“Elberry was such a bad teacher that Heidi killed herself.””The lesson was so boring that I threw up.”

Just two examples i elicited from the Bundeswehr group today, illustrating ‘such’ and ‘so’. Pleasingly, i don’t seem to need grammar books; i devise sample sentences using the ‘target’ grammar and the language seems to open up, and i can see the principles. It makes lessons fresher, to think my own way through grammar rather than simply hand on Murphy or Aitken’s dictates about such and such a tense. It also makes it harder to pretend there are hard and fast rules about grammar, however; it’s too fluid, in the end i often just say, “if it sounds right it’s right” rather than babble on about finished events and other, dubious concepts. Nothing is ever finished.

There’s a particularly amusing student in the Bundy group, called Falco, who came up with the following: “I was so drunk that a friend used me sexually.” Another student’s PC was destroyed by lightning so i said: “The computer was so evil that God killed it”, and encouraged speculation as to other ways of dealing with evil computers (throwing up on the computer, then throwing it out of the window seemed popular).

At the end, Falco and another student said my lessons are good and they wanted to have me every day. i grinned and said this was my last week. i have little idea of the future beyond Friday. If it is my fate to be in K__, $$$ will (somehow) arrive, enough to keep me here beyond October. My boss gave me a kindly talk, saying i am extremely unlikely to survive on private students. He’s an old hand and i think he’s right – it is extremely unlikely. However, my life so far has been extremely unlikely and i would say, for example, that it was extremely unlikely my house in Manchester should have been protected by two giant Egyptian statues, on a quiet street with two synagogues and a House of Sufism, a couple of minutes’ walk from where Wittgenstein lived as a student, a century ago. But there it is. What is extremely unlikely is often the case; logic contains the possibilities of all situations.

i have become mildly addicted to Primavera pizzas from my local pizzeria – seemingly staffed entirely by buxom blonde German girls. As is often the way i have instantly formed a mystic connection with the servers of food and now get an inexplicable discount of 2.50 euros with my pizza – i have no idea why and don’t want to ask in case i go to prison for paying the incorrect pizza tariff (bloody Germans and their bloody rules). The pizzagirls all know me as the scarred Englishman who always gets the same pizza. Yesterday a pizzagirl presented my Primavera with a courtly bow and a beaming grin. That is an undoubted good; such a thing justifies a great deal of suffering and bad jazz and worse philosophy. If, 60 years ago, someone had told me i would one day be in Kiel, speaking almost no German, somewhat protected by a cadre of buxom pizzagirls, and extremely grateful for their kindness, i would have found it, let us say, extremely unlikely.

i feel i understand the impulse behind one of Hemingway’s worst short stories, ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’. i never liked the story but after walking in the dark and the Baltic wind and rain, on the cusp of strong uncertainty, i was drawn to the warmth and light of the pizzeria – from hunger but also the need to make even brief contact with another human being, to eat warm food made by someone else.

i no longer need human beings. But i am nonetheless still human, despite myself.