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.

Young Learners: Zoom Class Rules

15th July 2021

Should Students Have the Option to Turn Their Cameras Off During Zoom? –  The Rampage
A familiar scene from my ADULT IELTS class – no one switching on their camera. THIS IS FROM GOOGLE IMAGES

Hello everyone

Please have pens, pencils and paper ready.

If you have a project, you will need crayons and colour pencils, an eraser, a ruler.

Furthermore, please have your Student Book and Work Book ready.

SCHOOL RULES:

Listen to teachers

Answer when we call your name

No shouting // No noise // Sit in a quiet place

Do not play with Zoom // White background

Listen when your friends are speaking

Tell Daddy to put a shirt on if he is going to be on camera

Say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’

5 words: Dear teacher, I am finished

REWARDS

Good work will get you a sticker. Collect stickers for a special prize.

However

If you break the rules and disturb my class, you will get a …

David Bowie - Blackstar - mxdwn Music

Three black stars and you will not get any stickers.

Furthermore, Student Care will phone your parents.

Now let’s go to work and learn some English

Love and Chaos Part 8(G) Daniel 1

2nd July 2021

Karl Liebknecht Strasse Berlin Mitte 1995. From the YouTube video Berlin 1995 Prenzlauer Berg & Mitte https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSEm2-4ZWEo&ab_channel=emil250

Part Eight. Berlin. October 1995

Daniel knew the days of Sawhead The Bear were numbered. Their manager had disappeared. The guitarist was having an affair with the bass player’s girlfriend. The drummer was simply on another planet. Daniel was the only one taking it seriously and was now being held back by their lack of ambition, enthusiasm and professionalism.

Daniel had gone to The Russians one Saturday afternoon, only to be told that there was no gig that night. Or, maybe there was, but no one knew, and it hadn’t been advertised.

“Didn’t you see Jake ?” Daniel asked Andrei.

“For sure, but he too drunk to talk. He keep say me what I do wrong, so I don’t listen. I play music very loud.”

“Shall we go now and ask ?”.

But there was no answer from either Andrei or Sascha.

“Fucking hell, I come all this fucking way and . . . where’s Boris ? Another fucker gone AWOL ?” Daniel knew better than to ask where Olga was.

“What the fuck’s wrong ?” Daniel asked, sick of the apathy. Sascha answered that they were tired of playing the same bar and the same songs. The night in the new squat bar was good, but . . .

“Fucking hell, all we gotta do is find new places, then. As for new songs, we have to fucking write them. I’ve got a bunch of new lyrics, but we never get around to fucking working on them. Let’s do one, now, come on, get your fucking bass on.”

“I don’t have any new music,” Andrei said.

“Fuck all that shit, I’ve got a bass line. I’ve got this whole new song worked out. Listen,” and Daniel opened a notebook and read aloud,

The rat in the corner is my only guest
‘Cause the mice have split and the cat gone quit
I guess you could say things ain’t at their best
But things’ll be OK, they’ll be all right
In the morning.

Oh, I can drink and pretend to be
Content with life and happy
Like any person in any bar
But don’t look too deep, don’t peer too far
Inside.

Silence. Finally Sascha asked,

“Ahhh, Dan, Daniel . . . what is ‘peer’ ?”

Andrei laughed, then Boris came into the room, looking anywhere but at his bass player. Daniel told Andrei what to play, humming a bass line, a simple jazzy pattern. Then he suggested some ideas for Sascha.

“Hey, Boris, I thought, instead of playing along, strumming, just play lead, crank up the distortion and riff away in the gaps. Come on, let’s give it a go.”

After two or three slow, half-hearted attempts, the song was getting into shape, Boris liking the total freedom, and understood exactly what Daniel wanted.

Daniel was really impressed by his guitarist and just wondered why he couldn’t always be so inspired. Then Olga came home. Andrei called out and she popped her head in, quickly spoke in Russian and went back to the kitchen to clean her teeth. Daniel suddenly understood why Boris was so relaxed.

Then he suggested a band meeting, in the Czar Bar, as he was hoping that there would be girls there who had come to see him, and as he wasn’t playing, he could spent more time with them.

Not so many girls tonight, however Daniel was very happy to see Richard.

“Where the fuck is Laughing Boy ?” he asked. Richard couldn’t believe he didn’t know the story. He couldn’t believe Andrei or Boris hadn’t told him. Once he was updated, Daniel explained that maybe Boris and Andrei were having their own version of the Chris – Johan – Veronica triangle.

