1. Typical Munich weather the last week – bright blue skies and strong sun in the morning and early afternoon, then sudden thunderstorms in the late afternoon, monsoon-like squalls, then drizzle, on and off, for hours. Contrary to the stereotype of the well-prepared Bosche, i note many Hun running through the rain squealing in their shorts & t-shirts, hatless & sans umbrella. They seem equally surprised each evening, a strange & feckless folk in this regard.

2. One of my most difficult groups comes to an end on 27 July – a group of Finance/IT people in an insurance company, all reticent, suspicious, nervous, and seemingly bewildered to find themselves doing an English course. One student, when i asked her a simple question, raised her hand to cover almost her entire face, peeking fearfully out at me over her extended fingers. i think the question was something like: “how was your weekend?” or “do you like travelling by plane?” Another spends the whole class with his face resting on his hand, from which posture he mumbles or shrugs or smiles enigmatically.

Another, a Russian woman, has the worst listening comprehension i’ve yet encountered. i was attempting to teach the Passive and gave as an example: “Elberry cleans the room. In the Passive: the room is cleaned.” She frowned, baffled, and said: “What is Elberry?”

i felt a spasm of schoolmasterish weariness and disgust sweep over me, and said, as neutrally as i could: “that’s my name.” Not a difficult or strange name (naturally i didn’t actually say “Elberry”), and they’ve had classes with me once a week for about 6 weeks now, so i would expect them to at least recognise my name.

i found myself very much wanting to get up and leave the room. i don’t generally feel anger at stupid students; just disgust and weariness, as there is really no point trying to teach them anything, their minds refuse to take anything in. They’re not bad people, often quite amiable, but unteachable. i can imagine the compacted, unmeltable anger which would develop, over the brutal years, from schoolteaching. This i mean to avoid.

3. At present i only have three classes i enjoy:

i) a lawyer preparing for an English language assessment at his firm; he is shy, modest, and i fear he will fail simply because of his timid body language and inability to present snappy answers; he told me that if he fails he will probably have to leave the firm and it won’t be easy to find another job. i’m going to encourage him to do some exercise to build some upper body muscles, to change his posture, and i’ll try and improve his speaking rhythms, though he’s done well so far by looking like a nervous mouse, and i fear he will ignore my suggestions, and so fail the assessment (the assessors are looking for a raw alpha male).

ii) a consultant who comes to me for pronunciation classes. We’ve read ‘Burnt Norton’, ‘East Coker’, and last week we tried speeches from JFK, Platoon, and Paris, Texas. Next week i’ve decided to try acting out scenes from Withnail & I with him. Not the ones with Uncle Monty, i think, but perhaps the “look at him, look at Geoff Wode” scene.

iii) a class of engineers, chaps in their 40s and 50s. i taught a lot of groups like this in Kassel, where most of the students were engineers (in Munich they’re mainly Finance or IT people). i recognise the type – decent, down-to-earth guys with a dry sense of humour and a Politically Incorrect worldview. They are the type of chaps who would never rat on you for turning up drunk or covered in blood and viscera, as long as you could teach in a straight(ish) line; the type of chaps who would help if you were in a ruck with a gang of Russians. i greatly prefer these students to the usual Finance/IT geeks, who are, on the whole, typical office creatures. The work we do defines us to some degree and office work produces weak half-men with Evian in their veins. Engineers at least have a fairly direct connection to something real, to machines, to real physical products.

4. A lazy weekend doing little, enjoying my solitude, my kangaroolessness.

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