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1. Another odd thing i’ve noticed about World of Tanks – at least once a session in the team chat someone will write things like “noob retard team” or “fucking stupid players here”. It is always from someone who got destroyed, which puzzled me at first since i usually exit the battle as soon as i’m killed, and then go to the garage to pick another tank for another battle. i usually have absolutely no interest in the outcome of the battle. So these players just sit there writing “retard team” while watching their surviving team mates play. On the one hand they are now free to write messages, being dead; on the other hand, why stick around?

Another thought – presumably they died because they rushed into a trap, alone, and then they blame their team mates. It’s true that each player tends to operate semi-independently, so cooperation develops organically, e.g. you’re tank-cowering behind a rock as two more powerful tanks blast away, moving to encircle; and then a distant friendly artillery or destroyer annihilates them – not to help you out, just to get points. The sour losers might be right to blame their team for not providing support, but then i suspect the ill-tempered ones are those who rush ahead sending “HELP!” messages and assume everyone will follow in their wake.

2. Perhaps these people are adolescent 13-year-olds who can bully and dominate their peer group in real life, and become enraged when they encounter resistance. My colleague The Cop is of this type – i went out drinking with him and two acquaintances (one an opera singer) a couple of years ago and he tried to get them to sing for him. The singer obviously didn’t want to, and said there was too much background noise; choosing to ignore this evident reluctance, The Cop called the waiter over and told him to turn the music off, saying loudly (in German): “my friend is a famous opera singer, and he wants to sing.” The singer’s discomfort grew and he highly grudgingly sang for about five seconds before refusing to continue. The Cop kept bellowing “No! No! Again! Continue! Continue!” to no avail.

As we left The Cop hung back a little from the other two and said to me, “I don’t want to get too close to these two. These fucking assholes. Fucking assholes. Don’t want to sing, huh? Too good to sing? Fucking assholes! It would have been great! But they fucking didn’t want to! Fucking assholes!” – sounding, for all his tough guy swagger, close to tears.

3. i prefer to play World of Tanks by hanging back, slowly getting into cover with a good line of sight (and retreat) and then watch the map to see how things play out. Obviously someone needs to make the first move – if everyone was like me, each game would consist of the players squatting in bushes and peering paranoiacally about till the time runs out. But i think even a headstrong player must observe and adapt to the enemy and to his team mates.

4. i Skyped with the Viking the other day. As soon as he caught sight of the Sturmstache he burst out laughing, explaining: “You look like a Mexican horse thief.” Later, he drew this in my honour:


1. i had my most horrible group again today, not too bad as the 50s power frau was absent so there was some kind of cohesion. The other two students had naturally forgotten every single thing i tried to teach them in the preceding 9 months and kept saying things like “I will never learn this” in German. i wonder sometimes if i should assign them homework but know it is pointless: groups occasionally ask for homework, and then never do it, looking shifty and embarrassed as they mumble “I have not the time” or “it is kompliziert” or “I must to barbecue am weekend”. A few years ago, a group specifically complained that i wasn’t consistent, and so my boss told me to send them the vocab from each lesson and review it next time; i did so and not a single one could remember anything, because they didn’t bother reviewing their notes. They just wanted to complain, because they were German (although it was also a company which is notorious for treating its suppliers like shit and in their eyes i was just another supplier).

As i was filling in my paperwork at McLingua, just prior to the class today, one of the sales skirts told me i’d got glowing feedback from a government agency where i taught last year; the agency’s HR Dept apparently think i’m the best teacher they’ve ever had and only want me in future, etc. etc. She seemed surprised at my sceptical look; i explained that good feedback is meaningless, that i can deliver lessons of comparable standards to two groups and one will say i’m shit, the other acclaim me as the greatest teacher of all time, and so i no longer even pay attention to such things. Not exactly true: i dismiss positive feedback for the aforementioned reason, but take negative feedback to heart – and Germans love to criticise so complains abound.

In today’s class the students were as usual unmotivated and stupefied, and so i diverted the conversation to Schnitzel and since they are Bavarian women they spent a good ten minutes happily instructing me on how to make the perfect Schnitzel at home. i was amused that the process involves savagely beating some kind of meat with a “Schnitzel hammer” and when they warned me not to freeze the Schnitzel for long but rather eat it at once, or within a day or two, i mused: “But i could buy kilos of meat and then freeze enough Schnitzel for ten years”; and they: “Ho ho ho ho but ho ho ho ho you make this so and you become Schnitzel is green and begin talking and walk out your Kühlschrank or?” [in English: “if you do this, the Schnitzel will get mouldy and start to grow legs and walk out of your fridge”] and i then suggested the Schnitzel would become intelligent and start to speak Bavarian. i could train these Schnitzels with the Schnitzel Hammer and form a Schnitzel Circus, taming them with the Hammer. But inevitably one day the Schnitzels would escape and breed in the wild, having children [“chicken nuggets!” one of the students squealed in German to the other] and rapidly taking over Europe.

We then did an easy article and both students kept sighing and muttering things like “this is terrible” in German to each other. i have tried many different activities but none work. About ten minutes early one of the students said, in German, “can we stop now?” and i said “yes, good idea” and immediately rose.

The Cop would not have stood for such behaviour; he would have given them homework and disciplined them for failing to do it, and then they would have complained to McLingua and got a new teacher, which is one reason he no longer teaches English, and i do.

