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Elephants, bananas and Aunty Ethel

I looked at my watch and saw that it was going backwards. 'That's OK,' I was thinking. 'If my watch is going backwards, then it means that it's early, so I'm not late for work at all.' And then I woke up. Again.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the story and do the exercises.

So, I was walking along the street on my way to work as usual, but for some reason I was in a hurry. I wasn't really sure why I was in a hurry. And then I realised that I was holding a banana in my hand. I didn't know why I was holding a banana in my hand, but I knew that the banana was really important for some reason. The banana had something to do with the reason that I was late and in a hurry. It was a really important banana, only I didn't know why the banana was so important. Then I met my Aunty Ethel on the street corner. It was strange, because I hadn't seen Aunty Ethel for about twenty years.

'Hello!' I said to her. 'I haven't seen you for about twenty years!'

I was really surprised to see her, but she didn't seem surprised to see me.

'Be careful with that banana!' she said. And I laughed, because I knew that it was a really important banana and, yes, I had to be careful with it. Aunty Ethel decided to walk to work with me, which was a problem because I was late and in a hurry, and she walked really, really slowly. Then, when we went round the corner, there was an elephant blocking the street. It depends where you live, I guess, but in Manchester it's pretty strange to see an elephant blocking the street. The strange thing was, though, that I wasn't really that surprised. 'Oh no!' I was thinking. 'Another elephant blocking the street … what a pain! Especially this morning when I'm late and in a hurry, and with Aunty Ethel, and this really important banana …' Then I started to get really worried, and then … I woke up.

I breathed a sigh of relief. 'Thank goodness for that,' I thought. How strange dreams are … I wonder why I was dreaming about elephants and bananas and Aunty Ethel. The radio was already on. The radio comes on automatically at 7 o'clock to wake me up. I looked at the clock. It was already ten past seven. I had to get up quickly. I went into the shower, and I could hear the news on the radio. I couldn't hear it very well, but there was a story on the news about an elephant that had escaped from a local circus. The elephant was causing a lot of trouble walking around the town. I thought this was an incredible coincidence, but then I realised that I had probably heard the news story on the radio when I was half asleep. That was why I was dreaming about an elephant. I quickly got dressed and went into the kitchen to get some coffee before I went to work. I work for a film company. We get ideas for films and film scripts and then we try to produce the films. I thought a film about an elephant in Manchester would be great.

There was a note on the kitchen table. It was from my wife. 'Don't forget to buy bananas on your way home from work today!!!' it said. It was a good job she had written the note, because I had completely forgotten about the fact that she has to eat a lot of bananas because of the crazy diet she's on at the moment. I tried to remember to buy bananas on my way home from work and rushed out of the house. As I was walking down the road my mobile rang. It was my mum.

'Hello, Mum!' I said. 'What are you ringing at this time for?'

'I've got some sad news, I'm afraid, love,' she said. 'Do you remember your Aunty Ethel?'

'Just about,' I said. 'But I haven't seen Aunty Ethel for about twenty years.'

'Yes, well, she was very old … and I'm afraid she died last night. She'd been very ill … I told you a couple of weeks ago …'

'That's sad,' I said.

So there I was, walking down the street, late for work, thinking about Aunty Ethel and bananas and elephants, and of course I realised that it was all exactly the same as my dream. And as I started to think more about this, I realised I was walking more and more slowly, and I looked down and saw that the street was turning into hot, wet, sticky toffee, and it was sticking to my shoes, and the quicker I tried to walk, the slower I went. I looked at my watch and saw that my watch was going backwards. 'That's OK,' I was thinking. 'If my watch is going backwards, then it means that it's early and not late, so I'm not late for work at all …' And then I woke up. Again.

Now this was strange. This was very, very strange. I got up and pinched myself to make sure I was really awake this time. 'Ouch!' The pinch hurt. This meant I really was awake, and not dreaming this time. It was early. I wasn't late. The radio alarm clock hadn't come on yet. It was only half past six. My wife was still at home.

'Have you got enough bananas?' I asked her. She looked at me as if I was crazy.

'What do you mean "bananas"?' she asked.

'I thought you had to eat lots of bananas for your special diet …'

'I have no idea what you're on about!' she said. 'Why? Do you think I need to go on a diet? Do you mean that I'm fat?'

'No, no, no … not at all … By the way, have you heard anything about an elephant?'

'An elephant?'

'Yes, an elephant which has escaped from a circus …'

'We live in Manchester. There aren't any circuses in Manchester. And there certainly aren't any elephants. Listen, are you suffering from stress or something? You're working too hard on that new film you're trying to produce, aren't you? Perhaps you should just stay at home today, take it easy …'

'Perhaps you're right,' I said. 'I'll just phone my mum.'

'Why do you need to phone your mum at half past six in the morning?'

'Oh … nothing important,' I said.

'Well, I'm off to work. See you later, and take it easy today, OK?'


I phoned my mum.

'Hello, Mum!'

'Hello, love. What are you calling this early for?'

'Do you remember Aunty Ethel?'

