Parks are a breath of fresh air, especially when they are in cities. I found that when we visited London in the summer, we really needed to escape into the parks at least once a day. Children can only take a certain amount of (1)site seeing, and then they need to run and play, and be around trees and grass. The parks in London are wonderful, my favorite being St. James's which is central, right near Buckingham Palace. It is one of the oldest in the city, and has a lake, and many kinds of birds. These animals are used to being around people; they seemed quite tame. We fed the ducks, geese, and swans with some of the sandwiches from our picnics, and we soon found that we were surrounded by pigeons as well. Deeper into the park, we came across another surprisingly comfortable creature: a squirrel. In fact, there were lots of them all over the place. I spotted a man who was feeding one of them nuts from his hand. "Wow!" we all said, as we watched him. He had the right 'touch'(2) with these animals, and they accepted all of his food. He was kind, and gave us some of his peanuts, showing us how to call the squirrels. And, would you believe it, they came scurrying(3) from the trees over to us and ate out of our hands. It was magical. I had no idea that they were so tame! When I worked in central London, I used to relax in St. James's park on my breaks, so I am quite familiar with it. However, I had never taken the time to be around the animals, so I was surprised how close they got to people. Each day we made a point of(4) visiting the squirrels in St. James's park. We would have an ice cream, play frisbee, and then feed the little creatures. We spent quite a few pounds on peanuts, and not one of them went to waste. They would jump up on the fence, take a peanut from one of us, and then jump down and scamper(3) off. I'd like to think that they appreciated our company, but really they just wanted the nuts. Once our peanuts were all gone, they would disappear in a flash, and look for other friendly people with bags of good things to eat.

1. '...can only take a certain amount of' means that too much of something would be intolerable. In this case, site seeing has to be limited, otherwise it becomes exhausting.

a. I can only take a certain amount of country music, and then I've had enough.

b. The crowd was beginning to leave; they had been waiting in the cold to see the actors, but they could only take waiting for so long.

c. At Christmas time, I can only tolerate a certain amount of shopping. I can take a day or two, but then I've had enough of the crowds.

2. 'To have the right 'touch',' can apply to many situations.

a. The animal trainer has the right touch with the animals; he is very gentle and careful, and seems to understand what they want.

b. Gosh, you have the right touch with plants. You can make anything grow!

3. 'To scamper/ to scurry,' these are two fabulous verbs that describe how small animals (rodents) run. We use these verbs particularly with mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels. 'To scamper' implies a bounciness to its running, while 'to scurry' implies a scratching and grabbing while the animal runs.

a. It was fun to see the rabbits scamper all over the field, jumping around like they had springs on their feet.

b. The rat scurried away from the dog, up the metal pipe and onto the roof.

4. 'To make a point of,'  means to deliberately do something; to be intentional.

a. My neighbor is an animal lover, and every day she makes a point of feeding a stray cat.

b. When we visited Amsterdam, we made a point of visiting a historical site each day.

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Direct download: Squirrels.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:55 AM

It all started just before Thanksgiving. My daughter had a temperature of 103 and a bad cough. I had kept her home from school, and didn't plan on her going back for a while. The next day, as the twenty-two guests arrived for lunch, I noticed that one of the cousins had a similar cough, but I was really too busy to be thinking about illness. Well, Thanksgiving came and went; the plates and cutlery were washed, the tables were put away, and everything was back to normal. But then I noticed that one of the guests hadn't left. He had actually not even been invited. He was a most unwelcome(1) guest, and his name was 'The Flu'. I opened the front door and asked him to leave, but he he just smiled at me. He was comfortable, and obviously planned on staying. 

Before I knew it, everyone was ill: coughs, temperatures, weakness, and stomach problems. Most of our relatives who had been with us were also miserably sick. I, at that point, wasn't. Usually, I take care of everyone else, and I'm fine. But it was my turn. I had looked into the face of The Flu too many times. After a few days of doing nothing, and feeling sorry for myself(2), I went to the shops. "Anna, is that you? You look terrible!" said a friend of mine I bumped into. "Oh, thanks," I said, not feeling very thankful, and not wanting to hear any more about how I looked. I made a few phone calls and wasn't recognized, "Anna, you sound awful!" was the comment I received. I'm not surprized. I sounded as if I had gravel in my throat(3).

After a few more days, I was much better, and so was everyone else. In fact, I have bounced back. My energy level is up to the roof. I'm studying for my classes, seeing friends, and rushing around preparing for Christmas while listening to a very loud version of Handel's 'Messiah'. Now that the gravel has disappeared from my throat, I can do a podcast. It's good to be back! And if you want any advice from me, be very careful which guests you invite to your house.

1. 'A most unwelcome guest' can also be expressed as 'a very unwelcome guest'. The word 'most' sounds more formal, and is good in stories. This use of 'a+most' can be used with all sorts of adjectives.

a. She was a most gracious relative, always giving and patient.

b. They were a most unbearable gang of young men, always causing conflicts and violence.

2. 'To feel sorry for oneself' is like feeling sad about your situation. You feel pity for yourself.

a. The dog is feeling sorry for himself because he's lost his bone.

b. We all feel sorry for ourselves sometimes, but it is healthier to try and be thankful.

3. 'Gravel' is a noun that is used in the expression of having a bad voice because of illness. We often use the term, 'a gravely voice,' which describes a rough voice that is not clear, as if something is stuck in the throat. Some people might have this without being ill.

a. The old fisherman had rough, wrinkly skin, and a gravely voice.

b. My throat was feeling better; it wasn't sore any more, but my voice was gravely.

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Direct download: Bouncing_back.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:22 PM

I love to learn, especially when what I'm learning is practical and meaningful. And, also, being from England, I love Indian food. Most people who are not from England think of English food as boring, or that we only eat fish and chips, or roast beef. Tut-tut. Oh, those stereotypes can be so wrong. For a very long time, our national dish in England has been curry, which, yes, is absolutely Indian. In fact, there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants in England. We're crazy about the spicy, rich food. And if you know your history(1), you will know that the English-Indian connection comes from the days when India was a British colony. Well, a few weeks ago, when I was having dinner in the only Indian restaurant in Wenatchee, I saw a poster there advertising Indian cooking classes. I quickly signed up. So, yesterday, I and about fifteen other people turned up at the house of the restaurant owners. We were each given a booklet(2) of recipes. Deedee, the master chef, did all of the cooking while we stood around and took notes. Her house filled with the smells of garlic, ginger, coriander, and masala. One by one(3), we had samples of each dish. The four hour class went by fast, and I drove home imagining myself producing these dishes for my family. The first thing that I'm going to make for them will be chicken curry, with cream and coconut milk. I can already smell it!

1. 'If you know your history'. This is an interesting phrase because of the word 'your'. The phrase doesn't  mean 'your own' history at all. What it means is 'the history that you should have learned', or 'the history that you should remember.'

a. If you know your history, you'll remember that the West of the United States was settled only about 150 years ago.

2. 'A booklet' is a small, paper book that is usually only a few pages long. The suffix 'let' indicates that it is small.

a. My new vacuum cleaner came with a booklet of instructions.

b. The local council produced a booklet about the statues in the local parks.

3. 'One by one' is like saying 'one at a time', but its use is more 'storybookish'. 'One at a time' is also used as a command, when you're telling people to take turns.

a. One by one the children stepped into the dark, abandoned building.

b. We let the balloons go, and one by one they floated up into the sky, their colors shining brightly against the blue.


