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November 2008

Saturday, 01 November 2008

Hello from Helen

Hi Olfa, hi to all the other bloggers out there too!

I have anticipated this moment for a long time. I applied to be a teacher blogger earlier this year and was planning to start in August but I had to delay due to a little matter of changing jobs, moving country and all that that kind of upheaval entails. A lot of people have mentioned in their first blogs that they are new to blogging and I am no exception!

So, in the good old fashioned way people do, let me introduce myself. I wish I could see you, which would make it easier somehow. I know, let’s start with a virtual handshake, shall we? That’s better. I was born in a big city in the north west of England – Manchester. I haven’t lived there for a long time though as we moved around a lot when I was a kid and as an adult I took myself off to foreign parts just as soon as I could. I’ve lived and worked in a few places including Czech Republic, Greece, Vietnam and India. I am currently living in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka – otherwise known as the teardrop island. Actually, I didn’t know that till my friend referred to it as such when I told her we were going to move here. Quite a charming yet poignant name at the same time, don’t you think?

I moved here very recently with my husband, Pankaj and our 17-month old daughter, Isabel Riya. I’m quite looking forward to her being two so when people ask her age, I don’t have to count the months and I can just say “she’s two”. Have you noticed that – how parents never say their child is one – unless they have just had their first birthday, they always feel the need to state exactly which month after one they are? Is that the case in all cultures I wonder? Anyway, I’m diverting.

What do I do? Well, I have always been involved in teaching or training of some description and now I am doing a combination of teaching and academic management. When I’m not at work, I relax with my family by going for walks on the beach near our house (this is a recent luxury you understand – before this I lived in landlocked Delhi which was miles from any recreational water body) or I read and listen to music. I used to do yoga but since moving I have not established an exercise routine and that is something I really must do – and soon!

At the moment I am in the process of sorting out all our photographs so we can look through them with ease and decide which ones to print. We’ve moved over to digital for the most part but I still miss my manual camera and the anticipation of waiting for a film to be processed. Do you prefer to use digital? Do tell me about your hobbies and interests.

I’m also learning Sinhala and going to classes two mornings a week. It’s an interesting language and there are some similarities with Hindi as they are both Sanskrit based so it feels a little less daunting than when I first started. Are any of you learning a language other than English? If you are let us know and maybe we can all share tips. I’ll talk to you more in another post about how I learn languages and we can share views on how best to make the most of the resources we have at our disposal.

I am at that exciting stage of being in a country I have previously never visited, have read little about and feel as if I am on the precipice of something quite exhilarating. (Not entirely unlike writing a blog for BBC LE!)

I can’t wait to explore more – your country, your life and strengths and weaknesses as a language learner and Sri Lanka. I hope we can make this journey together and tantalize our readers with the tastes of our respective countries. Before I get carried away and wax lyrical any further, here are today’s challenges:

1. Which literary device did I use in the sentence: I hope we can make this journey together and tantalize our readers with the tastes of our respective countries? Simon – the last teacher blogger - talked about the use of metaphor. Well, there’s another device at play here as well. Here’s a clue – I have used the same device in the title of this post, Hello from Helen.
2. How many examples can you identify of chatty expressions or linkers in my post? What is their function?

Let me know and I’ll give you the answers to both challenges in my next blog. Oh! Nearly forgot, the words/expressions in bold might be worth a look as well. I’ll give you definitions/synonyms in my next post. Ideally, try to use them in a sentence in your next post.

Well, that’s it for now. If there’s anything you feel I have missed out of my personal introduction, do let me know and I’ll be happy to fill in the gaps.

Until the next time…


Today’s Words/expressions

Took myself off to
Feel the need to
Of some description
Establish a routine
At our disposal
On the precipice of
Wax lyrical
At play
Fill in the gaps

Monday, 03 November 2008

Picture This../Plantation Paradise

Hello again – good to hear from you Olfa. Thanks to all of you who welcomed me to this blog and commented on either the post or the challenges. I will address those later.

As Olfa has done, let me tell you about the weekend and that should satisfy those of you who want to hear about and see more of Sri Lanka. As the post title suggests, there will be photos too – promise. Here’s one of Isabel at home, especially for Ana Paula.


My in-laws are over from India for a few weeks so we thought we’d take them out of Colombo for a couple of days. We went to an exquisite place near Kithulgula, on the banks of the river Ingoya. It took us about 2 hours to drive there, about 90 km inland from Colombo. The place curiously is known by two names so depending on who we asked for directions, we would draw a blank and then try a second name and come up trumps. Its two names are Royal River Resort and Plantation Resort. If I had to name it, I would choose Plantation Paradise, as it is the most befitting for this four room haven. It's called Plantation resort as it is surrounded by a tea estate. Feast your eyes on these snaps – that’s our room you can see opening out onto the pool.

It is the kind of place you really don’t need to and oughtn’t to step out of. I say this because it has a serenity I yearn for after eight years in Delhi – mostly due to the proximity to and sound of the river. It was actually quite loud! Good soundproofing for the rooms which are often occupied by honeymooners.

I used it to chill out and read – something I rarely get time to do at the moment, though it is what I enjoy more than anything. I was able to spend time with our daughter, Isabel as well as palm her off on her grandparents when I wanted a bit of ‘me-time’. It is interesting what Simon was saying about use of language and what it tells you about a culture. I read with interest his observations on expressions we use with the word time. So, here’s another one for you. In the west, and I don’t know when it started but, we have begun to talk about time in terms of possession – this is my time; I need some me-time; It’s daddy’s time now. My favourite is quality time. Well, it’s breakfast time now, so see you later...
isabel and me

Isabel, Pankaj and I enjoying the water and the sunshine in November!
isabel and pankaj

OK I’m back and it’s time to address last post’s challenges. Although some of you protested that they were difficult, most of you managed to tackle them reasonably well. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Challenge 1: Well done to Beatriz, Jens, Justo and Christine for recognising the literary device I was referring to as alliteration – even if some of you didn’t know the word you were able to identify the words which were using alliteration. These were – tantalize and taste (and together). They both begin with the same letter -‘t’. This repetition of the consonant sound creates a nice effect when reading aloud and is a common device used by writers, particularly in headings/headlines.
Challenge 2: chatty expressions/linkers – there were 2 varieties of expression – those which we can term as conversational fillers/chatty expressions like ‘a little matter of’ and ‘in the good old fashioned way people do’. These serve to bring the reader closer to the writer and make the reader feel as if he is being told a story/listening to an anecdote. The second variety of linkers were words like those identified by Ana Paula – ‘so, actually, anyway, well’. These are like the cement on a sentence and help make the sentence cohesive.
Challenge 3:
Took myself off to – left suddenly/with a sense of purpose
Feel the need to – think it is necessary to
Of some description – we use this expression when we want to be vague/don’t know/can’t remember the exact details
Recreational – here I used this word with water body to indicate a place where people might have fun/do exercise etc. Use for non-work purposes.
Establish a routine – decide on and stick to a set pattern
Daunting – discouraging due to fear of something
At our disposal – available to us
Tantalize - excite
Wax lyrical – talk about in an overly favourable light/poetically
On the precipice of - on the verge of/almost there and yes, this is metaphorical use of the word – well spotted, Toni.
Fill in the gaps – give the missing details

Alessandro - I think the word you're after is enthusiastic/passionate.
Christine - Sri Lanka is called the teardrop island due to its shape - have a look at a map and I think you'll agree, it does resemble a teardrop.

