Gerry’s Diary 172: Trouble at the station, holiday in the sun, Canadian joke (20th May, 2016)
Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for Friday 20th May 2016. On today’s show I’m going to tell you a bit about our holiday in April. April in Wales was cold and not very nice, but we went somewhere that was warm and sunny. We went to Italy, to the island of Sicily. Now we’re back in Wales and at last, the weather has got better. It’s warmer and we’ve had some sunny days.
Before I tell you about Sicily I’m going to tell you about something funny that happened on our way to catch the train  to the airport. And after Sicily I’ve got a joke that a friend told me recently about a Canadian, a bear and God. But before all that let’s go back to my last pub quiz question.
My last pub quiz question was about the United Kingdom’s referendum on June 23rd. We’re voting  about leaving the EU. My question was which other countries have already left the European Union? Did anybody leave? Or could the UK be the first country to leave? I had just one answer to this question, thanks to Armin on Twitter. He wrote: No country has left the EU. So is he right? Yes and no. What about Greenland? Greenland is part of Denmark – part of the kingdom  of Denmark – but it’s now autonomous. As part of Denmark, Greenland joined the EU in 1973. But in 1982, the Greenlanders held a referendum and voted to leave the EU. After that it took three years to negotiate the treaty  for Greenland to leave the EU, and this happened in 1985. So Greenland isn’t exactly a country: it’s still a self-governing part of Denmark. But it’s the nearest thing that we’ve had to a country leaving the EU. If the UK votes to leave, this will be a much bigger and more complicated case.
Before I go on, can I say hello and thank you to Ruth and Willy who both sent me funny stories about summer time? And I also had messages from Vivi and Ladi. Nice to hear from you!
My holiday last month was in Sicily. We decided to fly from London, so we could visit our daughter and her family on the way. Our journey to Sicily, therefore, started at the local railway station. We wanted to take the train to London. The train left at midday . My mother wanted to take us to the railway station. We said thank you, and “Don’t be late!”
What kind of traveller are you? Do you like to get to  the station at the last minute , or are you a person who likes to be there really early? My mother and I are both last-minute people, but my mother drives very slowly so even I get a bit nervous. Anyway on this day, my mother arrived really early, about half-past eleven. It takes about ten minutes to get to the station, so that was fine. And I said “I’ll drive” so my wife and I were very relaxed. Unfortunately there were some roadworks  on the way. The road was blocked with special traffic lights, but we had plenty of  time. No worry. Then just before we got to the station, my wife suddenly said: “Oh, no! I’ve forgotten our boarding passes  for the plane!” She printed them at home. It was now about a quarter to twelve. What could we do? No time to think. We decided to go back, get the boarding passes and hope to catch the 12 o’clock train.
I turned the car, went back past the roadworks, over the bridge, up the hill to our house. My wife ran in to get the boarding passes. My mother got into the back of the car. Her car has two doors, so it’s not easy to get in and out. And then it was back to the station. I chose another way - to avoid the roadworks. “We’ll never make it ,” my wife said. But we did. We got to the station. People were on the platform. No train yet. I stopped in front of the taxis. And then we heard the train coming. My wife ran onto the platform. I got out, got the suitcases from the boot , shouted goodbye to my mother, and ran after my wife. She held the door of the train for me. We got on. The door closed and the train began to move. Phew!
At that moment I saw my mother’s car. It was parked in the middle of the road. The two doors were open. The keys in the ignition . And my mother was in the back. “She can’t get out,” I realised. It’s not easy to get out from the back of her car. You have to release  the seat to push it forward. She can’t do that. She was trapped  in the back of her own car. And we were on the train watching her get smaller as the train went on its way to London! There was nothing we could do.
But, of course, my mother knows how to manage . She waited until a nice young man walked past. And then she shouted: “Excuse me! Could you help me please? I can’t get out.” And the young man helped her. I’m sure he was thinking: “Is this your car? If it is, why are you in the back of it?” And I’m sure my mother enjoyed telling him the whole story. At any rate, when we phoned later, she was home and laughing about it all.
So after leaving my mother trapped in her car at the station, we spent a night in London with our daughter and family and then we flew from London Gatwick airport to Palermo in Sicily. We’d booked a bed and breakfast in the old town centre, and it was very good. A friendly owner and a comfortable room. We spent four nights there visiting the city. We wanted to go the opera but unfortunately there was no show that week, but we visited the opera house. It’s the third biggest opera house in Europe , and it’s famous because … Well, because of what? That’s my pub quiz question this time. A very famous movie scene was filmed in Palermo opera house. It was an American film but with a Sicilian connection. What was the film?
