Love and Chaos Part 8(E) Julie 1

24th June 2021

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Part Eight. Berlin. September 1995

Julie Retoré sat on the grass, looking into her small compact mirror, and adding some more lipstick.

She could feel Alan standing behind her, moving ever so slightly, so as to get the reflection of her mouth in the shot. He called out and she began the scene.

Julie smiled to herself as she heard the motor of the small Super 8 camera twirl. To her it didn’t matter. It was still cinema.

Alan was well organised and worked quickly, consulting a clipboard and telling the actors what to do next. He was shooting in sequence, so they could follow the action and change reactions more naturally.

Of her co-star, Julie wasn’t so sure. She knew about Vincent, had once seen him reciting the poems of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, and was looking forward to working together. He was quite the local star in the bars and theatres of east Berlin. The only problem was that he knew it. He was good and he knew it. He was striking to look at and he knew it. Girls tended to stop and look at him and he really knew that.

Vincent was taking over the shoot, advising Alan how to set-up, what angle to use, even how Julie should act. Not wanting to cause a scene or to speak out of place, she kept her peace, but resented him for spoiling what otherwise had been a very pleasant day.

Alan shouted, ‘Cut’ and she relaxed, looked at her director and smiled, asking him how she was. He gave a very flattering answer, which she knew was exaggerated, but when Vincent joined in and appeared genuinely impressed, she blushed slightly, and looked away, hiding her embarrassed smile.

She liked the story and liked helping a new director. She sensed he was a little withdrawn, but once he got started on a subject close to him, he relaxed and actually there was a problem to stop him talking. She found it charming, and refreshing that he was speaking about other people’s work and ideas, not just his own.

Her need to act had already brought her into contact with many artists who began every sentence with either ‘I’, ‘Me’ or ‘My’.

Alan had the whole film planned out, from the location (even noting where the nearest public toilets were and the cafes with good coffee) the position of the sun, for light, the style of clothing and the music.

She found all this very impressive and told him so when they had met to discuss the film.

Étude No 1 opens with a Close-Up of The Man. He sits, thinking, uncertainty on his face. It cuts to The Woman, arranging her hair. The Man now appears in Medium shot, sitting on the grass. He looks over, then back, and down. The next shot is from behind The Woman, applying make-up.

The Man is thinking over his relationship, wondering if it is working, what he is doing, having an existential crises. The Woman goes behind him, ruffles his hair and tries to cheer her up. He gets up and walks away, carrying her shoes, as if to get her follow him.

There are some fast, inter-cut scenes, showing their faces, until finally, The Woman puts her arm around The Man’s waist and he puts his around her shoulders and they walk away.

This would be accompanied by Debussy’s ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’.

“That sounds lovely,” she said, a mere hint of German in her English.

She also asked if it would be in Black & White. He said he would like to, but only had colour film and didn’t even know if he could even get Black & White film for Super 8.

“Of course you can. And you can get it processed here, in Berlin.”

“Really ?”

“Yes, my friend made a short film. Very quick. Same week, I think. I’ll phone him and ask, but I am sure.”

“Oh, yes, so much better. As Fellini said, ‘Cinema has two colours: black and white.’”

Julie laughed and Alan just took it as a sign that he was in the right place, the only city in Europe that had a studio to develop that film stock. And that here he was, in a café, discussing films with a beautiful intelligent young woman who loved cinema as much as he did.

During the filming, there was some discussion over the ending. Vincent suggested a whole new climax, totally against the spirit.

“Not only does this man have a giant ego”, she thought, “he’s proud of it, and thinks his ego is bigger than anybody else’s.”

Vincent’s idea was nonsensical, clearly just thought up. She spoke up, siding with Alan and saying that they should keep to the script that they had all decided upon and agreed to.

“I’m just trying to make it better, otherwise the audience won’t know what happens,” he said back, more than a hint of malice in the voice.

“That’s why it works,” she answered, calmly, “the power comes from the open ending. The audience will have to think for themselves. And they will, they will ask each other ‘what do you think happens ?’ No, I like it and we should do it that way.”

Despite making a gesture indicating that he no longer cared, Vincent went along with it, but made a poor first take. Julie whispered something to him, and the second take was much better. Alan only had enough money and film for a maximum of two takes.

After being thanked and told how good he was, Vincent relaxed, and began laughing and dominating the conversation. As they walked back to the S-Bahn station, he put his arm around Julie.

Although she couldn’t see him, Julie could sense that Alan wanted to shout, “Cut !”

Love and Chaos Part 8(D) Richard 1

21st June 2021

U-Bahnhof Walther-Schreiber-Platz, Berlin-Friedenau, Schloßstraße,  Bundesallee, Rheinstraße [Bahnhof]
U9 Line for Cafe Biberkopf, Berlin Steglitz. Google Images

Part Eight. Berlin. August 1995

The shift began as normal. Richard arrived early, tried to order a coffee from one of the waitresses and when it finally arrived, plonked down in front of him, spilling over the side, he had no time to drink, but took it into the kitchen. He made space on a metal shelf, and looked down at all the plates, piled up, stacked on top of each other, taking up the entire work surface. As he did so, a waitress appeared and smashed more plates down, so that some small saucers fell onto the floor and crashed.

The restaurant had been serving since breakfast and no one had bothered to wash a thing. Metal egg-cups encrusted with yoke, bits of dry toast, muesli cemented onto bowls; and the beat goes on, Berlin goes on, work goes on.

Then a new waitress entered, holding up a fork and barking away in German. She clearly wanted new cutlery. Richard held out his watch to indicate that it was five to six, he wasn’t working yet, wasn’t even changed. She continued shouting in German, while Richard muttered, not too softly,

“Who won the fucking War, ya Nazi cocksucker.”

