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August 2008

Friday, 01 August 2008


Hello everyone!! How lovely to be back on the blogs again. I’ve been enjoying reading them over the last year and hearing about everyone’s adventures. It’s funny that Simon has just come back to the UK as that’s where I am blogging from! I moved back to England with my family in March after almost four years in India and it’s taken a bit of getting used to (supermarkets still scare me a bit) but slowly I am getting to grips with everything and starting to feel settled. I can’t believe it’s five months since we left Delhi though – it feels like only yesterday! Anyway… enough about me.

Welcome Kiran! I’m so pleased to be working with you, and especially pleased that you are from Nepal. I visited your beautiful country in June last year and although we were only able to visit Kathmandu and Bhaktapur we thought it was amazing and are really hoping to go back and properly explore before too long. Here’s a photo of my husband, Ed, and son Louie hanging out on the lovely streets of Bhaktapur…

Louie’s a bit bigger now – he’s two and a half – and is a proper little boy. His favourite thing in the world is riding his bike up and down outside and getting up to mischief with the other boys who live on our street. Our other son, Oslo (Ozzy) is almost eight months old and he was actually with us in Nepal too, but he was only as big as a peanut so he won’t remember it ☺

Now I just have to say one thing Kiran before I go any further… in your blog you refer to yourself as a beginner. Well, you are most certainly not a beginner. While you might get frustrated sometimes, you can express yourself clearly and make yourself understood using a wide range of language and that’s great. Your writing is not bad at all – don’t get too hung up on whether you’re making mistakes or not – remember that language is for communication, it’s not about perfection, so if you can get the meaning across you’re 90% of the way there. Yes grammar is important but I think vocabulary is even more important for language learners… of course we’ll be having a look at both areas over the next month. Your friend Swanaam was absolutely right: watching TV programmes and listening to the radio in English is a great way to learn, as is reading. It doesn’t really matter what you read, watch or listen to as long as you are interested in it (after all, you can’t learn much if it’s so boring that you fall asleep halfway through ☺).

Here in England the government launched a big campaign a couple of years ago to try and get everyone to eat more vegetables called “5 a day” (meaning you need to eat five portions of vegetables everyday – some examples of ‘portions’ are a whole orange, a medium-sized tomato or three tablespoons of peas… you get the idea). SO I was thinking that this month, we should all make an effort to do the same thing with vocabulary – that is, learn 5 new words a day – whaddya think? Yes, I hear this new vocabulary diet is even catching on with celebrities all over the world! Ha ha. Maybe not. But let’s try it. 5 words a day. I’ll help by giving you some phrases and words as usual (some of which you might know already of course) but see if you can also collect them from elsewhere like newspaper or magazine articles. Don’t forget – write them down in a special vocabulary notebook (think carefully about the meaning, don’t just copy the definition from the dictionary), try and use them in sentences and review them often. I’m recommending five because you don’t want to overload yourselves and five is a nice round number after all, don't you think?

Okay that’s it from me today. Your homework, Kiran and everybody, is to go and find that vocabulary notebook that is gathering dust on a shelf somewhere (or buy one), and get going on your 5 a day. (If your vocabulary notebook isn’t gathering dust at all but in constant use then give yourself a pat on the back but still don’t forget your new diet!)

Here are some phrases from this post to start you off – (definitions next blog!)

To get used to something/someone
To get to grips with something
To get up to mischief
To get hung up on something
To get something across
To get the idea

Ooh it’s so nice to be back ☺

I'm looking forward to reading your next blog Kiran and comments from everyone else!

More soon,



Sunday, 03 August 2008

The mighty Morris

Hello again Kiran and all our readers, I hope you’re having a nice relaxing weekend, with considerably better weather than we are having! Although actually yesterday wasn’t too bad – we had a completely blue sky for a couple of hours without a cloud to be seen. That’s nothing according to my brother who lives in Madrid. He claims he hasn’t seen a cloud for over a month! Simon was absolutely right when he said that British weather is interesting because it’s so varied, and you know I don’t really mind it either.

We were lucky that it turned out all right yesterday as we went to a village fete. Village fetes are my new summer obsession… every village in England worth its salt has a fete each year which is basically a small festival and a chance for everyone to get out into the sunshine (hopefully), have a go at a traditional game like skittles* or a coconut shy** and sometimes raise a bit of money for something the village needs, like a new church roof or playground.

The one we went to yesterday was in Nunney, a small village near where we live. Now Nunney is your quintessential village apart from one rather extraordinary feature which I’ll tell you about in just a minute. Nunney has a lovely church with a well-kept graveyard, a village shop and post office, a duck pond, a small market square, thatched*** houses, a fabulous village fete every year and… a castle!! A castle?! Yes, unlikely as it may seem, the little village of Nunney has it’s very own fairytale castle complete with a moat. Here are a couple of photos for you:

As you’ll see in the middle photo we also got to watch a group of Morris Dancers doing their traditional dances. This style of dancing apparently dates back to the 15th century and, in a nutshell, involves a group of (mostly) men dressed in white, with bells attached to their legs, dancing around each other waving sticks or handkerchiefs in the air. Intrigued? Have a look here if you’ve never seen it before.

I’ve love to hear about the traditional dances in Nepal, Kiran, and from any of our readers’ countries. Does anyone have anything similar to Morris Dancing?

* Skittles is a bit like ten pin bowling – you roll a ball down a long narrow board to try and knock over some or all of the nine wooden ‘pins’ that are standing at the other end.
** A game where you have to throw a ball at a row of coconuts to try and knock one of them over – if you succeed you win the coconut!
***If you’d like to know a bit more about thatched roofs, have a look here at a post Jo Kent did about them last year.

Now I hope everyone is feeling fit and healthy on their new 5 a day diets (see my Aug 1 post if that doesn’t make any sense). Today I’d like to briefly look at something that you said in your first post, Kiran. Here you wrote:

“I was born … in a small village … I was grown up there with my parents and two elder brothers”

First of all I’d like to ask you if your village has any kind of annual festival, and secondly I’d like to have a look at the grammar you’ve used here. “I was born” and “I was grown up there” are both in what we call the passive form. As you probably know, we use this when the subject of the sentence is not the person or thing which does the action. So for example:

Paul drove the car. (Paul is the subject – the verb is active not passive)

The car was driven by Paul. (The car is the subject so the verb is in the passive form because obviously a car can’t drive itself).

So your first use of the passive ‘I was born’ is correct, because of course you can’t give birth to yourself! But what about the second… ‘I was grown up’. Who did the growing up? You? Yep! So you can’t use the passive form here, it needs to be active: ‘I grew up’.

For homework, can you write three sentences that start with ‘I’ that correctly use the passive form? They can be about anything that you like. For example… ‘I was born in England’, ‘I was given a lot of presents for my birthday’. Try and use different verbs!

Okay, that’s it from me. Time to wake Oslo up from his nap.

xx Amy

p.s. it’s stopped raining now, hurrah!

Definitions from last time…

To get used to something/someone – to become comfortable or happy with something or someone
To get to grips with something - to learn how to do something or understand something that is quite difficult
To get up to mischief - to do things that are a bit naughty
To get hung up on something - to worry or think about something too much
To get something across - to make something clear so it can be understood
To get the idea - to mostly understand something, although perhaps not all the details.

This blog’s words and phrases…

To turn out all right
To be worth its salt
A moat
In a nutshell

Tuesday, 05 August 2008

Long live the past!

Hi! Thanks for all your comments everyone, it’s great to hear from you all… I’ll reply to you individually in my next blog but just a quick thing to mention for our newer readers – don’t forget that there’s always going to be a gap between when you write your comment and when it appears on the website. This is because they are all read by the BBC Learning English team first before they’re uploaded to weed out the spam and things like that. If you post a comment over the weekend you probably won’t see it until at least Monday – Zaya you said you were disappointed because your first comment hadn’t appeared, but if you have a look now it’s there! Well done on the vocabulary definitions everyone, and your passive form sentences were absolutely correct Pritam :-) Kiran I hope you’ll have a chance to blog soon! We miss you!

Unfortunately the weather has been so atrocious here lately that I haven’t been up to much. We’re supposed to be on a camping holiday in Cornwall at the moment but instead we are taking refuge in my parents house waiting for the weather to cheer up a bit. We did have a nice day out yesterday though and went for a trip on an old steam train through the countryside. Here’s a photo for you:

There were carriages attached to the train which we sat in, but I took this when the engine was turning around.

The train station that it leaves from has been made to look just like a train station did in days gone by, with piles of old style suitcases and trunks and lovely old wooden signs – I sometimes wish that I’d been born a hundred years ago instead of now, I just love how things used to look and people used to dress – so much more stylish that these days! Of course this is a terribly romantic view of life back then, I’m sure things were a lot less comfortable in many ways… what do you all think? If you could press a button and go back in time to how things were 100 years ago, would you do it?

