WEP 261017 – Ten Days That Shook the World

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A summary of the eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution by American journalist John Reed


Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

palpable: a strong atmosphere, plain to see

stream: a continuous flow

to blag: to get something by lying or exaggeration 

whirl: move around and around quickly

dread: anticipation with great apprehension

rife: widespread, everywhere

close quarters: close or near. For example, hand to hand fighting

armistice: an agreement between both sides to end a war


Day 1 The Coming Storm: Autumn 1917 and Petrograd under the Provisional Government is in chaos. American journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant arrive to find the tension between factions is palpable and it’s only a matter of time before the situation explodes. But in which direction?

Day 2  On the Eve: The confusion in Petrograd continues as the new delegates to the Congress of Soviets stream into the city. Reed gets a brief interview with Trotsky and overhears Lenin calling for a Bolshevik insurrection. But isn’t Lenin meant to be in hiding to avoid arrest?

Day 3 The Winter Palace: Reed and Bryant blag their way in to the Winter Palace and meet the frightened government troops defending the building. As gunfire starts in the street, the Palace falls surprisingly easily to the victorious revolutionaries but the journalists are caught in a dangerous encounter.

Day 4 Plunging Ahead: The Bolsheviks have taken the Winter Palace and seized control. In a whirl of excitement, dread and rumour, Lenin abolishes all private ownership of land.

Day 5 Chill Winds: Ex-Prime Minster Kerensky has joined forces with the Cossacks and is advancing on Petrograd, and there is fighting in the streets in Moscow: rumour is rife that the Revolution cannot survive.

Day 6  The Revolutionary Front: Kerensky and the counter-revolutionary Cossacks are making gains and threatening Petrograd. Reed visits the Revolutionary frontline with the Bolshevik commander-in-chief who seems less than organised.

Day 7 Counter-Revolution: Bryant is caught up in a vicious street battle and witnesses the bloody violence of the Revolution at close quarters. Counter-revolutionary government troops holding the telephone exchange are captured by Bolshevik sailors – who then have to learn to man the switchboards.

Day 8  Victory: Trotsky has claimed victory over the Cossacks and Kerensky is asking for an armistice. Reed sets out once more for the front line with a driver who takes a negative view of American democracy.

Day 9 Moscow: Despair at the rumour that the revolutionaries’ own bombardment has destroyed the historic Kremlin. Reed and Bryant set out to Moscow to see for themselves but find not everyone in the city supports the Bolsheviks.

Day 10  The Conquest of Power: The Bolsheviks have defeated the counter-revolution and are getting on with the business of government despite the threat of civil war. The abolition of all private ownership of land has won over the peasants and, for a moment, the Revolution seems to have accomplished its goals.

Written by John Reed, adapted by John Hird.

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Give reasons for your answers. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • Have you read John Reed’s book?
  • Do you have a positive or negative view of the 1917 Revolution?
  • Why do you think the Russian Revolution happened?
  • Do you think we need more revolutions in the 21st century?
  • Have you ever participated in anything ‘revolutionary’?



WEP 191017 – How well do you know your ECP coach?

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And how good are you at spotting fake news stories?


Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

toddler: a young child who is just beginning to walk

braces: a device fitted into the mouth to straighten teeth

aka: also known as

barcode: a code in the form of numbers and lines, used to identify products

to punch: to strike or hit someone with a closed hand (fist)

jaw: the upper and lower bones which form the mouth and contain the teeth

bottom: a person’s gluteus maximus or rectum

nickname: a familiar or humorous name given to a person or thing


As you may know, we love talking about ourselves in class. But have you heard all of our stories? Which ones have you heard before and which ones aren’t true? Get to know your ECP coach a little better and try and find the deliberate lie in each story!

Ali: Alison Keable, known as Ali to her friends, was born near London and has a German grandmother, who only spoke English. Ali broke her nose as a toddler when another baby pushed her down the stairs.  She loves playing computer games in her spare time, but didn’t learn to ride a bike until she was 12, and didn’t learn to swim until she was 30. When she was 15, she had to wear braces, and two years later, she cheated in a Sociology exam (and passed it!)