Finally, today’s challenge – that’s right -only one today. Simply this, check the meaning of and use the words in bold in this post about the hotel we stayed at and our weekend. Don’t try to use all of them – choose 5. In my next post, we’ll look at Olfa’s use of language.

Wednesday, 05 November 2008

First Steps

Hello everyone. How are you? I wasn’t going to blog until tomorrow but there is too much that has happened today in world history for me to wait. First and foremost – no, it’s not the first black president of the USA – Isabel took her first steps this morning. She has been on the verge for a while now but this morning was the time she chose to bowl me over and I welled up and started blubbering, which confused her slightly! I felt a fool but I was so emotional I couldn’t help myself. Then, when I went into the office and everyone’s phones were beeping ten to the dozen and the colour of the USA map was changing from red to blue at a fantastic rate, it all became too much for me. Will he make a difference? We can only hope…

Well, enough of US politics and baby talk, time to get down to brass tacks, Olfa, it has to be said that your English is pretty good and your vocabulary can be very precise. Take for example, your use of the word catastrophic to describe the distressing situation you found yourself in on the eve of your first student blog experience, I can well imagine what you must have been going through, as I’m sure the other readers could too. Likewise, your use of to top it all was absolutely spot on in that sentence and context. It sounded very natural and added spice to your sentence. By spice I mean colour, flavour, it enriched your sentence and helped to paint a picture for us. Well done!

Now I have a question for you Olfa, and maybe one for all the other bloggers to consider too. How often do you write/speak by using direct translation? The reason I ask is that because your mother tongue is French, the temptation is probably greater than with languages not as close in root to English. You have the advantage (or disadvantage depending on which way you look at it) of having a huge passive knowledge of English words which are very similar – to look at - to the French equivalent. For example, fantastic, formidable, catastrophic etc. However, there is a risk that you can end up using the wrong word in the wrong place through translating.

An example in your first blog of this is reunified. 'Well, in short, it seems that everything is reunified to make this day a particularly sad and desperate one'. Try to rephrase this sentence keeping what I have said in mind. Maybe the other bloggers can help out too. OK, that’s vocabulary; now let’s look at some grammar. Your sentence construction is good and your sentences hang together well. You might want to pay some attention to your use of tenses and verb forms. Again, maybe the other bloggers can help out. Find the mistake in the following sentences and rewrite.

1. I wish I've could have sent this first letter yesterday, but it was completely impossible.
2. Just think for a person who is used to be connected many hours a day, the situation was just catastrophic.
3. I'm trying during this month to share with you some special time and make French culture and habits more understandable for everyone.
4. To everyone, I will really enjoy to answer to any of your question.

OK Olfa, tell us now more about where you live and work and whether you can get me a job in Paris! I have to say, I love that city and wouldn’t mind living there some day.

P.S. for fans of British culture and traditions, take a look at the blog on 5th November 2007 – Rachel Hunt does a pretty thorough job of describing events that led to us celebrating Guy Fawkes’ downfall.

Answers to last blog's challenge:

Are over – have come to stay with us/are here/came to visit us - there are actually many ways we can rephrase this and we can use different tenses to express the same thing. I chose to use the present simple aspect to bring you closer to the event, and make it sound closer to now.
Curiously - strangely
Draw a blank – fail to recall something/fail
Came up trumps – complete something well or successfully, especially when not expected
Befitting - suitable
Oughtn’t to – should not – the use of oughtn’t to in the blog was meant to be humourous. It was not used to advise but to mock anyone who might think of leaving such a paradise
Serenity – peace/absence of stress or anxiety
Proximity to – closeness to
Palm her off – get rid of her (sounds really awful but it is said in jest and we only did this temporarily!
Alliteration – repetition of consonant sound at the beginning of each syllable
Cohesive – sticks together well

For today’s vocabulary, try matching the word/phrase from the blog with the correct definition. Good night all.

Engage with the basic facts or realities
hang together
Exactly right/accurate
bowl me over
spot on
Overwhelm/impress or delight
get down to brass tacks
Got tears in my eyes
Crying and snuffling/weeping
welled up

Saturday, 08 November 2008

Home Sweet Home

Calling Olfa!

Olfa – how are you? Hope you’re OK and not facing any more problems getting online. Today’s blog will be a short one about our new (ish) home in Sri Lanka and after that I’ll give you the answers to the homework which I am so pleased you all attempted.

'Home sweet home’, ‘home is where the heart is’, see how many other phrases with ‘home’ you can notice in today’s post. Needless to say, once you have noticed them, try to use them.

Well, as I have said, we moved to Colombo a little under two months ago and we chose to rent a house by the sea. It’s about 7 km from my office – so not very far really, but it’s just outside the city limits and a 2-minute walk to the beach. I’ve been thinking about home a lot lately - Probably because it’s about the time when culture shock kicks in and leaves me feeling quite homesick. However, that said, it has to be the nicest house I’ve had and the ambience, the setting and the d├ęcor combine to make me feel it’s a home from home. Here’s a snap of the outside view if you’re standing just inside the gate. That’s the front door on the right – I like the shape and the texture of it. It’s very solid too.


In this one you should be able to get a good idea of the expansive sitting area which I am not quite sure how to refer to as it is a dining/drawing cum lounge all in one. I like that open plan look - It gives it a homely feel that makes me want to curl up with a good book. Incidentally, Ana Paula – you asked what I was reading at the moment. I am kind of reading about 3 books – The Post-birthday World by Lionel Shriver, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and I keep dipping in and out of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's My Nine Lives – a book of short stories. More about books in another post – can’t use that beautiful topic up with a post about home!! By the way, that’s my father-in-law sitting in the planter’s chair.


