English in the Time of the Pandemic 2 – Time travel and Van Gogh

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?




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,



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



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.

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

3 réponses à “English in the Time of the Pandemic 2 – Time travel and Van Gogh

  1. If I could be a time traveller I’d like to go some years forward…10 or 15…no more. I don’t know where. The city or cities where my two daughters were living. I would like to see them, probably married or not, maybe with children (my grandchild).
    If I could know now how they will be, and how they will live, maybe I would change something ni my present or not. Sometimes parents think that we can change the future of our daughters or sons, but it’s not true, they will decide by themselves.
    I’m sure it’s better to live today and future will arrive.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful text Nàtalia. It is true, its is better to live in the moment, and let the future be. Our actions now will define the future. The future is now.

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