Rob: Robert Kieron Hextall, aka Rob, had a variety of jobs before he became an English coach. He has been a librarian, a door-to-door salesman and a pizza restaurant manager. He was also a successful athlete, winning both the long-jump and triple jump in his home town of Wolverhampton, before winning the badminton federation championship in Vitoria, twice! To get up in the morning, he needs an alarm clock that makes him go to the kitchen, open his fridge and scan the barcode of the mustard jar! He claims that he has never punched or been punched by anyone in anger, although he has a secret life defending the residents of Gotham City.

John: Until he was seven, John Andrew Hird lived in flats which neither had hot water nor an inside toilet. A vegetarian – with a hatred of boiled eggs – before he came to Gasteiz, has written a play, spoken at a meeting in front of 1/4 million people and loves everyone. As a youth, he had both his jaw and cheekbone broken, and also had to go to hospital to have his teddy-bear’s eye removed from his bottom! He cooks very fast, he hardly sleeps but is rarely tired and has seen Frank Sinatra in concert, twice.

Darren: Darren Lynch loves smoked salmon, chocolate and is obsessed with washing his hands. He always has a bar of chocolate in his fridge and could eat smoked salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even though he has false teeth. He once fell asleep in the cinema watching “the Lord of the Rings” and has a fear of rats. While at a party, a friend took 3 rats out of a cage, and Darren had to run out of the house and call a taxi to take him home.

Me: Darren Kurien, also known as Kez, got his nickname because he looked like the character from a book. He has lots of scars and has had just under 100 stitches. In New Zealand, he sky-dived from a plane, and more recently, has flown in a 2-seater microlight. He loves music, plays the guitar and deejays occasionally, and once sang “Angie” in front of a crowd of 20,000 people at the Azkena Rock Festival. He goes to church every Sunday, writes poetry and is learning to swim.

Written by: Darren “Kez” Kurien with help from his friends at ECP. For more info about ECP click here.

Answers: Ali: was born IN London (not near) / John: had his teddy-bear’s eye stuck up his NOSE / Rob: ISN’T Batman / Darren: DOESN’T have false teeth / Kez: DOESN’T go to church

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Give reasons for your answers.

Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • Could you write a list of things people don’t know about you? Would you be embarrassed/shy telling them to people?
  • Did you spot the lies? (Answers on page 2) Talk to your friends, classmates and/or coach about them.
  • Are you good at lying? Why/Why not? Can you spot when someone is lying to you? How?


WEP 121017 – Meditation made interesting

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If you want the emotional and health benefits of meditation, but feel uncomfortable sitting like Buddha, you are not the only one.


Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

to struggle: to fight, to have difficulty

to fancy: to want, feel like, desire

maze: a labyrinth

to navigate: to find your way around

removed: far away, separated

damaging: dangerous, causing harm/damage

to boost: to amplify, increase, accelerate, enhance, improve

to anchor: to connect, attach, fix, secure, stabilise

joy: happiness

however you like: any way you want

feet: 1 foot = 12 inches = 30.48cm

riddle: a difficult question to be solved


All of us have different ways of clearing our minds and finding balance. Whether you’ve been struggling with traditional forms of meditation, or just fancy trying something new, here are five unusual meditation techniques to explore.

Labyrinth Meditation

Use the mezmerizing movement of this practice to centre yourself. Many churches, gardens and other outdoor spaces have mazes open to the public. The combination of left and right-brain activity required of navigating a labyrinth is said to help with problem-solving and can even trigger unexpected epiphanies.

Journey Meditation

This practice uses visualisation to transport your mind to a more serene state. Simply imagine yourself in a beautiful place completely removed from your everyday life; somewhere you feel safe. Close your eyes for 5-10 minutes, and visualise a garden, tropical island or peaceful mountaintop to slow down the mind and remind yourself of the world’s beauty. (Warning: Not recommended while driving!)

Laughter Meditation

Laughter, and even the mere anticipation of laughter, can reduce damaging stress hormones and boost levels of healthy hormones. As such, it can be a particularly effective stress reliever. The powerful act of mindful laughter anchors us in the present and brings us to a place of joy. Try imagining humorous situations and letting yourself laugh fully and deeply, ending with a brief silence.

Fire Meditation

To introduce the energy of the fire element into your meditative practice, sit (however you like) and place a candle 3-6 feet in front of you. After focusing on the flame for several minutes, close your eyes. Send any negative thoughts into the flame, and you’ll start to feel lighter and purer.

