So, what did you do at the weekend? 2

Rennes Air Show 2010

Rennes airshow 2010

BC: What did you do at the weekend Romain?

Romain:I went to Rennes airport to see an air show which commemorated The Battle of Britain from World War 2.

BC:Did you have a good time?

Romain:Oh, yes, it was great! It was really beautiful watching the planes moving in the sky, in 3D, in freedom.

 Red Arrows at Rennes

BC:What sort of planes did they have there?

Romain:There were old war planes, such as the Spitfire, the Zero and the Messerschmitt. There were also acrobatic demonstrations by the Rennes aero club instructor and the French Air Force acrobatics team. They had old planes such as the DC-3, and Air Force planes such as the TBM 200 and the Rafale.

BC:As the air show was to commemorate The Battle of Britain, were there any other British planes there, apart from the Spitfire?

Romain: Yes, the famous Red Arrows were there! They are considered to be the best aeronautical acrobatic team in the world so it was an honour to see them. During the demonstration one of the pilots stayed down to explain the different acrobatic figures, and as the Red Arrows came in front of us he said through the microphone: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are proud to present THE ENGLISH RED ARROWS!”

Red Arrows Rennes air show

BC: You took some very good pictures too, I see.

Romain: Yes, I took a lot of photos. It was a wonderful day out which I’ll never forget and I’d like to thank all the demonstrators who took part. One day, I hope that I’ll be on the other side of the barrier – because I really love flying too and my aim is to become a professional pilot.

BC: Thanks for telling us about your weekend, Romain - and I hope your dream of becoming a pilot comes true!

To have a little taste of the Rennes Air Show which took place on 25th & 26th September 2010, click on the link below. The Red Arrows performance comes at the end of the clip. It's certainly worth watching.

Historical note: The Battle of Britain was the name given to the air campaign (Luftwaffe against the Royal Air Force) which took place over the English Channel and the Home Counties (Surrey, Sussex, Kent) between 10th July & 31st October 1940. For more information about this decisive battle, click on the link below:


So, what did you do at the weekend? 1.

Weekend of Sat 9th & Sun 10th Oct 2010

Bronwen: So, what did you do at the weekend, Florian?

Florian: I went to Bordeaux to surf the mascaret

Bronwen: Sorry? You went to Bordeaux to do what?

Florian: To surf the MASCARET

Bronwen: What’s that?

Florian: It’s a special wave in the river which comes every month for 2 or 3 days, twice a day and you can surf on it for 4 or 5 minutes. This month it was on Saturday and Sunday.

Bronwen: Hang on – are you telling me that you went surfing in a river?

Florian: Yes, in the river Dordogne.

Bronwen: How is that possible?

Florian: It’s a tidal phenomenon which happens once a month. It happens when the water is shallow in the river combined with a high tide. I filmed it – I’ll send it to you, if you like.

And here is Florian’s film which he took while on a surfboard on the river travelling at about 30Km/hour.

Bronwen: That’s amazing, but the water looks really filthy!

Florian: The water is brown due to the earth from the river bed.

Bronwen: What happened at the end? Did you fall in?

Florian: Yes, you have to fall in the water to stop yourself, otherwise there will be a very long swim or walk back up the river to the car park.

Bronwen: So, are you going to do it again?

Florian: Yes, in fact I’ll probably go again next month.

Bronwen: Thank you, Florian, for telling us about your weekend.

A Postcard from Cornwall

Hello everyone!

Are you all having a lovely holiday? Richard & I are in Cornwall at the moment. It is a wonderful place with a rugged coastline; crashing Atlantic waves; tiny fishing villages; stories of pirates & witches; pretty pubs; Cornish Cream Teas; lovely, golden, sandy beaches and fabulous restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.

We are staying with friends who live in a fishing village called Padstow. It is a very lively place with lots of shops and restaurants, the most famous (and expensive) being “The Seafood Restaurant” which is owned by Rick Stein who is a famous chef with his own TV series.

the seafood restaurant, Padstow

However, the cheapest place to eat in the UK is in the pub. Good “pub grub” can be found in most villages. English pubs are usually very friendly, comfortable places and the food is usually home cooked. In Padstow, the pubs compete to be the most charming. Which of these three would you choose to go to?

padstow pub

padstow pub

padstow pub

You can take the ferry over to Rock, and if you are lucky you might see Prince William & his friends there.

padstow ferry

The beaches are lovely! (This photo was taken from Rock looking over to Padstow)

cornish beach

Don't forget your bucket and spade!

buckets and spades

There is also a very pretty little church in Rock which was entirely covered in sand in the 1800s. It was rediscovered after a storm revealed the spire of the church.

