Friday, January 31, 2014

February 2014 things

January closed on a not very good day. It started okay with training, then I got a call from Stefan saying the Photoshop Gang was cancelled because he was ill. On arrival home I started with stomach pains and had to rush to the bathroom. I had earlier taken a tablet to put 'iron' into my body. Big mistake!

Then I got a call from Hermann. I have talked about him before in blog posts. We had agreed to meet on Sunday for lunch for we haven't met since mid-December. He sounded very tired as he told me he was calling on his mobile from hospital. He had been told he must have a heart operation. It started as I began to write these words. I'm going to visit him at 3pm on Sunday. Hope all is going well with the operation. 

February looks busy with more teaching than in January, more party meetings than in January, meeting friends, including Marita next Wednesday for a meal with her and other old friends, concerts, finding time to finish three books I have on the go at the moment, training with Kerstin's gang and 'photoshop-ping' with Stefan's gang.  I shall also be looking in more detail at travel plans starting with Den Haag at the end of April. 

Who has a birthday in February?  Sven starts us off on 1 February when he will celebrate his 38th with his wife and children with lots of ice cream for the kids. My best and oldest friend Alan will be 71 on the 3rd, Jens will celebrate his 44th with his family at their house on the Muggelsee on the 5th.  Jumping to the 18th I shall be celebrating her 66th with Dr I. Pardon who I have worked with for years. Eleonora will be 55 on the 22nd, Adrian in London hits 54 on the 25th and Peter Bateson in Australia ends the list with his 34th on the 28th February.  Happy Birthday to each and all! 

Rotes Rathaus

Yesterday I went to das Rotes Rathaus. Rot = Red and German Rat does not mean English rat! Der Rat means advice, council, councillor and das Haus is the building in which it takes place. Now you know it means Town Hall. The one in Berlin is made of der Backstein = redbrick, hence the name Red Town Hall.

I was invited to afternoon coffee and cakes with talks, presentations and a quiz about the European Union. There were a number of prominent guest in the room and we were joined on a large screen by Herr Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble CDU, who is the Bundesfinanzminister (Federal Finance Minister) and Martin Schulz SPD, who is President of the EU Commission. Both gave prepared speeches and asked questions to test our knowledge of the EU.  Prizes were given. I didn't get one!

I washed my face extra hard when I showered and put on appropriate clothes, including a dazzling white shirt, gold cufflinks and a tie with red in it! The day started at the Oldie Breakfast when they all gasped as I entered the room and asked why I was 'dressed up to the nines'.  When I told them, they said I should ask the Finance Minister what he is doing with their money! That did not surprise me for most are SPD members.

I really enjoyed the event. All present were 60plus and also happy to be there. A nice atmosphere and I learnt a lot more about the EU for I was given an information pack. In the general discussion, one man complained about the 'British'. Not sure he meant the people or the government, but he said the were bad EU members and he expected them to leave if given a referendum. Lots of nodding of heads. I didn't nod. I just smiled for as you know I am ready for that day!

The event took place in the Coat of Arms Hall. Each district of Berlin has a coat of arms, just like me! They form the windows of the hall. Most date back to the municipality of Greater Berlin which was formed in 1920 and divided into administrative boroughs. The floor and door frames are made of red marble from Thuringia. The architect was Herman F. Waesemann who designed it in 1859. He took the design of Italian town halls of the high renaissance period as his inspiration.

It suffered extensive damage in the Second World War and was rebuilt between 1951 and 1956. It is the home of Berlin's Governing Mayor, senators and senior civil servants. In other words, the government of the State of Berlin. Its parliament sits in the Abgeordnetenhaus near to Potsdamer Platz. The Town Hall is just south of Alexander Platz. Visit it when you come to Berlin!  Here are a few shots I took inside with my mobile phone camera. I improved the quality via my Photoshop programme. It is called cheating :-)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Garden views

I've had a good start to the week. I hope you have too! You know I had a great time on Sunday starting with the lunch-time concert at the Konzerthaus. Monday was teaching a new-ish student. That was nice for she had done all the homework and wanted to talk a lot. I let her!

It was very cold. In the night we had -14°C, which I don't think happens very often in Silsden! Lots of snow on Monday as well, which made Berlin look clean. It is now turning to 'dirty' snow and slush (that is a good word for learners of English) as the temperature rises.

In the afternoon, I went in search of a hospital. It is in the north-west of Berlin and nearly an hour from my home. I eventually found it and worked out how to find different buildings from the area plan. I finally landed at Station 61 and found the room I needed. I entered and found Peter H. smiling at me.