“Oh, fuck !”

“Yes,” agreed Daniel, “Oh, fuck.”

“That’s why I’m here, see what’s going down. Gauge the depth of shit that Chris has plunged into. Head first. He thinks Johan’s gonna kill him. He’s absolutely fucking certain Claude is going to kill him. I want to speak with Jake before it gets too busy.”

“Or you pass out again. Fucking lightweight.”

“Not tonight. Got work to do. And you ? You playing or what ?”


“Thought I was, ah, fuck it, long story. I tried calling your number, but the line’s dead.”

Richard passed over the number of Biberkopf.

“Yeah, that’s gone, didn’t want to keep paying for it, so got rid,” he explained, apologetically, the implication being that no one called him anyway. He also gave Daniel his address.

“No intercom, or funny business, just walk in, through to the Hof and up the stairs, Mister. You’ll get some old Krauts stare at you, but I’m sure you’re used to that.”

“Not yet. Those fuckers really gawk, don’t they ? Still have to stop myself from asking them, ‘What the fuck’s your problem ?’ Apart from being a German cunt, that is.”

Daniel them began losing interest in Richard as he saw a couple of girl fans and went over, putting an arm around each one.

Jake wandered over to Richard, between customers, asking when Chris was coming back.

“Johan’s not going to do anything. He’s pissed, he’s real pissed, but he won’t touch Chris. He’s not violent, never even seen him angry.”

“Claude ?”

“Yeah, Claude’s gonna fucking kill him !” then Jake let out a splutter of laughter that amused and confused Richard who was further confused when Jake had a suggestion,

“Hey, Rich, you wanna give me a hand here ?”

“Me ?”

“Yeah, need someone I can trust. You know the prices, don’t you ? Then go gather glasses, wash a few . . .”

“Fuck, Jake, more washing up ?”

“Ah, not too fancy, just get the dregs out, wet them. Come on, get your arse behind the bar.”

Richard left as the sun was already up and doing it’s best to shed some hope and colour. He got a commitment from the band to play any new gig that Chris could organise. He got word directly from Johan (who had come in looking wrecked, but had done a very amusing double take seeing Richard pouring vodkas behind the bar) that Chris was in no physical danger. He got an unexpected wage from Jake. And he was sober. He had considered this work and approached it seriously. He had refused each and every vodka. He had, however, accepted every vodka-inspired kiss, though ‘every’ was actually just one. One more than usual.

On the way home, he went into a bakery and picked up different sorts of croissants and rolls and two take-out coffees. Whatever else was wrong with Berlin, rather with his life in Berlin, the smell of fresh croissants and take out coffee in polystyrene cups was one of life’s genuine pleasures. Walking home in the early morning in a straight line was not only a novelty but a further pleasure. It was October, another malicious Berlin winter was coming. But not today.

Chris woke up when Richard opened the door, despite efforts to be quiet.

The real shock for Chris was seeing Richard, after all night in the bar, hair straight, eyes focused, looking well, not spouting nonsense or laughing at everything.

They breakfasted together and Richard filled him in.

“So, it’s cool with Johan ?”

“No, not by a long chalk, Mush. He’s really torn up. But he’ll be all right. You’ll be OK.”

“So . . . do you think I can go back ?”

“I’d still give it a week or two. Now, the band. You’re gonna have to get them work, before hell breaks loose.”

“That bad ? What’s wrong now ?”

And Richard told him all the gossip along with a few conjectures of his own. Chris laughed, but he was using the funny anecdotes as a cover. He was relieved that Richard seemed to be staying sober.

At the earliest acceptable time, Chris called Arizona Al. He was hoping for some leads. Arizona was glad to repay him. He was taking part in another concert night in some back room club in a back street in the back of Mitte. He’d have to check, but was sure that Sawhead could get on the bill. They even had a bit of a name. A bit.

When Chris returned to the flat, he was surprised to see Daniel outside, looking up and down the street.

“I forgot the fucking number. Had it written down, but lost the paper. And that work number.”

When he entered the flat with Chris, Richard recognized, and smelt, that Daniel had on the same clothes as last night, and within five minutes, Daniel was telling them of his latest sexual conquest.

Chris was glad to change the subject and mentioned that there could be a new gig in Mitte next Saturday.

“Fucking Aces. We getting paid ?”

