That’s all from Out of the Spotlight. Look after yourselves and have a good Easter break!
So, this is what it feels like to be a Spotlight subscriber!
As we are all now working from home, I received the latest issue of the magazine through the mail — usually, new issues are plopped on my desk by one of my kind colleagues. This morning, I sauntered out to my post box and was delighted to find Spotlight 5/2020 waiting for me. And here it is in all its loveliness.
We really hadn’t planned the topic of games to coincide with the lockdown — honestly — but we hope that once Spotlight arrives, you will have fun trying out the different activities in the magazine. Take a look at our feature “Play your way to better English!” All the activities are suited to those locked down alone.
On the other hand, if you are quarantined with family or friends, you can play Double up! It’s an adaptation of our latest card game created in partnership with Grubbe Media.
If you prefer puzzles and crosswords, we have expanded our regular crossword page to include more brain-twisters.
Finally, I would like to invite you for a virtual dinner tomorrow. As with all good dinners, there is a little preparation involved. We’ll be cooking and practising the grammar of the present progressive tense at the same time. So, to get ready for our present progressive cooking class, why not take another look here and clue up on the use of this tense?
The plan was to practise some more grammar today, but earlier on I was witness to a lovely incident — and I want to share it with you.
Every morning — before the lockdown — I used to pass one of my neighbours as I cycled to work. Come rain or shine, she was always there on the street, in her blue anorak, looking for someone to chat to. I stopped to talk to Mrs Blue, as I call her, every now and again over the years. She knows where I work and that I have a grown-up son. Most often, though, we talked about her son. He’s a hotshot lawyer and she is clearly very proud of him. In fact, sometimes, it’s hard to get away when she starts talking about him. I’ve noticed other people rushing past her, clearly not wanting to be ensnared. Mrs Blue seems very lonely — I sometimes wondered whether her son really existed or whether she had just made him up to have something to talk about.
So, when I went shopping today, I was amazed and delighted to see Mrs Blue arm in arm with a young man who was clearly her son. She was as proud as can be and gave me a big smile as I cycled past. Has the pandemic brought her son home for an extended visit? I hope so.
Of course, I don’t want to leave you with nothing to do, so here is the final chapter of our Ms Winslow story to listen to. You’ll find the other chapters on days eight and ten. Enjoy!
As I mentioned yesterday, we are going to begin by looking at tenses and we’ll start off now with the one that you probably learned first: the present simple.
We make this tense with the infinitive form of the verb:
I live in Munich.
For “he”/“she”/“it” — the third person singular — we add an -s.
He lives in Chicago.
We use the present simple to
- talk about habits and repeated actions.
- talk about situations that are permanent.
- give directions or instructions.
To form negative sentences, we need the auxiliaries “do” or “does”. “Do” / “does” + “not” come before the main verb and are generally shortened to “don’t” or “doesn’t”.
I don’t live in Chicago.
He doesn’t live in Munich.
We also need the auxiliaries “do” or “does” in order to form questions. “Do” / “does” comes at the beginning of a “yes/no” question or after the question word:
Do you live in Chicago?
Does he live in Chicago?
Where do you live?
Where does he live?
Here’s how to use the present simple to talk about habits and routines.
The typical home office day of my dreams
I get up at 11.30 and have a full English breakfast. At 12.00, I log on and chat with my colleagues. Then, at around 13.30, I make myself a crisps and chips sandwich with barbecue sauce for lunch.
In the early afternoon, I take a nap or watch old episodes of Call the Midwife. Just after four o’clock, I get dressed and log on again, answer a few e-mails and check the celebrity column of the Daily Mail online. I never really find any stories for Spotlight, but it keeps me up to date with Kim, Gwyneth and co. At five, I join my exercise class on Zoom and work out for around ten minutes. At six, I order in dinner.
In the evening, I look for inexpensive Christmas presents online and, if I find anything, I order it and update my Christmas present list. I don’t go to bed before midnight.
