Today we help you learn English conversation fluency with a talk about Spring, gardens and flowers. Improving your English comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation is the focus of today’s lesson. So put on your headphones on and find 10 minutes to invest in your English language learning.
We’ve been busy here at Adept English, working on new projects which will have you improving your English in no time. But I needed a break from all that recording in studios and endlessly typing documents. So it’s been a real joy to take time out and relax in my garden.
So I thought it would be a good idea to bottle up some of my feelings of a British spring and share them with you in our English lesson. I’ve used some interesting and challenging vocabulary, words I probably don’t use that often. But when I use them, I’d expect native English speakers to understand them immediately. Good practice for you all to push the depth and breadth of your English comprehension.
Spring - By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring – When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush; Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy, Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning, Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy, Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Note: I certainly don’t expect you to understand all the nuances of this poem. However, if you read it and understand even a little of it, you should be really pleased with yourself as this is advanced and complicated English language.
|A Few Weeks
|A Few Things
|The Light Is
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Well, spring is happening in the UK. The sun is making an appearance. The clocks will go forward on 28th March, meaning that there will be more light later in the day – and the days are lengthening anyway on top of this. Spring seems to happen really quickly. Hmm – perhaps that’s why it’s called ‘spring’.
If you look at the other definitions, the other meaning of..for that word. It’s like the season suddenly turns in just a few weeks. One minute it’s freezing cold and you only go out if you have to or for exercise. And then suddenly, you’ve got that urge to drink your cup of coffee outside, sitting in the sun. So spring ‘has sprung’. And that mainstay, that thing which for many people made the lockdown last year so much better, so much less dreary than it’s been over these winter months – well it’s coming back online.
Gardens are kicking off again – they’re yawning and stretching and waking up and little fingers of green are poking through the earth. Buds are forming and in the last three weeks, flowers have appeared too. Spring happens quickly – a few weeks ago, everything in the garden was brown and mushy and looked dead. But now it’s coming to life and there are little shoots and flowers and things starting to grow! And the light is good – always the light is lovely in the springtime.
For me, being able to garden – well, I’d just say it’s ‘good for the soul’! I can have a stressful week, things to worry about, lots of pressure. But I go out into the garden, especially when it’s sunny – and within a few minutes, I’ve forgotten all of that stuff! It’s just me and my little piece of land, with some plants growing in it.
My little piece of land and I have an interaction, a conversation. It’s like I ‘tickle a few things’, move a few things around, clip things, tidy things, look at it a lot. And then I go inside the house again – and the garden continues to do the rest. It’s doing it as a full-time job – I’m just an occasional visitor.
Sometimes I plant things – but it’s really what you might call ‘light touch management’. The pots on my patio are probably the most labour-intensive bits – I like to keep them looking nice and currently they’re full of primroses of all different colours.
A couple of years ago, I went with my daughters to Amsterdam and one of the things we really enjoyed was our trip to the Van Gogh Museum. Vincent Van Gogh is so popular now, it risks making his work cliché perhaps, but I love the expression, I love the authenticity of his painting. And the evidence of his struggle with his mental health.
So we loved the Van Gogh, but what was also a treat was that there was a small exhibition of some David Hockney paintings. The ‘Arrival of Spring’ was in the same building. The paintings were ‘on tour’, rather like a boy band perhaps. You can see these paintings of the British spring yourself – just type in ‘Arrival of Spring’ into Google and they’ll appear.
A photograph of spring flowers as the UK weather improves and my garden calls to me, a good topic for learning English conversation.
These paintings and images – some of them done on an iPad – just encapsulate the feel of spring in the UK beautifully. It’s quite joyous – and we need some joy right now, I think. Those of you who’ve been listening since 2019 and.. – or who’ve bought certain podcasts bundles, will know that I’ve made this association before – between what spring looks like here and those paintings by David Hockney. I guess for me, once seen, never forgotten.
So spring in the garden is making me feel better – and I’m looking forward to a season in the garden, which is going to happen – it’s guaranteed, no matter what. My hope is that lockdown will ease and we’ll be ‘allowed out’ and we’ll go and enjoy some things we’ve not done for a long time. But whether or not that happens, there will still be a growing season and the garden, so it will be better.
Things in the UK are still very much closed down. Few places are open and there’s hardly anywhere to go – beyond going for a walk or a run, perhaps. But the one bright point for me – my local garden centre. It’s a massive shop – and it’s open and it feels like normal in there! It’s a massive shop and it’s grown over time from a small series of glass houses when I first lived here, to a proper behemoth of a shop. And you have to queue to get in.
It’s hardly an ‘essential’ shop, but I think they’re allowed to open because they sell quite a lot of food. Even that department is really nice to have a look around. But primarily they sell plants and gardening stuff. And this place helps my sanity while in lockdown. Buying plants is nice – and what’s so lovely – it is a slice of normal life in there. You can go, albeit with your mask on and wander around with your trolley and look at things, plan your garden, buy what you need – and for me, I always come out with a bit more than I’d intended, but it feels like a real treat. And full of promise for the future, for things being better than they’ve been and for normal life.
I can feel my excitement for the coming season. Oh – and the word ‘behemoth’ – as in ‘a great behemoth of a shop’, BEHEMOTH. Unusually for me, that’s a biblical reference – ‘biblical’ means ‘from the Bible’. The Behemoth was a mythological beast from the Book of Job. And as a metaphor, we use that name, ‘a behemoth’ for anything which is huge or vast – just like my local garden centre.
So what’s growing currently, in my garden? Well, there are of course, the primroses, many of them in the ground as well as the ones in my pots. ‘Polyanthus’ is the Latin name for these, which you might know. Then in pots also I have hyacinths. I notice that if I keep them outside, they stay much deeper blue and they don’t get ‘leggy’1 and fall over.
Whereas the ones I bring into the house seem to grow much paler blue – and they flop all over the table and they don’t last as long. I’m not sure why that is – obviously the heat makes a difference. I’ve also got daffodils coming – you may recognise these as ‘narcissus’ perhaps? And I’m waiting to see what happens with some bulbs – that’s BULBS. ‘Bulbs’ are things that you plant underneath the earth – an onion is a bulb for example. But often you put bulbs in for their flowers – ‘narcissus’ being a good example of that.
So, back in November, I persuaded my reluctant 12 year old son to come outside and do some gardening – and he planted several pots of tulips – in bright orange, toffee pink and deep purple. Well, they’re coming up now – so I’m interested to see what they’re going to look like! Riotous in colour, I hope. He’d forgotten all about them – so he’s quite interested now too, to see what they’re gonna look like. I’ve also got Euphorbias starting to have their flowers – or more correctly ‘bracts’ of lime green – and some purple anemones are flowering. Always hard to say ‘anemones’. I struggle with that one.
But in short, I’m pleased to say, my drug, my ‘fix’ is coming to life and I’m really looking forward to it. Another addition – we’ve got some bird feeders. So ‘our feathered friends’ are visiting us – in the form of blue tits and great tits. Be careful with that word – it’s also quite rude in English – it means something else! And there’s a robin who’s always around – and I’ve seen a wren too. A wren, WREN is the smallest bird that you ever see in the UK. It’s really quite tiny – and a very distinctive shape. Makes a change from the squirrels and the pigeons anyway.
So there’s a garden update. I hope you’ve got things to help you feel better in your situation, whether it’s a garden, a balcony, plants in your house or herbs on your windowsill. Or whether….you don’t like gardening and it’s something else entirely that helps you feel better.
Anyway enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
‘leggy’ means ‘having long legs’ – so ‘leggy’ plants are ones which grow too tall!