This lead Daniel to talk about his job. He had been missing work; first the odd day, then two days, now he regularly worked only three days a week. He was on his last warning. It was only due to a sympathetic foreman, also from London, that he was able to keep the job. Daniel didn’t really care, imagining that he could move in with the Russians, work in a bar and play more gigs, maybe three a week, and start getting money that way.

Chris looked at Daniel and nodded in a vague, non-committal way but felt Richard staring at him. He said that it was all possible, what Daniel had projected. But then Daniel said something else,

“Can’t expect someone of my talent to work that shit for much longer. I need time to work on my lyrics. Need energy for my girls. Know what I mean ? No, don’t suppose you two do.”

After Daniel had left, explaining how he needed a shower because his whole body stank of pussy, Richard and Chris looked at each other, wordless. When they did speak, after minutes or head-shaking and intakes of breathe, many references were made to Dr Frankenstein and his creation.

The gig was confirmed. Chris went over to the Russians, giving them all the details. This time they had use of a van to transport their equipment.

Daniel had also arranged his own transport, deciding that he should be driven to and from the concert. He had convinced a workmate, with a car, to drive him, boasting of the amount of women he always attracted.

The Russians would make their own way there, while Richard and Chris would be picked up on Karl-Liebknecht Straße, by the bus stop outside the Marienkirche.

The following Saturday, to get some air and kill some time, Richard and Chris walked to the open air crafts street market by the Bode Museum. They checked out the films being shown by the Zeughaus cinema, and wandered up Unter Den Linden. Chris was dreading Richard suggesting that they go for a drink, and was relieved when they walked past bar after bar without being dragged in.

Chris brought two cheap and quite awful coffees from an Imbiss and they made their way to the pick-up point.

Crossing the main road by subway, they heard a solo busker at the end of the tunnel, his voice and guitar echoing against the tiles and making them smile as they recognized the piece; ‘Swan Swan H’ by R.E.M. which was played well.

Chris, as he approached, began nodding his head, and Richard quietly joined in with the lyrics, getting louder as the busker smiled to encourage him. Chris then began lifting his arms and suddenly, twirling around, he did a waltz with an imaginary partner.

When he obstructed an elderly couple with his artistic expression, the Busker laughed and blew his words, but Richard only gained in confidence.

They gave him all their loose change and went to wait for their ride.

The good feeling soon dispersed when the car pulled over. Daniel was in the passenger seat, wearing sunglasses, and didn’t even look or speak to them as they climbed in the back seat. The driver introduced himself as Martin and asked for directions. Chris made a joke about not being exactly sure, and Daniel let out an expression of frustration and anger. Richard made a sign to Chris to let it go and they headed to Rosenthaler Platz.

Chris had a street map unfolded before him and was trying to follow the route. He found the street, but not the club. The whole area looked nondescript, residential. Then Richard spotted a familiar face,

“Look, there’s Bryan. Pull over and ask him.”

They called to him and as Daniel wound down his window, Bryan thrust his head in, making the driver recoil in terror. They got directions. It was the right street, but the entrance to the club was around the corner, through some doors. Of course. This was Berlin, why should anything be straightforward ?

Martin was still in shock,

“What the fuck was that for a thing ?”

“Does have rather a large bonce, doesn’t he ?” stated Richard.

“Did you see that head ?” asked Martin, “It filled the whole window.”

Chris was just giggling. He was sick of this bloody band, and was in the mood for dancing and drinking.

There followed the usual madness of dozens of musicians coming and going and demanding and asking and singing and showing off and smoking and drinking and sitting around and jumping about and hugging and greeting and kissing and joking and posing and posing and posing.

Arizona Al turned a corner, a keyboard over his back. Richard and Chris looked at each other and their hearts sank. Daniel went up to him, arms outstretched and kissed him on the cheek. Arizona took some time before he recognized him.
“Oh, yeah, right, Sawhead, right, yeah, I remember, wow, how you doing, man ?”

The night was actually well organised and well attended. The main band was an electronic trio from Norway, a band who had released some records and a couple of CDs that were displayed by the entrance.

Some local media moguls were there, journalists from newspapers nobody knew existed, people from local radio, and some professional musicians whom Arizona Al recognized by sight and was slightly in awe of, one being a Russian guitarist who had, allegedly, jammed with Keith Richards. He pointed him out to Chris, saying that Sawhead could really make some good contacts tonight.

