5-minute listening: A very unusual delivery

  • Practise your English with our short listening exercises: play the audio linked below; answer the questions; and check the answers at the bottom of the page
  • The week’s podcast features a man who posted himself in a wooden crate
John Millen |

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Don’t try this at home, kids! Photo: Shutterstock

Click on the video below for the audio.

Play a Kahoot! game about this podcast as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:


1. Why did Spiers decide to return to Australia?
A. His wife asked him to do so.
B. He had run out of money.
C. His daughter was sick.
D. He did so for family reasons.

2. How did he initially earn the money he needed for a plane ticket?
A. by working temporarily at London airport
B. by building and selling wooden crates
C. by working as a postman
D. by working at London zoo

3. What happened to the money Spiers had been saving to buy an air ticket to Australia?
A. He gave it to charity.
B. He spent it on a birthday present.
C. He put it in the bank.
D. none of the above

4. What does the phrase “desperate times call for desperate measures” mean?
A. when one has no money, their choices are limited
B. when things are very difficult, one might have to do something that they would not normally do
C. when there is little hope left, it is best to give up
D. when caught in an extremely dangerous situation, it is best to call for help

5. What gave Spiers the idea of putting himself in a crate?
A. He received a large parcel from overseas.
B. He was curious after seeing a friend do it.
C. He had seen animals being transported in them.
D. He had read about someone attempting the same feat.

6. What part does the “hold” of a plane refer to?
A. the section where passengers sit
B. the part where the pilot is located
C. the area where the attendants prepare meals for passengers
D. the place where luggage and cargo are stored

7. How much did it cost to send a heavy crate by air to Australia according to the podcast?
A. less than the price of a passenger ticket
B. double the price of a first class ticket
C. about the same price as a passenger ticket
D. half the price of a single ticket

8. Which of the following best describes how “pay on delivery” works?
A. Payment is only made after a parcel has been delivered to its destination.
B. Customers need to pay the full cost of a parcel before it is sent.
C. One only needs to pay half the normal cost if the parcel is delivered before a certain time.
D. The cost of sending the parcel depends on its weight.

9. What was the maximum weight for a piece of cargo allowed on a plane in the 1960s?
A. 75kg
B. 90kg
C. 150kg
D. information not given

10. Which statement best describes the crate Spiers’ friend built for him?
A. It was made of paper and cardboard.
B. It was the maximum size allowed on a plane.
C. It was airtight and prevented water from entering.
D. It was big enough to fit two people.

11. Where was the crate addressed to?
A. Spiers’ home in Adelaide
B. London airport
C. a company that didn’t exist
D. an address in Mumbai

12. What word was added to the crate so as to ensure Spiers would not be caught?
A. “Fragile”
B. “Paint”
C. “Danger”
D. “Animal”

13. What items did Spiers put inside the crate before his flight?
A. basic necessities
B. silverware
C. luxury items
D. all of the above

14. What problem did Spiers face at the beginning of his journey?
A. His flight was delayed.
B. Someone opened the crate he was hiding in.
C. He got on the wrong plane.
D. The crate broke in half.

15. How long did the journey take?
A. less than a day
B. 24 hours
C. close to three days
D. two weeks


1. D
2. A
3. D
4. B
5. C
6. D
7. C
8. A
9. D
10. B
11. C
12. B
13. A
14. A
15. C


Voice 1: What would you do if you couldn’t afford to pay for your flight back home? While most people would consider other modes of transport, Reg Spiers, an Australian stranded in London, had another plan. It was 1964 and Spiers wanted to fly back home to Adelaide for his daughter’s birthday but had no money to buy a plane ticket home.

Voice 2: To raise cash for his ticket, Spiers got himself a temporary airport job. But then, bad luck hit. A pickpocket took his wallet containing all his savings. With his daughter’s birthday looming, Spiers was in a hurry.

Voice 1: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Spiers came up with an extraordinary plan. He had worked in the export cargo section at London airport and had seen animals put in wooden crates in the cargo hold of planes.

Voice 2: If they could survive flights in a crate, why couldn’t a human do the same? And with this in mind, Spiers decided to post himself back to Australia in a large parcel. Although Spiers realised his idea was dangerous and mad, he was determined to give it a try.

Voice 2: The cost of sending a heavy crate as cargo was just as expensive as a passenger ticket, but Spiers learned on the job that companies could send freight pay-on-delivery. All he had to do was book a place in cargo, and then worry about paying for it after he had arrived in Australia.

Voice 1: The maximum size for a crate that could be carried by air freight in the 1960s was 1.5 metres by 0.9 metres x 0.75 metres. Spiers persuaded a friend to build him a wooden box this exact size.

Voice 2: The crate, when it was finished, allowed him to sit with his legs out in front of him or lie on his back with his legs bent. The two ends of the crate could be opened from the inside so Spiers could let himself out. To avoid any suspicion that a person was inside, the crate was labeled “Paint” and addressed to a fictitious company in Australia.

Voice 1: Spiers put tins of food, water, a torch, a blanket and a pillow into the crate for the journey. The crate was booked on an Air India flight to Perth, Western Australia. Spiers was now set for the journey of a lifetime.

Voice 2: Unfortunately for Spiers, the journey did not begin well. A thick fog descended on the airport, delaying all flights for more than 24 hours. After stops in Paris and Mumbai, the plane finally landed in Perth, two-and-a-half days later. At long last Spiers made it home in time for his daughter’s birthday.

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