Now I’ve had a brainwave that I’d like to share with you. I was thinking it would be kind of fun to do an interview with someone for this blog and as I’ve been thinking about olden times a lot recently I thought it might be nice to do an interview with my Granny! That is, my Dad’s mother. She was born in 1922 and she grew up in the little fishing village of Polperro, the village where my parents now live (more about this village here). When she was a child her family used to run a dairy and would send out butter and cream to people all over the country by post, which seems kind of funny to me now. Anyway, rather than me thinking up the questions, I thought I’d make it your homework today, Kiran and everyone else – think of one or two questions that you’d like to ask my Granny and write them in the comments section. We can then have a look at the grammar of question forms, and I’ll choose my favourite questions and ask her to answer them… how does that sound? Try and write your questions before Friday so there’s a good chance of them appearing on the website before the weekend and then I’ll interview her on Saturday or Sunday and publish it early next week. Okey doke?

Time for a cup of tea.

xxx Amy

To turn out all right - to be okay even though there were some problems earlier
To be worth its/ones salt - deserving respect
Quintessential(adj.) - a perfect or typical example of something
Extraordinary(adj.) - very unusual or unexpected
Well-kept(adj.) – taken care of or looked after. Usually refers to a place.
A moat(n.) – a channel of water that goes around a castle to stop people from entering
In a nutshell - when you explain something ‘in a nutshell’ you explain it in the shortest way possible, without any unnecessary details
Intrigued(adj.) – very interested, wanting to know more

Today’s words and phrases:

To weed out
To take refuge
To cheer up
Days gone by
A brainwave
Okey doke

Thursday, 07 August 2008

Replies for everyone!

Hi there - great to hear from you Kiran! And thanks for such an informative post. I love the map showing where all the readers are, what a great idea! I'll comment on your post in more detail when I write my next blog... either later today or tomorrow.

Meanwhile here are some replies to all the comments that our readers have been writing. Remember that your comment might not have appeared by the time I wrote this but don't worry! I'll reply to any comments that appear later on next week.

Hi Beatriz - I hope you managed to find a notebook and that it’s a bit warmer now!

Hello again Wisarut - nice to hear from you! Louie is fine and enjoying playing with his little brother, I’ll post some photos of them both soon.

Hi Fuji - nice to meet you :-) I hope you’re managing to keep up the 5 a day… I think it’ll get easier once it becomes a habit.

Hello Silwal - great to hear from you again! Well done on the vocabulary from my first post but double check the meanings for ‘to get up to mischief’, ‘to get hung up on something’ and ‘to get the idea’. It must be nice having a student blogger from Nepal!

Hi again Hyoshil - ooh sounds like you’ve been having a tough time. I hope things are getting better. Thanks for the questions, we’ll have a look at them next week. I look forward to hearing more from you too :-)

Hello Christine - nice to hear from you. I’m glad you liked the 5 a day idea… keep it up!

Hi there Ana Paula - great to hear from you. Well done on the vocabulary definitions. Double check ‘a brainwave’ though – it’s not quite the same thing as a brainstorm. The Congada sounds really interesting, I’ll look it up on the internet. More soon!

Hello Djalma - how’s the 5 a day going? Try experimenting with different ways of recording the words, like using pictures, example sentences, putting similar words together, etc. It might help!

Hello Dante - nice to meet you. Yes, it’s the size of the supermarkets that I find scary! And there’s so much choice! It takes me hours to go shopping because I always try and compare the prices. I’ve always wanted to visit Montreal… must be nice living there.

Hi Betty - best wishes for your family too :-) Remember with language learning it’s better to do a little bit everyday rather than lots on one day and then nothing for a while.

Hello Paulraj - thanks for all your comments. Yep, looking after my kids is the hardest job I’ve ever had… it’s very rewarding though. I was so sorry to hear about the tragedy in Himachal – I heard about it on the news :-( Morris dancing also reminds me a bit of the dandia dances from Gujarat – have you seen them?

Hi Pary - great to hear from you again :-) Well done on the vocabulary – just double check the definitions with the ones I have posted. Sorry to hear about the blackouts :-(

Hi Mahjabeen - I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs and thanks for the link – I’ll have a look at it in a minute. Try doing those passive sentences again – the ones you’ve written are past simple active… if you say ‘I was sure’, ‘sure’ is an adjective, so it’s just in the past simple. Have a look here for some more help.

Hi Pritam - lovely to meet you. You’ve asked lots of questions so I’ll try and answer them… yes, I think many people in India have excellent English language skills and the numbers are only increasing. Louie and Oslo were both born in India, but they don’t get Indian citizenship :-( We’re definitely going to be back in India soon for a holiday – next year, hopefully. Castles and forts are almost the same thing, the architecture is just a bit different. You can find out more about the train we took here. More soon!

Hello Jorge - nice to meet you too! Hope to hear from you again soon.

Hi Cristina - I feel like I know you already as I read your posts when you were blogging in April! Lovely to hear from you. Your passive sentences are great, but I think sentences 2 and 3 would sound more natural in the active voice, what do you think?

Hello Redouane - thanks for the link, I’ll have a look when I’ve finished writing this. Great questions for my Granny – we’ll look at them next week. Thanks!

Hi Bruno - nice to meet you and welcome to the blogs! Hope to hear from you again soon.

Hello Maione - well done on the vocabulary, your sentences are very good and that’s a great way to learn the words. Keep it up!

Hello Zaya - that’s interesting about how Canadians say ‘getting to grips’. There are lots of little differences like that between British English and the other types. Hope to hear from you again soon!

Hi Leila - lovely to hear from you! I enjoyed reading all your posts when you were the student blogger. By the way, technically speaking it should be ‘kick up the butt’, not on :-) That’s so nice about your connection to Polperro, it is a very nice place. I’ll tell you all about where I’m living now soon!

Hi Concetta - the Occitanian dances sound very interesting. Have you heard of Breton dancing? It’s not quite the same but I like it a lot. I don’t think you’re being materialistic, I feel the same way! Well done on the homework.

Hi Habooba - hope the 5 a day diet is going well!

Hello again Filippo - congratulations on your job! I love that expression, half a loaf is better than none, I hadn’t heard it before!

Hi Trinie - just do as much as you can… I know it’s hard when you’re working full time. Try not to worry too much about making mistakes and remember… practice makes perfect! :-)

Hi James - nice to hear from you! I really enjoyed your posts too when you were the student blogger. :-)

Hello YPW - hope you are managing to do the 5 words a day! Just do as much as you can.

Hello Ricardo - thanks for your interesting question, we’ll have a look at it next week. Try experimenting with how you record the vocabulary – you might find that drawing a picture to show the definition is more memorable than writing it in words…

Hi Vijay - thanks for the interesting link, the dancing is amazing. It’s a bit more energetic than morris dancing though! :-) Your idea of recording your vocab on your computer is great. Try and concentrate on words which you think will be useful.

Hello Naweed - great to hear from you. I visited Kabul a few years ago and I remember experiencing lots of power cuts! We had lots in Delhi too. Hope to hear from you again soon!

Hi Ernesto - yes it was just like a story book. Thanks for your question for my Granny, we’ll have a look at it next week!

Hello Bereni - thanks for the questions from my Granny… I’ll post the interview next week!

Hello Felicitas - I’m sorry I didn’t get your earlier comment, perhaps it will appear later on. Thanks for the great questions, we’ll look at them next week!

Hi Adriana! Great to hear from you :-) I often wonder how you are doing and what you’re up to. Those are interesting questions… let’s see what my Granny says! More soon!

Hi Farha - thanks for all your great questions! I’ll choose some of them to ask my Granny and I’ll post the answers early next week :-)

Hello Bia - I’m sorry I don’t have the key on my keyboard to do the double dots above the ‘i’ in your name! Thanks for your questions… we’ll look at them next week.

Hi there Mauricio - yes I absolutely agree. I think we forget what a mine of information the older generations are. Thanks for the interesting question… let’s see what she says!

Hi Pilar - nice to hear from you. Thanks for the interesting questions! :-)

More soon!


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Camping and caravanning

Hi Kiran and everyone,

Sounds like you did everything right for your interview Kiran – tried to relax beforehand, got there in plenty of time etc. etc. Fingers crossed you get the job! What was the exam that you had this week? Hope it went well!

Yes I have visited the durbar squares in Patan and Kathmandu as well as in Bhaktapur and all were beautiful… such incredible architecture. I think my favourite was in Patan and we did a fantastic walking tour of the area as well including the ‘Golden Temple’ – have you been there?

We have just returned from a three day music festival, about an hour and a half from my parents' house. We only actually stayed there for two days (more on that later) but it was a lot of fun and we caught up with some friends we hadn’t seen for a while.

Like village fetes, musical festivals are a major feature of the British summer. People go to them to listen to bands, watch theatre and dance performances and chill out in the many stalls and cafes. Kiran you might be interested to know that about 50% of all the stalls at these music festivals seem to sell clothes and jewellery from Nepal and India! The most famous of these festivals is Glastonbury – almost 150,000 people go each year. The one we’ve just been to was a fraction of the size with perhaps 1000 people at most. At many of the festivals people camp in tents or caravans which brings me to the title of my post…

Camping has suddenly become really popular in England and apart from festivals, there are campsites all over the country that people can go to to enjoy the countryside. It’s a lot of fun and Louie absolutely loves it. Here’s a photo of our tent this weekend:

A slightly more upmarket way of camping is in a caravan. I expect most of our readers in Europe will be familiar with the site of these large objects trundling up and down the motorways during the summer, but my guess is that Kiran and our readers in Asia and elsewhere might not have seen them before. Here is a photo of my friend’s caravan.

