21st November 2014
I could have sworn I wrote the last blog only yesterday. Weird. Well it’s been a very good week (so far). Tonight I am off to the Stiftstheater at the Augustinium to see the Bonn Players’ production of “Blithe Spirit” I cycled up last week to find out where it was. Augustinium was easy enough (though I initially sailed past it and had to back track) though I never found the theatre itself. However, I did find these:
I haven’t opened them yet. The vicar asked if he could pop around so I’m saving them for tea. However, as no appointment has yet been made and I’m going back up this evening, I might stock up – I have been asked for chocolate ones – let’s see how long it takes me to write this blog and how quickly I can cycle up Koelnstrasse.
Anyway, mindful that I wanted to go back to German lessons after Christmas and that I would have to do a placement test, I arranged a meeting with my Cologne-based language exchange partner. The first thing he said when we met was that he had bought my book (And I Shall Be Healed, it’s on Amazon). Then when I told him that my school had agreed to mentor me for the PGCE by distance and that I would be staying in Germany he declared himself proud of me. Aw. That’s nice of him! So it was only fair that I offered to check his English language presentation – I love doing that kind of work anyway. I spent most of Wednesday doing that and I have to say, there isn’t much wrong with his English. If only the same could be said of my German! On Tuesday I went to the language school I had chosen for a placement test. The woman put me in a room with a test paper and left me – for an hour. The test took me 15 minutes. I had finished it, checked it and begin to prepare my English lessons for the following day before I decided to go and investigate. She had forgotten me! The receptionist took over and marked my test. My level is still A2.2. This is the level I was when I began my month long course at the Goethe Institut so I was disappointed. However the woman did agree to let me into B1.1 as it’s very close to A2.2. More to the point, those lessons are on Mondays and Wednesday which means I get to keep Thursday evenings for the Bonn English Singers.
The teaching is also going well…
4th December 2014
OK so it looks like I am getting well and truly behind with this blog lark. In my defence I have been busy – and am now ill. I dragged myself out of bed today to go to work and then, just as quickly dragged myself back there. No singing for me this evening.
I was in Berlin at the weekend and my goodness, I haven’t been so cold since I lived in Italy. (1997-8, the coldest winter in Tuscany for 90 years and the landlady didn’t really go in for heating). It was lovely to see my friends again – including a friend I had been rather worried about – and the two little girls of one of my friends who were getting very excited about their advent calendars. On Advent Abend, we ate Christmas biscuits, drank tea and then had a singsong around the piano (someone could actually play it) in English and German. Absolutely lovely. Another nice thing was that both friends, although they have fantastic English, spoke in German that evening and, for the first time in about 8 years of knowing him, I was able to speak to my friend’s partner.
Unfortunately the next morning was the beginning of being ill. I felt so ill on Monday that I thought I would still be sitting in that Berlin flat, head between knees, when my friend returned from work. I was determined, however, to get back to Bonn so the day became instead a series of escalating tasks.
First, cross the room without fainting. Done.
Second, leave the flat. Done
Third, get from flat to U-bahn. Done
Fourth, get from U-bahn to S-bahn – correct line. Done
Fifth, get from S-bahn to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Done.
Sixth, you’re an hour early, find somewhere warm to sit, something warm to drink before you freeze to death. Done.
Seventh, get on correct train and hope no one has booked the seat. Done.
Amazing how the brain narrows to the most important stuff.
It was cold in Berlin, schrecklich kalt. Going to the park with my friend’s youngest daughter, my friend handed me a pair of ski-trousers and it’s just as well she did, it was unbearably cold. The ground temperature only freezing but with a wind chill of -10. (My cousin in Canada has pointed out that he endures temperatures of -30 so all I can say to that is, Canadians, I salute you).
I have loved Berlin for ten years but I was desperate to get home again almost from the moment I got off the train. Partly, I think because I was afraid that the friend with whom I had originally meant to stay when I moved to Germany (my first plan being to move to Berlin), who had not been in touch for some months and of whom I had had no news from the friend who was putting me up this weekend, had died and that I would only learn this when I got off the train in Berlin. (Happily that was not the case and I’m pleased to report that she looked quite well). Also I was surprised how shabby Berlin looked after Bonn – part of its charm surely – and how big. For most of the ten years’ of our acquaintance, I had visited Berlin from London and I remember the relief – particularly when I visited ten days or so after 7/7 how cosy and safe Berlin felt. I didn’t feel that this time and it was the first time in almost four months that I had felt anything approaching homesickness – for Bonn.
So I’m back in the balmy Rhineland – OK it started to snow yesterday but it didn’t settle – and still ill. I am sitting in bed as I write this – how decadent does that sound? I’ve been going to work – and even managed to meet English friends who came over from the Christmas Markets of Cologne to meet me yesterday – but it’s back to bed every time. Oh the joys of freelance work.
I did, however, get my first paid English checking / proof-editing work on Saturday. The urgent request came in at midnight on Friday by which time I was in Berlin, I borrowed a computer and had it back to the client before lunchtime. More please! It’s some of my favourite work. I’ve been doing a couple of freebies for friends / flatmate but I am now making that service available to all so, if you’d like some work done please message me through the comments box or the e-mail is on the “About” page.
The downside of freelancing with teaching companies is that they can cut your hours without too much warning. One school gave me only 7 hours this week, of which 2 were then cancelled by the students. This was justified by the line “But lots of new courses are starting next week”. Well OK, a lighter week wouldn’t hurt. I went in this morning, however, and found that I had been given only 3 hours plus 5 on a day on which I am never available. I had told them that I could not work on Tuesday so they gave me Monday and Wednesday off as well. One of the other teachers complained about his hours (too few) so I also complained. Now they have reworked the schedule and I have been given 16 hours, all with a class they know I don’t like teaching. Perhaps that serves me right.
What it does bring home, however, is the need to keep an eye out for new incomes so that’s the plan now. English checking / editing; creative writing; private conversation lessons, these are all things that I can offer.
Also, in other exciting news, my play “Mirror, Mirror” which I wrote in a Dublin Hotel bedroom after doing a show on the Shankill Road in Belfast in 2011, is to be given a reading in North Carolina (Soaring High Productions). It’s a charity fundraiser for Domestic Violence Awareness and there will even be a live YouTube stream on YouTube this Saturday – 2pm Eastern Time. If you want to read the play, it’s one of three short plays written for women collectively called “Ladies’ Night”. The first play starts off with my original stand up routine too. Amazon only I’m afraid.
So that’s it I think, all up to date and now an all-day lesson to plan. But first, lunch.