Tag Archives: travel

289. California Road Trip (Part 2)

Here’s the next part of my description of my recent trip around California. This is a description of my honeymoon, but I’m also going to tell you about the cultural, geographical and historical context of the places we went to, and I’ll give you some practical tips and teach you some British and American English too. This is part 2 of the California series. Let’s carry on.

In part 1 I told you about the itinerary for our trip, some of our first impressions of arriving in L.A., some notes and advice on customer service and dealing with waiters & staff, some stuff about the car, an audiobook recommendation and California’s marijuana laws. So, let’s carry on in this episode. First of all, I’d like to give you a brief history of California, because it helps to understand what the place is all about when you learn about its history.

A Very Brief History of California Source: michaellamarr.com/cahistory.html A paraphrased and reduced version.
California is known as the golden state, because of the sunshine but also because of the gold that was found there in the mid 19th Century. But let’s go further back to consider the first people to have populated California, a long long time ago (but not in a galaxy far far away this time).

Small Donate ButtonPeople arrived in California about 12,000 years ago. They were descendents of the people who travelled across the Bering Strait from the Asian continent about 40,000 years ago. They travelled into North America to follow food – migrating herds of animals probably. At that time it seems that Alaska and what is now Russia were connected by an exposed stretch of land which later was covered over when the sea level rose, separating America and Russia (or the Asian continent). Those people became the first Native Americans. They eventually found their way to the area we now call California. They lived there in various tribes in different parts of the state, undisturbed for a long time.

Then, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans began travelling across the Atlantic and America was ‘discovered’. It was the Spanish, with Hernando Cortez initially, and then other explorers who were the first Europeans to enter the area that we now know as California after fighting the Aztecs and developing a Spanish colony in Mexico. The Spanish attempted to settle in California and find a route they could use to sail their ships from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast, but they the failed to find one after lots of attempts, with some competition from Sir Francis Drake who to the English is a great explorer, but to the Spanish is a pirate who raided early Spanish settlements, stealing lots of their silver. The Spanish found it hard to settle in California because of the difficult access from the Atlantic side and because of clashes with the native people so they ignored California for about 150 years, although they had named the areas of America that they’d ‘discovered’ and claimed “New Spain”.

It’s not entirely clear how California got it’s name but it seems that the most popular theory is that it comes from a romantic adventure story by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo called “Sergas de Esplandian” or “The Adventures of Esplandián” (1510). This story tells of a mythical island called California, which is populated by a race of beautiful and powerful Amazonian warrior women called the Califia who are ruled by the formidable Queen Califia. In the story, which was a very popular and well known one, the Califia were warrior women “of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength.” The queen and her warriors would go on adventurous missions, fly around on griffins (griffins are legendary creatures with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet) that lived on the island and would capture and kill men they come upon during their travels. Any man found in their domain they would eat. Califia or California in the story is presented as a mythical place near the real world. The island is described as a kind of paradise filled with gold and precious stones.

The original Spanish settlers who came to the area first thought that California was an island, and perhaps it was similar enough to the mythical island in this story that the settlers were inspired to use that name. The story was well known and popular enough, and some believed it was based on an older myth which was part of an oral Spanish tradition. Some people may have believed it was true and this place really existed. Maybe they thought they’d arrived there for real, or maybe they were just inspired by a good story. It’s not entirely clear, but what we do know is that, essentially, California is named after a beautiful and powerful Amazonian warrior queen, who used to fly around on a griffin and eat men for breakfast. Pretty crazy, right? It sounds like something from an Arnold Schwarzenegger film from the 80s or something. It just shows that California has had a fairly long tradition of grand, glamorous and sexy myth making and story telling associated with it.

In 1765 a man named Jose de Galvez, who was an official to the Spanish king decided it was a good idea to have another go at claiming New Spain properly, before the English or the Russians did it. He managed to convince the King to let him go on a mission there, with the intention of claiming the land and spreading the Romain Catholic faith. Although it was a very difficult mission with lots of hardship, ultimately it was successful and several missions (Christian bases) were set up on the Californian coast, including Monterey Bay and San Francisco. The Spanish missionaries managed to convert a number of the local natives into Catholicism, but this was largely due to the threat of violence or because they pacified the natives with offerings of supplies and tools that they’d never seen before, although saying that I’m sure the natives were also genuinely impressed by these new people who had arrived and may have seen them as being sent by god. Again, things didn’t go completely smoothly because there was resistance from the locals who did fight back, but in the end the Spanish were numerous enough and powerful enough to withstand these resistance movements from the Native Americans, even though unfortunately this meant that a lot of native people were killed and severely punished in the process. This is all part of the story of how the Native Americans were eventually almost completely wiped out in the long population of America by Europeans.

The Spanish settlers and missionaries built forts at strategic locations up the California coast. These were basically protected bases which helped them defend their territory against angry natives or possible invasion by other countries wanting to take this beautiful and rich land that they had managed to claim. To provide food for the people in these missions or forts, pueblos were created around them. These were basically towns with farms that could produce food. These places eventually grew and developed to become cities like Los Angeles, Monterey and San Francisco.

Then there was a war of independence in 1810 which ended in 1821. This is a similar story to the war of independence against the British which was fought on the other side of the country. The colonies in New Spain were fed up with the way they were being ruled from Spain and felt they didn’t have enough freedom or independence. The people of New Spain won that war and set themselves up as an independent government under the name of Mexico. The Mexican government took control of New Spain and decided that the missions had too much power, and closed them, freeing up the land previously owned by the missions. The priests in the missions were still allowed to operate churches there, but the land was to be divided between Mexican settlers and the Native Americans. The thing is though, the Native Americans had no real understanding of the concept of land ownership so they either didn’t want the land, didn’t understand that it could be given to them, or didn’t know how to deal with it because they’d been living in the missions so long that they were now dependent on the Spanish and Mexican settlers who ran the place. Some native Americans managed to return to their way of life, and some tribes of natives in California had managed to avoid being captured by the missions so there were still Native Americans in California at the time, but the coastal colonies continued under Mexican control. The Mexicans in California did lots of trade with people from many other places during this period, which enriched the area with the influence of different cultures. Presumably these traders came from Russia, Asia or Europe.

Some people, mainly fur trappers, managed to make the very difficult journey from the East coast by land. Remember that it took me 6 hours to fly from New York to LA? Well in the early 19th century it would have taken years to make the journey and in the beginning only the toughest and wildest people could make the journey, which was essentially a massive exploration into unknown wilderness populated by native tribes and dangerous wildlife like grizzly bears. But, some fur trappers made it to California in the first half of the 19th century. These fur trappers were really tough explorers who travelled west in search of valuable fur pelts – basically the skin and fur of different animals. Beaver was perhaps the most sought after pelt. Why? Because beaver fur was used to make top hats in Europe. You know those tall hats the Victorians used to wear? They were made from beaver fur. It’s light, strong, glossy and warm. Perfect material for a good hat, so there was plenty of demand for beaver fur as well as other animals. The first fur trappers must have been very tough guys who were almost as wild as the natives they met along the way. In fact many trappers got to know the natives and learned a lot of their knowledge to help them survive in the American wilderness. Imagine the challenge of crossing rivers, mountain ranges, deserts, canyons and forests. We’re talking about epic journeys.

