Our Mother Tongue (4)

Russia has Pushkin.

Germany has Brecht.

France has… I haven’t a clue…

England has Shakespeare.  Shakespeare invented lots of words, eg assassin, bump, even the word “elbow” (cf: German: “Elbogen”).

Take a look at these beauties!

And for a bonus, take a look at these Shakespearean insults, thou curmudgeonly apple-worm!

Have an inventive day, won’t you!

 

 

Ladykiller

“Avid” (ahem) readers of this blog will know from previous articles that I have a few claims to fame.  I also have a link to notoriety, namely: my room-mate in my first year at university went on to murder his girlfriend.  The number 1 question I am asked is:

What was he like?

It is the aim of this article to offer you a insight into the character of a convicted murder.  I’ll start with a look at the stereotype of a murder, the reality, then I’ll move onto two key aspects of his personality.

The Stereotype

The stereotype of a murderer can be summed up thus:

Well, he was a bit of a loner.

That was never the case with John.  He was, to use his words from his press conferences, “…outgoing, a lover of life, with everything to live for…”  He was:

  • Very extrovert
  • Jovial
  • A charmer
  • A keen cricketer
  • A keen footballer
  • A keen drinker
  • A keen electric guitarist and rock musician
  • A bit of a “jock” (to use an American expression)
  • The “life and soul of the party”

Again, contrary to the stereotype, he had a wide circle of friends and a never-ending string of girlfriends.  (By heck, was I – as a slightly nerdy lad, a ginger Adrian Mole, from the council estates of Redcar – jealous of his success with women!)

The reality was, however, not so attractive.  John had two aspects of his personality lurking below the surface. Let’s be blunt about it.  They were not likeable aspects.

Aspect 1: Passive Aggression

Quite ironic, now I think about it.  The last article I shared was a humorous one on passive aggression.  The irony has not been lost on me.  In psychology, passive-aggressive behavior is characterized by a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, sullenness, stubbornness, and negative attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.  In John passive aggression manifested itself in many ways.

  • Days before his birthday, in my presence, his friends went to his part of our room, took his prized poster of a scantily-clad model (reclining atop a sports car) off the wall, then repositioned the poster on the wall, with the back showing.  When I came back to our room that evening, I found that he was in bed, not even pretending to be asleep, and had placed a key in the door lock to prevent me from getting our room.  After nearly an hour of desperately knocking on the door, pleading with him, together together with neighbours, for him to open the door, ending with me being on the verge of tears and needing to sleep, he finally let me in.  The following day no more was said – from either side.  From my side – don’t provoke him any further.  From his side – he knew he had done wrong, but did not have the round objects to talk about it.
  • The stories of the laundry room key.  Each room was given a key to the hall laundry room.  The catch was, the resident had to sign for the key and had to pay a five pounds deposit, returnable on safe return of the key at the end of the year.  So far, so good.  One laundry key per room.  I signed for it.  I got it.  I paid the deposit on it.  So far, so good.  I used to keep the laundry room key on my desk.  John would take it when he needed to go to the laundry.  So far, so good. Then one day, I decided to place the key on my book shelf to keep the desk a bit tidy.  Seeing the key on my book shelf, John marched up to me, grabbed me with both hands by the front of my shirt and snarled, “You’re not having the monopoly on that.”  Rather than explain that I had paid the deposit and that he could still use the key, I took it on the chin (nearly literally).
  • And there’s more!  Days before the end of the year, I was looking to do a batch of laundry.  John had been to the laundry hours beforehand.  Now he was sitting by his desk, playing his guitar.  I asked him for the key.
    • I haven’t got it.

    • But you had it this morning when you went to the laundry.

    • I haven’t got it.

    • Well, could you just have a quick look, please?

John just carried on humming, strumming and singing to himself, clearly not interested, not a “team-player.” Not even the common courtesy of pausing even for a second. Doubtless I’ve slighted him earlier in the day, and this was his passive aggressive way of “punishing” me.  Kiss goodbye to five pounds deposit, I was by now thinking.  Then the following morning an announcement: He had found the laundry key. Followed by a profuse apology for the hassle last night.  Ha, you gotta be joking!  It had fallen into his bag of condoms.  (Yes, I’m such a lady’s man, I need a bag of them.)

Now, getting fret up about a laundry key might seem petty on my part.  Lke the chocolate bar you stole from the communal fridge, it’s “only a key,” but maybe you saw the bigger picture of the (passive) aggression when dealing with peers.  These are just a small sample of his actions, others relating to his attitude towards women.  Perhaps for a later article.

Aspect 2: The “Great ‘I am'”

John’s other character trait was the “great ‘I am'” attitude.  How to explain it?    Let’s have two examples.

  1. John came back in a foul mood one day, complaining to me, hardly able to contain his anger, that his then girlfriend was f***ing useless in bed, in the same way that you might complain that the babysitter had sneaked into your bedroom and sneakily looked through all your private diaries.  Hey, folks, I was still very much inexperienced with woman.  Any bed action with a woman would have made me happy!  How dare she not enjoy sex with him?  She should have realised he was a real ladykiller.
  2. Again at evening meal in the canteen, I greeted him with a cheery, “How are you doing?”  He “greeted” me with an arrogant jut of the chin in my direction and, “Whatcha rapping on about?”  How dare this f’ing ginger speak to me when I want to have my dinner?

Before university, he had, in fact, been a tutor at a cathedral school.  Just as an ex-military man has left the Army, he is still a soldier, maybe John still considered himself senior and superior to those around and under him.  “Do as you’re told.  I’m in charge here.”

Conclusion

It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.  Wrong.  It’s the life and soul of the party types you have to watch out for.  Great fun, as long as things are fun and you dance to their tune.  But cross them, and see what happens.

  • Don’t help out with a good-natured prank on him.
  • Don’t even think of having the monpoly on that key.
  • Don’t be a timid, inexperienced lover.
  • Don’t have the audicity to reject his obsessive, browbeating behaviour.

Have an insightful day, won’t you!

My Pet Hates

I have a few pet hates.  One of them is, seeing people sitting on the train, feet (and therefore shoes) up on the seat opposite.  Another breach of “seatiquette” is people sitting on the train, tram, etc when it’s full, blocking the seat next to them with their bag or rucksack.  I always move to sit on that sit, just to see the tw*t tut and sigh and move their bag… even if I’m only getting off at the next station.

Another pet hate of mine is the person who cannot argue.  I like a good argument.  Think of the the Monty Python sketch.  Here is a good list of rules for arguing.

Argue

Have an argumentative day, won’t you!

Es Lebe Margot Honecker

In memory of the late, not very great, Margot Honecker, the Hillary Clinton of East Germany…

A teacher in the German Democratic Republic asks his class, ‘Who wrote The Communist Manifesto?’ Silence. He decides to ask one of the boys directly.
‘Fritzchen, can you tell me who wrote The Communist Manifesto?’

‘It wasn’t me, honestly!’ is the anxious reply.

The teacher, appalled, tells his wife about the incident. She tries to calm him by saying, ‘You should give him the benefit of the doubt, dear. Maybe it really wasn’t him.’

The teacher withdraws to a dark corner of his favourite bar to drown his dismay, and ends up telling the whole sad story to a stranger.

‘Now look here, don’t you worry. I’m from State Security. We shall find out who did it.’

A couple of weeks later, the two men meet once more in the same bar.

‘Comrade! You’ll be pleased to know that it really wasn’t Fritzchen. However, his father confessed.’

 

Have a comradely day, won’t you!

Happy World Book Day!

So to deal with the issue of listlessness, here is my favourite books list on World Book Day 2016.

  • 1984, by George Orwell.  The only book I’ve read cover to cover four times.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Solzhenitsyn.  I’ve read that book three times.
  • Gulag Archipelago, again by Solzhenitsyn.  It took me about three years to read it, mainly on the loo in my flat in Bracknell, but well worth reading.
  • Anything in the Dummies series of books.  (Well, almost anything.)
  • The Bumper Book of Government Waste, by Lee Rotherham.  Very entertaining and informative.
  • The Penguin Russian Course, by JJL Fennell.  It was *the* must-have book till the mid-90’s.
  • The Berlin Wall, by Frederick Taylor.  I bought that at Newcastle Airport while awaiting my flight to Düsseldorf.  Three hours later, I was still reading the book at the passport control queue on arrival in Germany.

Have a literary day, won’t you!

My First Childhood Memory

So, flicking through The Writer’s Block this afternoon while sitting in Oxford Central Library, I found this topic.

My first childhood memory was sitting in the back of a British Army Commer minibus  (looking a bit like this) in about 1972 or 1973 in Tidworth, a garrison town in Hampshire, singing football song, Nice One Cyril, together with my classmates on the way to/from kindergarten, run by the wife of one of the regiment’s SSM’s.  (Vocabulary point for all you bl00dy civvies and bl00dy foreigners: SSM – Squadron Sergeant Major (also known asSquadron Scary Monster).

Imagine the scene at the Army recruiting office:

Recruiting sergeant:

Why do you want to join the Army, son?

Potential recruit:

I want to to see the world, meet lots of interesting people… and then kill them.

Lo and behold, after basic training and trade training, here’s Trooper Smiff, driving a bunch of pads brats, barely out of nappies, round in a green minibus.  (When Tpr Smiff is down the local nightclub, he’ll be telling them that he was a member of a crack SAS team that did undercover work in Belfast.)  Still, listening to a bunch of four-year-olds singing Nice One Cyril beats the hostile streets of Stroke City (Derry/Londonderry), driving My Saracen through Your Garden Last Night.

Later as part of his career in the defence of the Realm, he’ll be on guard duty in Wolfenbüttel Northampton Barracks cinema, keeping those fire exits, while humming along with the kids’ songs during the Saturday morning matinee.

Have a nice day (Cyril), won’t you!

Thoughts on being back in the UK

So, tonight, back from two weeks’ stint in the UK, Bracknell, to be exact.

Thoughts?  Hmm, let me think, while I slouch on the couch, feet throbbing from dashing round Heathrow.

Well, I’m glad to be back in Germany, in a well-ordered society, where there are plenty of cycle paths, trains run on time and do not cost the earth, where there is not the huge gap between the haves and the have nots, where even the immigration officer from the Bundespolizei wishes you in English, “Merry Christmas.”

UK:

  • Chavs
  • Low aspirations and educational achievement
  • A “problem child” father constantly texting and phoning, eg 05:15, 06:11, “R U UP?” etc.

Mensch…

Nice to be earning again, but there’s no place like home in Germany.

Have a patriotic day, won’t you!