird coincidences in his story too. In fact there are quite a of weird coincidences and special moments described during this episode.
Meeting famous comedians
I also wanted stories about Oliver’s time working as a journalist, how he started and particularly moments when he ended up meeting some famous people – especially comedians that we’re big fans of.
So listen on to find out who Oliver has met, how he met them and what they were really like in person. There’s one comedian who is particularly famous at the moment. Oliver got to meet him in really quite an intimate situation, and I love the story.
Learning Swedish & French
Oliver has lived in Sweden and now lives in France, so I wanted him to tell me about his experiences of learning languages, particularly moments when he felt challenged and when he’d made significant progress.
The honeymoon tour of France on a scooter
And finally, there’s the story of Oliver’s honeymoon road trip around France on the back of a scooter. Imagine two newly married people travelling all around France, even crossing over the alps, all on a small 50cc Vespa scooter. Listen on to find out what happened.
So those are the main topics – Notre Dame Cathedral, meeting famous people, learning languages and a honeymoon road trip. There’s also some chat at the start about my podcast as Oliver noticed that LEP has had over 50 million downloads in total and I’m approaching episode 600. So we talk a bit about podcasting vs using YouTube as different platforms for what we do.
We’re about to jump into the conversation now, just before we do let me prepare you a little bit because the conversation starts quite quickly.
In episode 495, if you remember, we said that the better people know Oliver, the shorter his name becomes. This is normal. It’s like nicknames. So, acquaintances probably call him Oliver, then friends call him Oli, then close friends might call him Ol, then really close friends might just call him O.
I just wanted to remind you of that, because it’s the first thing you’ll hear, so you might immediately get lost and go “Wait, what? I’m lost already!”
The better people know you, the shorter your name becomes. That’s how this begins.
Alright, so now you’re ready, let’s go!
So that was Oliver Gee on the podcast again. I really hope you enjoyed that conversation full of stories. If you struggled to understand everything that was said I just want to say congratulations and well done for listening all the way through to this point. I know sometimes it is difficult to follow these long, fast conversations on my podcast but I truly believe that you can make progress if you manage to just keep listening. Sometimes you’ll get lost and not understand, but try to tolerate the bits that you can’t understand and use the bits that you do understand to help you guess the rest and keep going. The best language learners persevere even when things aren’t completely clear.
Stay positive, keep it up.
As ever I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section if you have anything to share or any thoughts regarding any of the things that came up in this episode.
On the episode page you will find loads of links and videos relating to the things we talked about in this conversation, including… (links all listed below)
So this is the end of episode 599. Episode 600 will be the next one.
I hope you can join me for the YouTube live stream when I will be recording episode 600.
That is going to happen at 3PM (CET) on Friday 7 June on my YouTube channel. You’ll find the link to that on the front page of my website in the comment section.
If you can’t attend the live stream, then I am sorry! You will be able to watch the video later and obviously listen to the audio in episode 600.
The theme of the live stream is “Ask me anything” (although I do reserve the right not to answer questions if I don’t fancy it, like “what colour is your underwear?” “Mind your own business!” or “What are your credit card details?” etc. You can ask me questions about English or whatever comes to you and I will try to answer the questions as best I can, and as briefly as I can in the time we have available.
Also, premium subscribers – premium episodes are coming! I’m working on several premium series at the moment, and so June will see more premium stuff and less free stuff.
OK then, that’s it! Until episode 600 I will now say, good bye bye bye bye bye…
Oliver’s episode about Notre Dame Cathedral (The Earful Tower Podcast)
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.
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
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.
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 roador 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.
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.
Why did they hitch hike to this place called Harloch in Wales?
Where did they end up? Why did they spend their time there?
Where did they stay?
What did he realise later on?
Who did they hang out with? What did they do?
What was their reaction to the spiders in their room? How did they deal with the spiders?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 todownload the LEP App and enjoy listening to some full-length episodes only available in the app, plus more bonus content.
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!
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.
Congratulations! 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
*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)
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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? Snowballs.
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.
Singapore? Yes, but the drummer was good. (Was the singer poor? – was he a bad singer?)
My wife’s gone to the West Indies.
Jamaica? No, she went of her own accord.
(Jamaica – “Did you make her (go)?”)
My wife’s gone to Indonesia.
Jakarta? 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)