2. Now aged 41, an old man, i am clearly a failure in every sense of the word. Socially, creatively, financially, i am a total failure. Having said that, i find that i no longer really care about my miserable failure, as long as i have some good books (currently: A Tale of Two Cities, Auslöschung, Briefe an Freya, The Deluge, The Master & his Emissary, The Epigenetics Revolution, Religion and the Decline of Magic), pipe tobacco, and some good whisky and gin, and some new Youtube videos to watch when i return from my labours.

3. On the subject of videos, i’ve been watching this Millennial Woes video while doing my laundry:

In the second half of the video, Woes talks about his own failure:

“I think that my failure was built into me […] I grew up in a very nihilistic decade, the 90s, when everything was falling apart, social things, traditions, were being cast aside, and that seemed the future, that we’re getting rid of the past, all these excess structures and traditions that we don’t need and never needed. But also in terms of my failure in life, in my early 20s, I think that was built into me.”

He then suggests that it could have made some difference had he gone to another school: “the only way I can blame the outside world would be, I should have gone to a better school, somewhere they would have left me alone and let me develop, let me read books, where the general standard was higher, where the conversation was of a higher standard, and deeper and so on. And instead i went to a mainstream Scottish State school, which is as bad as it sounds. And they didn’t prepare me at all for university or art college or graduation, and they didn’t give me any guidance; it was entirely off my own bat that I did this, because they were too useless.”

and after university:

“I didn’t know what to do after graduating, when I was 22; when I wasn’t socially as experienced as I could have been, as well tutored; that was the fault of the milieu in which I grew up, the very standard middle class. If I’d grown up at a higher level I would have been more socially adept. Then again, these are different things, and you can always find a way to blame the outside world for your own failings. Ultimately I think there was something in me – ego – that was monstrous, when I was young, when I was a teenager, and it needed to be extinguished, in order that I could actually grow. But for it to be extinguished I needed to fail, dreadfully, and so it was inevitable.”

4. Schopenhauer somewhere observed that if you follow self-recrimination far enough, you come to the point of intensely disliking the fact of your own existence, the person you essentially are, a person who was created just so, before your own memory begins. As i read this morning in A Tale of Two Cities:

“Dear me!  This is an occasion that makes a man speculate on all he has lost. Dear, dear, dear! To think that there might have been a Mrs. Lorry, any time these fifty years almost!”

“Not at all!” From Miss Pross.

“You think there never might have been a Mrs. Lorry?” asked the gentleman of that name.

“Pooh!” rejoined Miss Pross; “you were a bachelor in your cradle.”

“Well!” observed Mr. Lorry, beamingly adjusting this little wig, “that seems probable, too.”

“And you were cut out for a bachelor,” pursued Miss Pross, “before you were put in your cradle.”

“Then, I think,” said Mr. Lorry, “that I was very unhandsomely dealt with, and that I ought to have had a voice in the selection of my pattern. Enough!”

But of course who would have a voice in the selection of his own self? Call the voice-haver X; and of what would X be constituted, whence would his pattern have arisen? Throughout Paradise Lost, the created being’s sense of disarray and uncertainty, not being his/her own author. And we see the literal insanity and evil of attempted self-authorship, in the 6 gorillion gender pronouns and shrieking menstruals taking Trump to task for having a huge cock.

5. Woes’ tale seems similar to mine in some ways (lack of guidance, intellect that turns out to be totally useless) and in many ways it is totally different. He strikes me as something of a conservative The Spine – salt of the earth commoner type who couldn’t get a good job because he’s from some shithole estate, etc. And yet, the end result is the same with me and i’m half-Indian, upper middle class background, went to a 450-year-old school, got a First and MA Distinction from Durham, and ended up on the same scrapheap as Woes and The Spine. i realised, years ago, that failure is built into me – though my liberation came when i reframed it as “worldly failure”, and then as “failure in the terms of the world as it presently exists”.

It’s true that i had no real guidance at school or even university, at the former because i was barely developed and just passively obeyed my greaters; at university the problem was that everyone supposed a good degree would lead to a job, but in fact a good degree in the Humanities was almost worthless, and very good degrees were counter-productive, as indicating a propensity for introversion, solitude, and sustained thought – hardly traits desirable for the “office junior” positions open to those with less than 5 years’ work experience; and actually i doubt introverts would be welcome in any job, anywhere. No one i think even in the careers’ office knew this, let alone any of my tutors.

Ultimately, it comes down to my character. When i was living in Leeds in 2006 i met another English Lit graduate at the only Durham Alumnus meeting i’ve ever attended: a bland unremarkable guy who got a 2:1 and had effortlessly sailed into a job paying 2.5 times what i was earning 5 years after i finished my Master’s. This put paid to my aggrieved belief that i had sabotaged myself by studying English Literature – what i realised was that while having high grades was definitely a bad thing, the crucial factor was one’s own character. One must appear utterly normal, not merely in one’s interview answers, but in appearance, facial expression, body language. One must, at all costs, avoid the intensity of unfettered intelligence and privacy; which is unfortunately evident in the slightest of movements, in the way one sits and smiles, or doesn’t smile, in the way one glances up, or doesn’t glance up, in indeed all.

