Bonus Episode 23 - British Childhood & Teenage Memories | Ft. Michael

Jun 8 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode, Charlie invites Michael, from The Level Up English Podcast, on to the show to share some childhood, teenage and young adult memories of his. This will provide you with another person's perspective of what it was like growing up in the UK in the 90s and 00s.

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Meet today's guest

Michael Lavers

from "The Level Up English Podcast"

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Michael is from Cornwall, England. He coaches learners from all around the world to help them achieve their English-language goals and is the host of the Level Up English Podcast. He's currently learning Japanese, Chinese and Cornish. He has both CELTA and TEFL teaching qualifications and has taught thousands of lesson online.
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Transcript of Bonus Episode 023 - Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome to the British English Podcast. Today we have an episode with the one and only Michael from the Level Up English podcast. Michael has been doing it longer than me, the podcast game. He's got a podcast that is very similar to mine. It's a British English podcast. It's relaxed. It's sometimes a one man show and sometimes interviewing people. So yeah, it's a very similar situation. He's from Cornwall, but apparently doesn't sound like his mother. His mother is very Cornish, apparently. So, yes. Without further ado, let's hear from Michael and hear how he is today. How are you doing, Michael?

Michael:
I am doing really good, a little bit sleepy in the morning here, but I'm honoured to be a part of your podcast so thank you for inviting

Charlie:
Wonderful. Thank you very much for coming on the show. And yeah, we just did an episode on your show, didn't we?

Michael:
Yes. I don't know which is going to be coming out first, but maybe, maybe people can go listen to that one, too. Yeah, that was a fun one.

Charlie:
Yeah. Can you remember what that was on?

Michael:
We spoke about a few different things like British culture, what you miss because you're not in England anymore, right. And all that kind of stuff. Had some kind of bonus questions at the end as well.

Charlie:
That's true. Yeah. Yeah. So guys, go and listen to that one on the Level Up English podcast. But yeah, for this one, we're going to do some deep dive into Michael's life because we're going to do part one British Childhood Memories. Part two, we're going to do British Teenage Memories, and then part three being a British adult. So yeah, first one, we're going way back to when you were a wee babba. And the first question I've got for you, Michael is, what is your first memory?

Michael:
Yeah, I love this topic, by the way. I can't believe I've never thought about doing it myself. I find it's hard to think of a first memory because I'm never sure if it's really my memory or if it's just something I've seen in like a baby photo that I feel like it's my memory. But the one that I can think of is me and my brother playing in the woods, visiting my great aunt, I believe. And I think that's when I was four years old. So it was quite, quite a while ago. But that's the earliest thing I can think of.

Charlie:
Playing in the wood. What kind of activity? I remember one situation. This must not happen nowadays with kids, with digital stuff. I went to a friend's house who lived kind of on a farm, but it was it was just like random fields. And we dug a, we dug a hole. And then because of the grass in the way that it kind of fell out in your hands when you picked it up, it would be like a ball or a clump of soil and a bit of grass. And it was a perfect like throwing grenade. And we loved... It was like a snowball but made of mud, and it had a handle. So it was like a perfect throwing device. And we...

Michael:
Like a sling.

Charlie:
Yeah. And we used to hide in our holes and then throw the grenades of soil at each other. Was it like that playing in the forest?

Michael:
I don't think my childhood was as, I could say, primitive. It was that. No, actually this was much more civilised. You know, we had slides. There were... It was like a proper playground in the forest. I don't know why, but they were kind of things set up for us to play on.

Charlie:
Okay, yeah, I'm with you. Yeah. That's very much more this generation. Like, I went to the park with my niece and she's got all of that stuff. Yeah.

Michael:
Back in our day, we had to make our own fun, didn't we? None of this like modern playground equipment, I suppose.

Charlie:
I know. But I think we should say that we're aware that we're still spoilt. Our generation was definitely spoilt, weren't we? We're not exactly... We didn't have it hard. Do you think we did?

Michael:
Yeah. I mean, we're similar ages, right? And I, I think for most of our life we've had internet and computers. Like, I think I got my computer when I was a teenager. My childhood was outside having fun, but mostly very relaxed, you know, video games or that kind of stuff. So yeah, very, very easy childhood, I would say.

Charlie:
So your great auntie, was she... Did she give you fond memories when you were a baby?

Michael:
Yeah. She lives in Poole on the south coast of England. And for some reason, I always really enjoyed going there. I don't know quite what it was. It's kind of like a little holiday, and I don't think we really did anything special. It's just like a new environment, a new place to go. Yeah, it was just very ordinary trip. It just... Really good memories for some reason.

Charlie:
And that leads nicely into the next one, which is trying to figure out what you had as an experience as a British person, but also as an individual. Like the family situation, would you see that Great Auntie a lot? Because from my perspective, we saw my great auntie probably once a year. What about you?

Michael:
Same for me, yeah, I think that's why it was so special, because it wasn't a common occurrence, you know? Maybe it's an interesting topic because I think there's some cultural differences maybe between your listeners and British people, perhaps.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
And I wonder how it is for you, because for me, I've never been much of a family person. Maybe I've been more of a black sheep, as a good expression, like a bit more independent, a bit more different from other people in my family. I didn't use to go to too many like family gatherings, but... Was it similar for you or were you more connected?

Charlie:
And when you say you didn't use to, are you talking about when you were a child or when you grew up or as now, as you are now?