He is part of the 'Muggelesee Gang' I have ofter mentioned on this blog. One of my first groups when I arrived in Berlin. Most formed a 'Gang' and still meet up in different seasons of the year. Peter started a new life in China and met a lady there. A new successful life ensued. Regular visits to Berlin and meeting members of the 'Gang'.

Unfortunately, he started with back problems and needed some difficult operations. They were successful, but has to learn to walk again. It was great to see him and catch up on all the things that have happened over the last 'x' years. We didn't manage it for staff arrived to take him for more walking practice. We decided to meet again as he was wheeled away.  

Today I met two students at the AWO building in Lichtenberg. It is an area of Berlin in which I live. Both are academic and need high level English to prepare for an international conference, and for the second, to discuss the meaning of 'A' and 'B' and why isn't it 'C'. I really enjoy it.

I returned home to see night settling over my front and back gardens. I decided to take some shots and here they are. I contrast them with earlier garden photos when the plants/tree were planted to save them from building work. Interesting to see the comparison.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gephotoshopt wieder!

Every time I see that word on advertisements, I cringe. I told my Photoshop Gang about it last Friday and they burst our laughing! Nice to see them again and all in good health. Lots of chat and cups of coffee/tea before we resumed work.

The week before we had worked on images of fusing old and new Berlin, with a focus on colours. We opened our work and continued where left off. Some started new work, but I bashed ahead with the old work.

I was keen to master how to mark/cut out part of a photo/image, then change its colour, rather than move onto a new task. So, I worked away at the old image and finally was able to do it without almost destroying the programme. Here is part of Berlin as you will never see it ! Do you like the sky?

Stefan told us there would be a public exhibition of our work at the end of March. I think I shall have to double up on learning more about how to use the programme, and create something of interest for Das Publikum, who wander in to look at our work - or keep dry if it is raining!

Smart Phone

What does 'Smart Phone' mean? I have never understood the meaning of these words. I think they were the invention of a half-wit in an advertising agency who had probably either drunk too much whiskey the night before, or smoked something he should not! Yes, I am sure it is down to men and not women.

The logical opposite is that companies produced, and we bought, an  'Un-Smart Phone'.  What were these companies doing producing Un-Smart Phones, and how dumb were we, the general public, to have bought such 'Un-Smart'  things?

When I now travel in Berlin I see this on public transport. A person of 30, or younger enters, sits down, ignores other travelers, hand into pocket to fish out a large 'Smart Phone'. Rest of journey spent with lots of thumb pressing and staring. Is this what technology and progress has brought us to?

Since last Friday evening, I have been a 'Smart Phoner':-)  I have just created a new word! Max arrived for a chat, and to hand over his old Smart Phone. He had recently purchased an even larger and smarter phone than said old model smart phone, now in my pocket.

We had great fun as I made all the usual beginner mistakes, but Max was patient and told me for the 49th time not to press 'that' button, but the 'other button'. I still don't understand it all, but he was impressed that at my age I was struggling to get into the world of the 'Smart/er/est Phone'.

I showed it to Marcel next day just after he arrived. He picked it up and immediately pressed all the right buttons and did all the correct things. All this from someone who doesn't have a Smart Phone! How can they do it?  Anyone got an old 'Smartish Phone' to give to Marcel to keep his thumbs moving when he is sitting in public transport? If so, send me a message.

Final comment: To show me how photos work on Smart Phones, Max sent me one of him on a recent walk/rock climb in the south of Germany. When I first saw it I asked him, 'What are you doing with that boulder?'  He said, "Climbing, what else?" Then he saw the humour and burst out laughing. Nice to always have someone with a smart phone at hand and of course with a smart camera ...... or???

Guess who cooked?

Yes, Saturday afternoon arrived with -13°C, snow and a ring on the doorbell. You have guessed right. It was Marcel! He had managed to crawl out of bed and get here by 3:00 pm. Ahhhh, the delights of student life in the holiday period!

We had previously talked per telephone and agreed the visit. He wanted to cook again and so brought the necessary ingredients. He felt creative and so I let him get on with it. As he cooked, I watched, sipped something tasty and red from a glass and we exchanged news.

He had found a student job and starts tomorrow. Guess where and what? Think......yes, in the kitchen service sector which takes in everything from helping to cook to washing up. A new experience for him in addition to reading lots of notes about the theory of driving, logic and mathematics. An interesting mix of reading topics!

He cooks now with a lot more assurance and confidence. Part of this could be that he knows my kitchen, and what is in it, better than I do. He allowed me to take a few photos, and post to my blog, to show him in action. Here they are.  The food was delicious. He must have also thought so for he had a large second helping.

