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Woman: So is the course living up to your expectations?
Man: Yes, I have no real issues with it really. I wasn’t sure initially whether I’d like the fact that there’s this mixture of classes with the group and one-to-one sessions online with the tutors, but actually I’ve come round to thinking it’s the real strength of the course, don’t you agree?
Woman: Undoubtedly. I mean, that’s why I went for it in the first place. It’s nice to meet the staff and other students, but it’s the personal attention by email that you want.  Although I must say, some of the staff are more helpful than others.
Man: But the group lessons are useful too.
Woman: Oh yes. Some people complained about the fact that you get face-to-face feedback on project work in them, that it wastes class time, but I have no problem with that. But the sessions are the only chance we get to use some of the more sophisticated software. I mean, they did make it clear in the pre-course information that we’d only have limited access to that, but I still think it’s a shame we can’t come in and use it out of class time. 
Man: Yes, I agree.
Woman: So basically, as a seasoned traveller, you must have got packing off to a fine art.
Man: I’m not that great at travelling light, simply because anything can – and often does – happen, and I like to feel fully prepared. So I’m a complete sucker for gadgets and gizmos, and I have a bag-load of stuff that I take with me. I’m still looking for the ideal rucksack or carry-on actually . And, of course, I’ve always got my iPod for those long days on the road when you don’t know how long you might be hanging around waiting for transport.
Woman: So what have you learnt from travelling?
Man: Well, I guess it’s a cliché, but the more you see of other cultures, the more you come to appreciate your own. I don’t mean that I miss the comforts of home or anything like that. More that I’ve got the opportunity to travel and see the world because I’ve got folks back home in a wealthy western culture to pick up the tab if things go wrong. I mean, without that – and a lot of people you meet don’t have that – would I ever have had the courage to do half the things I’ve done? I doubt it somehow .
Woman: Now, you’ve come in for a lot of stick, haven’t you, in response to your latest album?
Man: Everyone went nuts about the cover. We knew it might cause some controversy, but I didn’t think it was that outrageous.  We just had this slogan which read ‘No Cover Art;’ like the Beatles did the white album all those years ago – the first one with no picture on the cover. But predictably, I guess, we got all these irate bloggers going overboard in dismissing it and one newspaper included it in a list of the worst album covers ever. Actually, I reckon it’s quite endearing the way it was done.
Woman: But is this because these people don’t like the music?
Man: Well, there is a certain snobbery out there and I reckon these are people who don’t regard us as cool or whatever. But I don’t think that’s what lies behind it actually. I reckon the problem stemmed from the fact that we were misquoted in the first piece written about it. It said that I wanted to kill album artwork, which is just so far off the mark. What we actually wanted to do was draw people’s attention to it. For them to have a look round and see that it’s mostly rubbish .
Kerry: Hi. My name’s Kerry, and the topic of my presentation this evening is a bird called the swift. For people living in most of Europe, the swift’s a familiar bird. But it only stays in the northern hemisphere for a few weeks each summer. The rest of the year it spends in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, one of the best known facts about this incredible bird is that it has one of the longest migrations of any living creature.
The other incredible fact is that a swift spends most of its life in the air, where it eats, drinks and sleeps, only landing to build a nest and raise its young. Indeed, the name of the bird in German translates to ‘wall-glider’ in English, whereas its Latin name means ‘without feet’ , both reflecting the fact that the bird never seems to touch the ground.
In Europe, swifts are a familiar sight, wheeling around high up on summer evenings, making a lot of noise. But swifts don’t produce a song, like some birds, nor do they go tweet tweet. Instead they produce what can only be called a scream.  You must have heard it!
Swifts are not large birds, but they have a very characteristic shape in flight. Some people say this reminds them of a new moon, and the bird’s certainly crescent shaped with a very noticeable forked tail . But for me, the thing that comes to mind when I see a swift is a boomerang; you know, the thing made and thrown by traditional peoples in Australia.
So, swifts come to Europe to breed and they often make their nests in buildings, especially chimneys and for some reason, ancient monuments. Because they can’t land, the swifts’ nests need to be in places from which they can launch themselves into the air. Probably cliffs were their original preference, but even out of town, these days they tend to go for man-made places like quarries. 
As you’d expect, leaves and grasses are used to build the nests, but even here the link with humans is evident as amazingly paper is often used , together with less surprising things like the feathers of other birds. These materials the swift probably catches in flight.
Because they never land, swifts are very vulnerable to bad weather and, in Europe, retreat to their nest sites during periods of rain or high wind. I was once lucky enough to observe a large group of swifts travelling at great speed to get out of the way of a thunderstorm.  It was an awesome sight that I’ll never forget.
As I said, swifts only spend a short time in Europe each year, generally June and July, with even the newborn birds making the incredibly long journey to Africa in about 48 hours.
One strange fact I discovered in my research is that once it gets back to Africa, the bird is silent ; people there being unaware of that characteristic call.
Swifts have always fascinated people, especially because the birds have always been attracted to towns and buildings. Traditionally in Europe, the bird was used as a symbol by the younger sons of wealthy families who, without land to inherit, were destined to wander the globe . I like that.