English in the Time of the Pandemic #3

My best friend has four legs

Welcome to English in the Time of the Pandemic #3

Today we are looking at animals in the time of the pandemic. Pets are a great source of comfort, especially for those who live alone. More so today. There are reports of wild animals roaming the near empty streets. Some of these reports and true, are some are just fake news.

One of our teachers, Benedicte, says reports about dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice might sound wonderful and inspiring, but are in fact, simply not true. You can read her report below. There are plenty of vocabulary exercises to work on. We’ve also given you a writing exercise.

Young children and parents can join Sarah and Duck to find games to play around the house.

And finally, wash your hands regularly. This is how you do it:

 

Animals and fake news

(upper intermediate to advanced B2-C2) See vocabulary exercises below

I have two cats, Billie and Tigra. I love them dearly. As soon as I heard about the forced confinement in France, I went to the supermarket to stock up on cat food and cat litter (you know, the material used for their, er, toilet). I really was worried for my protégés. I found cat food but no litter. People had bought all of it. As they did the toilet paper. It seems we have toilet-anxiety, either about ourselves or about our pets.

Normally, animals do not catch the new coronavirus. But they are experiencing the crisis in different ways. Some domestic animals or pets, such as cats and dogs have been abandoned by their terrified owners – this happened a lot in China. On the other hand, some people are adopting pets at the moment, as seen in Australia. And then there’s dog walking; according to Garry in Geneva, neighbours and friends are are volunteering to take dogs for a walk, so they have an excuse to go out. These dogs have never walked so much!

Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist in the U.S. says the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads only from humans to humans. However, she tells Science Mag, if you are sick, you should not touch your pets. In fact, many experts recommend that you wash your hands before and after you caress your dog or cat. The more hand-washing, the better. This dog in Hong Kong reportedly got sick after his owner got sick. This is a rare case. You can read Dr. Rankin’s recommendations here.

Wild animals are surely going through their own experiences. We will know more about that in hindsight. But in the meantime, many fake stories are making the rounds on social media. For example, there is a story about elephants in China getting drunk and falling asleep in a vineyard. Or dolphins roaming the canals of Venice. Among the true stories, The Guardian reported on Sunday that some wild animals are starting to visit cities and beaches: for example, in Nara, Japan, deer wandered through city streets and subway stations. Raccoons were seen on the beach in San Felipe, Panama. And turkeys have been walking around in Oakland, California.

Posting these kinds of fake stories and getting lots of feedback from the readers makes us feel good, Erin Vogel, a social psychologist, told National Geographic. “In times when we’re all really lonely, it’s tempting to hold onto that feeling, especially if we’re posting something that gives people a lot of hope,” she says. The idea that animals and nature could actually flourish during this crisis “could help give us a sense of meaning and purpose—that we went through this for a reason.”

 

        Tigra (left) and Billie

Tell us about your pets in the pandemic

What about your pets? Are they helping you? Have you heard of any animal-related stories, true or fake? Send us your pet’s story, or tell us about a true or fake story you have heard (maximum 100 words)! Use as many new words, from this text or other, as possible. The best ones will be published in this blog. You can write your story in the comment section below or send it to info@tlh.ch.

 

Vocabulary exercises: Match the words with their definitions

 

  1. Reportedly:       a. someone who owns / has something.
  2. Grateful:            b. to not lose something
  3. Hindsight:         c. feeling that you want to thank someone because they have given you something or have done something for you.
  4. Owner:               d. to gradually affect or cover a larger area.
  5. Hold on to s/t:   e. used for showing that you are not certain that something you are reporting is true.
  6. Spread:               g. the opportunity to judge or understand past events using knowledge that you have gained since then.

__________

Answer key:

1: e   2: c   3: g   4: a   5: b   6: d

__________

 

  1. Roam:                              h. during the time between two events or between the present time and a future event.
  2. Do/make the rounds:     i. a story that is presented as being a genuine item of news but is in fact not true and is intended to deceive people.
  3. Brawl:                               j. to be passed from one person to another.
  4. In the meantime:            k. a farm that grows grapes and produces wine
  5. Fake news:                       l. to move or travel with no particular purpose.
  6. Vineyard:                         m. to fight in a noisy way, especially in a public place.

__________

Answer key:

7: l    8: j   9: m   10: h   11: i   12: k 

__________

 

  1. Flourish:                  n. to prove that something such as an idea or belief is false and silly
  2. Purpose:                  o. to put writing or images online where other people can see them.
  3. Go through s/t:      p. comments about how well or how badly someone is doing something, which are intended to help them do it better.
  4. Debunk:                  q. to grow well and be healthy.
  5. Feedback:               r. the aim that someone wants to achieve, or that something is intended to achieve.
  6. Post:                        s. to experience something difficult or unpleasant.

__________

Answer key:

13: q   14: r   15: s   16: n   18: o   17: p

__________

For parents and young kids:

 Sarah and Duck

Sarah and Duck find games to play at home. It’s an interactive game from www.cbeebies.com from the BBC. Enjoy!

Play with Sarah and Duck here

 

English in the Time of the Pandemic

We (The Language House team) will publish regular articles, exercises and advice for those who want to improve and practise their English communication skills. The content will range from A2 level (pre-intermediate) through to C2 level (high-advanced), for those of you who like a challenge. We will cover general and professional English communication skills. Choose the level that is right for you. We’ll try and offer something for all the family.

We welcome your feedback and we will do our best to respond to your “homework” and feedback. The email address for all correspondence is info@tlh.ch. You can also leave your comments and questions below.

If you wish to subscribe to English in the time of the Pandemic, please add your email address on the right-hand column of this blog under abbonez vous.

Best wishes from:

Benedicte (Tigra and Billie), Garry and Sian and Uma, the four-legged neurologue sitting on the park bench in the photo above.

 

English in the Time of the Pandemic # 2

Welcome to English in the Time of the Pandemic #2

Today we will explore time travel with Vincent Van Gogh. You will also get to meet the Time Lord Doctor Who.

You also can read some of the postcards we received from readers; one from Barcelona and one from Geneva.

First time here? You can read English in the Time of the Pandemic #1 here

We (The Language House team) will publish regular articles, exercises and advice for those who want to improve and practise their English communication skills. The content will range from A2 level (pre-intermediate) through to C2 level (high-advanced), for those of you who like a challenge. We will cover general and professional English communication skills. Choose the level that is right for you. We’ll try and offer something for all the family.

We welcome your feedback and we will do our best to respond to your “homework” and feedback.  You can also leave your comments, “homework”and questions below in Laisser un Commentaire. If you wish to subscribe to English in the time of the Pandemic, please add your email address on the right-hand column of this blog under abbonez-vous.