Now here’s one that might interest you – this is the outside view of the room from where I write to you all. Yes, that open door leads to our study. It would be nice to see the room where you blog from Olfa. Next time I’ll send you a picture of the inside of our study – I’ll have to tidy up first though! As you can see from this one, our house is a bungalow – that’s very convenient with a young child running around. Even though we aren't home owners of this one, if I were to have a house designed from scratch, I reckon I'd choose a similar one to this. :)
study veranda

Well, I’m almost home and dry now but before I finish here’s what you’ve been waiting for:

Homework answers
1. Yes, you got it right – you just have to omit ‘‘ve’ and you have yourself a correct sentence. “I wish I could have sent this first letter yesterday, but it was completely impossible”. Probably what happened here is quite a common case of repeating the auxiliary verb for the perfect tense by mistake. Easily done.:)
2. Well done Mariela for this one. Yes, it’s that age old problem of infinitive vs. gerund. If you don’t know what those terms mean – look them up! In this sentence Olfa needed to use the gerund. “Just think for a person who is used to being connected many hours a day, the situation was just catastrophic”. You could probably drop one of the ‘just’s as well Olfa. I will talk about the many uses of ‘used to’ in my next post.
3. Now this one was tricky. It’s really a word order issue along with tense. How about this: “I will try, during this month, to share some special time with you and make French culture and habits more familiar to everyone”. Alternatively, “I will try to share some special time with you and increase your understanding of French culture and habits”.
4. Here’s the infinitive vs. gerund again, coupled with an agreement problem. “To everyone, I will really enjoy answering any of your questions”. If we use any with a countable noun we need to use the plural form.

I think you all got the matching exercise right, but here goes – just to confirm:

Engage with the basic facts or realities: get down to brass tacks
Exactly right/accurate: spot on
Connect: hang together
Overwhelm/impress or delight: bowl me over (a cricket term of course – look up other phrases derived from cricket if you’re interested)
Got tears in my eyes: welled up
Crying and snuffling/weeping: blubbering

Good night and sweet dreams.:)


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Welcome back! Remembrance Day and a few replies...

Now that’s not a very catchy title for a blog is it? Sometimes there’s just too much to say in one post and one title simply does not sum it up!

First thing’s first, well done Olfa for overcoming your fear of the blank page. Look at the response you’ve got - definitely worth it, don’t you think? :) Well, as you are still attempting to look at the work I gave you last time I will not over scrutinise your blog today but instead give you time to get into the flow of things and look at a grammar point which has come up with a few people and which I promised to discuss last time. I always believe a good grammar ‘gift’ should be contextualised so what better a context than Remembrance Day for my chosen structure – used to.

Used to misusing used to? Let’s get used to using it accurately. :)

November 11 is Remembrance Day - the day on which we pay our respects to the soldiers to have fought for us over the last 90 odd years. It started as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the First World War but now in the UK, and other countries too, we use this day to remember soldiers who have died in more recent wars or conflicts as well. This year is a special year as it is the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War. So, why November 11 and what do we do to remember the soldiers? Well, it is a very interesting story, the basic facts of which are these: On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the First World War ended. Apparently, the Armistice was signed in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne, France a few hours earlier. To find out more about this and other interesting tit-bits visit
November 11 is also known as Armistice Day or Poppy Day.

I remember as a kid everyone in school wore poppies and we used to observe a 2-minute silence at 11 am to reflect on those who gave their lives in the first (and second) world wars. Everything used to stop – apparently even public transport would grind to a halt in the olden days to ensure absolute silence was observed. I like the idea of using silence as a way to help us remember people and events which have shaped our history and I wish we were more used to practising it. We didn’t use to think twice about buying a red poppy to wear as a symbol of remembrance. Nowadays, some people are more used to wearing a white poppy as it is seen as more of a symbol of peace. The story of the red poppy is interesting though. At the end of the day, it is all about symbolism and whatever works for you as an individual. Red makes me think of the blood shed during battle and I am not used to associating white with remembrance so if I were in the UK I’d still be buying a red one. As it is, here in Colombo I didn’t take part in any service or silence today.

It is sad that the First World War was not the war to end all wars as it was hoped it would be but c’est la vie. I think we are all war-weary and too used to seeing horrific images of modern day warfare and as a result we have got used to its catastrophic effects and sometimes find it easier to forget.

Now, for a change of mood - a few replies to all you diligent bloggers:

Ernesto – yes, it is very common to be barefoot in the house in this part of the world, partly due to the climate and partly cultural. I personally love the cool feel of marble or stone on my feet.

Ana Paula – I’m still not sure about White Tiger. Will keep you posted on that one.

Cheikh Vall – and all others interested – sorry for being remiss about the use of ‘reunified’ in Olfa’s first blog. I would rephrase the sentence to something like this: Events conspired against me to make that day particularly sad and desperate.

Tiasha – It’s good to hear from a Sri Lankan. I know exactly what you mean about being able to talk to people in different parts of the house. It does create a feeling of togetherness. Do write more and join in the dialogue about your beautiful country.

Mukta – Keep trying to make up stories to contextualise the vocabulary you are trying to practise. It really helps and you did pretty well.

– The topic of multicultural marriage is a vast but interesting one. Let’s see if other people are interested in hearing my story and then I might venture into that territory. We also use the term ‘melting pot’ in the same way as you do.

Hyoshil – I used the present tense amongst other reasons because they (my in-laws) are still with us. Keep analysing language in this way though. It is a very useful skill to develop and will help increase the range and accuracy of your usage of English.

Answers to last post’s challenge
Well done for noticing most of the ‘home’ phrases. One phrase a few of you didn’t manage to use accurately was homesick. Remember to think about the part of speech when you learn a new word. Homesick is an adjective yet some of you tried to use it as a noun “I hope you get over your homesick”. Actually the noun is homesickness. The others were:

Home from home – a place other than your home where it is possible to make yourself at home.
Home sweet home – expresses the sentiment ‘there’s no place like home’. This phrase originated in an English song from the opera Mid of Milan in 1823.
Home is where the heart is – expresses the sentiment that you prefer home to all other places; home is where you are emotionally attached.
Homely – familiar, unpretentious
Home owners - people who own their own home (fairly self explanatory this one)
Home and dry – successfully having completed something

And today’s challenges are…

1. Notice the way ‘used to’ is used and its different forms. Which verbs can be used with ‘used to’? How do we make the negative and question forms? I will give you a breakdown of the grammar of this in the next post.
2. What do the words and phrases emboldened mean?
3. Tell me the kind of topics you would like me to discuss on this blog – Olfa gets first choice here folks. :)

Good night everyone and Olfa – keep on blogging now you’re on a roll. :)


Friday, 14 November 2008

A Sporting Life?