In the graveyard is the final resting place of Sir John Betjeman, who was a famous British poet. (In fact I had to study his poetry for my English exams at secondary school!)

church at Rock

Returning to Padstow, you will always find some sort of street entertainment to watch and listen to, as the port is very lively.

street entertainment Padstow

padstow, the port

There is also a large and majestic hotel which serves wonderful Cornish Cream Teas. The cream is special Cornish clotted cream which is really delicious.

cornish cream teas

 cream tea

Further up the coast are two interesting villages.

Boscastle: which is famous for its witches!
There is a Museum of Witchcraft. Outside the door the sign says “Witches, please park your brooms here.”

Boscastle 1.jpg

Boscastle 2.jpg

Boscastle 3.jpg

Boscastle shop.jpg

BC 2.jpg

But the most famous Cornish village is probably Tintagel, which is visited by thousands of tourists every year from all over the world as it is the centre of Arthurian legend. You can climb over the ruins of the 12th Century castle which juts out to sea. However this castle was built on an even older one, which is claimed to be the home of King Uther Pendragon and his son, King Arthur.

Tintagel castle

Tintagel castle


This is the church in Tintagel.

church, Tintagel

And this is the old post office.

Tintagel, old post office

See you soon,
Love from Bronwen

Travel Info: To get to Cornwall, go with Brittany Ferries from Roscoff to Plymouth. It takes about one and a half hours in the car to reach the northern Cornish coast. Weather: variable - take swimsuits and rain macs! Good walking shoes are also essential as the coastline is very rugged.

Mini Sagas 2

Here are the Mini Sagas which have been written by English Connection students.
As I explained in a previous post, Mini Sagas are a complete story in exactly 50 words.
We hope you enjoy them!

Soulmates by Jeanne

Blind Naina and Officer Toby had been childhood sweethearts before marrying one Christmas Eve.
One day Toby disappeared, leaving Naina shattered.
As years passed by she befriended an old beggar who seemed strangely familiar.
But that Christmas Eve the beggar had left. All that was found was his wedding ring.

A Flat Tyre by Frédérique

I was already late. I started my car and drove fast. Suddenly I lost control and the car ran over something which burst the tyre. I got out of my car and discovered the cause of the puncture. I was extremely angry.
The idiot had a bottle in his pocket!!

The Storm by Alice

The night was rainy and windy but everything was too quiet in my flat. Suddenly I heard a terrible noise. I jumped out of bed and switched on the light. In front of me, everything was on the floor. What’s going on?

Only my cat knocking things from the shelf!

The Storm by Claire

I was walking along a railway track in spite of a terrible storm.
An unbelievable gale uprooted a tree which fell on me. I was nearly unconscious and stuck in the middle of train lines! Suddenly a loud whistle... GOD! The train!

“Cut. That’s it for today”, said The Director.

The Holiday By Anne-Sophie

She was so excited! For her fortieth birthday, her husband offered her a trip to Marrakech with her best friend. A last check to her luggage; is everything ok? She arrived at the airport and joyfully met her friend.
But who is crying? No! Her daughter is having a nightmare…

Bad – Worse – Worst by Sophie

One day a ripe apple looked down and saw some cow dung right under her tree. “I don’t want to fall on you”, she said to the dung, “You are repulsive!” Finally, she fell next to it, but was swallowed by the cow. “See you soon!” the dung said mischievously.

An Unforgettable Holiday (a true story) by Armelle

A couple wanted to see their son in Thailand. They even managed to buy some low cost tickets so they arrived happily at the check-in desk.
“Sorry, these tickets aren’t valid because the plane left yesterday.”
They had got the day wrong and had to buy two full price tickets!

The English Lesson By Bronwen (because I enjoy writing Mini Sagas too!)

The English teacher frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. The students were working in absolute silence; some were reading, some were writing, some were looking in a dictionary. Everyone was occupied, so what was on earth was wrong? She checked her timetable. Yes, she thought so…
This was a CONVERSATION class!

The Holiday By Marie

Today is D-day. We’re going to leave the house for summer with all the family, cat and dog too. Right! Is everybody in the car? Here we are, so let’s go!
At lunch time, after driving 100 kilometres, we stop for a picnic. And that’s when we notice…

No luggage!

