Re. Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

My original reaction to the screening of this show in 2008 appears under Reviews.
This is the letter I wrote in response to a reply from Ofcom:

Dear Ofcom,
      I was interested to receive your reply, and glad to know that so many other viewers had complained about the xenophobic commentary to the Eurovision Dance contest that you had viewed the programme to investigate the attitudes it embodied. Continue reading

Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

Xenophobia – BBC’s new Mission Statement?  
       (Some names have been omitted to protect the guilty…)

In last night’s transmission of the Eurovision Dance Contest, the BBC sank to new levels of bad taste.
       Over the years the various TV channels have bludgeoned us into expecting, if not accepting, the manifestation of some bizarre belief that the general public is incapable of enjoying anything that is not formulaic, snappy, glitzy, sexy, jokey and smiley.  I might therefore have been prepared for the inanities of the two presenters.  Even so, could someone (a highly-paid BBC producer, perhaps?) not have explained to the gentleman in question (presumably astronomically paid?) that the time delay in receiving transmissions from elsewhere in Europe means that to follow his scripted opening questions with poorly timed colloquial drivel served no purpose other than to make each of the foreign presenters look congenitally stupid? Continue reading

Graduation Photos

Dear Sirs,
      I am writing to complain at the colour reproduction in my Graduation Photographs, Ref. number xxxx.   The turquoise blue of the Open University gown bears very little resemblance to the reality, having emerged as a dull beige.  I enclose a copy of the re-order form.
      As you will be well aware, a graduation is a one-off occasion, and the money spent is considerable.  It is consequently highly unsatisfactory that the sole record of this event should be impaired in this way. 
      I should therefore be grateful if you would undertake to replace the photos with ones of a more satisfactory tonal quality.  As soon as you advise me that this is possible, I will post the photo pack back to you. 
      I look forward to your early reply, and thank you in anticipation.
            Yours faithfully, …………. Continue reading

Erroneous Phone charges

Dear BT,
Premium Rate Service/International MODEM
      I am writing in response to your letter, which while it explains some of the reasons for the illicit charges featuring on my May and June bills, does not excuse them, and, more importantly, does not undertake to refund them.

      I note that you have ‘gained agreement from the regulator to bar access to diallers once they are seen to be acting outside of the guidelines’.  This is encouraging, but I would like to: Continue reading

Politeness Cultures – PowerPoint

Here is the PowerPoint presentation I refer to in my article
“Becoming Aware of Cultural Differences”. 
It was designed for Teacher-Training purposes.

As I explain in the introduction to that article, in this context the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are not in any sense intended to convey approval or disapproval.  They simply refer to opposing ends of a continuum of accepted behaviour in a particular cultural context.

‘Positive’ could loosely be equated with directness, and ‘negative’ with indirectness.  In fact, I wish such terms had been the ones linguists had coined for discussion of these culturally sensitive matters!

(For anyone not familiar with PowerPoint, if you are using a PC, once the presentation has opened, click once each time you want the next element or slide to appear.  To return to the previous slide, simply press ‘P’, or use the back arrow.
On a mobile device, the presentation may simply appear as a series of individual slides, and you can scroll down from one to the next…)

When giving the presentation to a live audience, I would stop at intervals to invite the participants to discuss the content in pairs or small groups, and elicit their responses before moving on.


The Way up to Heaven – Roald Dahl

This activity  is designed to guide students to form their own understanding of the story (which they will have read in their own time), working in groups.  The story appears in Kiss Kiss, published by Penguin.

My original  list of questions was in chronological order.   But to avoid the impression of yet another list of comprehension questions,  I did not want to issue them in that way.  Instead, in the attachment given below, the questions are re-ordered to engage group discussion – such a vital part of language learning and the development of ideas.

To use them in class, print these questions out and cut the page into three so that each group receives only “their” questions.  The stages of the activity are explained below. Continue reading

Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban

I fell in love with the language of this novel, and wanted to share some gems with you, whether you already know the book and would relish meeting it again, or might be drawn to encounter it for the first time!

It didn’t occur to me till long after i first read it that the name Riddley in itself gives a clue to the fun of deciphering Riddlleyspeak – the language Russell Hoban has devised for this novel.  The fact that so many of the unusual words he uses are like riddles in themselves.

To whet your appetite, what do you suppose are ‘Gready mints’?  ‘Strapping the lates’?, and a ‘Poynty time’?

In the attached document are some of my favourite expressions, noting  a page where they occur.

Below the table are some possible explanations to add to the grid if you like  – or you may have your own!


A Passage to India – E M Forster

Here are 4 activities to use with the first half of the film of A Passage to India, and with part of the novel, each following a different format.  Preferably let the students watch each section of the film first, before giving them a task, so that they can enjoy it for its own sake!  And let them read and check they understand the wording of each task before watching the relevant section for the second time!

  • The first worksheet is designed to be cut into strips for students to sort in order as they watch the fist part of the film again (up to the point where Dr Aziz arrives at Fielding’s house).
  • The second worksheet consists of 12 multiple-choice questions to be answered during the second viewing of part 2 (up to the preparations for the expedition to the Marabar Caves.)
  • The third focuses on the expedition to the Caves itself, and involves a sentence completion activity with a variety of options.
  • The fourth focuses on a comparison between the film version of the Caves episode, and that section of the novel.  The students have to allocate each element in the table according to its appearance in the film or the book.

These activities worked well with a class of a high enough language level;  they deepened the learners’ understanding and stimulated a lot of discussion.  I hope they work for your students as well!





“Pinter’s People” – Review

This was my response to “Pinter’s People”,
as performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, 2007 

What an opportunity…

As a lifelong fan of Pinter, and about to direct my fourth production of one of his plays – The Dwarfs (after Betrayal, The Caretaker and The Homecoming), I was keen to see Pinter’s People at the Haymarket last Saturday.  Especially as it was reputed to be bringing the humour of Pinter’s brilliant dialogue to life.  So what happened? Continue reading