Hi everyone and thanks for your suggestions of blog topics. As I said in my last blog Olfa gets first choice. :)

So Olfa, you want me to talk about sports… hmmm… well right now as I think I’ve mentioned, sports are not a very big part of my life – neither actively or passively to tell you the truth. One of the reasons for this is my inertia after a day’s work and putting Isabel to bed. I tend to want to unwind with a bit of Thelonius Monk and a nice glass of wine rather than hit a gym or sports centre. Another is, as I said in an earlier blog, I haven’t yet established an exercise regime. Every time I go to the beach I contemplate the volleyball players who seem to be having so much fun but I remember how weak my wrists are and how I have embarrassed myself on several occasions attempting to get the ball high enough into the air so that it at least approaches the net. They also play footy and cricket – young lads and lasses with bare feet having a great time!

Generally I am influenced by my surroundings, as is usual with extraverts and well, if it’s there and I happen to have a friend or acquaintance who does it, I am more inclined to be motivated to do sport regularly. In school, I played hockey and did cross country running – both representing the school. After school – in sixth form and when I was an undergraduate I was pretty lethargic sports-wise and was more into music, film, reading and dancing! The times I have been most fit and sporty are when I lived in Vietnam and when I did my Masters degree – both periods of my life have one thing in common, I lived on a college campus and when I stepped out of my flat/room I was surrounded by sport – it was cheap, accessible and ubiquitous. That’s what I need! In Vietnam I played a daily round of badminton doubles and at Reading University I also played badminton, swam and cycled to my classes which were held on another campus. So, who knows, I may get into beach volleyball after all. :)

Here’s a few pics of me looking like I’m sporty! Do you think I pull it off?
me playing footy with my nephew, Callum in a park in Warrington

me playing badminton in a teacher training college, Quang Ninh

rafting on the river Ganga, near Rishikesh

Now, spectator-wise, there are only really two games that have captured my interest – certainly for TV viewing. That is football and tennis. Both are high energy games and the skill is easily definable. When you see a skilled footballer on the field, it’s almost like watching ballet. The foot movements can be so deft and graceful and the kind of sports photography we have access to nowadays is something else. Tennis I like for the tension and the whole peripheral culture. The green and purple colour scheme, the glamour of the refreshments stalls, the reverence expected of the audience during play, the customary streakers across the court and the sheer Britishness of the inevitable rain and resulting drama.

These are also the two sports I have been lucky enough to encounter live. I first went to a football match at Ayresome Park Stadium to see Middlesbrough United back in 1990. We used to live across the road as students and the atmosphere was electrifying. Being in the stadium was another matter though. Full finger gloves, scarf, woolly hat and duffle coat or bomber jacket – none of this made a difference. You were still freezing like icicles by the end of the first half. I miss those days. It seems to me that it’s all about season tickets and corporate sponsorship now – back then we’d queue up and pay a fiver and that was it. Now you have to be a season ticket holder, be vetted to check you’re not a hooligan and it’ll cost you and arm and a leg for the privilege.

Wimbledon is one of the worst events for corporate sponsorship. My dad always gets mad about this. He took me one year – to see the men’s’ semi finals. Roger Federer (Switzerland) v Jonas Bjorkman (Sweden) we were on Centre court, four rows back from the court, next to the box where the trainers and players' guests sit. There was a slight delay for rain but it was a wonderful day. There were whole sections of the audience empty due to the practice of giving tickets to corporates who were too busy in the Pims or gin and tonic tents to be bothered whether the tennis was top class or had got rained off.

Well that’s my rant over now. I hereby pledge to get fit and bring sport back into my life!

Until the next time, bye all. Have a good weekend.

The challenges: define and use the words/expressions in bold and find 5 phrases from a phrase finder or a dictionary that use a form of the word ‘sport’. For example, sporty. Again, try to use them in a sentence. Responses and review of last homework later. I can't miss my mother-in-law's aloo paranthas:)

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A Sunny Saturday Morning

Hi everyone!
I’m sitting here on a sunny Saturday morning in our office with the double doors open onto the veranda and I can hear the song of a variety of birds. Isabel is playing with her grandparents in the living room and Pankaj is making me a proper coffee. All is right with the world. :) Where are you sitting? What are you doing? Whatever and wherever it is I hope you are feeling as content as I am.
Hyoshil, I long for a bit of ‘sharp and nippy’ weather but right now I have to say, it is pretty perfect. No doubt it will get a bit sticky later in the day.
writing to you this morning from the office; veranda and garden in background
This morning, the coconut fella came and cut the ripe coconuts for us. Here are some pics of him and Isabel enchanted by the whole experience. The coconut water was pretty delicious too. Pankaj eats the 'millai' as well - the creme/milk from the flesh. What an idyllic morning!
coconut fella doing his thingIsabel on the veranda watching it all happen
the end result!
Olfa, first of all, let me tell you that your use of English is really rather sophisticated. Here are some lovely examples of your ability to use complex constructions and natural English:
• … not to have seen the atrocities of war
• to my mind
• not only to…….. but also to …………
• I have to deal simultaneously with
• To answer your question
• just astonished (just + adjective is a nice construction to emphasise the extent of the feeling; we often put extra stress on just for this purpose)

What I would like you to focus on for next time (and maybe the other bloggers can help you out here) are the following chunks – what do they have in common? What is wrong with them and how can you rephrase them to make them accurate?
one of the many day-off
• a 4 days-off
• this 4 days
• a well-prepared workers who knows
• until my fifteen years

For the poppy story, go to the link I sent you in the November 11 blog – it is explained on the BBC News site.

Unfortunately, you are right Paulraj, people have become used to living in war torn areas. Notice the correction I have made to your sentence here and see the grammar notes below.
Marianna, you write very visually. I think you would make a good film director or script writer. Mukta, it is interesting to hear how silence seems to be used in lots of countries as a sign of respect and to aid our memory and reflection process. Mukta, I will talk about my ‘love story’ in another blog.

Answers to vocabulary from November 11th blog

Contextualised – put into context
Pay our respects – show signs of respect
Tribute – words/gift/other expression to acknowledge (note as with respect, tribute collocates with ‘pay’)
Armistice – truce/suspension of hostilities
Poppy – large red flower, cornfield plant
Grind to a halt – come to a complete stop
War-weary – tired of war and its effects


Well done to you all for noticing all the expressions with used to in my blog and well done to those of you who constructed sentences of your own using the grammar. Tiasha, you did pretty well but there’s one correction: we cannot use ‘used to’ for past states/habits followed by the gerund. If we want to use it followed by the gerund, we need to use it with the verb ‘be’. See below for details. Ana Paula, well spotted! I didn’t use the auxiliary verb with the question ‘used to misusing used to? Because I used that question and following statement as a sort of sub title for the next part of my blog and as such it is not necessary to use the auxiliary. We also miss out auxiliary verbs in headlines in newspapers etc. It is a way of making the language stand out and catch the readers’ attention.
Here is a little summary of the form, meaning and pronunciation:

Used /t/ to+bare infinitive – is used /d/ to talk about a past habit; can also use would+bare infinitive/past simple to express the same idea.
Did+not+use+to+bare infinitive*(*Note, no 'd' in the negative form)
For example
I didn't use to go to bed so early.
Did+subject+use+to+bare infinitive* (*note here there is no ‘d’ on use in the q-form – easy to make a mistake with this)
For example
Did you use to observe 2 minutes' silence for Remembrance Day when you were at school?
For example:• I used to play badminton (but now I don’t)
• I would play badminton every day when I lived in Vietnam (I don’t play every day now)
• I played badminton a lot when I was younger (I don’t now that I’m older)
Be used to+ verb+ing (be accustomed to doing something – because you have done it many times)
For example:
• Maoine says in Italy “We are used to celebrating their memory on the 4th of November”.
• Isabel is used to going to play school now.
• I am not used to Sri Lankan food yet.
• Are you use to playing a lot of sport? I’m not.
Get used to+verb+ing (be in the process of becoming used to doing something)
For example:
• I’m getting used to blogging.
• I’ve got used to having my in-laws around and will feel sad when they go.
• I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the level of humidity in the monsoon season in Sri Lanka.

Notice how here I have used a variety of tenses with this structure. I recommend you do the same. Don’t think you have to use a particular expression with only one tense.

Well, what was going to be a short one turned into a bit of a mammoth blog! – hope you manage to digest all that grammar! See you next time. Off to help my in-laws with their leaving preparations now and I've got to get lunch on the go.

Olfa - please, please send us some pics of your life in Paris now that you have got used to blogging!


Monday, 17 November 2008

Off to the Hills

Hi everyone and thanks for all your kind words and contributions. Well done those of you who attempted the homework – Olfa – It would be great if you tried this too before I give the answers out. :)

Tonight is just a quick one to let you know that I’m off to Kandy tomorrow to visit our office there. I'm quite excited as I haven’t been yet and I am told the surrounding countryside is very beautiful. I will be there for 3 nights so I am taking Pankaj and Isabel too. I’ll be visiting a girls’ school, doing a couple of interviews as we need to recruit teachers, and delivering a training session for the teachers there. Apart from that, I am not sure what else is in store for me. I hope to be able to blog while I am there but not sure if I will get the chance. I will definitely tell you about the Kandy trip on my return though. Have a good week and we’ll catch up later.

Answers to challenges in November 14th blog:

To tell you the truth – to be honest/frank (this is a good starter for a sentence building up to some drama/good/bad news)
Inertia – state of being unable to move or act
Footy – colloquial expression for football
Lethargic – adjective from lethargy; unnaturally sleepy/low on energy. This word originates from the two Greek ‘lethe’ (forgetfulness) and ‘argos’ (idle)
Ubiquitous – all round, everywhere
Pull it off – be convincing
Deft – skillful/dexterous in movement
Something else – an American expression meaning an important/remarkable thing/person
Duffle/duffel coat – very common type of winter coat in the UK; made from the material duffel – thick coarse woolen cloth
Bomber jacket – short jacket with zipped front and elasticated waist
A fiver – colloquial term for 5 pounds – usually a five pound note
Be vetted – be checked thoroughly
Cost you and arm and a leg - very expensive

Phrases including a form of sport
You might have interpreted this task in two ways – either phrases that contain a form of the word ‘sport’ like these:

A sporting chance – a fair chance of success
A good sport – someone who is happy to take part and doesn’t mind losing/willing to be made fun of; a good fellow
A bad sport – someone who can’t take a joke; can't lose graciously
(Not very) sporting – (not) willing to take a chance
Sports day/club/shop/equipment/gear/injury/jacket – all these compound nouns are pretty self explanatory but note that they are all separate words, no hyphens either.
Or – phrases that derive form a type of sport like these:
What time's kick off? - has come to be used for everything from christenings to funerals, by males anyway.
To kick into touch - from Rugby Union, has come to mean finish a relationship with someone or to jettison an unworkable idea etc.

Well folks, that's all for now.

wish me bon voyage Olfa - it'll take me about 5 hours to get to Kandy by road.


Thursday, 20 November 2008

Back up Blog

Language Learning

As a teacher, I am often asked the question “how can I improve my English/use of English/vocabulary?” Today’s post is all about language learning and you will find several phrases which can be used to talk about how you feel about your proficiency in English. In Mario Varga Llosa’s recent book, The Bad Girl the main character is an interpreter and translator. He knows Spanish, English and French very well but he never feels as confident with his Russian. To remedy this he reads more Russian literature and feels that once he is conversant with the novels of Dostoevsky and the like he will be a much more proficient translator.

Do I think you should all go out and buy copies of Dickens’ and Hardy’s novels and start plowing through the complete works of Shakespeare to enable you to stand tall when you speak in English in social or work contexts? Not necessarily. However, I tend to agree with the premise that you will never feel satisfied with your fluency in a language if you approach your learning purely from an instrumental outlook. What I mean by this is learning English with a specific purpose in mind and paying attention only to the language functions associated with that purpose. So, if you want to learn English so that you can work as a member of an airline’s cabin crew, learning enough English to get you by in that context is fine but it will not help you in a different context or with language presented to you in a less familiar setting. In brief, there is no short cut to widening your vocabulary and reading is probably one of the most efficient ways of increasing your exposure to new language as well as giving you the option of going back and looking up words at a later stage if you forget them/don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of reading at the time. My recommended formula for successful language learning is to do the following four ‘R’s:

Read as much as possible and as widely as possible
Record what you can in a notebook/on your lap top (anywhere that works for you)
Review regularly and update your learning with extra information as you acquire it.
Regurgitate what you have learnt and check the reaction you get when you use it.

Challenge: find the phrases in todays' post to talk about how you feel about language learning adn use them in your next post to tell me about you and language learning.

Bye for now and pics and stories about Kandy on Saturday – promise!

