Tag Archives: story

346. Rambling on a Friday Afternoon / Phrasal Verbs & Idioms / More NY Stories / Politics / Leicester City / Google Adverts

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms / More NY Stories / Politics / Leicester City / Google Adverts
Welcome back to another podcast episode. It’s nice to be back in your headphones or speakers. In the last episode of this podcast I talked to you about some recent bits and pieces such as the ELTon award nomination, my recent trip to New York and some other stuff. I also gave you a language task to keep you on your toes. I’m going to continue along the same lines in this episode and I have a list of things here to talk about and we’re going to continue with the language spotting exercise.

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It’s a Friday afternoon, I’ve just seen the latest Marvel movie, the weather is mad, and I’m going to talk to you about various things again but first I’ve got to respond to a couple of comments that have arrived here on my website in just the last hour.

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms Listed Below

But first…

Some comments from listeners

Abensour • 4 minutes ago
Hello Luke, Your podcast is fantastic.
Nevertheless, could you please speak a bit faster. I guess you must lower the pace when you record your podcasts and it would be very interesting to hear you with your natural english speaking pace.

Jeremie • 1 minute ago
By the way, I am a french listener as well! :)

Hello Luke and LEP listeners,
It’s with absolute delight that I receive the news that LEP has been nominated for the 2016 ELTons and I genuinely believe other long-term listeners share the same feeling. The British Council and Cambridge English couldn’t have a better candidate for the Digital Innovation category.
One thing that troubled me though was when Luke said it was unlikely that he could win. Luke, I don’t know if you’re being far too English or just trying to be modest but, as I see it, you shouldn’t take this defeatist attitude and underestimate yourself. As you said, LEP is a project you have been working on for over seven years and it keeps getting better as time goes on. Because you’re kind-hearted and keep LEP free, people all over the world listen to you. Your episodes have millions of downloads and are a complete success and, even though you’re up against five other great nominees, I cannot conceive why LEP might not be in the running for the award.
LEP is innovative because it allows learners to listen to genuine English – rambling included – outside a classroom environment. Everyone who has reached a proficient level knows how important being in touch with the language is in order to learn it well. LEP is great because it enables us to hear natural English for pleasure and entertainment or while doing housework, cooking and commuting to college. I am not aware of any other equivalent English teaching resource that suits our busy lives just as well as LEP. I believe any sensible judge on the panel will allow for all those reasons when they vote.
I wish you luck and I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
All the best,

Language Task – Spot the Phrasal Verbs & Idioms

So, that language task from the previous episode was to listen out for a few phrasal verbs and idioms that I’d taken randomly from a dictionary and which I tried to insert into my speech, seamlessly. You had to identify the ones I had added. The purpose of that is to encourage you to notice lexical items – to notice vocabulary. It’s a good habit for a learner of English. On one hand just follow what I’m saying and connect with that, but also try to notice features of the language you’re listening to. That’s what I’m encouraging you to do.

I chose 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms and I managed to slip in just one of those phrasal verbs and two of the idioms.
Remember what they were?

There was “to come up against” something.
Also, “to be on the edge of your seat”
and “to get your knickers in a twist”

There were also plenty of other bits of vocabulary which just cropped up in the episode, including these ones:
– to listen out for something
– to watch out and look out for something (not too complicated)
– to keep your eyes peeled
– to prick up your ears

So, as we move forwards now, watch out for the 4 remaining phrasal verbs and 3 remaining idioms. I’m not telling you what they are in advance. It’s up to you to identify them. You’ll probably hear a few phrasal verbs and idioms, but which are the ones that I took from the dictionary? When we get to the end of this episode I’ll tell you the phrases, and clarify them for you, because I’m nice.

Keep reading – the phrasal verbs and idioms are listed below.

Topics in Today’s Ramble

In this one I’m going to carry on just talking about various subjects, including a couple of other anecdotes about New York, some comments about politics in the USA and in the UK at the moment, some more rambling about movies, and various other bits and pieces that will crop up as we go along.

I’ve got no idea how long this is going to take of course! I could talk the hind legs off a donkey this afternoon, but as ever I’ll just divide the whole thing into several more episodes if necessary. Ultimately – it’s all spoken English from me to you, so here we go…

Some more anecdotes about the time spent in NYC
– The hasidic jews jamming in the music store


– Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar

– Billy Cobham at the Blue Note


The American presidential elections – Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton
London Mayor – Sadiq Khan is the new mayor
The EU referendum / Brexit
The Panama papers
These are very important political issues that really deserve to be covered in proper depth, and I plan to do that.
I’m particularly keen to talk about Brexit in one more special Brexit themed episodes.
Leicester City won the Premiership.
Small club, 5000-1 odds of winning. The title has been dominated by the big names. Leicester is in the East Midlands and it’s less famous than a lot of the other big cities in England but this is going to help. All in all it’s just fantastic to see a smaller club win this title. They were absolutely fantastic.

Google Adverts
I bought some new trainers online and now the internet is madly trying to get me to buy them again. WTF?

I’ve just seen the new Marvel movie and also there’s a new Star Wars film coming this Christmas, but that’s going to come in another episode soon…

The Phrasal Verbs & Idioms – Definitions and Examples

Thank you to a LEPster called Valeriya for writing these vocabulary notes in the comment section for the benefit of all listeners.

Valeriya: I wrote some notes. Hope they will be useful for the LEPstors.

to ease off/up – to gradually stop or become less
e.g. At last the rain began to ease off.
e.g. I am leaving soon, but I am just waiting for the traffic to ease off a bit.

to ease off/up – to start to work less or do things with less energy
e.g. As he got older, he started to ease up a little.

to ease off/up – to start to treat someone less severely
e.g. I wish his supervisor would ease up on him a bit.

to fork out (on something) – spend a lot of money on something, probably spend a lot of money in one go in order to buy something; to spend a bunch of money on something in one purchase
e.g. If you advertise nice guitars to me for a long enough period of time, eventually I will fork out on a new guitar.

to splash out (on something) – spend a lot of money on something; to spend a lot of money on something which you want but do not need
e.g. He splashed out on the best champagne for the party.

to go down with something – you catch an illness, you get sick; you become sick; to start to suffer from an infectious disease
e.g. Half of Martha’s class has gone down with flu.

to come down with something – to get an illness; заболеть чем-либо
I came down with the flu at Christmas.
e.g. You need to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, so you’ve got lots of vitamins, because if you don’t, you might come down with a cold.

to bring the house down – if someone or something brings the house down during a play or show, they make the people watching it laugh or clap very loudly; you make everyone laugh as part of a performance; to put on a really great performance and to be a huge hit; to make a group of people or an audience react in a very enthusiastic way, especially by laughing
e.g. I saw Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar, and he absolutely brought the house down.

to go on the offensive – you begin to take strong action against people who have been attacking you
e.g. The West African forces went on the offensive in response to attacks on them.

to go on the offensive – to begin to attack or criticize someone who you think is attacking you
Under pressure from his critics, the minister decided to go on the offensive.
Luke was going on the offensive about Google’s Advertising.

to go on the defensive – in an attitude or position of defense, as in being ready to reject criticism; you start defending yourself or something
e.g. He’s so sensitive. Whenever you give him any feedback he immediately goes on the defensive.

to take/bring somebody down a peg or two – to do something to show someone that they are not as good as they thought they were; to lower someone’s high opinion of themselves
e.g. He’s one of these super-confident types who really needs to be brought down a peg or two.

to dabble in something – to try an activity but not seriously, just as an experiment to see if you like it. To do something for a short time, or not regularly, in order to see if you like it. To do something sometimes, but not in a fully serious way, only in a casual way.
e.g. He dabbled in left-wing politics at university.

339. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 2)

Here is the concluding part of this detective story, which is based on a text adventure by Peter Carlson on www.textadventures.co.uk. In the first part you heard me playing an adventure game in which I have to analyse clues and choose the right options to continue a story and solve a murder. Before listening to this episode you should listen to part 1 of the story. Click here here to listen to part 1: https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/03/31/338-a-murder-mystery-detective-story/ In this episode (part 2) you’ll hear the rest of the story, and if you don’t understand what’s going on – don’t worry, I’ll explain it at the end and you can read a summary of the story below. Enjoy!


Click here to play the text adventure, “Victorian Detective” by Peter Carlson on textadventures.co.uk 

The Story – Explained

“Wait, wait, wait! I still don’t completely understand what happened in the story!”

OK, me neither. Let’s clarify.

Story summary (Vocabulary check: Do you know all the underlined words? Check them in a dictionary if you like – perhaps the Cambridge Online Dictionary)

  • First we investigate the scene of a murder. A man has been shot dead but it’s not just a random mugging. It appears to be deeper than that.
  • We work out the victim’s identity by investigating a smoke shop where he bought some Vietnamese tobacco. The owner of the smoke shop tells us the victim’s name, Mr Gaubert Bouvier, and gives us his address.
  • We visit the address and discover that it has been trashed. All the objects in the house have been thrown around. Someone else has been here, searching for something. Who? It was 2 Russian brothers. Why were they searching the place? I’m not sure…
  • We discover a hidden science lab where Bouvier was making bombs. It turns out Bouvier was a chemist who specialised in bomb production.
  • There’s some action when we discover plans for another bomb attack in a theatre.
  • We go to the theatre and it’s the first time we spot the Russians, but we don’t follow them. Again, we’ll come back to that.
  • We manage to prevent the bomb from exploding and then discover that the target of the bomb was a scientist called Sir Joseph Swan. He was planning to patent and sell a new invention called the electric lightbulb. The victim of a previous explosion was also a scientist, working on the lightbulb invention. So, apparently the murderer(s) are targeting the makers of these lightbulbs.
  • We investigate the whaling ship which we work out is moored in the docks. It was sailing off the coast of Belgium, but it turns now it’s moored in London again.
  • Investigation of the ship tells us the navigator of the ship was sending instructions to Bouvier the victim to make bombs.
  • We manage to track down the captain of the ship, who runs away from us. There’s a chase through the streets near the docks. During the chase we glimpse a man with a scar on the left side of his face, but it’s not important. We’re chasing the captain.
  • We catch the captain. Why was he running? Well, it’s not because he knew about the bomb attacks. It’s for another reason – probably because the ship is involved in some other criminal activity, maybe pirating or perhaps smuggling.
  • Anyway, the captain tells us the name of the navigator: Yorick Rozencrantz.
    This is obviously a fake name because it’s taken from two characters in the Shakespeare play Hamlet.
  • We decide to investigate those two Russian brothers. We work out that they must be carpenters working on a construction site near the river, so we go to investigate them.
  • After a fight with the Russians we learn that they were employed by the navigator/Shakespeare/Yorick to plant the bomb at the theatre and to trash Bouvier’s house. (I still don’t know why they trashed Bouvier’s house)
  • After a bit more deductive reasoning, we later discover that the secretive navigator/Shakespeare/Yorick guy is a former French soldier who was posted in Vietnam, where France had a colony. In fact, in Vietnam he met Mr Bouvier, the victim of the murder.
  • So, Bouvier and Shakespeare knew each other in Vietnam, and as a soldier Bouvier was an expert in explosives.
  • With the help of a friend who is an expert on military history, you work out that the Shakespeare character is actually called Renard Voclain. We see a photo of him, and see that he has a scar below his left eye.
  • Using our amazing photographic memory, or eidetic memory, we manage to remember where we saw this guy before. It turns out he was there during the chase with the captain, hiding in the crowd of Londoners.
  • Our amazing memory recall and deductive reasoning tell us that he must be living near the docks, where he keeps cats. We know this because we remember seeing cat hairs on his trousers, and some other clues.
  • We head to the docks and the presence of some cats leads us to the right house.
  • There we discover Renard Voclain, the navigator/Shakespeare character and master criminal behind both the killing of Bouvier and the bomb attacks.
  • We learn that Voclain was also trying to develop electric lightbulbs and was killing off his competitors in order to have a monopoly on the industry – not a bad idea considering the massive profits that could be made, although we know that crime doesn’t pay.
  • After a quick gunfight we manage to catch Voclain, arrest him and send him to Scotland Yard where he’ll be charged and tried in front of a judge in the proper manner.

Results – Am I a Good Detective?

I got pretty average results from my detective work. (Listen to hear me read out my results)
Do you think you can do better? Try playing the game for yourself here.
If you enjoyed it, you can check out other Victorian Detective stories too (I think there are two other ones by the same author) at http://textadventures.co.uk

What do you think?

Why did the two Russian brothers trash Bouvier’s house?
Did I miss any elements of the story?
Have you played Victorian Detective yourself yet? Did you get a different narrative?

I can’t wait to read your comments. :)

338. A Murder Mystery Detective Story (Part 1 of 2) Text Adventure

In this episode I’m going to read through an interactive text-based adventure story. The story takes place in Victorian-era London (19th century) and we’ll play the part of an expert detective who, like Sherlock Holmes, tries to solve a complex murder mystery. Follow me as I read through the story and attempt to solve the crime in the process. Can you understand the evidence and make the right decisions to solve the case? You can read the text-based adventure story and play the game yourself at http://textadventures.co.uk. The game is afoot!