By the mid 1800s the independent Nation of the USA was very keen to extend its territory to the west, in order to populate and claim that whole stretch of North America from east to west. In fact the prevailing ideology of the time was a strong feeling that the United States had almost a god given right to claim the land, and that it was the destiny of the USA to do so. This is the idea of manifest destiny – That the USA felt the land was theirs for the taking and that they had the god given right to take it. James Polk was the president at this time and he decided that he wanted to take the lands of Texas, New Mexico and California. Texas was a country in its own right at the time after having broken away from Mexico, and New Mexico and California were still owned by Mexico.

By this time – about 1840. More and more settlers had followed the fur trappers west and had settled in California. This included a man called John C Fremont who was an officer in the US army. He led a brigade of 60 men into California and met Colonel Jose Castro of the Mexican army in Monterey. Castro (no relation to the Cuban leader who came much later, I think) sent the US soldiers out of California, but this army brigade were determined and later re-entered California, gained the support of some of the settlers there and started a revolt in Sonoma, flying the flag with a star and a grizzly bear – the flag of California, and they pronounced it “The California Republic”. This coincided with the general aggressive movement into Texas and New Mexico by President Polk’s US army. Fighting between the USA and Texas had started along the Rio Grande river and this fighting eventually reached California. The bear flag rebels joined the US army during this war and fighting continued into 1848 when when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the war. The treaty brought peace to California and also stated that Mexico had to give more than 525,000 square miles of land to the USA. This included the areas between Texas and California, and marked the extension of the USA’s territory from east to west coast.

What happened next was that gold was discovered in California and this changed everything. The first discovery of gold was in 1848 in the Sacramento valley, which is between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and that caused a few hundred local Californians to move there, and a thousand or so outsiders. A lot of them struck gold and became very rich. Word of this travelled quite far, and fairly quickly. By early 1849 many people around the world had heard the news about gold being discovered in the new world in California and instantly thousands of people were infected with gold fever. “There’s gold in them there hills!”

1849 was the big year for the California gold rush. Something like 100,000 people travelled to California in that year. The people who travelled there are known as the 49ers (which explains the name of the American Football team from San Francisco). About 60% of the 49ers were from America, but the rest came from other countries all around the world and many of them settled in California long term, again adding to the diverse culture of the place. The Chinese certainly moved there in large numbers. Something like 20,000 in total, and many of them settled in the nearest port – San Francisco, which is why there is a large Chinese community there in Chinatown today. 100,000 people is a massive influx in just one year, and the gold rush is certainly one of the most significant moments in American history. By the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852. The non-native population grew by about 1000% in about 18 months following the discovery of gold. This represented a massive injection of culture, development and wealth into California. San Francisco for example, quite quickly became a large metropolis.

What about the native Americans? It wasn’t a good time for them. Essentially, The USA’s expansion west, particularly in search of gold and land just didn’t fit in with the way of the life of the natives. The two cultures just couldn’t live together, and because the American settlers were more numerous, had better technology and weapons, and because the Native Americans were vulnerable to diseases carried by the settlers, the natives just couldn’t hold on to their way of life and were either killed or forced to live in limited areas known as reservations. It’s sad, because the Natives were people who had learned to live in harmony with their environment, and then they basically got wiped out or forced off their land, and treated like animals. It’s heartbreaking really.

By about 1852 even though the surface gold had basically disappeared, lots of people continued to make the journey west in search of their fortune and a better life, and they continued to make that journey for decades as California continued to be seen as a place where people could have a better quality of life.

The 1930s saw another fairly big movement of people into California in search of a better life as a result of the great depression and the dust bowl across the midwest. The dust bowl was basically a huge drought in the early 30s in large farming states from Texas to South Dakota – a big stretch all the way up the middle of the country. There was a huge drought (no water) and so all the crops failed and the earth turned to dust. Within a couple of years there were huge storms that carried the dust into the sky and far along the ground. This made it almost impossible for families to live and grow crops so many of them just left the area and made the arduous journey west towards California in search of a better situation.

Another Audiobook Suggestion
“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck lived in Monterey, so I thought I’d pick one of his books, and I think this one is probably his most celebrated work. It has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on audible, which is really high, and the book is widely considered a great classic of American literature. Written in 1939 after the great depression of the 1930s the book follows the story of a family from Oklahoma who are forced to make a long journey across America to live in California. It tells their personal story of the difficulty of the journey, but in doing so it manages to capture the epic narrative of a whole migration of people into the American west. Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity. Here’s a quote from a listener’s review: “From start to finish each one of the characters, because they were so well formed and realistic, evoked empathy but never to the point of pity. Every character bore their share of hardship. You walk away from this experience feeling stronger for having been in their company. These were people to be admired.” R. Solomon from New Hampshire.
www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Pick the version read by Dylan Baker. It’s unabridged.

A Brief(ish) History of California (continued)
The gold rush was a really important time for America, and the great depression of the 1930s. The migration into the west which was involved in both situations, and to a larger scale across the whole previous century of American history at that point was the embodiment of the American dream. The idea that anyone was free to start from the bottom and if they had the strength and courage they could make their own fortune by driving west, claiming their own plot of land, and delving into the rich American soil to produce shiny gold and riches, or an escape from hardship into liberty! These days people still go west in search for a fortune or some sort of everlasting freedom, but not because of gold, but in search of stardom on the silver screen. Los Angeles and the Hollywood star machine continue to be an attractive goal for many people, although it’s nowhere near the same scale as the original gold rush.

Nevertheless, California maintains its image as the golden state and is still considered to be a golden land where fame and riches can be found. Generations of immigrants have been attracted by the California Dream. California farmers, oil drillers, movie makers, airplane builders, and “dot-com” entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have each had their boom times in the decades after the Gold Rush. California is also a very popular destination for tourists, holidaymakers and honeymooners, and dreamers. It’s still associated with the American Dream and all that it offers.

But that vision of America may eventually have its downside when you’ve basically made it across the country, you’ve made it to the golden land, the gold has run out and yet the dreams remain. What seems to happen is that people lose it a a little bit, or feel that their idealism and perhaps naivety are challenged by the final frontier – the frontier of inner space or spirituality or just general meaning to life. That may be why people are pretty ‘far out’ here – there’s lots of spiritualism, yoga, new age thinking and so on. Perhaps that’s why they’re into movie making too. It’s the dream factory. Also, there’s plenty of entrepreneurialism in business technology, especially into another frontier – cyberspace, as I mentioned earlier with Facebook and other software and social networking companies. In fact here’s a list of companies in the bay area of San Francisco: Facebook, Pinterest, Tesla, Hewlett Packard, Quora, TuneIn Radio, Google, Skype, PayPal, Logitech, LinkedIn, Groupon, Uber, Android, Intel, Apple, EBay, AOL, Yahoo.