The Storm by Brigitte

She sat down on a paradise beach. The sun was shining, the landscape was marvelous. Suddenly the wind got up. It was raining cats and dogs and the sea was raging. She stood up, but a huge wave knocked her over. She shouted and….woke up!
It was just a nightmare.

Science Teacher’s Revenge by Bronwen (For Gilles – who I hope will enjoy his retirement!)

It was his last day. He had worked in the same dusty old place for 30 years and the most galling thing of all was that his replacement was going to walk in to a new, shiny, cutting edge laboratory.
Suddenly, a thunderous “BOOOOOOMMM!!!”

He’d always wanted to do that!

Now here come two really good ones......

The Star By Sabrina

I filmed myself singing in my bubble bath:
“I’m much sexier than Carla Bruni / I’d put Sarkozy in my hot Jacuzzi”

I put this music video on You Tube. A few days later I became an Internet Star!

And Nicolas Sarkozy personally phoned me…..and asked when we could meet.

And the winner is.....

Till Death Do Us Part By Aurore

Her husband was very sick. She sat by him and he said: “You were there to support me through everything; when I got fired, when my business failed, when I got shot, when we lost the house, and when I got sick...... You know what?......

You bring me bad luck!”

Aurore, who is in "seconde", wins a FABULOUS English Connection prize! (She laughed when she saw it - I wonder what that can mean??!!)

Thank you to everyone who participated in this exercise. I look forward to Mini Sagas 3 this time next year.

Mini Sagas Part 1

A Mini Saga is a complete story, often with a twist in the tail which is composed of EXACTLY 50 words. Contractions count as one word. The English must be grammatically correct.

Here’s an example:

Revenge by Bronwen

Maria had wanted her husband dead for years. She smiled wickedly as he poured out the tea she had poisoned.
Neither of them spoke. “Go on”, she thought, “Drink it!”
She finished her own cup of coffee, which tasted strangely bitter.
For Stephano had wanted her dead for years too!

Last year, English Connection students studying at B2 wrote some excellent Mini sagas. Here are two examples:

Never Again is by Gilles:

Outstanding wines were maturing in Charles’ cellar. Unfortunately, some bottles had a sour taste. Charles was disappointed. Suddenly, a brilliant idea came to his mind. He’ll give them to John!
Later, Charles was invited to John’s party. Coming back home, Charles was frantic.
John had served the wine he’d given...

And A Holiday Romance is by Frédérique

I was alone on a heavenly beach. Suddenly, a beautiful man came towards me. I immediately fell in love at first sight. We started a friendly conversation and we became, in the course of the holiday, extremely close.
Naturally we exchanged phone numbers.
Back home, I called him.
Wrong number!

It’s time for a new collection of Mini Sagas. Send them to me at and I’ll publish the best in Part 2 of MINI SAGAS.

PS: A story with a "Twist in the tail" is a story which has an unexpected or surprising end.

Advanced English Vocabulary

Find a word or an expression in the article below on British Politics which mean the following:

a) In debt
b) Currently holding a post or position
c) It became clear or obvious; people understood
d) Refusing to believe or accept something
e) To ridicule
f) Hard bargaining or negotiating
g) To hate each other
h) To have to make a very difficult choice
i) To win affection/seduce into marriage
j) The result
k) Something that everyone knows although the information is private
l) Make a decision
m) Promises
n) Backwards & forwards
o) To be disapproving but saying nothing
p) A sudden amount of movement/agitation/bustling
q) To formally agree to a law or contract
r) Small format newspaper written in an informal style

Answers next Friday (21st May)

A postcard from Miami

Student article by Jean-Michel studying at B1

Hello from Miami...

During the Easter holidays, we went to Florida. Why Miami? Several reasons: First, I have an old friend who has lived there since 2000, he works in Fort Lauderdale just near Miami, and I haven’t seen him for 10 years.
Second: after this cold and very long winter all the family wanted to be warm and have sun and beaches ... and the last reason is because we have another friend (American) who lives in Sarasota on the Gulf Coast.

Fort Lauderdale beach

Florida is a pleasant place, because the landscapes are very different between the cities, the Everglades, the Keys, the Gulf Coast. The distances are very great and we travelled many miles.
Miami is a dynamic city. It's a holiday destination, for many people in USA and also in the world. There are a lot of cafés, restaurants, beautiful hotels, clubs etc. The nightlife is very intense!


A traditional “Baywatch” on the Miami beach;


Key West, the town where Ernest Hemingway lived.

Our car (a beautiful Ford Mustang ...) near two trucks on the Everglades road between Miami and Naples on the Gulf Coast

Ocean Blvd, Miami's historical district

From our appartment in South Beach

As you can see we went to Miami to have sun and we got clouds and rain ... but happily not all the time.

Next destination San Francisco ...

Best regards,


A postcard from Brittany

We have started to get visitors to our site from many different countries so "hello, hi, how are you?" to new friends from all around the world!

Wherever you are from and whether you are learning English or are a native English speaker, you are most welcome to read our blog where you will find articles written by the students and teachers at English Connection.

A Postcard from Brittany is going to be a regular spot especially for you to show you a little bit of Breton life. So, please, do come back and visit us again some time.

A postcard from Brittany 1

Hello from Brittany in North West France!
Here, when you go shopping on a Saturday afternoon, you just never know who or what you might see.



I’ll send you another card from Brittany soon!

Love from Bronwen xxx

La Cirque du Soleil

La Cirque du Soleil - Une nouvelle forme d’art du cirque et une nouvelle expression artistique.
by Alexander studying at level B1

The “Cirque du Soleil” is a new form of circus art that was invented in Canada in 1982. Since the beginning the artists have looked for a new circus art form and a new expression.
Last week, they were in Nantes in the Zenith Metropolitan for three days only. The “Circus of the Sun” thinks up special shows which resembles a piece of theatre with special wardrobe, sets, choreography and numbers.
They have 12 pieces in their repertoire and they perform around the world with great success.

In Nantes, they decided to show the “piece” called “Saltimbinco” which was created in 1992. The event was absolutely riveting.

This show was entirely dancing and every number was choreographed. The set was decorated in such a way that the audience had the impression of watching a never-ending show. The movement was continuous and the wardrobe matched the decoration for every number.

There were traditional numbers that reminded me of a street circus. For example: juggling, trapezes, acrobats, clowns… but one difference was there also was a singer and a rock band that played throughout the show. A second difference is that there are no animals in the numbers, no dogs, cats, horses and naturally no lions or tigers.

It was a very exciting experience to see this new form of circus and the night was very nice.

How to pass FCE ... WRITING

The writing paper consists of two parts: There is a compulsory question in Part 1
and one question from a choice of 5 in Part 2. Each question carries equal marks.
You have 1 hour 20 minutes to complete the task.
The aim of the exam is to establish that you are able to write in different styles and that you understand the concept of “register”. (If you don’t know what this is – see below.)
You should start to practice the different tasks as soon as you have decided to take the exam and it is a good idea to create a writing file.
In the writing file you should keep all the writing work you have done yourself as well as examples of good English, such as model letters or reports. You could also add magazine articles or a short stories.

What is “register”?
Register is the correct style of writing (and speaking) for the situation. You don’t speak to your boss or your bank manager in the same way as you speak to your friend, do you? You use different words for different people: “I apologise” to your boss, and “I’m sorry” to your friend.
We do the same thing when we are writing. You write an e-mail to a friend in a very different way to writing a covering letter for a job.
So the “register” is the choice of vocabulary plus the style of writing (formal or informal).

When you are writing your letter or report, you should think about the person who is READING it. The exam question will tell you to write to a friend, or to your teacher or for a school magazine (so the readers will be students in this case).
The examiner will consider himself as the reader (your friend, your colleague, a magazine reader or the Director who asked for the report.)
So, don’t think, “Oh, I’ve got to write 120 – 180 words for an exam.”
Think: “I have to write a 120 – 180 word report for my boss.” Or, “I’m writing a magazine article for teenagers.”
Imagine that the situation is REAL.
Before writing you should brainstorm your ideas & organize your answer. When you are satisfied with your ideas write your answer as clearly as possible. You will get zero points if the examiner can’t read your writing.

The exam:
Part 1: This compulsory question asks you to write a letter or an e-mail. You will be given information (from an advert, a letter, an e-mail, a schedule etc) and other notes which you need to read carefully before you start to answer the question.
Use all the information you are given but do not simply recopy it. Add some ideas of your own.
Don’t write any addresses for letters & e-mails.

Formal letter: Do not use contractions. Use a formal register : Dear Mr & Mrs Smith (not “Mister” & “Missus”)
I am writing for further information about…
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,

Informal letter, for example to a friend: use contractions and a bit of chit-chat to make the letter seem real (Hi, how are you? How’s your family? I haven’t seen them for ages!) but get to the point of the letter quickly.
Be natural : Just thought I’d drop you a line to tell you that…/ to ask if you could…../ to see what you think about…./
Finish with an expression such as: Hope to hear from you soon/ I’ll be in touch/ Can you let me know as soon as possible? Then: Love, (if you are a girl or VERY good friends) or Best regards, (men)
Don’t write “kisses”. If you want to express a kiss, do it like this: Love from Jenny, XXX

E-mails are semi-formal, somewhere between the two, even if it is about business. Start with Dear --- & finish with Best regards or Kind regards. You can use contractions, but don’t use “text” language. For example, don’t write “C U L8TER” (see you later).

Part 2 The options may include: an article, a story, a report, a review, an essay or another letter.
Letter: If you choose this option, read the instructions carefully. It will tell you to write “in the appropriate style”. If the compulsory letter was informal, this one will probably be formal & vice-versa. Make sure you get the style & register right.

Story: You are often given a sentence to start or finish your story. Eg: “It was midnight and I was all alone in the house. Suddenly someone knocked loudly on the door.”
Or “Without saying a word, John got up and walked out of the room.”
If you enjoy telling stories, then this is a good choice for you. If you have no imagination and you have never practised writing a story before, choose another option.
You should be able to use the story telling tenses: simple past; past continuous; past perfect; past perfect continuous.
There should also be plenty of descriptive adjectives .Use absolute adjectives where possible. For example, don’t say “big”, say “enormous”; don’t say “dirty” say “absolutely filthy”.
You should also use adverbs: suddenly, amazingly, unbelievably…

Click on the link below to go to an American website which has short stories which have been written by amateur (but native speaker) writers. It might give you some ideas.

Essay: This is the classic piece of writing demanded by schools everywhere. It should have an introduction, a clear development or discussion of the subject and a conclusion which gives your opinion. The essay should include your reasons for your opinion and you should give examples which can be from your own experience, from historical or scientific facts, from current affairs etc. Use a formal style, good linking words, make sure there is a logical progression and don’t repeat yourself.

If you do not know what linking words are, ask me for a list of them.

Article: If you enjoy reading magazines & newspapers and you have noticed the journalistic style of writing, then this could be a good choice, but it is quite difficult to do well. Magazine articles use journalistic headlines and sub-headings. They often use rhetorical questions. You must get the reader’s full attention and give some opinion or comment.

Review: This is to describe and give a personal opinion of a book, a film, a restaurant, a holiday, a website… Use your own experience and conclude with your recommendation. There are examples of book, film & restaurant reviews on this blog which I suggest you have a look at. Keep the register formal or semi formal.

Report: This option usually demands factual information which you should present in a clear, logical way. Use subheadings, don’t use contractions and make sure you control your tenses. Is the report about something which happened in the past or which is going to happen at some future date? You can invent some data or statistics to make the report seem real (eg: the vast majority of students (85%) were in favour of ….). Your personal recommendation can be given throughout the report or in conclusion at the end of the report.

Finally, there is a question about a set text (a book). Do not answer this question unless you have studied the book with your English teacher. English Connection students should never choose this option as we do NOT study for it.

Marking system:
When you understand how the exam is marked, you can get a better result.

There are 5 bands. I have written a simplified version of what the examiners are looking for. The University of Cambridge examiners have a much more detailed list which is too long to publish here.

Band 1:Lack of organization, lack of vocabulary, lack of control of grammar, irrelevant answer, question not understood, no understanding of register.
Band 2: Although the task is attempted, communication is limited, many errors make it difficult to understand, poorly organized, register inconsistent.
Band 3: All content points are included, ideas are properly organized, linking words used, correct register is attempted, errors will be present but will not stop the reader from understanding.
Band 4: Ideas are clearly organized & linked together. All points are included, shows good range of vocabulary & structure, an understanding of the appropriate register is demonstrated and is consistent. Grammatical or spelling mistakes do not stop the reader from understanding.
Band 5: The candidate’s writing full achieves the task. All points are included and expanded. Synonyms are used showing a wide range of structures and a rich vocabulary. Errors are few, do not stop understanding & are probably due to ambitious attempts at difficult structures. The register is consistent and appropriate to task.

One more thing. Have you noticed that throughout this article on FCE writing (which is about 1,500 words, by the way) I have only used an exclamation mark once and I have not found it necessary to use the word “indeed” at all.
Would all lycée students please note that we do not want to see “indeed” used four times in 180 words and we don’t want to see more than two exclamation marks in your text either.

I hope this information will help you to achieve a Band 4 or Band 5 result.

There will soon be examples of reports, stories, essays and articles at FCE (B2) level on this blog, as well as a writing competition, so come and visit it often.