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Friday, 13 April 2007

My family, and other animals.

Hello again everyone.

Today I’d like to start with an apology: in my haste to finish my blog on Wednesday and prepare my lesson, I forgot to give you the solutions to Monday’s anagrams! Here they are – better late than never!

1. hreysctim = chemistry

2. sratsceeni = resistance

3. drnhoegy = hydrogen

4. tasayln = analyst

5. linsaasy = analysis

6. tobtun = button

Easy, eh?

Ana Paula, you asked me to say a little about my family and background. I grew up in a small, rain-soaked town called Lancaster in the north-west of England, with my Mum and Dad, my little sister Julia, and my grandmother, who passed away a few months ago at the ripe old age of ninety-seven. My Dad is an academic who teaches history to university students, and my Mum works for the NHS - she trained as a scientist, but now she works as a manager.

Julia is 18 months younger than me, and we are about as different as two people can possibly be. I’m quiet, prone to daydreaming and interested in philosophy and abstract ideas, while Julia is outgoing and practical and has a very successful career as a lawyer. People sometimes find it difficult to believe that Julia and I are from the same family. Nevertheless, I get on with her well. She got married in January to Nick, who’s also a very positive and outgoing guy. When Nick and I meet at family get-togethers we usually end up talking about our shared, secret love of computer games.
That’s it for my immediate family. I also have a large extended family, most of whom live in and around a small town called Ashbourne, about 50 miles south of Manchester. There’s my grandmother (‘Granny’, as everyone calls her), Aunt Mary and Uncle Morris, Aunt Petra and Uncle Steve, cousins Paul, Hannah, Freya, Henry and Lydia, and hundreds of others. It’s almost impossible to walk down the street in Ashbourne with my Mum or my grandmother, because it seems we’re related to almost everybody in the town - every 30 seconds we have to stop and say hello to some distant relative or some other.

Feijoada sounds delicious, but… cheese with fudge? CHEESE WITH FUDGE? Are you serious? If so, you are a strange, strange woman.

Thanks again for all your comments, and especially to Adriana from Brazil – a kind and sympathetic woman with an amazing knowledge of dental and medical vocabulary. I have followed your advice, Adriana, and made an appointment with a qualified dentist, so I think my teeth will be OK now. Leila from Finland – yes, I read ‘Darkness at Noon’ at university too, and I loved it. We also read Samuel Beckett, another favourite of mine. Have you read any of his books?

Romana from Italy asked about a newspaper headline: “Prince Harry to serve in Iraq”. The grammar of newspaper headlines often looks quite strange, because the writers shorten their sentences by missing out words. In this case, the word is has been omitted. The full sentence would read: “Prince Harry is to serve in Iraq”.

Sorry I can’t answer all your questions – but please, keep your comments coming. I always enjoy reading them.

Here’s today’s vocabulary:

Haste is a noun meaning high speed. In my haste to (do something) is a rather formal expression meaning, ‘because I was rushing to (do something)’. We normally use it to describe the negative consequences of rushing. For example:

‘In my haste to get home after work, I forgot to finish an important task.’ (I forgot to finish the important task because I was rushing to get home)

The phrase better late than never expresses the idea that it’s better to doing (or receiving) something late is not a perfect situation, but it’s better than never doing (or receiving) it at all.

I used the adjective rain-soaked to indicate that in Lancaster it rains a lot.

To pass away is a phrasal verb meaning to die.

We use the phrase at the ripe old age of to indicate that somebody was unusually old when something happened, or when they did something. For example, I learned to drive at the ripe old age of 25.

An academic is a person who teaches at a university. Academic can also be used as an adjective, meaning ‘connected to universities or university study’.

The NHS is the (British) National Health Service – a health-care system which is (at least partly) free to use. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find an NHS dentist at the moment!

If you are prone to something, this means that you normally do this, or this normally happens to you. For example, I’m very prone to colds – I always seem to have one!

An outgoing person enjoys talking to people and socializing.

To get on with someone well means to have a good relationship with that person.

Get-together is an informal word for party or social gathering.

A relative is a member of your family. My parents, my sister, my aunts and uncles etc are all members of my immediate family, but apart from them I have many, many distant relatives.

Fudge is a soft, sweet food made with butter and sugar. It should NOT, under any circumstances, be eaten with cheese.