Michael:
I guess... When you are a child, you don't have much choice, do you? But the older I got, the more freedom I got, the less I went to those things. Nothing against my family. I just like my alone time, you know?

Charlie:
Yeah. I was imagining you as a five year old saying, No, I'm not going to see my great auntie this time. She made me play in the forest. Can you tell me about your extended family, who you've got around you, and how big your nuclear family.

Michael:
Yeah, nuclear family. Like in the inner circle. Right. So I've got mum, dad, younger brother and two grandmas these days who I see occasionally. And then like more extended family, I've got a huge family because my mum has I can't even count, it's something like eight siblings. So lots of cousins, lots of aunts and uncles, stuff like that.

Charlie:
Wow. That's, that's, that's almost yeah, that's almost that's almost too many, isn't it? It's almost like I like my brother and parents and then this whole army of relatives. And if you're an introvert of any kind, that might be a bit daunting.

Michael:
Yeah, for sure. Like at my brother's wedding, for example, there were like 200 people, and they were all family. And that's just way too much for me.

Charlie:
Yeah. So did your brother not get to have any of his friends at his wedding?

Michael:
Yeah, he... He had a few, but they were outnumbered by family. You know.

Charlie:
You only see them sparingly when you have to.

Michael:
Yeah. I mean, it also makes it harder to see them or conversely, easier to avoid them, whatever way you want to look at it. Now that I live in London, because it's, you know, a six hour, six hour train ride away. So it's not something I can do so often.

Charlie:
And are they all local still back in your neighbourhood where you grew up?

Michael:
Pretty much, yeah. Or back in Cornwall. No one moves too much in Cornwall, you know, people stay... I think in the countryside people just stay in the same place. They don't move too much. But I imagine you've had kind of an even more extreme one right now that you're on the other side of the world. I guess you've got a lot of family who you don't get to see so often.

Charlie:
I've got a very good excuse. Yes, no. Yeah. There's quite a few nephews and nieces that have been born over the pandemic, which has been a shame. So I haven't been able to see them, but I saw them in February, which was fantastic when I went back to the UK. I've got family in Australia and in England, so we're spread out. I feel like I shouldn't say too much more about what I was going to say because they sometimes listen.

Michael:
We love your family here.

Charlie:
Yes, I love my family. That is all I have to say. Wait, so hang on. So you had a big... You have a big family in Cornwall. The wedding was gigantic of your brother. Your brother's younger than you, but he's already been married.

Michael:
He got married very early. Yeah, as soon as he hit his twenties, he's like married.

Charlie:
Wow. Because that's quite unusual for us, isn't it?

Michael:
Yeah. I feel like these days it's becoming later and later in... Maybe it's a global thing, but yeah, I think especially in the UK, I can say for sure that people seem to wait till their thirties now to get married, don't they?

Charlie:
Right. And that was because he just met the one or he was dedicated to the idea of getting married?

Michael:
So I guess so. I mean I, I want to kind of, as an older brother should, like, make fun of him a little bit, put him down. So I think maybe he was just so insecure about finding a partner that he had to kind of... What's the expression? Like, you had to pin it down. Is that the right word? You know, he had to make it secure as soon as possible. So she couldn't escape. Yeah.

Charlie:
Had to put a ring on it.

Michael:
Yeah, right, exactly.

Charlie:
Can you describe where you lived, like you've said, Cornwall, but can you kind of paint a picture for us?

Michael:
Yeah. I mean, I don't have such a nice impression of my... where I grew up. It's like a very small town. I feel like Cornwall's such a beautiful place. But I lived in the one place which I don't think is that beautiful. It's just like in a valley, you know? It's very hard to get to other places. We kind of have a joke that like everyone who is crazy and, you know, been to prison lives in this town. They all flock to this town for some reason. So you kind of I don't know. I've had friends who were like attacked on the street and at night and things like. It's quite a dodgy place actually. So I don't really have good memories of this particular town, but it's kind of yes, east Cornwall, surrounded by countryside. But the town itself is not nice, in my opinion.

Charlie:
Okay. And when you go back, do you do you feel quite concerned about that exact thing?

Michael:
For my safety?

Charlie:
Maybe. Yeah.

Michael:
Not... Not in that sense, because I feel like I'm not a big man, but I'm a grown man, let's say, and I feel like I could... I'm not that afraid, personally. But I also don't walk around at night. So that probably probably helps as well.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
But honestly, I don't go back very often because there's really not much to see. It's just like a huge residential town. There's not much there apart from houses, you know.

Charlie:
So was there any reason why you think your mother chose to spend her time there and buy a house there, perhaps?

Michael:
Ah yes. So I, I don't really know. I think a lot of Cornwall is very isolated and it's hard to get to, you know, cities and other places. But I think maybe one reason is just because it's on the train line. So it's really easy to get the train to London or something like that. So it's probably the only benefit of living there. Really.

Charlie:
Oh, okay. Okay.

Michael:
Connection to civilisation.

Charlie:
Yeah, but you did tell me that you are starting to learn Cornish. Or you have started learning Cornish.

Michael:
Yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
So there must be a a desire to get to know your Cornish blood or some sort of the linguistic history behind where you were from.