Miss you,


Saturday, 22 November 2008

Kandy Trip

First, some hellos!
Hello Olfa! Hello to all the bloggers who responded so enthusiastically to the language learning blog. Do you know why I gave it the title of Back up blog? Well, I had a sneaky suspicion that at some point during this month there might be a time when I felt I should blog but just wouldn’t be able to so I got one ready in advance – sort of ‘here’s one I wrote earlier’. Anyway, a special hello to Sherry and Leslie from China – yes, Leslie, Kandy certainly does have a charm that will take me back there. Welcome too to Doni from Albania – I am not sure if you are the first Albanian blogger but it’s good to hear from you anyway.

Olfa, you have really whetted our appetite now and I don’t know what went wrong, but can you try again to send the pictures of Paris? We’d all so like to see you in your beautiful city. I do like your description of the many ‘goods’ and how it takes time to understand which one to use when. I sometimes feel a little sad that I didn’t continue with my French after ‘O’ level. It would have been such a useful language to learn. Maybe I will still learn one day. You’re right Olfa, exercise and team sports really do help you unwind. I will, I must, I am going to start some regular exercise again soon!

Yes, Paulraj, I work for the British Council and my trip to Kandy was a work trip. The training I did was to British Council teachers at the Kandy teaching centre. The other work was organised by the Kandy centre and I went along to see the kind of work they are doing.

Dusan, I hope you found what you were looking for on the map. If not, here are a few geographical facts about Kandy to help orientate you. Kandy is in the hill country and 115km inland from Colombo. It has a population of about 112 000. Kandy used to be the capital of the last Singhalese Kingdom, which fell to the British in 1815. The town is quite small and compact and has a large lake in the centre which is surrounded by lush green hills.
Kandy town centre Kandy Lake
Well, our journey must have been blessed by all my well wishing bloggers as the trip took less time than expected – 4 hours, and that was with a bit of a detour due to the traffic we hit on arrival. Apparently the Sri Lankan president was visiting Kandy on the eve of his 63rd birthday. Our detour, which the taxi driver described as a short cut, took us up into the back lanes of one of the most desirable residential areas of Kandy so we didn’t mind that it didn’t seem particularly ‘short’! I would describe it more as the scenic route, which is often used as a euphemism to say actually we are taking the long way round. Our hotel was lovely and we received a warm welcome on arrival. We were given hot towels to freshen up as we sat at the reception desk waiting to check in. That night we didn’t do much as we were tired so we just chilled out in our room.
View from the dining room Pankaj and Isabel
The next day I went to the office and had a pretty hectic day which started with a visit to Kandy Girls’ High school. It was a scorching morning and we had to address an audience of about 300 teenage girls.
our audience Kandy Girls
Afterwards we were invited into the Principal’s office where we were treated to some true Sri Lankan hospitality of tea, snacks and cake. Back at the office I had a series of meetings with the staff in the Kandy Branch – all really nice people and we had a productive day. By the end of it however, I was quite ready for my sundowner back at the hotel overlooking the Mahaweli Ganga. In the pictures below you can see the amazing setting of the hotel and its vista of the river. That guy you can see in the river was dredging sand to sell to the building industry – back breaking work I imagine!
view from the poolside of the river Mahaweli Ganga Guy Dredging sand
Well, my second day in the office was a little less hectic but equally enjoyable. There is something really nice about a small office where everybody can see each other and communicate with each other on a daily, if not hourly, basis. There’s nothing better than being able to walk across to someone and say what you have to say rather than starting a chain of emails which can often lead to misunderstandings or just take too long to achieve the desired outcome. That evening we all went out to one of the two bars in town called ‘The Pub’. We sat on the balcony overlooking the main street below and drank arrack (Sri Lankan rum made from coconut) and listened to jazz. It was a lovely end to a good trip.

I am conscious of the fact that I haven't said that much about the town but I really didn't get chance to explore. Pankaj and Isabel did a bit though and went to Kandy Lake and walked around the town. The impression I got was good but it might be a little sleepy for me to live there all the time.

The journey back passed without event except to say that there was a heavy downpour which slowed us down a little.

Tiasha, yes I would love to visit Kandy in August during the festival you speak of. I would also like to go to Trincomale too. We have some teacher trainers working in Trincomale. The coast is supposed to be very beautiful there. Unfortunately I didn’t get to visit the botanical gardens, the tea estates or the other famous sites but never mind – it just means I shall have to return with more time to spare for sightseeing. :)

Cheikh Vall – a recommended reading list next time.

Wahib, yes, what I meant by regurgitate was to try out what you’ve learnt in spoken and written contexts to check whether you are using the language appropriately – in the context you have chosen. Learning to use a particular word/phrase is not always easy and unless we try it out a few times in different contexts we won’t know whether we are using it naturally or not. And yes, you sure do need determination! I am finding that at the moment with my Sinhala classes. I have reached a bit of a plateau and I really need to review and regurgitate more if I am to make a breakthrough with it.

Hyoshil, I loved your anecdote – very funny. In fact it demonstrates perfectly the need for the 4th ‘R’ – if you don’t use the language and test it you will never know whether you have cracked it or not.

Phrases you might have noticed to help you talk about your language learning:
Proficiency (n)
Confident with
Conversant with
Proficient (adj)
Plowing (US) through/ploughing (GB) through
Stand tall
Satisfied with your fluency
Get you by
Widening your vocabulary
Increasing your exposure to

Hope you enjoyed the pics and the post and sorry didn’t have any sightseeing to speak of. Got to get ready to go to a birthday party now. Pankaj is waiting and we have a baby sitter for Isabel so I want to make the most of it!

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A Good Read

Hi there fellow bloggers! How are you this evening? It has been a cool windy day here in Colombo and I actually had to wear a jumper today – remarkable!

Well a few replies first… Alessandro, I also wish the British Council would set up a teaching centre in Brazil. I hope the top bosses in London are reading this blog! I would love to visit and live in a South American country and Brazil definitely appeals. :)

Marjan – the birthday party was good thanks. Mainly colleagues and quite sedate but chilled. There was a fabulous chocolate cake for the host’s birthday and it was good to socialise with colleagues in a more informal setting. I always like going to people’s houses I haven’t been to before as well. I’m really nosy that way. Sorry, no pics from the party, Leslie. :(

Thanks for the typo correction Huang. I have edited it now. I was a little uninspired gift-wise on this occasion I’m afraid so I just took a bottle of wine.
Yes, Dusan it is a great shame that the civil war dominates the news about this beautiful country. I do hope that in my lifetime this conflict is resolved.

Paulraj, Kandy Girls’ High School is a government school and yes, the first language is Singhalese for the majority but Tamil for many others.

