Into the Story


Episode 33 - Busking - acingles

Episodio 33: A Story About Busking with Alastair Budge

Nivel: Intermedio
Acento: Inglés

En el episodio de hoy, Alistair nos contará su experiencia tocando la gaita en la calle (busking). Como muchos jóvenes en Inglaterra, Alistair, a los 18 años, decide tomarse un año sabático para viajar y conocer el mundo, y pronto se encuentra en un tren en dirección a Francia, donde su plan es conseguir trabajo de camarero. But when he gets there, things are not simple as he thought…

Today’s episode of Into The Story is about busking. Mientras escuchas a Alistair contándonos sus aventuras como músico callejero, aprenderás expresiones en inglés muy útiles, como ‘to be one step ahead’, ‘to support oneself’ and ‘out of the corner of your eye’. 

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Quote of the episode

“My memory of my time there is filled with these slightly strange anecdotes and unusual experiences that you have if you put yourself in unusual positions” – Alistair

Bree: Today we have a very special storyteller. Alastair from the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast is going to be telling us a story about busking, which best translates as música callejera en espanol. Como muchos jóvenes en Inglaterra, Alistair, a los 18 años, decide tomarse un año sabático para conocer el mundo y pronto se encuentra en un tren en dirección a Francia. 

Alistair: ‘the idea is that you get a job… I wanted to do something different with my time…’

Bree: Life in France does not go to plan and Alistair finds himself on the street playing his bagpipes – su gaita – as a way to earn enough money to survive and pay for his hotel. Then one day, a bizarre and unexpected event happens while Alistair is playing his bagpipe for his audience in the streets of Lille. Keep listening to find out what happened to Alistair that day…

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Ok antes de escuchar la historia de hoy, veamos 6 palabras y expresiones interesantes que utiliza Alistair en este episodio: 

  1. First off, a word you’ll hear throughout the episode today is the English word ‘busking’ spelt B-U-S-K-I-N-G. Busking describes a situation in which a person or a group of people – buskers – play an instrument or perform in the street and collect money, usually spare change, from the public. Busking.
  2. Next, to get into. This expression, ‘to get into’ has a few key meanings in English. Firstly, you might hear people in English talk about ‘getting into university’. In this case, ‘to get into’ means ‘to be accepted’. In today’s podcast, Alistair uses ‘to get into’ to mean ‘to get involved in’ or ‘become interested’ in an activity or a discussion. For instance you could say ‘I recently got into football. I play 2 to 3 times a week!’. Or if someone says ‘I really got into the music. I couldn’t stop dancing!’ It means that they really started to enjoy the music. To get into. 
  3. Next, let’s talk about the expression ‘to be one step ahead’. Alistair uses this expression to talk about moving to France before starting a French language degree at university. In this context ‘to be one step ahead’ means to be ‘better prepared’ than other students also studying French at university.
  4. Next, to support oneself. If you hear someone talk about ‘supporting themselves’ or ‘supporting their family’, this could mean a number of things depending on the context. You’ll hear Alistair talk about playing the bagpipes to support himself while in France. In this way, the expression ‘support oneself’ means to provide for himself financially and enough money to live off. To support oneself.
  5. Next, dubious. In English, the word dubious can be used in a number of situations to mean ‘doubting’, ‘uncertain’ or ‘suspicious’. For example, if someone says ‘I was extremely dubious about accepting the offer from the car salesman’ it means that they don’t trust the salesman or question the genuineness of the offer. You could also use the word dubious in a sentence like ‘I had the dubious role of hosting the concert’. In this case, the word ‘dubious’ suggests that the responsibility of hosting the concert is actually unpleasant and not as honorable, glamorous or fun as someone might think. Dubious.
  6. Finally, you’ll hear Alistair use the expression ‘out of the corner of one’s eye’. To see something out of the corner of your eye means to see something to the side of where you are looking. In other words, it means that I wasn’t looking directly at the object when I saw it and may not have seen it clearly. ‘out of the corner of one’s eye’.

Alistair: My name is Alistair Budge. I’m 34 years old. I’m originally from the UK as you might be able to tell from my accent from the south of England. In the UK it is a relatively common thing for people to take what’s called a gap year, so a year off between finishing high school and studying university. And people tend to do lots of different things. Some people will go traveling, some people will get a job or… the idea is that you go and have lots of different experiences that you haven’t ever had when you were at school. And I wanted to do something a little bit difference with my time and I thought what am I good at and what do I want to develop, what skills do I want to get better at? And I had a place to study French and Italian at university so I thought you know what, I would like to go and spend some time living in France so that I can try to be one step ahead when I arrive at university. And I thought, what can I do in France?  Well I don’t really have any skills because I’m only 18 years old but I am a native English speaker and perhaps I can get a job at a restaurant or something like that. So I thought I’ll try. 