Unfortunately, the tensions within the band came out onstage and it was to be their last ever gig.

They were put on early which Daniel complained about, even threatening to pull out completely. The organisers told him OK, leave, and he had to back down. Andrei and Boris simply couldn’t look at each other, and Richard was glad he came with Daniel, as that short journey was Mardi Gras compared to what the ride from Ostkreuz must have been.

Again, Daniel wanted to make an entrance and had instructed the band to start playing before he walked on, expecting to get his own applause. Boris and Andrei were past caring, but Sascha, supposed to count them in, just sat behind his kit, waiting for Daniel. Daniel gestured to him but Sascha seemed to think that he was waving, and kept waving back. Again, Daniel had to come on and wait for the band to start.

One of Daniel’s main concerns was the music. He was aiming for a Rock, Indie-Pop sound and encouraged Boris to use his effect pedals to fill out and make his guitar heavier. But Boris preferred a clear, pure sound. Usually. Tonight, he was being more . . . experimental.

And it began immediately. While Daniel was trying to introduce the first song, and speaking a lot more than was necessary, Boris began playing, his overdrive pedal switched to the max and it screamed out of every speaker and made the audience jump back, cover their ears, leave. Sascha found a point to join in and Andrei, clearly relishing a pissing contest with his rival, turned up his bass and began playing. He was aiming simply for volume, not for rhythm and it threw Sascha, who now began trying to follow his bass player. Daniel was completely lost and had no idea what song his band were playing. All his ideas about changing the name to Daniel Roth and Sawhead The Bear vanished, as he believed his backing band were deliberately trying to sabotage him.

Boris and Andrei were standing on opposite sides of the stage, looking away. Sascha was looking at everybody for some kind of indication or instruction. Daniel sang any lyrics he thought would fit, but couldn’t be heard, anyway.

Chris looked at Richard who looked at Arizona Al who looked at Bryan Moonface. People who didn’t know the band walked away, dismissing them as first timers at best, a joke band, at worse.

Daniel could see people leave en mass. Some girls he had winked at earlier, telling them how great his band were, just laughed at him as they turned to talk to other musicians.

Throwing down his mic, Daniel went up to Boris, to shake him, but was shrugged off. When he tried again, the look of absolute hate in Boris’ eyes made him step back. Daniel then went over to Andrei and began shouting. The bass player simply ignored him. But Daniel had to find a target, and when Sascha smiled at him like this was a great, rocking band, Daniel dived across the drum kit to strangle him.

There was a sound of a bass crashing to the floor, then deafening feedback. Daniel was lifted up, one-handed, by Andrei who looked him in the eye, wagged his finger ‘No!’ then half pushed, half threw him off the stage.

Daniel walked out. Sascha began shouting at Andrei, who packed up his bass. Boris kept on playing until the sound guys cut his amp.

Chris didn’t care. Daniel had left. The Russians were going their separate ways. But the bar was well stocked, the women were gorgeous and, as he said to Richard,

“Just when you think things can’t get any worse, we still have to listen to Arizona Al.”

In tandem, Richard and Chris delivered the by now obligatory,

“We’re gonna need a bigger bar,” line.

They stayed until the Norwegian band came on, and after five minutes of electronic music that didn’t appeal to them at all, they left.

They walked home, deciding to break the monotony of the walk by going into one or two bars along the way. Richard only drank, only seemed to want to drink, beer, but these were conventional, local bars, no truck with vodka madness, leg-cocking canines and, “Shit on a stick.” Being away from the Czar Bar was having a positive effect. Chris just wished it had been a better evening. But he also realised, through all the fear and worry, he hadn’t once thought about Veronica.

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.

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

Listening Skills: websites & resources

9th June 2021

Listening Skills

The following websites are good for listening practice.

What are the pros and cons of each one ?

What do you like or dislike about them ?

How helpful do you find them ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small videos focusing on individual sounds and letters.

Learn English with Emma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also listen to music (with lyrics)

Films (short clips – 30 seconds to 1 minute)

TV shows with subtitles.

Try these:

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

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

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

TV show – ‘Eastenders’

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

Love and Chaos Part 7(I) Monika 1

10th June 2021

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

Part Seven. Berlin. June 1995

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After he had gone, Monika shrugged,

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

They stayed until the bar closed.

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

“Night bus.”

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

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

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

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

“Sure.”

“You still think about Lorelei.”

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

“And you have no one else you like ?”

“No. Not yet. I’m sure I will.”

“No one at work ?”

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

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

“Cute ?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and Chaos Part 7(G) Richard 1

7th June 2021

Part Seven. Berlin. June 1995

At some point between the end of May and the beginning of June, Richard Marshall was struck by a severe case of the Berlin paranoia, and apart from the journey to and from work, he was practically unable to leave his flat.

The causes were easy to ascertain; one was not speaking German. This meant that all but the most basic transactions required a translator or he would be, and feel, utterly helpless.

He shopped in the small Spar store, being able to pick up items and see the price on the till display, but he couldn’t open a bank account, pay a bill, understand why a train had stopped in a tunnel, why a street was closed, read any official letters or get a proper job.

Biberkopf was now a painful, humiliating ordeal, more and more work from the lazy chef, and being all but ignored by all other members of staff. He was certain that Walter, the owner, looked right through him as if he wasn’t even there. Jolande, the cute waitress, had recently started seeing a customer who drove an expensive car, and now she barely acknowledged his presence. He responded in the only way he knew how; by being completely silent and refusing to speak to anyone, creating an impenetrable wall that kept everyone out. He was good at keeping things in.

There were also sleepless nights worrying about his interrupted studies, and it now being too late to get onto a course when term started in September. He would have to wait another year.

There was also the certainty that he would never meet a woman, that he would go to bed alone and wake up alone every day for the rest of his life.

He didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, or rather, felt that he simply couldn’t.

After about three weeks he knew he had to snap out of it, or leave Berlin. He also knew that the life he had here was far better than one he could expect back in London, but washing up for a living was hardly living. The Orwellian honeymoon period was well over.

He was thinking about this, standing by a giant, industrial pot of potatoes that he had to peel, when he put his mind to a problem posed by Chris and Daniel; what to name the band.

He thought of some tag lines, based around the fact that three of them were from Russia, coming up with things like ‘Country & Eastern’ and such like. Then he threw the potato he was peeling into the sink of greasy water and smiled. He ordered a beer from the first waitress who came into the kitchen and though it took an eternity to arrive, he didn’t mind. He had the band’s name. It gave him a reason to go to the Czar Bar where, even if Chris wasn’t working, he’d be drinking. That had become a certainty.

Chris knew all about the paranoia, having experienced it himself.

He’d spoken to others and it was quite common, a sense of homelessness mixed with a feeling of having no home, being unwanted and uncared for. A realisation that he would never understand the language and would be cheated and laughed at and insulted. Most of the time, Chris had been with Marina or Claudia, then his own Ute, and then Monika, who would help him.

But he had his own freakouts. He had once turned a plastic bag inside out, because it had English writing on it and he felt it marked him out as a target for fascists and skinheads.

His answer to Richard was to drink. Richard had noticed that Chris’ answer to everything now seemed to be to drink.

As expected, Chris was holding court, on his favoured end stool, Andrei listening to him while Olga was busy with customers.

“Richard !” cried Chris, immediately ordering him a beer and vodka. Richard welcomed them, knowing that there would be many more before he staggered home.

After the initial moments of hysteria, when Chris filled him in on what he had missed over the last weeks, Richard made an announcement concerning the band. Chris called Andrei back, as it affected him directly.

“The name of the band is,” said Richard, copying Chris’ talent for building excitement, “Sawhead The Bear.”

“YES!” screamed Chris, eyes lighting up. Andrei looked puzzled,

“What is ‘Sawhead’ ?” Chris had a reply ready,

“Nothing ! Everything ! Doesn’t matter. What a great name, what a perfect name, it is the only name for the band. Well, drinks all round, vodka ! Hey, Jake, just in time, you must be able to smell vodka.”

Jake swayed over to them,

“Yeah, I can smell something!”

Andrei was busy translating, as best he could, the nonsensical ‘Sawhead’ into Russian. Olga looked even more puzzled and turned to Richard, going up close to him and asking him something in German, but he didn’t listen, he just wanted to grab her, but Andrei, being built like the Kremlin, probably would have raised an objection.

Chris meanwhile told him what Olga had wanted, namely, how on earth he came up with such a peculiar name ?

“I was at work,” was all he said, and Chris understood,

“Making the Camembert ?” he asked, referring to one of the nightly duties, covering the half blocks of cheese in egg and breadcrumbs, ready for deep-frying.