After Palermo we rented a car and visited different parts of the island. We were in the west – in Trapani. We were in the middle of the island not far from Enna. And then we were in the southeast – in Ragusa and Siracusa . We were by the sea, we were in the hills. We stayed in historic city centres and on farms. There were lots of highlights. Here are some of them. The flowers: in April Sicily is full of flowers. So many of them and so many different kinds. In Wales we have spring flowers and then we have summer flowers. In Sicily, I think, all the
flowers come at the same time before it gets too hot. And the island was full of summer birds. They arrive in Sicily from Africa a long time before they get to Wales. Another highlight has to be the sea. The Mediterranean is very different from the Atlantic. It’s not so wild. It’s prettier. The food is, of course, another highlight. The Sicilians have wonderful fish and vegetables. They have great pasta dishes . And they’re very good at sweet things from cannoli to cassata to ice-cream in a brioche. So many calories! And finally, I have to mention the history. So many different people have come to Sicily. We saw prehistoric graves  in the Pantalica national park, Greek and Roman theatres and temples, Norman cathedrals with Arabic influence, and baroque buildings with a different style from Swiss baroque, for example.
And what about the negatives? Was there anything that we didn’t like? In my News Digest last time I talked about Sicilian driving, but for me that’s not a negative. I don’t think Sicilian drivers  are bad – they’re just different, compared with Northern European drivers! But there were two things that I didn’t like. Firstly, the litter . Everywhere you go people throw their rubbish – plastic bottles, cigarette packets, plastic bags. All along the roads, on the beaches, in the streets. It’s a pity. People are proud about what they look like personally. They wear nice clothes and their clothes are clean. I’m sure their houses are clean. So they care about  themselves but not about their environment. And it’s not just a problem in Sicily. The other negative is the modern building. The quality of the new houses and roads that you see is often very poor. Sicily today is a poor region, of course. It used to be so rich but that was a long time ago. And unfortunately, as everybody knows, it has been very unlucky with its modern political and business leaders. I say leaders, because all the people that we personally met were friendly, kind and honest .
I know some of you like to hear a joke, so let’s see if you like this one. It’s about a Canadian atheist. An atheist is somebody who does not believe in God. Well, this Canadian atheist was in the Canadian forest when he met a big and dangerous Canadian grizzly bear. The bear looked hungry. The man was very frightened. “Oh, God, help me,” he said. “Save me from this bear, God,” he said. And then he heard the voice of God. God said: “I can’t help you. You don’t believe in me. You’re not a Christian.” So the man said “No, I’m not, but this bear is going to kill me. Can’t you do anything to help? Can you do something about the bear? Could you make the bear a Christian?” So God said “OK”. The man was happy, but the bear still looked hungry. The bear came after him, so the man said to the bear: “What are you doing? Aren’t you a Christian bear now?” The bear said: “Oh, yes.” And he put his front paws  together, and said “Thank you, God, for the food that you give me.”
And that’s it for this show. Don’t forget to send me your answers to the pub quiz (What was the movie?) or your comments on the show. You can write to the website www.podclub.ch or you can use Twitter. My Twitter address is @gerrypod. On the PodClub app you can find the Vocabulary Trainer for this show. I’ll be back in four weeks. So thanks for listening and take care!
 to catch (the train/bus/plane, etc.): to get on (the train/bus/plane, etc.)
 to vote: to decide something by making a choice (for example, choosing “yes” or “no” in a referendum)
 kingdom: a country that has a king or queen
 treaty: a legal contract or agreement between countries
 midday: noon, twelve o’clock
 to get to: to arrive at
 at the last minute: just before it’s too late
 roadworks: a place where people are repairing the road or something under the road
 plenty of: more than enough
 boarding pass: the piece of paper that you need to get onto a plane (NB You get this after you have checked in with your ticket.)
 we’ll never make it: we’ll never arrive on time, we are sure to arrive too late
 boot: (British English) the bit of the car at the back where you can put suitcases, etc. (American English = trunk)
 ignition: the part of the car that starts the engine (motor)
 to release: to free, to unblock (so that you can move the seat forward or back)
 to trap: here: to block, to catch (If you do this to an animal you catch it so that it can’t run away.)
 to manage: to find a solution (to a problem)
 NB The biggest is in Paris and the second biggest is in Vienna.
 NB Syracuse in English
 pasta dishes: different ways to prepare and cook pasta
 grave: a place to put a dead person
 driver: somebody who controls a car
 litter: paper and plastic (rubbish, garbage) that people throw on the ground
 to care about: to look after carefully
 honest: If a person is this, he or she doesn’t steal or cheat or take money from other people.
 paw: the foot of an animal such as a dog, a cat or a bear