Michael:
I think so. I think there's a few reasons. I think, one, I'm just I'm fascinated by history and, you know, learning more about the past, I think, is really interesting. And I don't know if you will agree with this, but I feel like it's very hard to say, you know, I'm proud to be English. I don't know if you agree, but I find most people who say that they're usually like a bit racist. That's like the sense I get. You don't really hear that very often. So I feel like in the UK people often say I'm proud to be more local area, like proud to be, you know, people say proud to be Welsh or Scottish or proud to be from Yorkshire or something like that. So maybe I have a bit more pride of my local area rather than my whole country.

Charlie:
Yes, I see what you mean. Yeah, I do agree with that. And I was thinking about it when I came to Australia because they, they have a lot of 'Australian made' kind of on the badge of loads of companies or products. And I, I feel like if we said Made in England or English, it's almost got a bit of a racist connotation to it. We're very anti that, aren't we? Don't you think?

Michael:
Yeah. Yeah. Maybe, maybe. There was a joke in... I don't know if you've seen the IT crowd, that comedy TV programme.

Charlie:
Uh huh.

Michael:
There was a joke in that where he was using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire and the fire extinguisher itself caught on fire. And he was like, Wait, what's going on? And he looked on the bottom and it said, Made in England. He was like Ahh!

Charlie:
Yeah, we don't really make anything nowadays, do we? We're just services predominantly. Okay, let's jump to another part culture which is at school. In I.T. particularly I remember feeling very stressed about trying to create these ridiculous programmes, mainly because the IT teacher didn't seem to know what they were doing and the I.T. Software was so bad that you couldn't do anything. What do you remember of I.T. particularly at school?

Michael:
That's a great question because again, I think we're the right age as to where the teachers hadn't really had much experience because a lot of the stuff was quite new, so they hadn't been brought up with the technology. So it was really the first time we were learning about a lot of this stuff. And yeah, I've got memories of making lots of games. I made like a little kind of Mario style game in some programme which was playable, but it was a bit of a nightmare to make. Yeah, we started to do a bit more coding when I got... when we got to the end of school, but it was mostly just...

Charlie:
I need to ask Michael, how old are you?

Michael:
I'm 28.

Charlie:
Okay, we've got a four year gap. And I think in technology that was a big four years. Yeah, we had... We didn't have coding. I mean, obviously coding ever since computing. But yeah, we definitely didn't do that. We were mainly doing like trying to create newsletters for veterinarians that had put down a hamster or something like that. And you had to send a like an email sequence or something like that. Yeah, very disappointing.

Michael:
That sounds a bit grim.

Charlie:
Wow, you were coding by then. That's great.

Michael:
I think it only happened in the very final year. So right when I was leaving school, they started, they introduced this new curriculum. And now from what I know, kids are basically doing coding from like primary school, so they've just pushed it back.

Charlie:
And now, so you go out of I.T. Well, I was fed up. You were inspired, perhaps. And then you go to the playground and some children - Again, this might show my age - but some children, including me, had this egg, plastic egg with gel in the middle. And inside the gel was this baby little alien.

Michael:
Yes. Alien, yeah.

Charlie:
Do you remember them?

Michael:
I do. I totally... You brought it back to me. I totally forgot about them, but... What was the thing? That they could grow or they could have another baby? There was some kind of thing about them that people were saying.

Charlie:
I still don't know. I tried both options. I think one of the options was to supposedly put one of your friend's aliens in your pod and put the little sticky backs of them next to each other in the fridge. And then supposedly 24 hours later, they would make a baby.

Michael:
Really advanced toy for the time.

Charlie:
Yeah. Did you ever try this?

Michael:
No, I think we all believed it, but I kind of suspect it was just like a marketing thing or something that didn't really work. But I remember this was a huge fad, a huge, huge thing back in the day.

Charlie:
Yeah. What were some other fads that you experienced whilst at school?

Michael:
Beyblades were pretty big. Remember them?

Charlie:
Bay Bay Blade.

Michael:
Beyblades. These were these like spinning things where you pull the little plastic, you pull the plastic. I don't know what you call it, the plastic ring.

Charlie:
Okay.

Michael:
And it spins around and you have to, like, fight in an arena to, like, knock the other person's beyblade over.

Charlie:
Yes. This is like the modern version of a what's the actual toy called? The original. It's just a spinner, isn't it?

Michael:
Spinner, yeah, yeah. But yeah, but spinners don't fight each other. The spinners just spin, right?

Charlie:
Well, I remember a really old film where the spinners would bump into each other, and then it was the last one standing. But they didn't have these aggressive sort of modern plastic, spiky bits to make it look like a robot that was ready for battle.

Michael:
Yeah, that was big in the playground back in my day, but I never... I tried to kind of get them to fit in with the other kids, but I never really got the the fuss about it. I never really understood why they were so popular. I just kind of did it because I wanted to be popular, too.

Charlie:
Now, going back to inside the school in primary school, I'd like to know if you share this memory. After lunch we often did PE, which didn't really make sense because you're exercising on a full stomach. Where did you do PE, in the school?

Michael:
Sometimes outside on the on the sports field. But mostly it was in the what we call the assembly hall, which was kind of, I guess the multipurpose room for PE, lunch and large meetings, assemblies, all that kind of stuff. Is that...?

Charlie:
Yeah, that's where we did it. And it was a marble floor and we did it in our bare feet and we'd run around excited to let off some steam. But you then step on some things. Did you ever experience this? Stepping on...

Michael:
Like, food?

