Gerry’s Diary 165: The Queen, trip to London, front door problems (23rd October, 2015)

Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for Friday 23rd October, 2015. Before I start today I’d like to remind you of the new vocabulary learning tool on the PodClub app. If you want to practise and learn the new words in this podcast there’s now a tool on the PodClub app to help you do that. You can import the new words that are in the footnotes of the text of my Diary. You can then test yourself to find out if you can remember the meanings. There were a few technical problems at the beginning but it’s now there for you to use. Let me know if you find it helpful.

So what’s on today’s show? Well first of all, I’m going to talk about the Queen, and the answer to my last pub quiz question. Then I’m going to tell you about a few days that I spent in London. And finally there’s a story about a problem with our front door.


My pub quiz question last time was the following: What’s special about this number: 63 years and 217 days? Congratulations to Michele who wrote to me to say that she thought that this number has to do with [1] Queen Elizabeth. She’s right. On September 9th this year the Queen broke the British record for the longest reigning [2] British monarch. She broke the record of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. Prince Charles also has a record. Queen Victoria’s son, who became King Edward VII used to be the longest living heir [3] to the throne [4] – the person who waited the longest time to become King - but now it’s Prince Charles. Edward VII became king when he was 59 but Prince Charles will already be 67 this year.

So what do people in Britain think about the Queen? Why do we have a queen? Why don’t we modernize our system? Let’s look at what happened in Australia. Queen Elizabeth is the Head of State [5] there as well as in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and many other Commonwealth countries. There was, however, a referendum in Australia in 1999. The question was: Should Australia become a republic with a president? A lot of Australians are republicans but the proposal to become a republic was defeated. About 55% of the Australian voters voted “No”. They chose to keep the Queen and a monarchy [6]. I’m not Australian, and I don’t know exactly why the Australians voted “no” but I can guess two reasons. Firstly, the Queen does a good job. For nearly 64 years she has behaved [7] very well. She has acted responsibly, and she has never said anything political. She is simply the head of state, the symbolic leader of the country and the Commonwealth [8]. So people wouldn’t like to vote against her personally. The second possible reason why people voted to keep her is that they can’t be sure what the alternative would be. I think that’s the same here. We don’t really want a president with power, such as in France or America, but if the president has no power, like in Germany, who wants the job? Do you want some old politician? Or do you want somebody the public votes for? A celebrity? President David Beckham, for example? Perhaps we should copy the Swiss: a minister in the government is president for one year and then a colleague takes over.

One last thought. My Swiss friends often ask me: Why doesn’t the Queen retire [9]? Why doesn’t she abdicate [10]? (That’s the official word for when a monarch gives up the throne.) One reason is that this would not be “normal”. A monarch is monarch [11] for life. You can’t usually choose to give it up. And if she went, it makes the job of monarch look more important. It becomes more political. And that’s a problem for Prince Charles. He’s a very active man with lots of opinions. We know what he thinks about agriculture, architecture, the environment, etc. We don’t know what the Queen thinks about anything. And that’s good. King Charles III will have to keep his mouth shut [12] when he’s King. Will he like that? And then does Prince William want to become as boring as the Queen? We’ll have to wait and see.


We’re just back from a trip to London to see our daughter and family, including little Lulu. We took her to the British Museum to see an exhibition [13] about the Celts. I’m talking about the exhibition in my News Digest this time, but for Lulu the best things in the British Museum are the big Assyrian and Egyptian statues of lions and other animals, and the fantastic covered [14] courtyard [15] where she can run round and round and climb up and down the big stairs. In the year 2000 the British Museum got a new glass roof over the central courtyard and a new round building in the middle of it with a restaurant at the top. This has made the British Museum a much nicer place to visit. If you haven’t been there, next time you’re in London you should try it.

Australia fanThe other London highlight was a trip to Twickenham. Twickenham is the home of English rugby, and at the moment we’re in the middle of the Rugby World Cup. My daughter’s partner is Australian and so they got us tickets for us all to go to the match between Australia and Wales. It’s like the football world cup: there’s a group stage [16], then quarterfinals [17], semifinals [18] and the final match to win the cup. So just two teams from each group could go through but in this group, the “group of death”, there were three big teams: England, Wales and Australia. England lost their matches against both Wales and Australia, so England went out, and this game (Australia-Wales) was to decide the winner of the group. It was a great match – really exciting – but in the end the Australians won – somehow [19]! Now Wales have to play South Africa (very difficult) in the quarterfinals, and Australia play Scotland (not so difficult). I’ve put a photo on the website of an Australian fan who sat next to us. Rugby fans are very friendly. This one was rather drunk but very friendly. At the beginning he could sing not just the Australian national anthem but also the Welsh one – in Welsh. Very good!

On the same day that Wales lost against Australia but qualified for the quarterfinals, the Welsh soccer team also qualified for the European Championships [20] next year. This is only the second time that the Wales football team have ever qualified for an international competition. The last time was in 1958 when they qualified for the World Cup. So October 10th 2015 was a great day in Welsh sport.


We had a problem a couple of weeks ago with our front door. It was just before our trip to London. We went out to do some shopping and when we came back we couldn’t open the front door to our house. That’s OK, we thought, we can use the kitchen door, or the door that opens onto the patio [21], the terrace. The problem with these doors is that if you leave a key [22] in the door on the inside, you can’t open them with a key from the outside, and both doors had keys in them. So there we were with three doors and we couldn’t open any of them.

