Monday, March 31, 2014

New home

Shirley has a new home, but still in Florida. She moved last weekend. She calls it a Condo in St Augustine Shores. Here you can see her in this photo. She is on the right as you look at it. In the middle is Modesta, who lives only two blocks from Shirley's new home. Judy, on the left, also lives nearby.

Shirley decided to leave the 'Granny Flat' in the house she shared with a daughter and family. They needed more room for a growing grand-daughter so they struck a deal and Shirley got the Condo. She told me it is larger than where she lived. I'm sure you will be very happy there, Shirley.

The good news is that it has a swimming pool. When I think of the lovely family house she shared I always remember the swimming pool. I posted a few shots to this blog of me enjoying it on my visit. The Condo is also next door to a golf course and club house. She used to play golf and plans to resume!  She said she would send some pics. Looking forward to seeing them.

She also gave me details of part of her family history. She belongs to the American line of the Lanier family. There is also one in Barbados and both came from France via England. Her most famous ancestor is Nicholas Lanier 1588-1666.

He started life as a composer to two French Kings then landed in England to escape attacks on the Huguenots. He quickly got work as a composer, singer, lutenist and painter including for Elisabeth I and James I. In 1626, he became the first to hold the title Master of the King's Music. What a talent!

Shirley can link her family to his brother Clement 1590 - 1661, who married Hannah and had twelve children. Some later sailed to the English settlements on the eat coast of the US, and the rest is history. She was also related to the writer and playwright,  'Tennessee Williams' 1911 - 1983. He was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Doc's Orders

I decided to give in and go to my doctor's this morning. I have been fighting a bad chest cold since Monday. The final result was: Cold -1/John -0.  Last night I could hardly sleep for coughing and when I saw what I was spitting out, I decided on the Doc.

First I called the Sports Centre where I meet Kerstin and the Keep-Fit-Oldies. I left a message explaining that I would not be sweating and groaning with the rest of them. I cycled to the surgery and was pleased to find it empty. Quick registration then I was called in.

I like my doctor. He is very professional and has a good sense of humour. I never have any worries about seeing him. Not all can say that. Started with jokes about why I hadn't seen him for so long = was he treating me too well? I asked if he needed more visits so he could buy a new car? He burst out laughing and liked that one.

Jokes over and down to business. Checks and a more serious face. I was told he had found a bad infection on one side of my throat. I had to take anti-biotics/Antibiotika. Three tablets a day for 10 days and then see him again. He also told me to stay at home over the weekend, keep warm and so not infect others.

He gave me more tablets to thin blood and reduce blood pressure. Nothing new there. So that is the current situation. Can't say I am too happy for the forecast is for a warm weekend. Perhaps I'll just sit in the garden in the sun, wrapped in a blanket like all old men should/do to indicate their age status!

Finally here is an image sent by one of my students from 15 years ago. Nice to make contact again. We plan to meet again so I can learn more about his photography skills.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Anyone who has read my blog more than three times knows I go to an 'Oldie' Photoshop Gang each Friday afternoon. I have done so for a number of years. Our hard working 'teacher' is Stefan. Each year we have an exhibition of our work.

And lo it came to pass again that we had an exhibition this afternoon. On leaving home I decided a summer jacket was enough. The sun was shining. Not for long. I realised it was a mistake, but at least I had an umbrella. I needed it.

I bought some bread and rolls for the exhibition, then taught a lesson at mid-day. I later went to our Oldie centre where the exhibition was taking place. I arrived five minutes late, but still in time to get the bread/rolls onto the table.

There were about 80 people at the opening. Stefan made the first speech explaining our image concepts, a politician from the local administration made one, and then we/I/my Photoshop Gang were introduced, and we even got a round of applause!  

Lots of looking, comments, photos taken, questions, offers of orange juice or sekt before the doors to the next room opened. At last it was time to eat and drink! Nearly all the Oldies moved into the room for refreshments, and so the next stage of the exhibition took place.

Warm and cold snacks were on offer followed by various cakes and coffee. As we relaxed after eating we entered the third stage of the exhibition. This was music which I really enjoyed. A retired professional musician had prepared a range of compositions from classical to jazz.

He had prepared the backing music in his studio at home. He played the bassoon to the sound of the backing music. The instruments for the backing music had all been played by him at home. A real musical talent. All the Oldies smiled, nodded, tapped their feet and reacted to the music in positive ways.

As the music faded into the end of the day, there was lots of applause and all agreed that it had been an exceptional afternoon. I certainly agreed with that. I particularly enjoyed sharing the time with Helga and seeing how she reacted to the music.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nur Bahnhof

This week was like the last few weeks in terms of appointments and activities. The weather was very warm and friendly on Thursday and Friday. Some of the braver young men actually donned shorts to move around town. It has now returned to rain and reduced temperatures. It will remain so for most of next week.