Now it’s your turn. What do you do on a typical home office day — real or imagined?
Please send your text to firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll print our favourite text in issue 7/2020 of Spotlight.
Being stuck at home can be good for creativity. On Saturday evening, I mixed myself a quarantini and began thinking about the six stages of a pandemic:
Reassessment of life values
Appreciation of friends, family, flora and fauna, (good) fiction, films and freedom!
OK, time to lay off those quarantinis. If you liked my (almost) acrostic, you’ll certainly enjoy the next issue of Spotlight. It comes out on 8 April and is all about games — including a mini-game on writing your own acrostic.
To me, this feels like part of the pandemic, when I really do need to focus and set myself some targets. I will begin by improving my French.
Perhaps you would also like to take a focused approach to improving your English. If so, over the coming days I will post some basic learning material here. Tomorrow’s lesson will be on tenses. Get a head start by looking here.
This final blog for the week is dedicated to my uncle Alfred. He would be 90 in early May. I say ‘would’ because I am not sure if he is still alive. I think he is lying in a hospital in north England. Alfred was dying even before the pandemic hit. He has wonderful carers and, as far as I can understand, he was just waiting to be allowed to go home where he could die in peace.
Now, nothing is sure. If he is receiving any visits at all, they will be very few. I’m sure he is being given the best possible attention by the hospital staff. I believe in our National Health Care system and will be out there clapping them on this evening, even if nobody can hear me. Alfred is a vicar and worked with the dying at his local hospital, so death was his companion on many days.
I would like to think about two memories I have of him that are very much alive — in my mind. One is of him sitting in our garden, having tea. Before we started drinking, Alfred took the tea cosy — which was exactly in the shape of a bishop’s mitre — put it on his head, put his hands together and blessed the cake. The whole family was in stiches.
The other memory, in fact these are lots of memories I have merged into one, is of playing cards with Alfred. For a man of God, he did not bring much trust to the card table. He always held his cards under the table, however awkward it was. We joked with him about this, but Alfred played a very serious game of cards.
Wherever you are, Alfred, I am thinking of you and remembering your humour and kindness — and our card games.
Before I sign off for this week, here, as promised, is the second chapter of our Ms Winslow story: I hope you enjoy it.
Have a good weekend. Stay healthy and happy.
Working from home creates many fun challenges. As some of you may know, now and again I’m a speaker for Spotlight Audio. The lockdown means, of course, that we can’t go to the Spotlight studio for recordings. Most of the speakers have reacted magnificently to the challenge, bought all the right equipment and sent demos to our lovely sound engineers, Mr B and Mr R.
Only yours truly forgot and now I am missing some vital equipment. This thing you see here is called a pop filter.
As its name suggests, it filters out the pop you get when you say the letter “p” and other pesky sounds. I have been completely unable to find this device to order online, so in desperation I made my own. May I invite you to join me on this DIY journey?
Rummage through any sewing stuff you have, until you come up with one of these.
It’s an embroidery-thingy. This one was last used by me circa 1982.
Knit yourself a cover.
Give up knitting and go to your sock drawer.
Find a thin, clean sock and put it over the embroidery-thingy.
Hey presto! You have a pop filter. Or should I call that a pop-sock filter?
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers… :)
By the way: I have just discovered how many YouTube videos there are on this topic. It is impossible to be original in this digital age!
If one more person sends me a jokey corona video, I will force my phone to self-isolate. These videos are a virus in their own right, and it seems that every phone is affected. I know, a few days ago, I still thought they were charming and funny, but now it’s enough. STOP!
Outside is a cold blue sky and that mirrors my mood today. Blue and feeling a bit of cold anger. A former colleague caught the last plane home from his holiday destination yesterday and called to tell me about his shopping plans for today. Shopping! The man is over 70! My offer to help was met with polite disbelief.
What helps when you’ve got the blues? A Spotlight story? If you are also feeling a bit low, here’s the first chapter of one of our Ms Winslow stories for you to enjoy: