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Listen to English podcasts are written and produced by Peter Carter, Birmingham, England.
Listen to English podcasts are distributed under a Creative Commons attribution-non-commercial-no-derivatives licence.

Lord Lucan cannot cope

Today I am going to tell you about Lord Lucan. But first we need to talk about the verb “to cope”.

Helen has three children. They are all less than five years old, which means that none of them is yet at school. Her husband often has to travel for his job, so he cannot help to look after the children. Helen’s mother lives in the next road, and Helen often has to go to visit her, and cook food for her, and clean her house. So, as you can see, Helen has some big difficulties in her life. She is under a lot of pressure. But Helen never lets her three children and her elderly mother get her down. She is always cheerful and smiling.

Often her friends ask her “How do you cope? How do you cope with three small children, a husband who is away, and an elderly mother?” “To cope” means to deal successfully with some big difficulties and pressures. We use the word “with” with “cope” – Helen copes with three small children and an elderly mother.

Here are some more examples. One of Kevin’s colleagues at work, Jack, is ill. So Kevin has to cope with 20 or 30 telephone calls every day which Jack would normally deal with. “I can’t cope”, Kevin says. “The telephone is always ringing and I don’t understand what they are talking about. I have no time to do my own work.” His boss however understands his problem. “You are coping fine,” he says. “It is only for a short time until Jack is back at work. I will ask someone else to do some of your work to help you to cope.”

Another example. Rosie has just gone to university. It is all very strange and new to her. She finds the work difficult, and she does not like some of her fellow students. She misses her parents and her home. She has a lot to cope with. Some students find that they cannot cope with life at university, and they leave and return home. What will Rosie do? Will she be able to cope or not?

So, now we have to meet Lord Lucan and find what he has to do with the verb “to cope”.

Lord Lucan is (or was) an English aristocrat. There is a picture of him on the website. He has a moustache, and slicked-back hair, and looks like the villain in an old Hollywood movie. He was a rich man who won and lost large amounts of money at horse races and in card games.

In November 1974, Lord Lucan’s name, and the photo of him as a movie villain, was all over the front pages of the newspapers. His nanny – that is, the woman whom he employed to look after his children – had been found murdered. The police suspected that Lord Lucan himself was the murderer. Indeed, they thought that Lucan had meant to kill his wife, Lady Lucan, but killed the wrong woman by mistake. It is possible that Lord Lucan could have explained everything perfectly; however he was nowhere to be found. He had disappeared completely. No-one knew for certain what had happened to him. Some people said that he had killed himself, but his body was never found. Others said that he had fled abroad, and was living under a false identity in Europe or in Africa.

Ever since then, at times when there was not a lot of other news to report, the newspapers have carried stories about people who said that they had seen Lord Lucan, typically in a hotel or bar somewhere. Generally, “Lord Lucan” turned out to be a plumber from Arizona, or a computer programmer from Düsseldorf. Recently, the story has been in the papers again. A woman who used to be a secretary for one of Lucan’s friends said that she had booked air tickets for Lucan’s children to visit Africa, so that Lord Lucan could see them. And someone else, a retired criminal, says that he met Lord Lucan in New Zealand.

Bur Lady Lucan says that all these stories are rubbish. She is convinced that her husband killed himself by jumping off a boat into the sea. According to her, it is ridiculous to think that he is living in hiding abroad. “He knows no foreign languages and he only likes English food. He could not cope with living abroad!” she says.

So, there you are. Lord Lucan is (or was) a true Englishman. He could not cope with a language that was not English. He could not cope with food that was not roast beef or fish and chips. He could not cope with life abroad! Poor man.