LA Continued…
We drove downtown to have a look around, get some food, get used to the place, take it easy a bit, do some shopping.
Driving in the car in traffic.
One thing we noticed was the huge paintings and murals on the walls. There’s some really fantastic and very large artwork on the sides of buildings. It’s more sophisticated than graffiti. It’s really excellent. Check out this link to see some of the murals www.laweekly.com/arts/10-best-la-street-art-murals-of-2014-5279399
In fact there are murals in many places in California, especially the cities like LA and SF.
Downtown market
Grammy Museum – amazing music exhibition, particularly the interactive screens which allowed you to take a journey though all the interconnected musical genres.
Huge Taylor Swift exhibition, probably because she was due to perform a number of concerts nearby. In fact, Taylor Swift followed us around California. Wherever we arrived she seemed to be doing a concert and we kept hearing her hit song “Shake It Off” all the time, including in the museum shop where it appeared to be playing on a loop, all day. I can’t imagine what that did to the brains of the staff working there. I quite like the song actually. I think it’s a great pop song – and is commercial, super catchy and full of hooks and so on. I’m not sure about Taylor Swift herself. She started out as a country artist, and then recently she sort of switched over into R&B a little bit and it’s worked out for her. I don’t really like any of her other songs, but Shake It Off is just a perfect little pop song.
Hollywood Improv. for comedy + food.
Fighting jet lag.
Back to the hotel to watch a bit of American TV and then pass out.
American TV – just commercial break after commercial break, and many of them are about treatments for health conditions. So many adverts for health insurance and medical solutions. It’s really weird. It’s hard to actually find any content on TV because it feels like about 50% adverts. You flick through the channels and it’s just ad after ad after ad. Still, some of the late night comedy and chat shows are pretty good. FOX News is a total joke. CNN doesn’t seem that much better to be honest. It’s all way too glamorous and just doesn’t feel objective or incisive enough.

There’s a presidential campaign going on. Donald Trump is dominating the news. He’s basically a right-wing free market capitalist who says whatever the hell he likes and appears to be running for president purely because his ego is in overdrive. His skin is more orange than the sun, his hair looks like it should be captured and studied by scientists, and his views on immigration are pretty disgusting. For example, he recently said that Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves and that if he was president he would start by building a huge wall between the USA and Mexico, and that the Mexican government will have to pay for it. Right. Is this the man we want to be in charge of one of the biggest and most potentially lethal countries in the world. No. Please no. Hilary Clinton will probably win, but I wonder about her connections to all those corporations. Bernie Sanders is a pretty reasonable left-wing candidate. The other Republicans don’t seem to be any different to each other. Jeb Bush is, well, he’s another Bush! But even he seems pretty normal compared to Trump. American politics is fascinating, entertaining and also a little grotesque and a bit scary. What a country.

End of Part 2. Part 3 coming soon…
California Flag

243. A Life-Changing Teaching Experience in Ghana

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Hello and welcome to another episode of Luke’s English Podcast! In this episode I’m going to interview my friend Mike Bruce about his recent teaching experience in Ghana in West Africa. Mike is an old friend and colleague of mine, he’s originally from Scotland, although he doesn’t have a particularly strong accent, and he has lived and worked in places all over the world. I’ve known him for about 13 years and he was one of the first people I ever worked with as a language teacher in Japan. Mike has an amazing CV. He’s taught in lots of countries around the world. He’s very highly qualified, and as well as teaching students of English as a second language he also teaches teachers how to teach. So, he’s pretty much a Jedi Master of English teaching in my opinion.

Mike recently came back from a teaching mission in Ghana, and judging by the Facebook photos and statuses, it was quite an epic experience for him. I thought it would be interesting to talk to him about it on Luke’s English Podcast. My aim for this interview is to have a bit of a chat with Mike, just a bit of a chat, introduce him to the LEPsters? LEPans? LEPians?LEPenese? LEPlanders? LEPish? LEPaholics? and then find out about his African teaching experience.

Below you’ll see questions and notes I used during the interview, and a slide show of Mike’s pictures.

Click here to read more about the Ghana Education Project.

How do we know each other?
What do you remember about that time in our lives?

Mike’s CV
How did you get into teaching in the first place?
How long have you been teaching?
Where have you worked/lived in the past?
Which place was memorable it you? (And why)
What do you do professionally these days?

Tell me about the Ghana experience.
Why did you go?
What was the mission? What did you expect?
What were you concerned about or looking forward to?
What were your first impressions?
What were the challenges?
What were the great things?
What did you learn from the experience?
Has it changed you as a teacher? And as a person?

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208. Travelling in Indonesia (Part 1)

I just came back from a 2 week holiday in Indonesia. Let me tell you about it in this episode. Right-click to Download.

Small Donate ButtonSome of what I’m going to say to you was written in a notepad while I was there, some of it was written when I got back, and some of it is just me explaining my experience from memory. I’m not teaching you specific language in this episode, but as ever you’ll find this to be full of descriptive vocabulary, and a variety of grammatical structures including some narrative verb tenses. Some of this is transcribed at teacherluke.co.uk, and some of it is unwritten. If you’d like to actively practise your listening skills, why not transcribe some of the unwritten sections. A google document for this episode is now open. Check the page for this episode (click here!) or check the Transcript Collaboration page to find that google doc. I know that I have some listeners in Indonesia, so I would like to say a special “hello” to you at this point. Thank you for hosting my girlfriend and me in your beautiful country. I understand that I only really scratched the surface of your culture in the 2 weeks that we were there, and we acted as rather typical tourists. I apologise in advance if I misunderstood anything about your country or your way of life in this episode, and I hope you realise that whatever I’m describing here is really just my subjective experience. I know you understand that this is just my attempt at describing what it’s like for a European to visit Indonesia for a couple of weeks. I’m not pretending to be an expert on the place, but rather to just describe my own experiences whether positive or in fact negative. I hope you enjoy hearing me describe my time spent in lovely country.

At this point I can’t say how long this episode will be, but I suspect that it will probably go on for quite a long time because I have lots of things to talk about and describe. It’ll probably be divided into several chapters, so this may be just part 1 of a two-part series, which I think you’ll agree is a perfectly good thing indeed. Have you been waiting for a new episode? Well, the wait is over. So sit back, brew a large pot of tea, smoke a cigar, pop open a bottle of wine or simply lie on your back, close your eyes and do whatever you have to do in order to get into the appropriate mood to fully appreciate this new episode of Luke’s English Podcast.

The Boat Story
(I’m reading this from my notebook – I’ll try to get it transcribed asap)

Back to the Beginning (Transcribed)
There’s a difference between “travelling” and “going on holiday”. “Going on holiday” usually means spending a relaxing time away from home, perhaps somewhere sunny, where you can lie on the beach, see the local culture a bit, eat some nice dinner, get a sun tan and generally take time away from work. “Travelling” on the other hand is slightly more adventurous. It’s not just about taking time off work. It’s also about having experiences, coming face to face with a totally different way of life, taking risks, moving around a lot, challenging your view of the world a bit, broadening your horizons, meeting people, investing in your future, seeing the world. When you go on holiday you take a suitcase. When you go travelling you take a big backpack. When you go on holiday you might do very little. When you go travelling you do all kinds of adventurous things, and fill your time with rich experiences.