Koan Meditation

We’ve all heard the old riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” This and other philosophical questions form the basis for a meditative practice called Koan Meditation. It’s a  zen Buddhist technique that involves asking a question that cannot be answered through reason alone.

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • How would you define ‘meditation’. Now ask someone else and compare your definitions. What was the result?
  • Have you ever tried to meditate? What did it feel like?
  • Which of the above practices are most/least appealing to you? Why?
  • Would you be interested in deepening your knowledge of Buddhism and mindfulness? Why (not)?


Adapted from: www.huffingtonpost.com

WEP 051017 – The Life Cycle Of A T-shirt


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Annually, we sell and buy two billion t-shirts globally, but how and where is the average t-shirt made, and what is its environmental impact?


Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

item: an individual object or unit

to sow (sowed, sown): to plant the seeds of plants or crops (see below)

bales: when cotton or hay is collected, it is put together in a bale

crop: a cultivated plant that is grown commercially

to ship: to transport goods and products

to dip: to put something into a liquid for a short time

harmful: something that causes damage or injury

to boost: to amplify, increase or improve


Consider the classic white t-shirt. Clothing items can vary a lot, but a typical t-shirt begins its life on a farm in America, China, or India, where cotton seeds are sown, irrigated and grown and then harvested by self-driving machines. Finally the cotton is pressed into 225-kilogram bales.

The cotton plants require a huge quantity of water and pesticides. Two thousand seven hundred litres of water are needed to produce the average t-shirt, enough to fill more than 30 bathtubs.

Meanwhile, cotton uses more insecticides and pesticides than any other crop in the world. These pollutants can be carcinogenic, harm the health of field workers and damage surrounding ecosystems. Some t-shirts are made of organic cotton grown without pesticides and insecticides, but organic cotton makes up less than 1% of cotton produced worldwide.

The cotton bales are then shipped to a spinning facility, usually in China or India, where high-tech machines eventually turn the cotton into sheets of rough greyish fabric that are treated with heat and chemicals until they become soft and white. This fabric is dipped into commercial bleaches and dyes, which unfortunately contain cancer-causing cadmium, lead, chromium, and mercury. Other harmful compounds and chemicals can cause pollution when released as toxic waste water in rivers and oceans.

Technologies are now so advanced in some countries that the entire process of growing and producing fabric barely touches a human hand. But after, the finished cloth travels to factories, often in Bangladesh, China, India, or Turkey, where human labour is still required to stitch them up into t-shirts. Bangladesh, for example, employs 4.5 million people in the t-shirt industry, but they typically face poor conditions and low wages.

After manufacture, all those t-shirts travel by ship, train, and truck to be sold in high-income countries, a process that gives cotton an enormous carbon footprint.  Apparel production accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. From 1994 to 2014, cheaper prices boosted production by 400% to around 80 billion garments each year.

Finally, in a consumer’s home, the t-shirt goes through one of the most resource-intensive phases of its lifetime. In America, for instance, the average household does nearly 400 loads of laundry per year each using about 150,000 litres of water (per year in older, less-efficient machines). Washing machines and dryers both use energy, with dryers requiring five to six times more than washers. All in all, fashion has become the second largest polluter in the world after oil.

But there are things we can do: consider shopping second-hand, try to look for textiles made from recycled or organic fabrics, wash clothes less and line dry to save resources, and at the end of their life, donate, recycle, or reuse clothes. Finally, you might ask yourself, how many t-shirts and articles of clothing do you and your family really need?

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

Give reasons for your answers.

  • How many t-shirts do you have? And trousers, shoes etc?
  • Think about all your clothes. How many of them have you NOT used in the last 12 months? What could you get rid of?
  • Do you know where all your clothes were made?
  • Do you have a clothes dryer? If not, would you like one?


adapted from: TED-Ed – Lessons Worth Sharing


WEP 290617 – International Brigade Memorial

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Rugby-born and Barcelona-based artist Rob MacDonald wants to create a memorial to honour International brigadistas who died in 1937 when their ship was sunk by a fascist torpedo. ECP coach John Hird spoke with him recently.