As you can see, inside it’s just like a small house on wheels – they really are quite comfortable. Now earlier I mentioned that we only stayed for one night in our tent at the festival… can you guess why? Here is a little clue for you…

Yes, the British summer let us down again (despite blue skies on Friday!) and it absolutely chucked it down all day on Saturday so we packed up and headed back to my parents’ lovely warm, dry house :-) Our solution for next summer? Buy a caravan!!

Kiran, have you ever done any camping? How about everyone else?

Okay – down to work. Kiran I loved this sentence from your blog about Nepal: “Just like everything and everybody changes a little everyday, Nepal has also changed.” Very nicely written. However, I notice that you often forget to put in the articles (a, an and the) when you are writing and the next bit after that sentence was missing quite a few. Now this is probably one of the grammar points that you will find the most difficult as I’m pretty sure Nepali doesn’t have articles so don’t worry! You might like to do a little bit of revision on them here (introduction to articles), here (indefinite articles), here, (definite articles)
and here (the zero article). Phew!

I’d also like you to have a little look at this paragraph that I’ve taken from your second post and see if you can put in the missing articles… have a go!

“Just like everything and everybody changes a little everyday, Nepal has also changed. Before the ruling power was in ______(1) hand of ______(2) king, so it was a kingdom. Now it has become ______(3) republican country. ______(4) first president of Nepal was elected July 2008. Nepali people are patiently waiting for ______(5) new constitution in this 21st century with political stability as well.”

Okay well that’s enough from me today. Thanks again for all the questions you’ve sent in for the interview – I’m going to choose eight of them today and go and have a chat with my Granny later on.

More soon,


Definitions from my Wednesday post…

To weed out - to pick out and separate the ones you don’t want or need
Atrocious - awful, very very bad
To take refuge - to take shelter somewhere safe
To cheer up - when talking about the weather this means to get better/sunnier
Days gone by - in the past
A brainwave - an idea
Okey doke - an informal way of saying ‘okay’

Words and phrases from today’s blog (Don’t forget to try and look at the context to work out the meaning!)
To catch up (with friends)
A fraction of the size
To trundle
To let someone down
To chuck it down

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Home sweet home

Hello again,

We’re back home now and it occurred to me that I haven’t actually told you exactly where I’m living now so today’s the day to spill the beans… we’re living in a town called Frome, in the county of Somerset. It’s quite close to the beautiful city of Bath – I’ll try and do a post about that another day.

Frome is an interesting town which has been enjoying a bit of a resurgence over the last few years. It’s now considered a centre for the arts in this region and has several theatres and art galleries and a growing green movement. Historically it was famous for its weaving industry but as far as I know all that is long gone - all that remains are the cottages that were built for the workers. There’s some great architecture around but for the moment you’ll have to make do with this photo of the back of our house!

It’s what’s called a terraced house, meaning that it’s in a row of houses that were all built together and there are no gaps between them. Luckily the walls are quite thick so we don’t hear our neighbours at all! Speaking of neighbours, we have been very lucky as we have found ourselves living on England’s friendliest street – our neighbours are fabulous. There are heaps of other kids for Louie to play with and everyone always stops for a chat… I think this is quite unusual these days in England. On most streets people seem to keep themselves to themselves. Is that the same in Nepal, Kiran? Or does everyone know their neighbours? How about where our readers live? I’d be interested to know. I think it’s very sad that the sense of community seems to have almost disappeared in many places. I bet it wasn’t like that when my Granny was young!

Speaking of my Granny, let’s have a look at the grammar of those questions you sent in. I have to say that there were really very few errors indeed… a few with prepositions or missing articles but on the whole they were great. One thing I did think we could look at though is the difference between direct and indirect questions so here we go:

Indirect questions are considered a more polite way of asking a question
• Direct questions need a change in word order
• Indirect questions do not change the word order but you need a fancy phrase at the beginning to show it is a question.
• Some phrases that are useful for indirect questions are: Could you tell me, Please could you explain, Would you mind telling me, etc.

So I thought for today’s little task I could ask you to “translate” or change these direct questions into indirect ones.
1) How often did you have to work in the dairy?
2) How do you spend your free time?
3) Have you ever been abroad?
4) What books are you reading at the moment?

If you need a bit more help have a look here.

I’ll wait another couple of days before I reveal the answers to this and the last task I gave you (about articles) to give you a bit more time.

Okay got to put Oslo to bed now.

Best wishes,


Definitions from last time:

To catch up (with friends) - to talk about what you have all been doing recently with friends you haven’t seen for a while
A fraction of the size - much smaller
Upmarket - better quality and (usually) more expensive
To trundle - to move in a heavy way on wheels
To let someone down- to act in a way that disappoints someone
To chuck it down - (in this context) to rain very heavily

Words and phrases from this blog:

To spill the beans
A green movement
To be long gone
To make do
To keep themselves to themselves
The sense of community

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Meet my Granny!

Hi there,

As many of you know, last week I asked Kiran and our readers to write in with questions to ask my Granny. You came up with some brilliant questions but I’m afraid I couldn’t ask her all of them so instead I chose eight of them which I thought covered the main topics that people seemed to be interested in.

My Granny, Peggy May Lightfoot (ne Stevens) was born in the little fishing village of Polperro on July 8th 1922. When I was little, she pointed out that my name has the same letters in it as her middle name and ever since then I’ve always thought we have a special connection :-)

My Granny’s family ran a dairy in the village and she used to help out when she was young. As well as supplying the village with their produce, they sent cream by post all over the country. My Granny married William Lightfoot (my Grampy) on New Year’s Eve, 1943. Sadly he passed away in 2002. She lives in a village a few miles from Polperro, where my parents now live. So without further ado let’s have a little photo…

And now for her answers to your questions:

1. What was the best and worst of the Second World War?

The worst was the anxious concern for those who were serving in the forces, never knowing where they were or if we would see them again. Referring to those in the navy, when or where they were at sea or which part they would return to. For all, the dread of a telegram being delivered to inform of their loss or injury. The fear of being invaded via the coast, which had barbed wire fences & the Home Guard patrolling at night. Also, the fear of bombs being dropped as they severely bombed Plymouth [a nearby city].

The best must have been when they came on leave! In some areas where neighbourhoods gathered into underground air raid shelters it my have brought people close in a spirit of community.

2. What was the most unforgettable day of your life?

The day of my marriage. We had waited for the ship to come in for servicing from August to late December, then I got a telegram saying he, my late husband, had four days leave & I must decide whether the wedding took place next day or we waited for a longer leave. He didn't know the decision until reaching Polperro late evening. What a contrast to the time preparations take now!

3. How do you spend your time now?

Some housework, food preparation, shopping, knitting, reading, church once a week, a little TV & family visits.

4. What does the sea mean to people in Polperro today, and what did it use to mean?

Some people enjoy going down to the harbour or a cliff walk with a view of the sea & some have boats to use for pleasure, or commercially, whereas years ago the harbour would have been more filled with fishing boats which would provide 'livings' for families. A lot of pilchards [a type of fish] being packed into barrels & exported to Italy.

5. Is there anything you would like to reintroduce from the past which you really miss in today's world?

The habit of people attending places of worship which provided guidance - this appears to be lacking now & we see the results.

6. Have you changed the way you dress over the years and, if so, do you like it more now or in the past?

It has become more casual. We used to have complete outfits which comprised hat, suit or coat, dress or blouse in matching or toning colours, with shoes, gloves & handbag. Sometimes now it is untidy & exposing too much flesh.

7. What tricks did you use to keep the dairy produce fresh for a long time?

Apart from the dairy shop, the dairy was under ground level with a stone floor, & slate shelves. When the churns of milk arrived on a trolley from the cow house, some would go into pans to be sold from there or delivered in the village (sometimes twice daily) in bottles. The surplus would go into pans & was carried down to the dairy for the cream to set on top before being scalded some yards away in the kitchen, back to the dairy to cool, resulting in a crust cream which would be skimmed off & the remaining milk mostly went to the pigs. We had a fridge in the shop for the bowls of cream. People brought their own dishes for 2, 4 or 8 oz. to take home & we posted tins to all parts. Visitors would send it to their friends; printed labels were provided for the address, they were tied on around the tin & had to be at the post office for the morning collection.

8. What is the biggest difference between these days and when you were growing up?

Mainly traffic, travel, communications, use of money & standard of living.

Well I hope we managed to talk about most of the topics you had raised. I found it very interesting and I hope you did too! Being able to see more of my Granny is one of the reasons why I’m happy to be back in England :-)

It’s time for me to be heading off to bed now as I’m absolutely shattered.

Hope to hear from you soon Kiran!


Last post’s definitions:

To spill the beans - to tell the truth or admit something
Resurgence - an increase in activity or interest
Green movement - a group of people who care about the environment and take action to improve it
To be long gone - to have disappeared a long time ago
To make do - to manage despite not having everything you need
To keep themselves to themselves - to not talk to many people and remain private
The sense of community - the feeling that people care about each other and are willing to help one another

Vocabulary and phrases from today:

To come up with
Without further ado
To scald

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Answers galore!

Hello Kiran! Great to hear from you and I really enjoyed reading your post and seeing the photos. It was so interesting to see all the different kinds of houses and hear about how they are made. I’m interested to know what kind of building regulations there are in Nepal? Can anyone build whatever they want wherever they want? Or do they have to get permission? In the UK the planning and building laws are very strict and it’s very difficult to get permission to build a house on a piece of empty land these days. Some friends of mine have just started going through the process and it’s a real headache for them.

The photos of the flowers are very beautiful but I’m afraid I can’t help with the names of them… anyone got any ideas?

I just thought I’d give you all the answers to the tasks I have set you recently before replying to our readers comments…


“Just like everything and everybody changes a little everyday, Nepal has also changed. Before the ruling power was in the(1) hand of the (2) king, so it was a kingdom. Now it has become a (3) republican country. The (4) first president of Nepal was elected July 2008. Nepali people are patiently waiting for a(5) new constitution in this 21st century with political stability as well.”

Direct vs indirect questions

(Remember you can use lots of different phrases at the beginning, but the grammar of the question part remains the same)

1) How often did you have to work in the dairy? - Could you tell me how often you had to work in the dairy?
2) How do you spend your free time? - Please could you explain how you spend your free time?
3) Have you ever been abroad? – Would you mind telling me if you have ever been abroad?
4) What books are you reading at the moment? - I’d be very grateful if you could tell me what books you are reading at the moment.

Notice that the last one doesn’t have a question mark as it’s more of a statement than a question. Well done to everyone who got them right.

Okay, now onto some replies. Oh and before I forget, please do let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to blog about… I’m always open to suggestions! :-)

Hi Pary - thanks for all the links to the different dances, I’ll have a look at them. That’s really interesting to hear that camping is popular in Iran… I really hope to visit there one day and now I know to bring my tent :-)

Hello Zaya - yes I agree, the 60s and 70s were pretty cool. If you say ‘I haven’t been up to much’ it means ‘I haven’t been doing much’. You can also say ‘What are you up to?’ instead of ‘What are you doing?’

Hi Habooba - yes that’s a great idea, I wish we could look at the past in that way… I always have problems imagining it in colour, because all the old photos we have are in black and white :-)

Hello Schuyler - I’m sorry I didn’t ask my Granny your exact questions but I hope you enjoyed reading the interview anyway :-)

Hello Maryam - yes I agree, the state of society these days is quite depressing… it’s interesting that similar things seem to be happening all over the world.

Hi Gaitrie - many thanks for your good wishes, I’ve passed them on to my Granny too :-)

Hi Vijay - Well done on the direct/indirect questions task. As for your problems when starting to write, I think lots of people have this problem! I think it’s called ‘writer’s block’, where you just can’t think of what to write… I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions for how to overcome it but I’d like to hear of some! Yes I did wear a sari once for a staff Diwali party. They’re so beautiful.

Hello Wisarut - sorry I didn’t get to ask my Granny your questions but I hope you liked the interview anyway. Your degree sounds interesting… I imagine that are increasing numbers of jobs related to this field all over the world.

Hi Michela - nice to meet you :-) I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs. I hope your camping trip was drier than mine!

Hello Ana Paula - yep you got the definition for ‘brainwave’ exactly… well done on the latest vocab as well, although check ‘flesh’ as it kind of has two (very similar) meanings.

Hi Maria - thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview, I also enjoyed doing it :-) Welcome to the blogs!

Hi Pritam - that’s interesting that you moved into another house with your parents and siblings… it seems like many people in India are moving away from the joint family arrangement. Which do you prefer? As for the snakes, you just have to make sure that you do the zips up tightly on the tent! :-) I think the Indian government used to give everyone who was born there citizenship but then they changed it in the 80s. Well done on the homework!

Hello Anita - thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it. Hope you’re having a good weekend too.

Thanks Pilar - I’m really glad you found it interesting :-)

Hi Leila - glad you enjoyed the post. I told my family that you had been in Polperro when you felt your baby move for the first time and they thought that was lovely.

Hi Marianna - yes, I’d forgotten that I posted a photo of her last time too! I wish my mother and Granny had kept some of their old outfits from previous decades… they all seem to have gone. Do you sew now like your Mum?

Hello Mahjabeen - well done on the indirect/direct questions homework! Just one little thing, you’re missing the word ‘have’ in question 3. That’s really interesting about families not bothering with their neighbours because they think it raises their status, I didn’t know that.

Yes Diema, I think you’re right about people who have survived the 2nd World War, or any war. Those of us who have never experienced one can’t really understand what was like, I think.

Thanks for your lovely comments Mauricio - I will definitely pass on your regards to my Granny. I think you should definitely try camping!

Hi Ernesto - that’s so funny that you think she looks British, I guess you’re right! I’d never thought of it before. No need for the auxiliary verbs ‘do’ and ‘did’ in indirect questions :-)

Hello Jorge - I’m glad you liked the interview. I feel like there’s so much that I don’t know about my Granny’s life… I need to find out before it’s too late.

I love that, Monica: ‘A trip sponsored by butter’! Fabulous! I was so interested to hear about your family’s dairy. Of course I remember you :-) If I could package up some rain and send it to you I would, I’m so fed up with it!

Hi Marjan - I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs. Hope to hear from you again soon!

Hello Bia - that’s a good idea for a blog, I’ll have a think about it. The only problem is that I wasn’t educated in England until I went to university so I’d have to do a bit of research, but I can do that!

Hi Cristina - well done on the direct/indirect questions task. You should definitely try camping, just try and do it when it’s not raining!

Hello Farha - yes, I totally agree: camping for pleasure is lots of fun but living in a tent because you have no choice is a different story all together. I’ll see if I can show you some of the inside of my house in a later blog!

Hello Trinie - yes I’ll try and do one about Bath as it’s quite an interesting city. ‘Frome’ is pronounced ‘Froom’, by the way. Well done on the direct/indirect questions task.

Hi Felicitas - well done on the indirect/direct questions task. Just one small error in sentence 3, can you spot it? I agree, it’s great learning about different cultures and hearing from people from so many different countries :-)

Hello Concetta - sounds like you had a lovely childhood. It’s similarly social on my street and so nice for Louie. We also have a market in Frome, twice a week but I haven’t been very often – I should!

Hi Guzin - I’m afraid I’m not sure why your comments haven’t appeared :-( I’m sorry about that. I think you’re right about it being difficult to find time to establish relationships with neighbours… sad but true. It’s interesting that readers from so many different countries seem to be saying the same thing. Well done on the vocab.

Hi Silwal - well done on the direct/indirect questions task, just a small error in question 3 – can you find it? Well done on the vocabulary too!

Hello Vy - welcome to the blogs! Yes the blogs are centred around English language learning but aren’t exactly ‘lessons’ – sometimes we talk about grammar but not always, but there’s usually new words and phrases, highlighted in bold. I’ll try and answer your questions!

Hello Hyoshil - I think Louie would ride a thousand miles on his bike if we let him :-) We had an Indian takeaway for the first time last night and it was okay but not like our favourite place in Delhi :-( I’m glad you live in a nice neighbourhood too, I think it’s really important.

Hello Paulraj - yes I think it was because of the modernization of the industry that weaving has died out in Frome. Louie and Oslo were both born in Delhi, but they don’t get Indian citizenship :-( I have been following the unrest in Indian politics… it’s a strange time at the moment.

Hi Thao - welcome to the blogs :-) Yes having kids is a full time job, there’s no doubt about it. Well done on the vocabulary and extra well done for guessing the answers from the context… just double check the meaning of ‘upmarket’

Hello Maione - well done on the vocabulary! Good for you guessing the meaning, it’s a very good skill to develop.

Hi Bruno - thanks for your comment! I hope you enjoyed the interview… you can find out more about the history of Polperro in Wikipedia if you’re interested. Have you visited that site before? :-)

Yes I agree, Adriana, wild camping can sometimes be a bit frightening. I went once to a beach in New Zealand and I found it quite scary! It’s okay if there are a bigger group of you though.

Hi Chiladi - yes camping in the rain is rarely fun, unless you have a huge tent and lots of things to do!

Hello Tanya - that’s an interesting question. I try not to simplify what I write too much… it’s pretty much as I would write normally I think, if I were writing to a friend, for example. Newspapers do tend to use more complicated vocabulary though… always try to guess the meaning from the context before checking in the dictionary.

Hi Ahsanul - your caravan experience sounds quite chilly! They can be here too, although some have heaters in them.

Hello Parin - yes I enjoyed watching dandiya dancing when I was in India, I’ve never done it myself though. I was teaching English in Delhi for the British Council. I don’t have much time for hobbies at the moment :-( but I have recently taken up knitting!

Hello Beatriz - don’t worry if you can’t do 5 a day everyday, just do what you can… remember, little and often is the best way to learn a language!

Okay that's it from me today...


Amy xx

Monday, 18 August 2008

Charity shops

Hello everyone,

Kiran I was just having another look at your post and I realised that in fact I do recognise some of the flowers! I don’t think my brain was working properly yesterday :-) As Jorge has pointed out, the first one is clearly a rose. I’m not sure what the second one is but the next is a hibiscus (I think), then bougainvillea, then marigolds. I don’t know what the next one is but the last one is another one of marigolds I think. So there you go! I’ll try and take some photos of my garden at some stage and show you some of the flowers that are common here.

I thought today we could have a little look at using linkers to join shorter sentences together into a single, longer one. Kiran, I’ve noticed that you use quite a lot of very short sentences and while it’s always a good idea not to get too complicated, I always encourage students to try and vary the length of their sentences, so some are long and some are short. To do this you need to have a good grasp of the language we use for linking them, including words like however, and, but, even though, despite, etc.

Below I’ve included five examples of where I think focusing on the linkers could improve the flow of your writing. Can you (and our readers) have a look at them and see if you can make each pair of sentences into one? In number 5, you’ve already included some linkers but there are a couple of problems… can you see if you can fix these?

1. This week, I became too busy doing office works.
Even then I was managing time to read the Amy’s blog and comments to my blog.

2. I would like to go in detail about the construction and the materials used in making these huts. May be for some of you it can be a repetition.

3. The roof is thatched roof. Height is around 2 to 2 and half meters.

4. In some places of Nepal red mud is used more that white mud. It’s because of their availability.

5. Though the metal sheet roof makes the top story too hot during the day time but people prefer it to become free from tension of maintaining the roof every year.

Now that we’ve got the hard stuff out of the way, I wanted to tell you about one of my (other) favourite things about the UK... charity shops! I’m not sure whether they exist in other countries or not. Basically, they are shops which are set up to raise money for charity by selling secondhand goods – usually clothes, bric-a-brac, books and toys. These things can be donated by anyone who is having a clear-out at home and they are then priced up quite cheaply and displayed in the shop ready for people to buy. These days its quite fashionable to shop in charity shops and lots of people do. In most towns there are at least three, and some have many more, all for different British charities such as Oxfam, Cancer Research and Age Concern. Most charity shops are staffed by volunteers, so all the money that comes in goes to the charity concerned (although I suppose some of the money must be spent on rent and electricity etc.). Here’s a photo of my current favourite in Frome:

I’ve found some brilliant bargains in charity shops – you can sometimes find really amazing things that cost next to nothing and they’re great if you have any sort of collection because it’s fun going round trying to see if you can find things to add. For example, here is my 70s style flowery mug collection that has been collected entirely from charity shops :-)

Do charity shops or something similar exist in your country?

Okay, well I’d better go now as we have some friends staying who might want entertaining :-)

More soon


Vocabulary from last time:

To come up with - to think of (e.g. an idea)
Ne - used to show a woman’s surname before marriage
Without further ado - without doing/saying anything else
Flesh - (in this context) skin
To scald - to burn
Shattered - (in this context) very tired

Vocabulary from this time:

At some stage
A good grasp of (something)
A clear-out

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

From dusk till dawn

Hello Kiran! Thanks for all the great photos and I enjoyed reading about the different styles of dress in Nepal. I don’t think there are words in English for ‘kurta’ and ‘suruwal’ – I know them in Hindi though! :-) I recognise the place where the photo of you was taken, we visited that temple when we were in Nepal… it’s just outside Bhaktapur, isn’t it? Beautiful. I like how women in Nepal wear the kurta suruwal sometimes and trousers (or pants) sometimes – it was the same in India. I have a few salwar kameez sets (the same thing as kurta suruwal) which I found much easier to wear than a sari. Sometimes I wear the kurta parts (the long top, like a dress) over jeans instead of the normal salwars or suruwal. I think it looks quite nice.

One small point – the word ‘dress’ is a bit of a funny one. If you’re referring to the piece of clothing that women sometimes wear, like a skirt and a top joined together, then it’s a countable noun, so it can be pluralised (dresses). However, if you’re talking about the general clothes that people (either men or women) wear then it’s an uncountable noun. So for example, it’s better to say ‘Chinese, Thai and Indian dress are very common in Nepal’.

Kiran, would you like to have a go at the linkers task I gave you in my last post? It’s okay if you don’t want to but I’ll wait another day before I post the answers, in case you’d like to give it a try. I’d like to ask you a question too… in your post you wrote I represent Brahmin family so it smells more like that. It sounds a bit funny saying ‘it smells more like that’ – could you tell me what you mean?

Okay now one of our readers (I’m afraid I can’t remember who!) suggested that I could do a post about my daily routine… I thought that was a nice idea – maybe you could do it too Kiran and then we could compare! :-) So all yesterday I took notes on what I was doing and when and here are the results…

Tuesday August 19, 2008

6.00am Ed’s alarm wakes us all up. So much for the lie-in! Ed goes off to work and Louie and I read stories in bed. Ozzy keeps trying to crawl off the bed.

7.00am Have a shower while the kids play in Louie’s room. Have to be quick to avoid disaster.

7.20am Breakfast – forgot to get bread yesterday so it’s cereal for all. Louie feeds his bear while I feed Oz.

8.00am Play in the living room. Louie builds towers. Oslo chews everything in sight.

9.30am Put Oslo down for a nap. Louie and I make biscuits. Halfway through I realise we don’t have all the ingredients so have to improvise. Start making quiche* but…

10.30am Ozzy wakes up. Abandon quiche.

11.00am Two friends (neighbours) come over with their babies. Louie eats too much cake and becomes hyperactive. The babies have a ball while we mothers chat away.

12.30pm Give the kids lunch. Louie has a meltdown because I won’t let him run around brandishing a carrot.

1.20pm We all watch a bit of our Mr Benn DVD

2.00pm Manage to get both kids to have a nap at the same time – yippee! Have some lunch myself. Read comments on my blog and send a couple of emails. Resume making quiche.

3.00pm Oslo wakes up… too early! Forget quiche. Fall asleep while trying to convince Ozzy to continue his nap.

4.00pm Wake up. Get Oslo and Louie up. Go outside to play.

4.10pm Starts raining. Back inside. Finish making quiche… yay!

5.00pm Play in living room. Oslo practices standing up while Louie and I read stories.

6.00pm Ed comes home from work. I put some food on for Oslo’s dinner while Ed plays with the kiddies.

7.00pm We all eat dinner together… quiche for those of us with lots of teeth.

7.30pm Bath and bedtime for Louie and Oslo.

8.30pm Ed and I chat while tidying up the house… trying to decide whether to go camping again the week after next.

9.00pm Drink lots of tea, eat biscuits and read the newspaper that’s been sitting unread since Saturday.

10.30pm Collapse into bed.

*Quiche (pronounced ‘keesh’) is like an open pie (no top) with a cheese, vegetable and egg mixture in the middle. It cooks in the oven until it’s set and brown on top.

So there you – that’s a fairly average day for me these days in my new(ish) job as a stay-at-home mother of two! Notice the tense that I have written the diary in, and that it’s in note form rather than full sentences. Why do you think I’ve used that tense and not the past simple?

Okay, time to go.
All the best


Today’s vocabulary:

A lie-in
To have a ball
A meltdown
To brandish
To resume
To be set (check the context)

And last time’s…

At some stage - at some time, not clear exactly when
A good grasp of (something) - a clear understanding of something
Bric-a-brac - things like plates, cups and ornaments, all with low value
A clear-out - a process of throwing away or getting rid of things you no longer want or need

Friday, 22 August 2008

A man walks into a bar...

Hello! Thanks for your answers to all my questions, Kiran! And it was great to read about your daily routine. The thing I found most interesting was that you do 30-45 minutes of meditation a day… that’s amazing! I wish I had time to do that! When we first moved back to England, Ed (my husband) wasn’t working so I used to be able to do almost an hour of yoga every morning… (well, almost every morning :-) Unfortunately he started his new job two weeks ago and so now I can only do it on the weekends :-(

Well done on the linkers homework. Let’s have a little look at your answers:

1. Despite being very busy in my office works I read Amy's blog and comments to my blog.

Your choice of linker here is excellent. Just a couple of tiny things to be changed to be make it perfect: Despite being very busy with my office work (not plural), I read Amy’s blog and comments on my blog. Don’t forget the comma between the two parts of the sentence.

2. Though for some of you it may be a repetition even then I would like to go in details about the materials and the construction of these huts.

In this one you’ve used two linkers when in fact you only need one. Try this: Although for some of you it may be a repetition, I would like to go into detail about the materials and the construction of these huts. Again, don’t forget the comma.

3. The roof is thatched roof and the height is around 2 to 2.5 meters.

Great! No need to repeat the word ‘roof’ though.

4. Red mud is used more than white mud in some places of Nepal because of its availability.

Here the linking is good but I think your original word order was better: In some places in Nepal red mud is used more than white mud because of its availability.