 

Time travel with Doctor Who and Vincent Van Gogh

Levels: B1+

Imagine you are a time traveller. You can travel into the future and the past.

You have a time machine, something like the machine imagined by H G Wells, who wrote The Time Machine, back in 1895. Where would you go? Who would you see?

The world’s most beloved time traveller is Doctor Who. Yes, their name is Doctor Who.

 

Doctor Who is a kind of anti-superhero who relies mostly on his/her grey matter, instead of a superpower.

 

The first Doctor Who appeared on the BBC television in 1963 and is still traversing time today. The Doctor’s time travel vehicle is the Tardis which, from the outside, looks like an old-fashioned British police telephone box.

Doctor Who is an alien, but very human, and brilliant and eccentric. He/she is a kind of anti-superhero who relies mostly on their grey matter, instead of a superpower.

The Doctor reincarnates or regenerates, a little like another British icon, the timeless James Bond. There have been 13 Doctors. Today’s Doctor is the first woman Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Her debut episode attracted 8.4 million viewers.

One of the most beautiful and moving episodes features the artist Vincent Van Gogh who suffered poverty and mental illness and committed suicide, aged 37. The Doctor and his assistant transport Vincent from the south of France in the 1880s to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris in 2010.

The video below begins with the Tardis, landing in front of the art museum. You might recognise a few of the faces. Matt Smith plays the eleventh Doctor.

We advise you have a tissue close at hand.

 

Vocabulary: Match the vocabulary with the definitions. (Answers below)

  1. timeless              a. intelligence, brains; the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord
  2. eccentric             b. someone who behaves in a strange or unusual way
  3. grey matter        c. existing or continuing forever
  4. close at hand      d. causing a strong emotional response
  5. moving               e. near; in a place where somebody/something can be reached easily

 

Watch and listen again and answer the questions:

What is the doctor referring to when he says to Vincent: Ignore that, I’ve got something more important show you.

The doctor says to the gallery curator: And today It’s another cracker

What is he referring to?

What do you think cracker mean?

Do you think gallery curator realises that he has just been kissed by Vincent Van Gogh?

 

 

Writing 

If you could time travel, where would you go, back in time or forward in time?

Would you go to meet someone or see something? Would you have a special mission?

Use the second conditional. Example: If I could travel (could + present participle) back in time, I would meet (would + present participle) Shakespeare. If I was (past simple) a time traveller, I would explore the 22nd century.

Write 100 – 150 words about your time travel.

Post your text in the “commentaires” section at the bottom of the page.

Here’s the Doctor Who theme music. It might give you some inspiration for writing.

 

 

 

Don McLean – Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) with words

 

Thank you for your postcards

 

 

We asked our readers to write a “postcard” and give use news about their lives in containment. We’ve picked two and thank you everyone for your efforts. Keep writing. Don’t be shy.

You can also leave your comments, “homework”and questions below in Laisser un Commentaire at the bottom of the page.

 

A postcard from Barcelona

Dear Mireia,

I hope you’re fine. Thank you for your recommendation about a blog to learn English. Meanwhile, we are at home for the long term.

As I told you, your sister and I are fine. We are trying to accept this exceptional situation as well as we can. I’m happy because all our family and nearest friends are obeying and not going anywhere.

Every evening, at 10 pm, we go out to the balcony to clap all the fantastic people working to help us to get over this terrible virus.

It’s really difficult to imagine that we will be like this for 3, 4, 6 more weeks, but it’s the only possibility to defeat this catastrophe.

Please, take care.

Wishing to see you soon, with all my love,

Mama

 

A postcard from Geneva

Dear friend,

I hope this email finds you well.

The arrival of the invisible enemy – coronavirus – has significantly changed my daily life, probably yours as well. Let me tell you more about the current situation in Geneva.

I live in a quiet neighbourhood which is close to the lake. I love spending time outside, walking in the park and seeing my friends. However, I have had to abandon these activities and adopt precautionary measures to prevent the spread of disease.

Every day, I see people ambling along and jogging outside. Some of them wear masks, while others don’t care and enjoy the arrival of spring. Every evening, at 9 p.m., people applaud health workers who do their best to save people’s lives. I open my window and clap my hands as well. It makes me feel like I am part of a big and strong community.

I spend most of my time at home writing my master’s thesis, doing workouts and watching the news, films, and series. I am closer to my roommates and call my family more frequently.

Tell me, please, how things are going in your city or country. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes

Alina

 

Vocabulary answers:

  1. c
  2. b
  3. a
  4. e
  5. d

Best wishes to you and your family from The English in the Time of Pandemic team : Garry, Benedicte and Sian.

English in the Time of the Pandemic #1

No parties, no yoga courses, no concerts, no football, no aperitifs…

It’s the perfect time to work on your English.

No excuses.

Welcome to English in the time of the Pandemic, ETP, (l’anglais au temps de la pandémie). Fingers-crossed, we’ll be finished by ETP #12, but this seems increasingly unlikely (de plus en plus improbable).

We, (The Language House team), will publish regular articles, exercises and advice for those who speak English as a foreign language and wish to improve and practise their English communication skills. The content will range from A2 level (pre-intermediate) through to C2 level (high-advanced), for those of you who like a challenge. We will cover general and professional English communication skills. Choose the level that is right for you. We’ll try and offer something for all the family.

We welcome your feedback and questions and we will do our best to respond to your “homework”, questions and requests. The email address for all correspondence is info@tlh.ch. You can also leave your comments and questions below.

If you wish to subscribe to English in the time of the Pandemic, please add your email address on the right-hand column of this blog above abbonez-vous.

Resources: We suggest you have a dictionary on hand, and some time and patience. This is an excellent online dictionary: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/

Let’s go!

Write a postcard

Write a postcard to us (100-150 words), describing what is happening in your city or your street, and in your life in this very unusual time. Use present continuous for actions in progress (for example, I am reading the news), present simple for state verbs (for example, the city is quiet) and permanent situations (for example, I live in this city).

The best postcards will be published in our future blogs. Open to all ages and all levels.

 

 

Send your postcard to: info@tlh.ch. Please write “postcard” in the subject line.

Remember: This is an English writing exercise.

Describing current events (present simple + present continuous)

(levels A2 – C2)

A postcard from France

Dear friend,

I hope you are well.

In neighbouring France, where I and all the frontaliers live, all is peaceful. There are still a few cars and lorries going around, no doubt driven by essential workers. Only the grocery stores and supermarkets are open to rare visitors. There are no human sounds, no conversations to be heard. My whole city is eerily quiet, although the silence is punctuated by the birds singing and chirping here and there. They seem so happy in this early spring. Sometimes it feels like humans have locked themselves indoors so that the rest of nature can have a holiday.

I haven’t seen many policemen and I think most of them are in large cities such as Paris or Lyon, working to keep everyone in. A thankless job.