Habooba and Paco, write more next time. Hyoshil, do send me some snow please! Mind you, I can ask my dad to bring some over as he's coming in January and I can’t wait to see him and get a little piece of home.

In my last blog I said I would discuss books and give you a ‘recommended list’. Well, I am going to give you 2 lists – the first one is my top ten of all time greats and the second is for those of you who want to read in English but feel daunted; the books in the second list have been chosen for their ease and I hope they will serve to build your confidence and once you have done that you could go back to the first list and challenge yourself more. That’s not to say that the books in the second list are less intellectual, just written in a simpler fashion and are more accessible to those reading English as a foreign/second language I think.

When I was a little girl I used to play at being librarian and I have grown up with books all around me. I can still remember being excited by browsing through the spines of the colourful collection on my parents’ shelves and the exhilaration of finding something truly inspirational from the school and college libraries. I have always loved the smell of books – new books hot off the press, old books - musty from years of usage or storage. I have dreamed of owning a second hand book store for longer than I care to remember and I think that is part of the reason why I am loathed to throw books out or give them away. I still harbour this desire and think that one day my piles and cases of paper and hard backs will come in useful. I also feel pretty sentimental about books and believe they help to tell the story of my life. Throwing them away would be like erasing a part of my life and when you move around as much as I have it’s kind of important to hold onto the bits that make up the whole, if you know what I mean.

Philip Larkin – one of my favourite poets - wrote a neat poem about books and how you identify with different characters at different stages of your life called A Study of Reading Habits. It’s pessimistic of course - it’s Larkin - but I am pleased to say I haven’t quite reached the stage of the persona in the last stanza of the poem. Do look it up and have a read. On a more positive note, Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said: “No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books”. I tend to agree – books are for me like old friends and the more creased the spine, the closer I feel to it.

OK, here’s list 1

1. Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky – the sheer feverishness of it and the guilt, the guilt. If you like Macbeth, you will like this as well.
2. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley – made me laugh out loud, it is so clever and prophetic I find it hard to believe he wrote it in 1936, a work of genius!
3. The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter – an absolute gem of a book, this collection of short stories blew my mind when I first read them and it’s a great introduction to this writer’s impressive imagination.
4. The White Hotel, DM Thomas – I read this first when I was 14. It had a profound affect on me and I had to read it again in my early 20s to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.
5. The Fifth Child, Doris Lessing – dark and a great contraceptive! One is quite enough for me!
6. Tess of the Durbervilles, Thomas Hardy – also dark, and deeply saddening. Innocence lost… A Hardy treat. I read this first for A level and I felt I was so close to the character I could step inside her world. Helped inspire me to go on and study literature at degree level.
7. Beloved, Toni Morrison – beautiful, beautiful prose and incredibly evocative. She is a poet and a master storyteller. I have never been so moved since Dostoevsky.
8. London Fields, Martin Amis – I like this one for the characters and the plot. It kept me guessing and was a real page turner at a time when I needed one.
9. The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan – darker than all the others. I eagerly await the next McEwan novel. He is one of my all time favourites. He can really write about women well too – a bit like Hardy in that way.
10. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie – a magical epic and a must read for anyone interested in that period of India’s history. Rushdie paints a vivid picture.

List 2
1. Veronica Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho
2. Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
3. The Impressionist, Hari Kunzru
4. Fasting Feasting, Anita Desai
5. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
6. Disgrace, JM Coetze
7. The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
8. Misery, Stephen King
9. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Silitoe
10. Animal Farm, George Orwell

Happy reading all and do tell me what your favourite books are or who your favourite writers are. Introduce me to a writer from your country. Sorry I didn’t provide comments for list 2. I had run out of steam by the time I got to that one. Remember, the number one rule when trying to develop a habit of reading – go for a genre you are interested in and would normally read in your own language, that way, you'll enjoy it!

Well done all of you who attempted the corrections from Olfa’s blog. I think all of you got them right, with the exception of the last one. Here are the answers:
All the phrases were wrong because they didn’t ‘agree’. What I mean by this is that the pronoun or article in the phrases didn’t agree with the subject.
• One of the many days off*
• 4 days off*
• these 4 days
• a well-prepared worker who knows/well prepared workers who know
• until I was fifteen years’ old
• *note: to make day off plural we need to remove the hyphen and add the ‘s’ to ‘day’ rather than ‘off’.

Challenge1: Find 5 examples of narrative devices in today’s post – phrases which move the story on/introduce a new point.
For example, "In my last blog I said …"
Challenge 2: Find 4 phrasal verbs in today's post and use them in a sentence. Say whether they are literal/non-literal/both.

Night night, oh and by the way – wish me happy birthday! I am 32 again tomorrow!


Thursday, 27 November 2008

From BBC Learning English

As the Festive Season and the end of the year swiftly approach, we are getting ready to run an OPEN BLOG. And this means that for the whole month of December, all our previous bloggers, both teachers (including Helen of course!) and students, as well as commentators, have a chance to catch up with each other! Interested? Well, 1st December is just round the corner so watch this space!
BBC Learning English team

Friday, 28 November 2008

Mixed Marriages and Mumbai

Hello everyone on this sad day for Mumbai. I meant to post yesterday but we got caught up in watching the horrific events as they unfolded before us on TV. My heart goes out to all those affected by this tragedy and we are praying that the hostages are all returned to safety before today is through.

To divert our attention away from this sad indictment of what can happen when cultures misunderstand each other, I thought I would tell you about how Pankaj and I came to be together, against the odds.

Some of you have asked about what it is like to be in a mixed marriage and others have asked for our ‘love story’ so here goes:

Our ‘love story'
Well, it all began back in 2000; I went to work in Kolkata. It was the first time I had ever visited India and I was very excited and stimulated by what I found. I had been in the country for a short time when a friend of mine, who I’d studied with on my Masters course, invited me to stay with him and his family in Delhi. A friend of mine from Kolkata and I caught the overnight train to Delhi – a 16-hour journey – 2nd class AC and were met by my friend and his wife at the station. It just so happened that that weekend was his wife’s birthday and they were throwing a party for the occasion.

The party was well underway when a tall, smiley man wearing a red sweatshirt walked in and seemed to be extremely popular as lots of people congregated around him, various exclamations like “Pankaj, hey where have you been”/” what time d’you call this?” “Hey stranger, how are things? Can I get you a drink?” It was this sudden commotion that caught my attention and made me wander over in that direction. Being my friend’s guest from out of town I was called over to meet the handsome stranger, who oozed confidence and was so warm and friendly. He greeted me with a lovely smile and gave me a good firm handshake. I think you can tell a lot about a person from their handshake, don’t you?