– such dissimulation virtually impossible for those unbeholden to an ideology. One must be utterly transparent, depthless, predictable. And if one is otherwise, it will be difficult to get through an interview, however one tamps spirit down, however one cavorts and grins, or fails to grin, or recites stock answers, or doesn’t recite stock answers – it is your character which will damn you.

6. i did some magic last night, as several of my classes just cancelled (in Bavaria, holidays last 3 months), and i realised i would need more money. This morning McLingua offered me enough new classes (a crash course in late May) that i should even be able to save a little money, though not enough to return to England for a week as i would like (should now make about 1400 € in May, before tax – i made twice as much in my brutal teaching years). i rarely do such magics, as i’ve found you tend to get what you need without undue fuss; however, it’s also in my experience true that the river of one’s fate can enter a logjam and some decisive act is needed to blow the obstruction.

As i was crafting a bindrune (my version of a chaos magic sigil – i really lack the post-modern mentality for c.m.) unexpected conjunctions occurred, and what had originally been a rune just for a bit of cash altered and became something more complex. True magic will from start to end allow, involve, be energised by, uncertainty and the unknown. If it were not to permit uncertainty, it would be mechanistic and hence, unmagical.

7. Failure is sometimes just failure – i think of Shrekh, a Muslim schoolfriend who is now a pitiful wreck still living in a crime-ridden ghetto, hasn’t worked in a decade, has no self-discipline, no ambition, no interest really in anything, and no shame for his life or lack thereof. His life seems to have led to a state of wilful infantile helplessness, seasoned with pedantry.

But there are other cases, where apparent failure is merely the forging of purpose and unprecedented enterprise. Time was, aristocrats and gentry such as Nicolas Gomez Davila, la Rochefoucauld, Sir Philip Sidney, Kierkegaard, could think and write in peace because writing wasn’t their “job”.

In our days we require failure to achieve clarity and distance, and so one could perhaps distinguish between the failure of those like Shrekh, (an abject infantile wreck); and the failure of those who have thereby attained an aristocratic disinterest and force, hard won though it be.

My own failure often seems unrelieved, yet i reflect that i count two people as real friends: Juniper and the Viking; and increasingly the sense of being in the palm of Odin’s hand, readied and preserved for whatever final cause he deems fit. Perhaps, in some time after time has ended, this will be clear to me.

1. i’ve survived summer, the most perilous time of year for an elberry. Spring and autumn are always the seasons of change for me, after the hard stasis of summer & winter. At the moment i feel like the last rat on a sinking ship, as the whole of Western Europe will collapse into Balkans-style civil war in the next ten years or so; and a surprising number of my colleagues are quitting:

1.1 The Cop: he was knocked off his bike, and then got a complaint from a hotel where he’d taught a McLingua crash course for a large engineering company. His version runs that everything was disorganised, no one knew where equipment was, and in true Cop fashion he let them know this was unacceptable. i dare say he got in people’s faces, and i can’t imagine him going beyond the limits of standard venomous German grumbling, but he has an aura of violence which amplifies matters somewhat; in this, similar to Morgana who could say things which, on paper, would sound merely aggressive and nasty, but with her evil goblin/Borderline look, talking with her was somewhat akin to being stuffed in a bag with a dozen rabid raccoons, and then being thrown into the sea, and eaten by a shark.

The Cop had always nurtured the illusion that, because he can be a good teacher (i.e. when students cooperate fully), and is reliable, McLingua valued and respected him. After his bike accident none of the management or sales team even asked if he was okay (he had “bone bruising” and could hardly walk, but continued working for McLingua). And then they chided him for getting in the face of the incompetent hotel staff. He had, apparently, garnered a reputation as a Nazi, amusing given he is a Zionist and i’m far more to the so-called Right, but then i don’t look the part.

The Cop has a rich wife and doesn’t need money, so quit. It’s quite a shock, strange as it sounds, for he was a decade-long-staple of the McLingua teachers, one of the few who persisted while young pampered millennials came & went. It’s like David Bowie dying all over again.

1.2 Big Ben – an American, think i wrote about him earlier but can’t find the post (perhaps deleted). He’s probably mid-30s, well over 6 foot, fat, alcoholic, from some rich man town outside Detroit, left his family when he was a teen and worked construction, went to university and studied History, speaks now a faintly-American English accent, vaguely 19th Century to my ears; he said he spent some time in his late teens locked in a room watching Anthony Hopkins films, and absorbed the voice. A deeply strange individual, he speaks excellent German, doesn’t read but speaks literate English (unlike most of my colleagues), is a fan of shows like True Detective and The Thick of It. i always found him fascinating to talk to, but at the same time couldn’t trust or get a sense for whoever he really was – perhaps much as the lesser man has always responded to me, which suggests Big Ben is actually the Übermensch, by god.

A month ago he told me he had to give up alcohol after a hernia, and also feels generally weakened by “German meat” – he said he visited his family in America and “after eating American chicken, I felt power in my body again”. He does, at times, radiate a slightly serial killer vibe. And now he will move back to America, to eat meat, after a decade of McLingua.

Curiously, he is a very good teacher; between classes he groans lugubriously about the job – much the same problems i have – but his students universally admired him, and i walked in on one of his classes and was faced with a totally different persona. As he said, when last we met, – I never applied myself to this job. I couldn’t accept this as a career, so I never learnt anything about how to teach languages, or teach anything. This was always temporary. But then it went on too long to be temporary.