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

bigotry: intolerance to those who hold different views.

the Internationale: song of socialism and the international working class.

namesake a person or thing that has the same name as another.

As luck would have it: expression meaning ‘fortunately’

matched: be the same as

nodded: a movement up and down with the head

carved: cut to produce an artistic design.

portholes: to small exterior windows on a ship.


The brigadistas stood for solidarity, justice and freedom; for an equal world for all humanity. In this time when right wing popularism is achieving large votes in various places around the world, it is more important than ever that we combat bigotry and blame towards foreigners, immigrants and refugees.

The International Brigadistas came from across the globe in the late 1930s to stand alongside Republican Spain in the civil war, united to stop the rise of the fascist far right.

On 30th May 1937, the Ciudad de Barcelona, a ship bringing around 300 brigadistas from France, was sunk by a fascist torpedo just off the coast of Malgrat de Mar, Catalonia.

In this the 80th anniversary historical research is still being carried out as the ship was sailing in clandestine conditions. At least 45 people died that day, many unknown, lost in the sea. Local people in Malgrat de Mar rescued many but still more more were trapped in the ship.

Rob MacDonald describes these people as heroes. “These heroes gave their lives for the dream of a better world for all. They were not defending a country, they were fighting for an idea: Complete equality for all humanity.”
“We must not forget them or the local people they came to stand with,” he explains, “What they all fought for are valuable lessons in today’s world. We want to create a memorial to honour both those brigadistas and the local people of Malgrat de Mar and we believe the best way is by bringing the local and international communities together once again. That is what the project Solidarity Park is about!”

The artist’s inspiration was taken from the reports of the Brigadistas singing the Internationale as the boat sank. This includes accounts of the artist’s namesake “Rob MacDonald”.

Solidarity Park is visualised to be a place of use where people can sit, interact and contemplate on these valuable lessons of the past.

The art work consists of 60 sculpted figures depicted singing aboard a conceptual ship, which has seating designed as waves. Each sculpted figure will be identical in form, representing the unity of the struggle of the Brigadistas, but each will have individual carved features thus expressing the diversity of us all.

Included on the sides of the sculpted monument will be “community portholes”. These will be stone carved windows to the past, telling the story of the wider events of the day. It is intended that these will be designed by local secondary school students.

MacDonald ends by saying: “The real ship may have sunk, but this conceptual ship will not. Instead, it will be riding high across a stone patio map of the world, thus making it a symbol of the resilience of human solidarity.”

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

Give reasons for your answers.

  • There are two ‘Rob MacDonalds’ mentioned in the text. Who are they?
  • Had you ever heard of the Ciudad de Barcelona before reading the article?
  • Are you surprised that International Brigadistas came to Spain to fight fascism?
  • Do you think the victims of fascism should be remembered or should we forgive and forget? 
  • Would you be prepared to fight for a cause?
  • ‘’If we don’t learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it.’  Do you agree?
  • What would you build a memorial to?


WEP 230617 – Have You Met Any Of These Idiots?

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You will feel better about yourself when you read these short stories

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

outages: a period when a power supply or other service is not available

receipt: piece of paper with the information of a transaction

clerk: a person employed in an office

As luck would have it: expression meaning ‘fortunately’

matched: be the same as

nodded: a movement up and down with the head

luncheon: a formal word for lunch

deer in the headlights: to be paralysed by surprise, fear or confusion

dealership: an establishment authorized to buy and sell specific goods

feverishly: very actively or with great excitement



This week, our phones went dead and I had to contact the telephone repair people. They promised to be out between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. When I asked if they could give me a smaller time window, the pleasant  gentleman asked, “Would you like us to call you before we come?” I replied that I didn’t see how he would be able to do that since our phones weren’t working. He also requested that we report future outages by email. Does YOUR email work without a telephone line?


I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed I had never signed my name on  the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature I had just signed on the receipt. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they  matched!


I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbour call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the ‘Deer Crossing’ sign on our road. The reason? Too many deer were being hit by cars and she didn’t want them to cross there anymore.


My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She  asked the person behind the counter for “minimal lettuce.” He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.


I was at the airport,  checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, “Has anyone put anything  in your baggage without your knowledge?” To which I replied, “If it was without  my knowledge, how would I know?” She smiled knowingly and nodded, “That’s why we ask.”