At home, I am doing all sorts of things to keep myself occupied. House arrest, which is what confinement can feel like, does not have to be boring.

What are you doing at the moment? Please send me some news of yourself and of what is happening in your city in Switzerland, France, Italy or anywhere…

Best wishes

Benedicte

 

Vocabulary

eerily: (adverb) from the adjective eerie: strange, mysterious and frightening

chirping: (verb) to chirp; the sound of small birds and some insects that make short high sounds

thankless – (adjective) to describe an unpleasant or difficult thing to do that is unlikely to bring you any rewards or thanks from anyone; you get no thanks for doing it.

house arrest – the state of being a prisoner in your own house rather than in a prison. The former dictator is under house arrest in his country mansion.

 

For children

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

(7 minutes) All levels.

 

Reading

(3 minutes) Level: B2 +

What is your favourite moment in Bible? Nick Cave writes about Mary Magdalene.

Read here

 

Today’s song

The Flaming Lips – Do you Realize? (a happy sad song)

 

Lyrics (paroles de chanson):

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize we’re floating in space,
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do you realize, oh, oh, oh?
Do you realize that everyone you know
Someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize?

 

 

Forget the pandemic for a few minutes. Let’s talk about love.

There are too many words in the English language. Just get divorced or separated, get a new partner (that’s the easy part) and then find the right word to describe him or her… (that’s the hard part).

There is a smorgasbord of terms to choose from; partner, lover, mate, sweetheart, boyfriend, girlfriend, lady friend, man friend, companion, lover, date, significant other, special friend, life partner, bed friend, toyboy, cougar…?

If you like country and western music you could always say my man or my woman, but that’s better said in a denim suit or skirt with a guitar while riding a bull with large horns.

 

Lover Man – Billie Holiday

 

If you are American, you might know the term POSSLQperson of opposite sex sharing living quarters – pronounced possel-quoo which is used by the US Census Bureau. It lacks a bit of warmth and does sound quite strange in French.

Another glass of wine, my sweet POSSLQ?

Girlfriend/boyfriend sound like you are still wearing braces (appareil orthodontique) and waiting for the onset of puberty.

 

Partner is useful, but some people may think you own a law firm.

 

Date is an old-fashioned term for a potential relationship, salty popcorn and a Disney movie.

Significant other is about as romantic as POSSLQ.

Toy boy and cougar are terms best used by your cynical friends and your jealous friends.

 

Do you love me? – Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

 

Smooch mate sounds like you are going out with a shaggy dog with a big wet tongue.

Mate can be easily confused with two Australian males drinking beer, which is not particularly romantic, and an activity which giraffes and other animals do on page 76 of your Year 12 Biology book.

Paramour has a touch of Euro glamour, but in English sounds like a paratrooper in military boots, with a waxed moustache, has just parachuted into your bedroom.

 

Companion lacks a sense of commitment. Dogs make good companions.

 

Suitor sounds like you are in a long supermarket queue clutching your toilet paper and the cashier’s name is Helen of Troy.

Electric blanket, hot water bottle and bed warmer are very utilitarian terms, but best used by salespeople in department stores on the coldest day of the year.

 

Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor

 

Life partner sounds contractual and begs the questions: Where do I sign? Darling, have you put a deposit down on a double plot in the cemetery?

Mistress and gigolo are best used in your fantasies.

Partner is useful, but some people may think you own a law firm.

Companion lacks a sense of commitment. Dogs make good companions.

Bed-friend or f*ck buddy have grindered themselves into common speech, but the relationship is clearly mattress-dominated and there is little or no attachment, except for the pink fluffy handcuffs.

 

Partner is useful, but some people may think you own a law firm.

 

Lover is much more intense but can range in meaning from a turbo-charged bed-friend to someone you really care about and you’d be willing to sacrifice your life for them… which might be a bit premature on the second or third date.

Special friend sounds like you are waiting for an upgrade, maybe to boyfriend or girlfriend status, but you aren’t there yet. If you have been a special friend for more than a month, the chances of you getting an upgrade to lover are minimal.

Confused? The answer is easy.

Next time you have to introduce your better half (there’s another odd expression) simply say: This is Marie-Celeste or I would like to introduce you to William. Let the others wrestle with the terminology so you can concentrate on some serious loving.

 

I will Always Love You- Whitney Houston

 

Montreux 1971 Smoke on the Water: The riff that inspired ten million would-be guitarists

Switzerland engraved itself into the history of rock ‘n’ roll on December 4, 1971. Frank Zappa and the Mothers had just begun the song King Kong when “some stupid with a flare gun” (un idiot avec un pistolet de détresse) shot two flares into the ceiling of the Montreux Casino, packed with 2000 people.

One of the flares lodged in the ceiling and a short time later, smoke began to fill the venue. Concert organisers aimed a fire extinguisher at the ceiling and a piece of burning material fell to the floor and at the same time flames started to lap along the ceiling.

(Some accounts say the fire was caused by sky rockets, a type of firework.)

A Zappa musician Howard Kaylan (ex-The Turtles) jokingly announced from the stage: “Fire, ladies and gentlemen, by Arthur Brown” – a reference to the 1968 hit single Fire by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (See video clip below).

The fire and danger quickly escalated. Zappa, who died in 1993, told everyone to stay cool and calm and go to the exits. But some of the exits were locked.

People were throwing orange amplifiers against the door to break them and there was another window, a big one in the back with a 10 to 15 feet drop (3-5 metres). We broke that and people were jumping out. Everybody got out. Our roadies were the last to get out. They were blown out of the window by the explosion of the heating system. The only thing that we saved from our equipment was a cowbell.” 

Zappa spoke in detail about the fire with French TV:

No-one was seriously injured. The Casino was totally destroyed.

Montreux Jazz Festival founder, the late Claude Nobs, who organised the concert and loved to tell a good story, told an interviewer in 2010:

“We had big windows in the concert hall overlooking the swimming pool. Frank Zappa took his guitar – a Gibson, a very strong one – and he smashed the big window down with his guitar. Then a lot of people could go out through there. The people went out through that exit, and within about five minutes, the 2,000 kids were out. And the people were watching the fire thinking, ‘Oh, you know, Frank Zappa is just doing an incredible ending to his show’.

Peter Schneider was among the 2000 at the concert and wrote about what it was like inside the casino. “The fire spread so quickly that all the people in the front were trapped. I stood behind the crowd who were trying to get out through the large glass windows which covered the whole of the front of the building from one side to the other. I owe my life to a Swiss fireman who came in with a huge axe and started to break the windows one by one, starting from the left towards the stage… The glass smashed to the ground, and all the people in the front started to jump out. The building was on the second floor, or at least half a floor up, so it was quite a jump.”

Among the crowd were Deep Purple who had arrived in Montreux the day before and had booked the Casino and the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio to record their album Machine Head.

Lead singer Ian Gillian later recalled: “The flares came right over my shoulder. They seemed to fizzle out and then they caught fire. Claude Nobs went down into the kitchen to get the kids who had fled down there and were trapped in there and with great bravery he led them out through the smoke.”

After the fire, Nobs moved Deep Purple to the nearby theatre, Le Pavilion where they began to work on their new album. Two days later they were thrown out by the police for making too much noise while recording the guitar and drums for a new track based around a cool and simple riff from guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

It was a riff that inspired ten million would-be guitarists.

They moved their mobile recording studio to the Grand Hotel. A few days later, bass player Roger Glover woke up with the words “Smoke on the water, fire in the sky” buzzing in his head. Ian Gillian wrote the lyrics based on the story of the band’s experience in Montreux.

NB: The reference to funky Claude in the second verse.

Smoke on the Water

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

We ended up at the grand hotel
It was empty cold and bare
But with the Rolling Stones truck thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights and a few old beds
We make a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know we’ll never forget
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

And here it is:

Fire by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

 

Nick Cave: Artist and Agony Aunt

Fans, those people that adore another human, have often troubled me. To be fanatical about someone or something seems to be that little bit excessive. For a non-fan, there is also an element of jealousy; an envy of that all-encompassing, undaunted enthusiasm and the joy and confidence of belonging.

I am a fan of one man. His name is Nick Cave. He has shared the fury and joys of my relatively mundane existence for many years. He’s been both my pressure cooker, where rage and frustration can escape, and my inner-whisperer in moments of tenderness and vulnerability.

Nick Cave is an Australian musician, writer, singer-songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and occasional actor. He’s best known as the front man of the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

He is also a wonderful agony aunt. Cave has invited his fans to share their intimate questions on a website called Red Hand Files, a reference to his song Red Right Hand, the theme music from the series Peaky Blinders.

On the website Nick Cave writes:

You can ask me anything.

Yes, I know fans can be boring. It’s all a bit personal and yes, Nick Cave, just like Céline Dion, Michael Jackson or Kim Kardashian are some, but not everyone’s cup of tea.

Let me just say, in good old straight fan-speak, his concerts are mesmerising. Too strong a word? You have to forgive me. I’m a fan. His songs reach deep into your soul and his lyrics are poetry. He has experienced deep tragedy which has transformed his music and his artistic dialogue with the world. His music is cinematic, dealing with violence, madness, intense love, death, religion and beauty. But since the death of his twin son, his voice and presence have grown, transformed by grief, imbued with kindness, empathy and love. His concerts are in an intense love-fest for his fans. He gives with great honesty, humour and lyrical delight.

If you are looking for words that explores the human condition, here are few excerpts of his elegant and heartfelt responses to questions asked by his fans on Red Hand Files:

What is shyness?

 

Shyness is the tentative sound of the orchestra tuning up before the symphony begins. It is a beautiful, fractured piece of music in itself. It is the orchestra attempting to find its shared intent and is over all too quickly if you ask me.

In some circumstances shyness never finds its harmonic agreement and the situation will never be in tune. Yet shyness is a gift that can also be the sometimes crippling, often overpowering, intuition that the next thing life presents is potentially momentous, be it beautiful or devastating, where an exchanged few words or a gesture is a gateway to a new and unknown world. From these intimations of excruciating clarity, we can fall through our shyness into moments of earth-shaking significance, and our lives can change completely.

… My initial dinner ‘date’ with Susie (his wife) was an awkward and hesitant affair because we both intuited, on some deep level, that we stood at the threshold of another life that would stretch on indefinitely into the future. We did not know what that life would be, and it was undeclared between us, but our mutual shyness was the orchestra tuning up, with its flutters and discords, as it tried to find its shared melodic objective. In the end, I did what was a potentially life-deranging act and lunged hideously and impulsively through the membrane of our mutual shyness, grabbed my future wife and kissed her. She responded in kind and our shyness dropped away and, well, the symphony began. Shyness became the firewall through which we walked to a strange and different world, and here we are, together. 

 

 

I feel very bad about myself, I cannot see anything positive in my body, I hate to look at myself in the mirror and it makes me suffer a lot. I feel like everyone is better than me, even though I did very important things for being just 16 years old. How should I behave? What should I do for myself?

 

…the question took me back to my adolescence and the troubled relationship I had with my own reflected image, and those nightmarish teenage years lived inside the pitiless mirror. I’m afraid to say this constant self-evaluation does not significantly decrease as you grow older, however it does become more manageable. I live mostly in hotels these days, and as I cautiously enter a different bathroom each night, with its angled mirrors and merciless lighting, I stand before the mirror at my most defenceless and exposed, and watch it do its worst. I often wonder how much accumulated misery a hotel mirror contains as it reflects back at us what appears to be our essential self. But, of course, what the mirror projects is not our true self at all but only our reflected outer-shell. What is virtually impossible to see within a mirror is that the very essence of our humanness, our vulnerability and fragility, is the most beautiful thing we possess.

Yet, when we are young that vulnerability can appear to us as shame or weakness, as we attempt to brace ourselves against what we may see as a brutal, unforgiving and judgemental world. But those who have no awareness of their own fragility, who present themselves as overconfident, armoured-up and invulnerable, sacrifice the essence of what makes them both human and beautiful.

Vulnerability is the very thing that permits us to connect with each other, to recognise in others the same discomfort they have with themselves and with their place in the world. Vulnerability is the engine of compassion, and can be a superpower, a special vision that allows us to see the quivering, wounded inner world that most of us possess.

 

 

How long will I be alone?

 

Aloneness and loneliness are two very different things, of course. I spend much of my time alone; I always have. I have learnt that being alone, as bereft as it perhaps feels to some, is busy with meaning and disclosure. For me, it is an essential place that intensifies the essence of oneself, in all its rampant need. It is the site of demons and sudden angels and raw truths; a quiet, haunted place and a place of unforeseen understandings. A place of unmasking and unveiling. It can be industrious or melancholic or frightening, sometimes all at the same time, yet within it there is a feeling of a latent promise that holds great power. Like Jesus praying alone in the garden, or Mary Magdalene alone at the mouth of Christ’s tomb, aloneness holds moments that tremble on the brink of revelation and great change.

And then there is loneliness, which is aloneness without choice, an enforced condition that yearns for recognition, to be seen and to be heard. This brave and unguarded admission appears to be the aching heart of your question. As I sat on the plane travelling to Reykjavik for the last show of my ‘In Conversation’ tour, I felt suddenly that there was something I could say to you. Having spent much time travelling on this tour alone, it struck me that your question didn’t have to be answered, but simply acknowledged; that to reach out to you, as you reached out to me, could in itself be the answer and, perhaps, a remedy – to say to you, you are not alone, we are here, and that we, a multitude, are thinking of you.