– What are you going to do back in America? i asked.

– Anything except this. I have to get my car fixed up, then I want to drive around. There are wastelands, like Mad Max territory but without the cannibals and warlords, there’s just nothing there. I’d like to drive around these places, eating meat and feeling strong again. Germany took my balls away. I have to regrow them.

1.3 Hillary – a hipster from, of all places, Texas, probably early 30s, utterly deracinated (as California Jesus noted “she don’t be speaking or dressing like no American”), a weird hybrid accent, weird lesbian haircut, lived a few years in Helsinki without learning any Finnish (“only the whores go to Helsinki”), has worked mostly in IT & Marketing. She worked at McLingua for about two months before getting a real job in Marketing. Our first conversation as follows, about a week after Brexit:

Hillary: Oh yeah, you’re, like, a Brit, that’s fantastic. So will Brexit affect you here?

elberry: Probably, but i voted for it so i can hardly complain.

Hillary: What? Like, you voted in Brexit, or you voted to leave?

elberry: i voted to Leave, by god.

Hillary: Oh. And you regret it now?

elberry: What? No, i’m absolutely delighted.

After this, all our interactions were marked by a sneering hostility on her part, and shrugs on mine. Like many women she is a natural scold and know-it-all who enjoys policing others, witness the following conversation in the teacher room:

elberry: That Bundeswehr class was pretty cool.

Toddball: A lot of beards.

elberry: But real beards, not hipster beards.

Toddball: Yeah, them niggaz weren’t hipsters.

elberry: You should only be allowed a beard if you’ve been trained to kill. It makes me sick to see hipsters with beards, when they’re just vegan Che Guevara-loving losers who couldn’t kill a squirrel with an Uzi pen.

Hillary [listening the whole time with a tense female look]: Whoah! There’s a lot of stereotyping going on here!

elberry: Yeah, there is. [elberry leaves without another word]

i was puzzled by her “do you regret it” question, then realised she’d been reading BBC and Guardian articles claiming that people voted to Leave as if on a whim and then immediately regretted it, before anything had actually happened (these articles came out within a few days, and so far nothing at all has happened politically). She probably also believes the stories that Britain is suddenly suffering a Brexit-earthquake-driven tsunami of racist massacres, and the only solution is to reverse the referendum and restrict future voting rights to Guardian-reading millennials who live in London, because they know best.

Nasty piece of work, really.

1.4 Two other teachers are leaving soon, both nice, neither remarkable or blogworthy. They will probably die in a ditch.

2. i’ve now been in Germany just over 7 years. Astonishing – that i speak still virtually no German (by my standards), can’t read anything serious without intense effort. i thought about relocating to Eastern Europe, as Germany will soonish collapse into civil war. i can predict that one of the safest places on the planet will be Slovakia, for the simple reason that the Viking lives there, and while he often says things like “God has plans for me, He does not want me gallivanting about having fun” he also has an odd habit of always living in the safest places on the planet, which are also the only places someone like him could survive. If he ever leaves Slovakia, you can be sure the Major Shit is going to go down there within the next few years.

But i feel rooted here, especially in Bavaria. There seems, as best i can discern, a kind of presence here, protecting the natural human culture – it could be that the culture has always been a bit different to “Germany”, so it resists in some sense the crass tide of modernity. i note many Leftist assholes come here for work, and live in quiet villages and towns, and then decry the CSU for trying to protect the state from millions of 3rd World rapists. The Leftists appreciate the safety and order, and don’t understand these exist because of the Catholicism, the conservatism, the traditions they hate and would destroy. Sorry, pal, but that’s the way it is – if you want to live in a cool hipster city where the police don’t do anything, and you’re surrounded by sand peoples, that’s fine, but you’ve also got to accept you’re going to get raped on average four times a week, and your dog will be stolen and made into a kebab, and your daughter will eat it, before she gets raped by a 42-year-old Algerian who will escape prison because he says he’s a 12-year-old Syrian called Mohammed, all praise the prophet.

3. i have wanted to leave this job for the last 4 years but there’s nothing else i could do, save cleaning and bar work, neither of which appeal. And an office job would drive me crazy now. So i try to make the best of it; i enjoy most of my classes, it is merely that i feel how little of my mind and knowledge is engaged – so today, i managed to talk about metallurgy with a steel Sales Engineer, and as is my wont talked about WW2 in terms of raw material supplies, and then with some regret turned back to the shitty McLingua books, with a heartfelt, – Well, i suppose we’d better get started on this chapter.

As Europe – thanks to people like Hillary – is now inexorably plunging into the great Race War, this all seems rather besides the point, but i take a certain pleasure in the fact that the Sales Engineer was a very genteel North African in his 50s, and the other student a kind of dim but sweet Turkish woman, and i hope that they survive the coming slaughter, that if the Titanic is going down, there are enough lifeboats for the good eggs. Not likely, of course, but if anything human survives the coming War i’ll count that a victory.

