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an undertaking that is dangerous, daring, or of uncertain outcome
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Newsletter July 10 - 2007FREE email English course
Dear Friend,

Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going; And such an instrument I was to use.

Now don't panic. This is a quotation from my favourite poet, Shakespeare. First an explanation and then an apology. Bear with me. The quotation is from the play, Macbeth, which has many mysteries about it and most famously it's supposed to be unlucky to mention the name of the play in a theatre and instead you have to call it The Scottish Play.

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But let me explain the first two words, which mean: "You control." In the play we learn about Macbeth's ambition and how he pursues his dream to become King, egged on (encouraged by) his wife. Unfortunately this entails killing opponents on the way. In the scene quoted he imagines he sees a dagger (an instrument) floating before him and it is with that he aims to polish off (kill) anyone in his way. So far, so good I hope. And now my apology to Shakespeare fans. I just couldn't resist quoting it with reference to the latest gadget I bought last month. The "instrument" in my case is a GPS - a global positioning system, which is a device to help you find your way on a journey and the voice on the gadget tells you (controls you) which way to go. Well, that was a bit laboured but I trust you got the point.

My GPS is called Tom-Tom. You can choose which voice (male or female) and which nationality and language. I chose female. She is called Jane and has a British English accent. The problem is that she (Jane) can marshal you to such an extent that 'she' assumes a real identity and you find yourself wondering whether she's all right because sometimes she says nothing and when she does, you practically jump out of your skin. I find the system invaluable because as I've remarked in several places on www.english-test.net I have a rotten sense of direction. Apparently you can also use the device for walking but I think I'd be too embarrassed to walk about with a woman's voice coming out of my side pocket saying: Turn right, turn left...! On long journeys I rely on my wife's expertise at reading maps and I was a little concerned that there might be a bit of tension if we were to take this 'woman' with us on our recent trip to Germany last month. My fears were totally unjustified because within hours the two were the best of pals.

We know the road to the port of Dover well and so we didn't need GPS for that and clearly you tend to leave the crossing of the channel from England to France to the captain of the ferry! Now for some reason here in the UK we drive on the left. There is a historical origin for this. In the bad old days when people used to fight with swords at the drop of a hat (for any reason whatever) and also because most people are right handed, it was a good idea to keep your sword handy in your right hand and when you passed them, you made sure they were on your left so that you could wallop (strike) them if they turned nasty. And from that came the idea of driving on the left and sitting in your motorcar on the right. Apparently Napoleon Bonaparte was left-handed and so the French drive on the right and so of course do millions of others. But that doesn't really bother GPS. We made our way merrily through France and Belgium. Incidentally the motorway through Belgium is lit all the way and the thin line of light can be seen from the moon. So as you traverse Belgium, you've got a satellite clocking (observing) your every move and those funny little green men on the moon checking your progress. As we reached our first stop for the night and drew up outside the hotel in Holland, Jane piped up and announced: You have reached your destination. Good girl - she was spot on but what she didn't know and this made us feel very smug and superior was that for that weekend only the road was blocked at the other end because of a cycle race. Some 700 miles (about 1,100 kilometres) after leaving the French port of Calais we rolled into our hotel in Leipzig where after a gap of some eight years we met Torsten again and obviously talked about all our wonderful contributors and subscribers to the Forums on www.english-test.net - honestly we did! Torsten treated us royally throughout our week in Leipzig and on our farewell evening I told him he had been a perfect brick - not I hasten to add as one website defines the word: a rectangular block of clay baked by the sun or in a kiln; used as a building or paving material but rather as I meant it: a thoroughly good, generous and helpful egg. You can look up my definition. I also met for the first time our technical wizard, Slava who is even more dynamic than the picture of him on the site.

After Leipzig we moved on to visit some friends in the north of Germany and stayed on their organic farm where the nearest neighbour is some 300 metres away. The drinks flowed and the food (all organic of course) piled up deliciously before our eyes. I wondered indeed whether I would still be able to fit in my car seat. The only fly in the ointment (if such it was) was the massive white Pyrenean dog they had to keep out intruders. Carlos, the dog you see preferred women and didn't really like men but once you were introduced, you were left alone. All the same he would sniff me each morning rather like a police officer frisking a suspect.

Now back at home Jane has put her metaphorical feet up and is safely ensconced in her special bag till our next trip. The interesting thing about my travels is that not once did I get shouted at or hooted at in the four countries we drove through. Admittedly there was a bit of a confrontation in one large city where I obviously misread the traffic lights but it was at worst angry looks and defiant shrugs of the shoulder. I was clearly not such a bad driver after all. At least that was what I thought. The day following our return we made our pilgrimage by car to the local supermarket and in the space of ten minutes I had fists waved at me and was hooted at three times. Really, these English motorists!

Alan Townend

Dear Friend,

How does my current newsletter strike you? Have you ever experienced anything like that? What I mean is, do you always know where you are going? What about GPS, have you ever tried it? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Please use the forum to get in touch with me and your fellow newsletter readers. Here is the right place to do so: http://www.english-test.net/forum/ftopic18865.html

My turnSmall talk
Spring has sprungMay I have a word?
Hope to hear from you!The way they say it
Do you know where you''re going?Is that English you''re speaking?
Things are hotting upGive a dog a bad name
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