When you go on holiday you might stay in a hotel, or in a rented house or apartment. When you go travelling you might stay in a guesthouse, a backpackers hotel or even a tent. You might not know where you’re going to stay from one day to the next. You might go for several days without having a shower. You might eat local food that you’ve never tried before. The aim is often to get yourself into slightly difficult situations on the road, as a way of coming into contact with a different culture and a different way of life, with a view to learning about yourself, building character and having experiences that you can look back on later in life. There are some risks involved in travelling, but there are rich rewards to it too.
I’ve done a bit of travelling in my time, as you know. I’ve lived abroad, but I’ve also travelled around countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and parts of India. My girlfriend hasn’t done as much as me. For example she’d never been to South East Asia before. She really wants to do more travelling before we eventually have kids and can’t go off on adventures any more. These days I’m slightly more interested in having holidays than travelling experiences. After all, living away from home every day in France can feel like a travelling experience, and I often fancy having some relaxing time in the sunshine, catching up on some book-reading, swimming in the sea, talking and enjoying dinners on restaurant patios. I must be getting old. However, I’m still up for travelling, especially since my girlfriend is so keen. It’s just that I know what it involves sometimes – that travelling so far and coming in direct contact with such different cultures can be eye-opening and wonderful but also confusing, risky and even a bit scary at times. Sure, you can go to countries where the economy is less developed, and you can benefit from a big difference in the exchange rate (your Euros become far more valuable when you travel to countries where the currency is not worth that much) but you also have to tolerate the different conditions, different standards of service and cleanliness, a more ‘flexible’ approach to timekeeping, a lack of European style ‘health and safety regulation’. But, these are the reasons for travelling – to get away from all the ordinary boring and safe aspects of life in Europe and experience something quite different, even challenging, and then learn from it all. I just hoped that my girlfriend knew what to expect. I mean, she has pretty high standards already in Europe, and might turn her nose up at a slightly dusty airbnb apartment in Berlin, or refuse to take a shower in a hotel in Rome until room service has cleaned it again. She can’t handle spicy food, always gets bitten by mosquitoes and can’t tolerate bad smells or noise in the atmosphere at night. I love this girl dearly, I really do. I’m going to marry, but she can be a little hard to please sometimes. I did wonder how she’d handle the trials and tribulations of travelling, which often involve staying in hillside backpacker hostels which advertise themselves as 3 star but by French standards are more like “no star”, eating mysterious local food off plastic tables at roadside barbecues, dealing with incessant hawkers and fake tour guides who constantly hassle you for money and business, trusting your faith to unlicensed taxi drivers who can’t speak English, the smoke and noise of a million scooters buzzing all around you all day and all night, the battle against mosquitoes involving spraying chemicals all over your body, sleeping under mosquito nets at night and taking anti-malaria pills which give you indigestion and weird dreams at night, and the fact that you can’t drink the local water and have to be constantly wondering if the salad on your plate or ice-cubes in your drink might contain some nastily little bacteria that will cause you to spend 24 hours of your hard-earned holiday in a toilet (if you’re lucky to have access to one).
“Don’t be negative!” She said to me again and again as I warned her of these things. She was right, I was being negative, but I felt I had to mentally prepare her for all these things, so that she wasn’t too shocked when it did happen. I had been shocked by travelling experiences before, and I just wanted to share my wisdom and make sure she was ready. I remember for example, on my first trip to India, arriving at the airport in Goa and being immediately set-upon by almost everyone – people following me and my cousin around, hassling us for taxi rides, to buy stuff, to just give them money. We hardly had a chance to get our bearings and it was as if the whole world had descended on us. Lots of people were hassling us, quite a lot of begging, and some little tricks by people as a way to get us to give them a bit of money. “Grift” we called it. Meaning that everyone you meet is ultimately on a mission to get their hands on some of your dirty western money. I know that’s a little cynical, and not everyone is like that in India of course, but in certain places – especially just outside the airport, it can be very intense and overwhelming. That’s how it feels anyway. Some of the grifters are really smart, and they will often make friends with you, even give you very good advice but then they will ultimately be selling some goods or service to you and you feel strongly obliged to give them money for things that you really don’t want, paying prices which you’re sure are too high, feeling guilty about not wanting to pay as you know full well that your money is worth so much more, feeling confused about the impact of your mere presence on the local culture – as if somehow by bringing your money, your spending power into this relatively poor place you are encouraging the locals to feed off tourism and take part in this seedy & desperate “hard sell” culture. It often happens too quickly for you to process – what should I pay, should I buy things at all, should I give my money away, should I refuse, should I be sympathetic, or am I just being a sucker? It can be quite overwhelming, and as I said, you can feel a bit mixed up and guilty. “I just came to see some of the beautiful countryside, glimpse the culture, experience something ‘real’, and have experiences” is what you think, but perhaps that’s a selfish attitude, and you must realise how your presence in these places affects the local people. Can we expect to travel from our wealthy cities and just enjoy all the benefits of these developing countries, without having the responsibility to look after the people who live there? Can we just come in, eat their food, see their ancient temples, enjoy their beaches and yet not acknowledge the impact that our presence has on their way of life?
Maybe I am just being negative, but these are some of the thoughts that run through my head when I’m travelling. It’s not only those things of course – I’m also fascinated, amused and impressed by the places I visit, but still, I do think about these things too.

Also, I’m sure the locals are usually quite happy to have us visit their countries. We bring in lots of tourist money, and give them a chance to meet people from different cultures too. Anyway, I’m just saying, it can be a bit complicated being a tourist, but perhaps that’s just because I’m a complicated tourist.

So my girlfriend assured me that she’d be fine with the conditions, and so we agreed, “Yeah, let’s go travelling this summer, even just for a couple of weeks! It’ll be awesome and we’ll have experiences that we’ll never forget! Let’s not just go to the mediterranean, we can do that when we’ve got kids. Let’s push the boat out and visit some stranger shores.” Suddenly I was really looking forward to another travelling experience again, but this time with my future wife along for the ride.
We settled on Indonesia after quite a lot of searching. We had considered Mexico, but decided we’d need more time, and we weren’t sure of the weather in some parts of the country in August (although I’m sure it’s great and we plan to visit soon – it has so much to offer), we considered Jordan but decided it would be just too damn hot, especially near the dead sea where it can reach temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius in August. In the end we went for Indonesia, but even then two weeks was clearly not enough. We booked our flights in and out of Jakarta, and then planned a basic itinerary.
What I’ve just read to you was written, partly when I was there on holiday, and partly just after coming back.

Indonesia Experiences (notes, but not a full script)
Now I’d like to just speak in an unscripted way about the experiences we had on our travelling holiday in Indonesia. Eventually, I will describe our experience of climbing mount Rinjani, followed by the boat journey which I described at the beginning of this episode.