At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear co-worker who is leaving the company due to “downsizing,” our  manager commented cheerfully, “This is fun. We should do this more often.” Not a word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare.


When my wife and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver’s side  door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door  handle and discovered that it was unlocked. “Hey,” I announced to the technician, “it’s open!” To which he replied, “I know – I already done that side.”

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

Give reasons for your answers.

  • Tell your favourite story from the article in your own words.
  • Do you have a story of your own? Please tell us.
  • Have you ever been the idiot? Please explain.
  • How did you react in each situation? 
  • How would you have reacted in each of the short stories above?


Adapted from: http://www.inspire21.com/stories/humorstories/IdiotsAllOver


WEP 150617 – Are VIP Packages Ruining Rock Festivals?

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“Watching some guy get a pedicure in an air-conditioned tent is not very rock & roll”

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

muddy: mud is a mix of water (rain) and earth

sweaty: when we get hot our body sweats (perspires)

to shuttle: to move regularly between two places

couch: a sofa or a reclining seat with a headrest

restroom: (American English) a toilet in a public area

to check out: get information about something

bunk: a narrow bed, typically one on top of another

hot tub: a typically round container filled with hot water

sweltering: to be uncomfortably hot

to offset: to compensate for something

fees: a payment made to a professional for their services

headline band: the most important band at a festival

revenue: money that comes in from selling products/services

huge: very big


This summer, all over the world, you’ll be able to pay to watch stars like Depeche Mode and Ed Sheeran while standing in a huge, possibly very muddy, field amid tens of thousands of other, probably very sweaty, music fans.

Or you could paid several hundred, or thousand, euros to get shuttled to the side of the stage from the nearby air-conditioned safari tent, which has a comfortable couch, wooden flooring, a queen-size bed and charging points. You’ll be able to drink from a private bar, use a private, air-conditioned restroom, swim in a private pool and get advice on the next band to check out from a personal concierge.

That’s just one example of how some music festivals cater more and more to rock’s one percent. At the Bonnaroo festival in June (Tennessee, USA), well-off fans can opt for the ‘Roll Like a Rockstar’ package, which for $30,000 per group gets you a bunk in an air-conditioned tour bus and three gourmet meals a day. At the Alabama festival Hangout, the beach in front of the main stage has $1,600 hot tubs.

Andy Cirzan, of Chicago-based promoter Jam Productions, sums it up: “While you are sweltering in 30-degree heat you can see some asshole sitting in an air-conditioned tent getting a pedicure. It’s so not rock & roll.”

“When I look at the VIP section, I see people folding their arms, looking serious,” says Alex Chorosevic, a 22-year-old graduate who attends Lollapalooza regularly. “It’s like they paid $1,000 to say, ‘I have more money than you.'”

However, promoters say that the VIP areas help offset the increasingly high fees of the headline bands, as much as $4 million, according to concert-business sources.

VIP packages for concerts began in the early Nineties, when stars, promoters and Ticketmaster executives created a “golden circle” program for high-priced prime seats. Over time, the gap between the cheapest and the most expensive tickets has grown into airline-style “dynamic pricing,” a way of separating first class from economy, to the point that regular tickets for the upcoming Beyoncé-Jay Z stadium shows cost as little as $35 yet platinum seats cost $1,750.

As prices have risen, though, VIP packages have come to account for five to 10 percent of a festival’s overall revenue.

Festivals say that they work hard to design high-end “experiences” that avoid dividing music fans into social classes. But as sales of albums continue to fall, VIP sections have become accepted as a necessity by many artists and managers. “Festivals are a huge risk to organise,” says Buck Williams, agent for Widespread Panic. “Selling sponsorships or VIP packages is a way to guarantee enough revenue.”

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

Give reasons for your answers.

  • Have you ever been to a music festival?
  • If so, describe the experience (the price, the weather, the music, the atmosphere, etc).
  • Have you ever paid extra to fly in Business Class or First Class on an airplane?
  • If so, describe the differences with economy class
  • Describe any ‘luxury’ or ‘VIP’ experiences you have had (restaurants, hotels, breakfast in bed, etc).


Adapted from: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/why-vip-packages-are-ruining-rock-festivals-20140522


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