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Direct download: A_Cooking_Class.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:29 PM

I'm sure that many of you who are listening to this podcast have been to Trafalgar Square. It is one of the most famous places in downtown London. In fact, if you visit London, you will find that all the major landmarks(1) are concentrated in the central area of the city. When I went there this summer with my children, we caught the bus every day to Trafalgar Square. The bus terminated(2) there which was perfect for us. So, the first day that we were there, we got off the bus and proceded to sightsee. My children were quite impressed when they looked around: the statues, the fountains, the great circle of architecture around the square, and of course, the lions. Everybody climbs on the lions to have their photo taken; it's a tradition. Another great thing about the square is the street entertainment. There is always someone doing something, either dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, or doing something extraordinary(3). On this particular day, we found a man dressed in a silver suit, being extraordinary. He was sitting up in the air on what looked like nothing. He was suspended above the ground with nothing but a walking stick touching the floor. Was he magic? Or was his floating just a clever trick? My youngest children were fascinated. With smiles on their faces, they gave him some money and said, "How do you do that?" Of course the mysterious silver man couldn't talk; that would have destroyed the mystery. He simply lifted his hat as if to say "Hello, and thank you" and continued looking shiny and magical. I wonder how long he sat like that. And I also wonder if anyone saw him get down from his invisible chair.

1. 'Landmark' is a building or structure that is historically or culturally important.

a. Stone Henge is one of the oldest and most famous landmarks in England.

b. Look! There's some kind of landmark. Let's head in that direction.

2. 'Terminated/ to terminate' simply means 'to finish' but it sounds more official or not so every-day.

a. My contract was terminated suddenly.

b. This train terminates in New York at 7pm.

3. 'Extraordinary' is a wonderful word for 'out of the ordinary', 'amazing' or 'odd'. Notice that we don't pronounce the 'a'.

a. His photographic memory is extraordinary.

b. What an extraordinary creature! It is so strange that it's actually a bit scary.

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Direct download: Floating_entertainer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:57 AM

This summer we went to visit my father in Scotland. He lives about 3 hours from Glasgow, but had arranged for us to meet him in the Highlands, a little place called Acharacle, near Fort William. We drove up from Yorkshire where I had visited my sister, spent the night in Glasgow, and continued our journey the following day. Acharacle is a very remote, beautiful area. It's a tiny village, with houses hidden all around it in the trees. It is very close to the sea, so that is where we spent most of our time. Several beaches there are unspoilt(1), and all of them are so clean. I took Robert and Domini with me to one of the smaller beaches to play in the white sand. As soon as we got there, they ran over to a rock pool and discovered a school(2) of trapped fish. It was as if they had discovered treasure. They could scoop up(3) handfuls of them with delight. I even did. They stayed in this rock pool for what seemed like ages, until their sleeves were wet and they started to get cold. Then we walked along the beach, collecting shells which we now have at home. Catching fish in Scotland is fun, especially when you can do it with your hands.

1. 'Unspoilt' when we talk about a beach or other geographic area means untouched by humans. The ending of 't' is the English spelling. In the U.S, they spell it with an -ed, 'unspoiled'.

a. I'm glad to say that area is unspoilt by tourism.

b. The forest used to be unspoilt, but now there are shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions here.

2. 'School' is the noun we use to describe a group of fish.

a. We saw an enormous school of silver herring from the boat.

b. We say 'a pack of dogs', but 'a school of fish'.

3. 'To scoop (up)' means to collect in a container of some sort. It can even be done by the hands. The word 'up' shows that you are collecting something from ground level and bringing it up level with yourself. 'A scoop' is usually a rounded quantity of the item you have just 'scooped'.

a. Shall I scoop the icecream? Would you like vanilla or chocolate?

b. The lady scooped up water from the river in her bucket.

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Direct download: Scot_fish.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:37 PM

I appologize for not releasing a podcast last week. There was good reason for my absence. I have started a university course which teaches and qualifies me to instruct English language learners. I have been buried in books(1) for a week! I started the course late, actually, as there was some sort of mix up(2) in my application. Well, that was all sorted out, and I was accepted as a student. Thankfully, all of the classes are online, which makes it very convenient for me. I have to keep track of(3) the reading requirements and the homework. The professor from Central Washington University is very friendly and knowledgeable. We have even had a live, online session where we have met everyone in the course, and have given presentations. I love it! I thought at first, that the lessons might be a little dry and boring. But, I'm happy to say that they are not at all. We are learning at the moment about educational theories and the psychologists that created them, and also what works best in a classroom. It's very stimulating. So, now that I am back on track(4), I will bring you more podcasts, and some of them will include the things I'm studying.

