Since whenever i stopped blogging i´ve had various cool students. Some highlights – these i had for one-on-one lessons:

1. A prof at the nearest big university, who is interested in linguistics, and widely read. i had a couple of stimulating lessons with this fine chap, talking about: languages, Wittgenstein, philosophy, Chomsky, George Steiner, aikido, tai chi, violent death, meditation, baguettes, Hitler, the usual.

2. A Korean beauty who looks 17 but is 30, drives a Porsche and speaks English too quickly. i slowed her down by reading poetry with her – TS Eliot´s Four Quartets, Hart Crane´s ´My Grandmother´s Love Letters´, Yeats´´Sailing to Byzantium´. In the heatwave she turned up in nothing but a diaphanous dress and her usual slightly bashful “I´m 20 minutes late” grin. And i was paid for this.

3. A manager at a nearby engineering company, a broad muscular chap in his 40s, used to be a boxing champion but has the boyish manner of a 12-year-old caught stealing pears, he regales me with anecdotes of womanising and problem-solving and Germanising – a very cool guy, drives a Volvo, has barbecues; when i teach at his company he has a buffet of Bifi Rolls and sweets and Cola for me, so i try not to eat beforehand so i can gorge myself on his Bifi Rolls while he watches, amazed. When, on our first lesson, i asked “what do you do in your spare time?” he said: “Spare time? When I go home I say hello to my wife then I help my son with his homework and we play cards, then I sleep.” A sehr cool guy, a chap.

4. A 19-year old girl, pretty, Grecian, ancient in her way, who studies Latin for fun, and reads Seneca and sundry other philosophers, cough cough, a very pleasing young person not yet broken down by the world like Elberry, we had a delightful week together where i taught her what she needed and observed, with wonder and desire, her English audibly improve, i guess accelerated by her Eloise-like intellect and Latin. At one point we stood together at the window jeering at the German chavs below, and i felt her ease with my proximity, as she stood about six inches from me, relaxed and joyous and sharp.

5. A 15-year old blonde girl, a national tennis table champ preparing for an oral exam. i gave her presentation topics like “if you could take a pill to live forever, would you take it?” Her answer: “No”, then, when i asked why not, “I don´t want to live forever.” In many ways an unremarkable 15-year old girl, but as i have hitherto had no experience of 15-year old girls i found her fascinating. Kind of strange admiring her red shoes and ankles, then reflecting i´m nearly two decades her senior.

6. An East German engineer, 50, short, lithe, tough as fuck, moustachioed like Serpico; he learnt no English at school so came to us as a total beginner, the (insane) plan being to accelerate him to Level 5 (advanced) in 3 weeks. He came for about 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, with the stoic composure of an East German. He must earn more than most of my students but dresses in jeans and a thin shirt, his only concession being a pair of dandy shoes, whereof i approve. He is overworked and stressed but this is a man who, a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, wrote a letter to the GDR saying he wanted to leave their fucking country (he was promptly arrested and banged up, and interrogated until the Wall fell). Three times during lessons his boss called with some emergency (e.g. the local factory of a major car manufacturer lost their electricity) and he had to hook his laptop up and solve it while i watched, admiringly. He could turn off half of the electricity in Munich from my school, using his laptop and his access codes.

Typically, my manager treated him like a naughty schoolboy, e.g. chastising him for going out for lunch on his own (he´s supposed to spend all day with a teacher). i find it curious that my manager, who is in many ways highly cunning, cannot see past his standard German jeans, cannot even deduce that for his company to pay megabucks for his forcegrown English, he must be very very important, and hence very very highly paid. He´s however so cool that he responded to her schoolma´amish bullying with bemused surprise rather than (justified) anger. A man without ego; i find that highly practical men often seem denuded of ego, as if having serious, real work doesn´t leave any room for egomania and vanity. i don´t want to glamorise German engineers but they do strike me as, in general, worthwhile, moral human beings; and i believe this is because they have a Tao, a discipline, that absorbs and involves, that rewards and demands.

A typical German engineer:

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