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Owain Intro Hello and welcome to the English Waffle a podcast aimed at advanced English language learners who want to improve their listening skills by listening to real conversations. My name's Owain and I usually do a bit of waffling with Mike, but this week I'm talking to an old friend, not old in terms of years, of course - Jess is my age, so still relatively young. No. o...an old friend, because we haven't spoken for a long time. So, we do a bit of catching up. We talk about old friends hanging out in Madrid and other stuff like travelling to Morocco. We also mention Facebook friendships and inevitably something about the pandemic. I'll be back at the end, but for now, enjoy our chat.
[English Waffle Theme Tune]
Owain Yeah, we go. We're going.
Jess Yeah. Hi. I just...I'm so excited to talk to you because we haven't really talked for so many years.
Owain How...how long's it been?
Jess Well, I think probably since we really...we got together in Spain, which was probably 2015.
Owain Oh, yeah.
Jess Was that 2014...2015, I think. So, that's when we...because since we both lived in Spain a long time ago and then it was great for us to just go back and meet the family and have the kids. And (Owain: so you met, you met) that house in the country. That was like...
Owain We went out to Orusco, right? With, with Eva.
Jess Yeah, Orusco (Owain: yeah). And it was our just kind of like multicultural families, right? So we had...well, how many different nationalities did we have in our little families? (Owain: Yeah) So we had me, American (Owain: yeah). British. Guatemalan. Spanish. And then Sandra. Where she from again? (Owain: From Colombia, yep). Colombia. So we've got all those nationalities.
Owain And then I suppose Martin, Spanish and Jara...who's...
Jess Yara (Owain: Yara) Yara...Yara is er is Spanish and Senegalese (Owain: Is Eva's daughter)
Owain Exactly. Yeah, yeah...It's [inaudible] isn't it?
Jess It's like a United Nations get-together.
Owain Yeah, kind of. I can't remember what we did there, though. What do we do? Did we go in the swimming pool?
Jess No, I don't think they had a pool. (Owain: Yeah, no) It was just a house up in the mountain.
Owain No, they do. They have a pool. And I remember visiting one time and getting in the pool and it was freezing cold.
Jess Oh, we didn't go (Owain: you know, in the summer) to the pool because when we went, it was too...it was too cold. So I know...I know that I was not in the pool. We were more of a stove around the fire. And I remember that Dante made us Cocido Madrileno and we went hiking in the mountains and found all the different herbs that grow up there and...
Jess I think we just played music and went for a walk.
Owain I love the way you say er...erbs.
Jess 'erbs, not herbs.
Owain Yeah, I love it. Yeah, it's good. Er, yeah it was goo...good fun wasn't it. And, um, then I remember we met in the again in in, in the centre of Madrid at some point. We went to a bar or something and...You guys came around our house as well didn't you.
Jess Yes. We came to your house and the kids were watching The Lion King in Spanish.
Jess Yeah. Over and over. I think that my daughter watched The Lion King like five times. And she just loved it 'cause I think my daughter was around four or five and Martin was just a little baby.
Jess He was like not even one, I think.
Owain Yeah, probably not, erm, 2015 he would have been something...somewhere close to one I suppose.
Jess Yeah. That's exactly it then.
Owain But then of course you went back off to the States and I've pret[ty]..., you know, it's th...kind of modern modern friendship. I've followed your your lives on Facebook. You know, seen Luis getting into cycling. I've seen you, you know, making your way up in Kinder Music and doing all sorts of stuff with them. And Lucia? It's Lucia, isn't it?
Jess Yeah, Lucia, mhum.
Owain Sorry, Lucia (with an /s/ sound), kind of doing lots of stuff, baking and stuff like that. And, you know, the typical stuff that you see on Facebook, it's er...
Jess Yeah. It is kind of a modern friendship (Owain: Yeah. But we haven't spoken. Yeah, we haven't spoken) Yeah,...we haven't we haven't spoken. I think it's interesting the way that kind of relationships have evolved. I think it's you know, I think there's a lot of benefits, but there's also some detriments to it. On one hand, it's so great because you feel like you can really keep up with people, but then are you really connecting with them if you're not actually having interactions. So...I feel like if there wasn't the Internet and social media around, would we be more likely to have talked to each other more often throughout the years? You know?
Owain Well, I mean it, I mean...