The extra work load generated by the Summer, when the garden was open and had an additional twenty tables, had proved too much for the lazy chef, who had left. The east German chef remained, and a temporary chef filled in as well. Temporary chef was quiet and efficient but tended to treat Richard as a drone worker, not a person worthy of respect or even thought. And he tuned the grease-encrusted radio to a Techno station. All night there was a heavy, unrelenting beat that Richard found impossible to tune out.

Yet, it was a challenge, and Richard threw all the plates into the sink after scraping away the debris, got some cutlery washed, filled and emptied the machine and had cleared the surface within his first half hour.

But then it got busy. The chef demanded help with making side salads and Richard grabbed a handful of lettuce and vegetables and flung them into the saucer, then got shouted at because there were no clean plates.

“Well, I’ve been doing your fucking job and not mine, ya fucking dickhead.” The chef had no English, but understood the tone, and replied with mutterings of his own, rising to shouts and screams.

The washing up kept coming and Richard still had all the other jobs to attend to. The chef needed more Camembert made, so Richard had to get his hands covered in egg and breadcrumbs, then parsley chopped, then things brought up from the cellar.

The waitresses demanded more cutlery or cups, then wanted candlesticks washed and de-waxed.

Just after nine, Richard shouted to the radio to,

“Shut the fuck up!” and went over to retune it to a Classical station. “Doing my fucking head it, that fucking inane shit ! Fuck’s sake!”

Some time later, a waitress brought the chef a beer. Richard hadn’t even been asked. Not that he wanted or had time for a beer, or a piss, but it would have shown some respect to have been asked. He went to the bar, waited for Josef to see him, then asked for a bottle of water.

“WAIT!”

Richard knew that if he had been holding a bottle, he would have smashed it around the barman’s head.

Instead, he walked away, down into the cellar, and found a bottle of whisky. He picked it up,

“Ah, fuck, it’s only J&B, fucking blend !” but it didn’t stop him from opening the top and taking an almighty swig. He looked at the bottle, surprised and impressed by the amount of space between top and whisky level,

“I’ll just piss in it to refill it,” he thought, but before he did so, took another giant swig. After that, work got a little easier. For a while.

But the buzz of the whiskey soon wore off, leaving a thirst for more and a decreased tolerance for the way he was being treated.

The chef left and Richard, looking around, saw the cooking brandy. It was pretty poor quality, the kind that gets sold in quarter bottles at Imbisses and kiosks on the street to alcoholics who have found a few old coins, but, like them, Richard didn’t care. It was alcohol.

He remembered starting work on the potatoes, but nothing much else.

Except one thing.

He recalled, vaguely, going into the bar and pointing his finger accusingly at all the staff, equating them with the Hitler Youth and warning them that he would be meeting them all again in Nuremberg.


Then he sat on the corner counter in the kitchen, put his head against the tea-towels which were kept on a shelf, and crashed out.

He awoke in his own bed with that feeling. That heart-stopping feeling upon waking. No idea what he had done, but knew it was bad. Very, very bad.

Chris came over in the afternoon, and Richard asked him to phone in and say he couldn’t work, due to a sudden flu, but would be back tomorrow … if,

“Stake out the situation, put feelers out, get the vibe . . . find out if I still have a job there.”

Chris laughed, closed the kitchen door and made the call. He returned, wide-smiled.

“OK, I’ll cover you tonight, could use the extra dosh. Seven hours at twelve Marks an hour, nice. Spoke to Walter. Hopes you are feeling better. Then I’ll come back here. Could use a sober night myself.”

Around two-thirty Chris returned, absolutely not wide-smiling. He crashed in, threw his bag across the room, and let out an uninterrupted flow of abuse.

“I know,” was all Richard said, still suffering.

“All right. Where to start. Now, what we want,” he began, knowing that Richard would like the ‘Hard Times’ reference, “is facts. OK, breaks down like this: you’re all right. Yes, go back tomorrow, no one’s gonna say Jack. Seems you got a little overwrought. Walter had a go at the staff, he’s a god guy, telling them not to treat you like scheiße, to do some of their own washing up, keep the work area clear, help out. How’s that ? It was Walter who drove you to Zoo for the night bus. Oh, Nuremberg, man, so funny, would loved to have seen that.”

“Oohhhhhh, mannn ! I thought I dreamt that ! Shit, shit, shit, shit ! Shit on a stick !”

“Don’t worry, most of them didn’t even understand it. One of the customers had to explain.”

“Well, fuck, have you seen Josef ? Wouldn’t he have made such a fucking great Nazi ? He’d be the guy in the black suit, with the Death’s-head emblem.”

“Oh, the temporary chef has gone.”

“Because of me ?”

“No, got a new guy. You’ll see him tomorrow.”


“What’s he like ?”

“Hhhmmm . . . how to . . . you’ll see. Tomorrow.”

Richard was glad that Chris was there and had covered the work situation. But only weeks later, Chris would not be visiting the flat, but hiding out there, scared for his life.

Love and Chaos Part 8(C) Chris 1

17th June 2021

R84 // houseproject in berlin
Berlin squat bar. Google Images

Part Eight. Berlin. August 1995

While Alan Francis was having the time of his life in Berlin, Chris and Richard were about to have their worst.

Richard’s summer was destroyed by his job. He was starting an hour earlier and finishing an hour later, but the extra money was no compensation. Most nights, after working seven hours straight, he went straight to the Czar Bar, and drank as much as he could.

In Chris, in Berlin as in London, he had a willing drinking partner.

Regarding Monika’s request, Richard had dreaded passing on the cease and desist, thinking it too personal, and he really didn’t want to get involved.