On Wednesday I abruptly ended a teaching appointment. Conflict about a new contract and non-payment of lessons. It was not unexpected. I have threatened lawyers and court. Not the first time this has happened. Here it is called 'being in the free market'.

I am thinking of changing my TV contract. I rarely watch TV during the key times of 8.00 to 10:00pm. The stations I can receive all broadcast US crime/sit-com series or German equivalents. They do not interest me in the least. The new deal will allow me to watch programmes over my internet connection. I may make the change in the next couple of weeks.

Also thinking about holiday plans and have already booked a flight to Den Haag in mid-April. I shall probably have less travel than last year for I am thinking of a 'Biggi' at the end of the year, so need my travel budget for that adventure.

On Friday I created this work of art (see image on left)  at Stefan's request. He said he needed another one from me to show at the exhibition starting next Tuesday afternoon. I took an old photo of Anhalter Bahnhof just after it was bombed in 1944. I then added an image of the restored entrance and a tall tent like structure which is now on the site and blue sky. 

Bahnhof has a number of meanings in German. It means 'station' in English and can be used for a railway or bus station. It also has a colloquial (die Umgangssprache) meaning. If you do not understand anything you can say, ' I only understood Bahnhof'. You won't learn this from your German Lesson Book!

Also on Friday I got a large envelope from the SPD. Inside I found lots of papers for a conference on Tuesday 2 April. It was from the Berlin Migration and Integration section of the party. I was recently elected a delegate from my local constituency to attend the annual conference. The papers are full of legalistic/business/bureaucratic German.

This is my homework for the weekend = read it all with the help of my dictionary, including the ones I use online! Plus trying to understand long compound nouns that sometimes look like a verbal railway train! Here I am pinching an idea from Mark Twain who wrote an entertaining book about 'The Terrible German Language'. Read it for it will make you smile:-)

Monday, March 17, 2014

AA Concert

Yesterday afternoon I went to a concert featuring Amina and Alexa. They are the twin daughters of Petra and Uli. They in turn are central members of my 'Muggelsee Gang'. A and A are in the final year of school and writing their 'A' Levels.

All the family has musical skills. Their elder brother is a professional musician. All are multi-talents including many language skills. What a clever family! The girls recently returned from a study year abroad. One in California and the other in Tasmania.

They were part of a group of students showing off their skills at a large church in the eastern district of Friedrichshagen. It is one of my favourite bits of the city. You can find it just above Berlin's largest lake called Muggelsee.

I took Marcel with me because I wanted him to meet the ladies, and because he plays the flute. He enjoyed meeting them and I hope to see them play together one day. It was also nice to see other members of the Gang who turned out to support the concert. Thanks to all!


I had another good week and this one looks like it will be the same. We have gone from early Spring back to late Winter, but next Thursday the weather should return to Spring again.

At the Photoshop Gang last Friday, I decided to recreate Lindenstraße in the centre of Berlin. There was a small road leading from Lindenstraße. The area was bombed in the early 1940s, and when rebuilt the road disappeared.

Across what was the road is a restored 'old' building which is now part of a museum. Next to it is the Jewish Museum. It is a modern zig-zag building and I have included part of it in my collage.

It is another aspect of old and new Berlin which will be shown at our exhibition. It opens on Tuesday next week and will contain three of my works of art!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Goodbye Haus

Near to Monkey-Man's last challenge was 'das Haus'. A house which contained six flats. The occupants left them weeks ago.

The lower windows were boarded up to stop anyone entering. We neighbours waited to see what would happen next.

After the garages became history, 'Mr Bagger' moved his machine towards the house.

Before then, other men had removed all the roof tiles, roof timber and roof walls. Again, for recycling. That done, the Bagger started its work.

The digger part of the arm tore into the walls and they came crashing down. Clouds of dust settled before Mr Bagger could see clearly enough to make the next attack. Slowly, the building turned into a large pile of bricks.

Trucks arrived. They were filled with rubble and were driven away. End of the house/flats. I wondered about the families who had lived there for years, and where they were now.

Last Garage

As Monkey-Man was doing his work, the garages were being knocked down. A few weeks earlier I saw car owners taking their cars and other possessions from the garages. I have no idea where they put them. Perhaps the car on the street and other things in a cellar. 

Then the machines moved in. One big machine with a large 'thing' at the end of the arm made short work of the roofs and walls. Before then, a number of men had taken off the asphalt covering and any wooden beams. They were separated for recycling.

Here you can see the the change in landscape, including the main machine.  In German it is called  'der Bagger'. My dictionary translates this as excavator, digger, earthmover. Interesting that I didn't know the word in English and had to use a dictionary!

Last tree

And lo it came to pass that only one tree remained. It was the biggest and looked like two trees had grown together.