Hello, welcome back to LEP

This is a podcast for people learning English. My main aim in these episodes is to provide you with content that will help you to learn English through listening. Sometimes I teach you directly, and sometimes I just provide you with things that I think will engage your attention, keep you listening and as a result push your English to new levels.

This is one of those episodes in which I take you through a story

Sometimes when I do this I just improvise the stories while recording. At other times I read stories that I’ve written or which I know well. In this case I’m going to read through a story that I don’t know. I have no idea where the story is going and I don’t know the outcome. So, you and I will discover the story at the same time.

What’s the story we’re going to read?

It’s one of those text-based adventures. What’s a text-based adventure? Essentially these are “choose your own adventure” games that allow you to follow a story and make certain choices along the way. Your choices affect the direction of the story. Each choice you make has a consequence, and sometimes stories like these can have more than one outcome.

I’m playing this story online and I found it on a website called http://textadventures.co.uk

This is a site that presents lots of different text adventures. They’re created by users of the site, they’re all free and they’re very inventive and of good quality. There are mystery stories, horror stories, detective stories, sci-fi stories, and even stories based on real life situations. I really recommend that you visit this site because there are loads of free text adventures that you can play, and I think they are a fantastic way of improving your English.

How do text adventures work?

You read through a story, and at certain points you are given options. Choose an option and the story will go in a different direction. Sometimes you can click parts of the text to get more information that will help you make the right choice. Keep going through the story until the conclusion. This particular site is good just because of the high level of quality. The stories I’ve seen have been intelligently written. Clearly the writers of these stories have put a lot of time and enthusiasm into these stories. They’re rewarding and fun. For your English they could be great because firstly you’ll do lots of reading and that’s just great on its own, but also because it’s all text you can copy+paste any words you don’t know into an online dictionary and get definitions, or add the words to your word lists or flashcard apps or whatever. The main thing is, these stories are fun and engaging and that should make it easier and more rewarding to read, and the more you read the better – just like listening – the more you listen, the better and the more you read the better too.

In this episode I’ve chosen to do a murder mystery adventure story called simply “Victorian Detective”

This is because it ties in quite neatly with the theme of the last episode and because I love Victorian-era London, and of course this makes us think of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, this story is heavily influenced by Sherlock – the old Sherlock, not the new ones. Yes, we love Sherlock Holmes on this podcast, so let’s imagine we’re a Sherlock-style detective and go through the story together.

Your aim in this one is to simply follow the story, and think with me about choices that I have to make

As we progress through the story, we’ll have to think like a detective, make certain choices based on deductive reasoning and then attempt to solve the mystery at the heart of the story.

I hope to be able to complete this in one episode, but I don’t want it to go on forever, so I might divide it into two separate parts.

Now, I imagine that it might be a bit tricky to follow the story and understand everything

I expect this is going to be a little bit complex. I’d say this – if you don’t understand and you feel lost, here’s a strategy: First, keep listening. I always say this of course, but I think it’s good advice. Good learners of English are able to tolerate some level of confusion and keep going. In the end, if you have the patience and motivation to keep going, you might find it confusing in the short-term but in the long-term your English will benefit from it. To an extent, learning English is a bit like being a detective. Even when things are complex and don’t make any sense, you have to keep going, keep thinking and keep investigating, based on limited information. Keep going, don’t give up and you’ll find that things will eventually become clearer over time, as you slowly start to piece together things like grammatical rules, vocab that you don’t understand and so on. This is true for detective stories as well. There is always a period in the middle of a mystery story where all the events are strange and confusing, but everything comes together in the end. Sherlock Holmes solves the case, and explains how it happened. If you persevere, it will be clearer later.

Also, since I’m playing this detective story online – you can do it too – click here to play “Victorian Detective by Peter Carlson”

I strongly recommend that you find this text game and spend some time playing it. That way you can check words you don’t know, actually read the text that I’m reading to you and that will make this episode even more useful for your English. You could even choose to go through the text adventure with me while I’m playing it. Listen to the episode and follow the adventure at the same time. Or, just listen now and then play the game yourself later. If you’re inventive you can find lots of cool ways of improving your English with this episode.

The website again: http://textadventures.co.uk and this story is called “Victorian Detective”. In fact, the full title of the story is “Victorian Detective: The Shakespearean Bomber”  by Peter Carlson. All credit goes to Peter Carlson for writing this game. He’s done an excellent job, and again I urge you to visit the website where you can read this story, and many others. And by the way, I don’t work for text adventures.co.uk or anything – I just think it’s a great website and I want to credit them and Peter Carlson for the story that I’m essentially reading out in this episode.

So, let’s begin

Here is the link to the Victorian Detective story by Peter Carlson http://play.textadventures.co.uk/Play.aspx?id=w207ce4zekubenmwgss5pa


To be continued in part 2!

Please leave your thoughts, comments and questions below.

vic murder

336. Drinking Scottish Whisky at a German Business Meeting While Wearing a Kilt and Playing a Flute… and other stories (with Carrick Cameron)

This episode features another natural conversation with a native English speaker. This time I’m talking to my mate Carrick, who I’ve known for about 10 years now. He is a teacher who used to work in the same school as me, back in London. We have a few things in common, like the fact that we’ve both had strange travelling experiences as English teachers, including the time when he once attended a meeting in Germany that involved not only the usual business work but also the drinking of some very rare and expensive scotch whiskies, which meant that the meeting turned into a kind of musical party with guitar and flute playing, quite a lot of whisky drinking, a late night and then, unsurprisingly, a bit of a hangover the next day. Listen to hear a few anecdotes, some authentic English conversation and more.

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All this took place in Germany as I said, so you could say that he had a “hangover in Hanover” (Hanover is a city in Germany). Although to be honest he was actually in Frankfurt not Hanover – yeah, I just wanted to use the line “a hangover in Hanover”. Yes, that was supposed to be clever and funny, but never mind. :P


We also share a few other anecdotes about travelling experiences we’ve had, including the time when I ended up being invited to my Japanese doctor’s house on New Year’s Day to make a kind of traditional cake by bashing a ball of wet rice over and over again with a big wooden mallet while being laughed at by a group of small children. Does that sound familiar at all? Have you ever done that? You might have, if you’re Japanese, or if you’ve spent new year in Japan. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Well, keep listening to find out.

Sound Quality

Another quick thing to say now is that admittedly the sound quality during the interview is a bit poor. I recorded it over Skype because I’m in France and Carrick is in England, and Carrick wasn’t able to get to a computer with a good microphone because he was (and still is) completely stuck to his sofa with a very bad back, the poor guy. He’s got a nasty slipped disc in his back which means he can’t move. So during this conversation he was basically lying on his back, talking to me over Skype with his phone in his hand.

So, yes, I know the sound is not 100% great and it might be difficult to hear his words at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually very common these days to speak English over Skype or on conference calls – like for example if you’re in an international business meeting talking to someone who’s in another country. The sound isn’t always perfect in those situations, is it? So, I think you need to get used to hearing English in less than perfect conditions. So, Audio quality is a bit bad, but don’t give up – you’ll get used to it after a while. It’s good practice.

While You Listen

As you listen, watch out for these things: the moments when Carrick (intentionally) switches from an English accent to a Scottish accent and back again, the way he describes different types of Scotch Whisky including words to describe their tastes and where they are made. So be mindful of vocabulary and grammar that you’re hearing, but above all – just enjoy being able to listen in on this conversation between a couple of mates. You can imagine you’re in the room with me listening to the conversation on speakerphone.

Ok, that’s it for my introduction. I’ll now get out of the way and let you listen to conversation in full. I’ll speak to you again when the conversation is over.

*Conversation Begins*

Talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking.

*Conversation Ends*

So, that was Carrick. I really hope his back gets better soon because it must be pretty miserable for him to be just lying there all the time. I expect all of us sometimes think “Ooh, I’d love to spend 3-4 weeks lying on my back all day watching TV, high on a cocktail of prescription drugs.” (well, not everyone thinks that but you know what I mean) but when that lifestyle is forced on you as a result of an accident, it’s not that much fun is it. So, I hope Carrick gets well soon for his own sake, but also I hope he gets well soon for the sake of his wife and kids too, who might want to actually sit on that sofa and watch TV themselves at some point, and I also hope Carrick gets back on his feet soon for the sake of the kids in his school who are probably missing Mr Cameron in their classes!

More Stuff about Sound Quality (actually, it wasn’t that bad, was it?)

So, this is nearly the end of the episode. I wonder how the sound quality was for you? I expect it was a bit difficult to hear every word but you got used to it. Is that right? What’s that? It was difficult at the start but you got used to it? Ah good, I thought so. Sorry? You couldn’t understand everything – it was difficult and possibly a bit frustrating at times? Ah, sorry about that, but I think it’s good practice because your brain has to work a bit harder to guess the things you don’t understand. It’s good training. What was that you said? You’d expect the audio quality to be much higher in future please. Oh, alright, well – sorry but this is a free podcast right? So, you get what you pay for ok?

No, I agree. It would be better if the quality was always perfect, but that’s not always going to happen. Sometimes when I interview people on Skype the sound might be less than perfect, but as I said before – that’s normal in the real world, sometimes the sound quality will not be perfect when you’re using English over the phone or on a conference call. It’s good for you to get used to it.

Things to remember about learning a language (encouragement)

Just remember these things: learning a language is a long-term project and you will encounter various obstacles but you mustn’t give up. One of those obstacles might be that you can’t understand every word in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, or in a conference call. So, even if you didn’t understand all of that. Don’t give up. I realise I’m preaching to the converted here, because if you’re listening to this it means that you listened to the whole conversation and you didn’t stop. So, well done you.

Shall I do an episode in which I explain the vocab, like in episode 335?

But really, I wonder if you’d like me to record a follow-up to this conversation in which I explain and clarify the content, like I did after the Craig Wealand interview. If you would like me to do that, let me know by leaving a comment or giving me an email at luketeacher@hotmail.com. I value your feedback.

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Don’t forget to use italki to find a native speaker for conversations or a teacher for lessons. It really is a great way to push your English to higher and higher levels. Visit https://teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and when you make a purchase italki will give you 100 free credits which you can spend on lessons in the future.

One tip: use the “search teachers” function to find the right teacher for you, and that includes special skills like Cambridge Exam preparation and business English. https://teacherluke.co.uk/talk or click an italki logo on my website.

italki teacher search page

A couple of comments at the end, just before we finish up here.

  • If you’ve sent me an email recently, or ever, and I haven’t responded I am sorry. I can’t respond to them all but I do read them all I promise! I also send emails to people and don’t get responses and I know how it feels. I’m a huge fan of Greg Proops and Adam Buxton. I met Greg Proops at a book signing in Paris, shook his hand and exchanged a few words (I told him I was a comedian and he nodded sagely). I wanted to talk to him for hours, but I just said “nice one” and left. I then wrote him a long email, telling him how much I enjoyed his podcast called “The Smartest Man in the World” and I wrote a very British invitation to join me on an episode of LEP some time. I never got a reply. I also tweet comments to Adam Buxton all the time, who I am sure is an absolutely lovely person but I never get a reply or a retweet or anything, but that’s ok of course, I don’t mind, but I feel a little bit ignored, you know? Again, I don’t feel entitled to a reply or any attention at all because his part of the deal has already been done – he’s already given me hours of lovely talking on his podcast so he can’t be expected to respond to every tweet or email. Totally fine with it. So, anyway, thanks for your comments, messages, emails, tweets and so on – I appreciate your thoughts very very much.
  • Again, thank you to my Japanese doctor if he’s listening (I doubt it) for not only saving my skin when I was sick by taking care of me, giving me medicine and arranging for me to spend two weeks in Kinugasa hospital. I liked the video you played to me when we were both drunk on that New Year’s Day (at about 4.30pm I believe) in which you and your band were playing a live version of “Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers. It was awesome.
  • Hello to anyone who likes whisky – I hope you enjoyed this episode.
  • Hello to the people of Scotland – I hope you choose to stay in the UK, but I’d understand if you choose to leave. I hope you don’t though. (I didn’t ask Carrick about Scottish Independence – maybe that can be a future episode)
  • Hello to a Japanese LEPster called Satomi who recently came to one of my shows here in Paris. Satomi, it was very nice to meet you and your friends after the show and I am very glad that you chose to introduce yourself to me. Give my regards to Yoshi – that’s a French guy who she was with, who called himself Yoshi, and not the cute dinosaur who is friends with Super Mario. Yes, I had a Yoshi at my show. In fact, not long ago I had a Luigi at the show too. I’m yet to have a Mario there, but let’s hope so. I wonder what it would be like to have Mario in my audience. I wonder how he would laugh. Maybe he’d go “wawawawawa” (Mario noise), or maybe if I talked for too long without making a joke he’d heckle me by saying “Letsa GO!” and I’d say – “can you stop heckling?” and he’d say “It’s MARIO time!” and I’d say, “*securty* remove this man from the room please he’s disturbing the performance”.
  • Hello to the lovely Argentinian couple who listen to this podcast and who also came to another one of my recent comedy shows. It was lovely to meet you too!
  • Let’s go back to Japan for a moment – Hello to all my Japanese listeners. I love Japan very much and I miss it a lot. Whenever I see pics of Japan on Facebook or listen to music from that I used to listen to when I was there I always think “ah 懐かしい” – “Nihon Natukashii ne!” which roughly translates as “Ah, good old Japan!” That phrase is used to express feelings of nostalgia. You know those waves of nostalgia that you feel when you remember something? You might see a photo, or perhaps smell some food that brings you right back, or you might actually go to the place and immediately feel a kind of comfort in being there. That’s exactly how I feel when I drink a really good cup of Yorkshire tea or something, like “Ah, good old Yorkshire tea”, or “Yookusha tea natsukashii da-yo ne?” So, hello Japan, I know you’re listening – “O genki desu ka?” which is a bit like saying “alright?” in English. I do plan to visit Japan with my wife – I must show her around the place a bit, I think she’d love it and I’d be able to say “natsukashii”, “heeee” and “hooooo” all the time. It would be nice to go drinking (in moderation of course) in an izakaya or something. And perhaps someone might go red in the face and fall asleep after having a couple of beers. Look after yourselves, ok!
  • Photos – check below to see some pics of Carrick’s funny experience at the German business meeting in Frankfurt at Deutche Bahn. If you work at Deutche Bahn – get in touch! Perhaps you know someone who was at the meeting. It’s possible. You should also find a pic of me hammering a ball of rice with a wooden mallet to make mochi, while wondering what was going on in my life! (I now realise what was going on – I was having a lot of fun indeed).
  • You’ll also find the names of Carrick’s favourite whiskies and the other brand name whiskies we mentioned in the episode, in case you want to check them out.
  • Thanks again for listening. :)

Carrick’s Top 3 Single-Malt Scotch Whiskies

1. Lagavulin
– from the island of Islay
– It’s delicious
– It’s smokey
– It’s filtered through peat

2. Macallan
– It’s from the Highlands
– It’s got a smooth, creamy texture
– It’s like very alcoholic milk (although it doesn’t look like milk of course)

3. Caol Ila
– It has a subtle flavour
– It’s like Lagavulin but more delicate

Other types of whisky
Blended scotch whisky – it’s made from a blend of different whiskies, it’s cheaper and is easy to find in supermarkets. Typical brands: Teacher’s, Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal.

American brands of bourbon whiskey (they’re not Carrick’s ‘bag’ = he doesn’t really like them, they’re not his cup of tea)
Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark.

That Japanese “best whisky in the world”
I think Carrick was talking about this one – Nikka Whisky (it doesn’t begin with a Y, unless you mean “Why?” – and the answer is – “Because it tastes so good!”) http://www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/nikka-whisky-taketsuru-pure-malt-17-years-old.13912.html


Other useful episodes of LEP

This episode featured several anecdotes. Click here to listen to an episode about how to tell anecdotes in English.

Click here to listen to the full story of how I got sick in Japan. 

325. Catching Up with Oli (Part 1) Past Challenges

Here’s a 2-part episode featuring a conversation with my cousin Oliver in which we talk about first some challenges he faced over the last few years (including dramatic things like a scooter crash, a tropical disease, a burglary and how he completely flooded his own house) and then some more positive things about being a father and predictions for how society will be different in the future. Also, listen for some general news and announcements about Luke’s English Podcast.

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Announcements & News

  • I hope you enjoyed the episodes I recorded as a tribute to David Bowie. Unfortunately, so soon after we lost Bowie, the news came that another great person has died – the British actor Alan Rickman, who like Bowie was 69 years old and died from cancer. He’s most famous for playing the part of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, and the part of Hans Gruber the bad guy in the film Die Hard with Bruce Willis – both very enjoyable and distinguished performances, but he played many other roles too. Alan Rickman was known for his sardonic humour, his wonderfully rich and unique voice, and for bringing a great amount of weight and humanity as well as humour to his roles. He will be missed too.
  • And, I haven’t even mentioned Lemmy – the lead singer of the group Motorhead, who also died recently. Lemmy played a massive part in the invention of heavy metal music, and was generally a huge personality in the world of British rock. He was on the scene all the way from the 60s until this year when he passed away due to cancer. Lemmy was known for his gravelly voice, his appearance (he looked like a biker dressed in leather with big mutton-chop sideburns and moles on his face – he wasn’t a pretty guy like Bowie by any means), his hard-drinking speed fuelled lifestyle and his bizarre obsession with Nazi regalia – clothing, weapons and so on from the Nazi era. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just liked the designs and imagery from that time – it had nothing to do with the ideology, and at heart he was just committed to playing loud and fast music and living a loud and fast lifestyle – and he will surely go down in history as a true legend of the music world. So, that’s three people, at least. So, can famous British people stop dying please!? If we carry on at this rate there’ll be none left by the end of the year.
  • But let’s not dwell on these dark things any more! I’m glad to present you this episode today because this one is all about the future, and new life because my cousin Oli is going to be a Dad for the first time – his wife is expecting a baby daughter at any time, so let’s look to the future, with new life and positivity and all that stuff! We’ll start that in just a minute, but first – a little bit of admin…
  • The comments issue on the website is fixed. I just needed to do a few updates. You can now post comments on the homepage again. No worries!
  • Email subscribers – are you still receiving emails when I post new episodes? I had a couple of messages from listeners recently who said they hadn’t received emails with new episodes. How about you? If you’re an email subscriber, could you let me know if you received emails for the David Bowie episodes, the episode called With the Thompsons, and the Star Wars spoiler review.
  • Picture comp is finished – so, don’t send me any more photos please! Thank you for the photos I have received in my email account, and, of course, I have loads of pictures. They’ll go up on the website soon and you can pick your favourite. I’m a little bit concerned about how that’s going to work because there are about a billion photos, but I’ll work something out.
  • I’ll be meeting Paul and Amber again soon. Firstly to catch up with them both – because quite a lot has happened since we last spoke on the podcast. Amber went to Costa Rica, and Paul Taylor is now something of a celebrity as his comedy video about kissing in France went super-viral over the last few weeks. His video, “Paul Taylor – La Bise” is about his frustration with the French custom of kissing people when you meet them. It was uploaded onto Robert Hoehn’s YouTube channel French Fried TV on new year’s day and within the space of just a few days it got over 1 million views. He was featured on lots of French websites, radio and TV, and then the video went global on the BBC’s website and more. Paul also has a new solo comedy show every Saturday (as well as the one with me on Thursdays) and it’s completely sold out for the next 10 weeks or something. Wow! Remember when he was on this podcast talking about how he quit his job to do comedy? Remember how difficult it was in Edinburgh? Well, things seem to be working out for him now! Good news!

  • Also, I hope to get Amber and him on this podcast again (if he’ll come on now that he’s such a big celebrity) in order to do that interactive version of the Lying Game – remember that? Listen to “318. The Rematch (Part 2)” to find out the details. Basically, this is a chance for you to get involved in another version of the lying game.  All three of us said some statements, and you now have to write questions in the comments section for episode 318. IN the episode we’ll ask each other your questions, and answer them. Then you can decide if they’re true or lies. Again, listen to 318. The Rematch (Part 2) for all the details (listen until the end).

Introduction to this Episode

As you know at Chrimbo I want back to the UK and stayed with my family, and with my cousin at his home in Bristol. It’s been a while since he was last on the podcast, and quite a lot has changed with him. In our conversation we talk about lots of things and I really think this is an interesting episode, and a very valuable one from a language point of view. The topics we talk about are diverse and quite in-depth and as a result we use lots of different features of grammar and vocabulary. I always encourage you to notice language while listening to native speakers on this podcast, so try to do that in this episode if you can. First we talk about what happened to Oli since the last time he was on the podcast, so watch out for the ways in which we talk about the past – tenses, and other forms. Oli faced a few difficulties and challenges, so watch out for the ways he describes those things. Essentially, he tells me a few anecdotes about some of his difficulties in London, watch out for past tenses and so on. Then we talk about the future, and about various predictions for the next 10-20 years, so naturally you can try to notice the specific language, tenses and modal verbs that we use to describe the future, make predictions and make judgements about the future. As well as that, there’s a lot of vocabulary related to technology, transport and communication.

In my opinion this is a very useful conversation for you to listen to. I loved catching up with Oli and I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it, and by the way, listen all the way to the end to hear Oli play a bit of guitar – and he’s a really good guitarist.

That’s it!


320. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It’s Christmas! So in this episode I’m going to read you a classic Christmas story – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You can read the story as well as listen because the whole thing is included on the page for this episode.

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Welcome to this special Christmas edition of Luke’s English podcast. I’m feeling very Christmassy here. All my shopping has been done and I’m looking forward to getting together with my family tomorrow. I’m just here with a lovely warm fire, and I’ve managed to find the time to tell you a story in this episode.

But first I’d just like to say Merry Christmas to all of you around the world. I hope you’re spending a pleasant time full of yuletide cheer and festive spirit, even if Christmas isn’t something you celebrate. I usually like to do a special Christmas themed episode of Luke’s English Podcast at this time of year. In the past I’ve done other Christmas episodes and you can check them out if you haven’t already done that.

78. Christmas – It’s all about Family

158. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 1)

159. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 2)

160. The A to Z of Christmas

245. Merry Christmas! (+ Other News) + Video!

What are you doing for Christmas this year? Are you doing anything special? As usual I’m going back to my parents’ place for a few days. They live in Warwick, which is in the midlands not far from Stratford Upon Avon, where Shakespeare was born. I expect we’ll be doing the usual Christmas things: eating loads of food, playing lots of games and giving each other presents. I might record a few podcasts with my family too, if we get a break from all the festivities at any time.

In this episode we’re going to eat a nice big slice of Christmas podcast cake, in the form of a classic story by Charles Dickens – “A Christmas Carol”. It’s a story that many people know and is firmly associated with the general sentiment of Christmas in modern Britain, and other parts of the world no doubt – the idea that Christmas is a time of generosity, of stopping your work and focusing on the important things in life, like your family. I’m going to read you a version of this story, which you can find reproduced on the page for this episode if you’d like to read with me. In fact, this episode is almost 100% transcribed.

I found this version on a website called Family Christmas Online. Just go to familychristmasonline.com to find more Christmas themed stuff. Credit should go to Theresa Race Hoffman who edited this version for public readings. http://familychristmasonline.com/stories_other/a_christmas_carol/a_christmas_carol.htm

It’s a reduced version and I’ve also modified it slightly to make some of the language more up-to-date but generally the style is quite similar to the original which was written by Charles Dickens in 1843.

Before I read the story to you, here’s a preface about how A Christmas Carol Made Charles Dickens One of England’s Best-Loved Writers


Sometime in 1843, Dickens decided to publish a quality Christmas book that would reach people in two ways:
It would use a very original story to plead for compassion for the poor, and
It would be affordable, bringing quality literature in a well-made book to a wide audience.

Dickens’ publisher didn’t believe in the project, so Dickens ended up financing the book himself. He spent money on a quality leather binding and on many quality illustrations, several of which were hand-tinted, an expensive process. As a result, the first printing of A Christmas Carol made very little money, but it rapidly became Dickens’ most popular work. The book was soon reprinted and was adapted for the stage. In later years Dickens often read a shortened version of the story aloud. A Christmas Carol has never faded from popularity since. IN fact there have been a few different film versions of the story, including A Muppets Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine – which is acually a touching and beautiful telling of the story.

How A Christmas Carol Helped Change the Way We Think About Christmas

By the time A Christmas Carol was published, Christmas in Britain had disintegrated into an excuse for a week of year-end partying. Not only had Christ become absent from English Christmases, but so had compassion, a virtue that Dickens believed that the poor greatly needed, especially at the onset of cold weather each year. A Christmas Carol helped the English, and eventually the people of many countries, gain a new appreciation for Christmas and for the plight of the poor. Perhaps the greatest change was the growing importance of family Christmas celebrations in a culture where the wealthy had often sent their children to the nursery early on Christmas so they could better enjoy their dances and parties. As an example, author Tim Hallinan* claims that December sales of toys rose dramatically in the decades following A Christmas Carol’s publication. Today, many people in the world tend to think of Victorian England as a time and place where Christmas was “done right.” But without the influence of Dickens and this story, such hearty celebrations of good will may never have occurred.

Preface to A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.
December, 1843.

So, let’s begin the story. Here it is. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

PART 1 – Marley’s Ghost

MARLEY was dead: to begin with. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. This must be understood, or this story will mean nothing to anybody. So, we start with the fact that Scrooge’s business partner Marley had snuffed it, he was pushing up the daisies, he was an ex-partner, he’d carked it. He was a goner. He was dead. Scrooge now carried on the moneylending business alone.

He never painted out Old Marley’s name on the door of the office, even though his old partner was – definitely – dead. The company was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes they called him Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh! Scrooge was a selfish old git! He was as cold as a freezing winter night, and he didn’t thaw one degree at Christmas. He hated Christmas and everything it stood for. No ‘season of goodwill’ – for him it was just another excuse to grumble and moan, and stay at home counting his money.