Indonesia is an archipelago – over 13,000 islands. Some of the main islands being Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumatra and Komodo.
Positioned in South East Asia just below Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam, to the east of the Indian Ocean and north of Australia. It’s really far away from northern Europe. It’s almost on the other side of the world!

The place is famous for a number of things, including its local culture of music, dance, puppetry and textiles. It has a mix of different religions, including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism which all combine to enrich the culture. The climate in August is hot and sunny, slightly humid. There are some big, bustling cities full of markets, street side restaurants and cafes and religious sites. In the countryside there are plenty of volcanoes, many of them still active, and beaches with white sand and coral reefs. It’s also famous for the friendliness of its people.

It’s possible to spend lots of time there. We only had 2 weeks, which isn’t enough time to see everything and also relax. We tried to combine travelling & activity, with some downtime relaxing on the beach.

Bali is probably the most famous tourist destination, and every year thousands upon thousands of tourists visit the island, many of them from Australia. We decided to miss Bali, to avoid the tourists if possible. In the end we chose to spend some time on Java, visiting Yogyakarta city and its nearby temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. We also wanted to see several volcanoes on the island – Mount Bromo and Kawa Ijen, both of which are said to be incredible sights to behold, particularly at sunrise. In the end we didn’t see these places, just because of lack of time and in an effort to avoid spending too long in the back of a car, driving to each site. It’s a pity that we didn’t see them, but we thought we’d make up for it by spending 3 days climbing another famous volcano – Mt Rinjani on the island of Lombok. So, we flew to Lombok spending several days in a beachside area called Senggigi before doing the 3 day trek up Mount Rinjani. We planned to spend the last 3 days of our trip on a tiny island called Gili Air, just off the coast of Lombok. I’ll tell you more about it later.

Planning a travelling holiday is like ordering a pizza – keep it simple. I have a theory that you can spoil a pizza by adding too many toppings. Just keep it simple and put a maximum of 3 toppings on the pizza. It’s the same with this kind of travelling holiday – don’t try to pack in too many things. You’ll end up spending most of your time carrying a backpack around, stuck on a bus or in the back of a taxi. You can’t try to visit too many places. You’ve got to slow down and just try to do a few things.
Also, time moves pretty slowly in these places, and you can’t expect everything to happen in a punctual manner. All it takes is for one bus to break down on the road, or for one flight to be delayed, and you’ve lost a day. Stuff happens on the road, you can be sure of it. So don’t plan too much, you’ll just spend all your time moving from A to B. That’s why we tried to keep it simple and not do too much.

First Impressions / Differences
It immediately feels both relaxing and chaotic at the same time. It’s relaxing because people live at a slower pace.
People’s lives seem more simple (not necessarily worse).
People are friendly and smiling.
The locals seem curious, and perhaps judgemental – but ultimately they’re friendly and nice.
I wonder what they must think of us foreigners.
It’s cheaper.
SO many scooters!
It seems more basic, low tech. E.g. scaffolding made of bamboo.
The people are very musical. I was impressed by the traditional music, which seems to be a bit like electronic ambient dance music I used to listen to in the 1990s.
It’s made by great teams of musicians who play different parts on various percussion instruments, like xylophones, or bells, some of them very large which make deep bass sounds. We were struck by the musicality of the people. We saw lots of live music – either traditional or modern, and the locals just seem to be naturally musical, with music playing in the background in lots of situations. Sometimes we overheard traditional music being played live nearby somewhere – that deep bass sound booming through walls.
Islam is the primary religion. The call to prayer is a regular sound and happens during the day and first thing in the morning, often at 4.30AM.

End of Part 1. Click here for part 2.

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192. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.1)

This episode is all about common complaints made by foreign students living in London. It’s common to experience some level of culture shock when dealing with the realities of living in the capital city as a foreign visitor. In this episode I’ll try and clarify some of the confusions and frustrations relating to every day life in London. Click here to download this episode. Click here for part 2 of this episode.

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I lived in London for many years and while working as an English teacher there I heard a lot of complaints from foreign students. I also heard plenty of nice comments of course. But in this episode I’d like to focus on the complaints in order to try and explain or demystify them. Fair enough – some of the complaints are valid, but often they are the result of those students/visitors experiencing culture shock related to living in an environment that was not normal for them, or for which the cause was not obvious. It’s important to find reasons for cultural phenomena that you don’t understand because it prevents you from coming to false conclusions about that place. I don’t want people just assuming that the English people are just strange. I mean, we are a bit strange of course, just like anyone, but a lot of the things we do are quite normal when you see it from our point of view. So, what are those common complaints? And what are the reasons for these strange and annoying aspects to English life? Perhaps the Londoners have got it wrong and they do things in the wrong way, or perhaps the foreign visitors just don’t see the whole picture. Listen to find out more.

What’s in this Episode?
*There is so much to say on this subject that I expect it will be divided into two episodes!*
1. Some short interviews with my colleagues in London, in which we discuss these common complaints.
I wanted to find out if my colleagues could explain some of the weird or annoying things about life in London. You can hear our responses in this episode. Some expressions and phrases from that recording are written on this webpage (below).
2. My responses to the complaints, and some explanations.
I’ll try and explain the reasons for these particular aspects of London life as well as I can, and I’ll decide if the complaint is fair or not.

It’s not all Negative
The cup is usually half-full! Of course, foreign students in London have plenty of great things to say about the place. Certainly, there are more positive things than negative, but I find that when students have lived in London for a little while, and they start to come face to face with the realities of living here, they start to develop little gripes (complaints) about the place, which can confuse and frustrate them. Let me try and clarify!

The Complaints about Life in London (commonly said by students of English)
Here’s a list of some of the typical complaints made by foreign students studying in London, and some notes relating to my responses that you can hear in this audio episode. You might find some of the complaints bizarre – that’s normal. I found some of them really bizarre when I first heard them, but you have to remember that the people who said these things came from countries in which the situation is quite different. They’re all completely true, and very common comments. After each complaint I will judge of the complaint is “reasonable” or “not reasonable”, and then I will “reject” or “accept” the complaint. If you don’t agree with my decisions, leave a comment explaining why!

1. “Why do you have a separate hot tap and a separate cold tap? I’m always scaulding my hands.”
The old 2-taps issue! It’s due to the development of plumbing, lack of water pressure, and separate water supplies.
Interview with Karen Robertson. Last year Karen contacted me after reading a blog post I wrote on “Two Taps in the Bathroom” on the London School of English Blog. She lives in London, but is originally from South Africa. She was studying a MA in digital journalism at London Goldsmith University, and was doing a video project on foreign students’ reactions to London’s plumbing system, specifically the two taps issue. She wanted to interview me for the project. I recorded the interview and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to let you listen to the conversation. Karen has researched the issue a lot and is able to give some pretty good reasons for the two taps in the bathroom mystery! (Karen gave me full permission to include this interview on the podcast).