After we cleared up we watched a very interesting film made in England on a low budget. It was based on a book about a man who was abused as a child, lived in homes, in prison, on the street until hit by a train in his early 30's. It was made with considerable sensitivity and good acting. I think it was called, ' A Life Backwards'. Perhaps you know it/have read the book/seen the film.

Lunch Concert

The highpoint today was rushing to the Konzerthaus for a lunch time concert. Business partner Mathias contacted me a few days ago to say he could not go, because of teaching commitments, and would I stand in.

I did that happily and so met his 'better half'  Sylvana and her parents again. They are regular concert goers so we always have lots to talk about. It was nice seeing them again and sharing a Sibelius and Brahms concert. A programme designed to put 'bottoms on seats' with no discordance or atonality to be heard in the music.

The music was played by Cappella Acadica. This is another name for the Symphony Orchestra of Humbolt University in Berlin. A good mix of students and teachers. I found it interesting to note that the majority of players were women. In fact 49 out of 74 players in the platform = about 66%. Well done.

The conductor comes from Leipzig, which has a strong musical tradition. He was born in 1980, and now conducts three different groups of musicians in addition to this orchestra. Not bad!

The violin player in the Sibelius Concerto was born in England in 1988 (even younger) where he studied at the Royal College of Music in London. He is now resident in Berlin and a student of a famous Prof of music here. What talent!

Sylvana gave me an envelope from her and Mathias. Inside was a Keyring inscribed with the O'Dwyer family crest. See photo. They were in Ireland in autumn, but didn't tell me they had bought this as a present for me. I was really pleased to get such a surprise gift. Thanks very much to both of you. I shall use it every day!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Today I was woken by the sound of a machine. With very bleary eyes I looked out of the frozen window. I put my glasses on and things became clearer! In front of my flat is a large triangle shaped garden area with trees.

I have posted many photos of it to this blog over the years to show the Silsdeners the changing of the seasons. Now it is secured behind wire fences so that no-one can enter the area. This includes dogs and their owners. It was one of the biggest dog toilets in Berlin. I wonder where the owners are now taking their dogs?

Two weeks ago I was invited to a meeting to show tenants plans for the land. I live in a housing association and so we all legally own the association. Members of the board were there with the architect who took us through plans for the land.

Very interesting ideas. Building will last until mid-2015 to erect 76 new flats and facilities. The latter includes underground car parking for all residents, a community centre for members of the association, and two six room flats for groups of people to live together. The inner area  and trees will be kept to form a landscaped garden.

The machine arrived this morning to eat all the branches fed to it by a group of workers. This is the first stage in clearing the ground before the trees are cut down, and a very big hole dug for the garages. I have decided to take photographs and report as building takes place. Think of it as watching history taking place in front of your eyes!   

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nice surprises

Nice surprises are part of life, ritual and experiences regardless of race, language or culture. So say I! If you don't believe me then listen to this. This morning I went to The Institute to stand in for a teacher who asked me to deputize for her because she had flu.

Nice to see 'Dr. Pardon and the Gang' again after a nearly six week break. Then I was given a present. I was told it was from a student called Thomas, who was in the LCCI examination class and took the exam in mid-December 2013. I was very surprised for a gift was not what I ever expected.

He left it in the office before Christmas. I opened it on my return home. A big, but very nice, surprise. It is interesting to translate into English for you Silsdeners. 'Wörter Waschen' means 'Words wash' No English speaker would say this. English speakers would reverse this structure and say, 'Washing Words'.

The words underneath I translate as, ' 26 good reasons to disbelief political terms'.  It is meant to be read with your tongue in your cheek and a smile. The author is a very respected journalist, writer and commentator on all things German!

This really made my day so.............. rush out and buy a book, some flowers, a present and give it/them to someone you respect/value/like/love and watch them smile :-))  You will make their day and feel incredibly good after. Now just do it and smile!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


More eating and drinking Alan, as warned in my last post! I went to the ELTABB language teachers' association event yesterday evening. Really nice to see old faces again and the chance to meet new members and chat.

The atmosphere was better than the food. One can safely say it was forgettable. Here is a pic of what I did NOT eat. Most of it went back to the kitchen and hopefully the rubbish bin. Perhaps I picked the wrong dish, but a few others were also not happy with the food they ordered.

I little bird told me the Board Meeting that afternoon had decided to offer me Honorary Membership so I could attend events and workshops. The AGM has to decide on this rule change so I hope to be able to report positively in early March.

Marcel is on his way as I type. He wants to see a documentary about maths and engineering that I found in my cellar! Plus, talk about a number of logic and philosophy points in his book. I have already made notes. After that, he may cook the evening meal. It will certainly be better than the one yesterday evening!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Don't read anymore Alan. It's about eating and drinking! I've just got back from a splendid lunch at Johanna's. Gerald, Jutta and another nice lady were also there. It was our first 'Treffening' (Dinglish for meeting) in 2014.

We caught up on each others news as we munched our way through a delicious dish made from chicken breast, sliced leeks, mushrooms and a spicy cream sauce. Rice went with it as did a glass of water, and one of wine!

They wanted to know all about the bad holiday in Malta and about my health. After filling them in on that topic our conversations wandered over countless topics, with lots of jokes from Gerald. For pudding we had homemade sponge cake with apple and nut topping, served with double whipped cream for that is traditional here.

Now I am going to change to go to the ELTABB New Year Dinner at Safran restaurant which specialises in Persian dishes. I am allowed to go even though I am no longer a member. Looking forward to seeing the activists again. Tough day with all this eating and drinking :-))

PS: Found many of the missing photos. Just need time to find others and upload. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Old and New

I had my second meeting with Stefan and the 'Photoshop Gang' this afternoon. Nice to see them again and thanks to Helga for giving various things to equip Marcel's new flat. Much appreciated!

We are continuing the theme of Old and New started last year. This time we have other developments to the theme. This can be with colour, or changing shape and size. I did this today.

The building on the right is well known to architects. It is the Karstadt departmental store at Hermann Platz. It doesn't exist!  Stefan told me that the SS blew it up in April 1945.

The reason was to stop the Red Army from taking it over for it was full of food! The fact that Berliners were starving and needed the food does not appear to have influenced the decision! How much has not changed in war zones in the world?

Here you can see the building in an area of Berlin in which it was not built, and with different colours - which also did not exist. Don't believe all you see on the internet! 


Oh noooooo!!!  Lots of photos have disappeared from blog posts! This has never happened before. I am very concerned for many of you have told me that the images make my posts so interesting. There are even some of you who say you read the heading, look at the photos, then move on!

Yesterday evening I was checking e-mails and printing out some details when I got a message in my google  e-mail  that I could/should activate a service in which all google accounts would be linked/opened with one log-in. I pressed OK and got on with my other work.

Big mistake - all kinds of things started to happen. I decided I did not want this service and stopped it. I also removed those google downloaded programmes. When all was removed I did a long check to see if it was from a virus. See the attached image!  I got a positive result from the check.

I then looked at the blog and saw that many photos had been removed over a year. I talked to Stefan this afternoon. We checked my google e-mail and found nothing. We just scratched our heads and decided I must have just pressed some wrong buttons because I was doing something else, and not paying full attention. I can think of no other reason.

Sorry about this. I shall try to find the photos in my files and return them to the blog. I may also just remove some blog posts on the basis that you have already read them and will not look at the photos, or read the text, again.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Post Mahler

Hello Silsdeners, The concert was brilliant, wonderful, superb - and other adjectives! I wish you had been there and I thought of you. You would have loved the atmosphere in the sold out Philharmonie.

Mahler's Symphony No. 2 really is a beast to present/perform, and his much later symphonies are even bigger beasts! Some sections make 'heavy metal' sound like a lone cry in the dark :-) The long(ish) final 5th movement is something you can listen to on its own and marvel at.

The performance did not have a break. I think this was the right decision for one could take in the dimensions of the whole work. I was very impressed by the players in the orchestra and chorus. Very professional and the soprano and contralto voices were just right.

It was a new experience for Marcel. He really enjoyed it plus being in that famous conceert hall with its acoustic. I wanted to take photos of him with my mobile phone but he said, 'No!' because there were signs saying it was not allowed. Pity!

Listen/watch a performance near you if you get the chance. Here are some roses for all who played and sang last night!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mahler No. 2

This morning I did a number of things. One was to go to a concert agency and buy two tickets for a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2  known as the 'Resurrection Symphony. I got a credit note from Mathias and Sylvana for my last birthday and waited until there was a Mahler concert.

Like Bruckner concerts, they do not appear very often = large orchestra and chorus = very expensive! Marcel has never been to the Philharmonie and never seen/heard a Mahler symphony. For a musical person, and one who plays two instruments, it was time to introduce him to Mahler!

Mahler wrote it from 1888 to 1894, and the complete work was first performed in Berlin on 13 December 1895, conducted by Mahler. He wrote the first movement as a Symphonic Poem called Totenfeier/Funeral Rites. This was performed as such. He wanted a vocal ending to the symphony but the problem was to find the right texts.