1. 'To be buried in books' means to have lots of reading to do. Students are usually 'buried in books'. Of course it is figurative, not literal. I think it is a great idiomatic phrase, and really gives a good visual of someone being covered in books.

a. My poor son is buried in books at the moment, as he has a science exam tomorrow.

b. I am swamped! I'm buried in books, and I need a break!

2. 'A mix up' really means a confusion and a problem. It can be used in any context.

a. There was a mix up at the airport, and I ended up with someone else's luggage.

b. There was a mix up at the restaurant, and I received the bill for the party of 30 people!

3. 'I have to keep track of the reading requirements'. To keep track means to pay attention, to stay on the correct path, to remember.


a. It's your responsibility to keep track of what you spend.

b. Let's keep track of her illness to see if she improves or not.

4. 'To be back on track' is related to 'to keep track of'. We use this phrase when we have returned to a desired routine.

a. I'm back on track with my running; I jog with my friend three times a week.

b. Now that I am over the flu, I'm getting back on track with the household chores.

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Direct download: Back_to_school.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:44 PM

The photo for today's podcast, comes from a calendar of Washington State that I bought yesterday. The photographer is Rick Schafer, well known and loved for his landscape photography of the Pacific Northwest. Though he lives in Oregon, much of his work is about Washington State. And he has his photos in well-known magazines, such as: Conde Nast Golf, Alaska Airlines, and National Park publications. One of my listeners had asked me a long time ago to show scenes of Washington State, as this is where I live. However, my photos are scattered throughout the house, and limited. So, when I found this calendar, I immediately knew that I needed to borrow these beautiful scenes (and of course, I give Rick Schafer all the credit). This is the first of 12 scenes in the calendar, and it's actually taken from the month of July. The photo is of the Columbia River Gorge, which is close to where I live. The two flowers you can see are typically found in these dry, semi-desert areas in spring and summer. They are wild, purple lupines, and small, yellow sunflowers. They contrast perfectly with eachother, and make a real show on the hills. The gorge area stretches over 290,000 acres, from southern Washington to northern Oregon. It's quite unique, and has its own Native American history, including tribes such as the Nez Perce which you may have heard about. There are 218 miles of trails that you can walk on to explore the area, 800 kinds of flowers, many different animals, and even 1000 historic buildings and archaelogical sites. I live in this area, and I haven't even seen a tiny percentage of all that is here. There's more to see and learn about if you wish to follow the link:Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

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Direct download: Scenes_of_Washington.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:01 AM

Each year for the past ten years, I have seen advertisements for St. Joe's harvest fundraiser(1) on the backs of cars. I have often found myself either driving or sitting at a red light behind one of these cars. Finally this Sunday, I actually went to the fundraiser. It took place on the playing field(2) that belongs to St. Joseph's Catholic school which is situated inside the church building of the same name. The fundraiser is for the school, to raise money for all its different needs. The organizers do a good job of advertising, and getting the word out(3) into the community. It was a glorious day, typical Autumn, sunny but slightly cool. There was already music playing when I arrived, even though it was only mid-morning. A little hispanic boy was singing 'Cielito lindo', and a crowd was gathering to watch him. I walked past the row of Mexican food stalls and stopped at one which was selling cups of sliced fruit. As I ate the mango, melon, and jicama slices, I walked around and looked at the rest of the fundraiser. There were giant bouncy areas for children, ceramic and craft stalls, jewelry, clothing, and a second-hand area that had a bit of everything. I rummaged (4)around in the household items, looking for something useful. "I'll make you a good deal, Ma'am," said the owner. "Make me an offer; I'm not fussy," he added. I didn't find anything really exciting. However, I did end up buying a red box with sequins on it for my daughter, just one dollar. "I can't go home without buying something," I thought to myself. The fundraiser was a great little event. Hopefully the school will receive the money it needs to keep its standards high.