1. In Journey to Ixtlan, Don Juan advises Castaneda to become inaccessible, to cease to be available to his old friends. Being a misanthrope and an Anglo-Indian fascist to boot, i have never had to work hard at solitude. Don Juan argues that we are drawn into a common narrative by our acquaintances & friends, their tale of us, and to change we need to free ourselves of their limiting vision. In my case, i began to change sometime last year, when i learnt how to switch off my “internal dialogue”after re-reading Castaneda. The internal dialogue, as much as our social circles, constantly reaffirms our personal narrative – our story of ourselves, and of the world – and blocks out what one could call divine or sorcerous realities.

i occasionally have prescient dreams or visions or what have you – always of trivial things, e.g. a dream that i’m walking to the s-bahn and a woman trips over and drops her phone, and then exactly this happens the next morning – in the same place, the same woman, dressed exactly as in the dream, me in the same position watching. These were always quite rare occurrences but have become more frequent of late. These coincide with my growing alienation from all my colleagues.

2. i now teach about 5 hours a week at McLingua’s Arbeitsamt (Job Centre) building, a piss-stained dump in an industrial suburb. Unfortunately, i am more or less forced to interact with my colleagues, a depressing bunch of mediocrities. i like one of them – a benign Mexican-American called Doug the Greaser, one of these 1950s throwbacks who never swears, seems permanently cheerful and has, as far as i can tell, not a single malicious bone in his jolly Mexican body. The rest are largely harmless but regard me with evident distaste and suspicion, e.g.:

Andy (a Brit): I had like this really weird student, a doctor.

me: Oh, you mean Gunther? Tuesday evening?

Andy: Yeah, he’s like really weird. He’s so like arrogant.

me: I liked him. He’s interesting.

Everyone stares at me.

Andy: He’s like a hunter. I’m not a vegetarian but that’s like really weird. I mean, a hunter. Come on. That’s just weird.

me [gathering my papers and about to leave the teacher room]: Well, i’m not a hunter but i can understand hunting. It’s as old as Man. Haven’t you ever felt the urge to kill?

An uncomfortable silence as i leave. Or:

California Jesus: Man, I had this fucked up Jap, I hate Jap students. They all lame.

me: I had this Japanese radiologist in 2011, his only hobbies were sleeping and eating.

California Jesus: Oh man, that douchebag, yeah I remember him. He be fucked up and lame.

me: What was his name…Akira Kubokai?

CJ: How the fuck do you remember that? I only remember because he was my first student in Munich. What are you, fucking autistic or something? [everyone stares at me with open contempt].

These are my colleagues – exemplars of the lesser man. In some ways it is like being back in school, where the slightest difference arouses derision and hostility, the only admissible skills being beer-drinking-capacity and sports. Having an unusually good memory or a book is grounds for a stoning. Most of them are thieves (bicycles most of all, but they will steal anything they can, and boast of it later), and they all vote for Bernie Sanders and despise any kind of traditionalism, except of course Oktoberfest.

3. i never had much in common with my fellow “teachers”, only occasionally socialising with Toddball and The Cop. Toddball has somehow regressed and become increasingly juvenile since his first child was born in 2013, and when i realised his back-stabbing malicious gossip had come to include me i ceased to tell him anything i wouldn’t want repeated (with his own twist) before people like California Jesus. But since switching off the internal dialogue the coldness between me and the others has become at times open hostility – on their side; i merely regard them as typical human beings. i haven’t changed my demeanour, but i think they sense the other realities at work, somehow – with their acute sense for difference, for abstention from the common reality (beer, sport, drugs, socialism, stealing). i take their hostility as a mark of Cain, in Hesse’s sense, a badge of achievement. A symbolic anecdote – i was walking down Kaufingerstraße in Munich, taking in the crowds (lots of military-age Muslim migrants prowling around in gangs) when someone tried to punch me in the chest, my right arm arched up and his hand bounced off the back of my wrist, and i somehow connected with his upper arm, apparently with some force for i then found myself wheeling to face Toddball. He was rubbing his arm and looking somewhat startled to find his punch-elberry-hard-in-the-chest jape had failed. i apologised, saying i hadn’t seen him, and i made a joke about Muslim rapists etc., and we parted.

Later, i realised i had used the opening move of the yang cheng-fu style to repel his attack. i was totally relaxed, my breathing didn’t even change, and my arm was almost floppy as it sprang up to parry the fist. It is typical Toddball – he is the kind of beery man’s man American who likes to get people in headlocks, punch friends hard and claim it’s a joke, to assert his playground superiority. i’ve never spontaneously used ycf before, though i’ve heard of others – people who learnt some tai chi form for health alone – spontaneously using part of the form in self-defence. i wouldn’t want to bet “health tai chi” would work against a trained boxer or skilled street fighter or gang of Muslims (which is why i also carry a tactical pen and pepper spray and a knife), but against belligerent Homer Simpsons, it seems to do well enough – not bad, since i never really trained tai chi seriously, and haven’t done it daily in a decade. In this case, i feel that my state at the time (with my internal dialogue switched off) enabled an adequate response.

Naturally, a week later i was in the teacher room and Toddball had to tell the others his version: “I was walking down the street, saw Elberry and waved to say hi and he screamed ‘hai!!!’ and attacked me like some fucking ninja, screaming about Muslims. He’s fucking paranoid.” i just shrugged, but later told this to The Cop, who snorted: “You should have broken his nose.”