Our doors are modern, made of plastic and glass. These modern doors have one key but the key controls three bolts [23], three locks [24]. You put the key in the middle of the door and it opens one lock at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom of the door. The front doorproblem with our front door was at the top. I could feel that the bottom and the middle locks were open, but the top would not open. I tried to force it. I tried to break the top lock to get into the house. But I couldn’t. It was now evening, so we went round to my mother’s flat. That was a surprise for her. “We’ve come to spend the night,” we said. “We can’t get into our house.”

In the morning I found a locksmith [25]. This is a person who can fit and repair locks on doors. He came round and he knew how to open the door, but it wasn’t easy. I think I made it worse when I tried to force it. Anyway after 15 or 20 minutes he got the door open and we could go in. The next question was: Do we need a new door or can you mend it? The locksmith said he could buy a new lock system for the door, and fit it on the old door. “We have to go to London tomorrow afternoon,” we said. “That’s OK,” he said, “I’ll fit the new lock this afternoon.” About an hour later, he called and said that he couldn’t buy the new lock from the local supplier, but he should be able to get it the next day. He came back to the house and closed the door for us so that nobody could get in. We had to use the kitchen door. And the next morning, he came back with the new lock and he fixed it for us. Very efficient. The door was now OK again, and we could go to London. It doesn’t look too good at the top where I tried to force it, but it works. I learnt two things from this experience. Firstly, these plastic doors are a lot stronger than they look. And secondly, don’t leave keys in the other doors – just in case you need to come into the house that way. I’ve put a photo of the door on the website so you can see how the three lock system works.

Finally, a question about windows. I’ve told you about our British doors and now my pub quiz question for this show is about British windows. What’s the main difference between most British and some other northern European windows compared with most windows in Switzerland, Germany, France or Italy? What’s different about British windows?


And that’s it for this time. You can write to me with your answer to my pub quiz question on the website or you can use Twitter. My Twitter address is @gerrypod. Don’t forget the new vocabulary trainer on the PodClub app. You can write to me about that, too. In two weeks you can hear more from Owen in China. I’ll be back on November 20th. But for now, thanks for listening and take care!

[1] to have to do with (something): to concern, to be about (something)
[2] to reign: to do what a king or queen does, that is to say to be the head of a country (and government), to rule
[3] heir: somebody who will receive money (or here: a job) when somebody else dies
[4] throne: the special chair that a king or queen sits on (NB We sometimes use this word also to mean the job of a king or queen; so when the Queen dies Prince Charles will get this chair, i.e. the job of king)
[5] Head of State: the formal leader and representative of the country (NB This can be the leader of the government, e.g. the American President, or somebody else, e.g. the German President)
[6] monarchy: a system of government with a king or queen
[7] to behave well: to do things in a good way when you are with other people (This usually means that a person obeys social rules, is not rude, shows respect to other people, etc.)
[8] The (British) Commonwealth: the group of countries that used to be in the British Empire (They are now all independent but they choose to have a political connection.)
[9] to retire: When a person reaches a certain age, for example 65, they do this: they stop working and get a pension instead of a salary.
[10] to abdicate: to give up the job of king or queen (a special word for this!)
[11] monarch: a king or queen
[12] to keep (your) mouth shut: to be quiet, to say nothing
[13] exhibition: a show (of art or other things) in a museum or gallery
[14] covered: here: with a roof
[15] courtyard: a square area surrounded by a building (The reason for having one of these is to make somewhere for people to sit or walk and to give more light to the rest of the building.)
[16] stage: part of a process (here: part of the championship)
[17] quarterfinals: the games between the last eight (players or teams)
[18] semifinals: the games between the last four (players or teams)
[19] somehow: in some way (when you don’t how exactly!)
[20] Championship(s): a competition to find the best (player or team)
[21] patio: a stone terrace outside a house where you can sit
[22] key: what you need to open a door if it is locked
[23] bolt: a piece of metal that goes into a hole (for example to close a door)
[24] lock: something that closes a door and that you can open and close with a key
[25] locksmith: a person who makes and repairs the part of a door that closes it so other people can’t open it


petra 06-11-2015 09:26
Hi Gerry
I think the main difference between the window systems is the way how you open them. In switzerland you open the windows horizontally in contrast to britain where you open them vertically, how Ella already said.
Greetings from Petra
p.s. thank you for the salutary reports
Aurélie 03-11-2015 14:55
Hi Gerry,

I'm new here and I want to thank you for your diary.. it's very interesting and useful. Several months ago, I had almost the same problem as you with my front door. But the difference was that it was impossible to lock it. It was late and we had to go to sleep with our front door unlocked.. I did not feel safe during the night.. Greetings
michele 25-10-2015 10:46
Hello Gerry
I've once again listened to your diary which is interesting like the others because you talk about everyday life and this is what I'm looking for . The more modern house devices are, the more difficult it is to cope with them . It is the same with computers and all electronic devices and I think our parents were less stressed than us because they did without all this
As for your question I'm at a loss but I suggest the difference between British windows and other windows may be the important number of bow windows in UK . We can come across some of them in the north of France but When I was much younger , I was impressed by the bow windows of my penfriend's house and thought it was very nice . This small extra room was full of light and I loved it . Nowadays though there are more and more of them in different countries
oreilly 23-10-2015 21:57
Thank you so much for this very usefull stories. It really helps for my English compréhension .
Ella Enzler 23-10-2015 19:11
Hallo Gerry
Finally I found the name of our window system in Switzerland.
We have casement windows.
Lots of greetings from Ella
Ella Enzler 23-10-2015 18:11
Hallo Gerry
Here is my solution of the pubquiz 165. I think the British windowopening system is different from the Swiss one. The British are sashwindows. They open vertically. The Swiss windows open like pages in a book and the windowpages normally go inside of the room.
Greetings from Ella