1. 'Fundraiser'. This word is a combination of 2 nouns, and means an event at which money is raised for a cause. Fundraisers often take place for charities and medical research.

a. We made over $1000 at the fundraiser last night. That money will be well spent.

b. You can make more money from a fundraiser by involving celebrities.

c. Cancer research always needs more money, that's why there are so many fundraisers for that cause.

2. 'The playing field' is the area of grass that is used by a school for its outdoor activities and sports.

a. The annual Sports Day for the elementary school was held on the playing field yesterday.

b. That school is lucky to have such a large playing field.

3. 'To get the word out' means to 'spread the news', 'to advertise', or 'to inform the public.'

a. If you want to get a lot of business for your shop, you should get the word out.

b. The Performing Arts Center will have a ballet performance in December, so they are getting the word out now.

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Direct download: St_Joes_Harvest.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:21 PM

You must have all heard about the recent Scottish referendum. Of course, I have to write a podcast about it; it is too important not to(1). So what was it all about? Scotland, England, and Wales have been united for over 300 years politically and economically. Some people in Scotland want total independence, and to no longer be part of that union. So they voted on it. The vote was 'close', meaning that the 'No' votes were only 10% greater than the 'Yes' votes. Now that the dust has settled(2) after the vote, the U.K government is considering making changes to its system, so each part of the union feels totally satisfied in how it is represented in parliament. 

Scotland is definitely different from England. Its' terrain is more mountainous. It has hundreds of islands. It's education system is said to be(3) much better than England's. The Scots have their own history, culture, and native language. And of course, they have their own successful industries, particularly the North Sea oil. However, the tax base for the Union comes mainly from England, as there are so many people there generating the taxes. Also, the military is paid mainly by English taxes. Splitting up would not be a simple matter. I, personally, would not want the Union to divide, as I think it has worked well for so long. My father who is English actually lives in Scotland. He loves it there, and didn't expect the Scots to vote for independence. However, we all want to govern ourselves, and why not? Perhaps it would work. So far, though, there isn't enough support in Scotland for independence. I'm proud to say that the democratic process was carried out peacefully, and fairly, with both sides accepting the result. And that's how it should be: ultimately the people's decision.

1. '..; is too important not to.' The end of the sentence is a shortcut. Instead of writing,' ...; it is too important to not write about the referendum,' I can simply put 'not to' after important. As long as the first part of the sentence is complete, and has a verb, you can use this shortcut.

a. We need to turn the air conditioner on; it is too hot not to.

b. He should apply for that job; he is too qualified not to.

c. They will travel there by plane; it's too far not to.

2. 'Now that the dust has settled/ when the dust settles' is a great phrase that points to the clarity that comes after an incident or event is over. When a bomb explodes, for a while, there is dust in the air, and you cannot see clearly. 'When the dust settles' you can see clearly, therefore you can make correct decisions or opinions.

a. When the fight is over, and the dust settles, we will see who was guilty and who was innocent.

b. The riot was caught on film. When the dust settles, we will see who caused it.

c. Now that the dust has settled after the divorce, and the anger and emotion are over, perhaps the man and woman will behave better.

3. ' said to be' is similar to ' known as'.

a. She is said to be stronger than any man.

b. The orangutan is said to be one of the most intelligent animals in the world.

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Direct download: Referendum.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:58 PM

Barbara: Hi Peter, sorry to bother you, but do you know where Liz is?

Peter: Yes, she's actually in hospital.

Barbara: Hospital? Oh, no! Is she alright?

Peter: Yes, it's nothing serious. She had gone to her mother's surprise party, and when her mother walked in, Liz jumped forward and slipped on a slippery rug. She fell forward into a table, and broke her nose.

Barbara: Ouch! Oh, the poor thing! And at her mother's party too!

Peter: I know. I feel bad for her. She needed a small operation, but she should be home tomorrow, I think.

Barbara: I must go and take her some flowers. Thanks Peter, I'll see you later!

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Direct download: 35.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:25 PM