'Of course I do … but I haven't seen her for about twenty years or so …'

'How is she?'

'I've got no idea. Why on earth are you worried about your Aunty Ethel who you haven't seen for twenty years?'

'Oh nothing … bye!'

I made a cup of tea and went back to bed. Perhaps my wife was right. Perhaps I should just relax and take it easy today. I phoned up my boss.

'Listen,' I said, 'I'm not feeling too good today … perhaps too much stress with the production schedule of the new film project …'

'That's a shame,' said my boss. 'We've just got a really exciting new idea for a film … I wanted to talk to you about it today. It's a kind of action movie. It's a great story. You have to hear this – an elephant escapes from a circus in a big city and it has eaten some strange, radioactive bananas, so it's going completely crazy. They eventually manage to stop the elephant by covering all the streets with sticky toffee, so that it can't walk!'

'I see,' I said. 'And where does my Aunty Ethel come into it?'

'Aunty who?'

I hung up the phone and hoped that I would wake up. Soon.

Chris Rose



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


The story is really good I enjoyed it a lot specially when i realized this thing happened to me a lot , i'm living in the university hostel so most of you know that attending morning classes are difficult,so it happened to me numerous time when I woke up and checked the time and it was early for class and then I slept but eventually when i wake up even my mobile was not with me from which i checked the time in my dreams. so because of this habit of mine i missed a lots of classes

hi guys, i have a question,how to get audio of these stories there is no option regarding that please guide me.

Or you can use some online services than naturally read the text for you.

Hello S.sajed,

I'm afraid there are no longer any audio recordings of our stories. The good news is that there are a lot of free listening resources available in our Listening section, and we plan to add even more soon.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, team!
I have a question about the sentence "I was really surprised to see her, " - it's just at the beginning.
Is it possible here to say "I was really surprised to have seen her"? What's the difference?

Hi Yshc,

'to have seen her' is grammatically correct, but in this context 'to see her' is the best form. If the writer had said 'to have seen her', it would put emphasis on him having seen her before the moment they met. That sort of distinction isn't important -- or could even be confusing -- in this context since he is still with her at this point in the action of the story.

If, for example, he saw his Aunty Ethel, then continued on his way and continued to reflect on his meeting with her, then 'to have seen her' would be the best form.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Ik is a funny story. it makes me laugh.
I don't remember my dreams. I think that's a good thing. :-)

Truly awesome story... Really enjoyed...

This short tale rememberd me an really strange dream i had some four yars ago, Taht later i had been told is colled "Lucid dreaming".

Well..That night, i went to sleep at my grandparents' home, as my grandmother was quite ill, and my presence there was just for preventative measure, just in case they would have needed some kind of help. For they both are very old.

First of all, I lied down on my bad and started sleeping, of course. My chamber was exatly beside their own room, and our rooms were connected each other by a door, whom had been left wide-opened. But the exit door was just in front of my bad, so that, if my grandparents had wanted get out of their room and head some other zone of the house, they would have had to pass over my bad and take that second door.

Was there that i dreamd this weird and fascinating dream:

I suddenly was woken up by a sudden noise, whom came exactly from the exit door which had just been closed an istant before. Therfore i told myself that someone had got out. But the strange thing was that upon the door closure, i could not hear no one step away. "That's weird and pritty disquieting", i thought. My body shiverd throughtout.
Now i was altogether awake, ad afraid olso. Though i was entirily frightend, i chose to get courage, get up and discover what was going on. It was dark all around, and the only thing i could see, was the profile of the exit door in front of me. But as soon as i approached i realized that the door was opened, complitly opened, and that the room beyond was enlightend by daylight and nobody was there. "How is it possible?! It's night! and it can't be possible that the sunlight is lighting up the room! Moreover I'm sure the door was effectively closed! Yet, I found it opened!". In that moment, as i reject that reality, I realized I was dreaming!
Thus I ran to the opposite door and reached the waiting room. Than i went on the terrace, and there i found the cospicuos evidence that i was in a dream: the terrace's railing was in flame! Then, as i was sure to be in a dream, i touched it, and it did not hurt! Wow! "I could do everything i would like to!" i thought: yes, i could have done things that i could't in a real world! That's noteworthy! And this brought me to excitement!
So, without any doubt, I jumped on the railing and threw myself, and with any struggle i landed. I look around, the landscape was as always. But i was aware that i could have done spectacular things, as well as fly, or run speedily! But, as soon as i got awere of my superpowers, i suddenly heard a sudden nois. It was the door which had been closed. My granddad had woke up, and was going downstairs for the brackfast. It was morning.


Well.. it's a funny story, yet vivid and thrills at the same time. Kind of the Inception's movie, which is dream in a dream at the big scene of dreams. And how the storyteller's told the story kind a funny, like a radio show. I like it.

Well, I have some strange dreams too. One is really strange when I was dreamed about another bad guy in town (who I didn't know) shot me right to the heart. It felt hurt, I mean even it was a dream, as soon I was wake up, my chest's hurt. I woke up and felt exhausted but I thank goodness that I was okay.

Thanks in advance..