Charlie:
Yeah

Michael:
I don't remember. Maybe I did. I've got a memory. This is a bit of a different one, but I think it might be an interesting one. I've got a memory of when I was in reception, which is, it's like the year below year one, right? It's like when you're four years old or five years old or something. I peed my pants in that hall. We were all sitting, you know, those big...

Charlie:
I like how you built that story up. I was four or five and I pissed my pants. Next.

Michael:
You know, like the padded gym mats where you, like, do gymnastics and you land on these padded mats.

Charlie:
Oh, I do. Yeah.

Michael:
We were... My whole class was sitting on on this mat, and I did it on the mat. And I think it spread out to a lot of my classmates, too.

Charlie:
Did that give you. Did that. Oh, that's funny!

Michael:
That might be my earliest memory, actually. That that traumatising moment.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's a lot of emotion involved. So that's probably why you remember it. They say that there's.

Michael:
For sure.

Charlie:
That's that's true, isn't it, when there's emotion involved you remember it. Yeah. Guys, whenever you're learning vocabulary, maybe do something emotion-provoking. What could, what could a good example be?

Michael:
If you pee your pants while you're learning a word, you'll never forget that word.

Charlie:
There you go. There you go. Pee your pants, guys. Just make sure you're not around five or six classmates. Did they end up calling you something horrible?

Michael:
I think I was young enough... I mean, this was pre teenagers, very young, of course. So I think I was young enough as to where people forgot, like their brains weren't developed either, so they kind of just forgot about it. I don't remember any any consequences of that, really, apart from embarrassment.

Charlie:
I can imagine you turning around and saying, Guys, your brains haven't developed yet. You'll forget this. It's fine.

Michael:
As if I was the only one who had a developed brain and like they didn't.

Charlie:
Yeah, you had a very developed brain, but not such a good bladder control. Okay. Yeah, yeah. I just remember running around in the hall and then you'd land on some mushy peas that weren't picked up. But maybe it sounds like your school had some efficient - Oh, I'm being sexist here - I was about to say dinner ladies, but we can't really say that nowadays, can we?

Michael:
To be fair, we never had a dinner man, did you?

Charlie:
No, we didn't.

Michael:
So, I mean, it is technically correct, but yeah, maybe we have to be a bit gender neutral and not limit it.

Charlie:
Yeah. Dinner person.

Michael:
Dinner figure.

Charlie:
Dinner figure. Dinner figure. That sounds nice.

Michael:
Might not be a person, you know?

Charlie:
Yeah. Yes, it's true. All right. Well, we're going to go on to your teenage years, see how traumatising they were as well into part two. And then we're going to mature into a well-formed, rounded adult that doesn't pee on the gym mat. Can you promise us that?

Michael:
I can promise I haven't done it since then. I can't talk about the future, though. Who knows what's going to happen.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's true. Okay, so, guys, that's the end of part one.

Charlie:
All right. So we're back to part two. We were recording the video and a trailer of that will be going on YouTube. But just so you know, Michael, part two and three, they're not video, it's just audio and it's for the members. So you can relax, you can tell us everything that you really wanted to get off your chest. And to start with, I wanted to talk about how your experience was moving from primary school to secondary school.

Michael:
Yeah, that's such an exciting time, I find. And you know, I've taught students before who have been going through this transition and I'm always like so excited for them. It's really cool. It's a pure mix of like nervousness and excitement. It's like really both of them to the max. But I remember as soon as I started, it's just like such an unforgettable feeling. Like everything is new. I got lost every day in the new school. A lot more people who I had a crush on in year seven when secondary school because, you know, go out into the bigger world. There's a lot more like, Oh, look at that girl, all that kind of stuff.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
So that was a lot of good memories from back in that day.

Charlie:
But ding dong, here we go. Secondary school, new, new playground. So you said that you had lots of crushes.

Michael:
Yeah. Yeah, I suppose so. Over. Over those couple of years.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah. Over those years. Okay.

Michael:
Maybe not simultaneously.

Charlie:
Simultaneously. Okay. So, yeah, actually, no, I think I maybe liked two or three girls at once in year seven. Yeah, that's actually so true. Yeah. When we got to year seven, for me, it was year seven, secondary school, first year of secondary school. It was exciting in the playground. Yeah. Everyone was sussing each other out, weren't they?

Michael:
Yeah. And there's a lot of like people trying to impress each other and it's kind of like a fresh start, isn't it? You can make a new name for yourself. I think in primary school I wasn't the cool kid. I was 'Okay, now I'm going to be the cool kid'. And after a week I failed. But at least it was a... It was a good attempt.

Charlie:
You didn't do it again, did you, Michael? Not on the gym mat.

Michael:
I did not pee myself in secondary school. No.

Charlie:
Good man. Good man. Just shat yourself. No, you didn't. It lasted a whole week this high. And did you manage to, you know, ask one of your crushes out?

Michael:
No, I had a few awkward interactions, but it's really funny, like looking back on it, how shy everyone was. I remember there was I think it was the first day we called it induction day, which is like where you you go to school just to kind of get a feel for the school and know what it's going to be like, I suppose. Know if it's a right fit for you, maybe that's... I don't know. But anyway, on that first induction day, we had to do this activity where I held hands with like the prettiest girl in the class, I would say, because it was like one of these, I don't know, group activities where you had to hold hands. And she was like, so grumpy, 'Oh, I'm not going to hold his hand'. And the teacher was like, 'No, you have to. It's part of the activity'. I was like, 'Yeah, you hold my hand'.

Charlie:
Giggity Yeah. That's hilarious that you that you were about to give her a higher praise and then you brought it back down to class. You know, the prettiest girl in the. Not the school, not the year. No, the class, the class.

Michael:
Out of the ten girls in the class. Yeah.

Charlie:
Lovely stuff. So you got to hold her hand and did anything evolve from that? Well, come of that we say, don't we? Did anything come of that.

Michael:
I don't really remember. Yeah. Did anything come of that. I don't, I don't remember. And because I don't remember I assume that means no. But maybe I didn't... I kind of lost interest, I suppose. And I think a lot of the stuff at this time, it's like it's all about your crushes. But I think the crushes are more exciting than actually being boyfriend and girlfriend in a lot of the time.

Charlie:
That's very true.

Michael:
Just the anticipation of...

Charlie:
I agree. I don't mean to get the violin out, but year five and six, the last two years of primary school, I felt like I was getting bullied a little bit in my group of friends. So year seven, like you just said, it was a fresh start and a couple of cool kids took a liking to me, and then I became one of the most popular kids, and it lasted for about half that year and it was the best time of my childhood. I was on cloud nine. And yeah, what you said was true about the actual dating not being very fun because leading up to that I had quite a lot of interest from very attractive girls. And then I finally decided I really fancy this one. Would you like to go out with me? And then we never spoke in the playground. We didn't do anything. We didn't even hold hands, literally. We were together nine months and we had... We ran up a phone bill of my parents, because we would spend hours on the phone at home after school,

Michael:
So like talking voice calls on the phone.

Charlie:
Yeah, but we never saw each other in the playground. We'd ignore each other as much as possible. It's strange that, isn't it?

Michael:
So you were how old? Like 13, 14?

Charlie:
What's year seven? 11.

Michael:
Oh, it might be 11, 12, maybe.

Charlie:
11, 12, 11, 12. Yeah.

Michael:
Okay. So nine months is a really long time for that age I feel.

Charlie:
Yeah, it's like 10% of your life almost.

Michael:
But I have the exact same experience. Like I had my first girlfriend when I was 15, I was a bit older, but I guess I still hadn't matured. We were together for seven months and I think I could probably write on a one A4 piece of paper how much we spoke to each other in that time. I think maybe we hugged once in the year.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
And apart from that hug... Oh, it was a long hug. Good one. Yes, very memorable. But yeah, it was all MSN, MSN Messenger, like every day, constantly chatting. No voice calls, just texting.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
So that was our relationship, yeah.

Charlie:
So, MSN, I assume some other cultures did it as well, but MSN was an instant messaging service that we used on the Internet, on the computer. And I don't know about you, but it was the first experience for me where you'd start to develop this multitasking, high stimulation kind of behaviour with technology. Thoughts? Like with six or seven different conversations at once and they're going blum, blum, blum, blum, blum, blum.

Michael:
Yeah. I mean, the interesting thing is it's like constant conversations. Like it's not like, you know, I don't know how it was before my day, but I imagine it was kind of like you start a conversation, then you say goodbye. Whether that's like by email or a phone call or whatever. But this was kind of throughout the entire school life. It was just one long conversation that never ended, really. But I think what's interesting is it was on computer. It wasn't you know, we didn't have phones at that time, really. It wasn't like we were connecting all the time. It was only at home after school and before school. So that... I kind of liked having those constraints. There wasn't... We weren't connected 24 seven like we are today.

Charlie:
Oh, yeah, I see what you mean. Yeah. There's only a time and a place for it. It's not everywhere. It's not in your pocket. Yeah. And then they can't say, you know, where were you? I was living. I was living.

Michael:
Yeah, it wasn't at home. I was climbing a tree, yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. Throwing a grenade of soil. Yeah. MSN, that was intense. I've got another question for you. Did you have any posters on your wall of celebrities?

Michael:
I could even send you a photo. I've still got a photo of my room when I was about 14. And it's mega cringe. It's really cringe. Not so much celebrities, it's bands and movie posters, but some of them are like really kind of emo, gothic kind of style. Some posters were cool. Like, I had some cool bands that I still like today, but a lot of them were just like, Really? Oh, look at me. Look how edgy and deep I am. And yeah, it was a bit embarrassing to think back on.

Charlie:
Oh, so you were, you, you said it a second ago. Were you an emo?

Michael:
Wannabe emo. So like.

Charlie:
Oh wow. Can you explain that?

Michael:
I looked... Yes I, I don't know how global, you know, universal this is but emo is, was, I don't know if they still exist, but this kind of style of dark clothes but also some colours. How would you say it? Like I don't even know how you, how we describe an emo, do you?

Charlie:
So there's an emo band. That is kind of similar, isn't it? Yeah, so...

Michael:
It was based around music I suppose. Yeah. The music scene.

Charlie:
Around the idea of punk. Take a flavour of punk and then make it maybe make it less like a mohawk and less colour.

Michael:
Yeah. And emos were always really supposedly depressed and emotional and like, you know, you wouldn't understand me. My emotions are too deep. That kind of thing.

Charlie:
Yeah. Hence the shortening of the word emo, right?

Michael:
Emotional. Yeah. And I looked very normal. Apart from one bracelet I had, one phase in my life, which was like a black bracelet with metal spikes on.

Charlie:
Oh, gosh.

Michael:
That was...

Charlie:
How big were these spikes?

Michael:
Oh, they weren't. They were like really, really small. They were just like slightly raised metal bits and they weren't like, you can hurt yourself on it.

Charlie:
So your wrist looked a bit like a bulldog.

Michael:
Exactly, like a bulldog's neck. And that was the extent of my fashion.

Charlie:
Yeah. Your emo part, part of your life. And emos also had nail varnish, didn't they?

Michael:
Yes. Not me though. Not, not at that time anyway.

Charlie:
Okay, fair enough. All right. Well, we're going to go on to the mature version of you in part three.

Charlie:
Alright, we are back with part three of the episode with Michael and we're going to go into his adult life, his adult years. What did your young adult years look like or what did they include at the beginning, Michael? Did you did you go to uni, for example?

Michael:
Hmm. I was going to say it depends when you think adulthood starts, but yeah, I guess like uni is a good, that's a good cut-off point from childhood I suppose. And I didn't, I had nothing that I was interested in and I've always been a bit of a contrarian, which means I like to do the opposite of what most people do. So everyone was pressuring me to go to university and that just made me more reluctant. I didn't want to do it. I just went straight into work. I did gardening work for six years at various jobs. I was a gardener and then I figured out I didn't want to do that so much. So then I transitioned into language teaching because I've always liked languages. That suited me more. But no, I didn't really have a good idea of what I wanted to do after... I did go to Sixth Form, which you will know but others might not, is kind of like a little bit like high school in America. Like 16 to 18 years old, right? But it's optional. In the U.K. you don't have to go.

Charlie:
What subjects did you do at sixth form to then feel like, you know, I'm done with this, get out in the garden?

Michael:
I did mostly fun ones. I did like media studies. I did I did do English. That was my best one, actually. That was a good sign. I.T. as well. I did I.T. Maybe that's where the coding came in.

Charlie:
That is very interesting actually. That's as you said, being a contrarian, going against the grain, we could also say, I wonder how I can approach that because I want to tap into the the reason why. Did your parents want you to go to uni?

Michael:
No, no. I think my parents were always quite open with whatever I wanted to do. They never pressured me to do anything either way in most of my life. So that was quite nice. But I just, what I disliked is how schools were kind of not even giving other options rather than saying like, if you choose to go to uni, they would just say when you go to uni. And I really disliked that pressure because I kind of felt, well, you know, I had this awareness at the time that I'm just 15 years old. I have no idea what I want to do. Why should I have to go to uni if I don't even know what job I want to do? It's such a big commitment, you know.

Charlie:
It is a very big commitment and a financial one. And so at that age you were aware of how young you are, because at that age most people think that they're ready to fly the nest and take over the world.

Michael:
I just wanted to leave home at 16. That was my aim. But I still kind of felt that I'm not smart enough to know what I want to do as a career. I still had that kind of feeling anyway. But did you go to uni?

Charlie:
I did go to uni. My sisters had gone to uni before, so I had two people in the family and it wasn't until recently that I realised that my parents didn't do the traditional route at uni. Obviously a generation back or however many the parents are, it was less common. But my father is, I would assume, an academic through and through. He's a science teacher and he's such a nerd that I thought of course he went to uni. I was this presumptuous little boy. And then yeah, a couple of years ago it came out that neither of them went to uni, but they forced us or they made us assume that we should go to uni. I am glad I went to uni despite the fact that I haven't used the degree directly with a job in the traditional sense, even though it was expensive, I feel like I managed to make friends and meet people in social circles that I wouldn't have ever been able to meet. What do you feel about that? Because that's the typical answer that people say, you know, Oh, no, it's not just for the lectures. It's for getting the friends and the culture and the drinking mainly. What do you feel about that kind of response? Because I'm sure your friends did that.

Michael:
Yeah, I love this question because my situation was quite funny. I mean, first of all, I don't think it's I mean, maybe if you've got some money, it's a good idea. But it's a bit strange to be spending that much money on a degree when your main goal is socialising. You know, maybe not always the best argument. My friends often say that I had like the best of both worlds because I had... I had the uni experience without going to uni because most of my friends went to university and I would, I would work during the week doing my gardening jobs or whatever, worked at Wetherspoon's for a bit as well, all these kind of odd jobs.

Charlie:
Did you?

Michael:
That was horrible, yeah.

Charlie:
You worked at Wetherspoons?

Michael:
Yeah, in the kitchen. I hated it.

Charlie:
Ah, I just did an episode of pubs and Wetherspoons came up. How would you describe a Wetherspoons?

Michael:
Like, it looks very fancy. Very. I mean, they usually look very nice, but they are very, very cheap. Everything is microwaved. If you want a cheap, nice meal, you can go there. But kind of pub food, yeah I don't know, a lot of random words I just said.

Charlie:
And what about the the people inside the pubs? What about the people that go?

Michael:
Rowdy?

Charlie:
Rowdy, yeah.

Michael:
Loud and noisy and working class people. It's not like a, you know, an upper class kind of place to go generally. I don't frequent them very much these days, though.

Charlie:
Okay. Yeah. You didn't make too many long lasting friendships in the kitchen.

Michael:
No, I didn't really tell anyone I was leaving. I handed in my notice and I just left the next day. People said, 'okay, see you tomorrow, Michael'. I said, 'okay, see you tomorrow'. And I just never came back. That's how much I hated it.

Charlie:
Oh, that's brilliant. And was that was that before or after the gardening or during?

Michael:
Kind of during. Sandwiched a bit. But but yeah, basically I would go out, you know, party, go clubbing with all my friends on the weekend, Friday and Saturday. I would sleep over at their student house, like on the sofa with a few other random people that seemed to have no place to live and I made a lot of good friends that way. We had a lot of really good memories going out, drinking, as most Brits at that age do. And yet I didn't have to do any studying. So for me, it was it was great, a great time of my life.

Charlie:
Yeah. Thinking about it, that really is yeah the best of both worlds. And you didn't have to spend 20 grand on it. Nice.

Michael:
I mean, I might have done on alcohol over the years.

Charlie:
Well, that's a lot of money. A lot of money on alcohol. Yeah, maybe, maybe. But, yeah, goodness me. God, that would be sad to know how much we spend on alcohol in a lifetime, wouldn't it?

Michael:
Yeah. Oh. Anything really. How much you spent on takeaways or things like that. Yeah, but.

Charlie:
Takeaways, they're unhealthy, but they're food at least.

Michael:
It sustains you in some way, yeah.

Charlie:
In some way. So you did the gardening. So I actually did a bit of gardening. It was my first taste at being an entrepreneur because I dropped these leaflets around houses and I'm called Charlie, but my nickname was Chuck and my friend was called Ross, but his nickname was called Reggie. So we called ourselves Chuck and Reggie, the local hedge trimmers. Chuck and Reggie the local hedge trimmers. Yeah. And we got a bit of work between university in the summer. Yeah, we got quite a bit of work. Did you enjoy all aspects of gardening?

Michael:
I was just going to say that I did something very similar. At one point I went the self-employed way and I did leaflets from my neighbours doors. I got some odd jobs around too. That was going to be a potential career path for me. And do I change suddenly? But but yeah, I really enjoyed working outdoors and being one with nature, if you like. But I think at the time I was such a hippy, really. I loved nature. But when you become a gardener, it's it's a lot of killing nature. You're cutting grass, you're pulling up plants. So it's not really like as Zen as I imagined it would be. So I think that bothered me a little bit.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's such a good point. Yeah. You think of the Zen sort of sand rakers in Japan, they're making those patterns in sand and try and bring that into the gardening world in England. And you're mainly mowing things down. Yeah. Chopping everything up into small pieces and then chucking it on the compost.

Michael:
Yeah. There's a lot of destruction in gardening in the UK, which if I have my own garden one day I'm going to let it grow naturally, have all the wild flowers. I'm going to leave it to nature. I think that's the way I would prefer.

Charlie:
Really. What about the grass? It will grow very high.

Michael:
I think what I would do is have like one strip that's mowed where I can walk down, maybe to get to the shed or wherever. But apart from that, let it go high. I feel like it's good for nature and I think it looks nice as well.

Charlie:
Wow. So like a jungle either side of you.

Michael:
Yeah, I like that. Good for hide and seek, too.

Charlie:
Yeah, very good. I'd like to not play hide and seek. That sounds creepy, but I'd like to come and experience this garden one day in the future.

Michael:
I'd like to come and hide in your garden one day.

Charlie:
The people around you. Why... Why did they go to uni and did any of them not? And what was their what was their aim?

Michael:
I think pretty much all of them did go to uni and I'm going to have a biased view of this because of my own path and I'm biased towards my own choices, I guess. But I feel like a lot of them just did it because it was like the default path to do, like they didn't know what to do, so they just went to uni, maybe kind of to delay the pressure and stress of finding a job for a couple of more years. That's the sense that I got. But yeah, maybe they would disagree, but I know one or two of my friends are happy with their degrees, but I think the majority of them, they don't use their degree now and they kind of, you know, they work in supermarket or something like that and they kind of like, why did I waste all that time and money? Right. So I feel like a lot of it is just going with the flow of getting older. Yeah, I'm a bit cynical about it. Maybe.

Charlie:
Fair enough. Did you move out of the local area that you were born and raised once you got a job as an adult?

Michael:
Yes, moved out when I was 19. I'll never forget it.

Charlie:
And where did you go?

Michael:
I went to what we called the big city, which now seems very small now that I live in London. But it was like 20 miles, 30 kilometres away from my home town. So it was far enough away from my parents that they wouldn't bother me too much. But still, you know, I could still go back to them in an emergency.

Charlie:
Was that Bristol?

Michael:
Plymouth.

Charlie:
Plymouth. Oh, okay.

Michael:
Bristol was a couple more hours away.

Charlie:
I was thinking, what big city is down there, though?

Michael:
Plymouth's the biggest. And it's quarter of a million population, I think 20 250,000. Normal sized city, I guess, by the sea. Very beautiful. I love Plymouth. I go back there quite a lot.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
How about you? When did you move out? Was it similar or was it was it with uni? I guess that's the norm.

Charlie:
Yeah, it was uni. And then after uni, I imagine also your friends had this moment after university of coming back to the realisation that they've got to go home and live with their parents for a bit before they find a real job.

Michael:
I guess so, yeah. I guess a lot of people will do that. I would always encourage people to move out early if they can, at least in the UK. I know other cultures do it differently, right? But for me it was great for my independence and I remember the moment like my mum closed the door after she helped me kind of unload my things in the flat. I just felt this amazing, like relief of like, yes, I'm alone and I played video games all day I think.

Charlie:
That's the happy ending to the story. And he ended up with square eyes and died of malnutrition. Very nice. Okay. And can you tell me a little bit more about the roller coaster of emotions that you went through from gardening to podcasting?

Michael:
Oh, yeah. I mean, I'll try to push it... What's the word? Cram it into a short story. Compress.

Charlie:
Yeah, cram. That's a good one. Cramming. Cram.

Michael:
Yeah, squish it in. It's along over quite a few years. But I think gardening is very long hours and you know, you don't get much money for it, which is always a bit demotivating as well. So in the winter I just got fed up like this is... The main reason is... It's a longer a story, but I worked, I was a head gardener at a crematorium. But what my job was, is when the cremation technician was on holiday, I had to take over his job.

Charlie:
So you were the undertaker?

Essentially, yeah. When... When he was away, I was like the back of it. I was training to do his job a bit, and it just seemed like really like night and day, like gardening in the sun and then there's being in this dark room with all this morbid stuff going on, it just seemed like a really weird match up. So I think that kind of gave me a lot of stress and I was getting a bit down about it. So I eventually quit that after a couple of years, went travelling, trying to figure out what I wanted to do and then I just kind of came to the realisation that I love languages. I was learning Japanese at the time, realised I couldn't teach Japanese because I was still kind of a beginner. So I thought, well I'll just teach English because that's the language I know well by chance. And I went into that over a few years and then I don't remember why I started a podcast, actually. I think I've always loved podcasts, so it just felt like a natural thing to do. But I don't remember why. I don't remember that one moment as to why I did that, but because it just came naturally. That's the summary.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah. Nice. I've always wondered the reason that people get into those kind of professions around funerals and stuff. So yours was a side... A sidestep. Could we say that? You were in one profession then you were kind of encouraged by the organisation to fill the boots of somebody else and then before you knew it, you were dealing with the ashes of everybody.

Michael:
Yeah, I had to. Like, you cannot be a head gardener at this company without having that side job as well, which for me I think is ridiculous because they're just so different these two jobs. But I mean, it was an interesting job in the in quite a deep sense that you kind of get this real... I mean, you get to think about death quite a lot, which sounds morbid, but I think it's important to think about and come to terms with in some way. Good for my social skills as well. You know, I was dealing with people in a very emotional time. I had to kind of be respectful. So I think that was good for me at 21. Trying to deal with mourning people, right?

Charlie:
Yeah. Not people in the morning. They're mourning.

Michael:
Yeah, maybe mourning in the morning.

Charlie:
Oh, gosh, that's a double whammy. Mourning in the morning. Any interesting stories from that adventure of your life? That chapter?

Michael:
Working there specifically?

Charlie:
Yeah.

Michael:
Hmm. I'm sure I've got many. Some might be a bit too incriminating, some might be a bit too disgusting.

Charlie:
I really want a disgusting one.

Michael:
I don't know what I can share, really. The management there was just terrible that every everything was bad about that job. And it's amazing how poorly paid the employees are for the job they do that people are paid really badly for such a serious and dangerous job because you've got really, really hot fires that you have to deal with and you could burn the building. I almost did the building down one day. It's quite scary.

Charlie:
How did that happen?

Michael:
This is the kind of incriminating one, really. But death in some sense, is it?

Charlie:
Yeah, we can cut it out if it's too bad.

Michael:
It's not that bad, but you can cut it out if you feel it's not appropriate. But basically there's this big table where you push the coffins into the cremator machine. Right. That's the sound. So, like, brutal. But you kind of slide it in. It's got like this kind of sliding mechanism. And then after you do that, you pull it back so you can close the door safely. But I pulled it back too soon, which meant the coffin was like half in and half out of this machine.

Charlie:
Right.

Michael:
Of the fire. So you you couldn't close the door. Half of it.

Charlie:
Half of it was on fire. And you've got it half out of the whole mechanism or machinery.

Michael:
Yes. And this is like 800 degree heat coming out of there. It's incredibly hot. And it was really traumatising because it could have burnt down the whole building and ruined this poor person's send off, you know. And in the end, my supervisor guy did manage to push push it in, but since then I was never the same. I had that fear of what if it happened again? And there's you know, there's a lot of stress with that job for the amount of money you get.

Charlie:
I totally agree with that. Like there's so many people that are in the moment, like having a very, very emotional experience. And for.. Were you 20, 21, did you say?

Michael:
Yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. For a 21 year old not getting paid very well. But you didn't.

Michael:
I didn't.

Charlie:
Burn the... You didn't burn?

Michael:
No, no, no. It all turned out okay.

Charlie:
Yeah. Not a hundred people burnt to a crisp. So well done for achieving that and then flipping it round to languages and then starting up the Level Up English podcast. Yeah. You've been going for how many years now? Three, two, two to three?

Michael:
I think I started in either 2018 or 2019, but yeah, maybe, maybe three years. It's been like three years. Yeah.

Charlie:
Okay, cool. All right. Well, I think we've we've gone over double the amount of time in part three, mainly because of that juicy career that you were hiding from me until the last moment.

Michael:
That big morbid tangent.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah. That's fascinating, though. All walks of life on here. Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate that. And everybody, go and listen to Michael's podcast. The show notes will include his links, but yeah, thanks very much, Michael. Hey, go and listen to the episode that we both did on his show. Yeah, that'd be good.

Michael:
Yeah, please do. Thank you for having me.

Charlie:
Thank you. All right. Until next time. Bye for now.

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Transcript of SAMPLE Premium Podcast Player

Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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