5. The metal sheet roof makes the top story too hot during the day time yet people prefer it to be tension free from maintining this every year.
This is good except the expression ‘tension free’ doesn’t work so well here: The metal sheet roof makes the top storey (spelling) too hot during the day time, yet people prefer it as there is no need to maintain it every year.

Well done! And well done to all our readers who attempted this as well. I’ll comment on your answers when I do the replies in my next post.

Kiran, is the expression ‘it smells more like that’ a direct translation from Nepali? It doesn’t really work in English. Saying you were a bit biased is a better way of putting it :-)

Now, in my post I asked you why I used the present simple tense when I was writing about what I did. You’ll notice that Kiran also (correctly) used it. Many of you wrote in and said that the reason this tense was used was because we were describing things we did every day – in Kiran’s case that is absolutely right. However, I don’t make quiche everyday and Louie certainly doesn’t have a tantrum over a carrot everday (thank goodness!) SO – why the present simple? Well, Marianna you get the prize! In my case, I used the present simple because it makes the events seem more immediate and (perhaps!) more compelling – it’s good for when you’re telling a funny or dramatic story. It’s the same reason we use present simple when telling jokes… have you ever noticed that we do that? Here’s a joke for you to prove my point:

A man walks into a bar, sits down and orders a beer. The bartender gives it to him, along with a bowl of peanuts. To the man’s surprise, the bowl of peanuts starts talking to him. It says, ‘Hey, you’re really good looking! I love your shirt!’. The man thinks this is a bit weird. He realises he hasn’t got any cigarettes, so he goes over to the machine to buy some. He puts in the money and then the machine starts talking to him too! It says, ‘Man, you’re so ugly. Did you even look in the mirror before you left the house? You look BAD’ and then it doesn’t even give him any cigarettes. The man is very confused. He goes back to the bartender and asks him to explain. ‘Oh yes,’ says the bartender, ‘the peanuts are complimentary, but the cigarette machine is out of order.’

So what do you think? Funny? :-) Focus on the words in bold at the end if you’re not sure you understand… Make sure you use an English-English dictionary!

Here’s my conundrum for you today – I can almost guarantee that this joke would not be at all funny if you translated it into your first language. Why?

Okay, I’m going to love you and leave you now. We’re going out for dinner so got to get ready!

Xxx Amy

p.s. nobody noticed (or perhaps you are all just too polite)! I made a mistake with the title of my last blog, it should have been ‘From dawn till dusk’, not the other way round!
p.p.s. How’s the 5-a-day going everyone? :-)

Okay I really am going now… today’s words and phrases:

To prove a point
Complimentary (check the context carefully!)
Out of order (check the context carefully!)
A conundrum

Vocabulary from last time:

A lie-in - to stay asleep past your normal time of waking up, usually on purpose!
Hyperactive - to be over-excited, with lots of energy, not wanting to sit still
To have a ball - to have a great time
A meltdown - I like Ana Paula’s definition here: to become upset and out of control because (in this case a child) cant have what want he wants
To brandish - to wave something around in a crazy kind of way
To resume - to begin something again after stopping it
To be set (check the context) - here it means the egg is properly cooked so that it is no longer liquid

Monday, 25 August 2008

Lovely long weekends...

Hello everyone!

Wow that sounds like quite a journey to Kerala, Kiran! I’m sorry to hear that your friend has been in a coma. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the story.

You’ve used linkers quite well, especially in the paragraph starting ‘Our four hours journey…’ Well done!

It’s Bank Holiday weekend here in England and for once the weather has been not too bad… in fact it was even quite sunny! Ed had today off work as well (Monday is the Bank Holiday) so we’ve had a nice long weekend going for walks in the countryside and visiting family.

Today we went over to my mother-in-law’s farm and we all went out in their canoe on the lake which was lots of fun. Louie thought it was brilliant, of course, although I was a bit worried he was going to fall in! You’ll be impressed to hear that Ed’s Granny (not mine) paddled the canoe as well and she is 93 years old! She also played football with Louie… pretty good, don’t you think?! Our Grannies never cease to amaze me. Here are some photos in case you don’t believe me!

Check out Ed sitting back and letting his Granny do all the work!

Here are some replies to our readers’ comments – I hope I haven’t left anyone out! Apologies if I have. Here we go…

Hi Pritam - no that’s not me in the picture, that’s my friend Hannah. Charity shops don’t really sell antiques, but some sell old pieces of jewellery. I haven’t seen these shops in India before – you’re right though, who needs them when we have kavadi-wallahs! Yes I miss India and Indian food! I made rajma the other night and it was delicious :-) Well done on the linkers homework.

Hello Bia - you’re welcome! I hope I’ll have time to do a blog about education, let’s see. Good job on the linkers homework!

Hi Mahjabeen - I think building laws are pretty frustrating in every country unfortunately, but I guess it’s important to have them otherwise there’d be no countryside left! Thanks for your blogging ideas!

Hello Wisarut - unfortunately I don’t think that my life is graceful or neat!! I wish it was! It feels very hectic. Well done on the linkers homework, just double check your answer to number 1.

Hi Filippo - yes you’re right, there’s a fine line between having a nice community to live in and having neighbours that are too nosey! I almost always read the Guardian – I get it on Saturdays and sometimes Tuesdays (which is the day they have the ‘Education’ section). Have you ever seen The Guardian Weekly? It’s sold internationally and is very good.

Hello Jorge - thanks for telling us the names of some of the flowers, it made me realise that I did know some of them after all!

On the contrary, Concetta, I think your English is very good! Your linkers answers were very good – although for number 4 I would say ‘because of’ rather than ‘for’. I liked your story about the mother ordering pizzas! And thanks heaps for the recipe, I’ll give it a try this week :-)

Yes Redouane, that’s a great idea to try and watch a film everyday. It’s definitely a good idea to use the subtitles to help you. If you enjoy the movie, why not try watching it again, but the second time without the subtitles?

Hi Ana Paula - you were very close – as you will have seen, ‘flesh’ in this context means the skin. I’m glad you like my mugs collection :-) I’ll try and post the quiche recipe this week. Excellent vocab definitions!

Hi Naweed - you’re welcome! Nice to hear from you again :-)

Thanks Habooba for your lovely comments. Well done on the linkers task – try comparing your answers to the ones I posted if you haven’t already, especially for number 2.

Hello Hanan - you’re very welcome! I will pass on your good wishes to my Granny too :-)

Hi Hyoshil - that sounds like such a great project (the evacuees one). Such a better way of learning about history than just reading about it. I have passed on your good wishes to my Granny and the hugs to my children and they say thank you :-) I try and entertain Louie and Oslo as much as I can, but I think they entertain me more!

Yes Guzin, I totally agree – it’s amazing hearing from people from so many different countries. And you’re absolutely right about charity shops providing the people who work in them with a sense of worth. I’m intrigued by the expression you mentioned ‘don’t eat them, sleep next to them’. Can you explain it a bit more?

Hi Beatriz - I usually go to the supermarket once a week but I also pop into town sometimes to pick up bits and bobs that I need and in that case I’ll go to different shops for different things, or sometimes the outdoor market. We also get a ‘veg box’ but I’ll tell you about that in my next post!

Hello Paulraj - no I haven’t seen the same kind of charity shops in India, but I have seen sales like you described. Yes I agree that “charity begins at home” as the saying goes.

Hi Schuyler - well done on the linkers task, but double check your answer to number 5. That’s interesting to hear about the charity carnivals… it sounds like there is something similar in most countries.

Thanks Jim Shaw! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs!
Hi Zaya - yes, yard sales are great too, we have them in England as well but they’re not so common. Your linkers homework is very good. I would reword the beginning of number 5 like this though: ‘The disadavantage of using a metal sheet for the roof is that is heats up the top floor, but people…’

Hi Tanya - I LOVE that: ‘’burrow and dig’ what a great name. I think shopping in secondhand shops is much more fun than normal ones because you never know what you’re going to find!

Hi Dino - nice to meet you! Thanks very much for your comment and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs!

Hi Leila - yes we have those kinds of flea markets here too but we usually call them ‘car boot sales’. People turn up with old stuff to sell in their cars and set it all up on a table for people to rummage through and buy. Great fun!

Hi Mauricio - did you have a look at the answers to the linkers task? What did you think? I expect you could have done at least some of them :-) I’ll try and give you the quiche recipe this week! Mr Benn is a cartoon from the seventies… you can have a look on Amazon if you like!

Hi Sheila - well done on the linkers task. Just double check your answers to numbers 3 and 5 with the ones I gave you. People often do bric-a-brac stalls to raise money for charity here as well.

Hi Anita - that’s interesting about the secondhand shops. What makes them English? Are the clothes from England? Yep rummaging through charity shops is lots of fun!

Hi Cristina - that’s interesting about the school markets. I think schools do similar things here to, to raise money for charity. I wonder why people from different cultures eat at such different times?

Hello Maryam - well done on the linkers homework, number 5 was especially well written. You don’t need the word ‘substance’ in number 1 though :-)

Hello Diema - I worked in a charity shop for a while when I was a student and it was a lot of fun, especially because you get to meet lots of different types of people. Glad you enjoyed the post!

Yes Madhav, I agree – it’s very interesting thinking about how our societies have developed over the last few decades. Well done on the linkers task, just double check your answer to number 5.

Hello Min - yes you’re right, you have to look carefully but you can find some great stuff in charity shops. Yes I think as usual we British have just adopted and adapted a dish from another country rather than coming up with something completely new! I read the Guardian – have you tried the crosswords from there? I sometimes have time to do them but I rarely finish them!

Hi Josette - yes, I’ve heard about Emmaus. We’re planning to go camping in France next month and I’m hoping to get to some Emmaus shops! I like that French saying about big and little worries, I think it’s very true. I still can’t quite believe that my sweet little children will grow up to be teenagers!

Hello Silwal - I’m sorry to hear about the computer trouble you’ve been having :-( Excellent work on the linkers task – try to link the sentences together into one in number 2, though. Your correction is almost right: ‘I am eager to know if you have ever been abroad’ – no need for ‘that’ :-)

Hi Paulo - ooh gerunds! I’ll see if I can squeeze it in :-) Yes it’s true, even beautiful children can be little monsters sometimes!

Hello Marianna - yes I can understand not wanting to read the newspapers… the news is quite depressing these days! I’m trying to knit Oslo a blanket but it’s taking forever as I don’t have a lot of time to do it… hopefully it’ll be finished before the winter!

Okay, time for bed. I’ll post the vocab definitions from last time, next time.

Take care!


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

When is a joke a joke?

Hello again,

Okay, time to put you all out of your misery - here’s an explanation about the joke I told you in my last post…

Top marks to Monica from Brazil who said that the joke involved puns. A pun is a ‘play on words’ – as you know, many words in English have two meanings (or more!) and when we say something that makes sense with both meanings, it’s called a pun and this can sometimes be quite funny. Here is another example of a joke based on a ‘pun’ to explain what I mean: “When the TV repairman got married the reception was excellent.” Here the pun is ‘reception’. You can read the sentence two ways because ‘reception’ has two meanings:

1) Reception to do with a TV – if a TV has bad reception it means the picture isn’t clear. If there is excellent reception then you can see the picture perfectly. (you can also use this reception to talk about your mobile phone)

2) Reception to do with a marriage – after a wedding ceremony, many people in the UK and other countries have a party with food and music. This is called the reception.

Now that you know these two definitions, does the sentence seem kind of funny?

Let’s have a look at the original joke I told you…

A man walks into a bar, sits down and orders a beer. The bartender gives it to him, along with a bowl of peanuts. To the man’s surprise, the bowl of peanuts starts talking to him. It says, ‘Hey, you’re really good looking! I love your shirt!’. The man thinks this is a bit weird. He realises he hasn’t got any cigarettes, so he goes over to the machine to buy some. He puts in the money and then the machine starts talking to him too! It says, ‘Man, you’re so ugly. Did you even look in the mirror before you left the house? You look BAD’ and then it doesn’t even give him any cigarettes. The man is very confused. He goes back to the bartender and asks him to explain. ‘Oh yes,’ says the bartender, ‘the peanuts are complimentary, but the cigarette machine is out of order.’

Here there are two puns – ‘complimentary’ and ‘out of order’.

Complimentary can mean:
1) Free of charge
2) Saying nice things or compliments.

So the peanuts didn’t cost anything, and they also said nice things to the man in the bar.

Out of order can mean:

1) Not working
2) Rude or offensive – for example, ‘you’re out of order!’ means you shouldn’t have said or done what you did because it was inappropriate or rude. This is quite a slang phrase but very common in the UK.

So the cigarette machine didn’t work (because it didn’t give the man any cigarettes) but it was also rude because it said unkind things to the man.

Does it make sense now?!! I hope so! It was quite difficult, I agree, because the second meaning of ‘out of order’ is quite a ‘British’ meaning.

I also asked you why this wouldn’t be funny in your first language… well that’s because it’s quite unlikely that there are words in another language which have the same two meanings as ‘complimentary’ and ‘out of order’. You can definitely translate each meaning, but it will probably be two different words so the joke won’t work. Do you see what I mean?

Rian made a really good point which was that the joke wouldn’t be funny in cultures where bars and cigarette machines aren’t common… that’s definitely true. Humour has a lot to do with the context in which it is shared. You have to have a kind of ‘shared knowledge’ to understand the things that the joke is about and without this the joke won’t be funny. I’m sure you can all think of a joke that doesn’t translate because of these reasons… can’t you?

Okay so just to extend this point a little bit, I’d like you Kiran, and all our readers to think of five more words in the English language which have more than one meaning, but the same spelling and if you really want a challenge, see if you can find another joke in English that is based on a pun. Good luck!

Kiran thanks for the last instalment of your Kerala story. I was so sorry to hear that your friend had passed away before you arrived. I enjoyed your description of the backwaters… we visited there almost two years ago and stayed on a houseboat which was fantastic. I’m afraid I had to laugh when I read that you had run out of petrol! We have also done that a couple of times in the car… it’s not so funny when it happens to you though, is it? :-) By the way, I keep meaning to ask you – have you heard about the outcome of your interview? I hope you got the job!

Okay… better get going.

Take care everyone!


Vocabulary from 22 August post…

Compelling - very interesting
To prove a point - to show that something is true
Complimentary (check the context carefully!) - see above!
Out of order (check the context carefully!) - see above!
A conundrum - a difficult mental challenge or question

Vocabulary from today’s post… definitions next time!

To put someone out of his/her misery

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Veg boxes!

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to squeeze in another post this morning as I’m off on another camping trip this afternoon! Ed (my husband) has had to go on another camping trip with his colleagues from work – a kind of team-building exercise I guess – and I was invited to go with some friends so Louie and Oslo and I are heading down to the lovely Dorset coast for a couple of nights. Hopefully the weather will be kinder to us this time! The nights are drawing in already and there’s a definite Autumn feeling in the air so I thought we’d better make the most of what’s left of the summer before it complete disappears.

Now a few of our readers have asked me where I do my shopping – whether I go to the supermarket or individual shops in town, or to an open-air market. Well the answer is, all three! Although I guess we use the supermarket for most things. One thing we do do which I thought you might be interested in is we get an organic ‘veg box’ every week. The vegetables are grown on local farms and then packed into boxes and distributed to whoever has signed up to receive one. It’s become quite a common thing to do across the country, as not only are the vegetables organic but the idea is to support local farmers and reduces the ‘food miles’, meaning that the vegetables haven’t travelled very far to get to your door, or should I say, your plate. In the UK, supermarkets tend to go for the cheapest options when choosing which vegetables to sell so they order them from all over the world to get the best deals.

Here is a photo of our veg box:

And its contents…

As you can see, we get quite a good variety of vegetables and all are locally grown. The only real drawback is that you don’t get any choice, so you have to plan what you are going to eat around what turns up in the box… this can be kind of fun but sometimes I end up with loads of, for example, red cabbage because I don’t know many recipes that use it. In the winter this will be an even bigger problem as the selection will be much smaller but let’s see… On the other hand, you get to try vegetables that you might not have eaten otherwise, like kohlrabi… In case you’re wondering, we do buy other vegetables sometimes as well but I’m trying to use the veg box as my main supply. It's kind of strange how here everybody is saying how we should focus on 'local food' while in many countries there is no other choice... what do you think about it?

Okay Kiran, just before I go, I’d like to have a quick look at some time phrases that you’ve used in your posts:

By daytime we went shopping.
Next day morning I will go to the shops.
In coming Friday I will go shopping.
Now a day I go shopping everyday.

(Only the phrases in italics are from your posts, I just added the rest of the sentences to show how they were used).

Now all of the phrases need a little bit of correcting… can you see if you can spot the errors? Have a go and I’ll post the answers next time.

Okay, time to go. Cross your fingers for me that the weather is okay!

All the best,


Vocabulary definitions from last time…

To put someone out of his/her misery - to do or say something that stops someone from feeling bad or confused
Context – the situation or environment
Instalment - a section of a story where each part appears separately

Friday, 29 August 2008

From BBC Learning English

No, this is not a thank-you-and-goodbye to Amy yet - there are still two whole days left before the end of August, so I am sure we'll hear from Amy again...

And from Monday we'll have a new Teacher blogger whose name is Simon Johnson and who is currently living in Turkey. Welcome Simon!

BBC Learning English team

Saturday, 30 August 2008

A recipe for you :-)

Hello! The sun is shining, I survived my camping trip with the kids and all is well :-)

First things first, Kiran – let’s have a look at your answers to the task I set.

1. By the day time, we went shopping. - Almost right – this should be in the daytime we went shopping. or during the daytime. I think you may have got confused with the phrase ‘by night’, where you can use ‘by’.

2. The Next day morning I will go to the shops. - Good guess here but in fact it should be tomorrow morning I will go to the shops.

3. In the coming Friday I will go shopping. - Again, good try but it should be next Friday I will go shopping.

4. Nowadays I go shopping every day. - yay! This is one is correct, well done! :-)

I had heard about the flooding in Nepal and Bihar and I agree it’s a total disaster. Here in the UK it is very difficult to imagine the scale of it – when one village is flooded here it makes national headlines and people talk about it for weeks… the fact that millions of people have been affected in Nepal and India is just inconceivable. It’s strange that Bihar in particular always seem to suffer from misfortune like this. It seems like the state is always facing problems, whether it’s natural, social or economic.
By the way, I thought that this sentence that you wrote was great: “The tears of the people in that area are much more than the monsoon rain.”… very poetic :-)

A couple of our readers asked for the quiche recipe that I used the other day and I’m more than happy to oblige. This is originally a French recipe but this is my own version (adapted from various cookbooks) so apologies to our French readers if it’s not completely authentic! I’ve used broccoli in this recipe but you can use just about any vegetable… spinach is also very nice or courgettes… up to you :-)

Broccoli quiche


250g flour
125g butter

1 medium head of broccoli, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic,chopped
Herbs of your choice

100g cheese (cheddar or similar)
2 eggs
250ml milk
salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celcius.
2. Make the pastry. If you have a food processor, cut up the butter into small chunks and whizz it up with the flour until it looks like soft breadcrumbs and there are no big lumps. You can also do it by hand by just rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Add the water a couple of tablespoons at a time until the mixture comes together in a soft but not wet dough – be careful not to add the water too quickly. Put the ball of pastry into the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
3. Gently fry the onion and garlic in a little bit of oil and then add the broccoli and herbs. Keep cooking until it’s tender but not too soft. You may need to add a little bit of water in the bottom of the pan if it starts to stick. Add salt and pepper.
4. Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl and mix in the milk.
5. Roll out the pastry until it’s about 5mm thick. Grease a pie dish (about 10 inches across) and line it with the pastry. Cut off any pastry that is overhanging the edges.
6. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the pastry so that it is evenly covered. Save a little bit for the top if you can.
7. Put the broccoli mixture (without any liquid) onto the cheese, then pour over the egg and milk mixture. Top with any leftover cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes until it’s set.
8. Eat and enjoy!

So there you go – hope you like it. Kiran, if you haven’t already planned your next post, how about sharing a Nepali recipe? I’m always looking for new ideas, I get so bored of eating the same old things everyday.

All right, I’d better go and hang the washing out. Tomorrow will be my last post and I’m planning a little vocabulary quiz for you so make sure you review all the words we’ve done over the past month if you have time.

Until tomorrow,

Amy xxx

Last post’s vocab (sorry I forgot to add it in a list at the end of the blog!)

The nights are drawing in - you say this when the summer is ending and the winter beginning, as the time of sunset becomes earlier and earlier
To be in the air - you use this when there seems to be general feeling that a lot of people have, for example if there is a national disaster you might say ‘there’s a lot of sadness in the air’
Organic- grown without the use of pesticides, fertilisers or other chemicals
To tend to do something - if you tend to do something it means you usually do it although perhaps not always - ‘I tend to drive quite slowly’
A drawback - a disadvantage
To turn up - (in this context) to arrive

Vocabulary from today’s post (definitions next time):

To oblige
To grease

Sunday, 31 August 2008

See ya later, alligators!

Hello for the last time,

Kiran I wish you all the best for the festive season and that you have a lovely time visiting your family during Dashain. Thanks for all your fab posts and sharing so many interesting things about Nepal. I really hope I’ll be able to visit again before too long.

A big huge thank you also to our readers for writing in – you are all very dedicated blog readers and comment writers! I like how Kiran described you as ‘blog lovers’ :-) Here are just a few short final replies… (I’m sorry if your comments haven’t appeared yet!)… and then a little quiz, as promised!

Ana Paula - hope you liked the recipe! Yes, we had a lovely time with no rain! Hurrah! Great to have been in touch again. All the best :-)

Cristina - yep, Ed’s Granny is pretty amazing, she’ll be trying out for the 2012 olympics next!

Rianto - nope, she doesn’t take any special nutrients, just plenty of fresh air.

Zaya - you’re welcome!

Habooba - sadly there’s no time to do an interview with Ed’s Granny but I agree it would have been very interesting.

Maryam - as far as I know you can use ‘pictures’ and ‘photos’ interchangeably… serious photographers probably say ‘photos’ though :-)

Dino - yes, I feel the same way about my Grandfathers who have both passed away… I’m so grateful that our Grannies have been able to meet our children.

Marianna - Ed and I met at university – 10 years ago!!

Leila - mine are pretty hectic too! Wishing you a lovely long sleep tonight :-)

VR - yes, I think it’s really a blessing when old people continue to enjoy life and so sad when they don’t or can’t. Have another read through the joke explanation… each of the highlighted words has two meanings. You’re almost there!

Mauricio - no secrets as far as I know, just luck! I don’t think she’s had her gall bladder removed! Yes, that joke also includes a pun – it doesn’t have to have the same spelling. You’re right, we’re very lucky having such a wide choice of food.

Josette - I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the blogs and it’s been lovely to hear from you too. Yes, hanging out with the Grannies is a lot of fun!

Jorge - that’s interesting about the flower names – I’m always fascinated by the connections between languages. I think there are often more similarities than we realise.

Wisarut - all I know is that she doesn’t eat very much! She does eat most things though.

Monica - yes, I was the photographer. I had a go in the canoe on the lake too but then I was looking after Ozzy. Thanks for the good advice! You’re absolutely right. Hope you liked the recipe! Loved the jokes!

Concetta - I think a lot of it comes down to luck, you know. And lots of fresh air too! Great list of puns and I love that Panda joke

Sheila - I’m sending all my best wishes to your Granny for a speedy recovery xx

Carlita - welcome to the blogs! I loved your story about your tree-climbing Grandfather!

Gaitrie - I know! Me too!

Hanan - not all elderly British ladies are like this, no! She’s quite remarkable.

Adek - yes, you’re absolutely right, although this was quite a small and shallow lake. Louie always wears a life jacket when he goes out on my Dad’s big boat, whether he likes it or not! Nice to hear from you!

YPW - no time to do an interview, unfortunately :-( Good idea though!

Michela - I’m sorry you had so many problems finding somewhere to camp! School holidays, you see :-( I totally agree – Cornwall in the winter is much nicer in many ways!

Silwal - no! I can’t guess the answer! Please post it in a comment to put me out of my misery! :-)

Luo Fang - well spotted! It was a mistake which I corrected in my next post. I was tired!

Ernesto - well done on the puns! Once you think of one they all start coming into your head, don’t they?

Min - veg box schemes are quite common all over the UK now – I think a farmer somewhere started doing them about 10 years ago and then the idea just caught on.

Filippo - I was interested to hear that you have veg boxes in Italy too. I’m very interested in the Slow Food movement which started in Italy, have you heard of it?

Jackson - welcome to the blogs! Excellent work on the homework – all correct! :-)

Phewf! Okay, here is your final task Kiran and everyone! A vocabulary quiz on the words I’ve been highlighting in the blogs this month. Choose a word from the ‘word bank’ at the top to go in each sentence. Each word or phrase is used only once. The answers are at the end… no cheating though! :-) Good luck!

Word bank:

a. Get up to mischief
b. Intrigued
c. Atrocious
d. Brainwave
e. Upmarket
f. Spill the beans
g. Scald
h. Shattered
i. Clear-out
j. Lie-in
k. Meltdown
l. Compelling
m. Context
n. Drawback
o. Authentic

1. Don’t take the toy away from the baby – she’ll have a _____.
2. I was really _____ when I heard about your plans to walk to Australia... how are you going to do it?
3. I’ve been trying to get her to _____ _____ _____ but she just won’t tell us the secret!
4. It’s important to think about the _____ when choosing which words to use.
5. My kids are always _____ - they're very naughty!
6. I've had a _____! Why don't we try and learn 5 words every day? Don't you think that's a good idea?
7. I really enjoyed that film, the story was really _____.
8. Be careful with that hot water, you might _____ yourself.
9. The weather this summer has been absolutely _____... it's just been rain, rain and more rain.
10. I think this is an _____ Picasso painting… although it’s more likely to be a copy, I suppose.
11. I am absolutely _____ - I need to go straight to bed.
12. Some parts of London are more _____ than others, and the houses are much more expensive.
13. He decided to have a _____-_____ and then take everything he didn’t need down to the charity shops.
14. The only _____ about living in England is the weather.
15. On Saturday I had a lovely long _____-_____. I didn’t get up until 10 o’clock.

Answer key:

1. k
2. b
3. f
4. m
5. a (getting…)
6. d
7. l
8. g
9. c
10. o
11. h
12. e
13. i
14. n
15. j

Well it really is time to say goodbye and to pass you over into the hands of Simon. I’m really looking forward to reading his posts about Turkey as we’re hoping to go there on holiday next year! Very best wishes to you Simon, I hope you enjoy blogging as much as I have.

So long Kiran! So long blog lovers!



Ooh almost forgot – here are the definitions from last time…

Inconceivable - impossible to imagine
To oblige - to do something you have been asked to do
Authentic - real, not a copy
Pastry - dough made from flour and butter that is cooked until it is crisp. Usually used to make pies.
Tender - (in this context) soft
To grease - to put oil or butter on something so that nothing will stick to it.

August 2008

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