Two very different journeys
Oh, Federico – what a nightmare! Your journey home from Oyon sounds horrendous. I can certainly imagine how stressful, frustrating and dangerous it was for you. (I had a similar experience in north-west China in the early 80s and I still remember it very well.)
However, it also sounds to me as though you have almost all the ingredients you need for a perfect South American short story: an exotic location (the mountain road); a dramatic situation (the landslide); plenty of characters (you and your team, the other drivers, the local people) and an adventure (the walk in the dark). Add a few philosophical observations – and perhaps a little romance – and suddenly you have a little masterpiece.
Have you ever written any stories? I’m sure your trips to the different mining towns must give you lots of material. I look forward to your first volume of stories (but I guess they’ll be in Spanish so I’ll probably need a translation!). Don’t forget me when you’re a rich and famous writer.
Well, after your adventure on the mountain road you deserve at least one day off to recover. Perhaps your sister will pamper you a little? Or are you supposed to be pampering her?
I know what you mean when you talk about being a little bit jealous. Your sister lives abroad. You don’t see her very often. You miss her a lot. Then, suddenly it’s Christmas and she’s coming home. You have been looking forward to it so much. But you didn’t think about the boyfriend. It’s natural that you feel a bit resentful. I guess he makes her happy. So you should be pleased for her. But I can understand that you want her all to yourself. Life is complicated, Federico, isn’t it? (This is beginning to sound like an agony column. Sorry.)
You need something to lift your spirits. Are you going to any Christmas parties? And how will you spend Christmas itself? When do you give and open presents? And are you going to tell us what you bought your girlfriend for Christmas?
Another journey. Yesterday I drove to the north of the country (England) to take Christmas presents to my sister and her family. They live in Darlington, a rather pleasant, medium-sized industrial town in the north-east, not far from Newcastle (you’ve maybe heard of Newcastle United Football Club? No? Well, they’re not very good!).
Anyway, I’ve got this terrible cold I told you about and I really didn’t want to drive for four hours non-stop on the motorway. But now that I’ve read your blog I realise that I have NOTHING to complain about. Lucy and I packed the car with Christmas goodies, half a dozen of our favourite CDs and a bag of oranges (I need the Vitamin C, evidently!) and set off.
Everybody else in Britain seems to have had exactly the same idea: the motorway (M25, M1, M18 and A1 (M) – just in case you can follow the route on a road map) was extremely busy. But Lucy is great company. We chatted about school, her studies, her friends and our Christmas plans. Then we listened to the radio for a bit, and soon it was dark and the little computer in my car warned me that the temperature was zero and the road was icy.
Sorry, Federico, but nothing exciting happened to us: no literary masterpiece from me. We arrived, unloaded the car, chatted for a while to my nephew, Thomas (a fifteen year-old rugby star-of-the-future), his glamorous girlfriend (at fifteen!!!) and my niece, Charlotte, who works in the movies – well, actually she works in a cinema. They’re a nice family and we get on well. My brother-in-law, Geoff, made us drinks and sandwiches and after an hour or so we set off back to London. Yes, that’s right, we hadn’t even seen my sister, Kim, who was at work. She works in a school in Durham, about half an hour away by car. But my cold (which, I think is really flu) was getting worse and I wanted to get home before midnight if possible.
The freezing weather had got worse and there were huge trucks on the motorway spreading grit and salt. We drove 550 miles (about 885 kilometres) in one day and my lovely little car is covered in dried mud and grit and salt this morning. Even with the flu, I have to take it to the car wash. That’s the next job on my list after I’ve posted this. So perhaps I’d better stop now. I was hoping to post you a photo of our Christmas tree to brighten up your day, but Lucy is out and I have to confess that I need her help with the software (I am so ashamed to admit this). If she’s back by the time I’ve finished the exercises and corrections there will be a photo posted with this, otherwise I promise I’ll post it tomorrow (or even this evening).
Take care, Federico. Enjoy your day off. Be nice to your sister’s boyfriend. Have some fun.
Talk to you again very soon.
With very warmest best wishes,
PS: I am reading Blinding Light by Paul Theroux (Penguin Books, London, 2006: ISBN 0-141-01573-X) at the moment. It is a novel, set in Ecuador, about a travel writer. Paul Theroux is one of my favourite authors. He’s from the US. If you like the novels of Graham Greene you will almost certainly enjoy the novels of Paul Theroux. He is also a successful and well-known travel writer. One of his best-known travel books is The Old Patagonia Express.)
SOME USEFUL WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS
Literally, a bad dream. Used idiomatically, like this, it means an awful or frightening experience.
a large amount of earth and/or rocks falling down the side of a mountain (A ‘landslip’ is a small landslide.)
an extremely good piece of work (most often used about paintings)
should be given something because you have earned it by doing some good action
a day off
a day when you don’t (have to) go to work
to look after someone very well indeed
feeling bitter or angry
nice things, presents, little luxuries
page or column in a magazine where you can find advice about personal problems
if someone is great company they are very pleasant to be with
for a bit
for a little while (idiomatic, conversational)
someone who will be a star, i.e. very successful, in the future
have a good relationship with
to brighten up your day
to make your day a little more pleasant
VERB FORMS – TENSES
It is important to be as accurate as possible, especially in written English. The different tenses allow you to be precise about exactly when something happened (or will happen) and whether it is completed or not. Below, I have selected 10 sentences from your blog. I have slightly edited and corrected some of them. I have also removed some of the verbs. Find each sentence in your blog. Complete each sentence with the verb in the correct tense. The answers are printed at the end of today’s blog.
1. I called my boss and he __________ me a free day.
2. I stayed underground on Saturday and Sunday so I __________ my work quickly.
3. I __________ to do some tests on certain rock types.
4. My team worked hard and we __________ ready to return to Lima on Sunday night.
5. It was at midnight when our driver woke us up and told us we _________ __________ stuck.
6. It always __________when it is rainy, especially in December, January and February.
7. I could not __________ it, we could only wait until the morning.
8. We would have to find a safe place to stay because if we stayed there we would __________ __________ by another landslide.
9. We could only wait until a special machine came and __________ to __________ the problem.
10. I __________ in Lima today at 8.00 am.
A FEW BRIEF NOTES
1. Don’t forget that nouns usually need an article (e.g. the hustle and bustle of…).
2. Prepositions: in months ('in December'), on days ('on Sunday', at times ('at eight o’clock').
3. Rewrite: sentence 5 in today’s first blog: My work consists of inputting data into the mining software.
ANSWERS: 1. gave 2. finished 3. had 4. were 5. had got 6. happens 7. believe 8. be covered 9. tried, solve 10. arrived
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