Bree: So just like that, Alistair decided to spend his gap year in France and try his luck getting a job as a waiter there.

Alistair: And I got on a train because you can actually get on a train from, from England to France, you can take the Eurostar and the first stop on the Eurostar in France is Lille which is a sort of industrial city in North Eastern France. And I thought okay well I’ll just go around some of the restaurants and see if anyone will take me. I had never really applied for a job before so I didn’t really know how any of this stuff worked. I thought I’ll print out a CV and someone will say yes that sounds like a… the kind of person that we’d like to be a waiter in a restaurant and that’s how it all worked. So I did that! I went around restaurants around a week and it turns out that’s not how the world works and no one called me back and I was unable to get a job or unable to get anyone interested in employing me at all, which reflecting back on it now is hardly surprising but for me at the time it was a little surprising. 

Bree: Alistair’s plan to work in a restaurant was not working so he needed a plan B…

Alistair: But, I had a secret weapon in my, in my armoury which was that alongside being able to speak some French, I could also play the bagpipes. So the bagpipes for listeners who might not be aware of what those are, are the traditional instruments from Scotland. There’s a… it’s kind of like a recorder I guess with a big bag in it that makes a lot of noise and I had grown up, until I was 13, in Scotland. And my my father is Scottish and was able to play the bagpipes and I also, from when I was sixteen or so, I started doing busking which is when you play an instrument in the streets and you put a hat or a case down there and generous people give you coins or, if you’re lucky, paper money to support you. 

So I had taken my bagpipes with me to Lille as a back-up plan. I thought well it’ll be a little bit exotic and I can just see if what works in London and in the small town that I lived in in England also works in Lille. And so after failing miserably to get a legitimate job at a restaurant I, I went out one day with my bagpipes and I also had, I was wearing the traditional Scottish outfit so this is a kilt which is what many people think looks like a skirt and jacket and tie and things like that. I’d done experiments where I’d busked in normal… kinda non-traditional clothes and then I busked in traditional clothes. You always make more money if you are wearing traditional clothes. So I brought this with me because I knew that was a good thing to do. And I set up my bagpipes and started playing.

Bagpipes as you may know are loud. So you have to choose a place where you’re not going to disturb too many people and the place that I started playing was outside the train station and the area around Lille train station is like the area around many train stations in large cities as… a slightly strange area. There were all sorts of people doing things of dubious legality and things that they probably shouldn’t be doing. Anyway that was the area that I chose to set up my shop and surprise surprise, people did start giving me money!  And it was a nice surprise because I realised that wow I can get this to work and it’s a way of being able to support myself while I am here. And my life for perhaps a month or two, consisted of me waking up in the morning, going out and busking for half an hour, 45 minutes until my lungs were completely exhausted and I couldn’t play anymore and I might earn 30 or 40 euros and pay for my incredibly sad hotel.

Bree: Busking outside the Lille train station was not Alistair’s original plan but for the moment playing his bagpipes was earning him enough money to survive in France. Until one day, while playing his bagpipes, a very unexpected thing happened…

Alistair: And this particular story that I wanted to tell you today is about a strange incident that happened during my busking times. I was standing outside the train station and doing what I had been doing for the past month or two months or so. And I started playing and there were kind people who would put coins in my case. And sometimes people would gather around and kinda listen. My normal clients I guess you could call them, my normal people who would give me money they tended to be mothers with children, or elderly people really. It was always quite easy to look at someone and think of the probability that they might give you any money or not. 

And one time this young man came up to me, he was probably a similar age to me. He was probably 18 or 19. A really big guy, shaved head looked… not look like a particularly nice guy. And I thought, ok is this going to be? 

Is he going to cause me some kind of trouble and because I had had people who had taken money from inside the case before. And I thought ok what was going to happen here. And instead, he was getting very into the music! He was clapping and he was kinda going ‘yeah yeah yeah’ and I was thinking ok I guess this might be good news he might be enjoying it. He just is… not the classic person who had given me money before. So I thought let’s just kinda leave him. It’s great. He was getting really really excited! He was loving it! 