He decided to do it at the first opportunity, to get it out of the way, and, to his surprise and relief, found that Chris took it very well, even nonchalantly. But the reason he did so would lead to even bigger problems.

“It’s Veronica,” Chris explained. “Can’t stop thinking about her. Even if I could, I see her all the time.”

“Veronica ? Johan’s Veronica ? Oh, shit !”

“Yeah, oh shit ! I love Johan. I do.”

“Just love Veronica more.”

“It’s not funny.”

“I know. Well, what you gonna do ?”

Chris threw his hands in the air, signifying his lack of ideas.

What he did was to drink. A lot.

Initially, he was daunted by Jake and his capacity for alcohol. Now he tried to match him. As a consequence, Jake had to close up alone as Chris would be passed out, somewhere in the bar. He would go to gather shot glasses, or empty bottles and just not return. Jake at first didn’t mind, even found it amusing, but as it happened every shift, the joke was wearing pretty thin.

Yet, Jake couldn’t deny that Chris was good for business. He got the crowd laughing and drinking, and the weekly Sawhead The Bear concerts had brought in a lot of new people and made a significant increase in takings. The band could even get a small fee as well as free drinks.

On balance, Jake tolerated Chris’ drunken behaviour and laughed at his more outrageous antics, laughed at Chris’ pathetic hopeless doomed attempts to keep up with him. Yet, Chris did have some ‘marketing’ ideas which were proving doubly beneficial.

One such innovation was to offer free vodka shots to any woman, provided it be administered mouth to mouth, either by Jake or Chris. Surprisingly, they both got takers, though when Johan asked for a free shot, Chris declined.

“Ah, you fucking English, so scared of love!” Johan laughed, as he ordered a whole row of vodkas for friends and anyone else who happened to be seated around the bar.

Chris, of course, was hoping that Veronica would take him up on his offer, but she hardly drank, preferring orange juice or maybe a single beer, and she didn’t seem willing to try a free vodka.

Daniel, meanwhile, was living something of a double life. He worked hard all week, maybe had a beer or two with workmates just to be sociable, and made it to Ostkreuz once or twice. Saturdays, he rehearsed with the band (Micha and Serge agreed to work the lucrative Friday evenings so both Andrei and Boris would be fresh for the gig) then played the concert, after which he always went off with a new woman and reappeared on Sunday, to give a graphic account of the experience and to hang out, before returning to his normal weekday existence, normal that is by Berlin standards.

One Sunday, Chris had requested that Richard meet him in another squat bar, one tucked away south of Karl Marx Allee. Chris was going to see Pavel, a Czech squatter who was responsible for the bar. Maybe Sawhead The Bear could play there, get them out of the Czar bar; different venue, different audience.

Richard didn’t know the bar or the area, so was a little late, a little hungover and very pissed off at the thought of another week working as a Steglitz Spüler.

He walked up the metal steps and saw Chris at the bar.

“Yeah, all set, Sawhead play here next Saturday. Only they want some more bands, make a whole night of it. I mentioned Arizona Al.”

“Fuck, you sure ?” asked Richard, ”he’s not exactly . . . “

“Any fucking good, yeah, I know, but give the fucker a song or two. Either him or those fucking cunts from the first Sawhead gig.”

“Maybe we could get The Wiggling Kellys ?”

“I’d like to see them,” Chris agreed. “They’ve got a band or two here, some bozos called Perry Coma. Death ballads, I guess.”

Richard suddenly got a laughing fit. Chris thought it was due to his joke, but, when Richard finally got his breathe back and wiped the tears away, he explained,

“Did I hear you use the word, ‘bozo’ ?”

“ssss . . . bozo-sssssss. Plural, as in more than one of them, Bozo and his bozo friends. Whole place is run by bozos. Whole fucking city is full of bozos. We, my friend, are in one bozo-friendly environment.”

“Perry Coma’s kinda funny too.”

“They don’t even know they’re being funny. They’ve got no fucking idea some guy’s actually called Perry Como.”

Richard had a feeling that they were here and not the Czar Bar for other reasons, as well.

“Yeah, OK, just couldn’t face Danny going on tonight about how he pulled and what he did and what she did and how many times he did what he did and how much she liked what he did when he did what he did to her.”

The beer that Richard was drinking went all over the bar and poured out of his nose.

“That guy certainly has the moves,” he said, wiping the beer away as best he could. “I could learn a lot from him. I know he’s a singer, but he’s not especially attractive or has a sparkling personality. Nice enough guy, but, I mean . . . ?”

“Exactly, I know what you mean. He’s a bit of a yob. A thug. But, everytime he gets talking to a woman, whatever he says, it works, ’cause next thing you know, his tongue’s down her throat and his hands are homing in on the good stuff.”

“Oh, thanks, I needed that. Haven’t had a laugh like this for . . . I don’t even know. Work’s fucked. Bunch a fucking cunts, all of them. Have to leave, got to find something else. Anything else.”

“Yeah, do it.”

“I have to. Can’t stay here, otherwise. Have to leave.”

“And do what ?”

“Well, that’s the fucking problem. No matter how bad it is here, it’s a quantum leap from what it would or will be back in London.”

“You boys shouldn’t be so cynical.”

The boys stopped talking and laughing and turned around. A punk squatter with her hair in pigtails, and ripped tights sat down between them. Her accent, despite her clothing, placed her from the Home Counties, somewhere close to London but not too close.

Richard asked her what she meant, but she refused to elaborate, instead choosing to criticise the music.

“Oh, Nirvana; are people still listening to him ? He’s dead, move on, get over it. I fucking hate Nirvana.”

“Really ?” asked Chris incredulously,

“Hate them.”

