Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the 32nd President of the USA, is frequently cited as being among the country’s best leaders. Born in 1882 in New York, FDR was a Democrat who became President in 1933. The USA and the world was suffering economic disaster following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. Unemployment in the States was estimated to be 13 million, many banks were still closed.
To alleviate the situation, FDR inaugurated a series of reforms and aid programs known as ‘The New Deal’. These included construction programs and work in the national forests.
During the annual State of the Union address on January 11th 1944 FDR, speaking on the radio, proposed a second Bill of Rights to address the problems and inequalities facing the USA in the mid Twentieth Century. Part of this speech can be watched online, and the link follows the text:
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
FDR who had contracted a paralytic illness in 1921 and was unable to walk unaided, died on April 12th 1945, less than a month before the complete surrender of Germany. The second Bill of Rights was not introduced.
One of the best Sundays I ever experienced was in Nashville, Tennessee. A friend and I were on a road trip, and we had driven up from Atlanta, on route to Memphis, New Orleans and the wide open road.
Sundays in London in the late 80s and early 90s were dire; shops were closed, no football and people were either hungover or dreading the grim imminent Monday morning feeling.
Yet here were were, downtown Nashville, wearing shirt sleeves, sitting on a porch outside a store, sun shining, just passin’ the time and chewin’ the fat. Along comes a fine Southern gentleman, tips his hat to us, smiles and says, “Howdy.” Later, mid afternoon, we popped into a small bar, took an ice-cold beer and began talking with a local. Suddenly he excused himself as it was his turn to take the stage and play, and he dedicated a song to his, “Two new friends all the way from England.” The rest of the bar looked over, clapped and smiled.
London, some months later. It’s autumn, I’m living in a claustrophobic bedsit in the East End of London. The couple in the next room were constantly, and loudly, fighting. The house next door had a burglar alarm that frequently went off in the early hours, and I was working, six days a week, in an unspeakable low-paid job. And it was cold, wet and miserable.
I desperately needed to rekindle my USA vibe. ‘Twin Peaks’ was just starting on TV, but the high-rise council tower blocks made the reception almost unwatchable. Luckily, serendipitously, when I was at the library, going through the small music section (we were allowed to take out two items, price 20p each, 30p for a double cassette or LP) I saw a small black cassette tape by Nanci Griffith. It was the live recording, ‘One Fair Summer Evening’ (1988). Life suddenly became a whole lot better.
I knew very little about her, though I was vaguely aware as I had briefly worked in a record shop and we stocked her most recent LP, ‘Storms’ (1989). Now I was hooked, the intimate warm way Nanci introduces the songs, each one being a self-contained short story. Farmers barely surviving the dust-bowl years, lovers going through relationship troubles, or people just wanting to forget their troubles and take a ‘spin on a red brick floor’.
One of the standout tracks on the live tape was ‘Love at the Five and Dime’ which was on the ‘Last of the True Believers’ LP (1986). Appropriately enough, I picked up the cassette from my local Woolworth’s store in the Leytonstone High Road.
A year or two later, and Nanci came to London, performing at the Albert Hall. As she remarked during the concert, she’d come a long way from playing small clubs in Austin, Texas to this iconic venue in London.
I moved to Berlin in the mid 90s, and stayed with a friend who only had a few cassettes, but one of them was the Grammy-winning ‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ (1993). He later formed a band and they covered ‘Spin on a Red Brick Floor’. We only had the live version to listen to, and we played it over and over, trying to get the lyrics. Some of them were impenetrable, and my friend just made noises and nonsensical sounds.
On a visit to London, I managed to pick up some second-hand LPs, including ‘Once in a Very Blue Moon’ (1984) which had a lyric sheet and I was therefore able to tell my buddy that he should be singing:
“Honey, here’s to you, sleep tight,” not “And a hoochey, coochey coo,” and:
“That hot Houston neon buzzing,” not “ahahahahahahaha hahah.”
Another LP I found, and probably my favourite cover, is ‘Lone Star State of Mind’ (1987).
So now, here’s two songs I’d be honoured to recommend (unfortunately I’m not able to post links to YouTube here).
The first is an album track from the ‘Lone Star’ LP, called ‘Beacon Street’.
The second is a live version of ‘Love at the Five and Dime’.
Chris spent Friday evening at Rodenberg Strasse, abstaining from alcohol, and reading until Richard returned from Steglitz, after which they shared a couple of easy beers. The music was constant but soft, limited to Richard’s few CDs. The next morning, Chris was flying back to London and Richard had all day to fret about his date with Johanna.
In the morning, dark and bitter, Richard, light and optimistic, walked with Chris up Schönhauser Allee to the Strassenbahn (tram) stop on Wisbyerstrasse, slushing through the snow, head down, shoulders hunched up. Chris tried moving from foot to foot to keep warm, but almost slipped on the treacherous ice. Before too long, the faint smoky glow of an approaching tram, doors opening with an hangover-splitting shriek but the inviting warmth of a heated vehicle.
Richard was travelling as far as Osloer Strasse the northern terminus of the U 9 Line. From there, Chris had a mere two stops to the interchange with the U 6, then four more to get the airport bus.
“So, tea, naturally, now, drinks … what do you have in mind ?”
“How about some Pimms ?”
“Didn’t know you liked Pimms.”
“Don’t know if I do. Never tried it. Just sounds so English. Ah, forget it. Everything’s cheaper here. Suppose Stilton’s out of the question.”
“I’m not bringing sodding Stilton back in my bag, I’ll get arrested. Books ?”
Richard named some Physics text books.
“Man, those things weigh a ton. All right, let me see. Oh, here we are. Sure you don’t wanna come to the airport, it’ll be fun.”
Richard said goodbye to Chris and watched him descend into the U-Bahn station. Just then, a Strassenbahn appeared, heading back east, and he jumped on, buying some croissants on the way back to his flat. As the coffee was brewing, there was a knock on the door, heavy, forceful, determined.
So Chris had missed the flight, or gotten the date wrong, or forgotten his passport. He pulled his door open, prepared to shout mock obscenities and bemoan the lack of Pimms when he was momentarily silenced. Completely blank for a second or two, and then a warm but confused,
Standing outside his door, in tight black jeans, a very figure-hugging jacket, and boots that were far too sensual for the ice and muck of Berlin streets, was Silke who, in character, walked straight in and hugged Richard.
“Gehts ? Hey, long time, why don’t you phone, did you forget me ? Was ist ? Coffee ?”
Richard followed her into his own kitchen and, yes, she did look absolutely fantastic in jeans. He allowed himself this unexpected pleasure.
“But, er, Chris isn’t here. He’s just left for the airport.”
“Ja, und ? I speak with you. Oh, croissants, can I have ?”
“For sure. You speak with me. Wow. It’s a Christmas miracle.”
“Ah, mensch, bullshit. So was is with you ? Tell me.”
Naturally, there really wasn’t that much for Richard to tell. Same job, same life, same old Czar Bar. Chris, same job, same life, same old Czar Bar. Except for Johanna, about whom Silke was very curious.
“She lives where ?”
“Is it Marzahn ? Somewhere in the east.”
“Marzahn, schiess ! Have you been there ?”
“No, we always … ‘always’, twice, meet in town. Kreuzberg. In fact, we’re meeting tonight. Third date. Anyway, what’s with you ? Monika said you had a new man.”
“When was this ? You saw Monika ?”
Richard told her about meeting Monika in summer, without elaborating, not that there was any need for restraint. Silke knew everything.
“Ah, so, you know Gabi lives with a lawyer. Is a nice Hausfrau now, never meets. Lorelai went to …”
“I know, Munich.”
“Nein, England. She met a student and now lives in … let me think … Brighton ? Is it nice ?”
“Probably nicer than Marzahn. A student, hey ? What do ya know ?”
“Now we are neighbours.”
“Who ? You’re moving to Brighton. Why’s everyone going to bloody Brighton ?”
“Nein, you and me. I have a new apartment in Greifenhagener Strasse. Just go over Stargarder. By the Cafe Ankhor. You know it ?”
“Yes, remarkably cute waitress who couldn’t care tuppence for me. What else is new ?”
Silke, being unfamiliar with this rhetoric, actually began explaining what was new.
“Aber, ja, Monika, who knows ? I think she is tired. Too many stupid jobs, stupid men. I told her to go back to university. I’m going to. Is there more coffee ?”
An hour or so later, Silke got ready to leave. She made Richard promise to visit her, it was only five minutes away. They hugged and as they did so, they kissed. It was natural. For Richard, it was nice, very, very nice.
Around the same time, Chris was getting ready to board the flight to London. He was pinching himself, remembering to say Lufthansa, not Luftwaffe, and was looking forward to a high of 4 degrees.
Around the same time, in the north Berlin Bezirk of Wedding, Daniel was putting on his coats to call Jeanette. He had his Pfennings and Marks counted out, weighing down his jeans. The telephone that accepted cards was open-air and he would freeze his ears, while the coin-box was in a booth. It would still be freezing but not fatally.