One dark Christmas Eve, old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was biting, foggy weather.

Scrooge had a very small fire in his office. But next door in his clerk’s office the poor fire was even smaller and barely warm. His poor clerk, called Bob Cratchit had worked for Scrooge for years, and yet had never received a pay rise. Scrooge always paid him the minimum wage.

“Merry Christmas, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew Fred coming into the room.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

“Christmas a humbug, uncle?” he said. “You don’t mean that do you?”

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!”

The nephew answered, “Don’t be angry, uncle. Come to our place for Christmas tomorrow.”

“Bah, humbug! Christmas! Don’t talk to me about Christmas. It’s all just a big jumped up shopping spree invented by the Americans. The whole thing is just invented to get your money out of your pocket! Well, not mine – I’m keeping mine. You do Christmas your way, and I’ll do it my way. Here on my own, just like every other day, thanks very much!”

“Suit yourself Uncle, but we’ll miss you this year, again” said Scrooge’s nephew. “Merry Christmas, uncle!”

“Good afternoon!” said Scrooge.

His nephew even stopped to wish “Merry Christmas” to the clerk.

The poor, cold clerk, Bob Cratchit, managed a thin smile and a weak “merry Christmas” in return as Scrooge’s nephew left.

As he left, Fred let two other people in. They entered and bowed to Scrooge.

“Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?” said one of the gentlemen.

“Mr. Marley,” Scrooge replied, “died seven years ago, this very night.”

“Oh, sorry for your loss” said one of the men.

“What do you want?” snapped Scrooge.

“Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, “It looks like it’s going to be an especially freezing winter this year. A few of us are going to buy some meat and drink for the Poor, and some blankets to keep them warm this Christmas. What would you like to give?”

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “If they’ve got no money they can borrow it, or failing that go to the debtors’ prisons.”

“Many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Scrooge went back to his work.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness and biting cold thickened. Some carol singers walked by Scrooge’s office. One cold young boy stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to sing a Christmas carol:

“God bless you, merry gentleman!
May nothing you dismay!”

As soon as he heard it Scrooge jumped up so that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog.

At length the hour of shutting up arrived. Scrooge nodded to the clerk Mr Cratchit, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

“You’ll want all day off tomorrow, I suppose?” said Scrooge.

“Yes please Mr Scrooge. It is only once a year after all”

“A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!” said Scrooge. “No day off for you. I expect you to be here extra early next morning.”

Scrooge went home to his gloomy house. The yard was dark and the fog and frost hung about the place.

Now, the knocker on his door was very large and ordinary. But tonight it looked like – Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. The eyes were wide open, and its grayish colour made it horrible in the half light.

As Scrooge looked, it became a knocker again. He did look carefully, but the knocker was still a knocker.

“Load of old nonsense!” said Scrooge to himself.

He closed his door and double-locked himself in. He walked through his rooms to see that all was right and sat by the fire.

“Humbug!” he said. “Stupid Christmas. I’ll be glad when it’s all over and people start acting normally again.”

And then he heard it – a clanking noise, from the cellar, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain.

Scrooge tried to ignore it, and opened his paper.

Then he heard the sound again. The noise of heavy chains being dragged, and a faint sound of moaning.

Scrooge suddenly sat upright in his chair. The noise was real, and it was getting louder.

Suddenly the cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise coming up the stairs; then straight towards his door.

Quickly it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes.

It was Marley, back from the dead. The chain Marley pulled was long, and made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, and purses. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge could see the two buttons on his coat hanging on the door behind.

“What do you want with me?” said Scrooge. “Who are you?”

“In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.”

“Humbug, I tell you! humbug!”

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain. Scrooge fell upon his knees.

Asked the Ghost, “Do you believe in me or not?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “I do! But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men; and if that spirit does not go forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death!”

“You are chained,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life and by the very work I did, with you,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; and of my own free will I wore it.” Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Do you know,” pursued the Ghost, “your chain was as heavy as this, seven Christmas Eves ago? You have made it longer, since then.”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. Greed was my business! I spent my life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill my pocket. Old Scrooge,  I am  condemned to walk the earth for eternity never to find rest or peace.”

“I am here to-night to warn you,” pursued the Ghost. You will be haunted by Three Spirits.”

“I—I think I’d rather not,” said Scrooge.

“They will come to teach you a lesson. Expect the first to-morrow,” said the Ghost, “when the bell tolls One.”

“Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night at the last stroke of Twelve.”

When it had said these words, the spectre floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

The air was filled with moaning phantoms, and every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost. They faded away. Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was still as he had double-locked, with his own hands. He tried to say “Humbug!” but stopped. And he went straight to bed and fell asleep upon the instant.

PART 2 – The First of the Three Spirits

WHEN Scrooge awoke, it was dark. The chimes of a neighbouring church struck the hour, with a single deep, melancholy note.

Light flashed up in the room, and the curtains of his bed were drawn aside by a hand. And Scrooge found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them, right in front of his face.

It was a strange figure—like a child, or an old man. Its white hair hung about its neck and down its back, and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. Its legs and feet were bare. It wore a white tunic with a shining belt. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and had its dress trimmed with summer flowers

“Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.

The voice was soft and gentle. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge.

“No. Your past.”

It put out its strong hand and clasped him gently by the arm.

“Rise! and walk with me!”

They passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road. Now it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

“Good Heavens!” said Scrooge. “I was a boy in this place!” He wiped away a tear and begged the Ghost to lead him.

“You recollect the way?” inquired the Spirit.

“Remember it!” cried Scrooge. “I could walk it blindfolded.”

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognizing every gate and tree; until a little town appeared in the distance. Some shaggy ponies trotted towards them with boys upon their backs. All these boys shouted to each other merrily. Scrooge knew and named them every one. “These are but shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “They do not see us.”

But why was he filled with gladness when he heard them tell each other Merry Christmas, as they parted! What was Merry Christmas to Scrooge? What good had it ever done to him?

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A lonely child, neglected by his friends, is there still.”

Scrooge said he knew it. And he cried.

They soon approached a large house, its windows broken, and the many rooms cold, and bare of food.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, to the back of the house, and a room with desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down, beside his poor forgotten self as he used to be. He said “Poor boy!” and cried again.

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have given him something: that’s all.”

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, “Let us see another Christmas!”

And there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the holidays.

The door opened; and a little girl came darting in, and put her arms about his neck.

“I have come to bring you home, dear brother!” said the child. “We’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.”

“Your sister,” said the Ghost. “Always a delicate creature. But she had a large heart!”

“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right, Spirit!”

“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, I think, one child – your nephew”

Scrooge answered sadly, “Yes.”

All at once they were in a busy city. Here too it was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

“Know it!” said Scrooge. “I was apprenticed here!”

At sight of an old gentleman, behind a high desk, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

“Why, bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again! My old boss!”

Scrooge’s former self, now a young man, came in, beside his fellow apprentice.

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock. He rubbed his hands and called out in a rich voice:

“No more work to-night, my boys!” said Fezziwig. “Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Clear away, lads!”

It was done in a minute. The floor was swept, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse became a snug, warm, and bright ball-room.

In came a fiddler with a music-book. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, and the three Miss Fezziwigs,. In came all the young men and women employed in the business, the housemaid, the baker, the cook, the milkman. Away they all went, twenty couples at once!

There were dances, and games, and there was cake, and Roast Beef, and mince-pies, and plenty of ale.

During all this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. He enjoyed everything. Now that he remembered the Ghost, he became conscious that it was looking full upon him.

“A small matter,” said the Ghost, “to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.”

“Small!” echoed Scrooge. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to make our work a pleasure or a toil. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

He stopped.

“What is the matter?” asked the Ghost.

“Nothing particular,” said Scrooge.

“Something, I think?” the Ghost insisted.

“No,” said Scrooge, “No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.”

Scrooge and the Ghost again stood in the open air.

“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!”

Again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now. He was not alone, but sat by a pretty young girl: in her eyes there were tears.

“It matters little to you,” she said, softly. “Another idol has taken my place. It is the love of money. Good-bye. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

“Spirit!” cried Scrooge, “show me no more! I cannot bear it! Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

He was conscious of being exhausted, and of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

PART 3 – The Second of the Three Spirits

Scrooge waited again.

Now, when the Bell struck One, he saw a ghostly light coming from the next room. He shuffled to the door.

A strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter.

The room was hung with holly and mistletoe, and a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. Heaped up like a throne were geese, pies, plum-puddings, chestnuts, oranges, pears, cakes, and punch. Upon this food couch, there sat a jolly Giant, who held a glowing torch high up, to shed its light on Scrooge.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost, “and know me better, man!” Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in a green robe, bordered with white fur. Its feet were bare; and on its head it wore a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles.

“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed the Spirit.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have anything to teach me, let me profit by it.”

“Touch my robe!”

Feast, fire, room all vanished instantly and they stood in the city streets on a snowy Christmas morning.

The sky was gloomy, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness like a summer day.

Soon the steeples called the people to church, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their happiest faces.

The good Spirit led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s, holding on to his robe; and at the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Think of that! Bob had but fifteen shillings a-week himself; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his little house!

Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, dressed poorly in a worn dress.

“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs. Cratchit to the little Cratchits. “And your brother, Tiny Tim.”

In came Bob, the father, in his threadbare clothes; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Sadly, Tiny Tim held a little crutch!

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.

“As good as gold,” said Bob. “He told me, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Mrs. Cratchit brought in the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, blazing with brandy, and with Christmas holly stuck into the top. A wonderful pudding!

Bob proposed a toast:

“A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, he will die this year,” repeated the Ghost. “What then? If he is going to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Scrooge hung his head, ashamed to hear his own words.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child!”

But now Scrooge heard his own name.

“Mr. Scrooge!” toasted Bob; “I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!”

“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening.

“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas Day.”

“I’ll drink to his health, for your sake and the Day’s,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy new year!”

The children drank the toast after her, but they didn’t care for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party.

By-and-bye they had a song from Tiny Tim, who had a sweet little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time. Scrooge watched them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

And now, they traveled through coal miners’ homes, past ships on the dark sea. And everywhere they went, no matter how poor, every person hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought. And every person, good or bad, had a kind word for another on that day.

Scrooge heard a hearty laugh and recognised it as his own nephew’s. He found himself in a bright, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side.

“Ha, ha!” laughed Scrooge’s nephew. “He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live! He believed it too!”

“More shame for him, Fred!” said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly.

“He’s a comical old fellow,” said Scrooge’s nephew, “and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I am sorry for him. Who suffers by his ill temper! Himself, always.”

They had some music and played at games; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.

They all played and sang, and so did Scrooge, singing quite loud. He begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.

Much they saw, and far they went, and everywhere the Spirit went he left his blessing. It was a long night, and Scrooge noticed that the Ghost grew older, and he noticed that its hair was grey.

“Are spirits’ lives so short?” asked Scrooge.

“My life upon this globe, is very brief,” replied the Ghost. “It ends to-night at midnight. Listen! The time is drawing near.”

The bell struck twelve. And the Spirit disappeared. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

PART 4 – The Last of the Spirits

THE Phantom approached, in a deep black garment, which left nothing of it visible save one boney hand.

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge. “You are about to show me shadows of the things that will happen. Is that so, Spirit?”

Scrooge’s legs trembled beneath him.

“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But I know your purpose is to do me good, and I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight ahead.

“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”

The Phantom moved away.

They were in the heart of the city; amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, as Scrooge had seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men, pointing to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.

“No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it. I only know he’s dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night, I believe.”

“What has he done with his money?”

“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin, yawning. “It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral, for I don’t know of anybody to go to it.”

“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” laughed one gentleman.

Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the Spirit for an explanation.

Scrooge fancied that the Unseen Eyes of the ghost were looking at him closely. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.

They went into a dirty part of town where the shops and houses reeked with filth and misery.

There was a shop where greasy junk was bought. Scrooge and the Phantom came into this shop of Old Joe’s, just as two women and a man carried in bundles, laughing.

The man produced his plunder first. A pencil-case and a brooch were all. Old Joe added up his prices, upon the wall.

“I know those things,” Scrooge said. “They are just like mine – and they are worth much more than this man is paying!”

“Who’s next?” said Joe.

Mrs. Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner. “I paid two shillings ten for teaspoons just like those,” Scrooge objected.

“And now undo my bundle, Joe,” said the next woman.

Joe dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff, the same fabric and color as Scrooge’s bed curtains..

“Bed-curtains!” said Joe. “You don’t mean to say you took ’em down, rings and all, with him lying there dead?”

“Yes I do,” replied the woman. “Why not?”

“His blankets too?” asked Joe.

“Whose else’s do you think?” replied the woman. “And that’s the best shirt he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me. Putting it on him to be buried in,” she laughed. “But I took it off again.”

Scrooge looked at a shirt just like his own shirt and listened in horror.

“Ha, ha!” laughed the same woman, when old Joe paid the three out. “This is the end of it, you see! He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead!”