I mentioned earlier that a specialist, who by chance came from England, had been called in to take down the bigger trees and he ran up and down them like a monkey.

For the last one I noted there was lots of talking with his assistant and pointing before they started. They had clearly agreed a plan of action.

Monkey-Man put on all his safety equipment plus ropes and a saw all of which hung from his body as he climbed higher.

On the way up he sawed off all the smaller branches until we were left with two main trunks. He got to the top of one and sawed his way down.

He climbed the last trunk and did the same. End of the last tree. Here you can see it.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Goodbye Trees

Last week saw the end of the trees in the area in front of my flat. Sad! I miss them already. The counter argument is that the land is needed for new flats and that trees will be planted in the garden after the flats have been built.

Okay, I can understand that but I still miss my trees. It will take ages for the new trees to grow and I won't be around to see them as mature trees. Even so, I noticed that there were two pairs of workmen who chopped the trees down.

The first pair removed all the smaller trees and bushes. These was put into a machine and made into wood pulp. Nothing happened for over a week. Then another couple of lumberjacks arrived. This was the 'heavy gang' to tackle the big, older trees.

They arrived in the middle of last week. I noticed all the climbing tackle and saws one of them had. He turned out to be the 'Master'. The Hausmeister later told me he was a specialist and came from England! I watched in amazement as he climbed the huge trees like a monkey, and cut them down starting with the small branches at the top.

At the same time, the garages were knocked down. After all the trees were cut dowm and the garages removed , it was the turn of a building containing six flats. This had to be demolished to make way for the new buildings.


As you can read from the Flyer, there will be an exhibition of my Photoshop Gang work. It is on Tuesday 25th March starting at 2:00pm. It will be in the Meeting Centre where we meet each Friday to try to learn more about Photoshop and the many things you can do with this programme.

Most of the Gang will be there, with Stefan. I don't know what I shall be showing. My work has not been particularly good since the new semester in September 2013. Perhaps we can find a couple of 'artistic works'. I seem to have forgotten more than I have learnt.

The exhibition opens at 2:00pm. There will be a 'musical interlude' from 3:00pm given by Jörn Behrsing. There will also be snacks and coffee between both events. I shall wear a white shirt and tie with a suit for the event. Perhaps there will be a local reporter to take photos and write a report for the local newspaper. It happened before. Must look my best for that!

Last Friday, I decided to revisit Karstadt to bomb it! You will/may remember that a few posts ago I reported on this giant store, which was destroyed be the Gestapo to stop the Russian Army taking  food from the store in April 1945.

I added photos of ruined walls to the original to create this work of art. Actually it was just to practice how to use certain tools in Photoshop such as cutting, reducing, changing perspective.

I still think they must have been real idiots to do this rather than give the food to the hungry German population of the city.


I am a Hon. Mem. First time in my life! Twenty years ago last December, I co-founded a teacher organisation. In short it is known as ELTABB. We have a webpage and communicate over on internal service called NING.

I decided to retire from the association last December. I told the Board that it was time to let go and exactly 20 years later was a good time. I got some nice e-mails thanking me for my work and then I got this e-mail. I feel very honoured!
Hi John, How are you? I hope you are well.
As the new Chair of ELTABB, it is my pleasure to inform you that at the AGM it was unanimously decided that you should have honorary ELTABB membership for life in recognition of your services to the association! 
 Your knowledge and experience is too valuable to risk losing – besides, who would take all those wonderful pictures! Best, Dale

Monday, March 03, 2014

Winter Travel

I recently got two postcards. After thinking about the images and the people who sent them, I decided to share with you. The first was from Chile on a winter travel tour that started in Buenos Aires at the end of January 2014. The travel/tour took in many places and countries before ending back at Buenos Aires in February.

It was sent by Heike from Uruguayo on the post stamp and from Patagonia in Argentina printed on the card. Great to be in so many places even if it took nineteen days to get into my postbox. Better late than never! Thanks Heike for thinking about me and sending me such nice wishes.

The second one arrived today. It was from Cayo-Coco. I really scratched my head about this one before I noticed a word on the stamp I knew. Guess where it was from? Er.........yes, you got it right. It was from Cuba. Interesting that we hear nothing about Comrade Fidel these days!

The card was from cousin Barbara. She and Rachael decided to escape the cold and rain of Silsden and booked an all-inclusive holiday in Cuba. Not a bad idea. I have never been there, or to where Heike was enjoying the winter. Perhaps it is time for me to think of heading into the regions we call South America  to escape winter in Europe.

Barbara wrote that there were some days of rain, but it was much warmer than in the UK. Great to have a warm shower sent from Mother Nature! She also said they hoped to go to Havana. Did you go? Let me know and send any photos so I show it/them to my international readers :-) See you in mid-late summer!