Around the same time, ‘Rough Guide’ clutched in gloved hands, Alan Francis was walking along Danziger Strasse. He would have to move out soon, but Kelly had a room organised for him, across Schönhauser Allee. He saw a cinema over the main road and took it as an auspicious omen. He went to investigate his new neighbourhood.
Around the same time, although on EST, Eric Schwartz threw John Stuart Mill across the room, grabbed a Sam Adams, and planned on, in the morning, hitting a punch bag instead of the books. After Eric had finished Sam Adams Volume II, he felt better and reflected that making people happy, that is, tipsy, was undoubtedly for the greater good. By Volume III, he was wishing that the good people of Boston had tipped John Stuart Mill into the harbour instead of tea and by Volume IV he no longer cared, and was watching whatever was on late night TV.
Back in Berlin, Richard was reflecting on his day. He had seen Chris back to the UK safely. Soberly. He had caught a Strassenbahn immediately. Silke had miraculously reappeared in his life, the lady with Bond-girl legs, and S&M fetish boots, and tonight he was meeting Johanna. The year was ending very well.
Just because you’re having online classes, with different teachers, (lucky you) doesn’t mean you should stop expanding your knowledge of weird and wacky English expressions, and let me tell you, you won’t find many of these in those cotton-pickin’ textbooks.
English speakers use animals as:
metaphor (my neighbour is a pig)
simile (she drinks like a fish)
idiom (look what the cat dragged in)
adjective form (he is rather bovine – like a cow, she moves with a feline grace – like a cat)
Today, I’m going to introduce you to expressions featuring animals, some of which may not be suitable for polite company …hey, you want to learn REAL English … that’s how we speak !
Now, without further ado …
ANTS: Ants in your pants – when someone can’t keep still, is always moving about which can be very irritating.
BATS: Bat-shit crazy – NOT used in formal, standard English. This is more common in US English to describe someone who is acting very strangely.
CATS: To let the cat out of the bag – to tell a secret, to tell something you were not supposed to disclose.
DOGS: Gone to the dogs – someone or something that was once respectable but is now dirty, useless etc.
ELEPHANT: Couldn’t hit an elephant – implies that someone is very bad at something for example, if they had a rifle they wouldn’t be able to hit a very large target.
SIDEBAR: “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance,” are the famous last words of John Sedgwick, an officer in the Union army in the US Civil War. He meant that the enemy was so far away, they couldn’t possible hit a massive target let alone a single man. Sedgwick was, ironically, shot and killed by the enemy. Read more here:
FISH: Like shooting fish in a barrel – refers to something that is so easy, no effort at all is required to be successful.
At this point, time to stop and reflect, practice what you’ve learnt. What expression fits ?
He used to be a respectable professional, but his wife left him he began drinking and now he’s _______________________________
The bloody woman next to me on the plane just wouldn’t sit still. She had ___________________________________
I’m never teaching that class again ! The kids are all __________
This job is so easy, it’s _________________________________
Oh ! I knew they had a secret. Now the _____________________
Don’t worry about Peter, he’s so bad, he _______________________
Ready for some more ? OK, let’s kick it !
GOLDFISH: Living in a goldfish bowl – a life with no privacy, everyone can see what you do, all the time.
HORSE: A dark horse – someone that has hidden talents or abilities
INSECT: Go away, you little insect – not polite, used when someone is making you feel very uncomfortable, or is harassing you.
JACKASS: You jackass ! – again, very informal signifying a silly or stupid person.
LION: Taking the lion’s share – taking the biggest amount of something.
MONKEY: Too much monkey business – too much madness or uncontrollable behaviour
Practice makes perfect so … kick it !
You spent $100 on that Relox watch, made in China ! _____
Being famous is awful, everyone taking photos all the time, it’s like _____________________________________
I can’t work for this company anymore, I don’t trust them, ________________________________________
As the CEO, he took ___________________________ of the bonus.
I don’t want to buy those cheap fake sunglasses, go away you _________
Wow, Julie wrote this ? It’s so good, she’s a real _________________ always so quiet in class.
OK, enough for one blog, I’ll continue N – Z if there’s any interest, I’ll continue N- Z even if there isn’t any interest. Now I gotta prepare for two online classes and a speaking placement test, drink tea (I am English, don’t forget) and hope my internet doesn’t act like a jackass and pack up on me.
// sel____ // tal________ // unu_____ // valu____ (costs a lot of money)
// wea______ (if you can buy the Mona Lisa, you must be extremely wea_____) // Xenop_______ (do not like people from other countries) // ye__ – _____ (lasts for 12 months) // Zamb___ (person from Zambia)
“I know,” Richard replied then, to change the subject, pointed to his new CD player. “What do you think ?”
