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This is a Reading Book for those who want to improve their English. There are two things that, as an author, I have taken into account while writing:
(1) It uses real, everyday English.
In other words, the type of conversation you would hear in day-to-day life. Most reading books are based on a word count according to the reader’s level. This limit makes the language sound artificial, and does not reflect normal, daily interaction.
(2) The reader must interact with the story.
I wanted more than just a reading book .In the story there are 21 pictures. Each one with an activity that enables the reader to put his English into practice. At the end of the book there is an in-depth explanation of certain aspects of grammar and use of English that appear in the story, together with exercises to extend your vocabulary.
There are also three articles – the first, a practical account of how to improve your English with simple habits – and two more about historical and cultural aspects of the story that the reader may not know. And to finish – a complete audio file of the story!
- And so, what is the storyline?
A sleepy town in the south-east of England wins the local football final. But the next morning people discover that the trophy has disappeared during the celebrations. Fingers are pointed: Was it stolen by Rodney, the local hooligan? Bob, the team captain? Or was it Ayaan, the town’s golden boy?
Luckily Aethelflaed – the librarian’s dyslexic daughter – is not as stupid as people think…
Aethelflaed and the Missing Trophy
In Davingstock nothing ever happened, so people were always excited when it did.
On the day of the big match Aethelflaed was having lunch with her brother and father in their cramped1 little terraced2 house, and Athelstan was explaining to his father what all the fuss3 was about. Alfred Jones made a point4 of ignoring the news, and generally knew much more about events twelve centuries earlier than those of the previous week.
Athelflaed was not usually interested in football either, although now that her friend Samantha’s brother was the local team’s goalkeeper she was happy to make an exception. In fact, she had planned to meet up with5 her after lunch to get the best seats for the game. If Samantha found Aethelflaed’s sudden interest in football surprising, she made no mention of it.
“I’m off.6” Aethelflaed said “I’m picking up Sam and Nat on the way to the stadium. Are you coming Stan?” She asked her brother.
“No, you go ahead. I haven’t finished eating. I’ll see you there.”
Aethelflaed lived only about a five minute walk from the stadium, but her friends Natalia and Samantha lived at different points of Davingstock, so she had to leave early, not that she was bothered7. Aethelflaed didn’t mind walking.
No sooner had she8 stepped out of the front door when she bumped into her next-door neighbour, Rodney, who was a tough-looking twenty-year old. Beside him was his friend Gary, as always with his cowboy hat and clothes, cigarette, and a generally dodgy9 look about him.
Aethelflaed didn’t know so much about Gary, apart from the fact that he was old Scroogey’s son. In a town full of oddballs10, Scoogey stood out from11 all the rest, living in a boat on the water, surrounded by piles of junk he fished up from the river. Apart from Gary, nobody had spoken to Scroogey for years.
As far as she knew, Rodney was Gary’s only friend. People steered clear of12 Gary. If the father was strange, then his son must be too. Rodney was generally seen as a bit dodgy too, but to be fair, Aethelflaed knew all about being the talk of the town. She was well aware that, due to her own learning problems, she was considered the dunce13 of the town. Logically, she made a point of ignoring the local gossip.
1 = Without much space to move
2 A terrace is a line of houses. A terraced house is one of these, connected on both sides.
3 This has a lot of meanings. Here: scandal, excitement, expectation…
4 To make a point is to be obvious about something because you want people to know.
5 ‘meet up with’ is used specifically for social situations, not business.
6 = ‘I’m leaving’
7 ‘She can’t be bothered’ would mean that she doesn’t want to / doesn’t feel like doing something, but here ‘She’s not bothered’ means that she doesn’t mind.
8 This is an inversion: Read this article in Profesor Nativo Gratis for the full explanation.
9 = Suspicious-looking, not trustworthy.
10 = A strange or eccentric person.
11 To stand out from is to be more noticeable than the rest.
12 To steer clear of is to avoid somebody or something.
13 The dunce was the traditional name for the least intelligent student of the class.
Aethelflaed walked towards the town centre, past the library where her father worked. Rather than walking into the town square she turned left at the roundabout and carried on down to the traffic lights at the end of the road.
She could have hooked1 right at this point, but instead decided to cross the footbridge over the railway and go around the back of the station turning left to stop in front of Natalia’s house.
Natalia’s parents were at their restaurant, and she was at home alone. They walked together through the back garden and turned right, under the tunnel and carried straight on along the alleys, past the theatre until reaching the square. Here they turned left, and then right at the roundabout. Samantha was waiting for them outside her house. Aethelflaed was never too sure what Samantha’s parents did for a living, but they had one of the best houses in Davingstock, with a garden next to the water, where their boat was moored2.