More Mahler

I told you I went to the Philharmonie yesterday afternoon to hear/watch Mahler's 5th Symphony. I said I would give more information so here it is.

Mahler wrote the first three sections of his 5th Symphony between spring and autumn in 1901. He was born 7 July 1860 as the second of twelve children. That made him 40 when he started the symphony.  He was born a Jew but became a Roman Catholic in 1897. This was just after taking up the post of principle conductor of the Vienna  State Orchestra.  The religious change was largely a political decision. 
In 1902, he married a non-Jewish lady called Alma Schindler. He met her at a reception on 7 November 1901. The 4th movement of the 5th symphony is his declaration of love for Alma. It is in sharp contrast to other movements in the symphony.  An interesting and tempestuous relationship followed which you can hear in his later music.  Seventy years later the Adagio was made famous when it was included in Visconti’s film ‘Death in Venice’, based on Thomas Mann’s book. 

Symphonies 5,6,7 were composed in the relatively short time from 1901 to 1905. They are instrumental. There are no choirs or individual singers, unlike his earlier works.  Symphonies 5 and 6 are similar. Both start with a funeral march and end in a vast finale of variation form. Both lack any proper slow movement and both have a fantastic scherzo.

Both show a deeply rising emotional temperature. They start in the gloom of a funeral march and rise to end in the glory of jubilant, hymn like harmony, like a blaze of bright sunshine.  If you are interested to learn more and enjoy Mahler’s symphonies, then do a little reading and listen carefully.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

March 2014 Things

March started here with sun and blue skies. Buds are appearing on trees and flowers are peeping out of the soil. Some of my Oldies say that winter is not over and we could still have snow and ice. Perhaps so, but I prefer to stay with the idea that Winter is leaving and Spring is on the way.

Last month was a busy one, but interesting. I have covered the main points in my recent blog posts. This afternoon I am going to the Philharmonie to listen to an amateur orchestra play Mahler's 5th Symphony. I support them because they give any profits to buy instruments for kids from the poorest homes, including immigrant kids. What they all have in common is musical talent.

Next week looks like those in February, but on Wednesday evening you will find me in front of my TV to cheer on the German national football team playing against Chile. Beer and crisps have been ordered! On Thursday I'm meeting Max for a meal and chat. Unfortunately Marcel can't be there. He will have just arrived home in Hungary to take the theory part of his driving licence test.

Saturday is Frauentag and I shall be handing out red roses to ladies young and old in the name of the local SPD. I did it last year and really enjoyed seeing so many happy faces. There is another Philharmonie visit in the middle of the month for a mixed concert of music by Lalo, Ravel and de Falla.

Jeff will be in Berlin on the 19th to attend a conference. We plan to meet up in the evening. On 26th an exhibition of my Photoshop Gang's work opens. I shall be there. The month ends with the SPD Annual Reception. I got my invitation two days ago!

Who has a birthday in March? Not many! Dr. Günter P. has his big day on 22nd, Dr. Bernd W. has his on the 28th and that is it! Happy Birthday to both and have a great time with your families.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

der Fasching

Der Fasching means carnival, or in Brazil it means Mardi Gras. It happens each year at this time. In Germany it is centered on Köln/Cologne and surrounding areas in the west of Germany.

 It has a high proportion of Catholics who observe the tradition before entering a period of fasting leading to Easter.

In Berlin and many northern parts of Germany it is either celebrated lightly, or just ignored. It involves lots of eating, drinking, dancing, singing, dressing up and generally being jolly! Werner decided to try to activate Kerstin's Keep-Fit Oldies last Friday.

He entered the training room a few minutes late, went to his training area next to me and then put on his wig. The rest of the Oldies didn't notice for they were too busy looking at Kerstin and following movement instructions.

Werner said nothing but slowly the others noticed he looked a little different. Then the sniggers started and questions about losing his hair. Werner is the joker in the Gang and always ready to make a comment or joke. He readily agreed to be photographed for this blog. The camera was on my mobile phone, but improved with my Photoshop programme!

New Position

Last Wednesday evening I went to a meeting of the SPD Migration and Integration group in Lichtenberg. That is the district in Berlin where I live along with about 260,000 others!

We were founded a year ago and I was elected onto this group by my SPD local meeting. It was time for the first ever full election meeting. It was interesting to see how organised this kind of meeting was. This time it was business and less rhetoric and debate. Here is photo of me with the rest of the committee.

Surprise, surprise, Natalya our Chairperson (in the middle of the photo)  nominated me to be a member of the committee. I was later elected. A new position for me. It makes number four in different groups in the local organisation. Lots of work to do and get the message of integration and tolerance into the district.

I first started such work when I was 17 and studying in Leeds. It came about through my family. So many years later and I am still involved. On the other hand it shows just how much there is to be done and not just what we have achieved in western Europe. I shall not comment on the rest of the world here!