4. There are many ways of frame your own personal narrative, for my colleagues it is generally “I am a beer-drinking American, I vote for Bernie Sanders because I am on the side of the good guys, I steal anything I can find, I’m cool and haven’t read a book in my life”. For my students it seems to be “I am hard-working and will leave lots of money for my one child when I finally die in the middle of a powerpoint presentation.” For me, everything is suborned to power – one could call it magical power but even that is incidental. There isn’t much to obviously distinguish the higher from the lesser man, it is more an instinct, a taste. Even politics is, i would say, of little significance, though i haven’t yet encountered a Leftist who was other than a mediocrity, a champagne socialist, an embittered freak, or just a fat loser.

5. i had to buy a wristwatch – well, wanted to – since i was sick of digging my fob watch out, and feel a reluctance to rely on mobile phones for the time. i bought a Seiko 5 after watching a great video on the Urban Gentry channel.


It’s the first wristwatch i’ve bought in my life, and the first i’ve worn in over 20 years. i like it and have been wondering, why i prefer it to my old Nokia phone – the latter is so small it’s easy enough to use for time. It is a matter of taste; but then taste is of more importance than ideology or belief. Time is absolutely central to human existence & consciousness, but since it is not tangible like space, it exercises a subtler, and if you like magical influence. Just as inches don’t really exist – not in the way a table or a hand exist – so seconds and minutes are not exactly real, but are a convenience that has become a determining condition. i thought about surviving with my Cold War Molnija pocket watch, which sometimes just stops running until given a good shake, but since i travel so much i really need to know the time to the minute. What, then, is the problem with my old Nokia? – nothing, except that i don’t like time to be electronically-delivered. A matter of taste, again. With the centrally human affairs, such as time, old-fash(ist) is best. i could learn to repair my Seiko, but i wouldn’t have a chance if the Nokia broke – thus, i am at the mercy of the latter, it is not truly part of a human life, anymore than is this computer i use now.

No need for ideology – taste is guide enough, reasoning and theory can come later. i can, in my spirit, reach into the Molnija or the Seiko, and hence they are tools, partaking of my mind & life, and i of their construction. i have never felt the slightest affection or partnership with a computer or mobile phone, and indeed generally find them recalcitrant and perverse, and their fans comparably cartoonish and absurd.

6. i haven’t voted in my life, but am nonetheless regarded as a right-wing nutjob because i wouldn’t support someone like Bernie Sanders. Partly, because he just looks like a choleric old Communist who would happily send millions to the gulag (whereas Trump looks like a choleric male Thatcherite Capitalist who etc.), but mostly because i feel the welfare system is wrong for people like me, and is actually poisonous to everyone, and the “tax the rich and give free stuff to the ghetto troglodytes” approach is not merely economically suicidal, but spiritually ruinous. Money is akin to time – albeit vastly less significant – of consequence to the human spirit, and if you take money for nothing, i.e. welfare, you have lost something of value in yourself.

i speak from experience, having been on the dole for 3 years after graduating; grim as my office jobs were, i never for a moment contemplated going back on the dole as a reasonable alternative, because even then i felt that there is some minimal power in working for the means of survival; but to accept money for nothing is to become a supplicant to the State,  that is to an impersonal bureaucracy with which you can have no vital human connection. It is one thing to accept payment for work done, or help from friends or family – here, there is a human relationship, a duality and a reason for the exchange; living on welfare is to become impotent, as i understand it. But just as most people would see no sense in handwriting, or using a typewriter, or having a watch instead of a mobile phone, so it seems most people think society can function if “the rich” are punitively taxed for the sin of success, and their money given to vast government bureaucracies, who then administer what little passes through their capacious absorbent gut, to the ghetto spawn who never expect to work, because they have lost all sense of personal power (which begins with minimal self-respect). i feel that power, as i perceive it, is in fact the law of the universe and hence of society and individuals, and a society which works to annul the capacity of its citizens will naturally collapse, and that seems due soon.

7. As i survey the state of dreariness and mediocrity, the triumph of the lesser man, i feel a grim optimism and curiosity. i would say, with Dante:

però giri Fortuna la sua rota

come le piace, e ‘l villan la sua marra

Turn Fortune her wheel then as she list – and the clown his mattock!


i was deleting old text (SMS) messages and decided some of them should be made public, Panama Papers style for the public good. These are all texts i sent to Toddball, in their entirety:

1. Cocaine & high blood pressure. Ask him about the time disabled kids carried him through a forest like a heathen god. (27 April 2012)

2. His mother is really weird. He broke his suitcase and set a luggage label on fire. Also he did a lot of batman impressions. (1 August 2012)

3. i’m a dirty gippo. (5 October 2012)

4. That’s because she’s a Russian whore. (3 December 2012)

5. Am too drunk to move. (24 October 2015)

And here are some texts i have received & kept for posterity:

1. Michael just got THE WORST nose bleed while we were on the craziest, tallest ride at spring fest. Blood was shooting out his face all over the place while we spun in circles, screaming. His face, arms, my left arm, his seat, all covered in blood. Then later he puked up the blood that he swallowed during the ride. (27 April 2012, from Toddball)

2. Indeed, am in flat pondering loss of consciousness. (11 July 2012, from Viking)

3. Don’t bring home any dead animals. (28 December 2012, from Juniper)

4. Fine and better than murdered by an axe. See you next week. (15 April 2013, from a Marketing manager at a big tobacco company)

5. I’m getting wasted at that little shit hole establishment by X-str. That filthy little whore that you love is here. I think she’s a junky of some sort. I just won 14 euro on video roulette. Life is good. (1 July 2013, from Toddball)

6. I told this kid that I would beat him bloody then hold him down and put my finger in his ass. Not cause I’m gay but so his friends can see, and talk about how they saw some strange man from Chicago come and make him his bitch for the rest of his life. (2 October 2013, from Toddball)

7. Sabine is one damn fine-ass piece of schnitzel. (16 October 2013, from Toddball)

8. the last words I heard were “Peruvian whore” (16 October 2013, from Toddball)

9. The Cop: We gotta Elberry out of here…

Me: Wait, what?! why!?