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. – Merciful Heaven, what is this!”

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay the body of this man.

He lay, in the dark empty house, with no one to tell his story or mourn his death. “Spirit!” Scrooge said, “this is a fearful place. Let us go!”

The Ghost conducted him to poor Bob Cratchit’s house; and found the mother and the children seated round the fire.

Very quiet. The little Cratchits were as still as statues in one corner, with Peter, who had a book before him. The mother and her daughters were sewing. But surely they were very quiet!

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her face. “ It must be past your father’s time,” she said .

Peter said, shutting up his book. “But I think he has walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mother.”

At last she said, “He used to walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed. But he was very light to carry, and his father loved him so. Ah – there is your father at the door!”

She hurried out to meet him. Bob broke down all at once and cried. He couldn’t help it.

They drew about the fire, and talked. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr. Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once. “‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr. Cratchit,’ Fred had said, ‘and sorry for your good wife.’ I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim—shall we?”

“Never, father!” cried they all.

“Spectre,” said Scrooge, “tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?”

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come did not answer, but led him straight on, until they reached an iron gate.

A churchyard. Here, then; the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground

“Answer me one question,” said Scrooge. “Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?” The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. Scrooge followed the finger, and read upon the stone of the grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

“Spirit!” he cried, tightly clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I can sponge away the writing on this stone!”

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. The Phantom’s hood and dress shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

PART 5 – The End of it

YES! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

His face was wet with tears.

“They are not torn down,” cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, “they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world.”

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there.

“There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered!” cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. “There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh.

“I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. Never mind. I don’t care!”

The churches began ringing out louder and clearer than he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell. What a glorious, glorious sound!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, cold. Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. What a glorious Glorious day!

“What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

“EH?” returned the boy.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.

“To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, it’s CHRISTMAS DAY sir.”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hello, my fine fellow!”

“Hello!” returned the boy.

“Do you know the poultry shop, in the next street, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.

“I certainly do,” replied the lad.

“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.

“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “Yes, yes!”

“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.

“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.”

“What!” exclaimed the boy.

“I am in earnest,” said Scrooge. “Go and tell ’em to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!”

The boy was off like a shot.

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim!”

He wrote the address somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man. As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

“I shall love it, as long as I live!” cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. “It’s a wonderful knocker!— Here’s the Turkey! Hello again! Merry Christmas!”

It was a Turkey!

“Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,” said Scrooge. “You must have a cab.”

The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he paid the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.

He dressed himself up “all in his best,” and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. Three or four good-humoured fellows said, “Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!” And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the happy sounds he had ever heard, those were the happiest in his ears.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the gentleman, who had walked into his counting-house the day before. It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.

“My dear sir,” said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. “How do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir! Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness to allow me to give you” —here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

“Goodnss me!” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”

“If you please,” said Scrooge. “Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour?”

“My dear sir,” said the other, shaking hands with him. “I don’t know what to say—”

“Don’t say anything, please,” retorted Scrooge. “Will you come and see me?”

“I will!” cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he meant to do it.

“Thank you,” said Scrooge. “I am much obliged to you. I thank you fifty times and god bless you!”

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and found that everything could give him pleasure. He had never dreamed that anything could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it:

“Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the girl.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is he, my love?” said Scrooge.

“He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-stairs, if you please.”

“He knows me,” said Scrooge, with his hand already on the dining-room lock. “I’ll go in here myself, my dear.”

“Fred!” said Scrooge. “Why bless my soul!” cried Fred, “who’s that?”

“It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”

Let him in? It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. Wonderful party, wonderful games, won-der-ful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.

And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.

His hat was off, before he opened the door. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

“Hello!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?”

“I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind my time.”

“You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir. Ive got a bit of a hangover to be honest, but I’m good for work I promise.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

Bob trembled. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down, holding him, and calling to the people in the hospital for help and a strait-jacket.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further meetings with Spirits ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!


303. The Battle of Britain

This year marks the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Britain, and since this is such a pivotal moment in British history, I thought it would be appropriate to cover it in some way in an episode of this podcast. Also, I was asked recently by a listener in the comments section of my website to talk about the story of the Battle of Britain, specifically the role of one particular group of Polish pilots known as Squadron #303. So, here it is – the story of one of the most important moments in modern British history – The Battle of Britain, and the contribution made by a small group of pilots from Poland.

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The Battle of Britain is often cited as a proud moment in British history, particularly by nationalistic Brits who also believe that we shouldn’t let any immigrants into our country. Squadron 303 killed twice as many German fighters as any other squadron, and one pilot in particular became something of a flying legend, with a record number of kills. But the thing is, these heroes of the Battle of Britain weren’t actually British, they were foreigners, fighting in British made Hurricanes and Spitfires. Where did these brave and skilful pilots come from? Poland. So, this episode is not just a history lesson about Britain, but also a bit of a shout-out to my Polish listeners out there – I know there are quite a few of you. If you’re not Polish, then I hope you appreciate the telling of this story of danger, bravery and global warfare.

The Battle of Britain
First of all, this is Churchill speaking, before the battle of Britain begun.
*Churchill speech 1 – “Their finest hour”
So, what was the situation?
It was 7 September 1940.
Northern France was occupied by the Germans, and airfields everywhere were covered in bombers, loaded up and ready to begin bombing raids on strategic targets all over the UK. Hitler was about to take a bit crap all over Britain.
This was a year after Britain had declared war on Germany after Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and then Poland. It had been a pretty good year for Hitler. He’d basically marched across most of Western Europe and seized it, just like Napoleon and the Romans had done before. Hitler had a pretty effective strategy which we now call Blitzkrieg, or ‘lighting war’ which involved using planes to bomb the crap out of an area before sending in infantry and tank divisions to quickly mop up enemy troops. It was devastatingly effective as it took advantage of speed, mobilised mechanical heavy weapons, surprise and the general disorganisation of the enemy as a result of the air bombing. He used this approach to great effect in the invasion of Poland and then The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. In just one year Hitler’s troops were in control of large parts of mainland Europe.

British forces had been forced to evacuate the continent after effectively being chased away by the Germans. There was a big retreat and escape from France at Dunkirk. It was a military defeat for the Brits who ended up in a pretty desperate situation. The Nazis controlled the continent. The USA wasn’t in the war yet so we couldn’t rely on their full assistance. Britain was basically alone, cut off from the mainland, just separated from the enemy by a few miles of water, waiting to be attacked and invaded by the Germans. Not a good position to be in.

Perversely, this is often the moment that many Brits feel very nostalgic about. As I said, it’s often referred to as our finest hour. I think there may be something in the British consciousness that actually enjoyed the idea of being completely separated from the rest of the continent, as if it clarified the ‘us against them’ attitude of some people. This was perhaps our darkest hour. We faced total oblivion and invasion by the nazis. Certainly, thousands of Brits were going to be killed. Beloved properties and national monuments would be destroyed in the bombing, but for some Brits looking back on the Battle of Britain, this was a moment to be proud of, like it made us a great nation. I suppose the reason people say that is because it was a time when Britain showed some character and spirit. The whole country sort of pulled together and formed a united front. Churchill made his famous speech.
*Churchill Speech 2 – “We shall fight them on the beaches”

It was rousing stuff. Ultimately, Britain survived the invasion attempt. People feel proud of that.
But, it’s ironic that many of the people today who are still nostalgic for that moment are also the ones who preach a certain kind of politics – anti-immigration, nationalistic values, something approaching a kind of English or British fascism. They’re the ones who love that moment when Britain was alone, facing the invading hoards from the continent. It’s ironic because during that battle we were fighting against fascism. Now it seems that it’s the fascists at home who like to remember it.

Anyway, it looked pretty bleak for Britain.
Hitler decided that before attempting any kind of land invasion, he would attempt to thoroughly smash The UK from the sky. He planned to target industrial centres in the big cities, key points of infrastructure and even some national monuments and residential areas. The aim was to cripple the country, both physically and mentally. Ooh, scary stuff.

So, on 7 September 1940 the Luftwaffe were all ready and prepared to launch operation.

Britain at this moment was steadily making weapons from anything they could get their hands on. All heavy metals were being thrown into factories. All the money was being spent on defence and weapons. A lot of Brits felt the squeeze. Obviously it wasn’t as bad as in the occupied countries, I imagine. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But I imagine having a bunch of nazis from another country marching around your home town making themselves comfortable was rather difficult to take. So the Poles, the Czechs, the Belgians, Dutch and French (well, most of them anyway) were no doubt having a pretty awful time too, not to mention any other nations that I haven’t mentioned. This was a world war of course – so if I don’t mention your country in this episode I am sorry. This is after all the Battle of Britain.

Anyway, Britain was preparing itself for a rather bad time. A lot of planes were being constructed, men were being trained to fly and fight in the air.

The Germans were feeling pretty good about themselves. Morale was high. They’d just walked all over Europe and felt on top of the world. They basically felt absolutely superior. Whipped up by the rhetoric of their charismatic (albeit completely insane) leader, they’d been led to believe that the world was theirs and this was the natural order of things. Wrong.

So, the nazis were pretty chuffed and probably couldn’t wait to have a go at Britain, this global superpower of the time.

This was the biggest aerial attack of World War 2 so far. At 5pm on 7 September the first wave of bombers reached their targets in London. Apparently the sound they made was pretty scary. A kind of low, depressing drone sound. Ominous.

It was a Saturday afternoon in London. When I think of Saturday afternoons back home I think of tea, sandwiches, football with my Dad. I don’t imagine death from above, or death from any direction for that matter. The planes targeted the industrial areas, but a lot of workers lived right next to them and their homes got bombed too.

But that was just the beginning. What followed was a rain of bombs that no other city had ever seen in history. 12 hours of bombing without a break, continuing through the night. A lot of people died, and others were convinced they would follow.

How did the pilots feel? According to interviews they just hoped that they’d hit their targets, but they knew that civilians were probably getting killed. Really, they were a bit cut off from what was happening on the ground. I expect they didn’t feel too proud of themselves.

For the British people, particularly Londoners I think this bombing created hopelessness in some, but also a gritty determination in others, as well as a visceral hatred of the germans.

The fires caused by the bombing lasted for 57 nights, and in fact these fires were more damaging than the bombing raid.

The Nazi strategy was to continue to bomb, terrorise and demoralise the nation. Hitler expected Britain to give up and surrender to Germany, so he could then turn his attention on the East. He knew that it would be unwise to attempt to invade Russia (correction: The USSR) while also fighting on the Western front. So victory in the west was a crucial part of his plan. He expected Britain to surrender. He underestimated us.

It became a battle of wills, embodied by two men – Hitler and Churchill. It was Churchill who rallied the British people. He inspired them to carry on. He echoed the sentiments of the nation, that they would never ever surrender.

*Churchill Speech 3 – The Blitz*

Hitler didn’t expect Churchill to refuse to deal with him. This may have been a bit of a surprise. Britain was not going to be a walkover.

The German air force had already knocked out a lot of our warships in the English channel and planned to launch surprise air attacks on England, but England had a technological advantage: radar. This is now used in airports all over the world. It’s a kind of tracking device to monitor the skies. Radar was used as an early warning system, to let the RAF know if German bombers were on their way to England on missions. This allowed the RAF to scramble fighter planes into the skies in order to engage the German parties in combat. The Luftwaffe had no idea that radar even existed, so when RAF planes suddenly turned up to meet them in the skies it must have been a bit of a surprise. The fighting in the sky was essentially a duel of fighter pilots in single-man planes. Dog fights, one on one battles. Tracers from bullets flying through the sky. Chaos and destruction in the air.

It must have been incredibly frightening for the pilots. So many people were killed. Dogfights lasted seconds. It was a question of being aware of your surroundings and planning your attacks. If you had the right strategy you’d have the advantage and you’d find the enemy in a vulnerable position from which you could open fire and take out the plane. If your strategy was bad, you’d leave yourself open to attack.

The Germans were flying Messerschmitt 109s, the Brits in Hurricanes and Spitfires.

There were so many deaths during these fights that the pilots accepted that they would almost certainly die sooner or later. Everyone just expected to die. Imagine how that felt for these men. Living like that, in the knowledge that tomorrow or the next day, would be your last. What would that do to your mind? I’m sure it was the same for both sides. For the Germans there was the added fear that they would run out of petrol, or that they would be forced to crash land in enemy territory and then taken captive. The German pilots were forced by their superiors to always accompany the bombers, even if their smaller planes were running out of fuel. Sometimes these amounted to suicide missions for the fighter pilots who simply didn’t have enough fuel for the whole mission. Many pilots drowned as they had to bail out of their planes, landing in the English channel, miles away from the land.

Many wives, mothers, sisters and girlfriends lost men who were close to their hearts, again on both sides.

Women didn’t all stay at home worrying though. In the RAF the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force were an integral part of the British defences. They worked in the operations room and helped to coordinate the fighters.

So, in the summer of 1940 the Germans failed to break the RAF. That’s when Hitler decided to launch the large scale bombing attacks on London and other locations, and that was the true beginning of the battle of Britain.

Like on 7 September, waves of German bombers came across the channel, and RAF planes took off to meet them, engaging them in mid-air. The German bombers were well armed with machine guns, and also flanked by fighter planes too, which engaged the RAF in more one-on-one dogfighting. There were a lot of bullets in the air. The German escorts managed to keep the RAF at bay, allowing the bombers to continue to London. Large parts of the city were reduced to rubble. To this day, it remains one of the characteristic things about the city – there are gaps in the old buildings in which more modern buildings have been constructed. It doesn’t have the consistency of a city like Paris, because large parts of the city were completely destroyed during the war and then re-built later. Of course it wasn’t just London. All the main industrial cities took a beating, particularly Coventry in the midlands which got absolutely smashed in a huge bombing raid. It’s very sad. It was a beautiful and proud city with a magnificent cathedral. That’s now gone and is replaced by more modern structures, but something essential was lost, and for years Coventry was like a ghost town for the people growing up there in the aftermath of the war.

Londoners had to hide from the bombing in cellars under houses, or in specially made bomb shelters, even in underground stations like Oval in South London.

Between September and November 1940 London was bombed over 300 times. Thousands of individual bombs were dropped. London’s children were evacuated, meaning they were sent away for their own protection. Most of them went north into the countryside, away from the industrial targets. That must have been a very emotional moment, having to say goodbye to children and parents. I expect many of the parents thought they’d never see their kids again. Some children were taken all the way to Canada from Liverpool, and many were killed when their ship was torpedoed by a German submarine.

Back in London, the RAF with their radar and the brilliant Spitfire fighter plane had something of an advantage in the air, although it was a very slight advantage. Goering the military commander did not achieve the results he’d hoped for and decided to carry out all his bombing raids on London at night. The skies were lit up with fire as London burned, and with the lack of accuracy in the dark many residential areas all around London were hit and many civilians were killed. Nevertheless, Londoners kept their morale and managed to carry on as normally as possible during the day. Clearing up bomb damage but also attempting to go about their daily business. This is one of the things that kept the Germans at bay. The spirit of the people of Britain. Perhaps that’s what makes people so proud and causes them to say that this was Britain’s finest hour.

But the normality of daily life came to a sudden stop at approximately 5pm every day when everyone got into bomb shelters and the raids began again. Even though many people managed to carry on, I’m sure that many of them were basically walking around like zombies, expecting it all to be over by the end of that day. Many of them were ready for surrender, but they didn’t.

*Audiobook recommendation – “The Battle of Britain: From the BBC Archives”

The bombing continued all the way into the next year, until May 1941. Hitler called off the attacks on Britain, choosing instead to focus his attention on the east and Russia (Correction: USSR). However, that proved to be a problem for him because it left him open in the West, and later when America joined the war, Britain became a vitally strategic position for the allies. It was from the south coast of England that the allies launched their major counter attack against the Nazis with a land invasion in Normandy, Northern France which ultimately led to allied forces getting all the way to Berlin. Despite being a hero to the Brits, Churchill didn’t emerge from WW2 completely clean. There were large scale bombing raids on Germany from Britain, including the destruction of Dresden and massive damage to Berlin, largely as a response to the attacks on British cities.

In the east the Nazis struggled through bitterly cold and tough conditions fighting against the Russians (I mean Soviets). Many many Russian (Soviet) lives were lost as well as Germans. Ultimately Hitler couldn’t sustain a war on two fronts. The size and resilience of the Russian army (Red Army) in the east proved too difficult for Hitler, but also his inability to crush the spirit of the Brits left him open on that side too. The Battle of Britain proved to be Hitler’s first major defeat and was a decisive moment in World War 2, representing a turning point in favour of the allies. Nazi soldiers didn’t put a foot on British soil. The invasion never happened.

But that’s not the end of the story, because I’d like to turn my attention to a particular squadron of pilots who made an extraordinary contribution to the Battle of Britain, a contribution that could have made all the difference. During the battle, Britain was hanging on by its fingernails. Every single day of combat, British resources were stretched to their absolute limit. Dozens of pilots and planes were lost every day over British skies. They couldn’t have carried on much longer. If Hitler had continued, he would probably have crushed the British spirit, but he didn’t and Britain managed to hold on just long enough to keep the Germans at bay.

Churchill called it Britain’s finest hour, and famously said that “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”.
*Churchill Speech 4 – “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”

What gave Britain the edge? Well, it was partly radar, partly the brilliantly engineered Spitfire – which was specifically made as a bespoke fighter to keep up with and out-speed the German planes, while holding extra fuel to keep pilots in the air longer. The Spitfire is now a national icon, and it has to be said, is a rather beautifully designed plane, with its rounded and curved wings and fuselage.

But also it was the individual pilots involved in the fighting. There was one squadron which stood out, the 303rd. You might imagine them to be a band of plucky young British gentlemen, but in fact they weren’t. These men who may have saved Britain were in fact foreigners, from Poland.

303 Squadron
303 squadron was one of 16 Polish squadrons who flew with the RAF during the Battle of Britain. They were pilots who had flown against the Germans previously, but who had escaped to England when Poland was invaded. They turned out to be the highest scoring RAF squadron during the Battle of Britain. One of the pilots in particular was not in fact Polish but of Czech origin and was called Josef František. He is perhaps the most famous member of the squadron and is famous for being one of the highest scoring allies in the Battle of Britain.

The squadron chose its own name, The Kościuszko Squadron – named after another flying squadron that had taken part in the Polish/Russian war of the 1920s. In fact the 303 contained some members of that squadron. So they were already a pretty distinguished flying team. It was made up of about 21 pilots and a number of ground staff, and what was the prime reason for their success during these air battles? Anger and a vicious hatred of the nazis. This was like a high-energy fuel for these men, who just couldn’t wait to take down Nazi planes at the earliest opportunity.

But their opportunities were slow to come. The team was based in Northolt in England, and were assigned two RAF officers to look after them. The officers were responsible for training the Polish pilots in RAF protocol, but also in the basic English necessary to follow orders and instructions. So, before the pilots even got a chance to take to the skies, they were forced to sit through weeks of English lessons, and I imagine in those days it was pretty mind numbing stuff! There was no LEP that’s for sure.

Apparently the Polish pilots were so desperate to get at the Germans that during a training flight, when a party of German planes was spotted in the vicinity, one of the Polish pilots, called Ludwik Paszkiewicz, broke formation and tore after the German planes engaging them in combat. He shot down a German Messerschmitt Bf 110. The RAF officers were convinced and the next day the squadron was immediately put into action. This was the beginning of an incredible run of missions in which the 303 squadron scored a record breaking number of kills in the air. Apparently, these guys were absolutely incredible. Again, fuelled by a bitter hatred of the Germans, the pilots just pushed everything that bit further, going out of their way, taking incredible risks to take down as many planes as possible. But also, their use of British Hurricane fighter planes was a big advantage for them too. Previously they’d flown planes that were less powerful and less well-engineered. This had honed their flying skills considerably. IN their previous planes they’d been used to having to fly much closer to the enemy in order to get accurate hits. In the Hurricanes, with their increased speed and firepower the pilots continued to fly very close to enemy planes like they had done before, but this time the results were devastating. The German planes didn’t stand a chance. Later the squad were equipped with Spitfires and this made all the difference.

No. 303 Squadron claimed the largest number of aircraft destroyed of the 66 Allied fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it joined the fray two months after the battle had begun.

Josef František was a particularly successful pilot. He was considered by his commanding officers to be ill-disciplined and a danger to other pilots when flying in formation, but he was devastatingly successful at taking down Germans. In the end, he was given the right to break formation and go out on solo missions to pick off as many enemy planes as he wanted. In this way František was able to fight his own private war against the Germans, allowing him to take down at least 18 planes in one month, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Sadly, on 8 October 1940, František’s Hurricane crashed in Ewell, Surrey during a landing approach after a patrol. Reasons for the crash are not known, but according to some theories, he may have been making aerobatic figures to impress his girlfriend, or it might have been a result of battle fatigue and physical exhaustion. So he never lived to see the end of the war.

The success of 303 squadron in combat can be mainly attributed to the years of extensive and rigorous pre-war training many of the long-serving Polish veterans had received in their homeland, far more than many of their younger and inexperienced RAF comrades then being thrown into the battle. Tactics and skill also played a role, as well as a daring commitment to bringing down the enemy; on one occasion, No. 303’s Sgt Stanislaw Karubin resorted to extreme tactics to bring down a German fighter. Following a prolonged air battle, Karubin was chasing a German fighter at treetop level. As he closed in on the tail of the German fighter, Karubin realised that his Hurricane had run out of ammunition. Rather than turning back to base, he closed the distance and climbed right above the German fighter. The German pilot was so shocked to see the underside of the Hurricane within arm’s reach of his cockpit that he instinctively reduced his altitude to avoid a collision and crashed into the ground.

After World War 2, Poland was occupied by Soviet forces and its borders were redrawn as part of the 1945 Potsdam Conference. Poland became enveloped in the Soviet Union (correction: Not the Soviet Union, but the Soviet controlled Eastern Bloc), behind the iron curtain. I’m not sure how many Polish people feel about what happened after world war 2. I understand there is some bitterness at the allies, and probably Britain in particular about this, that perhaps we sold-out the Polish or forgot them, or betrayed them by not securing their freedom. Many sad things happen at an international diplomatic level during or in the aftermath of war. They’re regrettable. I wonder how the Poles generally view Britain these days. Is there resentment there? Or is that just a thing of the past. I hope we can all let bygones be bygones.

Nowadays a lot of Polish people live and make their living in the UK. In London for example there is a very large Polish community. Where I used to live in Hammersmith there is the Polish cultural centre just up the road, and many Polish people live in the area. I guess for many of them it’s a chance to get more opportunities for living in the UK, and I’m pretty proud to be part of a country that offers opportunities for people from other countries, and it’s clear to me that residents from other nations can bring a lot of skills and benefits to the country they move to. I’m not one of these people who complains about immigrants stealing people’s jobs. Immigrants are often skilled people who can contribute a lot, as we saw from the example of the 303 Squadron, who might have given the RAF an edge over the Germans in the Battle of Britain. Maybe they saved the day and helped Britain stay free, allowing us all to indulge in these nostalgic memories about our “finest hour” in which we stood up to the Nazis when all hope was lost.

That is the end of the story and that’s the end of this episode. Please leave your thoughts on the page as usual. Have a good day.


7 Reasons Why The Brits Should Love the Poles (Thank you Piotr Perliński)

282. Questions from Tea4er.ru

In this episode you can listen to an article about LEP and some Q&A from readers of Tea4er.ru all read out by Luke. See below for the transcript. :)

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Hi listeners,

Earlier this year I was sent an email from one of the managers of a popular website in Russia for teachers of English. It’s called Tea4er.ru. Basically, the editor of this website approached me because some of their readers had mentioned me. He emailed me and asked me to provide an article explaining my approach to teaching English and how my podcast is part of that. The idea was that after reading the article, readers from the website could send me their questions. After a few weeks I would then read all those questions and choose a few to answer, then send my answers. The plan was that I’d choose about 5 winning answers. In the end what happened was that there were so many questions that I found it almost impossible to just pick 5. There were over 20 pages of questions. I was totally blown away by the number of responses. Tea4er.ru is a hugely frequented site, and of course Russia is one of the biggest countries for LEP (in terms of website visits, Russia is #1 followed by Spain, UK, Poland, Italy, USA and Japan. For audio downloads my top country is by far the UK, followed by Russia, Spain, Poland and Japan) so that may explain why I got so many responses. I ended up responding to way more than 5 questions. I sent my responses to the website and they published them this week. With the permission of the website I have decided to turn the whole thing into an episode of LEP. I mean, I put so much time into writing the article and answering the questions that I thought it might be worth reading the whole thing out for my listeners to hear.

So that’s what you’re going to get in this episode. I’ll read you the article I wrote, which is basically the story of my career and of LEP, and then I’ll read out the questions I was sent and my answers. The questions cover various topics – mainly English teaching, but also a whole bunch of other stuff. I hope you enjoy it!

1) the news about contest http://tea4er.ru/news
2) the interview http://tea4er.ru/interview/3681-luke-thompson-lukes-english-podcast
3) the forum thread http://tea4er.ru/forum/342—/64382

Dear Readers,

These days there is an emerging new kind of English teaching professional – the online teacher. They create their own content, break new ground with the use of social networking, and give learners an option outside of the traditional school structure. They’re on YouTube, blogs and podcasts, they gain a very significant following, and I suppose that I am now one of them.

Over five years ago I had settled into my career as a teacher of English as a foreign language. I had passed my DELTA course, had a permanent job teaching English and had just bought my very first property in London. I bought a new laptop and it gave me the option to record, produce and publish my own podcast on iTunes. I had always wanted to be a radio DJ. As a child I had produced numerous fake radio shows with my brother on our cassette recorder, and I had always loved listening to radio, podcasts and comedy CDs. It was my dream to make the same kind of content, and have an audience of people like me, who would lie on the sofa, listening to someone else’s words, being transported to different worlds of imagination.

For a while I tried my hand at making comedy videos on YouTube but they didn’t get many views. Why would anyone look at my comedy videos and short films anyway? I didn’t have an audience.

As an English teacher I’d been working for about 8 years. I’d met hundreds and hundreds of learners of English from all around the world, and had learned some key things. I knew that almost everybody wanted to learn English – the vast majority of the people in the world really. I’d learned how to engage the attention of a class full of people. I knew what subjects interested them, what language difficulties they had, and how to stand out as an English teacher. Also, as a recently diploma qualified professional I had some proper know-how when it came to helping other people learn my language.

What I realised was that there was a potentially huge audience in the world, I had something to offer to them, and I had the means to do it, so what could possibly stop me from launching my own podcast for learners of English? The idea sounded perfect really. I could do it all on my laptop. I could plan my episodes around engaging topics, I could make sure I included some fairly rigorous sequences about language and language learning and I could find ways of making the content funny too. I even had my own flat where I could record episodes of the podcast without being disturbed. Conditions were perfect.

I come from what I consider to be a BBC family. My Dad was a BBC man for about 30 years. We grew up in a BBC household. We never watched ITV, the commercial television station which was the BBC’s main rival. The BBC logo was everywhere in our house on pens, folders, notepads, and mugs. I would often hear my Dad talk about producing the news, what he thought of different presenters and how to deliver information as a broadcaster. It felt quite natural to do it myself on the podcast.

Also, I’d always loved stand-up comedy. When I lived in Japan at the start of my career as a teacher, I had no television so I used to listen to comedy CDs over and over again. My Mum used to send me recordings of Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey, Monty Python, Peter Cook, Bill Hicks and Steve Martin and I used to devour them, listening over and over again.

I came back to London after a couple of years in Japan, just as the podcasting boom took off for the first time. I continued what had now become a tradition of lying on my bed listening to someone talking through my speakers, usually a stand-up comedian.

I’d always harboured a desire to try stand-up myself, but it wasn’t until my girlfriend at the time suggested I do a stand-up comedy course (yes they exist in London) that I first picked up a mic, stood on stage and tried to make a room full of people laugh. The relationship with the girlfriend didn’t last, but the stand-up comedy did. I’m still doing stand-up now (in fact I have a gig in about one hour) and I’m glad to say that feeds into my podcast a lot as I attempt to use comedy, from time to time, to make my audience laugh, and to reduce the so-called “affective filter” which can really get in the way of language learning.

So that is what I brought to my new project, called Luke’s English Podcast, years of experience, qualifications, enthusiasm, a BBC background, and some skills as a stand-up comedian. I finally have my own radio programme.

Over the last five years I have managed to keep producing regular episodes of my show, and it brings in lots of listeners particularly in Russia, which is my number one country for downloads and website visits.

You may be wondering at this point what the website address is for Luke’s English Podcast, and I am very glad to tell you! It’s teacherluke.co.uk. There you’ll find loads of content, including some very popular YouTube videos, but mainly it is a place to present episodes of my podcast, which is also available on iTunes.

The vast majority of my content is in audio form, and I upload podcast episodes about once a week. Each episode is one hour long on average, and the English level of my audience ranges from intermediate to proficiency.

Yes, that’s right, my episodes are usually about one hour long. Sometimes people are surprised at that length as the usual model for learning English podcasts is for them to be short, like the BBC’s “6 Minute English” podcast. The conventional wisdom here is that short episodes are easier to digest, they don’t overwhelm learners with too much content, they are convenient for listening at lunch time or during a quick break from work or studies, and they can be adapted by teachers for classroom use.

I decided quite quickly that I would take the conventional wisdom and chuck it out of the window. My episodes would be longer, like the podcasts that I loved to listen to. By 2009 I’d been listening to podcasts regularly, particularly one called “Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review”. That is one of the most popular podcasts in the UK, and is produced by the BBC. In a nutshell it features two guys reviewing films, but it’s not really a film review show, it’s a lot more than that. Reviewing films gives their podcast a structure and a theme but the show is, sometimes quite profoundly, about life in general. It’s an intensely rewarding listening experience, especially if you’re a long-term listener. Listening to Mark and Simon wittering on about films is life-affirming, entertaining, touching, educational and more. It makes you feel like you’re part of a close community of people who share a certain outlook on life, and who all are aware of the little in-jokes and references from that show. I wanted Luke’s English Podcast to be like that.

Having longer episodes gave me much more freedom. I could go much deeper into subjects I wanted to talk about. I could achieve more in each episode. I have never really understood why learning-English podcast episodes should be short. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for it. Mp3 players and iPhone apps are programmed to remember where you stopped listening. So, if your journey to work is only 30 minutes – no problem. Listen to 30 minutes of an episode, and then press ‘stop’. When you come home from work your mp3 player will remember where you were in the episode, even if you listen to some music in the meantime. Also, longer episodes mean more content, and what is wrong with that? So, despite the fact that every now and then I read comments that say my episodes are a bit long, I maintain that they’re exactly the right length for what I want to achieve with my podcast.

The other thing I decided from the beginning was that my episodes would not be scripted. A lot of other podcast episodes for learners of English are scripted, and I know why. Writing the script beforehand means that you can easily add target language into a conversation, you can properly prepare grammar or vocabulary explanations and it means that a full transcript is available for listeners when the episodes are published. But, when I listen to these scripted episodes (such as the BBC’s 6 Minute English) they just sound fake, awkward and unengaging. Why should English learning materials be dull or patronising? Why make podcast episodes contrived, full of bad acting and unnatural speech patterns? Again, I can’t think of any really good reasons. Surely, it is better to present English in the most authentic way possible: by recording without a script.

Admittedly, some of my episodes are scripted, but for the most part I’ve kept them spontaneous, and I think that has really benefited the podcast. They sound more engaging, natural and they present language more authentically. I think it gives the programme a lot of personality. There are times when I have made mistakes, stumbled over my words or forgotten what I was talking about, and I left them all in the published episodes, for the sake of authenticity. In fact, this sort of thing is precisely what my listeners love about my podcast. They love the fact that it’s real and spontaneous. The fact that I have total creative control, and that I make sure that podcasting is fun for me, have made LEP (Luke’s English Podcast) unique and valuable.

I have found that the episodes my listeners love the most are the ones in which I take risks and am spontaneous. I can do things on LEP that I definitely wouldn’t do in schools where I work as an employee. If I want to devote a whole episode to Star Wars, or zombies, I can. If I want to talk about all the rudest words in the English language, I can. If I want to just talk and talk about nothing in particular, with no plan, I can! And it seems the more I do that, the more my listeners appreciate it.

The atmosphere of total freedom is really healthy for my podcast, I believe. For example, a couple of years ago I just decided to improvise a story on the podcast, based on an old joke I used to tell as a child. The joke normally takes about 2 minutes to tell, but I decided to try and stretch the story to about 30-40 minutes of podcasting time. I recorded the episode with the microphone in my hand, walking around the kitchen, improvising jokes, dialogues and scenarios. The story became an epic adventure, with me being chased around the world by a huge pink gorilla, using various modes of transport. I wasn’t sure if I should publish it, because I thought people would think I was crazy, and that they wouldn’t see the learning value in it. That episode (125. The Pink Gorilla Story) is one of the most popular ones I’ve ever done. My listeners love it, and now I try to do improvised stories as much as possible. It’s so fun, full of risks (I have no idea what I’m going to say next sometimes) but I think it’s truly rewarding for my listeners because it creates a listening experience which totally captures people’s attention. If they know it is being created there and then, in the moment, there’s so much more drama involved, and that makes people pay attention. Sometimes people tell me they are addicted to my episodes, and that when they listen, time just flies by. Apparently, the length of my episodes proves not to be such an issue.

All of my feelings about this are backed up by academic research. I am sure you are familiar with the work of Stephen Krashen. His idea is that language is effectively acquired by learners when they engage with language in a meaningful way, and that the more comprehensible input a learner is exposed to, the better. That pretty much sums up the thinking behind my approach to the podcast, however I realise that it’s not just as simple as that, and I try my best to vary my teaching method in my episodes. Sometimes I focus on grammar, providing colourful examples and sample sentences which I encourage my listeners to repeat to themselves. Sometimes I teach vocabulary in a fairly traditional way. Sometimes I devote episodes of the podcast to giving general advice on learning English, with a view to improving my listeners’ metacognitive strategies. The whole package, which includes over 280 episodes to date, covers a really wide range of content, language input, comprehensible input, interviews with native speakers, comedy, music and more. I’m really proud of it, and this year I have decided that I finally deserve to make some money from my endeavours, but this is the tricky part. So far I have focused mainly on producing good content, hoping that it would speak for itself. It has done that to an extent. I have a healthy following and a large audience, but I must find ways of monetising my online project. So, taking LEP to the next level is my new challenge, while also producing regular episodes of the podcast as normal.

As English teachers yourselves, I suggest that my podcast could be a great resource that you can recommend to your students for use outside the classroom. It could be just another option, other than the BBC’s podcasts. If your students like it, hopefully they will get hooked and then they’ll find themselves with a healthy new habit in their lives. If they don’t like the podcast, no problem. I’ve always known that you can’t please all the people all the time, but you can do your best!

There’s so much more for me to tell you about, like the transcript writing project I have set up, which has listeners collaborating on transcriptions of my episodes using Google documents, and the award my podcast has won three times, but I have already written nearly 2,500 words here, and as I said, I have to go out and perform some stand-up comedy soon.

Just to bring this writing to a close, I should say that since starting my podcast in 2009 it has steadily grown in popularity. In the last year LEP was downloaded over 3,000,000 times in total, which is much higher than I expected when I first started. I would really like to continue and build my work into something larger. I believe I have a lot to offer as an online teacher, and podcasting may just be the beginning. Online teaching has given me freedom, creative control, an audience, my own radio show and an outlet for my comedy. I also know from all the messages I receive every day, especially from listeners in Russia, that my podcast has made a difference to the English of people all around the world. I hope that in the future I will be able to make a living teaching like this, and I believe I can.

Thanks a lot for reading.


Tea4er.ru Q&A FINAL LIST

Dear readers of Tea4er.ru,

Earlier this year I was invited to write a post on this website describing my teaching career and my reasons for starting my own podcast for learners of English. I told you my personal story, and then you were invited to contribute questions as part of a competition. I could then choose some questions to respond to.

I was delighted to see over the weeks after posting my interview here that there were about 20 pages of questions from users of this website. It’s amazing to see how many responses there were, including interesting thoughts and ideas from so many bright minded people. I was asked to choose about 5 questions, but in the end I found it really hard to choose just 5 so I’ve written answers to many more than that! I hope that you enjoy reading my responses, and I’m sorry if your question was not included.

Would you like to listen to me answering your questions in a podcast episode? You could hear me give my answers orally. I may use your questions and my responses as the basis for a new episode of my podcast soon, so if you’d like to listen to that, check out my podcast over the next couple of weeks. I will probably upload the episode soon. Click here for more information www.teacherluke.co.uk

I hope you like reading my answers to your questions, and thanks for reading!

All the best,

Luke Thompson

Hello! I am very pleased to ask you a question.
I’m Spiridonova Tatiana Ivanovna, a teacher, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.

If you were on a desert island you would have the right to have only three things. What would they be?

Thank you.

Good luck! I wish you success.

Hi Tatiana,
Assuming I’m only allowed to have objects rather than abstract or intangible things (like hope, fortitude, good luck, knowledge of bushcraft) I would choose tools that could help me survive. The main thing would be a really good knife or machete. I’ve seen lots of survival shows on TV and the machete seems to be really important. I’d also want some really good rope. Can I have a boat, a helicopter or a laptop with remote internet access? No? Ok, for the third thing I’d like a drum kit, so I can just make loads of noise and beat out the rhythm of the universe on the beach at night under the stars alone. Music is almost as important to me as food and water. Thanks for your question!

I am Savisko Ksenia, a pupil, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.

Hello Luke!

I suppose you are keen on medicine. What do you think when any person is too ill. He sneezes very often. Can his eyes dash out during his sneezing?

Thank you!

Hi Savisko,
If a person sneezes a lot, will his eyes pop out? Is that your question?
I’ve heard people say that if you sneeze with your eyes open, that your eyes will pop out. I always assumed it was just a myth, and watching this video confirmed it to me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D5fJYHbK7k. But who knows, if you sneeze hard enough, maybe it’s possible! Thanks for your question Savisko!

I am Vlasova Marina, a pupil, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.

Hello Luke!

One day I was walking down the street. Suddenly a black cat jumped out in front of me. At first I did not pay attention to it. But after an hour or two, I lost my phone. And then I remembered about the superstition which is connected with black cat. I have never believed in omens, but after the accident I started to believe in them. Do you believe in superstitions?

Thank you!

