Long Day’s Journey into Night – Review

Two of the online reviews of the  2012  production of this classic
at the Apollo Theatre, London – one on ‘West End Whingers’,
and another on ‘What’s on Stage’- were enthusiastic about its pace. 
I replied to both of those, and then was delighted to find
a less laudatory review on ‘londonist.com’.

This is my reply to ‘londonist.com’:

How gratifying to read your less than euphoric review! I do so agree with the points you make, and to focus on one more aspect, some of the rave reviews you mention at the end praise the production, among other things, for its pace..  Ay, ay ay! Continue reading

When you are Old, by W B Yeats

This activity is designed to lead students to form their own understanding of the ideas and feelings in the poem, which you will find on the third page of the attachment.

On page one, there is the full list of the questions involved, in chronological order.   But to avoid the impression of yet another list of comprehension questions,  I do not issue these questions as they stand.  On page two, 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 and cut the second page of the attachment into three, so that each group receives only “their” questions.

To see how this works, read the section headed “Class Activity in Groups.”


The Listeners – PowerPoint Illustration

I designed an illustrated version of this poem, by Walter de la Mare, to bring it to life and guide foreign students to some of the key vocabulary.

When you first open the PowerPoint presentation you will see a Black Screen.

  • Click twice, separately, to bring up the title and author’s name.
  • One more click will start the first verse scrolling onto the screen.
  • There are four lines in each verse.   You only need to click once for each verse.   Resist the urge to rush, as the lines and pictures appear at roughly reading speed!
  • There are three verses on each screen, and three screens in all.  When all three verses on the first screen have finished, including the ferns at the bottom of the third verse,
  • Click again to start the second screen, clicking only once for each whole verse, as above.
  • Then click for the third screen, as above.

I hope you find the presentation illuminating for your students – and that you enjoy it!


Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café

I was so drawn to the unique way this novel by Fannie Flagg was constructed that I decided to make a grid to illustrate its design.

In the novel we rove between news reports from a local paper called Weems Weekly; scenes that take place in a Nursing Home or the Whistle Stop Café itself as well as a variety of other locations; while the events take place over a 70-year period between 1917 and 1987.

In the table that you can access from the link  below you will see a breakdown according to scene, events, times of occurrence, and the page when each begins.

Different fonts help to characterise particular locations.  I hope you find it as much fun to read as I did in compiling it!


Riders in the Chariot – Patrick White

Why do I like Patrick White’s style so much?

Just raving about him doesn’t convince anyone,
so I decided to group some of the features that set my spine tingling.

Here are a few fragments from Riders in the Chariot, as a taster:

  • Mrs Jolley’s face, which was still eating, had become a series of lumps.
  • More than a little disarranged, her flesh turned mauve beneath the last vestiges of powder, the Lady from Czernowitz was still able to glitter from behind the kohl.
  • ‘If you will pass this way,’ almost shouted the plump goddess, perspiring on her foam rubber.
  • Little sighs would break, scintillating, on the Wilton wall-to-wall
  • The two ladies clutched each other by the gloves.
  • Mr Hoggett, who was pretty big, simply sat, in his singlet, expressing himself with his belly.
  • Her mouth, which was working to solve, suddenly subsided on the teeth.

For a fuller analysis of some of my favourite lines, see the table attached below:


If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

When reading this book by Jon McGregor for our book group, I felt impelled to create a diagram of the houses in the street he describes, with a few details about each inhabitant.

This was partly out of curiosity, and partly to act as a reference to help my failing memory!  I wondered if anyone else would find it a useful, house-shaped visual aid…

Here is the diagram:


Becoming Aware of Cultural Differences

I was giving a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Positive and Negative Politeness Cultures ‘
at a conference where Mario Rinvolucri was one of the participants.   
Following on from the seminar, he asked me to contribute
an article for ‘Humanising Language Teaching’
on how I became interested in cultural differences, and here it is…


By the way, 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!