“Why ?” demanded Richard.

“Because my name’s Polly, and those unwashed bastards have fucked up my life.”

And then, right on cue, a tall, unwashed bastard walked in, saw her and asked,

“Hello, Polly, want a cracker ?”

“Fuck off!”

Polly soon got bored of her two compatriots, even though Richard was wondering if she was hitting on him, and left because he wasn’t responding. He asked Chris for his views. Chris puffed himself up, before pontificating,

“Uuummmm . . . hard to say. Don’t think so. Would you like to fuck her ?”

“Wouldn’t mind. Not my first choice, but, hey . . . she was kinda cute.”

“Uuummmm … Nice rack. Breasts.”

“I know what a rack is. OK, I thought a ‘rack’ was ass.”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s breasts,” and Chris looked around, searching for anyone American-looking. ”I’ll ask Jake. He’s a Godsend. He understands all the R.E.M. lyrics. Who the fuck’s Mr Fred Blassie, and why is he such bad eater ? Just ask Jake.”

“Cool. I could have pulled that Polly. Oh, who am I kidding ? I tell you, next time Daniel goes to work, I’m gonna be right there, making notes. Any more about Veronica ?”

Chris let out a long sigh,


“She’s an art student.”

“Another one ! What is with you and … Is she more Ute or Melanie ?”

“No ! Not like Melanie, not like that sphincter-mouthed, Ninja Turtle. A real art student. Actually draws and paints, not just reads books and regurgitates other people’s opinions. She showed me some of her paintings.”

“’Sphincter-mouthed’ ? Didn’t you kiss her ?”

“No ! No, no, well . . . yes, but . . .”

“OK, back to the art. Any good ? Her paintings ?”

“What do I know, I’m a science student. No, they were good. Abstract, but with . . . form.”

Richard laughed and ordered more beers. Chris carried on,

“She’s got a friend coming, too, Italian girl called Carla. Another student.”

“Is she cute ?”

“Is she cute ? What, like that fucking Psycho Polly ? Is she cute ? She’s a friend of Veronica’s, she’s an art student, she’s fucking Italian, yes, she’s fucking cute. Something else, too. I happen to know that Johan is going away soon, back to France. For two weeks. Maybe more. Think that calls for a vodka.”

They got more drinks and toasted Veronica and Carla (sight unseen).

What they didn’t know was that soon, they would both act in such a way that Richard would be afraid to go to work, and Chris would be afraid to go back to Rigaer Strasse.

Love and Chaos Part 8(B) Call Me Herman

16th June 2021

In the Spring of 1850, five novels behind him, Herman Melville began work on ‘Moby Dick’. He had promised his publisher a romantic adventure, or adventurous romance, much in the style of his earlier work. However, this novel was going to be greater, without doubt his greatest. He felt it.

After moving to a farm in Massachusetts, Melville met and became close friends with author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Discussions with the older writer, and copious reading of The Bard, encouraged Melville to expand the scope of his novel into something quite different.

From Spring to the Autumn of the following year, Melville worked with a fervour of creative energy, often going without food or rest until late afternoon, crying out, “Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand.”

Finally … it was finished, and sent over the ocean, to Richard Bently in England, his publisher, as his books premiered there, before becoming available in his native land.

Melville was a confident man, and was sure that this monumental achievement would establish his literary reputation for all time.

But the reviews, from England, were rather mixed. While some praised the work, its originality, characters and plot, others were vociferous in their damnation.

To compound the situation, the British edition, named ‘The Whale’, had been edited by Bently, so as not to cause offence to political or social sensibilities. Bently also, for some unfathomable reason, omitted the epilogue. It was published without the final page.

Unfortunately, the American critics preferred to read their British counterparts, and not their compatriot author, and the novel sold poorly, the initial pressing of 3 000 copies not selling in Melville’s lifetime.

The drama’s done. Instead of elevating Melville to the Parthenon of genius, he was cast adrift in waters of increasing turbulence.

The following book, ‘Pierre, or The Ambiguities’ of 1852 was both a critical and financial disaster, with Bently even refusing to publish it. Melville’s family had also noticed a change come over him. Writing this darker novel, the disillusioned author would lock himself away, only emerging at night.

He turned to the more accessible form of the short story, desperate for the income generated by magazines, as he was unable to support his family and had to depend on handouts from his father-in-law.

After 1857, he wrote no more prose, exclusively composing poetry.

He undertook lecture tours from 1857 – 1860, but these were also unsuccessful. He was forced to leave his farm, and return to New York to work.

He got a job in the New York Custom’s House, but was prone to ill health and financial worries.

He died in 1891, almost forgotten. His passing was noticed in just one obituary.

Love and Chaos Part 8(A) Alan 1

14th June 2021

Pfefferberg in Berlin | there you can read more: www.pfeffer… | Flickr

Pfefferberg on Schönhauser Allee, Prenzlauer Berg. Google Images

Part Eight

Berlin. August 1995

Life, thought Alan, is incredible. Degree attained, a prestigious job in the City, networking with the movers and shakers, the future investors and producers. A year of being, a year of nothingness. No script, no contacts, no cast of characters, no crew, no shakers, but at least a move.


Now, thought Alan, I am a Putzfrau (cleaning woman), but I have more disposable income. No exorbitant London rents, travel passes, food, the NFT membership, however, had been essential. And I’ve found my cast of characters; I am surrounded by actors and artists. My dreams are no longer abstract plans, but actual possibilities.

Berlin; he loved Berlin. Immediately. Here was a city with real atmosphere, a city to be lived in, to feel alive, every inch a film set

People spoke to you. Neighbours, shop keepers, people on the street. You could go up to anyone in a bar and start talking.

He had been in the city less than a month but was already planning on extending his stay and finding another room, or even his own flat. Such plans were ludicrous in London; a cleaner having his own flat.

Alan was not going to let anything go to waste. Every experience would be stored for reference. Every time he rode the S-Bahn, or an elevated U-Bahn, he took in all the sights, mentally framing them, he took in all the beautiful women in their summer dresses, tilting his inner lens, Dutch angles capturing German angels. He listened to the symphony of this city, he was a man with a movie camera.

Alan tried articulating these thoughts, and many others, writing to his sister. He decided to use the letters as a writing exercises, to make his views lucid. He wasn’t sure if he succeeded.

Dear Sis,

Where to start ? You were right about Berlin – why didn’t I come last year ? All that time wasted, nothing to show for it. Not anymore – I have seen a camera I like (and can afford !) and will buy it tomorrow.

Kelly is so sweet – she’s really looked after me. I’ve met so many new people. You were right about Vincent – girls love him – what a great actor he’ll be (in my films, I mean !) so charismatic.

The room is big and light – not too girly, with a computer and even some books in English (Nasti – the girl whose room I’m subletting, is a geography student and has to study in English, no text-books in German, apparently).

Kelly got me the first job. I’m up at 5:30 and go to an Irish bar near Tacheles, the arts centre, and clean for about 2 hours. The bar owner is a splendid Irish man called Patrick (no, I’m not making this up). He set me up with another bar where I work for the next two hours. I can walk from one bar to the other.

I get home around noon, in time for lunch – coffee, rolls with jam or honey, some fruit, and start planing my films !

I saw Vincent perform – all in German, so I couldn’t understand it – but he held the stage well and kept the audience’s attention, quite an achievement ! Yes – bars here are very different – any space can open, stock up with crates and sell beer. As you would eloquently say, “It’s bonkers !”

Yes – I have been a little tipsy, sometimes – everyone buys me beers, even when I tell them I don’t want one – they think it’s English politeness !!

Have meet lots of girls ! All very nice. Kelly will take me to somewhere nearby – the Pepperberg (????) – something like Pepper Mountain (???)

I hear there are some second hand bookshops around – really need to find them – read my collection over and over. Went to a special English bookshop but it is SO EXPENSIVE !!!! Books at twice the cover price. Located in a horrid area as well, very bleak, drab, overwhelmingly depressing, decades of failed dreams etched in the brickwork.

Could you save my life and send over my ‘Bazin’ ??? I have two slim volumes (not too much postage – OH, and my ‘Godard on Godard’ – how could I have forgotten THAT !!!)

Brilliant idea of yours – maybe you can pop over at some point ? How is the job ? Won’t ask about London because I don’t care !!!

Lots of love

Alan

Next evening, a Friday, Kelly, along with some friends, took Alan from their flat near the Wasserturm and walked to the Pfefferberg.

This was a huge arts complex, whose classical façade dominated the southern stretch of Schönhauser Allee. Paying the entrance at street level, Kelly took Alan up the steps to a wide, open beer garden. People sat on the walls and looked down to the street below, or danced in the centre. Buildings arranged around the courtyard were opened and housed temporary exhibitions of paintings, or were hosting poetry slams.

Alan looked around, so tempted to lift his fingers to his eyes and make a camera shape and pan left to right. What a location, he thought. He couldn’t resist; he made the camera shape and paned left to right.

Through his fingers he spotted Vincent, with some girls, and they came over, Vincent very tall and flamboyant, dwarfing Alan who was under average height.

“So Herr Direktor, did you buy the camera today ?” he asked.

Alan smiled and slowly nodded,

“And projector and three film cartridges.”

“You’re still on your first beer ?” Kelly asked him, concerned that he wasn’t having a good time.

Alan lifted it up and showed that if was over half full. Also, he didn’t smoke, and was starting to believe that he may be the only person in Berlin who didn’t. Then he met another non-smoker who came up and introduced herself.

“They told me I shouldn’t speak to you, because you only talk about cinema. Well, I love cinema too. Hello. My name’s Julie.”

Love and Chaos Part 7(K) Eric 1

12th June 2021

The Last Bookstore – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura

LA bookstore. Google Images

Part Seven. Los Angeles. July 1995

Eric Schwarz walked into a book store in Los Angeles and headed for the Philosophy section. He clapped his hands and opened them wide, as if to embrace the whole subject, from Aristotle to Zeno (from either Citium or Elea; at this stage he wasn’t able to differentiate between them.)

He looked sternly at the titles, some jumping out, some incomprehensible. Then he ran a finger along the book spines, loving how they felt and smelt. He picked out some editions, read their backs, flicked through them, checked the prices, put them back. Then he came to a collection of Plato, including ‘The Republic’ and ‘Symposium.’

Eric put a hand through his carefully arranged hair and stroked his goatee as he tried a random page. He laughed as he read about Aristophanes having first hiccups, then a sneezing fit.

He decided to buy the book and pulled his wallet out of his oversized shorts, then, at the till, stretched to show the cashier girl his physique and biceps through his tight T-shirt, indicating that though he may read Philosophy, he also had a hot body.

Of course, she didn’t notice, but vacantly rang up the book and announced the price in a bored monotone. Eric tried some repartee and made some expressions like an extra overplaying his role. The same lack of success.

As compensation, Eric treated himself to an oversized ice cream cone with several unharmonious flavours juxtaposed in one gooey multicoloured mess.

What did it matter ? Women here were too superficial. In only a week or so he’d be on the East Coast. Intellectual women. Women in glasses. Hot intellectual women (in glasses) walking around reading Schopenhauer.

This thought cheered him so much, he didn’t even care about the splat of ice cream that was melting into his T-shirt.

Listening exercises Part 1

10th June 2021

Women in China - Wikipedia

Listening Practice 

A compilation of video clips and comprehension questions to encourage you to listen to native English speakers.

Video clips and links

Contents:

Sai Gon Red

Ordering in a cafe

Cat

Computers

Top Gear (Robin / German border / )

Austria (plus comprehension)

New York

Working life in Germany

Listening general (Queen, IELTS)

Native speakers in central London

British accent: filming

Snow

Travel Vocabulary / phone numbers

Sai Gon Red

What phrases can you hear ?

Does the man like the beer ? What is the proof (what does he say) ?

Comprehension (0.00 – 1.58)

1 What time does the man say it is ?

2 What kind of beer does he think it’s going to be ?

3 What kind of ‘head’ does the beer have ?

4 What colour is the beer ?

5 Before he drinks, he uses an expression: which one ?

Listening skills: ordering in a cafe:

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice/ordering-food-cafe

For his main course, Andi chooses For dessert, Andi chooses and to drink ?

Cat

https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening/intermediate-b1-listening/favourite-things

B (girl) Start at 0:50 – 1:41


“My favourite thing? Does my cat count as a thing? She’s not really a thing, but anyway. She’s a really beautiful little cat. I’ve had her since she was four months old. You know how some cats are really independent and hardly talk to you? I know cats don’t really talk, but you know what I mean. Well, she’s not like that at all. She’s really affectionate and comes up to me as soon as I get home, purring away like mad. She makes a lot of noise for a tiny thing. She loves being stroked and comes and curls up next to me when I’m on the sofa. She’s great company.”

Questions:

1 What is her favourite thing ? Her cat

2 How old was the cat when the girl got her. Four months old

3 Is the cat friendly ? Yes, ‘she’s really affectionate.’

4 What does the cat like ? Being stroked

5 How is the cat described as being ? Good company

Computer terms

Do you use a computer at work ? Is it essential or just useful ?

What words do you associate with computers ?

Top Gear

Real dialogue:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRGuMKVqNzA (0.16 – 0.42)

Listen for: “oh,dear”, (oi troi oi, mild) “that’s marvellous” (very good) “he’s not pleased”

New vocabulary:

flawed– something bad, a mistake inspection– to look at something closely

what staggers me– what surprises me fronts a band– lead singer

a trifle– not important, a very small time stabaliser– stop something falling over

Can Jeremy improve the design ? (0.55 – 2.48)

What does he do ? Where does he go ? How successful were the improvements ?

2) Listening practice:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0K8AXUEH8E(0 – 0.52)

How much petrol do the chaps (men) have ? How many points for getting to the border ?

What is the phrasal verb for using all the petrol ? What is the punishment for this ?

What does Richard say about this ? Which country has the closest border ?

Listening: Vienna, Austria 

New Vocabulary:

Adjectives– spectacular, dotted with, grand, magnificent, chic, huge, stunning, iconic,

legendary

Expressions– as a result, make sure, must see, strongly recommend, book in advance

Nouns– promenade (walking streets) landmarks (famous buildings), fee, lookalike 

Adverbs– truly (really), extremely

How many rooms does the Hofsburg Palace have ?

How old is St (Saint) Stephan’s Cathedral ? How many stairs does it have ?

When was the Ferris Wheel built ? Which is the tallest structure in the city ?

New York City guide

Listen for short periods (10 – 15 seconds). Answer questions about the dialogue. Can watch again with captions. Make a note of any new phrases or interesting words.

Answer the following questions:

How many people live in NYC ? 8 million

What do New Yorkers think their home is ? Centre of the world

What two adjectives describe NYC ? Loud and fast

What is the collocation with ‘energy’ ? Pulsates

Visitors can find the city … ? overwhelming

Manhattan is the … heart and soul of the Big Apple

What is in Lower Manhattan ? Financial district

Where is Central Park ? Upper East and West sides

Working life in Germany:

(01.26 – 02.07)

How long do they work in Germany ? How many breaks does the man have ?

What do you think about his situation ? How does it compare with VN ?

Listening

1 The Queen 

When was their first meeting? During the G20 conference in London 2009.

Who came with President Obama ? Wife and two daughters.

When did they last meet ? Almost two years ago.

IELTS student (0:46 – )

Does she work ? No, she’s a student Where ? Manchester / Studies ? Business

Introducing a friend

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice/introducing-friend

personal information

http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice/library-giving-personal-information

BBC News – durian

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/witn/ep-150708

New words 

pungent

an acquired taste

is shaping up to be

bumper crop

Native speakers in central London

Filming(0.13 – 1.17)

Listen out (phrasal verb) for these words / phrases:

therefore / out and about / footage (what has been filmed) 

basically / you see / obviously / annoyed 

Listen out for changes in intonation (stressing words in a sentence)

What did he film ? Why couldn’t he use the footage ? What did he leave at home ?

(0.20 – 1.30)

What is the date ? Listen for the adverb ‘finally’ Why doesn’t Mum like the snow ?

Travel vocabulary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shGha68qLvY

Listen for: ‘go through’ ‘depends’ ‘take off’

You are flying from Sai Gon to Hue. Where do you go in the airport ?

What two things will you do at check in ?

What documents do you need ? How can you check in ? Two ways …

What seat does the man want and why ? What happens at security ?

Write down the phone numbers that you hear

Love and Chaos Part 7(J) Alan 1

11th June 2021

Part Seven. London. July 1995

This was not how things were supposed to be. Alan was meant to be making contacts, writing scripts, raising funds, shooting test footage, hanging out in cafés discussing Neo-Realism and the Nouvelle Vague, dissecting scripts and camera set-ups, meeting gorgeous actresses, he was meant to be making cinema.

