Wise words from a dead man
Thanks for all your comments. It seems that no matter where you are in the world, finding somewhere to live that you can afford is very tricky indeed. All of you said that property prices are sky high and Jimmy in Shanghai joked that maybe the only way to afford to buy a home is to rob a bank – I know how you feel, Jimmy!
My best wishes go to Pilar in Spain and Hyoshil, who are experiencing their own housing challenges at the moment. I think probably Manas is right, and it’s easier to think about grammar than to think about property, which is indeed a nightmare.
I won’t give you the answers to the questions about articles from last lesson yet, as I don’t want to spoil it for Naheed, who I’m sure is just desperate to complete those tasks. :-> Just kidding! (Ooh, aren’t I evil, Naheed?)
So, seeing as I have made you all depressed by talking about property and how expensive it is, I feel it is now my duty to try to cheer you up again. I will do this by telling you about a dead man. Bear with me – all will become clear.
I was reading the newspaper a little while ago and I came to the obituaries page. There was an obituary of an American writer called Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve never read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s books (I think he writes science-fiction books?) but something in that obituary stopped me in my tracks. The writer of the obituary was talking about Kurt Vonnegut’s philosophy, and I can’t remember whether it was something Kurt Vonnegut himself said, or something that one of the characters in one of his books said, but it was basically something like this (I’m paraphrasing):
‘Almost every day, you’ll have a moment when you think ‘that’s nice’, or when you feel content. Notice those moments, and think to yourself: if this isn’t happiness, what is?’
This really struck me, because it’s so simple, but it’s so true. I don’t think it’s the big things in life, like flashy clothes, a big house or lots of money, that make us happy. It’s the small, everyday things. I guess Kurt Vonnegut is talking about a kind of constant, low-key happiness – not a wild, ecstatic happiness. I’m trying to remember this idea and build on it.
One time of day when I almost always feel happy is when I’m walking the dog, Raffles. I always see something pretty or something new. For example, this afternoon I went for a walk up to the top of the hill behind my house. And this is the view from there:
Isn’t it great?
Also, outside my kitchen window I have a bird-feeder. Every day, usually first thing in the morning and last thing at night, a kind of bird called a woodpecker comes to visit. It always makes me smile to see him pecking away at the peanuts I’ve put out. In this photo, you can see two woodpeckers – the fluffy one on the right is the baby, and the bird on the left I guess is the parent, because it feeds bits of peanuts to the fluffy one.
So, I’m trying not to think too much about the price of property in the UK. Anyway, I’m not going anywhere in a hurry, because Richard and I will probably need to save for another year before we can afford to get a place of our own. To do this, of course, you’ll need to talk to an estate agent. I don’t know whether it’s the same in your country, but estate agents in the UK have a language of their own. You need a special dictionary to decipher what they say. For example, here is a description of a flat written by an estate agent:
2bd grdflr flat, sea views, new kitchen units and bathrm. GCH, DG, OIEO £190,000. No chain.
It’s gobbledegook, isn’t it? Can you work out what any of it means?
This is an extreme example, but it does bring me on to my language point for today: context. Sometimes it’s not possible to look up words in a dictionary to find out what they mean. However, by looking at the context of an unfamiliar word (by that I mean the text that comes before and after the unfamiliar word), you can probably have a good guess at the meaning. Think about what part of speech the word is (noun? verb? adjective? etc.) and think about the meaning of the text. What is the sentence before and after the unfamiliar word talking about? You’ll probably be able to guess the correct meaning of an unfamiliar word more times than you’d expect. Which is why I’m not giving you all the explanations for the vocabulary listed below – some of them I have left blank, so see if you can work it out from the context – no dictionaries!
If you bear with someone, you wait patiently.
An obituary is an article about someone who has recently died. You’ll usually find an obituary in a newspaper.
stopped me in my tracks
Someone’s philosophy is what they think and believe.
When you paraphrase, you use your own words to explain a meaning or an idea.
Something that is low-key is gentle and restrained.
If you’re ecstatic, you’re extremely happy.
To build on something in this context means ‘to add’ or ‘increase’.
fluffy – covered in soft fluff
estate agent – you use an estate agent to buy or sell a home. They advertise properties and arrange viewings in exchange for a percentage of the sale price. They basically put the buyer and the seller in contact.
Answers to your comments
Tomo: Yes, there are still more pets to come. Maybe you’ll meet one of them at the weekend …
Uddhav: I can understand what you mean perfectly. Please keep writing!
Kailarai: I have found this page on the BBC Learning English site, which explains a bit about auxiliary verbs. Let me know if it’s useful. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv10.shtml
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