The Cop: These guys came here lookin for trouble. They plan on fighting, I’m sure of it. We gotta get Elberry to safety.  (31 March 2014, from Toddball, reporting on a beer garden conversation with The Cop, the latter sure some Germans were going to jump me after i told them to fuck off)

10. last nights Stammtisch may have been the best stammtisch ever. all star cast including all the legendary teachers and none of the shite (11 April 2014 from Toddball)

11. and by shite I mean new teachers. I hate those fucks. (11 April 2014 from Toddball)

12. if he’s wearing his blue leather jacket then the threat is real (24 May 2014, from Toddball)

13. do you dance at concerts or just stand there nodding rhythmically with one hand in your pocket and the other clutching a whiskey? (2 June 2014, from Toddball)

14. Just spoke to the Reichsmarschall, says he wouldn’t have it! So better think of a proper excuse for Göring. (20 October 2014, from Der Fechter, a politician/fencer friend)

15. I called one girl a Schweinbauerin and her friend a Dumme Gans. (19 December 2014, from Toddball)

16. I felt like I was turning into a lizard. (3 January 2015, from Toddball)

17. Spawning an evil baby destined to rule over hordes of teacher scum like us. (5 January 2015, from Toddball)

18. bring a bullhorn (16 April 2015, from The Cop)

It’s been a strikingly crummy year, though i trust i am being forged to some dark purpose and all this grimmery and malhappence is but a necessary fire. Probably the only good thing about this year are the people i’ve met. Some of my fellow freaks (teachers), not all a joy to meet but there it is:

1. The Cop.

A short, muscular shaven-headed Canadian a bit older than me, did beat cop work back in the snowy New World, came to Germany after making a good marriage, and now lives in a penthouse, the building owned by his wife’s family. He is intense and aggressive and shares many of Henry Oak’s mannerisms (Narc), including the disturbing cold laugh and psychotic glare.

He had been repeatedly kicked out of the JobCentre McLingua centre (purely for classes of the unemployed) for refusing to let the students speak German, gossip with each other, or come in late, drunk, stoned, etc. Slavic students tend to respect him, as they are usually highly motivated and disciplined; the others are divided, but often complain until he is taken off the schedule; he always returns, as McLingua finds it hard to retain staff and he is reliable and competent.

He is almost British in his need to constantly perform, to be always telling a joke or otherwise demonstrating his wit. There is a contained, manic energy to him which can be bright and weird in its intensity, or dark and likely to bubble over into rage (as he said once, “I’m tetchy as hell this week”).

i’m one of the few McLingua staff who enjoy his company, i think in part because i am exceedingly tolerant; and we share a broadly conservative view of things. He alienates most people through his slight weirdness (he quit policing for almost exactly the reason Marty did in True Detective, and there is an echo of violence about him) and his know-it-allness, which comes across as laboured and tiresome; i get on with him – or have so far – because i don’t care if he knows more about cars or Tuscan wine cellars or poker or whisky.

i went for Glühwein with him and some other teachers in early December; our table was crashed by a spindly tall German who was drunk and slightly belligerent; the Cop bummed a cigarette from him:

German: So now we share a cigarette we are friends, or?

Cop: Sure we’re friends. We’re friends as long as this cigarette lasts. [throws it down and treads on it]. Friendship’s over, beat it, pal.

2. Susan the American.

A 24-year-old from Minnesota or Minneapolis or one of these other ghastly nowhere places. She allegedly came to Germany to learn German, her family being of good Kraut stock. She had studied English Lit, actually liked Shakespeare, prompting one of my older matchmaking colleagues to muse, Maybe she could be something for you, Elberry! i just snorted, Too young.

Susan came from moderate wealth, her parents having arranged and paid for a flat in the poshest part of Munich. She was one of these ultra-squeaky-clean girls who only talks about the weather, food, clothes. i joked that if my mother visited again, i would pay Susan to pretend to be my girlfriend, because she is exactly the kind of girl my mother would like me to settle down with. Susan tittered nervously, probably imagining this was a come-on, when it was a fuck-off.

Susan failed to learn German, because she couldn’t stand Germans and they couldn’t stand her. Actually, no one could stand her. She would whine that she only had 20 units of work, but went on lengthy holidays to e.g. Barcelona every other month; i found her complaints hard to take seriously given her parents were paying for everything and i’ve survived on the same amount of work for the last year. On her first day in the JobCentre building, she told the students she was 30, had a boyfriend, and had been teaching for 5 years (all lies). The students told me she was unusually nervous for a teaching veteran and i put them right without realising she had lied to them. i thought it curious that someone so ostentatiously pure, bearing a huge crucifix necklace, would reflexively lie but perhaps this is the way with these saccharine Christian go-getters, that reality is too abrasive and simply frightful, and lying is always preferable to the truth.

