Richard had to use the bathroom, had to vomit, had to open a window, had to drink litres of designer French water, had to take several aspirins, had to have a blood transfusion, had to be joking to think that this was any sort of life.
Richard could not get out of bed, could not turn or move; who had used his head as a punch bag ? He checked his face. Teeth intact. Stubble, even the stubble stank of old cigarettes, but no discernable cuts, bruises, bleeding.
The room had an unbearage fug of everything that was unholy and unhealthy. He had to open the window but it was minus God-knows what outside. It would purify the stench … or was that sunlight ? There would be no sunlight for at least five months, meanwhile … water.
But every movement resulted in an internal knockout blow to the head. Some inner-cranial entity was hell-bent on kicking the crap out of the back of Richard’s eyes. And he had to vomit. The thought made him want to vomit. He had to use the bathroom. The thought of that made him want to vomit. The infamous, cruel and unusual, you are being held to account, porcelain punishment.
Dreading how much repulsive fluid was able to emerge, projectile or explosive, from this paragon of animals, and what a Styxian stench would engulf the flat, our pilgrim makes the journey, more or less on his knees, to the bathroom, and we shall close the door on that chapter and return when sufficient ablutions have been made.
London, the clocks one hour behind. Chris woke up in Battersea, in Melanie’s flat. She sat on his bed as he drank his tea. There was toast with jam and marmalade waiting. Later they could go into the West End, take in a museum, see a film, have a beer and talk over old times. The room had central heating, the flat had a newly-painted feel, everything seemed so clean, ordered and organised.
London, several miles north in Chalk Farm, Alan was nursing a cold in his sister Jo’s flat. How could he have been such an idiot as to go walking, in the Berlin winter, knowing he had a late flight that evening. Freezing streets, overheated U-Bahns, chilly airport lounges, a stifling cramped sweaty plane, draining immigration, bedlam at baggage and then … and then the long journey on the London Tube. After several teas, lots of sympathy noises, and a potential overdose of Lemsip, Alan screened the Super 8 film.
“She’s gorgeous, that Julie. You little tinker, you ! I told you Berlin would do you the world of good.”
Back on Berlin time, Daniel Roth was reflecting on his night out. Instead of hitting the Czar Bar, or meeting workmates in some lifeless stuffy time-frozen 70s style pub, he went solo, trying some bars around Yorckstrasse. New year, new start. He restricted himself to wine, and experimented holding his cigarette in different styles. He didn’t want to look too affected or effeminate, yet he succeeded in being both. However, he did end up chatting with two German girls and could feel them about to succumb to his charms, giving him a double Weihnachten (Christmas) gift, until they linked arms and departed. Daniel spent the rest of the evening drinking with the old Turkish barkeeper, whose face seems inscribed with wisdom, gentleness and experience. He thought back over his conversation with Jeanette, and his killer put down.
His feet were fast freezing, coins devoured by the phone box, Jeanette’s voice exuding warmth, comfort, opulence.
“We absolutely adored it, there’s no question, no question at all that it meets our criteria, only, well, how shall I put it delicately ? Daniel, it is a little near the bone for some of our board. I’m sure you know the section to which I allude.”
Daniel paused for effect.
“The magazine’s called ‘Savage Revolt’.”
A few seconds of silence.
“Do you know, you are absol…, no, quite right, we have an obligation to the artist, and … and, if certain people don’t wish to read it, they don’t have to, yes, yes. Let’s do it. I’m going to go to bat for you.”
“Unedited, you have my word. Now, my young Hemingway, what are you doing on Silvester ? I’m having a little soiree and you simply must come. There’s a lot of people that want to meet you.”
Sunday afternoon, Daniel found one of the few Lebensmittel open and bought more wine, Sekt, chocolate, tins of goulash, giant tins of soup, cigarettes, cigarette papers, factory-produced bread and cake-type items, then returned home. He was going to read some books Chris had loaned him, maybe write a follow-up story. It seemed official. He was going to be published, and people wanted to meet him. Controversial already. But, it was Berlin. Maybe it was all just so much bullshit. He opened the wine, opened Dickens, took a swig straight from the bottle and thought, “Fuck me !”
“Fucking hell, never, never, never again,” announced Richard to no one in particular, as there was no one with him, save the Tasmanian devil running amok inside his brain. He had finished the water, and was now settling down for a day of mint tea and self-recrimination.
Serves him right for expecting anything good to happen in this shit city, in this shit life. He had hoped that he would be waking up, snuggling up, to Johanna.
At least this time he couldn’t blame himself for being drunk or too forward or not forward enough. He had been at the bar early, and waited. And waited … and waited. Johanna had stood him up.
Richard was in the bathroom, trying to get his hair to do something presentable, when he heard someone shouting, in English, from the Hof,
“RECALLED TO LIFE ! RECALLED TO LIFE !”
Having just finished ‘The Tale Of Two Cities’, he instantly recognised the quote, and the speaker could only be Chris.
Sure enough, within seconds, there was the sound of key in lock, the door opening and Chris bounding in, repeating his phrase, with a wide smile.
“Hey, I’m coming, too ! Couldn’t miss Al’s gig.”
They embraced and whooped it up.
“What about work ?” asked Richard, having gone with Monika as she had driven Chris to work in Yorckstrasse, some hours previously.
“I raged against the washing-up machine. I threw down my tea towel, pointed at the head chef and said, ‘Fuck you ! I won’t do what you tell me !’”
“Well . . . OK, not exactly. I jumped out the window and legged it.”
“You’re gonna hafta fill me in here, Dude, c’mon, full story.”
“So I’m at work, and it’s Saturday and you’re going out tonight with my girlfriend, not sure how I feel about that, but by the by, everyone’s going to have fun . . . “
“No, we’re going to see Al. Have you heard Al ?”
“A minor point, I’m working and I get sent to get something, I don’t even know what it is, some long piece of meat, about two metres long, who the fuck knows where it comes from, real ‘Naked Lunch’ food. Anyway, I forget what it is I’m going for and I have to ask somebody . . . “
“I hate having to ask somebody.”
“. . . and I completely forget the fucking chef’s name. I know it’s something like Randy, Roderick, Reginald, but they’re not sounding too German, so I’m in the fridge, suddenly it comes to me. I run out, stand in the middle of the kitchen and shout out, ‘RUDOLPH!’ like, you know, as in reindeer. Everyone looks at me, then goes back to work.”
“Guessing his name wasn’t Rudolph, then.”
“Guessing you could be right. Randolf.”
“Ah, much more German.”
“I just thought, fuck this ! I’m standing in the middle of a greasy, pasta-stinking kitchen calling out for a red-nosed, possibly fictional, animal. And not even drunk. The sink is right by the window, looks out onto the street.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Future reference. You ever start a kitchen, don’t ever give the Spüler clean sight of escape.”
“Well, you just did your duty.”
“Absolutely. I mean, fucking hell, washing-up for a living, screw me.”
“Yes. Pretty rough, isn’t it. Monika should be here soon.”
Soon enough, the knock on the door. Richard opened it and he hugged Monika. She asked him,
“Ah, question, shall we go straight there, or would you like we go to another bar first ? Get a bit drunk ?”
At that point, Monika stopped. She had just seen Chris come out from the living room. He stood by the door, smiling,
“Liebling ! (Darling)”
“And . . . what is ?”
“I left the job. I’ll get another.”
“And, when ? You have something ?”
Monika walked into the room and into the kitchen, Chris expected to follow.
“Er, it’s OK, I’m just gonna put some blue shit on my face,” said Richard, trying to be tactful, and referring to a face pack he’d picked up at Zoo Station. Chris had no idea what he was talking about, but did know that he was in for a rather unpleasant meeting.
The bathroom wall backed onto the kitchen, so the voices were quite clear, especially the female one, which sounded somewhat angry. Richard turned on the taps and began humming to himself.
After a series of very animated, though muffled screams, Richard heard heavy footsteps, followed by the front door slamming shut.
He came out of the bathroom, with the face pack on. Chris just gave him a look, an intake of breath and shake of the head. Then he looked at Richard more intensely,
“You’ve got blue shit all over your face.”
“You going like that ?”
“Naw, thought I’d wash it off, first.”
“Cool. Ummm . . . don’t think Monika will be joining us, tonight.”
Richard knocked the worst of the snow from his boots and entered the bar immediately seeing, and hearing, Chris and Arizona Al at a far table.
He ordered a coffee as he walked over to them, and began the process of taking off the layers of clothing.
It was only mid afternoon, but all lights were on. The day, seen through the large glass panes, was gray and bitter, people walked along quickly, heads down and wrapped up against the cold.
“Look what I got,” he said, opening his bag and taking out three second hand paperbacks. He put them on the table, Chris taking them straight up,
“Let’s see . . . ‘Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man’, hhmmm, ‘The Trial’, Kafka, and, ah, Dickens, ‘Tale of Two Cities’. Which one you gonna read first ?”
“Think I’ll have a bash at Kafka. You’re always talking about him. You read this one ?”
“Long time ago. Al ?”
“Err, what’s that ? Kafka ? No, who’s he ?”
Richard explained about the Czech writer, as best he could, only knowing what he had read in the introduction on the U-Bahn ride.
“Oh, yeah, cool, could give that a go, yeah, something different. Been meaning to ask you guys about books. Like to maybe borrow some, if that’s no biggie ?”
“Here,” said Richard, offering the Memoirs. “Thought it was something German, name like Siegfried Sassoon, but turns out he’s as English as can be.”
“Yeah, the fox hunting bit may have been a clue, what ?” said Chris with a wink at Al, before asking him, “You read Generation X ?”
“Err, no, no, don’t think so.”
Richard had brought it from London, and they had read and reread it many times between them. Chris was all for going home and getting it immediately, but Al told him that later would be OK.
“It legitimizes our whole existence,” continued Richard, “for example, I’m no longer a hopeless loser, I’m a McJober. We,” indicating Chris and himself, “are occupational slummers. You, Al, are retro, neo, rock star, throwback . . . something.”
“Actually,” corrected Chris, “I’m taking an occupational sabbatical.”
“Yeah, how’s the job hunt going ?” asked Arizona, trying to get the conversation back to something he could understand.
Richard laughed to himself, having heard all of Chris’ descriptions of sordid, Dickensian working conditions.
“I’ve got an interview, meeting thing tomorrow at some pasta restaurant in Yorckstrasse, so at least I’ll get some decent grub. But, fucking hell, some of the places. I went to one, out past Dahlem, and there was no sink in the kitchen. They were showing me how to take the plates and shit out to a big barrel in the yard, and wash them with a hose. Then I went to a brewery bar on the Ku’ Damm. Took one fucking look and thought fuck that. Enormous kitchen and about ten chefs, all screaming at each other and at the Spülers, who just stood there, heads down, as frying pans were flying around, fat was flying, food was flying, bottles . . . lucky not to be decapitated. Lucky not to be employed there.”
Richard enjoyed the embellishments Chris had made since he first heard that anecdote, when it had featured a mere four chefs. He then spoke up, as much to clear his name as anything.
“Of course, I offered to let him go back to Biberkopf . . . “
“Yes, but then what ? I have a much better chance of finding something than you. Besides . . . Monika’s not happy with me being just a . . . “
Arizona waited for the completion of the sentence, but was forced to ask,
“You and Monika not so tight ? I thought you were solid.”
Chris let out a whistle,
“No, sir, not by a long chalk. Trouble at mill.”
He knew that Arizona would have no idea what he was talking about, so he clarified.
“I don’t know, Al. You should know, you’re been around women. What should I do ? First, every thing’s fine, great, she’s the love of my life, next thing, she’s a bloody Tasmanian Devil, a force of destruction. Hurricane Monika. Not a house left standing.”
“Hey, man, can I ask you something ?” then without waiting for permission, Arizona continued, “what was the deal with that Melanie chick ?”
Richard sat up, hoping that at last, he may know the full story.
Chris did in fact look at him as he began, but now didn’t care and was happy to get it all out in the open.
“I don’t know. As you can see, when it comes to women, I’m at a bit of a loss.”
“She was into you like gangbusters, Dude. When you kissed Monika, her face was just pure evil. Queen of death.”
“Yeah ! That’s her. ‘Queen of Death’”
“All that black doesn’t help,” added Richard.
“She some kind of Antichrist or something ?” asked Arizona.
“Atheist,” said Richard, presuming Al has used the wrong word. “We had a discussion about her beliefs one morning. She told me there was no God. But atheists are like joggers; you never see a happy one.”
“And you couldn’t argue with her. She’s always right.” said Chris.
“Especially when she’s wrong,” concluded Richard. Arizona was more interesting in the background than the word games.
“But did you ever like, date or fool around ?”
“Yeah, you ever take her out to second base ?” asked Richard.
“Get to second base, asshole. If you’re gonna go Yankee on my arse, at least get it right !”
Arizona tried to get the answer. Chris refocused.
“No, no, well, yeah, OK, kinda kissed and shit, but I wasn’t really into it. Breaks down like this; I was working in a café, bussing tables ‘n’ shit. OK, I was pouring coffee and working the till, whatever, and Melanie also worked there.”
“And Will was a regular customer ?” interrupted Richard.
“I’ll get to that bloody old nuisance in a moment.” Chris shook his head and took a strong hit of caffeine. “So, we’re both students, Mel and me, but never meet on campus, because I’m doing heavy macho stuff and she’s into waste of time, book reading or flower arranging, I dunno, chick subjects. But, you know, there ain’t much a-happ’ning on the home front, and we get on, and one night we go to the movies. Then, afterwards, as we’re saying ‘goodbye’ she comes up to me and gives me a massive hug, really hung in there, got her moneys worth. That should have been a sign.”
“Oh, I get it. A clingy-thingy.” Said Arizona.
“I hear you, Man.”
“But you were never together ?” clarified Richard.
“No, course not. So we kissed a bit, well, you know, vodka will do that to ya. But then I pulled down the portcullis. Told her I wasn’t into anything physical. Childhood trauma and all. I expected her to run like the clappers, but, oh no, she has to add her own Freudian fuckups. Unable to . . . you know.”
Arizona nodded, slowly, sagely. He knew.
“But she was coming on like you were soul mates an’ all,” Richard explained, “such talk, like you have the best hands in history. Let me see. Hold up those Germans.”
Chris wasn’t exactly sure of that Cockney slang, but held out his hands for inspection.
Richard made a dismissive snort,
“They’re nothing to write home about. Now, Will; what’s his problem.”
“Where do I start ? He’s just some old fart who’d come in, buy one coffee and stay all day. Couldn’t shift the fucker. The sort that works out how much he’s saving on electricity. Sniffing around young students.”
“Male or female ?”
“I don’t think he was even bothered. In fact . . . Yes, sonofabitch, he came on to me. Few times. Cheeky bugger. Thought he was just being . . . ”
“HEY !” exclaimed Arizona, who had been looking at some flyers on the table, “whatdoyaknow ? ‘The Wiggling Kellys’.”
There were a few seconds of silence, as Chris’s story had been prematurely curtailed, and they would have to adjust to the verbal jet-lag, as a new, wholly unrelated tale was going to unfold.
“Ha, those girls. They were my backing band.”
Neither Chris nor Richard were willing to delay the story, so they indicated with their eyes that he should continue, without pause, with Richard holding up his coffee cup, and three fingers, to the waitress, whom he naturally found cute. He had already checked her left hand and noticed the absence of a ring.
“Yeah, they were backing me at the ‘So Was ?’ (So what ?) club in Kreuzberg. Ya been there ? It’s got this long kinda walkway catwalk stage, so it’s great for rocking out on. I’d met these two girls some time before and they’re real hot, groupie types, and they’re asking about venues and how to go about getting a band together, and I’m all, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, just trying to decide which one I wanna connect with, ya dig ? So I told them about this gig and they were asking do I need backing singers, and I’m thinking, well, no, but, hang on here, what better way to turn ’em on, play the rock star card, so I say, well, I don’t know, maybe, let’s see what ya got.”
Laughter and claps of approval.
“Yeah, I’m one one cool motherfucker when it calls for it, I know, so they do a number, in the bar, and, what can I say ? OK, can hold a tune, just, but they start dancing to it.”
“Wiggling ?” asked Richard, with excitement.
“Oh, yeah, they had the moves, you know what I’m saying ? So I thought, hang back, if they sing, they’ll fuck up the songs, but if they dance …”
“Fucking genius ! I’ve got a lot to learn from you,” Chris gushed.
“Sure ’nuff, Grasshopper. So comes the gig, I’m playing, and doing my stuff, I just had guitar and drum machine, and I start to walk up the stage. The girls see this, and next time, they walk with me, one each side, dancing away. So it goes. Every time I move up the stage, they come with me, and the audience are going crazy. I thought it’ld be a tough crowd, lot of biker leather in there. So I play another, and another, each time, loud screams. Then I go over to change a rhythm track and strum a few chords, but the audience are still going wild, even more so, then I look up and see the girls still dancing. Then the fucking PA motherfucka cuts my amp line and starts playing Techno shit, and the girls keep dancing, the audience going even crazier.”
“So . . . what did you do ?” Richard was forced to inquire.
“Just packed up my equipment, took a beer and watched the show. Gave them the name, too. From ‘90210’. You guys get that in England ?”
They both denied knowledge of it. Arizona continued,
“Yeah, I had a lot of afternoons at home in the early Nineties. So there’s this character called Kelly, and in the opening credits, she wiggles off. Man, you gotta see it. OK, gotta split. Oh, shit, Man, nearly forgot. Got a few gigs coming up.”
“Cool !” from Richard
“Rock on !” from Chris.
“Yeah, you’ll be there, right ? ‘Cause ain’t nothing worse than playing to an empty hall.”
“Of course. Even take the night off, if I have to. Chris ?”
“Absolutely. I’m so there. One question . . . “
“No, The Wiggling Kellys will not be there. Got their own gigs. Playing the, hey, check it out, they’ve got another gig at the ‘So Was ?’. Hah. Never asked me back. OK, out of here. Tschüs.”
After he left, Richard turned to Chris,
“I’m glad we know him. Oh, shit, he’s coming back.”
Arizona returned, holding out a cassette.
“You guys still play tapes, right ? Here’s a copy of some of my old stuff. Yeah, you may be into it. Give it a listen.”
He left again. Chris put the tape in his bag and Richard checked his watch.
“OK, gotta split soon, myself. You back at the flat tonight ?”
“Yeah, gotta stay sober for the interview, meeting thing.”
“Why you sweating it ? You’re a sure thing because, one, they really need a Spüler, and, two, they really need a Spüler. Another coffee ? Then I’ll have to go.”
Left alone, Chris read a bit of Dickens, starting in on the introduction, but couldn’t really concentrate. It was only an unskilled job, paying a basic wage, but money went a long way. A full week’s work would cover his rent and travel for the month, and there would be free food, as well.
But the job meant so much more. He still hadn’t told Monika about the studio closing and was terrified of her running into Al and him telling her. He had to get something, or he would certainly get something from his girlfriend who would instantly become his ex-girlfriend.
At Christmas we have decorations, Christmas cards and a lot of food ! Have the students study the photo for one minute, then turn off the projector and ask them to write down all the food they can remember.
Best of all, in my opinion, is the Christmas pudding:
We have a Christmas tree. The tree is decorated with lights and bells and also there are presents on the floor around the tree. In the west, at the top of the tree, traditionally there is an angel.
How about Christmas in other countries ? This is Germany at Christmas
From Sweden, the children’s story Pettson och Findus by Sven Nordqvist
Make a Christmas card for one of your classmates (or teacher hahaha)
Need: paper / crayons / scissors / glue sticks / colour pens or felt-tip pens
And now, for older students … ‘A Christmas Carol’. One of the most famous Christmas stories is by Charles Dickens, a short story about a miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts, after which he decides to change his life.
My penultimate day in London; sky grey, wind bitter, prices high and queues at the British Museum, prohibitively long.
I left east London around 9.00 am and took the Tube straight to Holborn and from there, walked the ten minutes up to the Museum, pausing only to take these snaps:
Japanese … ?
Mexican … ?
Chinese … ?
One of my favourite Korean restaurants. I ordered seafood bibimbap with flying fish eggs.
And a final walk around central London. Above what used to be a great cinema bookshop near The Museum …
It ends for me where it began for Dickens; his first success, the ‘Sketches by Boz’. The following day, I had some final business to take care of, and then try to rest. Tuesday was the big flight back to Asia … but that is another blog.
In December 2019, The UK had a general election. USA have their election at the end of 2020.
Idioms and collocations
campaign / victory / vote / party / voter
It was a long and dirty election _________which divided the country. The Conservatives won a landslide _________ in the last general election. I usually cast my _________ for the candidate who is more business friendly. The problem with two _________systems like the USA’s, is not all views are represented. I’m a typical floating _________ , I never decide how to vote until the day of the election.
If you elect me for President, I will make a difference. I will lower taxes for every citizen and I will make sure that every worker gets a fair deal. I will not stand by and watch the poor and the needy being downtrodden.
How long is a political term in your country ?
Do you think it’s important to vote?
If you were elected leader of your country, what law would you change first?
You will see some character information. Use this to create a character for yourself.
Take some time to think. Put some effort into this by using the facts and incorporating them.
Lee Morgan 27 musician born Chicago resides Sai Gon not married
Likes music ! barbecue and spicy food cinema going to clubs and dancing
Dislikes early mornings 9 – 5 jobs Vietnamese food traffic no-smoking ban
Hi, my name’s Morgan, Lee Morgan. I’m 27 and I hail from Chicago, Illinois, which is a dynamic city, but pretty damn cold in winter; icy winds and snow. I’m currently living here, in HCM or Sai Gon, whatever. I’m still single, haven’t found the right girl yet but there are a heap of cute ladies in Vietnam, right ?
I’m a professional musician so, of course, I love music, it’s my passion. I also really love barbecue and hot, spicy food like chilli or gumbo. Yeah, what else … oh, I also enjoy taking in a movie, but at the cinema, not on DVD … no atmosphere at home. Because I finish work late, I often find myself going to clubs and dancing the night away. Great way to meet women, too !
What I’m not crazy about is getting up early. I never get up before noon, no way ! Oh, yeah, sorry to say, I really can’t find any Vietnamese food I like, hey, sorry. Some of it’s OK, but it’s just soup and noddles and bones ! The traffic is another pet hate, it’s hellish and absolutely dangerous. Lastly, I’m a smoker and I want to smoke where and when I want. I hate that I get told not to smoke.
If you have just met, what questions could you ask Lee ?
Remember – nothing too personal. When he answers, show interest, maybe add information about yourself.
BACKCHANNEL – say ‘yeah’, ‘oh, right’, ‘really ?’ etc
I was born in Hue but I grew up in Na Trang.
Really ? I’m from Na Trang. When did you move to HCMC ?
I like sports.
Me too. I play badminton every week and football every Sunday.
We’ve been married for three years but no kids.
Why not ? What is wrong with you, or is your wife too lazy to have kids ?
(this is not considered a correct or polite thing to say. Instead, change the subject)
Kenjie Ozu 24 medical student born Tokyo resides Sai Gon engaged
Likes Jazz music / keep fit / karaoke / meeting friends / computer games
Dislikes noise and pollution / smoking / animal cruelty / fast food
Rob Forster 31 lawyer born Sydney resides Sai Gon married, 2 children
Dislikes work / his boss / exercise / when his wife asks for money / foreigners
Hank Douglass 30 shop manager born San Francisco resides Ha Noi single
Likes investing / gambling / baseball driving / fast cars / action movies
Dislikes housework / romantic films / tipping / drunk people / police / recycling
Boz I don’t get much time to read, but I’d like to improve my English. Any tips ?
Pip Well, maybe you could give Dickens a go. Oh, some of his books are 1000 pages.
Boz Bloody hell ! Who has time or energy to read 1000 pages !
Pip Hold your horses, he also wrote short stories. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is very famous.
Boz Hang on … yes, I know … Ebenezer Scrooge, right ? I’ll download it later.
Pip Of course, the most famous writer is Shakespeare. ‘To be or not to be…’
Boz Not sure that’s my cup of tea. I prefer something a bit more modern.
Pip Conversely, watch a version. I went to see a play in London, at the Globe.
Boz The reconstructed theatre ? I saw it on the news. It looks really cool … and cold !
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