British Studies Web Pages

The Countryside


Reaping What You've Sown taking the consequences of one’s deeds
The Secret Diary of Mrs A.

Do you remember Mrs. A from our previous issues (Health, Sport and Identity?). She’s now writing her diary while on a British Studies summer course in Starbienino. This time all the idioms are connected with the topic of the countryside. See how many you can work out through the context.

If you need any help understanding the idioms in the diary, just place the mouse over the purple ball to find the clue displayed on the screen.

When you have read the text, do the exercises below.

5 thJuly, Thursday

Serious packing. I’m leaving at 6 o’clock in the morning. I’ve re-read Michael’s letter again. It’s sown some seeds of doubtcreate a situation in which someone is no longer sure whether they want to do something or no longer confident and optimistic about chances of success. Do I really want to do a course on the subject of ‘the countryside’? Whenever I think of it, the image that leaps to mind is of animals abused in our everyday conversations. ‘You ratabusive term usually addressed to a man who cheats on his partner’, ‘you bitch(a very offensive term) a treacherous woman who insults others behind their backs, or a woman who is malicious or a bully’, ‘what a silly cow(a very offensive term) an insult referring to a stupid woman’, ‘they behaved like animalsbehave violently, aggressively, with no restraint over one’s reactions or physical needs’, ‘what a swinea term of offence implying dishonourable, disloyal behaviour’. I don’t think animals deserve such insults. The whole idea of a cross-cultural approach to teaching seems slightly fishysuspicious. I hope they’ll know what they’re doing and it’s not going to be one more course that will turn out to be another story of teaching grandmothers to suck eggstry to each someone something that they know very well.

6th July, Friday

So this is the official get together. Thirty-odd buddingdeveloping and promising web designers in the middle of nowhere. A hole in the ground. This place does not even exist on the map of Poland! Do they think that if we are so far away from civilisation we’re more likely to produce something? The whole idea is that we’ll design some cross-cultural web pages. The journey was awful. We spent four hours waiting in a traffic jam on the motorway in terrible heat. When we finally got there I was dog tiredvery tired, exhausted. It’s a truly international group: two ladies from Slovenia, a man from the Czech Republic plus over thirty Polish teachers. The rumour is there’s a Brit coming as an ordinary participant. Why would any British person want to do a British Studies course in Poland? It is a mystery to me. My guess is he’ll treat it as a case study – us, the natives trying to understand the nuances of a foreign culture and finding it difficult to twigunderstand. Phoned home three times between 10 and 12. No answer. When the cat’s away…to do something risky or dangerous At midnight there was still no sign of the Englishman. Must have got lost.

7thJuly, Saturday

Trying to find the Englishman was like looking for a needle in a haystacktry to find something which is impossible or very difficult to find. He was finally spotted while sitting on the tank in Wejherowo, so the story goes. Course-wise, some fruitful efforteffort that brings results. On the first day of my countryside education I was in cloverfare well, be in a situation when someone does things well and confidently and finds things easy. I enrolled in the group of computer beginners. I’ve had some experience with the internet but I don’t want to seem a silly assa stupid person, an idiot. No one missed classes. What a surprise! Such beautiful weather and everybody working. We really must be a bunch of eager beaversa person who is very willing to work, eager to make an effort and does even more than is expected of them. The day went OK. Richard tried to sell us his property, but as an estate agent he proved a broken reeda weak person you cannot rely on because of circumstances. And then we larked aboutenjoy oneself, do things for pleasure and leisure, possibly avoiding care and duty with Malgorzata exploring her magic box. I still don’t know what topic to choose and who to work with. I only hope I won’t turn out the fly in the ointmenta person spoiling things, causing things to go wrong.

8thth July, Sunday

In the morning Michael showed us how to use films in a cultural studies class. It was great. He really is the bee’s kneesa person or thing which performs its chosen function perfectly. People were speechless with admiration. Later we did some crossword puzzles. Do I really want to know thirty something names of birds? What’s the difference between a crow and a raven anyway? I’ll need to have a ganderhave a look at it at a specialist book, or better still one of the ornithological sites. In the lab Wojtek, the Lion King in his lair, was showing us how to use a scanner. I was watchful as a hawkextremely careful and paying attention. But when it came to showing what we’d learnt I made a pig’s earmake a complete mess of something of my job. By the way, why does a lion in his lair sound more impressive than a hen in its henhouse?

9th July, Monday

Some new trainers arrived. For most of the day they were just swanning aroundwalk around looking superior and not having enough to doadmiring the views. The best thing was ‘a quiz night’. In one of the contests people were supposed to recognize others in their old childhood photos. Nobody recognized me. Well, evidently, I’m no spring chickena person who is no longer young any longer. We also had to guess the origin of some proverbs. When it comes to language work Michael always talks turkeytalk seriously, give facts, data, etc.. This was serious stuff. I learned that the only free cheese is in the mousetrapa Russian proverb implying that nothing in life is for free and everything has its price, the English equivalent is ‘There’s no such thing as free lunch and if my shoe is tight, who cares if the world is vast. My group made a dog’s breakfastmake a complete mess of most contests. Others were also better at neighing, mooing and meowing. And although I didn’t win the first prize I went to bed happy as a larkvery happy. For our goodnight story we were told that there had been a very heavy downpour in Gdansk and the city was flooded. Time and tide wait for no manproverb which means that the forces of life and destiny are beyond human power.

10thth July, Tuesday

Everybody came to class on time. Fresh as daisieslooking very fresh, not tired. But I looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwardsnot look very good, have dishevelled hair/clothes. Not a single hair in place. This country air must be bad for my city hairdo. We’ve formed mini groups to work on our materials. I’ll do the National Parks. It’s good that others are also interested so we’ll make a team. I’ve made friends with three Hanias and five Ewas. Birds of a feather…people who have similar interests and things in common like each other’s company and often form teams working together and all that. I only hope that our choice of subject area won’t turn out turkeys voting for Christmasdo something which is not in your interest, something that may act against you. In the afternoon we had a trip to Slowinski Park Narodowy to see the Kluki skansen and a lighthouse. Other people were busy as beesvery busy, constantly occupied interviewing the locals for their project but I just beetled aboutbe all over the place doing all kinds of odd jobs taking photographs. On the way back we acquired a new trainer, Mariusz , an IT specialist. How symptomatic! All the technology in male hands and women trainers are for posters, postcards and magic boxes. Not that I want to rock the boatcause trouble, just a thought.

11th July, Wednesday

I surfed the net looking for more info about the National Parks. Took me hours. There’s just too much of everything. Tomorrow is the writing day and my idea of the materials is as clear as mudunclear, not clear at all, but I’ll have to take the bull by the hornsface a difficult situation, try to do a difficult task. Francis the Englishman, who is actually Scottish, agreed to answer our questionnaire. It’s the tenth he’s doing, I think. Still, as the proverb tells you, make hay while the sun shinestake the opportunity when it still exists. I’m beginning to be optimistic about our plan but better not to count my chickensnot to be too confident about a positive result of an action if the action hasn’t been completed yet, not to count on success if it is still doubtful.

12th July, Thursday

What a day! Everybody was running around like headless chickensrun aimlessly and do things under pressure, struggle to do something without having a clear idea how to do it. The computer room was constantly occupied and there were such crowds there you couldn’t swing a catthere’s very little room, the place is overcrowded. Our team barely managed to start typing things in. In the afternoon another publishers’ visit. They were crowing aboutboast about, talk a lot about something praising it extensively their latest textbooks and multimedia teaching resources. Well, you can’t teach an old dog new trickspeople who are no longer young are set in their ways and habits and reluctant to change their ways. Maybe, just maybe, if my materials are on the web, I’ll go to the school computer lab more often. There was an extra plenary meeting to decide the pecking orderhierarchy of privilege or status in the lab. People should be given equal chance. After all, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the ganderpeople should be treated in the same way, everybody has equal rights. In the evening there’s going to be a barbecue. If they have something vegetarian, I’ll pig myselfeat a lot.

13th July, Friday

Plans for pigging outeat a lot fell flat. Nobody has yet invented a Polish vegetarian sausage suitable for roasting. I suspect though that some of us will have to try to take the hair of the dog …if you have a hangover, you should have a little of the same drink you had the night before Free afternoon. We went to the sea. I felt free as a birdcompletely free. No computers, scanners or digital cameras around. Tomorrow is the last day of writing. We’ll reap what we’ve sowntake the consequences of one’s deeds.

14th July, Saturday

Well, we’ve actually produced something. Things that people have put on the site look quite impressive, to me at least. Michael and Richard will probably have a different opinion, but I’m sure they’ll try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s eartry to make something good out of very bad material and things will look splendid. I do hope other teachers will use our materials and the whole product won’t just sink like a stonedisappear from view, be no longer popular, attractive or well-known.

Follow up activities

1. You can try the quiz based on some of the idioms.

2. To find the full list of idioms, click here.

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