She only stayed in Germany for about 6 months, returning without regret to Minnesomewhere. i dare say she has effortlessly acquired a job in Publishing or Marketing, her natural habitat, i feel.

3. Molloy

One of the few real teaching veterans, who somehow existed in the same building as Susan without ever exchanging more than a dour good morning, Molloy is my age, from a small village in the west of Ireland, Galway being the big city and Gaelic a secondary but real thread in the everyday weave of things. He’s been teaching all over the world for nearly 20 years, in Munich a few years longer than me, and has a very old-fashioned schoolmastery air, despite his time-torn longshoreman’s garb. He reminds me very much of my stepfather, now in his late 60s, one of the last real working class, a man with an ingrained aversion to bullshit, management speak, offices, bureaucracy, technology, the State (and socialists wonder, irritatedly, as they quaff their champagne, that their chosen cannon fodder either don’t vote or vote Tory).

Molloy is Irishly cagey and secretive, answering almost all questions with a gruff mutter, shrug, or brusque joke. He is probably the only McLingua teacher i would absolutely trust with both information and money. His decency is of a Bartleby kind, formed from absention – from almost everything. He refuses to teach at companies because the students don’t learn anything (90 minutes once a week, with frequent cancellations), even where the JobCentre classes that comprise his workload are frequently hellish. He refuses to work weekends. He has a few private students but refuses to work at schools except McLingua, because it involves hustling and trouble; his lessons are mostly grammar.

Molloy reminds me of me, taken to an extreme in certain directions. i suspect his refusals come from years of hard experience, and he has learnt not to answer questions because people (women especially) love to give unwanted and wrong-headed “advice” to men, which rapidly escalates to nagging and hysterical rage and clawing. i’ve now adopted some Molloyery, so i didn’t tell my matchmaking colleague that Susan was clearly a bland rich kid with whom no meaningful friendship would be possible; i just said, Too young.

He forms friendships principally with Slavic women students but remains single. i even tried to push a buxom and ripe Russian girl in his direction, since she clearly lusted after his dashing Irish ways, but nothing came of it; i guess that he has had bad relationships and learnt, as have i, that after a full day of teaching the last thing you want is a woman who expects you to take her to restaurants and charm and entertain her.

Despite his total lack of charm he’s one of these people who most people like, the ideal confidant since nothing you tell him will ever be passed on, and he has a decency and warmth to which we respond in spite of his gruff Irish manner.

4. The Prima Donna

Another teaching veteran, i think the same length of service as myself, though she worked in South Korea till a couple of years ago, the Prima Donna is early 30s, an opera singer (there’s even footage of her in quite reputable productions online), Wagner fan, of truly Valkyrian aspect – about 6 foot tall and i would guess a good 1oo kilos or more of muscle and fat. Despite the bulk she is radiantly pretty, comes from a rich family, and will, i guess, make a good marriage as they say, or even control her heavy drinking and discipline herself to learn German and work on her voice. She is a curious person, one of the few i’ve met with “star” charisma, so it’s hard not to be impressed. Unfortunately, she’s also narcissistic and insists on being the centre of attention, so she will burst into the teacher room and interrupt every conversation with a bawled, God! I’m so hungry!!! and then launch into some diatribe or anecdote without caring that she immediately stills every other conversation.

She has a politician’s fluence and flexibility, which i have come to distrust (it is telling that she dislikes Molloy). Everyone instantly feels that she will be famous and rich and we will all be a very minor footnote to her life. She seems to dislike me a little, though i’ve been careful to shut up as soon as she interrupts me, and to either discreetly leave the room or just let her drown out everything i’m saying (she’s one of these people who will also interrupt quiet private conversations with a snide remark, so it’s impossible to say anything to anyone when she’s in the room). After 5 years of temping and the same teaching, i’ve learnt to shut up as soon as anyone else demands to speak, but all the same i think she senses that i am sitting there watching and listening, and forming dark judgements, and she cuts me down to size every time i say anything, and even when i say nothing she will often make some sarcastic remark about me. For example, a week ago she said we should let the students go home early (from the JobCentre building) because it was test day, they finish at 1400, and don’t need to stick around to the mandatory 1615; i said i did this once in Kassel but then the Centre Director unexpectedly showed up – whereupon the Prima Donna bawled: Oh God Elberry, not another of your Kassel stories! No one is interested, Elberry! God! Nobody CARES!!!

She’s a good example of how charisma is usually unconnected to goodness, for she is a self-seeking, mercenary go-getter and first rate apple polisher, who tends to talk about her friends & acquaintances purely in terms of their money and status; i think she despises Molloy mainly because he’s poor. Another time, when she and i were alone in the teacher room and she decided she had to cast her spell over me, she put down her iphone for a few seconds and bellowed that i should do a MBA and get a real job instead of wasting my education on teaching. And yet she has a curious magnetism, so it is hard to resist her spell when she elects to cast it – hard for lesser mortals, that is, i find it quite easy. Amusingly, Agata, a Polish student who liked Molloy (but it ended in recriminations and fury) hated the Prima Donna, and every time i mentioned her she would expostulate: Die Prima Donna ist furchtbar!

Teachers are a strange lot.

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