“Potatoes.”

Chris winced.

The remainder of the night was spent toasting the new band name, with Andrei greeting each new customer with,

“Yes, Sawhead ?”

Needless to say, both Richard and Chris awoke with very sore heads. Chris suddenly understood the band name. As he was getting dressed, he looked out of the window and saw Johan’s girlfriend, Veronica, walk across the Hof and enter the door of her boyfriend’s block.

He suddenly understood something else, as well. Even with a thumping sore head, Veronica was a sight for sore eyes.

Love and Chaos Part 7(C) Chris 1

30th May 2021

The East German punks who helped bring down the Berlin Wall | Dazed
Berlin music Scene. Google Images

Part Seven. Berlin. May 1995

Chris and Richard met Daniel at the small kiosk situated in one of the exit tunnels of Rosenthaler Platz U-Bahn. Daniel was looking at the window display which had miniature bottles of cheap and nasty looking hooch, labels and brands he had never seen before, alcohol he had never seen before.

They greeted and went straight to the club, a slight embarrassment at meeting away from the Czar Bar, as if that were their only common ground. The club was quite small, quite dark, one stage to the right, the bar opposite, and that was where they all headed.

By now, Richard and Chris could recognize many faces. Willem Dafoe was there, smiling broadly at each and every thing. Arizona Al was in another discussion with technicians about sound levels, but came over to say, “Hi,” and to meet Daniel,

“Cool, fresh blood, it’s getting kinda stale around here,” he admitted. ”Oh, Dude, listen, you can’t come onstage and blow me tonight, it’s a more conservative joint, here,” then he was dragged away by Bryan on a matter of the utmost urgency.

Daniel stood with his mouth open, not exactly sure what he was getting involved in.

Again, the room was half full at most when the first act went on. A petite, visibly terrified French girl played guitar and sang to the floorboards. Her between song banter was monosyllabic and mumbled, but she charmed everyone, winning them over with her nervousness and talent which was unmistakable, just hidden by a cloak of shyness.

But it was downhill after that. Singer-songwriters came and went, some bands played, more solo artists. Willem Dafoe played the exact same set with the exact same mannerisms and orchestrated spontaneity as before.

Bryan ‘Moonface’ came up to the bar with a young lady, and was speaking to her about Kafka, specifically ‘Metamorphosis’,

“It’s about a man who wakes up one morning and he’s been turned into a woman.”

“Oh, that sounds cool.”

Daniel exclaimed, “Fuck me,” loud enough to get Bryan’s attention, but ‘Moonface’ was too busy impressing his new friend with his broad knowledge of World Literature.

Richard and Chris played ‘name the influence’ as some bands were ripping off R.E.M., others Nirvana, while one electronic combo tried a reversal of Big Black, by playing a loud, Grunge song on keyboards and drum machines. It was a novelty for half a minute, but unfortunately went on for several.

Daniel wasn’t having as much fun as his companions. He had been expecting a great evening, but, despite the ever flowing beer, he was bored and that made him angry and frustrated. Which, of course, just made Richard and Chris laugh even more.

He got louder with his abuse and thought nothing of talking over an acoustic set. By the time Arizona went on, Daniel had just about had enough, but stayed because Al was the main reason they were there, although the sexualised parting words still played in his mind.

Tonight, Arizona Al announced, he was going to try some ‘mellow, chill-out vibes’. The absence of a guitar alarmed Richard, and Chris had a very bad feeling, which was confirmed by the opening note which continued without variation, while Arizona gradually added more single notes, together with some indistinct sound effects.

Daniel simply turned his back to the stage and ordered three vodkas. Arizona was now on his second song, a variation of the first, with even less going on.

Daniel turned to Chris,

“You enjoying this shit ?”

“Not at all.”

“Czar Bar open ?”

“Yep. Andrei working. And Olga.”

“Olga ?” asked Richard.

“Let’s go,” said Daniel, finishing his beer and walking out. Chris and Richard followed, both giving a wave to Arizona as he played on, with a surprised and hurt look on his face. Richard was already on damage control, telling Chris that they could say that their friend had to get a connection. Chris shrugged his shoulders,

“Or we could just say that he was shit.”

“Yeah, you could.”

Daniel was asking how to get to the bar. Chris explained,

“We’ll take the U-Bahn and change at Alex. U5. Five stops, total.”