 

 

How do you forgive somebody whom you love very much but has done something truly terrible?

 

Forgiveness is a form of self-rescue that goes, at times, against our very nature. Forgiveness can prevent us from becoming the living definition of the injury that has been inflicted upon us – from being consumed by anger, pain, resentment and bitterness. But how difficult it is to sometimes forgive; how unfair it seems to reward offence with compassion. Yet, despite our intuitions, despite the seeming insanity of the enterprise, we must try, because forgiveness can be the way to self-preservation. Forgiveness is an act of self-love where the malignancy you have endured can become the motivating force that helps enlarge the capacity of the heart.

How to forgive the unforgivable? Now there is a question. Sometimes we feel the crime is such a violation, and so egregious, that it is beyond absolution – but the struggle to forgive is where it can find its true meaning. Even the attempt to move toward forgiveness allows us the opportunity to touch the borders of grace. To try is an act of resistance against the forces of malevolence – a form of defiant grace.

See forgiveness as a gift, not to the person who has committed the injury, but to yourself, in the form of self-protection. The sooner you start the process, the less time you may spend imprisoned by resentment and bitterness, hopefully moving toward a more resilient self. To try and fail is in itself a form of betterment. There are times forgiveness is beyond us but still we must reach, still we must strive.

 

 

Considering human imagination the last piece of wilderness, do you think AI will ever be able to write a good song?

 

… I don’t feel that when we listen to Smells Like Teen Spirit it is only the song that we are listening to. It feels to me, that what we are actually listening to is a withdrawn and alienated young man’s journey out of the small American town of Aberdeen – a young man who by any measure was a walking bundle of dysfunction and human limitation – a young man who had the temerity to howl his particular pain into a microphone and in doing so, by way of the heavens, reach into the hearts of a generation. We are also listening to Iggy Pop walk across his audience’s hands and smear himself in peanut butter whilst singing 1970. We are listening to Beethoven compose the Ninth Symphony while almost totally deaf. We are listening to Prince, that tiny cluster of purple atoms, singing in the pouring rain at the Super Bowl and blowing everyone’s minds. We are listening to Nina Simone stuff all her rage and disappointment into the most tender of love songs. We are listening to Paganini continue to play his Stradivarius as the strings snapped. We are listening to Jimi Hendrix kneel and set fire to his own instrument.

What we are actually listening to is human limitation and the audacity to transcend it. Artificial Intelligence, for all its unlimited potential, simply doesn’t have this capacity. How could it? And this is the essence of transcendence. If we have limitless potential then what is there to transcend? And therefore what is the purpose of the imagination at all. Music has the ability to touch the celestial sphere with the tips of its fingers and the awe and wonder we feel is in the desperate temerity of the reach, not just the outcome. Where is the transcendent splendour in unlimited potential? So to answer your question, Peter, AI would have the capacity to write a good song, but not a great one. It lacks the nerve.

 

 

You can read more here: Red Hand Files 

The latest album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is called Ghosteen.

Randy Andy and the fall of Prince Charming

You’ve got to feel a little sorry for Her Majesty.

Queen Elizabeth had been mostly enjoying, along with millions of others, a five star re-run of her reign in the series, The Crown on Netflix.

Then along comes Prince Andrew with his own bit of reality television; to answer charges that he had sex with an underage girl and continued a friendship with the alleged head of a paedophile ring and a convicted sex offender, the late Jeffrey Epstein.

The interview was somewhere between a car crash and a very public self-beheading. The fallout was swift. Randy Andy, as he is known in the tabloid press, was put to pasture with immediate effect; retired from public life. He was fired by his mum.

Prince Andrew’s meagre apology was that he “let the side down”. Indeed, he did.

 

 

It’s much more than than an annus horribilis.  It’s a decennium atrocius. The high opera that is the British monarchy is on a slippery slope.

The Queen has enjoyed hallowed ground, beyond the range of the sniping tabloids. But not the future king, Charles, his brother Andrew and the princes Harry and William and families. They are fodder of the merciless tabloids and their vampiric on-line media off shoots, which live and breathe on real or imagined family feuds, big bottoms, inter-racial families, odd handshakes, unfashionable fashions, and estranged fathers. The Queen is an Untouchable. Prince Andrew and his generation are prey.

Unthinkable questions are being aired: Does the Royal family have a role in the modern UK today?  Are we coming to post-Brexit and post-royal family?

 

 

Before the first world war, almost every European country boasted a royal family. The trend is clear.

Prince Andrew is standing back, royal-speak for Donald Trump’s catch-cry: ‘You’re fired!’. He’s been ousted from his largely ceremonial role as the royal patron of 230 organisations and charities. One organisation, however, the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), has publicly said it would like to have a talk to him.

The title prince is intrinsically linked with fairy tales. Being Prince Charming is a poison chalice. He is, and the irony is thick here, the hero and rescuer of damsels in distress. In Sleeping Beauty, he is the hero who kisses an unconscious under-age girl, and in Snow White and Cinderella he also liberates young women from evil spells. That’s the fairy tale.

A prince is the idealized man some people dream of as a future husband. Indeed, charming and self-absorbed people are very captivating.

History is full of charming sociopaths. They have a way of getting you to feel more confident in them, than yourself. They are often narcissistic personalities. But just as narcissists can turn on the charm, they can also turn it off again. Beware of the man who is a little too charming.

Prince Andrew’s  other line of mea culpa in his terrible interview was, “my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable”. Such a gallant and galling defence.

 

Being Prince Charming is a poison chalice

 

He is no stranger to controversy. His ex-wife wife Sarah Ferguson was the subject of a sting by the now defunct tabloid News of the World. She was filmed asking for a payment of half a million pounds in exchange for access to Andrew.

“That opens up everything you would ever wish for,” she told an undercover reporter “I can open any door you want… Look after me and he’ll look after you.”

Prince Andrew’s flaws and failings, and there is a considerable list, pale into significance when compared to another 21st century prince, who in a just of matter of minutes, erased his royal family at fateful royal dinner on June 1, 2001.

It’s a horrific, but true tale that took place in the former Royal Kingdom of Nepal where King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah was revered by many of his subjects, not only as the absolute monarch, but also as reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Prince Dipendra, next-in-line for the throne, had been drinking his favourite Grouse whisky and smoking opium-laced cigarettes prepared by his dutiful aides. He was an unhappy prince. His parents has forbidden him to marry his girl-friend.

That night his aides found the inebriated Prince sprawled on the floor of his room. They helped him to his feet and took him to the bathroom. But he ordered them to leave.

Shortly after, the Prince came down to the billiard room in army fatigues. He carried a German MP-5K assault rifle, a US M-16 assault rifle, a French 12-bore shotgun and an Austrian 9mm Glock pistol. Within minutes he killed his parents, the king and queen, and seven other members of the royal family and then shot himself. He died three days later, but not before he, the assassin, was declared king as protocol dictated.

On May 28, 2008, Nepal’s monarchy was abolished and the country declared a democratic republic. The trend is clear.

 

 

 

In Australia you can’t see climate change. There’s too much smoke.

Welcome to Australia. The land Down Under.

Sunshine, spectacular beaches, surf, a few dangerous spiders and snakes, a shark or two, a crocodile here and there, a bit of racism (a lot, if you are an Australian Aborigine), a love of sport, kangaroos and koalas and an easy-going lifestyle.

It’s no wonder it’s known as the Lucky Country. It’s resource-rich with some of the biggest mines in the world. Dig it up and sell it. It’s been a rich winning formula for years. In fact, Australia is so lucky, that according to the Australian Government, there’s no such thing as climate change, and certainly don’t ever mention a climate emergency. And they will tell you that. If you have the temerity to link climate change to dying rivers and unprecedented bushfires, the deputy Prime Minister (second-in-charge) will correct you in no uncertain terms:

That’s the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies.” 

As one of his parliamentary colleagues so vehemently told Australians:

“The Greens politicians are exploiting this tragedy (bushfires) to pump up their cult, by saying things that are completely untrue, against the science and just trying to recruit more members to the cult.

It’s just as well the climate emergency and science are fictional in this pocket of the world, because Australia is the world’s leading coal exporter.  Coal is in the blood, and in the bank accounts of Australian governing elite. The now Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a marketing man and a fervent Pentecostal Christian, even brought a lump of coal to the national parliament a few years ago.

“This is coal, don’t be afraid,” he told the nation. You can watch the surreal moment here.

About a million hectares or 10,000 square kilometres

have been destroyed by fire in the last week or so.

That’s about a quarter of Switzerland.

The Australian government has just approved the construction of a heavily subsidised coal mine for an Indian mining giant that will cover a surface of 450 square kilometres. (That’s about 1.5 times the size of the canton of Geneva). There’s another application for a coal mine four times that size. It’s proposed by a portly Australian miming magnate who generously exercised his democratic rights by spending $60 million in the last federal election to ensure there would be no change in business as usual.

Another reason why the Australian Government is blind to climate change is because of the smoke. Great swathes of the country are on fire. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen reports in the media. First California, and now Australia. And it’s not even summer in Australia. The smoke is everywhere, especially in your eyes. You can’t see the wood for the burning trees, nor the science for the claptrap.

 

 

About a million hectares or 10,000 square kilometres have been destroyed by fire in the last week or so. That’s about a quarter of Switzerland. Six hundred schools were closed last week. And let me repeat, it’s not even the high summer season. Just a warm-up of what’s to come.

Catastrophic is the new official word, introduced in 2009, to describe the unprecedented ferocity of fire and danger. In the good old days, it was just extreme fire danger. These are the updated climate billboards that sit outside hundreds of towns across Australia.

 

 

Forest fires and drought are as Australian as kangaroos. The land’s most successful non-human colonist is the eucalyptus, or gum tree. It settled in Australia about 50 million years ago. The Eucalyptus has not only adapted to fire, but it encourages fire and needs fire to regenerate.

Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable. Burning trees have been known to explode. Bushfires can travel swiftly through the oil-rich air of the tree canopies.

The Australia Broadcasting Commission reported how, like California, the normal bushfire season is a thing of the past. Welcome to the new normal, and it’s pretty terrifying.

As the glaciers in the European Alps melt at unprecedented rate, Australia is burning and drying up at unprecedented levels.

When temperatures reached 52 degrees a few years ago, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had to add a new colour to the top of its temperature scale, an incandescent purple.

One of the largest river systems that runs through much of the south-east of Australia has almost stopped flowing due to climate change and mismanagement. Another term was added to the growing lexicon of climate disaster:  fish kill.

More than a one million fish have died.

For much of the twentieth century there were major bush fires, usually once a generation.  In the 1980s things started to change for the worse. These fires today are different. They are catastrophic, more and more violent and now an annual affair. The fire season now starts in Spring and for the first time ever, the rainforests are burning.

Switzerland and most of Europe acknowledge and have actively begun to legislate to reduce the effects of climate change. Even Margaret Thatcher recognised the threat of climate change. Eleven thousand world scientists called for action to tackle climate emergency last week.

The sheer arrogance of the governing elite

is gob-smacking. But this is the macho political

landscape where Rupert Murdoch cut his teeth

The Australia Government knows better. It has adopted the US gun massacre response. Straight out of the handbook.

Ignore it. Offer thoughts and prayers. It’s just Green hysteria. How dare you talk about politics (climate change) when people’s lives and livelihood are under threat.

(Australian cartoonist First Dog on the Moon: We mustn’t bring politics into the disastrous situation that was created by … wait for it … POLITICS)

The sheer arrogance of the governing elite is gob-smacking. But this is the macho political landscape where Rupert Murdoch cut his teeth. Science is attacked, lies are repeated, messengers are attacked and facts are confused and altered. The cowboys of obfuscation.

The Australian government has sent its memos out to its employees: Just don’t say climate change.

Here’s a report from CNN from November 11.

The terrible irony is that Australia has plenty of free clean energy. More sun than you can poke a stick at. There’s lots of sun, but no leadership in the Lucky Country. It’s no wonder a Green politician told the government last week:

“You are no better than a bunch of arsonists – borderline arsonists – and you should be ashamed.”

More: Here’s a first-person account of the horror of the current fires.

 

 

10 ways to become a powerful English speaker

Les langues sont un peu comme des concertos. Elles ont un rythme, une texture et des fluctuations. Une personne qui connaît bien la langue anglaise sait à quel moment marquer une pause… et à quel moment créer une légère EM-phase. C’est un apprentissage qui nécessite de la pratique. Celles et ceux qui commencent à apprendre l’anglais parlent généralement d’une manière un peu ro-bo-ti-que, puis progressivement absorbent et imitent la mélodie de la langue.

Au fur et à mesure que vous assimilez la mélodie, votre pratique de la langue anglaise devient plus robuste. Vous parvenez à communiquer de manière plus efficace.

Les plus grands violonistes, même Yehudi Menuhin et Nigel Kennedy, ont tous commencé par produire des sons semblables à des chats de gouttières se disputant des arrêtes de poisson dans une ruelle.

I repeat: It takes practice. That means you must be patient, hard-working and brave.

 

  1. NO FEAR! No-one will make fun of your English.

Rassurez-vous, personne ne vous jugera. Parlez ! Parlez ! Parlez ! Si vous ne pratiquez pas, vous n’évoluerez pas. Oubliez les préjugés. Après tout, l’anglais est déjà votre deuxième, troisième ou quatrième langue. La plupart des anglophones s’arrêtent à une seule langue – la leur. Nous avons tous remarqué ce phénomène en observant les expatriés à Genève, n’est-ce pas ? Alors ne soyez pas trop dur(e) avec vous-même.

Si vous êtes vraiment bloqué(e), vous aurez besoin d’un accompagnateur expérimenté pour vous aider à monter sur le vélo et vous orienter dans la bonne direction. La pratique de la langue est la première étape pour gagner en confiance. Ensuite, c’est une promenade de santé. Prêt(e) pour une balade ?!

 

  1. SLOW DOWN. Speaking quickly does not mean you are fluent

Certaines personnes pensent que parler vite donne l’impression de maitriser la langue. Sottises ! Si vous souhaitez développer vos compétences en communication, vous devez ralentir. Vous avez besoin d’une ou deux secondes supplémentaires pour que les mots se forment dans votre esprit puis se matérialisent dans votre bouche pour former des sons intelligibles. Prendre le temps vous aidera à développer la pleine conscience de votre anglais. La satisfaction d’un accompagnateur d’anglais est d’entendre un étudiant corriger ses erreurs.

I went to, no, I have been to New York two times, I mean twice. I stayed there since two, I mean, for two months.

Slow down. Think about your English. Be mindful. Correct it.

 

  1. Speak in full sentences. You can’t master a language if you are a minimalist speaker.

How long does it take to drive from Geneva to Berne? La réponse n’est PAS : 2 hours

La bonne réponse est : It takes about 2 hours to drive from Geneva to Berne

Lorsque quelqu’un vous pose une question, utilisez tous les éléments grammaticaux de la question dans votre réponse.

How long have you lived in Nyon? I have lived in Nyon for five years.

La réponse incorpore la même mélodie avec un arrangement musical légèrement différent. En utilisant les éléments de la question dans votre réponse, non seulement vous apprenez la mélodie mais en plus vous vous donnez le temps de réfléchir pour fournir une réponse détaillée.

How long have you lived in Nyon? I have lived in Nyon for five years. I lived in Geneva before that. When I got the job at Le Temps I decided to move to Nyon. And you? Do you like living in Zurich?

Don’t be a minimalist. Speak in full sentences.

 

  1. STOP TRANSLATING. FORGET FRENCH

Vous êtes maintenant en mode anglais-vers-anglais. Utilisez le vocabulaire anglais que vous connaissez. Permettez-moi d’insister : Utilisez le vocabulaire anglais que vous connaissez. N’essayez pas de paraître poétique et compétent(e) en traduisant les expressions françaises que vous connaissez. Ça ne fonctionne pas.

 

  1. Keep your sentences SHORT AND SIMPLE

Entraînez-vous en parlant de vous-même. Préparez un monologue avec des phrases courtes et simples.

My name is Anne Gables. I am 35. I work in a private bank in Geneva called Pictet. I have worked there for seven years.  I am a financial analyst. I live with my partner in Nyon. We live in a small house about a kilometre from the lake. We are lucky. We have a huge garden and we grow lots of vegetables. We grew a lot of zucchinis this year. I have a dog and three cats. Uma is a Labrador. Sally, Mickey and Ute are Siamese.

The KISS principle: Keep it Short and Simple.

 

  1. OPEN YOUR MOUTH. Exercise your tongue and OVER-exaggerate the difficult sounds. Entraînez-vous à faire sonner les pluriels en S et en Z. En anglais, le S est votre ami. Il FAUT le prononcer.

How many days (day-Z) will you will spend in the United States (State-ss)?

Comprenez que pour prononcer certains sons en anglais, vous devez reprogrammer votre langue et votre bouche. C’est une simple gymnastique de la bouche. Le son th est généralement assez difficile à prononcer pour un francophone. Pourquoi ? Parce que votre langue ne connaît pas la manœuvre à effectuer pour faire un th.

 

 

Entraînez-vous à prononcer Thursday (TH-ursday) et Tuesday (Tchoosday). This, think, thought, Thor, that, them…

Accentuez également la prononciation du –ed des verbes au passé simple.

We finish-T at seven pm. I live-D in the UK for 7 year-Z.

The course start-ID on Sunday and the end-ID on Tuesday.

 Train your tongue and mouth.  Exaggerate the sound.

 

  1. VOCABULARY. Find the important words and, most importantly, the words you like and feel comfortable with.

Si vous avez des difficultés à prononcer le mot approximately, dîtes plutôt about.

The hotel is about 10 kms from here. A room cost about $90 a night.

Vous n’avez pas besoin de connaître tous les mots du dictionnaire Oxford. Mais vous devez assimiler, apprendre et utiliser des mots clés. Comment y parvenir ? Voici quelques idées utiles.

Imaginez que vous devez formuler un commentaire sur l’un des sujets suivants :

  • La volatilité du prix du poisson à Casablanca ;
  • Les augmentations et diminutions du nombre de visiteurs dans un musée ;
  • Comparer les bénéfices d’une banque d’un trimestre à un autre.

Pour chacune des situations ci-dessus, vous avez seulement besoin d’apprendre et d’activer un petit groupe de mots qui couvrira la quasi-totalité des descriptions imaginables.

Rise / fall and increase / decrease – these are movements which can be used as both verbs and nouns.

There was a dramatic rise in the price of perch last year

The price of perch increased dramatically last year.

Vous pouvez décrire les augmentations et les diminutions comme slight – moderate – substantialdramatic.

There was a substantial rise in the number of museum visitors in April.

Autres mots importants pour décrire ces situations : to fluctuate, recover, remain stable, reach a peak et reach the lowest point.

Profits fluctuated in the first half of the year between CHF 10 and 20 million. In August profits rose dramatically and peaked at CHF 35 million. They remained stable in October and November and fell slightly to finish the year at CHF 33 million.

À l’aide de ce vocabulaire, vous pouvez décrire presque tous types de statistiques, de tendances ou d’indicateurs.

Use new words as quickly as possible. Be selective. Identify the words that are important.

 

  1. Open your ears. Listen to as much English as possible.

Lisez le texte ci-dessous trois fois à voix haute. Pratiquez à la manière d’une pièce de théâtre. Imaginez que vous parlez à un public. Sur quels mots auriez-vous naturellement tendance à créer une emphase ? À quels moments feriez-vous des pauses pour créer un effet et reprendre votre souffle ? Soulignez les mots d’emphase et marquez les différentes pauses, puis comparez vos notes à celles du texte situé à la fin de cet article. Voici le texte :

There is one area of business where the best will always find a job. And it’s so vital to the economy that its future is almost guaranteed. The true professional in this field has nothing to fear from technology or the changing marketplace. In fact, they can virtually name their own salary as they provide an essential service, without which most companies would simply go out of business. I’m talking of course, about selling.

Écoutez cette conférence TED avec les sous-titres en anglais – The secrets of learning a new language. Lisez les sous-titres en même temps que vous écoutez. Ressentez la mélodie de la langue. Prêtez attention aux mots dont la prononciation est ACCENTUÉE.

Savoir quels mots accentuer peut totalement changer le sens d’une phrase. Lisez la phrase ci-dessous.

I didn’t say he had stolen the bike.

Cette formulation est à priori assez simple. Cependant, un anglophone expérimenté peut donner plusieurs significations à cette phrase en mettant l’accent sur différents mots.

Voici un exemple : I didn’t say he had stolen the bike. (Une emphase sur le « I » signifie que ce n’est pas moi qui ai dit qu’il avait volé le vélo)

I didn’t say he had stolen the bike. (Je ne l’ai pas directement accusé d’avoir volé le vélo. J’ai simplement suggéré que c’était peut-être lui)

I didn’t say he had stolen the bike. (Peut-être que c’était quelqu’un d’autre. Peut-être que c’était Susan)

I didn’t say he had stolen the bike. (J’ai dit à la police qu’il avait volé mon scooter)

 

  1. Keep calm and speak English. Don’t worry too much about grammar.

Vous commettrez probablement des erreurs de grammaire. Rien de grave ! Votre mission est de communiquer et d’être compris(e). Ne vous mettez pas la pression au sujet de la grammaire. Contentez-vous de communiquer !

 

10. Enjoy yourself

L’apprentissage de l’anglais n’est pas une punition. Assurez-vous de prendre plaisir à apprendre cette superbe langue et le reste viendra naturellement. Trouvez la méthode qui vous convient le mieux. Avec un peu de discipline et de patience, vous serez sur la bonne voie. Et n’oubliez pas de rire et de sourire.

Annexe du chapitre 8 ci-dessus. Emphases et pauses. Les emphases sont en caractères gras et les pauses ou respirations sont marquées par des barres obliques ( / ).

There is ONE area of business / where THE BEST / will ALWAYS / find a job. And it’s SO VITAL to the economy / that its future / is ALMOST-GUARANTEED. The true professional in this field has NOTHING to fear from technology or the changing marketplace. In fact, / they can virtually NAME-THEIR-OWN-SALARY / as they provide an ESSENTIAL service, / without which, / MOST companies would simply go out of business. I’m talking / of course, / about / selling.

Suivez ces suggestions et vous constaterez que votre public n’aura pas besoin de vous demander de répéter. Un grand pas en avant pour votre confiance !

Translation: Benjamin

 

 

Mont Blanc: A magnet for wackos

The word of the day is wacko, kindly brought to you by the Mayor of Chamonix.

So, what’s a wacko? It’s certainly not complimentary. The French equivalent is hurluberlus, a term Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex used to describe some of the climbers that set off from Chamonix to climb Mont Blanc.

He is urging President Emmanuel Macron to stop wackos, crackpots and oddballs from climbing the mountain, after a British tourist carried a rowing machine up the mountain to raise money for charity.

Yes, a rowing machine (machine à ramer).

Unfortunately, the Brit didn’t have the energy to descend with the rowing machine. At the time of writing it’s sitting in a refuge on the mountain, a few hundred metres below the summit.  The man gave his name as Matthew Disney which prompted the far-from-amused Mayor to write in his open letter to President Macron:

“… with a name like that, you’d think he thought he was at an amusement park,”

He’s not the only Mont Blanc wacko. The mayor also cited a German tourist who recently made the ascent with his dog despite promising that he would leave the dog at a refuge before attempting the summit. But no, the tourist and his best friend headed for the top in the middle of the night. It survived, but returned with injuries, according to photos posted on Peillex’s Twitter account.

The mayor also cited two Swiss climbers, keen to conserve energy, who landed a small plane, near the summit and then hiked to the top.

He wants Macron to “write and pass laws without delay that from 2020 would severely punish all these wackos who break the law, and restore peace to Mont Blanc”.

Each year the mountain attracts about 20,000 climbing parties. Thousands of climbers have died on the 4,808 metre-high mountain. It is the deadliest mountain in Europe. Over a three-day period in 2012, Mont Blanc claimed the lives of 11 climbers.

So, what’s a wacko? It’s American English and dates back to the early seventies.

If you are a bit of a wacko, you might be eccentric, odd, a little obsessed, a bit bizarre. But a total wacko is someone that is crazy, crackers, unhinged, unbalanced, daft, demented, bonkers and barmy. You’ve properly got the picture.

There seem to be more and more wackos in the world, not just on Mont Blanc. The internet spawns wackos. Wackos love conspiracy theories. Religious wackos dream of having their own cults. Wackos don’t mix well with guns. General advice: Keep away from wackos.

The word wacko comes from the adjective wacky which means a little crazy, funny or amusing in a bizarre or peculiar way.

You can have a wacky sense of humour or a wacky or eccentric dress style. This can be quite refreshing and not at all negative.  It doesn’t mean you are a wacko. Take for example, the wacky inventor in Hollywood movies who is often quite odd, but quite sharp.

The verb whack means to hit somebody/something very hard.

She whacked the thief with her hand-bag.

Federer whacked the ball over the net.

Some etymologists (word historians) say that the word wacko comes from whack; you become a wacko when you’ve been whacked too many times in the head.

Arguably, you have to be a bit of a wacko to climb dangerous mountains.

The first man to climb Mont Blanc was a 26-year-old crystal and chamois hunter named Jacques Balmat. He didn’t have a rowing machine. Instead he told his wife he was off to hunt for crystals. He filled his gourd with brandy, got a piece of bread, and set off. He didn’t get very far the first time.

Three weeks later, on August 8, 1786 he joined another hiker, a French village doctor named Michel Paccard, and with more brandy and a spot of good weather they both reached the top. The feat was rewarded with cash and honour.

The man perhaps the most obsessed by the mountain at this time was the Geneva aristocrat, scientist, inventor and explorer Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. He was fascinated with the geology and botany of the Alps. He tried many times to scale the mountain.

He finally offered a reward to anyone who could scale the mountain and then help him reach the top.

The mountain was soon crawling with would be mountaineers, much like today. Balmat and Paccard were the first and received the prize. A year later, de Saussure finally realised his dream. Along with his valet and 18 guides (led by Balmat) and some heavy scientific equipment, which was left at base camp, he conquered the mountain.

It seems every man and his dog, and rowing machine, want to follow in his footsteps.