1 = turned (when talking about directions)
2 = when you tie a boat up so it doesn’t move.
Athelflaed considered Natalia and Samantha the worst friends any girl could have, and wasn’t shy to tell them so. She wasn’t the only one to think that she was plain1 in comparison. People suspected that they only hung out with2 Aethelflaed just to look even more stunning3. Samantha’s beauty spot and Natalia’s lovely curls was Nature’s way of rubbing it in4.
In any case Aethelflaed considered that the opposite was also true, and that after ten minutes’ conversation with Natalia and Samantha any boy would sigh with relief5 to see Athelflaed’s arrival, knowing she would liven things up immediately. That’s what she liked to think, anyway.
Samantha had wavy blonde hair, but often chose to wear it in a ponytail, braids, or pigtails6. Today she had her hair loose back behind a long blue blouse – patterned at the base – and some cream shorts. A casually wrapped neck scarf and belt around the waist were the finishing touches.
Apart from her beauty, Natalia was the opposite to Samantha in almost every sense. With a Spanish mother and Brazilian father, she had dark curly hair and a permanent tan. Athelflaed had known both of them since nursery7, and the three were inseparable.
When they arrived, the whole area around the stadium had a festival atmosphere, full of food stalls8, music, flags and the round and cheerful face of the captain in a Che Guevara pose: ‘Yes, we can!’ screamed one giant poster, and another: ‘Now is the time!’. Everyone was talking, no-one was listening, and hardly anyone noticed.
And all for a good reason! For weeks the Davingstock Times had spoken of ‘Davingstock’s Greatest Moment of Sporting Glory’, or in other words, the North Kent Football Cup Final. As Athelstan had breathlessly explained to his father: “Davingstock will be famous for more than 50 miles around!!”
1 = not especially attractive, boring in a physical sense.
2 To ‘hang out with’ is to be seen with, or spend time with somebody.
3 = amazingly beautiful. It can be used to talk about landscapes, nature…
4 = emphasize or draw attention to something to make somebody feel bad.
5 A ‘sigh of relief’ is when you breathe out in the moment you see yourself escape from an unpleasant situation.
6 These are ways of styling your hair. If you tie your hair back in one piece, this is a ponytail. If you tie two or more smaller pieces of hair, these are pigtails. Braids are when you tie together three separate pieces of hair (like Elsa from ‘Frozen’)
7 A place where people look after children aged 1 – 5.
8 = the small ‘shop’ in markets and fairs.
Not that this was a golden generation of footballers, though. In one match the rival team had a perfectly decent goal disallowed by the referee1. In the next Davingstock Rovers FC spent the full 120 minutes desperately defending before winning on penalties. The last match had only been won when the rival team got two players sent off, but who cared? They were in the final, and against the champions, Maidstone!
The girls had to push their way through the crowd to get in. The stadium was already filling up. Samantha stopped in front of the halfway line, looking for three empty seats.
“Why don’t we sit nearer the goal?” suggested Aethelflaed “So you can support your brother, I mean.”
Natalia giggled2, but Samantha made no sign of surprise. “We’re better off here in the middle.” she replied “Remember the goalkeepers switch sides at half-time.”
“Oh, do they?” Aethelflaed realised she knew nothing about football. She needed to catch on3 quick.
“Tell us who the players are.” asked Natalia “That’s Bob the captain…..”
“He looks bit old and chunky4 to be playing football…..” commented Aethelflaed “He must play really well!”
“He’s hopeless.” Samantha laughed “but he gets on5 well with everybody in the team, and he’s always cheerful, so that’s why he was chosen to be captain – and a captain has to play…….”
“I suppose so, but it’s a strange sort of logic.”
“…In fact, the only players who are any good are Ayaan and my brother. The rest are awful. If it wasn’t for Dean’s saves, we wouldn’t have passed the first round.” Samantha beamed6. She was incredibly proud of her brother. They got on very well.
“And Ayaan?” exclaimed Natalia “Where’s Ayaan? He scores all the goals…..”
“He’s not playing. He had to go out with the RNLI9” Samantha replied calmly.
“You knew he was a lifeboat volunteer…..”
“Well, it was nice when it lasted……” sighed Natalia “we can stop dreaming now. If Ayaan’s not playing, forget it!”
1 = the person who controls the match, to make sure the players follow the rules.
2 If you imagine two children laughing at the back of the class, hoping that the teacher won’t hear, this is a ‘giggle’: when you try to control your laughter.
3 = to understand
4 = a more diplomatic way of saying ‘fat’. You can also use this for objects with a slightly square shape – chunky chips, a chunk of meat….
5 = to have a good relationship with somebody.
6 = to give a very open, wide, beautiful smile.
7 = Royal National Lifeboat Institution. See the article at the end of the book.