Walking to the U5 platform, Daniel put his arms around the two others,

“Right, we need to get laid tonight. Agreed ?”

“Not even a question,” replied Chris.

“Tonight ?” repeated Richard, “anytime this decade would work for me.”

They walked down the escalators and waited on the platform. Daniel took out his cigarettes and passed them around.

“So, pussy action. What’s the deal ? Chris, you must get a nice bit of snatch, working the bar, hey ?”

“Have you been in the Czar Bar ?”

“Yeah, fair enough. Thought they’d be a few more girls in, tonight. Not much doing, was there ? Couple of knackered old slappers. I’d have liked that French bird, but she’d scarpered. ‘Bout you, Rich ?”

“Going through a fallow period. Got the seed, but no where to plant it.”

“We’re both going through an adjustment,” Chris intervened. “I was dumped by my girlfriend and Richard . . . “ the later himself completed the ellipsis,

“Is hung up on a girl who just isn’t interested,”

Daniel turned to him,

“Didn’t you have any other girlfriends ?”

“No. I was saving myself for her.”

“Ah, well, that’s the problem. To get a girl, you have to have a girl.”

“Thanks, Buddha, great advice.”

“Naw, listen. It’s like an auction. You put a piece up, no one’s interested, it gets tossed. Pun intended. But, someone likes it, others get interested. Get it ?”

“So,” asked Richard, trying to follow the logic, “if Lorelei had known I had a girlfriend, she’d have been more interested ?”

“Couldn’t have been less interested,” quipped Chris.

“Oy, shut it, you,” threatened Daniel.


“Oh, I see, he can get away with the insults, but I say something and I get the ‘I can kill you with one fingernail’ shit ?”

“Yeah. He’s not a plonker like you,” clarified Daniel with a subtle wink at Richard.

“He has a point, there, he has several points there,” added Richard. Daniel continued,

“You just gotta get a girl first, any girl. You can do that, can’t ya ?” Richard just shrugged. “Fuck me,” concluded Daniel.

“He may have to. Oh, come on, that was funny. OK, I know, I’ll shut it.” Chris walked off a little down the platform.

On the train, they continued the seminar, Daniel giving advice to Richard, and then learnt why Chris was dumped.

“She heard you say she were shit in bed ? Fuck, that’s hard. Now, tonight; I know that Al’s yer pal and all that guff, but . . . fucking hell, what a stinking pile of shit. I’ve heard some wank in my time, but that . . . “

“It’s part of the Berlin scene,” began Richard. “Anybody can get up and do something.”

“Problem is,” continued Chris, “most people do and most people aren’t overburdened with talent.”

“Not tonight, anyway,” laughed Daniel. “Thanks, guys, for taking me. Load of bollocks, but still thanks.”

They all laughed. Chris, followed by Richard, began to give more sage Berlin advice,

“Never presume that because it’s office hours, offices will be open.”

“Don’t touch Schultheiss beer. I know the logo is real inviting, but your stomach won’t thank you for it.”

Chris picked up the slack,

“Following on from there, don’t ever drink from the tap, despite all the assurances,”

“He’s right. May as well just drink out of the toilet bowl.”

More laughter. Then Daniel returned to the former subject of performing in Berlin.

“I mean, I could do better than that.”

“Well, then,” challenged Richard, “do it.”


“Yeah, but I don’t know any musicians, or anybody, just you two tossers.”

“But we know people,” argued Richard

“Oh, yeah, like that guy with the fucking pumpkin head ? No, thanks. Man turning into a woman. Fucking idiot.”

“No,” said Chris calmly. “The Russians. Andrei is a bass player. Boris is a fucking wild hot gypsy guitarist. Another guy who lives with them, Sascha, is a drummer. They’ve all played in bands, always looking for a singer. We’ll see some, if not all, of them tonight. Time to put up or shut up. Or are you just all talk ?”

“Mouthy little sod, ain’t ya ?”

“Yeah,” replied Chris with a swagger. “I am.”

Love and Chaos Part 7(B) Daniel 1

28th May 2021

U-Bahnhof Hönow, Berlin-Hellersdorf, Hönower Weiherkette, HEP [Bahnhof]
Hönow U-Bahn station, end of the U5 line. Google Images

Part Seven. Berlin. May 1995

Daniel Roth had waited a week before returning to the Czar Bar. He brought two workmates with him, for support, perhaps, but after they saw that they had come all that way just to sit in a squat bar with uncomfortable stools and a depressing lack of women, they left.