2. “Why don’t you have electrical sockets in the bathroom? How am I supposed to dry my hair after I’ve had a shower and look in the mirror at the same time?”
This is because we consider it to be dangerous and there is legislation to protect people from being electrocuted.

3. “The food is so plain and unhealthy”
Why is English food so bad? Most of the famous stuff is based on ‘working class recipes’ – the recipes of poor people who had limited access to ingredients and who had to make food that would keep or was portable. This food is often specific to local regions, and naturally people are proud of their local culture and so they celebrate the food, and it becomes part of our tradition. The rich people had food too, but it’s pretty exclusive stuff and very expensive. A lot of our good food is seasonal. A lot is cooked privately, at home. Also, we have been very international for many years. English food is Indian, Chinese, French etc. We eat YOUR food, thanks very much. I think it was John Cleese who said that English food is bad because we were too busy taking over the world to focus on cooking.

4. “The weather is miserable. It’s always raining”
Why is British weather so bad? It’s not that bad, it’s just changeable. Geography – we’re far north of the hemisphere and that’s just what happens up there! Deal with it. Also, it doesn’t get foggy in London like the stereotype. That’s an old myth. We had the industrial revolution which brought lots of smoke which combined with fog from the river. The result was old victorian smog made famous by Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes stories and others. The weather’s not that bad really, just a bit grey and chilly. The rain means the country is very green. The weather in Paris is pretty much the same.

5. “Why on earth do you drive on the left? It’s like you have to do everything differently here”
Why do the brits drive on the left? We’re not that stupid actually. We’ve been doing it for centuries, ever since it was normal to ride on the left as a way of staying safe (keep your sword in your right hand to defend yourself on horseback, etc). It should make sense, right? Remember, left is right, and right is just wrong! Also, it’s not just us. Plenty of others do it too including India, Japan, Australia and large parts of Africa. Sure, most of the world drives on the right, but it would be pretty hard for us to switch. Actually, our government is considering introducing a new law so that we will all drive on the right, but they’re going to phase it in over a 5 year period. First it’ll just apply to busses, and then cars, and finally motorbikes. Those last two sentences were a joke. Well done if you noticed :P

6. “The trains are always late, and when they arrive they are full and I can’t get on!”
This is the result of a combo of one bad decision by the government, privatisation and a powerful union for the tube.

7. “Why are there so many foreigners here? I haven’t met a ‘real’ English person yet”
Why are there so many foreginers here? Oh the irony. You won’t make many British friends with that attitude, except for UKIP or BNP members but they might not want to be friends with you in return. Generally, we’re a proudly multicultural place. Also, London is much more multicultural than other parts of the UK, so it’s not an accurate representation of the country as a whole. Take a good look around before making a sweeping judgement! Also, this is partly due to Britain’s past, particularly London. At one time, the British empire spanned the globe. We’ve had interests and dealings with many foreign countries for many years. We’re tied to plenty of foreign countries in complex ways. This is reflected in the fact that we have a multicultural population. Many people have come from our former colonies. Some were invited after the war. Also, lots of people just want to come to The UK because there are plenty of opportunities here, and why should they be stopped? It’s quite hypocritical to complain about the number of foreigners in London when you’re a foreigner (even if you’re just visiting for a while). London has an appeal for many people and for many different reasons. It always strikes me as ironic when a foreign visitor turns their nose up at London saying, “there are too many foreigners here”. What did they expect? Diversity is an integral part of London’s history and identity. Do they really expect some kind of Hollywood stereotype of London in which business men with top hats wander around empty streets like it’s the 1950s, saying “Good morning” with received pronunciation accents? Wake up and smell the coffee. Welcome to the real world in the 21st century. Multiculturalism may not be normal where you’re from but London is a proudly diverse place. Regarding immigration, some people in Britain believe it has gone too far, and maybe they have a case and the local culture is somehow being swamped, or maybe they’re just using immigration as a scapegoat for other problems. Whatever the case, personally I find it very disappointing to hear students complaining about London’s diversity. The bit about “I haven’t met a real English person yet?” – well, what is a real English person I ask you? Also, if you walk around with that kind of attitude, you’re unlikely to make good friends with many Londoners, except perhaps UKIP supporters.)

Vocabulary Extracts from the Conversation with my Colleages
Look at the following language from the conversations. These are vocabulary extracts from the conversation with my colleagues in London.
Look at the phrases:
Which topics were they about?
Can you remember what each person said about these things?

Listen again to the conversation and try to notice the phrases as they are used. In the podcast I’ll explain these phrases to you a little bit.

Time and time again
Maybe it’s because it’s a much drier climate
A lot of English people are lazy when it comes to …-ing
We don’t have any call for other languages
Apart from English, learning languages isn’t fun

Let’s see
The server
Stuff like that
I tend to agree
I can understand that
Get run over
We’ve got that weird mentality
We’re stupid aren’t we

Come up with (come up with a list of things)
What do you reckon? I mean, like, why?
In the olden days
Environmentally friendly
Have something on tap
To have running water
To count yourself lucky

I must dash
I’m sorry Luke, really, I have to dash

They’re always griping and moaning
To be honest, they do like England a lot otherwise they wouldn’t come here
Get irritated
Now tell me if this is weird, or not, right?
Washing up liquid
That could’ve been my house. That could’ve been me.
How else would you do it?
Sorry, I didn’t catch that
You have to soap them all individually, then rinse them
It’s got soap left on! It’s got the residue!
Can I just clarify what we’re talking about?
Put them under running water
Run them under the tap


173. The Curse of The Lambton Worm

Listen to a disturbing story from English folklore about a horrendous and mysterious worm.

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The Lambton Worm is a legend from the north east of England in the UK. The story takes place around the River Wear, in the town of Lambton and at Penshaw Hill which is between Durham and Sunderland in the north east of England. It is one of the area’s most famous pieces of folklore, having been adapted from written and oral tradition into pantomime and song formats, which are still performed to this day. I’m going to keep up that tradition here on Luke’s English Podcast by telling you my version of the story.

The tale is about a man called John Lambton, who was the heir to the Lambton Estate in County Durham, and his battle with a giant worm (dragon) that had been terrorising the local villages. As with most myths, details of the story change with each telling. I’m not from that part of England, but I love this story because I remember reading about it in a book of monsters that my brother used to have when we were kids. Remember before I told you about a ghost book that I used to own when I was a kid? Well, my brother had a similar book, from the same series, and it was all about monsters. I was fascinated by these books (Click this link to read some pages of those books!) So was my brother. I remember there was a picture of John Lambton fighting the worm, and a brief account of the story. It was fascinating, horrific and exciting for me as a kid, and the memory of the story has stayed with me. There’s just something about an old scary story that really excites me. I think this one must be a good one because it has endured for hundreds of years. It dates back to the time of the crusades, so about 1,000 years ago – medieval times. If a story survives that long, being told over and over again and being handed down through the generations, it must mean there must be something in it which interests people.