Instead, he was working forty hours a week and spending an extra ten hours on the Tube. Most of his money went on a bedsit that he hated, and travel money, which he resented. He went to the cinema on Mondays when it was cheaper, but often fell asleep half way through a film.

He was twenty-two but felt old and exhausted. It was a time when he should be energetic and enthusiastic, but he saw his life fading away, not in great, dramatic spurts, but like a slow puncture, the air irreparably escaping.

He hated his life, his job, London. He was barely surviving and had spent a whole year since graduating with absolutely nothing to show for it.

But he couldn’t see any way out, except to make a great film and have it shown at festivals and from there be offered a chance to make a real film.

This great film needed to be written and cast and shot and printed and edited and screened. So far, a scattering of disconnected ideas and theories. Nothing else.

It was his sister that offered a way out.

He loved his older sister, she was probably his closest friend, though he bemoaned her taste in cinema. While he was at the National Film Theatre, seeing old Black and White subtitled art films, she’d be in the multi-screens with popcorn and giant Cokes immediately forgetting the film she had just seen.

She agreed to differ about their taste in film. He didn’t.

It was during one of these harangues that she casually mentioned an offer from Berlin that she’d have to decline. Kelly, her friend in Berlin, had a spare room, as her flatmate was going travelling the whole summer, and wondered if she would like to rent it. However having just started a new job, Jo Francis thought it best to try to build a career, rather than have fun; besides, she had ‘done’ Berlin.

“Maybe you should go,” she said to Alan, in an off-hand, flippant way. Then she sat up. “Yes, maybe you should. Kelly’s boyfriend is an actor. Does readings and performances, based on some old French poems.”

“Rimbaud ?”

“Rambo ? Are you bonkers ?”

“No . . . the symbolist poet, the . . . how is it possible we are from the same gene pool ?”

“Well, the milkman was awfully sweet, I’ve been told.”

“Very droll. But . . . an actor ? What’s he like ?”

“Stunning. Long flowing hair, big old army coat, all brass and ribbon. Always wears boots. Good idea in Berlin. Lots of dog poop. “

“How much is the rent ?”

Alan heard the amount needed.

“Per week ?”

“No, Sweetheart, per month. Can probably get work there, too. Vincent, oh, that is the boyfriend . . . “

“I know, flowing hair and boots.”

“Yes, really yummy ! Vincent knows just everybody. Would you like me to write to her.”

“Could you call instead ?”

“Oh, you’re all enthusiastic, how adorable.”

After booking his flight, with money borrowed from his sister, Alan went into Fordham’s Books & Tapes and picked up a ‘Complete Rimbaud’, ‘Poems of Villon’ and an anthology of French poets from Nerval to Valery. Naturally, he had to visit the Cinema section, where he found ‘Godard on Godard’ in paperback. Finally, on the ground floor, Alan found the ‘Rough Guide to Berlin,’ the illustrated cover showing a decidedly European cafe scene, very cinematic. What better omen ?

Without even meeting Vincent, he decided that he would be his actor, a Belmondo to his Godard, a Mastroiani to his Fellini.

Now, all he needed was an idea.

Listening Skills: websites & resources

9th June 2021

Listening Skills

The following websites are good for listening practice.

What are the pros and cons of each one ?

What do you like or dislike about them ?

How helpful do you find them ?

Try to use complex sentences in forming your answers, giving reasons and your thoughts.

Example: For me, the best site was (Speakgood.com) because it was well designed, easy to use and extremely helpful. I especially appreciated the subtitles which enabled me to understand what was being said.

Fitness is a way of life: Actor Asha Bhat | Hindustan Times

British Council (LearnEnglish Teens). Home – skills – listening: https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening

Newsinlevels.com: https://www.newsinlevels.com/

This was recommended to me by my Brazilian friend, Ana (also a ESL teacher). Small news stories are told at three levels of English, and you can listen first, then read the text. Also a good way to learn new vocabulary. Having said that, the speaking is rather flat and lacking in intonation.

BBC Learning English (for pronunciation): http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation

Small videos focusing on individual sounds and letters.

Learn English with Emma

https://www.youtube.com/user/EnglishTeacherEmma

Mad English TV: https://www.youtube.com/c/MadEnglishTV/videos

A YouTube channel for learning. I’ve used some of these videos for adult classes.

TOEIC Channel: https://www.youtube.com/embed/SJlu–hdFQU?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent&listType=playlist&list=PL4IJAxR6Bqq8vP0kEeQRgU6lUe4s4u2DW

Many videos with large text, for beginners. Over twenty dialogues for you to listen to and repeat.

English Class 101: https://www.youtube.com/embed/XtEixjKMPfM?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&start=307&wmode=transparent

Perfect for Lockdown, a 90 minute lesson featuring British English. If you are unable to attend a physical class, this could be a useful refresher.

Pronunciation – plosives (b / d / g / k / p / t) (0.39 – end) http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation/tims-pronunciation-workshop-ep-17

Also listen to music (with lyrics)

Films (short clips – 30 seconds to 1 minute)

TV shows with subtitles.

Try these:

Music and what better than The Beatles (‘Help’): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po5ti70U0bc

Any English song with lyrics (words) will be a great way to learn, and fun as well.

Film ‘King’s Speech’, an Oscar-winning film from 2010: https://www.youtube.com/embed/3oFmeT1RVQs?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

TV show – ‘Eastenders’

This is a ‘soap opera’ – a TV drama that is shown two or three times a week. Each episode last 30 minutes and has many different characters. This drama is set in east London, so many people have an accent typical of that area. See how much you understand: https://www.youtube.com/embed/qgUf9hlTnnU?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent

Love and Chaos Part 7(I) Monika 1

10th June 2021

Potsdamer Platz, the centre of Berlin, in 1995. Google Images

Part Seven. Berlin. June 1995

Josef, the new barman, came into the kitchen and slammed the phone down, barking at Richard that it was for him, his mouth salivating with contempt. Richard thought fuck Josef, and he really meant it.

He answered, expecting Chris to invite him to the bar, but instead it was Monika inviting him to Café Haller.

Hardly able to wait for his unspeakable shift to finish, he finally walked to the bar, both curious and nervous. He had thought about what could Monika possibly want. Probably to just see him, have a drink and renew the friendship; just because she was no longer seeing Chris, didn’t mean that they had to stop seeing each other. Maybe she had news of a new job for him; even another Spüler job would get him out of the awful Biberkopf and there would be a novelty period before that monotony set in. Or . . . possibly, there was news of Lorelei. He tried to dismiss that idea, but he couldn’t, and that was why he entered the bar both hoping and fearing that Lorelei would be working. He would only need to see her once to fall in love all over again. He would get his heart broken all over again, but even the remote possibility was worth the risk.

But, no Lorelei, and it was some seconds before he saw Monika. She smiled, but it lacked warmth. Richard’s heart sank. He felt she blamed him, and, in a way, he had lied to her, as well.

There was some small talk about work, before Monika got to the point. Could he tell Chris to stop calling her. It was a demand, not a question.

Richard told her that he knew nothing about this, that Chris hadn’t told him. Then he thought back to the concert, the way Chris kept looking at every one coming in.

“Did he invite you to a concert on Saturday ?” he asked.

“Ah, yes, in the shitty Czar Bar. You really think we want to go to a bar that has no water in the toilet ? Women need to wash their hands.”

Richard gestured that he understood. Then he asked if he could speak openly. He apologised for that Sunday morning, explaining that he really had left the club without Chris and didn’t know where he was. He said that he suspected that Chris may have crashed at Arizona Al’s, though this was somewhat disingenuous. Monika suddenly turned gentle and friendly, as if she were dying to finally speak about it and clear the air. She said she didn’t blame Richard at all, but had felt sorry for him caught in-between.

The conversation continued, both saying sorry and how they had missed each other. They caught each other up with the gossip.

Silke was now seeing a new man. Andreas was furious and hurt that she had a new boyfriend so soon after splitting up. Nice Guy Kai was seeing a journalist and appeared happy, though in no hurry to enter into a committed relationship. Gabi was now dating a lawyer and was talking about moving in with him. Lorelei had found someone who often worked in Munich, so she was considering a relocation. Richard appreciated her sensitivity when speaking about her. He knew his eyes gave away his pain.

To change the atmosphere, he was about to ask her about her love life, when a man in shirt and tie walked out of the kitchen and came over and kissed Monika.

It was Carsten, an old boyfriend of hers that had come back into her life . . . sort of . . . maybe . . .

Carsten stayed for a beer and Monika explained that Carsten ran a club in Wilmersdorf, and knew the chef (1) at Haller.

Carsten knocked on the table, (2) shook Richard’s hand and gave Monika a slightly exaggerated goodbye kiss.

After he had gone, Monika shrugged,

“Ja, Richard, I don’t know, I am alone, he is alone, it is nice. But . . . Ja, we see. We see. You drink something ?”

They stayed until the bar closed.

“And, Richard . . . how do you get home ?”

“Night bus.”

“Ah, mist (bullshit) I drive you.” It was a generous offer, really out of her way.

The journey from Steglitz to Prenzlauer Berg gave them more time to speak. Richard asked to go through the city and was amazed at how Potsdamer Platz was changing. The route was now totally different from his last trip here. New roundabouts and traffic lights amidst the wooden walkways, the iron-wire fences, the giant water pipes that spanned the roads. Tiny red lights suspended in the darkness of the night, warned planes of the ever-present cranes.

And empty roads, only an occasional night bus, or car. Almost no neon, sometimes no street lamps. Richard mentioned the fact that they were in a main European capital, yet there was hardly any light. They could well have been in some provincial village.

“And, um, Richard, I ask you something ? If it’s OK ?”

“Sure.”

“You still think about Lorelei.”

“Yes, but it’s getting better. Now it’s down to about ninety-six per cent of the time. The other four per cent I’m thinking about not thinking about Lorelei.”

“And you have no one else you like ?”

“No. Not yet. I’m sure I will.”

“No one at work ?”

“I’m the Spüler . . . I don’t count. I liked one new girl, Jolande, you know her ? But, well, she wised up. As for the others . . . even Ully looks down at me. Her, with the thing. My fault, really, me and Chris. We were there one night, she was working, and we were kinda flirting with her. Because she does have quite a nice body. Very nice, in fact. But . . . anyway, she’s now walking around like she’s Claudia Schiffer. Now, a girl like Claudia Schiffer. That would get my mind off Lorelei. But I don’t think they exist. She’s probably been genetically modified. If so, here’s to genetics.“

“Ah, you haven’t seen Margot. New waitress at Haller.”

“Cute ?”

“Oh, very cute. All the men want to fuck her. Even I want to fuck her.”

Richard got out by the U-Bahn on Schönhauser Allee, hoping to get some fast food and cheap beer from one of the Imbisses. A young girl was there, slighty tipsy, and they began a short conversation. Then Richard paid and went home.

He later wondered what would have happened if he had asked the girl to come back with him.

But, he didn’t, and once more he went to bed, alone.

(1) In German, chef can mean cook or owner.

(2) A sign in Germany that one is leaving.