Jess Whereas now I just feel like, oh, yeah, I see. I know what you're doing.
Owain Yeah, 'cause it kind of doesn't matter, doesn't it? Because I kind of have this this this if I could you know, I'd I'd speak to lots of people and, you know,...you know, have a conversation a day with somebody I haven't spoken to you for seven years or...just to see what they're doing, you know, and and and it's really nice 'cause it takes you back, well, for us, I suppose it takes us back all the way to...
Jess ...2005 and six.
Owain Wow. Yeah. Fifteen years ago,.
Jess That's when I lived in Spain: 2005, 2006.
Owain Yeah, do you know, the funny thing is, when you guys were there that...the memories I have of that time, it seemed like a really long time. But how how long was it? About a year?
Jess One year. (Owain: A year and a half?) No, I was there exactly one year and Luis was there a year and like three or four months.
Owain Wow. Why did it...why did it seem so long?
Jess It was so intense. (Owain: Yeah) Because we did everything.
Owain We did so many things. Yeah. (Do you remember going to...?)
Jess I know that we only worked, er, four days a week so we always like at least for a while, always had three-day weekends.
Owain Er, yeah, that's true. Those were great days, weren't they? (Jess: So, you could get a lot more done).
Jess And in Europe, it's so easy to travel, it was so easy just to hop on a bus for a day trip or a train for a weekend.
Owain Yeah, (Do you reme...?)
Jess So I think we did a lot of things like that. And I also feel like being a foreigner in a city makes you explore it more, because I don't tend to go out in my own city because we just take it for granted. But I think because all of us were from other places and then being in Madrid, we wanted to go see this neighbourhood and go see that museum and go try this restaurant or go see this park. And I...I think that Spanish culture in general lends itself so easily to going out and just walking and exploring.
Owain Yeah, so Madrid's a grea...
Jess Also, we were kind of carefree, you know, none of us had kids at the time and just flexible jobs and...(Owain: yeah, life was easy) Those were the days man.
Owain Life was easy, wasn't it? Hey, do you remember going to Moroc...? Do you remember going to Morocco?
Jess Yes. Oh, Morocco was so cool. And I always talk about that trip and I remember it fondly and want to go back. And it was...we were only there for two or three days.
Owain Yeah. And it seemed like a massive adventure. And I remember I remember turning up in a place called Meknes. (Jess: Yes. That was a scary town, wasn't it?)...um, which was kind of like, like a train ride or something I think from (Jess: Yeah) Tangier. And then we arrived and it was getting dark do you remember? And we didn't have a place to stay. And I just remember walking into this square where, it just felt something out of a film, where you got different, like, groups of people standing around and in one corner you've got, like, somebody selling a chameleon or something. And then out of the corner you've got somebody burning something and then all sorts of people selling stuff. And I'm just thinking I'm looking at us and looking at the people around us and I'm thinking: this is crazy. And we really stood out because of you, mainly, I think, because of your flowing blonde hair.
Jess I know. I always stick out. What's this girl doing here?
Owain Yeah. Do you remember that that moment? Ah, for me, it was surreal.
Jess Yeah, that was crazy. I think Luis told me that he might have seen a snake charmer, which I was like, (Owain: yeah, I think it was) Where are we?
Owain No. Yeah, it's just not the sort of thing you see in your normal life.
Jess And then we went to the first, you know, hotel-hostel and it was so horrible and we're like, no, we can't stay here.
Owain Oh, I don't remember that. (Jess: We thought we might get murdered.) Yeah, we we went somewhere else.
Jess And then we found another one that was still really terrible, but, you know, at least we survived.
Owain What was it about the hostel? I can't remember.
Jess I don't know, we went to one and it was just so dirty and like scary, like there was really weird people everywhere and like I think maybe there wasn't locks on the door. I don't know. It was like, s...it was super weird.
Owain Yeah, I'm th...
Jess The...the cool things that I remember about Morocco is that the food was so good. (Owain: Yeah.) And remember that cornbread and, um, and their orange juice and like so we had to use the…I forget what their money's called now. I think it starts with a 'd'.
Owain Erm, yeah I can't remember either.