This is a local legend from country Durham and I expect it’s a strong part of their local culture. There’s an old folk song which tells the story, and it is still sung in old pubs by beer-drinking men with beards and acoustic guitars. I love those old folk songs. It’s proper traditional culture, as performed and told by real local people. I’m not from that part of the country, I’m from the midlands, and the south, but the story means something to me because of the connection I have with it from childhood. Also, I just think that you might like to hear it.

I’m going to tell you the story in my own way. It’s normal for folk tales like this to be changed by the storyteller, and there is no official version of the story – just a general outline. The details get adapted and improvised by each storyteller. So, I’m going to give you my version, which means that I will stick to the main elements of the story, but yes, as usual I will be improvising a lot of other details too. The challenge for me is to try and make it engaging, and entertaining and understandable for you. As well as practising your English, we can also consider what makes a good story. I think it’s about the passion of the storyteller, and the attention to certain details. Your challenge is to follow the story, and perhaps learn it well enough to be able to tell your friends, if you fancy that. Just remember to mention that the roots of this story are in the folklore of the county Durham area, in the North of England. It’s important to remember that this is a bit of local culture. If you’re from that area, and you’re  listening to this – I hope you don’t mind my version of the story, and realise that, really, I love this story too and I’m just adapting it a little bit for the purpose of letting people practise their English listening.

lambton worm pic

Illustration by John Dickson Batten from More English Fairy Tales.

The Main Elements of the Story
Note that I use past tenses to tell my story (past simple, past perfect & past continuous) but below the story is presented using present tenses.
John Lambton is the heir to the Lambton Estate – so he’s a young member of the gentry. A landowner from a fairly rich and well known family in the area.
He’s a rebellious character.
He skips church and he skips school.
He doesn’t care. He just loves fishing. He disrespects his parents.
He skips church one Sunday, and goes fishing.
He meets an old man – an old hermit, who tells him that no good will come of skipping church. He ignores the old man, and yet it puts him in a bit of a bad mood.
He catches nothing all morning.
Then, as the church bells are ringing for the end of service, he gets a bite on his line.
It’s a powerful bite and he has to wrestle hard to bring in the catch. The water crashes around and gets deeply churned up. He fights hard and brings in his catch.
It’s a truly disgusting and horrifying catch.
It’s a slimy and wriggly black worm. It’s dripping slime, it’s writhing and snapping, and it stinks.
He brings it to rest on the soil. It sits there breathing, completely malevolent. It has 9 holes down the side of its mouth, and John can’t really make sense of its other features. It’s really weird, and makes him feel sick.
He pukes, quite hard. What the hell is this thing?
He takes another look at it, and it opens its eye. It’s yellow and red, and it seems to look right into his soul.
This is a life-changing moment, although he doesn’t realise it.
At that moment, the old man reappears, and says with some certainty that he senses the work of the devil, and that Lambton is now responsible for this worm.
Lambton can’t throw it back, so he quickly puts it in his basket, to carry it home.
On the way back, the basket is so heavy and the worm keeps thrashing around inside it, and hissing. Even when it’s still, the basket seems impossible to carry. It’s so heavy, but also, he feels miserable. The good mood he was in at the beginning of the day has been replaced by a very grim feeling of depression. It’s like he’s suddenly aware of all the time he has wasted, and how everything seems quite hopeless, including his family  life.
He can’t take it any more, and feeling desperate, he chucks the worm into a nearby well. The worm struggles quite a lot, but down it goes. Lambton waits to hear the worm hit the bottom, and it does, after a pause, with a splash.
He quickly goes home.
Feeling guilty, and more aware of his responsibilities, he decides to join the army in order to fight in the crusades, as much out of guilt as duty to his family and the church.
He goes to Palestine to fight in the crusades. He’s away for 7 hard years in which he sees many things, makes many friends and sees many friends die in battle. He becomes a man.
Meanwhile, back at home, the worm is still alive in the well. The well becomes infected, and causes anyone who drinks from it to become violently ill, and die, with horrible symptoms.
The worm grows inside the well, and after it has reached a massive size, one moonlit night, it slides out from the well, and it’s massive. It wraps itself around the local Penshaw Hill – several times, and lies there waiting, warming itself in the morning sun. It’s a hideous and vicious creature. It has small legs, with claws on the end, which it uses to scrape and scratch the earth. It is incredibly long, and it slithers like a snake. It’s covered in smooth yet tough scales. Around its head it has a mane of rubbery spikes. The 9 holes that run along the side of its face, under its jaw, ooze a nasty black slime which burns the grass and sends an evil black smoke into the air. It coughs up the bones and remains of the bodies it has eaten, leaving this foul waste on the ground wherever it rests. Its eyes are yellow and deep, and malevolent. It has rows of razor sharp teeth like a shark’s except that they’re black and yellow, and his eyes, like that of a shark, roll back into its head when he takes a bite, leaving him looking white-eyed and blind during its moments of feeding frenzy.
It attacks a local farmer, squeezing him to death after he tries to fight it with his pitchfork. It then eats all his cattle, and his dead body, before returning to the hill.
It then terrorises the area, eating cattle and sheep, and wild animals.
The countryside becomes deathly silent, as it is all scared or killed by the worm. It’s a foul and sickening presence which seems to poison the earth wherever it goes.
Its confidence grows and it enters town.
The town mayor, as an attempt to distract it, empties all the milk supplies from the market into a trough in front of the town hall. The worm eats it all, and returns to the hill, where it sleeps.
The best men of the town get together a fighting force and arm themselves with the best weaponry they can find, and go to attack the worm, but it’s in vain as the worm is very strong and ruthless. Whenever anyone manages to slice the worm, the pieces, shuddering, just grow back together again. The worm seems indestructible.
For the next 7 years, the town gives the worm almost all of its supplies of milk in order to satisfy it. The worm grows bigger, and the town gets more and more exploited, until people are starving to death, and all life is sucked out of the place. When no milk is provided, the worm angrily attacks the residents, killing and eating men, women and children.
John Lambton returns from the crusades a scarred man, but a man nonetheless. He has learned how to fight, and he carries a sword and a suit of armour.
He sees the state of the town, and learns about the worm from his father.
He realises it is the same worm that he discarded all those years ago, and immediately realises that he is responsible for the curse and must fight the worm himself.
He visits a local wise woman for advice. She tells him that the worm has cursed him, his family and the town, and that only he can kill it.
She tells him to visit the blacksmith, and to have spikes and blades fitted to his armour, and that he must  lure the worm into the river Wear before doing battle.
She also tells him that to lift the curse, after killing the worm, he must kill the next living thing that he sees.
Lambton gets his special suit of armour made, and arranges with his father that when he has killed the worm, he will blow a note on his hunting horn as a signal that he has won and that the father must release Lambton’s favourite hunting hound. The hound will run straight  to him and Lambton will kill it, lifting the curse.
He heads towards the hill and finds the worm.
The worm recognises him and uncoils itself from the hill, hissing, puking black bile and generally being hideous.
Lambton realises how difficult this will be because this worm is really big and strong looking. The worm approaches and he backs away.
He walks backwards towards the river, the worm steadily moving nearer and nearer, flanking him. Lambton gets very tired just walking in the armour – which is extra-heavy because of the fittings.
Eventually, he enters the water, which is cold.
The worm slides down the bank and raises itself up to strike.
They fight and whenever the worm attempts to coil itself around Lambton, it gets sliced up on the blades and spikes.
Lambton is so tired that all he can do is just try not to be washed away by the current. He hacks at the worm and struggles to breath. The fumes from the worm are poisonous. Each time parts of the worm are hacked off, they are washed away, and eventually, just a section of the worm is left and Lambton hacks off its head. The pieces can’t join back together and the worm is no more.
Lambton blows a note on his horn, but his father is so happy to hear it that he forgets to release the hound and instead he runs to see John. Lambton sees him , and is dismayed. he can’t bring himself to kill his father, and so the go back to the house and he kills his hound.
The wise woman appears and tells him that despite killing the worm, he failed to lift the curse and that for 9 generations, the Lambtons will not die in their beds.
injured and sick, Lambton collapses.
That’s the end of the story.

What does this all mean? You tell me.

This curse seems to have held true for at least three generations, possibly helping to contribute to the popularity of the story.
1st generation: Robert Lambton, drowned at Newrig.
2nd: Sir William Lambton, a Colonel of Foot, killed at Marston Moor.
3rd: William Lambton, died in battle at Wakefield.
9th: Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on 26 June 1761.
(General Lambton, Henry Lambton’s brother, is said to have kept a horse whip by his bedside to ward off violent assaults. He died in his bed at an old age.)

The Old Folk Song
Here is Tony Wilson singing the folk song in the local dialect
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsO7SeCvgMw&w=500&h=375%5D
Song Lyrics
Here are the lyrics with some meanings added too. Remember, this is sung in an old dialect. Not many people actually speak in this dialect any more, although there is a distinct accent from that region.

One Sunda morn young Lambton went
A-fishing in the Wear;
An’ catched a fish upon he’s heuk (=caught) (=his hook)
He thowt leuk’t vary queer. (=thought looked very strange)
But whatt’n a kind ov fish it was (=what kind of)
Young Lambton cudden’t tell-
He waddn’t fash te carry’d hyem, (=could not be bothered to carry it home)
So he hoyed it doon a well (=threw it down)
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, (=Be quiet, boys, shut your mouths)
An’ aa’ll tell ye aall an aaful story, (=I’ll tell you all an awful)
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An’ Aa’ll tel ye ‘boot the worm. (=about)
Noo Lambton felt inclined te gan (=go)
An’ fight i’ foreign wars.
He joined a troop ov Knights that cared
For nowther woonds nor scars, (=neither wounds)
An’ off he went te Palestine
Where queer things him befel,
An varry seun forgat aboot (=very soon forgot about)
The queer worm i’ tha well.
But the worm got fat an’ grewed an’ grewed,
An’ grewed an aaful size;
He’d greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An greet big goggly eyes.
An’ when at neets he craaled aboot (=nights) (=crawled around)
Te pick up bits o’ news,
If he felt dry upon the road,
He’d milk a dozen coos. (=cows)
This feorful worm would often feed (=fearful)
On caalves an’ lambs an’ sheep,
An’ swally little bairns alive (=swallow) (=children)
When they laid doon te sleep.
An when he’d eaten aall he cud (=all he could)
An’ he had had he’s fill,
He craaled away an’ lapped he’s tail (=wrapped)
Ten times roond Pensha Hill.
The news ov this myest aaful worm (=most)
An’ his queer gannins on (=goings-on)
Seun crossed the seas, gat te the ears (=soon) (=got to)
Ov brave an’ bowld Sor John.
So hyem he cam an’ catched the beast, (=home he came and caught)
An’ cut ‘im in twe haalves, (=cut him in two-halves)
An’ that seun stopped hes eatin’ bairns
An’ sheep an’ lambs an’ caalves.
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the foaks (=now you know how all the folk)
On byeth sides ov the Wear (=both)
Lost lots o’ sheep an’ lots o’ sleep
An leeved i’ mortal feor. (=And lived in mortal fear)
So let’s hev one te brave Sor John (=let’s drink to brave Sir John)
That kept the bairns frae harm, (=from)
Saved coos an’ calves by myekin’ haalves (=making halves)
O’ the famis Lambton Worm. (=famous)

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

Hello! In this Christmas episode I am joined by Paul Taylor who is that rare thing; an English guy who can speak other languages.

Paul is also a stand-up comedian who specialises in observing funny things about different cultures. He is also really good at doing different accents.

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In the episode we talk about Christmas traditions, his experiences of living in other countries and plenty of other things, including some examples of different accents in English. Enjoy the show!

Here is a video of Paul performing stand-up comedy around the world:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q2Xn6jEsdQ&w=500&h=281%5D
And here’s one from a performance in Spanish, with English subtitles:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1H5bpbSm30&w=500&h=281%5D

Here is a link to the Wkikipedia page for Fawlty Towers, which is the sit-com set in Torquay on the south coast of England. And, here’s a clip from the show. It’s old, but it’s a classic ;)
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-oH-TELcLE&w=500&h=375%5D

Merry Christmas everyone!


136. Cycling from London to Paris

A conversation with Ben Fisher about his long-distance cycling trip.

Right-click here to download.
What is the longest bike trip you’ve ever done? Have you ever run a marathon or walked a very long distance? In this episode, I speak to Ben Fisher, who just this weekend cycled all the way from The River Thames in London to La Seine in Paris, covering a distance of over 460km.

Listen to the podcast as Ben and I discuss the trip, the challenges, the pain, the joy and the enjoyment of this journey by bicycle. In our discussion you will hear lots of vocabulary relating to cycling and transport in general.
Click here to read Ben’s blog, in which he describes the journey and shows some photos. Thanks for listening to the podcast.
Have you ever made a long journey by bike? Leave a comment to tell us about it.
All the best, Luke

There is a google document with a transcript for this episode. Click here to read it.

118. Sick in Japan

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

Right-click here to download this episode.

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

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

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

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

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

probably when you heard that you thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see where should we begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was saying things like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what I was thinking.

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

– ”Okay”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– “Wow! This is nice!”

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

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

[26.00 Audioboo timecode]

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

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

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

– “Wow! The Sun! Finally!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I remember looking at one of them and thinking

– “I know him. How do I know him?”

and then, as I walked past him, I realised

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

I went back. First of all I thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and I walked in


not exactly the best way to make a good impression.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. Right.

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

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

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

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

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

He showed me my results and he said:

– “This is what you liver should be”

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

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

I was thinking:

– “Okay. That’s really bad isn’t it?”

He said:

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

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

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

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

– “You’ve got the EB virus”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

all these sort of things.

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

Anyway, yeah.

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

Now, you’re probably thinking youself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

– “You have to go to hospital”

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

– “You will need an operation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and he was like

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for now – it’s bye bye bye.


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

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

That’s it!