Anyway, the evening wore on and we sat around singing, one person was playing the guitar and there were a few key singers who knew lots of gazals and couplets (Urdu songs and poems). Pankaj and I talked a little but he was mostly occupied with other people. It was this first impression though that stayed with me when I returned to Delhi to live about a year and a half later.

We sort of picked up where we had left off, mutual friends of a friend who through his social network and by virtue of the fact that Pankaj and I lived pretty close – in neighbouring colonies – we were sort of thrown together. As is the Indian way, whenever I was invited to a party, it was felt that I should be escorted home. I was never allowed to get a taxi alone. So, Pankaj and I hooked up as party buddies – he would pick me up sometimes but always drop me home. This continued for a year or so until we knew each other well enough to meet independently of the parties. We started to invite each other to movies and art galleries, photo exhibitions and treasure hunts. People started speculating about us, were we an item or not? I would go to his house and meet his family. I became known in his family and would borrow a sari from his sister-in-law for a Diwali party and would sometimes be invited to eat lunch with the family on a Sunday if we were going somewhere afterwards.

Before we knew it we had become quite solid friends. Our story is a long story so I will have to miss out bits and fill you in later.
on holiday in kerala
The question may have already entered your mind – what was Pankaj’s mum thinking? Well, it became very apparent that she was well aware of the closeness of our friendship when she started asking me when my contract ended and did I miss my family back in England. She lined up a long list of prospective girls for Pankaj to meet and started eyeing me up in a completely new way.

In terms of when we finally officially started ‘going out’, it happened after Pankaj’s birthday on the 26th October 2003. I was going to Vietnam the following day for a training course and it must have been the imminent separation which spurred us both on to come clean and admit our feelings for one another, which I think we had both been in denial about as everyone else seemed to know before we did.
us at the Taj
Between then and when we finally tied the knot in February 2005, there were many hurdles we had to overcome but through patience, a willingness to be open to how things work in a different culture and sheer determination, we managed to pull it off and bring Pankaj’s mum round to the fact that the wedding was going to happen anyway. Once we had won her over, our relationship grew and today his mum and I are like best friends.
me and Ma near Rishikesh
She threw herself into the wedding arrangements and gave in to some of our demands so we were able to reach a compromise and have both a Hindu ceremony during the day and a western style reception in the evening. It was a beautiful day and people came from the UK and other parts of India to witness our union.
our Hindu ceremony
Since then we have had our fair share of ups and downs but most of these are not the result of being in a mixed marriage, more the process of getting to know each other that all couples go through when they first start living together. I would say that each year our relationship grows and we become closer. We have the good fortune of being able to appreciate the best of the east and the west and for the most part we concede when one way of doing things seems more appropriate or logical than the other.

Challenge: Find words/phrases in the post that mean:
1. for the majority of the time
2. do something with willingness and enthusiasm
3. prompted us into
4. be honest and open about something
5. give you the information/update you
6. came together
7. an official couple
8. giving a party
9. got married

Replies to the last blog and answers to the challenges before the end of the month. I am off to a charity bazaar now – you get loads of these events organised by the expatriate community close to Christmas. I imagine there’ll be lots of local craft items for sale. Thanks for all your birthday greetings and book recommendations – I have already ordered a few titles online!

Speak to you all soon,


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Bye from the Beach and the Chair

Hello all!

Is that a cryptic blog title or what!
beach volley
I just got back from the beach after taking Isabel for a walk before bedtime and I looked into the office and up at the calendar and saw that it is the last day of November.

I couldn’t resist the last opportunity to reply to you all and say goodbye from the beach. For those of you who have enjoyed the blog, I will be back in January, which I am really happy about. :)

Look at what Pankaj bought me for my birthday - isn't it cool? It is sooo comfortable and I feel like I am in the mastermind chair when I sit in it and put my head back on the head rest. :)

I see there is going to be an open blog from tomorrow. I enjoyed the last one so let’s see who joins in. I hope all of you do and Paulraj I think you should feel confident enough to blog now without waiting till the middle of next year! I didn’t mention my family because they were quite cool about it really and it was more of an issue for Pankaj’s parents as we were living in India. Had we been living in England at the time there might have been more to say about my parents but by the time they found out, it was already a fait accompli and they were both very happy for us.

Well Done Dusan, your homework was almost all correct. Check the couple that were not.

Naheed, I manage very well in a sari thank you very much! I have to get my mother/sister-in law to tie it for me though. :)

Toni – keep trying the homework. Even if it is difficult, check the answers at the bottom of this blog. I look forward to hearing more from you in January.
Ewa – let’s do a swap – I will come to Krakow and you go to India and we can compare notes.

Thanks to Filippo and Daria for your recommended book lists. I’ve already read Eco and Calvino and I loved them so I am sure I will enjoy other contemporary Italian writers too. I have ordered the Mikhail book already Daria.

Hyoshil, yes I love green tea too and browsing for hours in bookshops, flicking through volumes of classics and modern fiction too.

Paco, do write in more often – your English is good and you use a nice turn of phrase.

Thanks to Naweed, Marianna, Ana Paula and YPW for your kind comments. Ana Paula, I say 32 again because I was first 32 some years ago and I decided I didn’t feel or want to get older than that just yet!

Anonymous – do let me know how Mercy is and I may get my Dad to bring it over for me.
Leslie, look at the answers to the homework – you got phrasal verbs mixed up with verb patterns using infinitive/gerund. Good try though. Keep it up!

Answers to challenges and well done those of you who took them up. You did really well.

Challenge1 from a Good Read: 5 examples of narrative devices in today’s post – phrases which move the story on/introduce a new point.
• In my last blog I said …
• Well, I am going to give you…
• That’s not to say that
• When I was a little girl…
• I have always loved…
• I still harbour this desire to…

Challenge 2 from a Good Read: 4 phrasal verbs in today's post and use them in a sentence. Say whether they are literal/non-literal/both.
• Set up (literal)
• Bring over (literal)
• Grow up (non literal)
• Throw out (literal)
• Give away (literal)
• Throw away (literal)

Phrasal verbs from Mixed Marriages and Mumbai:
• Win over (non literal)
• Bring round to (non literal)
• Pull something off (non literal here)
• Give into something (non literal)

Challenge from Mixed marriages and Mumbai: Find words/phrases in the post that mean….
1. For the most part
2. Threw herself into (non literal)
3. Spurred us on to
4. Come clean
5. Fill you in (non literal)
6. Hooked up (non literal)
7. An item
8. Throwing a party
9. Tied the knot

Have a wonderful December and hope to meet you in the open blog or if not, in 2009!

Very best wishes,


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