Hi Vlasova,
Interesting question and I’ve been preparing a podcast episode about superstitions which I plan to publish soon. So, do I believe in superstitions like this? Not really, no. Let’s look at the example of your phone and the black cat. Do you really believe that the black cat caused you to lose your phone? What evidence is there that the cat is the direct cause of the loss of the phone. Surely it’s just a coincidence. What’s happened is something called ‘confirmation bias’, which basically means the tendency to interpret events in a way that supports beliefs or theories. I would hypothesise that there is no causal connection between the cat and the loss of your phone. I think you’re creating the connection between the cat and the phone. Can it really be true that cats possess magic powers? What form does this magic take? I believe what happened is that you saw a cat, then later you lost your phone. There’s no connection between the two events, but because superstitions offer us an answer to events we don’t really understand or have control over (like the unexpected loss of something valuable) you make a connection between the two things that isn’t there. So, unless you can provide me with reliable evidence of the power of cats over phones, I don’t believe it! Superstitions are our brain’s way of answering unanswered questions, like – why do bad things happen for no reason, or what happens after we die?
Thanks for your question!


I am Shibitov Artem, a pupil, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.

Hello Luke!

If you had a time machine where would you go?
Thank you.

Hi Shibitov,
I would stay in exactly the same position, but at a different time.
In fact, if I did travel through time, even by just a few minutes, I would probably end up floating in space because the time machine would simply deposit me at the same position in the universe but at a different time, and because the planets and stars in the universe are constantly moving, the earth would be in a different position and I would end up lost in space, dead. So, a time machine is no good. You need a machine that travels through both time and space simultaneously, like the TARDIS from the TV show DOCTOR WHO. That would allow you to travel into the past or future, but make sure you travelled to the right position in space so that you arrive safely on earth.
Thanks for your question!

I am Zimmer Edik, a pupil, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.

Hello Luke!

Have you watched the film “The Star Wars”? If yes, did you like it? What episode impressed you most of all?
Thank you!

Hi Zimmer,
I’m a massive Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the original film (episode 4) at least 100 times. I was mildly obsessed by it when I was a child. I did a podcast episode all about Star Wars not long ago, and I talked about the subject for about 90 minutes. You can listen to that episode here https://teacherluke.co.uk/2014/12/02/241-star-wars/. Thanks for the question!

I am Danil Mahno, a pupil, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.
Hello Luke!
Would you like to be a book which is opened by people every day?
Thank you.

Hi Danil,
If I was a book, I would like to be opened by people every day because that would probably mean I was an interesting book full of worthwhile things to read and think about. However, if I was opened every day that might mean my pages would start falling apart after some time! I’m not sure I’d like that. It’s also an interesting question for me because I would very much like to write a book one day and then I certainly hope it would be opened by people every day. Thanks for the question!

Hello Luke!
I’m teacher of English and Spanish and I’d like to ask for advice. The thing is that while teaching we teach our students to use web sites and English blogs, but some of them start just surfing the Net and forget the purpose of switching the computer on. How can I limit them in the Net and make them only study?
Hi! (I’m not sure who answered this question)
I totally understand the problem of our students surfing the web during classes, or being distracted by their phones, or Facebook. It’s a tricky area because these days young people live their lives in constant interaction with the internet. Some of my colleagues ban laptops, phones and tablets from their classrooms. I think that’s a fine choice as long as you’re prepared to act like a police officer in class, as well as a teacher. I personally attempt to capture the interest of my students in every class I teach, so that they choose not to go online. I’m not always successful – some students still end up going online during my classes, which frustrates me a lot. Firstly, it’s rude for them to not be listening or taking part, secondly it means that they might be finding my class boring (which is almost an unbearable thought, but is nevertheless a reality) and thirdly it means that the whole class slows down and becomes less effective because some people are just not following what you’re saying. Still, I think we have to accept a certain amount of multitasking in our classrooms these days. Using the internet while also performing other tasks is a normal part of daily life these days, so we should let it happen in our English classes, in order to make classroom interactions more realistic. Nevertheless, it’s totally unproductive and damaging if students are just being distracted by social networks, especially if it’s in their native language and not English. So, here are a few options: 1. Ban computers in class completely. 2. Allow computers but ban social networks and other stuff that is not related to the lesson. 3. Accept that a certain amount of internet browsing is a normal part of any student’s problem solving process and encourage them to use the internet to help them learn. In all cases, I think it helps if the students are really engaged and interested in what you’re doing in class. It’s also a question of constantly trying to involve them, and maintaining levels of respect. I’d imagine that if your classes are really great, the students won’t want to spend time on the internet. That’s our challenge as teachers today, in my opinion. Thanks for your question.

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I am Arthur Borisov, a pupil,Tavricheskaya school number 1

Hello, Luke!
If you had super abilities in what sphere would you use them?
Thank you.

Hi Arthur,
I suppose it depends on what kind of super abilities I have. If I was strong and able to fly or go really fast I’d probably end up fighting crime or rescuing people like Superman or Batman. If I was able to read people’s minds or affect their thoughts I’d be tempted to help people recover from mental illnesses or neuroses, or simply to make them feel confident enough to do anything they want. I think I’d probably use my powers to get rich too, but I’d try to help people. As we known from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility” so I think that if I had super abilities I think I would also be obliged to use them carefully and with some sense of social justice. Thanks for

I am Anastasia Gofman, a pupil, Tavricheskaya school № 1, Tavricheskoe, Omsk region.

Hello Luke!

They say that there are aliens between us and some of them are working in the government of some countries. If it is true would you like to fly on the UFO?

Thank you.

Hi Anastasia,
I love the way that your question focuses more on the possibility of a UFO ride than on the ramifications of aliens working in the government! Anyway, I’ve heard lots of conspiracy theories which state that the world is run by shapeshifting lizard aliens from another planet. I’m pretty sceptical about that to be honest. I think it’s quite mad, in fact, to believe it. There isn’t any good evidence for it, although I do believe it’s quite possible that the world is basically run by a few very powerful individuals – heads of corporations, leaders of influential societies, that kind of thing. But, aliens in the government? Hmm, I think there may be alien life in the universe, but I’m not convinced that they’re here on earth or in fact working for the government, although I sometimes wonder about David Cameron (joke). But, if there were aliens on earth, and I met them and they offered me a ride on the UFO of course I would love to try that. It would be absolutely fascinating to see their technology and to experience a totally new kind of travelling. The thing is, I’d be afraid that they’d abduct me and stick an uncomfortable probe into my body somehow. I hope that answers your question!

Hello Luke!
I know that you are a lecturer. And, just imagine, you have a choice to make: all your students will become responsible and begin always to listen to you attentively, or you will receive one million dollars. Which will you choose?
Thanks in advance.

Hello (sorry, I don’t know who wrote this)
Well, I think that the first option is perhaps impossible – I can’t imagine a situation in which absolutely 100% of the people in the room are listening to me 100% of the time. There’s always someone who is drifting off, thinking about something else, and I don’t mind that too much. If everyone was 100% attentive, that might not be so great. For example, if I made one mistake, everyone would notice it! Also, I quite like the feeling that my students have independent minds and I don’t necessarily want to rob them of their free thought. I’d like them to listen to me because they find me interesting, not because I’ve cast a spell on them to make them attentive. That sounds a bit like mind control. So, I’ll be glad to have the one million dollars please! Thanks for the question.

Marina Bulakhova
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello Luke! Don’t you find that the profession of a teacher is very deforming? I mean, it has a great influence on a personality, which will, certainly, show itself especially at old age. “He/she has been teaching for a long time”, – it sounds like a diagnosis, which presupposes moralizing, excessive strictness, and other negative manifestations. Isn’t it really so to your mind?

Hi Marina,
I think this is particularly true for people who teach children because it can be very demanding and forces you to be stricter than normal. I suppose this can take its toll. I think that doing any job will have an effect on you, so this kind of thing comes with the territory. As a teacher of adults mainly, I would say that it’s involves less strictness, but more openness, imagination, patience, creativity and the ability to listen. I hope that as I get older I will just have enough energy to keep up! Thanks for the question.

Roman Linskiy
Municipal Educational Institution “Ramenskaya Gymnasia”
Moscow Region

Hello, Luke!

What difficulties have you had with your students and colleges? If any at all? How have you tried to settle them since you became a famous teacher?

Thank you!

Hi Roman,
I’ve had plenty of difficulties with my students – mostly as part of the challenge of helping them improve their English. A lot of it is about motivation. It might be necessary to work with people’s individual problems and approaches to learning. That’s a normal part of the process. Sometimes you find trouble with students in that their personalities come into play. Normally this is really great because most people are interesting and basically good people. Every now and then you come across someone who likes to make life difficult for others, or who simply can’t operate within a group of others, with some level of intimacy as part of the learning process. Sometimes personalities flare up and you might find friction between students in a class or even with the teacher. I’ve had few problems with colleagues because for the most part English teachers get on with each other. We’re all sharing the same situation so there tends to be some camaraderie in the teachers’ room. I did a couple of podcasts about the challenges I’ve faced as a teacher. You can listen to them here https://teacherluke.co.uk/2013/09/02/145-nightmare-teaching-experiences-part-1/ Thanks for your message!


275. The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #2

100 episodes ago I recorded The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #1 – remember that? The point of that episode was to improvise a made-up story as a way of reviewing the first 50 phrasal verbs from my other podcast which is called A Phrasal Verb A Day. I had to just come up with a random story, and add in a load of phrasal verbs. Your task was to try and spot the phrasal verbs as I used them, while also following the story. It’s time to do it again because I’ve done over 100 episodes of A Phrasal Verb A Day. So now, in this episode I’m going to attempt to improvise another story using phrasal verbs #51-100. Click here to listen to The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #1.

Click here to visit Luke’s English Podcast on iTunes and leave a review. :)
Click here to visit A Phrasal Verb a Day on iTunes and leave a review. :)

A quick note about A Phrasal Verb a Day
Do you know about my other podcast? It’s a real thing, there are currently about 107 episodes available free for you. You can find all the details, every episode and the RSS feed and iTunes links on teacherluke.co.uk. Just click “A Phrasal Verb a Day” in the menu. You can also find it in iTunes. I started it at the beginning of last year and my aim was to record an episode every day. I managed to keep up that rhythm of one a day for the first few months, but then I found that I couldn’t keep doing them every day. So, the recording and uploading of APVAD has become very sporadic as my daily routine has been really hectic (as usual). But, it is still alive and kicking and I plan to go back to it regularly to upload more episodes. Eventually, the plan is to hit 365 episodes and then it will be finished. In each episode I teach you a different phrasal verb, give you explanations and provide loads of examples of the different meanings and other things you should know. There are also transcripts for all 104 episodes (to date). Phrasal verbs are a vitally important part of fluent and natural sounding English, and are often one of the hardest aspects of the language to learn. You can use my series as a way to get a grip on this difficult aspect of English. Listening to my short phrasal verb episodes regularly can make a really big difference to your English learning, so if you haven’t already done so I recommend that you check it out today. Teacherluke.co.uk and then click A PHRASAL VERB A DAY in the menu, or just google “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. You can subscribe to it in iTunes, download them, listen to them on my website or whatever is most convenient for you – just like episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.

Now, back to this episode.
It’s important to review vocabulary – it’s vital to go over language again and again and we also know that it’s important to get vivid and meaningful connections to words to help you remember them. Hopefully this story will help that process.

I’ve already gone through meanings and explanations of all these phrases in each phrasal verb episode. If you want to go back and study them in more detail, you can just go back to those individual little episodes – the links to all of them are available on the page for this episode. You’ll see a list, and you can click on each phrasal verb to listen to that episode.

In this episode let’s focus on you just noticing these phrases as they are used in natural speech within the context of a story. You’re going to play a game of Vocab Hunter! (exciting) Does that help to make it interesting? If you need extra excitement you can imagine you’re shooting the vocab from the sky whenever you hear it. You can even do a hand gesture, like you’re shooting a gun, like ‘pow’ every time you hear one. Obviously, watch out if you do that on public transport. People tend to be a bit funny about people pretending to shoot imaginary words that only they can see, while on a bus surrounded by people – but on the plus side, you’ll probably get an empty seat next to you and plenty of space to stretch out and really relax while you listen to this episode and play vocab hunter.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s important to get used to noticing language as it is being used in context, rather than just being spoon fed vocabulary bit by bit, by a teacher, in a slightly mechanical way. Ultimately, it really helps you pick up language when you actually hear it being used to serve a communicative purpose. So your challenge in this episode is just to try to follow the story while noticing 50 phrasal verbs as they’re being used. The phrasal verbs will appear in alphabetical order. In fact, there may be more than 50 as I’m sure other phrasal verbs will just naturally crop up in my speech (there was one already – to crop up).

My challenge is just try try and make this a coherent story, while including all the phrasal verbs. I have no idea where my story is going to go! I just hope that it all makes sense and that I find a way to use every single phrasal verb in order.

It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be fun and I hope you enjoy the story. I will go through the list when I’ve finished so you will know which ones you should have noticed. Remember, the list of these phrasal verbs, with mini podcast episodes explaining each one, is available on the page for this episode.

So, let’s begin the phrasal verb chronicles, episode two – phrasal verbs 51-100.

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