And I should also add that I’m not a talented bagpiper at all… I am probably quite a bad bagpiper but I was exotic. People had probably never seen a bagpiper in LIlle before. So he was, this guy was really enjoying the music and he’s getting really into it and out of the corner of my eye, an elderly woman who must have been in her 70s or something, she came and she kinda jumped on my bagpipes and started shaking them and she was obviously very upset about something that was going on. Upset at the music or maybe she was a bagpipe expert and she was upset at the quality of my playing. But she was clearly upset about something. I just didn’t understand what and before I could sort of stop or see what was going on, this man, this super fan, he had punched her in the face! And this, this poor lady was kinda at my feet and he was standing over her kind of saying all sorts of nasty things and I can remember very clearly, kinda looking down and thinking, it’s a really surreal situation and I wasn’t really sure what to do!

But before long, it must have been only a couple of seconds, the French Riot police arrived because there were… there were big riots, big protests in France in that period. And people had set cars on fire and there was, there was a lot of violence in the cities. So there was a lot of police presence and these police had guns and they were quite aggressive looking people and the police. There must have been about two or three policemen or so but you know big people with guns and body armor and stuff. They arrived and they took this young man away. And I was like no no no, I was a crucial eye witness to the event but actually I don’t have a licence to play here or anything. I don’t want l I want to get in any kind of trouble and they they ask me you know what happened and I explained and they took him away and I unfortunately I don’t have any kind of further information about this poor man’s plight or what happened to him afterwards. Luckily, the woman was fine and that was all ok. Buit it was a very strange and completely surreal sequence of events and it all happened in the course of less than 30 seconds. I had gone from playing nicely, just doing what I had always been doing through to having a knocked out woman in front of me and the French riot police. So my time there is filled with these slightly strange anecdotes and examples of these unusual experiences that you have if you put yourself into slightly unusual positions. 

Bree:  It has been over 15 years since Alistair was busking on the streets of Lille. So what is he doing now you may be asking yourself?

Alistair: So I am not still busking, no. I did actually busk and continue to busk while I was at university. It was a very good way to make a bit of money as a student. I am now no longer a busker and I am even worse at the bagpipes than I was 16 years ago. Now I live in Malta. I have a company called Leonardo English and we make a podcast called ‘English Learning for Curious Minds’ aimed at intermediate to advanced independent English learners and the idea is that people can improve their English at the same time as they learn about weird and wonderful things about the world. So we have episodes on everything from the wives of Henry VIII through to how Google works, the space race, Disney, gangsters. All sorts of things! So I started ‘English Learning for Curious Minds’ just over 2 years ago and yes that’s what I am doing at the moment. It’s great to see the impact that podcasting can have and I think you are also doing some amazing work so you have won over a listener in me as well. 

Bree: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Alastair! We highly recommend his podcast, English Learning for Curious Minds. It is full of interesting topics. Everything from James Bond to Fast Food to Pirates. You have a link to his podcast on our website or you can find it wherever you listen to podcasts.

And that is all for today’s episode! Para escuchar todos los episodios de Into the Story y no perderte los siguientes, suscríbete ahora en Spotify, Apple Podcasts, o en tu reproductor de podcasts favorito. Ok everyone, until next we hope you have a good time or at least a story to tell.

Wonderful Words

1) a place where weapons are kept.
2) resources that you have available for a purpose.

A traditional wind musical instrument from Scotland.

When people or a group of people play an instrument or perform in the street and collect money from people walking by.

Suspicious, uncertain or dishonest.

A traditional Scottish skirt printed with checks worn by men.

To be unconscious or defeated by something or someone.

A dangerous, difficult or unlucky situation.

A simple wind instrument.

Excellent Expressions

To be overprepared or to be in the lead of
someone else.

To return a call.

A sabbatical year that many young people do after school in order to travel or have different experiences.

To get involved in an activity or to start enjoying something.

To see something to the side of your field of vision.

To provide financially for oneself.

Si la voz de Alastair Budge parece un poco más clara que la de otros de nuestros invitados, ¡Es porque Alistair tiene su propio podcast! English Learning For Curious Minds es un podcast para aprender inglés a la vez que descubres cosas sobre el mundo, noticias y otros, narrado todo por él. 

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4 comentarios

  1. By the way, in the former episodes you put a link where we can download and print for study, “wonderful words” and “excellent expressions” but in this and can’t find it. You put the expressions and words but not for printing, just for reading.

    1. Hello Teresa, thank you for your kind words! We have decided to stop producing the PDF documents as most people are happy to just look at the content on the website.

      However, if you would like to continue printing them, you can select the text in your browser, right click, and select “Print/Imprimir”. Click on “More settings” to choose the margins and type size your prefer. We hope this helps, and thank you for your understanding ^^

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