Boris, another Russian who lived in the same squat as Andrei and Olga, was working that night. Before long, Chris walked in, unshaven and unwashed. He walked past Daniel, not seeing him, and sat on the end seat, next to where Boris was leaning. They spoke a little, and Chris ordered a beer before seeing Daniel and ordering three vodkas.

“No, no fucking vodka ! Fucked me up, last time.”

Chris kept the smile to himself.

“Really ? How so ?”

Daniel didn’t answer, but hesitated a question of his own.

“I hope I, er didn’t do . . . anything too . . . I hope I wasn’t out of order, last week. Had a bit too much. Hadn’t eaten and it was a har . . . “

Chris waved it away and invited him over.

“All right, but no fucking vodka!”

“Enough, already, no vodka. Wimp!”

“You what ?”

“Just saying, one minute it’s all, ‘I’ll pick you up with one finger and throw you through the window’, the next it’s, ‘oh, please, no vodka’.”

Daniel looked at Chris without blinking and Chris began thinking he may have overstepped the mark.

Daniel then turned to Boris,

“Three vodkas.”

Chris laughed.

Predictably, these were the first of many. Chris was getting acclimatized and Boris drank without any apparent effect whatsoever.

Daniel, on his fifth vodka, kept apologising for his behaviour and Chris did nothing to allay his fears that he had behaved appallingly. Finally, more to stop Daniel repeat himself, he told him that nothing had happened. Daniel had sung, shouted, screamed, but so had everybody else.

“You’re just doing the ‘Newman Shuffle’,” he explained. “People come in here the first time, drink too much vodka and have a melt down. Then they come back, heads down, shuffle in to face the music. Bet that’s how you walked in, all hunched over.”

“Fuck off!”

“But you don’t realise; this is the Czar Bar. Everyone freaks out, it’s expected, it’s almost the law. And if you really do make scandal, so what ? The next night, it’ll be somebody else, and your indiscretion will be forgotten.”

“Ah, you like big words, hey ? What are you ? Fucking student ?”

“Not any more. But I ain’t the one walking ’round with fucking Emily Zola.”

Daniel laughed and ordered more vodkas, Chris smiling at how quickly he had slipped into the pattern of Czar Bar life. Chris’ comical attempt at Cockney could not pass without comment,

“No need to start dropping your accent. This ain’t England.”

Chris, as being the senior in terms of Berlin life, expounded,

“No, this is Berlin. Just be yourself. Or be who you want to be.”

That last sentence stuck with Daniel.

Before the night descended into vodka madness, Daniel was asking about places to go. He always seemed to go to the same bars in Wedding, with his workmates, and most of these were not so far removed from the East End pubs he has left behind. Picking up on this piece of personal history,

“Ah, gangsters, rippers and wide-boys; the charming myths about the East End,” said Chris.

“The only charming myth about the East End is the myth that the East End is charming.”

Chris liked that turn of phrase and commended Daniel on it, then enquired about his academic background, as Chris still had some vague thoughts about switching from Physics to Literature.

“No, Mate, left school with a boot up the arse and fuck all else. Always read, though. Just couldn’t see why I had to listen to some deadbeat dickhead, when I could learn much more from Tolstoy or Dickens or Shakespeare. I can add and subtract and all that bollocks, but I don’t need Calculus, so fuck Maths. Geography, I know the capitals and rivers and mountains, if not, I’ll look them up, or fucking go there. Chemistry, I know good speed from shit, so that’s covered. History ? I’ll go to a museum or read a book of my own choice, not have some fucking Marxist ideology shoved down my throat. Games ? P.E. ? Fuck that, stand around with your dick frozen off so some old perv can get his jollies looking at you ? It’s the East End, we know how to fucking run. Physics ? Fuck that . . . “

Chris laughed, adding,

“Fuck Physics. Actually . . . I did.”

As for going to new places, Chris had a suggestion. Arizona Al was playing another gig in Mitte on Saturday, and both he and Richard were going, out of obligation. Daniel was invited and Chris wrote down the instructions and made a suggestion where to meet. He also wrote Richard’s phone number down.

Daniel thanked him with a vodka, and was introduced to new people as the bar filled up.

Several hours later, Daniel Roth was shaken awake at Hönow station.

“Oh, fucking hell,” he exclaimed. “Not again.”