“Very nice. All you need now are some CD’s.”
“One thing at a time.”
“Yeah,” Chris added, “don’t want to rush things.”
Chris had arrived at Richard’s with a bag of cakes which they had demolished. Fresh coffee perpetually brewed in the kitchen. They took turns making it, and keeping the Ofen stoked. The kitchen door open, gas rings and fire lit to the max, to combat the Berlin winter.
The reason Chris was here was to see when Richard was flying home, so was surprised when he learnt that Richard intended to spend Christmas in Berlin. Chris, however, had to get away. His life depended on it.
Despite the fun of working in the bar, the sense of rebellion he felt by living in a squat, paying no rent or taxes, and a steady supply of one-night stands, he had also experienced the other, less glamorous side.
He felt wretched all the time. Truly wretched trying to keep up with Jake and failing miserably, waking up with Baustelle headaches, frequent vomiting and an increasing sense of paranoia. He rarely felt relaxed, always sure he had done something terrible, but exactly what always eluded him. The only cure seemed to be to get drunk. The cycle continued.
Winter in the squat was no fun, the Ofen inefficient, and he was always too drunk after returning from the bar to spend time lighting it. Burning down the squat house wouldn’t go down too well with the other squatters.
He was wearing clothes far longer than they ought to have been worn, knowing full well that he smelt, but, as he justified, it was only Berlin, and what was the point in wearing fresh, clean clothes if he was only going to the Czar Bar.
He was also imitating Jake’s eating habits, which comprised of fast food exclusively, either burgers or something deep fried from the local Turkish Imbiss. He could feel the spots multiplying on his face.
As for the women, he was getting used to finding an unattractive malodorous naked body snoring next to him, when he was sure he had gone to bed with a far cuter angel, just hours before. The speed at which the women got up, dressed and left indicated that they, too, were less than impressed with their conquest.
To balance this, he would often go to Richard’s, take a bath, spend time in a warm flat, and sleep a little, without having to worry about being woken by some screaming in the Hof, or someone knocking on his door, barging in, shouting in loud German and expecting him to be as lively as he was when working.
Today, there was another purpose; a new travel agents had opened on Richard’s street, and Chris wanted to see if they should book their tickets together.
“So, it’s getting serious ?”
“Yes, it is. You’re right, there are only so many times a guy can play ‘Monster’. I need some new CD’s”
They walked to the travel agents, looking at the posters of sunny, tropical resorts, while the very tall owner, with a very receding hairline ending in very long hair, scrutinised his computer, with almost comic intensity, to find a flight.
“Nice guy,” said Chris, after having bought his ticket. “I especially liked the John Lennon glasses.”
Richard agreed and they walked a little down Schönhauser Allee. They went into one of the Überraschung shops, a ‘surprise’ store filled with household goods at cheap prices, made by companies with very similar names and logos of established brands. They marvelled at the packets of cheap shirts, endless shelves of crockery and gaudy kitsch items that defied description, wondering how such items got designed, manufactured and sold, wondering who would buy them, when a small albeit very well-built old woman barged in between them to grab the last remaining flower pot-vase-thing.
They soon lost enthusiasm for their constitutional, and returned home. Richard left Chris in the flat, to go to work. He felt a bit relieved, as Chris had mentioned checking out universities back home, or at least some courses. He thought about how things were changing. It was now Chris who seemed lost, having no purpose remaining in Berlin. It was now Richards’s turn to be happy, to be in a relationship. This thought made the job bearable. That and the expectation that in Johanna he had found what he had always been looking for; someone beautiful, intelligent, kind and . . . he was allowing himself to believe, falling in love with him.
Last Monday, and with great sadness, my friend Pete texted me that our former bandmate, Lee Scott Revelle, had passed away the previous day, Sunday 1st August.
Lee had been hospitalised for a short time with an acute illness. His final Facebook update stated that the doctors were approaching the point when they were running out of options. The next posting was from his family, announcing Lee’s passing.
Lee and I met over our love of the 80s band Echo & the Bunnymen, and we formed a band together, bringing in my buddy Pete on bass. We only wrote a handful of songs, made one demo and played one gig, way out in Essex (east of London) in a sports pavillion. We earnt £1 … split four ways … minus mini cab fare and beers. Not a financial or artistic success, but an experience.
That band didn’t last long, but Lee continued to play, write and perform.
Pete, who’s also still making music, has an online radio show, and he’s dedicated this week’s one to Lee. Listen to it here: