Zoom Classes: You cut my hours, you slash my wages and you give me these ?

27th July 2021

Teacher suspended after appearing topless during Zoom video lesson | Nestia
Google Images. A teacher was reported suspended after appearing shirtless on Zoom

In a previous blog I tried, against my nature, to show a positive side to Zoom teaching. Teachers, TAs, admin staff are kept in employment, albeit with significant pay cuts, while the students are able to practise their English skills … should they choose.

I’m trying to keep this light-hearted, but all anecdotes are true, based on my experiences of Zoom. CUT TO last year, our first period of lockdown.

I can’t turn my light on, I’ve got no power

First up, back in the early days, teachers went to campus and used laptops to hold Zoom classes. The first five or ten minutes were spent waiting for late-comers, asking people to put their cameras on, then to KEEP their cameras on, ditto mics. One character, a teenage boy was sitting in darkness … this was a daytime class and Sai Gon in the day in bright, big time. Said teenager claimed that he had no electricity in his house, therefore could not put on the lights.

Do you sense a ‘however’ coming on ?

However … his laptop was working (sure, maybe it was running on battery). His wifi was working, but, the smoking gun … a slither of bright light from the corner of the room. Yes, said young gentleman had drawn his curtain and was ‘claiming’ he had no power.

Do you sense another ‘however’ coming on ?

However … I had an ace up my sleeve for, off-screen but next to me was my manager. I updated Mr No-Power on this development. A native teenager lying to an English teacher is not so unique. But would he lie to his Vietnamese manager. Damn right he would.

Just the tip of the iceberg. My camera’s not working

The teacher asks, politely requests, a student to put the camera on. This is after the class has seen a slide giving class rules AND a video in Vietnamese explaining what is expected. It is expected that students will put on their cameras. CUT TO a black screen, and yet another (here is where a teacher needs the patient of a whole temple of Buddhas) invitation to turn on the camera. Student claims camera is not working. Unfortunately, student had turned ON the camera and we could all see, in glorious Technicolor, the student, bold as brass (but thick as a brick). The mistake was then realised, and the student could be seen reaching for the lower corner of the laptop, and camera fades to black.

But that’s just one or two rotten apples, right ?

Are you kidding ? I teach IELTS which is the serious subject; a good grade here is a passport to a different country, to study, to live, maybe get exposed to different points of views, philosophies and outlooks. So you would think the students would be really motivated, right ?

Think again, pucko !

I had one IELTS class with about eight or nine students, including professional people and even a doctor. Guess what … despite the rules being reiterated, the Vietnamese-language video, I end up speaking to eight or nine black screens. Every lesson.

Doesn’t your campus kick ass ?

Kiss ass rather than kick ass. They go, half-heartedly through the motions, make rules but lack the balls to enforce them.

The reasons are clear. Firstly, this is not a state school, the students are CUSTOMERS … they generate revenue. It is a business axiom that the customer is always right. A business needs to keep and expand its customer base. My campus wants customers to return, to tell their friends, schoolmates, family members, each and everybody, they produce Disneyesque promotional films of photogenic children saying how they love learning here, and how they love their teachers (ya never see the fat ugly kids with buck teeth do ya).

Oh, man, you must be puttin’ me on ?

I wish ! You can look for yourself on YouTube, though not too soon after eating; there are stomach-churningly nauseating. Furthermore, the punters are locals, they are Vietnamese. I’ve seen some YouTube videos of a South African man explaining a similar situation in China. When push comes to shove, the natives support each other. Always. Teachers are a dime a dozen, they come ‘n’ go, and who can blame them ? Customers are more valued, they will always take precedence over a foreigner (that is how we are designated). Ready for one or two final delicacies ?


But teenagers are famous for their good behaviour

Haha, yeah good one. Just a brief entrance here. I had one class, back at campus, with some teens. I began saying hello to each student. Some would just stare at me, refusing to say a word. Then they initiated a new game; I would call a customer and rather than answer immediately, the teen would say, “Me ?” with terrible over-acting, faux surprise. This carried on with every subsequent teen. Finally, a teen, let’s called her Mary, copied her classmates, to wit:

Me: Mary, what’s number 3, please ?

Mary: Me ?

Cue the Beethoven

Beethoven as a Child and His Father's Alcoholism - MagellanTV

Me: Is your name Mary ?

Mary: Yes.

Me: Then answer the question and stop wasting my time.

I went on to explain that I will do everything to help anyone who really wants to learn. However, those who just want to insult me and disturb my lesson … well, let’s Samuel L. explain:

GIF jules winnfield and i will strike down upon thee with great vengeance  and furious anger ezekiel 25 17 - animated GIF on GIFER - by Grilace

Finally, (though you can guess this one could run and run), another IELTS class. I was given a real motley crew of unmotivated, unanimated, lifeless schlimels (if you don’t know what that means, look it up, I ain’t doing all the work for you). One schliemel was a teenage boy, a poster-boy for gormlessness. He informed me, by chat box, that his mic wasn’t working. Now, IELTS is all about speaking and practising, it ain’t just watching the teacher, it ain’t TV, dig ? You’ve gotta join in or you are wasting your (parents’) money.

Did you strike down upon him with great vengeance and furious anger ?

I farmed out that hit. Stopped the lesson and let everyone see that I was contacting Customer Care who, in turn, phoned gormless schliemel. Lo and behold, the mic miraculously started working. The guy would have been happy to sit and listen for an hour or two without contributing anything. After, he could go away and laugh that he hadn’t done any work.

If the job sucks, why d’you do it ?

Good question. I’ve spoken to many teachers, in various countries, and the answer is generally, ‘What else can I do ? It’s my profession’. And, at the moment, I don’t need to tell you, travel just ain’t as easy as it used to be.

Is there anything good about it ?

No. OK, I’m pulling your leg. A minority of students are sweet, respectful and polite. They really want to learn, and I can see the progress week by week. Occasionally, very occasionally, an adult student can become a friend, while the younger kids provoke avuncular feelings. Very rarely, one gets to meet a Princess. But these, as stated, are the minority.

“What a piece of work is man ?” What indeed

These situations are hardly isolated.

I saw an interesting site that highlighted some deplorable behaviour by participants. Read the full page here: https://skierscribbler.com/9307/news/inappropriate-behavior-in-zooms/

A new set of guidelines, according to the article, has been set following recent misbehaviors:


Camera’s must be on during online classes, students that fail to comply with this rule may be marked absent (unless there are extenuating circumstances).


In all zoom calls there is now a mandatory waiting room.


Students are no longer allowed to change their names.

Backgrounds must be one of the default zoom backgrounds or a solid color.


If students have a profile photo, it has to be of themselves.


In some classes, chat restrictions have also been implemented.

The teachers are all taking a massive financial hit to keep these lessons going. ‘T’is a pity the customers display contempt and disrespect. C’est la vie.

Zoom Classes: A dream or a nightmare ?

21st July 2021

Zoom booking system: Taking your fitness classes online with TeamUp's new  Zoom integration and On Demand feature | TeamUp
Zoom exercise class with a motivated student. This bears absolutely no resemblance to my classes. Taken from Google Images

Part One: “Always look on the bright side of life”

Eric Idle 1979

First, a thank you to a blogger friend in USA, Haoyan Do, who asked me about Zoom classes, and how they differed from the physical classroom or, in plain English, real life. I had already decided to put a positive spin (more neologisms) on the current situation but, in the interests of fairness, I shall also explore the other side of that metaphorical coin in a future blog.

Have a look at Haoyan’s blogs which you may access here: https://haoyando.net/

Now, without further ado, the benefits of teaching on Zoom

“If the rain comes, they go and hide their heads …”

The Beatles ‘Rain’ 1966

Rainy Season in Sai Gon

Not easy to capture a monsoon on a cheap mobile (cellphone) but you can see the grey sky, the clouds and the mournful trees trying to shelter from the storm. So, advantage number 1 …

1: Avoid going out in the rainy season

My IELTS students, not to mention my Top Cats from younger classes, will know the idiom ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ and then some ! When it rains here, the heavens open and streets get flooded. I’ve had to wade, knee-high, in swampy rain water to get to my campus. I lost an iPhone in the rain, and nearly get my foot stuck in a pothole in the middle of the main road. Now, I can watch the rain from inside, safe and dry.

Moving on, I haven’t posted many teaching blogs recently, leading to advantage number 2 …

2: No lesson planning

I only have Young Learner classes, students aged from 7 – 11, which are two-hour classes. We work from the set text books, but my manager prepares all the warm up activities, games and vocabulary reviews on ppt slides. I present them and conduct the lesson.

Some students may be rather vocal, and twelve enthusiastic youngsters can be, as we say in London, GBH of the ear’ole, meaning pain from so much noise or excessive talking (GBH stands for grievous bodily harm in English criminal law). Thus, advantage number 3 …

3: MUTE & MUTE ALL buttons

I love these options, the teacher’s friend. A student who is sitting by a blaring TV, a mummy and daddy having a shouting match, someone who wants to disturb the lesson by humming into the mic … just hit the MUTE button … bliss. Furthermore, we have a Waiting Room facility. Any student who is disrespectful or does now meet my standards of behaviour can be kicked out of the class for five minutes. This action can be repeated. I also have the option to permanently remove them from the class (though I have yet to use that feature).

Thay Paul, can you give us an example ?

Can I ? Oh, yeah, in spades ! Just last weekend, I was going through the online class rules, one of which was not to play with the Zoom features, and not to use a Zoom filter background. No sooner said, then one student began playing with Zoom, flashing said background. In my class, that got him a BLACK STAR. Student, typically, denied the accusation, although everyone had seen, and thereafter was in a bad mood, not answering when the TA called and refusing to take part in a game. Therefore, I put the student in the Waiting Room. Upon return, the student began taking part very enthusiastically, even earning stars for good work.

Next advantage is more indirect but ultimately beneficial to us all

4: Environmental

Schools closed, traffic greatly reduced leading to less pollution. Naturally people are using more electricity at home, but in many cases, lights, computers and A/C would be on anyway. Additionally, I spend more on electricity but this is offset by not spending money on petrol (gas) or Grabbike (similar to an Uber service).

So there you have it, four benefits although nothing of real pedagogic value. The Zoom classes are a way of providing some level of education during this lockdown period, to make sure students are exposed to English: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Teachers need to be extra patient and calm, understanding and compassionate. However, we also have a job to do, and I endeavour to make sure all the students have had an opportunity to practice English, leaving the class having learnt something of lasting value.

Love and Chaos Part 8(E) Julie 1

24th June 2021

May be an image of 1 person

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.

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

IELTS Mindset 1: Lesson 5 Review

14th April 2021

May be an image of 1 person
Do you want to join Thay Paul’s class ? “I willl give it my utmost consideration.”

New vocabulary

unique – one of a kind, nothing else like it

imminent – going to happen or start very soon

you get what you pay for (or you pay for what you get) – if you buy something cheap, you get bad quality

to romanticise – to make something ordinary more interesting

to fantasise (fantasize US English) – to wish for something great to happen

use your imagination / give your imagination free reign – it is OK to pretend, to make up a better story

I will give it my utmost consideration – I will think about it very, very carefully (and then say ‘no’).

firstly, secondly, additionally, another point is, on the other hand, however, finally, in conclusion, to sum up, all things considered – all ‘signpost language‘, to help organise your ideas.

Are you ready to rock ?

May be an image of 1 person
Miss Ngoc in Sai Gon … hey, ho … let’s go !

I’ll be burning the candle at both ends because my IELTS test is _______________ .

Remember, you don’t have to tell the absolute truth in your speaking test. It’s totally OK to ________________________________ .

I picked up this shirt at Saigon Centre and, yeah, it cost an arm and a leg, but just feel the quality … you ____________________________________ .

We booked a really reasonable room at the beach, but the water was cold, the sheets were stained and there were bugs everywhere. We totally _____________________________________ (use past tense).

Thay Paul, we have a new class of students. They are extremely lazy and unmotivated and only want to play with their phones. Would you like to teach them ? ________________________________________________ .

What did you do last weekend ? “I sleep.” Is that all ? Ah, c’mon, do better, ______________________________________ .

Quick – fire round

No photo description available.

You planned a day out for my friend Ethan. Describe these photos using as many IELTS features as you can:

No photo description available.
No photo description available.
No photo description available.
Highlands Coffee opposite the Rex Hotel 2012

Areas to focus on: being confident about answering the Part II questions, so we shall work on fluency and developing the ability to speak for longer periods without hesitation.

Just a minute

Speak for one minute on:

Food in your country

What you do in your free time

Your family

Holidays in your country (e.g. Tet, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc)

A link to last week’s notes: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/04/07/ielts-mindset-1-lesson-4-review/

See you next week

May be an image of 6 people

Students hate TO BE corrected, but teachers like TO ADDRESS issues.

9th March 2021

Socrates

Furthermore, she loves to wear Givenchy perfume but I prefer to spend my hard-earned* on Dior.

In the modern parlance, ‘Did you see what I did there ?’ I followed four auxiliary verbs (‘hate,’ ‘love,’ ‘like’ & ‘prefer’) with infinite verbs. I sense that I’ve already lost the interest of 90% of my readers with these grammar terms, but hold your horses and I’ll explain, I’ll ‘cut the crap‘, if you will.

Language bullies, pedants, and grammar nerds who correct people all the  time: Cut it out.

OK, breaks down like this: an auxiliary verb is a ‘helping’ verb; we need more information to understand what the speaker means e.g.

I want … (what do you want ?) // He needs … (what does he need ?) // She loves … // We want … etc

An infinite verb simply means a verb in no tense (past, present or future). It is simply formed thus:

to + base verb

Examples: to eat / to go / to study / to procrastinate

Infinite has no tense, by which I mean it is incorrect to say,

“Last night I to see a film,” (past tense)

“She to go home,” (present) or

“Tomorrow he will to take a test.” (future tense).

We can combine an auxiliary verb with an infinite verb, as demonstrated in the heading and subsequent paragraph.

So what's the problem? - david lynch 1 | Meme Generator

Occasionally, a student may question my use of grammar, or mention that they have been told a different rule, to wit, last night a student informed me that, according to a different teacher, auxiliary verbs such as ‘like,’ ‘love.’ ‘hate,’ HAVE TO BE followed by a continuous verb:

I hate shopping NOT I hate to shop

He loves watching films NOT He loves to watch films

We like drinking wine after work NOT We like to drink wine after work

To Quote Dr Johnson:

PPT - 1. Get Real: An Introduction to Plato PowerPoint Presentation, free  download - ID:2610551

“I refute it thus,” :

I like to play guitar / I hate to hear karaoke / I love to listen to my friend Pete’s online radio show

But don’t take my word for it; here’s a link to an appropriate page on the Cambridge Dictionary site: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/hate-like-love-and-prefer

Hatelikelove and prefer

Grammar > Verbs > Verb patterns > Hatelikelove and preferfrom English Grammar Today

We can use hate, like, love and prefer with an –ing form or with a to-infinitive:

hate to see food being thrown away.

love going to the cinema.

prefer listening to the news on radio than watching it on TV.

He prefers not to wear a tie to work.

In American English, the forms with to-infinitive are much more common than the –ing form.

There is a very small difference in meaning between the two forms. The -ing form emphasises the action or experience. The to-infinitive gives more emphasis to the results of the action or event. We often use the –ing form to suggest enjoyment (or lack of it), and the to-infinitive form to express habits or preferences.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth.

What can we learn from this ? Well, teachers are only human (mostly) and can make mistakes. Non-native speaker teachers often teach from books that may simplify grammar and may therefore, inadvertently, be incorrect in their assertions. The books may be outdated; they may even be wrong.

Just because something is written in a book, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Check for yourself, be proactive in your learning; if you have internet access, check reputable websites.

Furthermore, even native-speakers can be wrong and I’ll be the first to admit this (even if I don’t have the wisdom of Socrates, not by a long chalk).

And now, a shout-out to a dear friend, the aforementioned Pete, who has a magnificent online radio show entitled ‘Flatwound’s Sounds‘. I listened to his most recent offering as I typed this blog and I’d like to recommend it to y’all: https://www.mixcloud.com/flatwoundssounds/flatwounds-sounds-miscellany-show-19-4th-march-2021/

flatwounds.sounds | Mixcloud
https://www.mixcloud.com/flatwoundssounds/flatwounds-sounds-miscellany-show-19-4th-march-2021/

* hard-earned cash = money or wages from a hard job.

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2: Art for art’s sake

3rd March 2021

International Women's Day (8th March) | Days Of The Year
Happy International Women’s Day
A Conversation with Tracey Emin CBE RA, Artist. – Thought Economics
The British artist Tracey Emin
The Empty Bed: Tracey Emin and the Persistent Self - Image Journal

‘ My Bed’ by Tracey Emin, created in 1998 and first exhibited in 1999 at the Tate gallery, London.

Tonight’s class is on a subject close to my heart – art. I have several blogs on art which you can access on these links:

Art: giving opinion // Adult Speaking Class, level 3: Art // 13th April 2020: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/04/13/adult-speaking-class-level-3-art-what-do-you-think/

This is the link I’ll be using tonight. Other blogs include genres of art, early C20th surreal art, and finally an introduction to art for younger learners.

Portrait, Landscape, Still Life (Wyndham Lewis, John Constable, Paul Cezanne) // Adult Class, Level 1 // 19th December 2018: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2018/12/19/adult-class-level-1-lessons-1-2/

Art: DaDa & Surrealism // Adult Speaking Class, level 3: Dali, Dada & Surrealism // 23rd April 2020: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/04/23/adult-speaking-class-level-3-dali-dada-and-surrealism/

Art: types of art // Young Learners, level 4 (Dali, Alice in Wonderland) // 16th May 2019: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2019/05/16/young-learners-level-4-art-for-arts-sake/

Let’s dive in ! To my classroom students, look at the quote from Tracey Ermin … do you recognise any words from last week’s lesson (on electromagnetic waves) ? Did you notice ’emit’ & ‘pulsing’ ? Do you recall what they mean ?

With art, you can be honest and say what you feel – is it not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ situation. Quite simply, do YOU like the art ? Can you express why ? What does the art say to you ? What feelings does it evoke ?

You don’t have to know anything about art – but it is a useful way to extend your English. Here are some expressions you could use:

“As far as I’m concerned…” // “Speaking for myself…”

“In my opinion…” // “Personally, I think…”

“I’d say that…” // “It really appeals to me …”

I don’t get it at all // It leaves me cold

It’s not my cup of tea // I wouldn’t call that ‘art’.

What do you think of these Vietnamese works, as an introduction to unusual art:

Abtract vietnamese artist
‘Happy Market’ by NGUYEN QUY TAM
by Thanh Chuong
Showcase "Collection of Vietnamese Contemporary Paintings" - Hanoi Grapevine

Finally, a very famous Norwegian painting, which I was lucky enough to see in Oslo:

The Scream, c.1893' Art Print - Edvard Munch | Art.com
‘Skrikt’ or ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch

How do you respond to this ?

Here’s what sunset looks like in Oslo:

File:Solnedgang over Oslofjorden Sunset Oslo Fjord Norway.jpg - Wikimedia  Commons

Suddenly, the blood red sky ceases to be abstract and becomes realistic. Hope you can practice using opinion phrases, as well as incorporating new words into your everyday English. Tonight, from the book we had:

abstract

artificial

illuminate

layer

silhouette

Adult Speaking Class, level 2: Breaking the silence.

2nd March 2021

Social interaction
The future of social interactions | by UV | Medium

Ôi Trời ƠiOy Vey! – Are you kidding me ! Last night’s class was chockablock with new, high-level vocabulary:

I don't underStand - Confused asian lady | Meme Generator

Ok, take it easy, let’s break it down. Firstly, you were not expected to learn or remember everything; I told you to … well, you tell me. Try to complete the sentences with the new words. If you need help, the vocabulary box follows the questions, while I’ll put the answers at the end of the blog.

1) I didn’t understand everything, but I got the ________

2) Light and sound travel in ___________

3) X-Rays and microwaves are a form of (type of) __________________

4) For me, trying to pronounce Vietnamese words is a real ____________

5) Can you buy twelve eggs ? Yeah, buy me ______________

6) I don’t understand the Zoom instruction video, there’s so much computer __________

7) One of y tá (nurse) Cam’s duties is to take a patient’s ________ , to measure their heartbeat.

8) They love each other dearly, but they don’t always see __________________

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) - Full HD Movie For Free | hdbest.net
A scene from ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe ?’ with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who actually were married … twice, in fact.

VOCABULARY: a dozen // gist // struggle // pulse // jargon // waves // eye to eye // electromagnetic radiation //

Types of Electromagnetic Radiation | Tnuda

Despite the jargon, there were some useful, everyday phrases that you can start to use:

lack of ..

for the sake of …

actually quite …

away from …

there’s no chance of …

NOW … YOUR TURN – complete the sentences, then make your own examples (in pairs or teams).

A) I need a holiday, I have to get ________________ the city.

B) She thought the film would be tedious but is was ____________ interesting.

C) Unless you study harder, _______________ you passing the test.

D) People can be very unhealthy due to a _________ vitamins in their diet.

E) He always agrees with his wife _______________________ peace and quiet.

Finally, for extra practice:

i) I don’t phone the UK on my mobile because it’s ___________

Been struck down by a mobile phone bill shock? – Which? Conversation

ii) If my Wi-Fi keeps disconnecting, I will ______________________

7 Tips For Dealing With a Conflict at Work, Even In Quarantine

iii) Things that can affect society and how people behave. For example, the original ‘Star Wars’ films were an incredible ____________________

Poll: Are You a Die-Hard Star Wars Fan? | StarWars.com

Answers

1) gist 2) waves 3) electromagnetic radiation 4) struggle 5) a dozen 6) jargon 7) pulse 8 ) eye to eye

A) away from B) actually quite C) there’s no chance of D) lack of E) for the sake of

i) prohibitively expensive ii) lose my mind iii) sociological phenomenon

A piece of cake - APC Languages