Jess Dirhams maybe...I don't remember. (Owain: Dirham, Dirhams. Yes. Yeah. Well done, yeah) Funny how that comes back. Well, um, but you know, we couldn't speak Arabic so it was really hard to communicate with them. So we'd be like just pointing, I want that cornbread, I'm going to give you some money and I hope you give me the right amount. I don't know. I remember that being really kind of a fun adventure. And...I remember you were speaking a little bit of French (Owain: Trying to, yeah) We were getting by with your very element. And then we figured out that the older population of Morocco served in the Spanish army. So if we found...if we found more senior people, we could speak Spanish to some [of them?].
Owain Yeah, yeah. [unclear]...they have because of they h...Because they're quite close, the, yeah, the older people spoke a bit Spanish, didn't they. Do you remember the the mint drink, mint tea? It was like a gri...green t...green tea with mint today. Yeah. Like about about ten...
Jess You don't, you don't go and have beer, you don't have cups of tea.
Owain Yeah, we...I don't think we...d...th...'cause obviously it's a Muslim country, we didn't, we didn't drink any alcohol at all while we were there did we?
Jess I think we found one place that sold some beer after hours. Remember is was like, like out of the side of a house and you had to like wait in line for it.
Owain Yeah, yeah.
Jess Yeah. Morocco is wild. I want to go back and I just remember the markets with all the colours and just so many beautiful things there. And (Owain: yeah) between their...all their spices, the big mountains of spices that just look like a rainbow (Owain: Yeah, yeah that was...) everything. And I remember I bought spices and brought them back to Spain.
Owain You did, didn't you? I don't know if I bought anything 'cause I didn't really know what to do with spices I don't think (Jess: Oh, but yeah it was just. Mm) But did you buy a lot?
Jess Um. Yeah. I bought a few things, um, and then I brought some of the mint tea and brought it back.
Owain Yeah. Yeah, I think I maybe brought some mint tea back.
Jess I remember even bringing it all the way back to the States when I moved home. and I brought (Owain: Oh, wow) it back and made it. And it was really cool.
Owain You must have bought quite a lot of stuff then.
Jess Well I bought a medium amount and then I think I was just trying to be very, you know, conservant [?] and not use as much over there, so I ended up with it. And actually, the reason I went back to Spain in February. (Owain: Yeah). And um...(Owain: This year?)...right before Covid. (Owain: Yeah?), yeah, we're there for two weeks.
Owain I must've must've missed missed the Facebook, um, notification and I did...I didn't I didn't know.
Jess Yeah, I think I...well, I sent you a message because I didn't know that you had moved back to England.
Owain Oh yes you did! Actually I think it's right here in my...Yeah, now I remember.
Jess Yeah. Because I thought that you might, I didn't know that you'd gone back to England, so I was hoping we could meet up and be like, oh, I think Eva was like oh I think oh and move back to England. I was like, 'what?!' But yeah. So I was there, we were there for about two weeks and it was just before covid hit. We got really, really lucky. We were there for for Phil's wedding. So, um, so we went there for a wedding and then it was great to see a bunch of people and friends, and then we also ended up going to Granada for, I don't know, a long weekend (Owain: Nice, nice) with, er, Eva and David (Owain: Nice, nice) and Yara and the kids. It was really, really great. So, um, and we just got so lucky and it was right before covid. Literally, we're were, like, we came home and, uh, the whole world got shut down.
Owain Wow. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you didn't...wouldn't really want to be stuck in Spain when they shut the...shut the borders 'cause, 'cause that would, literally, you would have been just stuck there, right.
Jess Yeah, I do...Well I think they would have let us come back (Owain: You think? Yeah.) Yeah. I think that...what I've, what I've seen is most countries are letting their citizens back.
Owain Yeah. That's true.
Jess They're not letting other travel, but like they would let us come back home because we even if... we have some Spanish friends here in the states that travel back to Spain, even though there was a travel ban because they're citizens, they're able to go back.
Owain Right, exactly. Yeah, that makes sense.
Jess So I think I think that was the case, but, um, but we just got really lucky because, like, we had, like, the last little inkling of Spanish culture right before, you know, like walking around and having tapas and (Owain: Normality, right?) having beers and going on the subway. And, yeah, Luis and Lucia went to two soccer games. They went to a Real Madrid game. And then I think an Atleti game, too. And it's like that's got a hundred thousand people or ten thousand people in the stadium. (Owain: Yeah.) And then and then they rode the subway there and back like that's the ultimate covid...um...
Owain Yeah. It's amazing they didn't get something, isn't it.
Jess And we were at a wedding, right. Then we were at a Spanish wedding that was all tapas for dinner. So and then, you know, everyone's just passing the food and kissing each other and dancing and...
Owain Bloody hell!
Jess Um, yeah, so that was literally the day, the weekend...that happened on like Sunday. And I think on Monday I left. And that's the day that like Madrid had their like...
Owain Wow (Jess: [unclear] shut down), so you were incredibly lucky, weren't you, not to pick something up...(Jess: Yeah)...on your trip. Wow an...and [unclear]...
Jess And then I went from Spain to North Carolina because I had a work conference, so I had to go from Spain through the airport in Miami and Florida and then fly to North Carolina. And then I had to work conference for a whole week with people all over (Owain: That's it) North America. So, I mean, if I had had it I could...
Owain Spreading, spreading the love, right?
Jess I did not spread anything as far as I know nobody, nobody at the conference had Covid. So...
Owain That's why there are so many cases in the United States. That's it. (Jess: I single-handedly brought it here.) We found it. Yeah. We found the cause. Well done Jess.
What did you understand?
Do some quizzes. Listen again to answer the questions. Don't check the transcript yet!
What did you understand?
Do some quizzes. Listen again to answer the questions. Don't check the transcript yet!
Mike: What do you mean by you're ‘on the fence’ there?
Owain: Thanks for playing along. Yeah. So basically I'm kind of undecided about whether it's a useful focus for us or not. And so on the fence is obviously the idiom here, um, and on the face of it is quite a simple, um, phrase, isn't it? What does it what does it mean, Mike? If I...if you say I'm on the fence, I'm undecided, but what else would you think about using this?
Mike: Well, in its literal sense, you you might have kicked a football over your neighbour's fence, for example, and you've gone to...gone to in to get the football. And in doing so, temporarily, you are sat on the fence.
Owain: Yeah. Rather uncomfortably.
Mike: Rather uncomfortably. Yes. Yes.
Owain: And then eventually either you drop down one side of the fence and you get your ball and then you go back again. But obviously, while you're there, you may be in that situation where you can either go forwards, you can go to one side of the fence, or you go to the other side fence and you have to make that decision to to move. Right? So, that's obviously not what I...what I meant before, though, is it? What, what was I talking about for?
Mike: I think in...so in your example, you were saying that you'd be undecided, you were weighing up the options and you're thinking the pros and cons of...of using, in this case, idioms, talking about idioms. Is it going to confuse listeners? Is it going to make it clearer for them? This is, I think, what you meant by sitting on the fence. So waiting perhaps for some more...waiting for listeners to tell us, is it going to be useful to talk about idioms? (Owain: Yeah) and then you make a decision.
Owain: Well an...an...there two...well, there are two things that I find really interesting about is, first of all, it's used quite a lot this idiom, I think, and the whole phrase would be 'sit on the fence', as you said. But I said, I'm still 'on the fence'. So, I didn't even mention sitting, which is quite literal, quite quite descriptive....um...But what I really like is the fact that, you know, it's also really figurative. So we have these...that's the essence of idioms: you can have the literal meaning of the words, but then, of course, you got the figurative meaning, which isn't quite so obvious....er...And in this case, it's...you know, you could be talking about your political ideas, for example. You're not sure which political party you're you agree with. And in that sense, you're on the fence.
Mike: That's right. So any particular issue, for example, say, do do you think the age of voting should be lowered in your country? In England, it's 18. Should it be 16? Mm....I'm not sure. I'm going to sit on the fence a little bit. I'm on the fence about that particular issue.
Owain: But what are the most interesting things about this is that we're almost completely unaware of of how this can be quite difficult for non-proficient speakers to perceive - the the the layers of meaning. So if you're not if you don't have a very high level (of) English, you may initially think, well, why are they talking about fences? And and and then...only then, if you think about the whole context, you get the idea: ok, yes, political decisions, are they talking about one party or the other? And so, yeah, I mean, that's what I love about idioms. I think I think they are interesting, but not necessarily those kind of idioms that are really obvious idioms like 'don't count your chickens until they've hatched' which is kind of the typical idiom people...people use as an example. But, um...
Mike: Yeah, I don't have any chickens, so no worries about that.
Owain: We'll come on to...come on to your one now Mike. Any ideas when this one...when this idiom comes...where it comes from or...or when it came into use?
Mike: So what immediately springs to mind is, is there has to have been a fence at this point. So it can't have been that that far back 'cause obviously there was a time when fences were not around. So, I don't know, I, I...maybe something to do with farming or...Has it, has it got origins in farming (somewhere)?
Owain: I think it...um...the word 'fence' came into the language in around...in the Middle English, the Middle English period, which is kind of like from, um, the 12th century to the, to the, um, 15th century. Um, but it wasn't actually used as an expression like this until kind of the1800s. So it's a couple of hundred years old. Um, so there you go: 'on the fence'. How about you mate? Have you got, have you got an idiom for us today?
Mike: Yeah. So my brother lives in Africa. He lives in Mozambique and we have a 'Whatsup' family group chat, uh, in which he regularly posts rather annoying photos of him, sitting by a swimming pool, or sitting in a very warm setting, when we're really, really cold in the UK. And he looks very happy with himself. And and I'm delighted that he is happy, of course. But often we will reply to these messages by saying, OK, Toby, don't rub it in, don't 'rub it in' that you're having such a nice time. And what do I mean by 'rubbing something in'? Well, it means don't make things, even don't...mm...How would you describe it? (Don't make things even...).
Owain: Well, hold on a minute. I was just going to say, Don't, don't I get a chance to to guess?
Mike: Yes, sorry, sorry mate. I'm...I often do this listeners as you might've um, might've picked up. I often just dictate.
Owain: So if I was t...(Mike:...take over the reigns.) if I was taking it literally, then first thing I think about is some kind of substance, maybe an ointment or some kind of cream that you're applying to your skin. And I would kind of put it on my skin if I, you know, had a...an injury or something or hurt myself physically. And I would rub in this ointment, rub the ointment into my skin. Um, that's the first thing I would think of, but obviously...
Mike: So...so, in fact, this is exactly where the origins of the phrase come from. (Owain: Oh.) You rub salt into the wounds (Owain: Mmm). OK, that's the origin...origins of rubbing something in, because when you had a wound, you'd apply salt to the wound and the salt would make it really, really sting; it would like be really, really painful. Now, we've shortened the idiom from 'rubbing salt into the wounds' just to say 'rubbing it in', meaning you, you exaggerate something, you make something worse. Yeah.
Owain: Yeah. That's a good...it's a good one that one, because it is really...again, it's something we use all the time...
Mike: We use it quite a lot, don't we.
Owain: We have...we don't realise how kind of impenetrable it is for people who are not using the English language on a day-to-day basis.
Mike: Right. Can you think of...Can we think of another example of when we might use that one?
Owain: I mean, any situation where you've, you've...I mean, I, I can't think about the last time anybody said it to me or anybody did something where I would say, when I would respond, 'Oh don't rub it in!'.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, we'd always use it with the word don't. Yeah.
Owain: Yeah, yeah that's pretty typical, isn't it, yeah (Mike: Don't rub it in. That's, that's...) Somebody some somebody falls over and they're they're they've hurt themselves and then you say, I don't know, well, you laugh at them, essentially. Maybe you you laugh at them and say, 'Oh...' or maybe....No that's not quite right, is it. You would say, Oh and you've got your clothes dirty or something, I don't know. So you're your're kind of, er, compounding their, the, the suffering they're already going through, right.
Mike: Yeah, so I think either it's somebody else who's who's who's suffered something and you're making it worse by saying something, or you, perhaps, want to make somebody...maybe like an Instagram post or a Facebook post where you you put yourself, you show yourself having this amazing time and then somebody else back in., you know, some of your friends are not having such a good time. And you're you're basically rubbing it in, rubbing it in (Owain: Yeah, look at me! Look at me!) like you're having a great time. Look at me...
Owain: ...in the sun. Yeah. (Mike:...exactly.) Yeah. Great.
Mike: So I'm just I think this is a good good point to stop to say if you've got any idioms in your language, er, which you'd like to share with us, it would be great, great to hear from you. We'd be really, really curious to know what what your idioms exists in your language, so...
Owain: Yeah. OK, great. Yeah. All right. Well, let's leave it for today.
Mike: Alright, happy waffling!
Owain: Happy waffling!