My Pint with Charles Dickens....

My pint with Charles Dickens.....

Just think, last week I had a pint with Charles Dickens, and possibly even Shakespeare! Well maybe a slight exaggeration, but where other than good old London town can you frequent the drinking-holes of the famous and great from yesteryear and find that they still serve excellent beer and food?

I'm talking about Britain's famous pubs of course- these aren't just bars by a long way, they are woven into the fabric of history and the everyday lives of Britons. Where do people meet friends, take colleagues for lunch, join in a quiz or enjoy a club meeting? Always down the pub.... often sitting in a building where if the walls could talk they would have some amazing tales to tell.

The George Inn in Southwark is maybe the most amazing British pub of all, and it was here I found myself popping in for lunch and a pint last week when I was in London and marvelling at the fact that I was sitting in the bar where Charles Dickens used to enjoy a coffee. The George is the only remaining galleried coaching Inn in Britain and sits hidden in a courtyard not far from London Bridge, a secret oasis just yards from the skyscrapers and corporations of the financial heart of the City of London.

Here drinkers step back into the world of horse-drawn coaches and can choose to sit in the Parliament bar, which used to be the waiting room for passengers, or choose the Middle Bar, where Charles Dickens used to enjoy a coffee when the Inn was also a coffee-house. The galleried rooms upstairs were the bedchambers for the weary passengers making their way up to London , perhaps from the coast and even France. The Inn you can see now is relatively new, re-built in 1676 after a fire destroyed much of Southwark- the original inn was shown on a map of the area in 1543! This has lead people to speculate that maybe Shakespeare drank there, as the Globe Theatre was very near... there is no actual proof of this however. When you are sitting in the ancient rooms you can imagine it might just be true...

The most amazing thing of all for me? Step outside the door of the George, look up into the sky and you are transported back to the 21st century and the Shard rises into the clouds like a dagger pointing to the heavens. The juxtaposition of old and new in London is brilliant, surprising, shocking,thrilling, and makes you feel alive like nowhere else on Earth.

Level; CEF B2

Vocabulary:

Pint- a standard measure of beer in britain

to frequent- to go somewhere often

yesteryear- a very old-fashioned term for the past

drinking-holes    slang for bars

woven into the fabric   metaphor for part of , connected to

to pop in ( British English)  to go in

to marvel - to be amazed by

courtyard  a yard where caoches used to load and unload goods and passengers

bedchamber- old-fashioned term for bedroom

to speculate- to guess, wonder ( also gamble) 

to transport-  to carry 

juxtaposition  placed together side by side

 

 

Eating Elephant Burgers....

Eating Elephant Burgers.....                                                                                                                       ( Level B1 Intermediate)

My daughter recently asked a classrooom full of 11 year-olds if they liked learning languages. Sadlly only a few raised their hands. Next she asked who would like to be able to speak a language fluently- and every hand in the room shot up.

The start of a whole new year is always a time for looking forward and back, just like to Roman god Janus with his two faces contemplating the past and the future. For as long as mankind has had the wit to imagine the future, we've made promises to be better- read more books, lose some weight, take more exercise or speak better English/French/German. Even the ancient Babylonians promised their gods they would return borrowed items and pay off their debts. So maybe 2014 will really be the year when your house is perfectly decorated and inhabited by slim young-looking people - living in perfect domestic harmony?

How ghastly! Would the world really be happier if everything was perfect? Whatever happened to just being good enough but trying hard? Apparently 45% of Americans make a new year's resolution, and let's face it, with their New World optimism they should have a good shot at achieving it, however just 8% manage it. I won't bombard you with the figures, but apparently if you're over 50 you might as well just put your feet up in front of the telly with a high-fat microwave meal and veg out.

So what's going wrong? Full of good intentions that fall by the wayside, we're focussed on the result, not the process. The kids in the classroom want to speak fluently, not learn 10 new words every day.  We want to be slim- not eat fruit instead of biscuits every day. The only thing I can remember from a management training course I went on years ago was the corny question 'How do you eat an elephant?' Answer: 'Elephant burgers'  ( Groan!) Life's just too short for perfection, promises and regrets- in 2014 a few elephant burgers will hit the spot.

Vocabulary

to contemplate- to think deeply about

have the wit to do something- to have the mental capacity to do something

ghastly- horrible

to veg out-( Brit. colloquial) to relax

to hit the spot - ( brit.colloquial) to have just the right effect

 

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