Time went by and then he attended the funeral of Hans von Bülow in 1894. He heard a setting of F.G. Klopstock's (wonderful name!) Die Auferstehung/The Resurrection. He used the first two verses, and others of his own to complete the 4th and 5th movements of the symphony.

The symphony lasts for 90 minutes The 5th movement is the longest at over 30 minutes and introduces the soprano, contralto, chorus/choir and the Resurrection theme. This is one of his easiest symphonies to listen to and understand. If you get the chance, listen to it and/or rush to your local music store and buy a copy! Happy listening!

Hast Du schon gephotoshopt?

Yes, I saw this horror of 'Dinglish' on a poster in an S-Bahn station today. I just stared in disbelief at this latest example of stupid 'new German'. Most of this rubbish comes from offices somewhere in which people in marketing and advertising 'work'. This is really stretching the meaning of the word 'work'.

I think they had a short study period in the USA when they were 18 and think they know all there is to know about 'modern' English! I have heard there are 13,000 examples of 'Dinglish' in the German language. I can well understand the 'oldies' who complain about this 'Unsinn' = nonsense!

Last Friday, I went to my Photoshop Gang led by Stefan. It was the first meeting of the new session. It started with tea/coffee and cakes and lots of talk about what we had all done over the Christmas break. A really nice hour!

Stefan had prepared some of our work from 2013 to make a calendar. The theme was historical images of Berlin - with changes!  Here is the first page and then one for January. Have a good look............have you noticed that what you thought was snow on the lawn of our building is in fact.................waves from an ocean?

This was part of what we spent our year doing = changing images in ways that were/are not always obvious. We are continuing with this theme this year, but with more colour and/or changes in image. I shall be posting images each month as we create our new 'works of art' :-)

A cave

I got a lot of messages over Christmas and New Year. Thanks to all who sent them and who read this blog!  One was from Shirley in St Augustine, which you Silsdeners know is on the east coast of Florida and is famous as the oldest city in the USA!

I'm glad you remembered all that from my blog posts after I visited Shirley in May 2012. I met her family and friends Modesta and Judy. Last October, Shirley went to Alabama, with Modesta, where she took this photo of a cave. I think it is a remarkable shot, so hats off to you Shirley for your camera skills!

Shirley had a traditional family Christmas Fest. She spent Christmas Eve with her family, them played Bingo and won 125 dollars. Nice playing Shirley! She also told me that the north of Florida, where she lives, was affected by the cold winds blowing from the Arctic through Canada and into the USA. The good news is that they are now basking in the usual 28°C after the cold blasts.

She also told me that daughter P and her husband Z are giving her and daughter C a 7 day cruise in the eastern Caribbean for their birthdays! Very nice and generous of them - I wish I could be there! My sister P and her husband were on a cruise there a few years ago and still talk about it as a wonderful experience. Have fun and let us know how the cruise went.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Learning English

 I recently found this in a message from Silke. I immediately thought of those people around the world trying to learn English - and of those trying to teach it!  I salute all of you. Start after finding your dictionaries and grammar books :-) The flower is for you if you complete the text!

The English Plural

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England.

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing,
Grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?
 If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
 In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.

We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
In which your house can burn up as it burns down,
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
And in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And in closing -- if father is pop, how come mother's not mop?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Start with music

I started the new year with music and it looks likely to continue. On Thursday 2 January I went to the Konzerthaus Berlin in Gendarmenmarkt. This is just off the famous Friedrichstrasse in the old, and new, centre of Berlin.

I have been there many times and reported on this blog. I was invited to a special concert by Uli and Petra. All the family were there to watch one daughter playing in the orchestra. The event was called Neujahrkonzert "Swingin' Classics" presented by the Junge Philharmonie Brandenburg and the Landesjugendjazzorchester Brandenburg.

I went there last year and posted a report on this blog - remember? This concert was as good as that. This time one of Uli and Petra's daughters was playing. They have three children and all are musical and play in different orchestras. Their son is a professional musician. What talented young people! 

They played classical music from the Romantic period, backing to a modern piece for harp and then a programme of Gershwin, Bernstein and Latin Jazz. The place was sold out and full of family members. The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly. The perfect way to start the year.

I've been invited to a lunchtime concert there on Sunday 26 January, then on 31 January to a Beethoven and Schumann concert at the Kömische Oper. On the 2 March to the Philharmonie for a Mahler concert. This is the symphonic version - with Bruckner symphonies - of  'Heavy Classical Metal'. Great.  Happy listening! 

Either the rhino is singing along or saying. 'AAAAAhhhhhhh!' at the dentists!