Gerry’s Diary 178: Christmas, favourite numbers, tourist attractions (16th December 2016)

Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for Friday 16th December 2016. November’s a good month to catch a cold [1], and I succeeded, so please excuse my voice this time. This is the last show of this year, the last one before Christmas – and that’s a good reason to talk a bit about Christmas with you. PodClub also has a Christmas competition for you! After that I’d like to follow the idea of Francesca’s 100th podcast two weeks ago. She talked about numbers, and I have a little story about numbers. And to finish there’s some more information about tourist attractions in my area.


Under two weeks [2] to go to Christmas. Are you excited? Children here, of course, really look forward to Christmas because that’s when they get their presents [3], but for adults I’m not so sure. As I think I’ve said before, the Christmas season begins here at the beginning of December with concerts and parties. My badminton club, my choir, my wife’s book club, my wife’s sewing [4] group – they all have a Christmas lunch or dinner or party of some kind. So the weeks before Christmas are full of social activities. Christmas Day, the 25th is still the big day for families, but it’s like the last big party and not the first. The old tradition was that people had twelve days of parties starting at midnight on the 24th December. But now it seems a lot of people just need a rest, a bit of peace and quiet between Christmas and New Year.

Christmas is a time for presents, of course, and PodClub has three presents to give to our listeners this year. We’re having another competition. You just have to answer a simple question and you can win money to pay for a Club School language course. The first prize is a course worth Fr.1,000. The second prize is for Fr.500 and the third prize is for Fr.300. In the past my listeners have been lucky in these competitions, so have a go! You could be lucky again! Now, what’s the question? It’s a simple one, but I had to translate it from German. Not easy in English, but here’s my English version: PodClub started in January some years ago. So how many Christmases, including this one, have we celebrated together? PodClub started in January some years ago. So how many Christmases, including this one, have we celebrated together? Send your answers by email to Please include your name and full postal address. The closing date for answers is January 8th 2017. Good luck!


20161216 E world favourite numberThat was your Christmas competition, and the answer is a number. Numbers come into my next story, too. Francesca, who does our Italian podcast “Al dente”, celebrated a special number on her last show. It was her 100th show – a century [5] of podcasts. And on her show she talked about other special numbers. She talked about lucky numbers and unlucky numbers, magic numbers, and so on. I remembered a story in the news here about favourite numbers. A British author called Alex Bellos writes popular books about mathematics. People often ask him: Do you have a favourite number? And he had the idea to find the world’s favourite number. He did an online survey [6]. 44,000 people gave their favourite number. In Alex Bellos’s survey, half the people chose a number between 1 and 10. But every number from 1 to 109 was somebody’s favourite number. The number 110 was the first number that nobody chose. So what was the winning number? Well, it was the number 7. The top ten were: 7, 3, 8, 4, 5, 13, 9, 6, 2, and 11. So the top ten contained 6 odd numbers [7] (3, 5, 7, 9 and 13) and four even numbers [8] (2, 4, 6 and 8). Odd numbers were, generally, more popular than even numbers. But if you ask people from different countries which numbers they think are “good [9]”, most people think that even numbers are good, while odd numbers are “bad”. So why is our favourite usually one of these “bad” numbers? From another experiment, we know that it takes our brains [10] more time to recognise and deal with odd numbers than with even numbers. Somehow we have a different relationship to odd numbers. And that’s the same in different cultures. (On the other hand, different cultures have different lucky and unlucky numbers.) If you like, you can write and tell me about your favourite number and the reason why you like it.


Last time I told you that North Wales is on the Lonely Planet list of the top ten places to visit next year. One reason why North Wales was on that list is because of new attractions here. We have, for example, the fastest zip-wire ride [11] in the world, and the longest in Europe. There’s another zip-wire ride underground in the old slate mines. There’s also an underground trampoline, and an indoor surfing lake. A lot of tourists like this sort of thing, but other people come to North Wales to walk or to cycle and to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. There should be enough room for different types of tourism here. However, close to [12] where I live a company wanted to open a Zorbing Centre. Zorbing is a sport activity. It was developed in New Zealand, like bungee jumping. You roll inside a big, transparent [13] plastic ball down a slope [14]. Do you know this sport? Our local problem was that the developers [15] wanted to build a zorbing centre in one of the most beautiful places in North Wales. It was going to be in a field next to Church Island, the island with the little church. I’ve told you about it before. We have an Association of Friends to look after it, and the Friends don’t want a zorbing centre right next to this peaceful and beautiful place. We say that there’s nothing wrong with zorbing but this is not the right place to build a centre. We wrote letters of protest and last week we finally got a planning decision from the County Council – that’s the local government. The application was refused. No zorbing centre next to Church Island. Good news!

The other thing on the last show was the pub quiz question. I asked about an environmental problem with coffee in Hamburg. I asked: What does the City of Hamburg not like? What have they banned [16] from their buildings? The answer was coffee capsules [17]. Nespresso was the first coffee machine system that used them. Thanks to all of you who wrote. A lot of you had the right answer. There was even an answer from an English conversation class – I’m glad I could give you something to talk about! And Kurt had a question about castles near Liverpool. I’ll give you an answer in my next show.


Finally for today, here’s my last pub question for 2016. It’s a question about numbers. I’ve tried to learn different languages during my life. For example, I went to Japanese classes for six months at the Club School in Zurich. I learnt quite a bit, and it was very useful when I went to Japan, but now I’ve forgotten everything. I usually forget these languages, because I don’t use them, but I can often remember some words like numbers. So I’m going to give you the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in three different languages. Can you tell me which languages I’m counting [18] in? My pronunciation is probably not very good, but here’s the first: yksi, kaksi, kolme, neljä, viisi. Here’s the second: ek, do, teen, chaar, paanch. And the third: un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump.

And that’s it for today. I wish you all the best for the festive season. Send me your pub quiz answers to the website, or you can use Twitter. My Twitter address is @gerrypod. Remember also that you can listen to me with the PodClub app, and you can find the vocabulary learning programme on the app. I won’t be back till 3rd February! So till then, thanks for listening and … Happy New Year!

[1] to catch a cold: to get a virus that makes your nose run, makes you cough, gives you a sore throat, etc.
[2] under two weeks: less than two weeks
[3] present: a gift, something nice that you give to another person, for example at Christmas or on their birthday
[4] to sew: to make or repair things made with cloth, using a needle and thread
[5] century: a period of 100 years, but also 100 points in some games like cricket or snooker
[6] survey: a question or a list of questions that you ask a lot of people to find out what they think, like, etc.
[7] odd number: a whole number that cannot be divided exactly by another whole number, for example 1, 3, 5, 17, 25, etc.
[8] even number: a whole number that can be divided by another whole number, for example 2, 4, 6, 10, 22, etc.
[9] good: here in a moral sense: morally correct, friendly, nice, etc.
[10] brain: the part of our body inside our head that controls our thinking, etc.
[11] zip-wire ride: an attraction where you hang from a pulley (a wheel with a rope or cable round it) that runs down a long wire (See, for example,
[12] close to: near
[13] transparent: an adjective that means you can see through (it)
[14] slope: a piece of ground that goes down, for example on a hill (one end is higher than the other)
[15] developer: here: a person or company that buys land to put new buildings, etc. there
[16] to ban: to prohibit, to forbid, to not allow
[17] capsule: a small round container (Here: made out of plastic and metal, but the word also means a pharmaceutical product that you can swallow like a pill)
[18] to count: here: to say the numbers in the standard order from 1, 2, 3 up (NB When a space rocket is going to start there is a procedure where they “~ down”: 10, 9, 8, 7…)


Brigitte 26-01-2017 20:20
Hi Gerry
Today I've listened once again to your podcast. I was one from your first listener and I have won once a competition of the podclub. I must say it's still very interesting to listen to your stories and you do that with a great passion.
My compliment! Now I'm listening to the stories from Francesca, because I'm learning Italian.
On this way I wish you all the best.
Ciao e cari saluti
Edith Suisse 20-01-2017 17:16
Thank you for the valuable information of your country and allow me to learn English.
One of the answers to numbers is the Finnish because I am able to count in Finnish until 10, but not the other two.
Sevim 23-12-2016 17:12
Hello Gerry,
I listen to your Podcast - Gerry's Diary and Gerry's News Digest - since 2013 (and also Owen in China, but since 2014).
I enjoy them every time and it's always a pleasure to listen. I just like to say Thank you, for your great job and the super podcasts!
Well, the answer of your pod quiz question is "finnisch, hindi and welsh".
I send you and your family warm and friendly greetings for a happy holiday and wish you prosperous New Year!
Thank you!
Charles 17-12-2016 16:58
Hi Gerry
Thank you for your interesting topics. It's alway a pleasure to listen your diary.
About your question: the first language is Finnish, the second Hindi and the third Welsh from your area.
I wish you a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year