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
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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
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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
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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
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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. '..;..it 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. '....is said to be' is similar to '..is 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
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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
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One of the things that I love about London is how multicultural it is. Every nation on the planet has some representation in London. So, living in a place that is so cosmopolitan, makes a person the same. You become totally at ease around people of all different ethnic groups. That's one of the things that I wanted to expose(1) my children to. As we live in a very rural and fairly isolated community, they don't get exposed to the rest of the world very much. So their trip to London was an 'eye-opener'(2) for them. As we travelled around on the number 9 bus, past shops, parks, monuments, and restaurants, we saw all sorts of things that we wouldn't normally see. Near Holland road, there was an Iranian restaurant with an Iranian shop next door. We first noticed the shop because it had a huge and luscious(3) looking fruit stand on display. "Wow, look at that fruit!" one of my boys said. The bus had stopped just opposite the shop, so I had time to get my camera out. But, what really caught my eye was the banner above the restaurant. It was wishing the best of luck to both the Iranian soccer team, and the English team during the World Cup. It said, "From Iranian UK." Seeing it made me happy. It was an expression of good will by people who themselves are in a foreign land. 

1. 'To expose' either means to uncover, or to bring something into contact with something else.

a. Our visitor from Mexico had never been exposed to a snowy winter before.

b. Keep your cut clean and covered; you don't want to expose it to germs.

c. Their trip to Japan was their first trip abroad. They had never been exposed to another culture before.

2. An 'eye-opener' is something that teaches you something new. It is implied that you are surprised or fascinated by the new information.

a. The first week of college was a real eye-opener for him.

b. I had heard the rumors about the case. However, it was a real eye-opener to sit down and read the facts.

3. 'Luscious' is a fabulous word that means 'juicy' and 'delicious'.

a. They call that actress 'Luscious lips' because she has full lips that are always painted red.

b. These mangoes are luscious; they are perfectly ripe!

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Direct download: Soccer_friends.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:50 PM
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Have you ever been on a long plane journey? It's quite an experience. Just getting on the plane takes a while. You have to arrive at the airport two hours before the flight. You have to check your luggage in, make your way through security, and have your passport checked and re-checked. Then you sit in the waiting room, and, well...wait. After lining up(1) with the other two hundred passengers, having your passport and boarding card checked again, and walking through the tunnel to the plane, you really need to sit down! Hopefully you can find a place in the overhead container for your carry-on(2) luggage. But be careful moving other people's bags around to make space for yours; you might get some suspicious looks or angry faces. Finally, you are sitting down and ready for the flight. You look to see who is sitting next to you. Hopefully it's someone nice, afterall(3), you have to sit next to him or her for the next 9 hours! You'd better introduce yourself and be pleasant; it helps. But then, what do you do for the next 9 hours? On the long, transcontinental flights, there is usually a television screen right in front of you, with a variety of films, programs, or music to choose from. It's called the 'inflight entertainment'. All the passengers are glued to the screens for most of the journey. As I don't like to sit down for very long, I get up and walk around, and stretch. It always fascinates me how so many people can sit down for so long. Their bottoms must really suffer! Mind you, if the in-flight entertainment is good, people forget about their bottoms, and their need to move, and they simply watch and watch. What else is there to do on a plane? I am always thankful for the screens when I fly with my children, because, for their generation, watching a screen is as normal as breathing. If there were no screens, they would feel as if a part of their bodies was missing. So thankyou to the airlines for our entertainment, and appologies to our bottoms.

1. 'To line up' means to form a line in order to wait for something. In England, we still use the verb 'to queue'.

a. We had to line up to get the tickets, and then line up to get it!

b. Some people are so impatient and find it difficult to line up.

2. 'Overhead container and carry-on luggage' are two nouns used all the time when you fly. The cupboard above your seat on the plane is called your 'overhead container' because it is over your head. 'Carry-on luggage' refers to the small bag that you are allowed to take into the cabin, or room where everyone sits.

a. The overhead container was full, so I had to squeeze my bag under the seat.

b. My carry-on luggage was too big, so I had to check it in.

3. 'Afterall' is a great word that is similar in meaning to: 'if you think about it', 'if you understand all the options'.

a. I can give you a lift to the university, afterall, we both need to be there at the same time, and I have a car.

b. I recommend you include fruits and vegetables in your cooking, afterall, it's for the health of your family.

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Direct download: Entertainment_inflight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18 PM
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When we stayed in London this summer, our apartment was on Holland Road. It was inside a row of typical London town houses: white with black window frames, and black iron fences. I love that simple, elegant style. However, this row of houses needed some TLC(1). New paint would have been good, a  bit of renovation as well. But, for our purposes, the apartment was fine. I asked the owner for his recommendation on getting to the center of town. He advised against using(2) the underground (the Tube), as in the summer it is packed with tourists. So, I got on-line, and found that the number 9 bus went from just around the corner, right to the center, to Trafalgar Square. It was comfortable, convenient, and cheap. We spent most of our time exploring London. Back at the apartment, we would have dinner and then go for a walk. Our street was very noisy, but just one street away everything became quiet, and the neighborhoods were much nicer. We stumbled upon a huge park, called Holland Park which had everything in it: large open areas, lots of trees and flowers, a play area for children, and even an opera house. It was a wonderful, green relief from a busy day in the city, a quiet place away from our noisy apartment.

1. TLC is short for 'tender-loving-care'. It can be applied to anything. We tend to use it when talking about inanimate objects, like houses. It means that the mentioned object needs to be cleaned up, repaired, or decorated.

a. The old house needs some TLC, so we'll start by replacing the roof.

b. That truck is in a terrible state. It needs some TLC.

2. 'To advise' can be used negatively or positively. When you advise someone to take action there are 2 ways of expressing it:

a. I advise you to talk to your teacher.

b. I advise talking to your teacher.

However, when you are advising someone to 'not' do something, the structure of the sentence is different:

a. I advise against you going to your teacher.

b. I advise against going to your teacher. * We don't say 'I advise you against going to your teacher.' It sounds bad; the against should come before 'you'.

If you don't want to use the word 'against', you can say:

c. I advise you not to go to your teacher

d. I advise you to not go to your teacher.

 

Any of these is correct.

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Direct download: 2_Holland.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:44 AM
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Point number 5 from yesterday's podcast was missing! Sorry! So here it is, plus a couple of extra pieces of English that are worth learning.

5. In the podcast, I wrote that my children 'had had enough of being with their mother 24 hours a day.'

It sounds strange to say , 'had, had', but don't let it intimidate you. Remember, the verb I am using is 'to have enough of something' which means that you have been over exposed to something, or are tired of a situation or person.

So, in order to use the pluperfect tense I have to use 'my children had had enough...'. Here are some examples using different tenses. *Note, this verb is usually used in the past.

a. I left because I had had enough of his arguing.

b. She yawned because she had had enough of the boring lecture.

c. I have had enough of the bad weather; I need to go somewhere sunny! *Note, this is present perfect, not pluperfect.

 

I also would like to share one English idiom, and one new English phrase, both of which I found on the website, Learn English Today (highly recommended).

Idiom.

To be 'all ears' means to be very interested in what someone is about to tell you.

a. I can't believe that she's going to climb Mt. Everest. Tell me all about it; I'm all ears.

b. Are the rumors true? Tell me all the details; I'm all ears.

New Phrase

A 'Black Swan' is an unexpected event of great magnitude. It can be a sudden natural disaster, or a political event that was not expected.

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Direct download: 5.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:51 PM
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