Be careful with the word sympathetic. In many languages, a sympathetic person is simply a nice, pleasant, friendly person – but not in English! In English, a sympathetic person is somebody who cares about your problems.

To shorten is a verb meaning ‘to make something shorter’.

To omit something is to leave it out; not to include it.

I’ll be back in a day or two, to describe my favourite food and to explain why fish are, in fact, vegetables.

All the best,


Egg-rolling! (Thanks to cousin Paul for the photo)


Hi Alex, When Ana said “cheese with fudge”, In fact she wanted to say cheese with “doce de leite” (“confiture de lait” in French or “Dulce de leche” in Spanish). I don´t kwon how to say this word in English. “Doce de leite” is a traditional caramel like candy very popular in Brazil, especially in Minas Gerais where people like to eat it with cheese. All the best.

Hi,Alex! You´re a wonderful teacher,reading you I´´ve had a lot of knowledge.I´m a student only to learn english and this experience it´s so great! Sorry for the mistakes,you´ll understand,:)

I am learning english from BBC learning and i would be greaful if you help me in this way. I dont have any comment only one thing, the picture is very beauyiful . I wish you the best

Hi,i am glad to meet your lovely family from the photo.What a beautiful countryside scenery!!

Hi,i think it is amazing to walk along the street and say hello to every distant relative every 30 seconds.What a extended family and i wish i have one my own.You have a fantastic neighbourhood i dare say.Is Paul your cousin who work for BBC?Is that paul?(actually,i dont know him)I wonder why there is no animal in your blog although your blog title is my family and other animals.Have a nice weekend.

i'm ejoy yours much. i'm new here, i don't have much time to do this, i want to improve my English, you can help me to blog. how to do this, how to post thanks

Oh Alex...most kind of you. You asked for some help and I was just trying to help you. I have to apologise because I was with a terrible headache that night because I had been all the afternoon at the hospital with my little son who had to undergo a tomography and for this reason, he was sedated. You know...your mother might know...we health workers know the risks involved in this king of anaethesia and I was so worried and stressed my haste to write my loooooooooong comment to you and to Ana Paula, I couldn't do those exercices due to the headache. I was seeing little coloured stars between the letters. But maybe I have passed the wrong image of a perfect health care system we have here. I said we have it but not that it works perfectly. There is much to be done for the population and for us dentists. Although our president seems to be serious, our congressmen are firstly interested to double their salaries and not working on mondays or fridays. Sorry, I was a little bit carried away. Wow Alex, your grandmother almost has cracked the century! Tell us what were her lifestyle and secrets to be a healthy person. Beautiful image. I love green! And please, give a chance to us. Just taste a little bit of Ana Paula's sweet...and brush your teeth after that. Have a nice weekend.

May I send a message to Romana from Italy? Easter here has the same meaning of rebirth. We are in a huge country and there are lots of traditions here. Ana Paula has just mentioned one of them or she had to write a book and not a blog. Being in a country when the autumn is the season now, I can assure you that these jokes don't hit anyone and they don't use any comestible things to hit anyone.

Hello all, it was good to hear about our tutor´s family, don´t you agree? I am afraid that I have not read Samuel Beckett´s work. I know that he was influenced by many great writers including James Joyce, who is no doubt a genius, but for us “foreigners” his use of language is rather difficult. However I have been introduced to James Joyce´s work. Perhaps because Ana Paula was also interested in Samuel Beckett´s writings, you Alex would recommend something for us to read? If I remember correctly, he won the Nobel Prize in literature and he was Irish born like Joyce. I would be interested in novels and poetry. Peace and love to you all...

Your story is so interesting and I really enjoy very much.

Dear Alex, I enjoyed a lot reading about your family and I like the way you describe their members very much. Can I use it with my students as a perfect model of description of a family? The richness and variety of vocabulary and your explanations of unusal expressions are really a great help. Thanks! As for the "Rolling eggs " and other British Easter traditions I've always asked myself why is it the rabbit that brings or hides eggs in the garden? What has a rabbit got to do with eggs? Thanks a lot, all the best Alma

Dear Alex.. V. glad to hear that your most favorite food is Tom Yum Kung from my country. Tom-Yam means hot and sour soup and Kung means prawns Regards, Paula

h i,i'm vietnamese and i have just learned English on BBC for a few day. I find your blog by change, it is very hepful for me. thanks

hi.i like your story very much. i've just learned English on BBC for a few days and your blog help me much. Thanks

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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