This is just to say that you can still reach me by email at the longstanding address but as I now work from home and our previous premises have been sold, my home number or mobile has replaced the phone number given on my website.

Please email me and I will respond with full signature to enable us to speak to each other.

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Five years later and the technology has moved on.

But the flowers are still calling. And we have just had local and EU elections here. More anon.


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Comfort from the local political scene

Believers in the European ideal, and I am one, have taken a beating in the 2014 election. Iam one – brought up in a family that saw it as right to have my sister’s penfriend from Bielefeld to stay in 1949, when I was six. The penfriend’s name was Lore and she taught me “Alle meine Entcchen”. I remember with shame being a grumpy little cow at having to share attention from the big people in my life! Anyway – the votes have been given in part because of xenophobia in various places. So I’m writing here just to report that there are corners of the world where the trend is towards the left where I hope there is more inclusivity –at least at local level.

Readers of German can look up the election results for our town here
and here for the rural district , where the (Linke) chair now has the casting vote if the two “camps” vote as may be expected.

On the EU elections, Deutsche Welle writes in both English and German– start here

Again we were reminded yesterday that Germany really does invest in learning from history. I saw the original evidence collected by the Staasi (State Security Service) in 1974. A whole service was set up for people to look at their files. If you know any students of German and/or modern European history who want to do research, I know they will get every assistance and if they need a place to lay their head while here, I can help.

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Bees in my bonnet

That should be the title of this miscellany of blog entries!

But as the chutney and bottled and frozen fruit from last year runs out, I look kindly on the buzzing visitors in hopes of plenty more plums and redcurrants. I’m delighted that friends are doing a beekeepers’ course and have their eye on the nature reserve that has grown up around where we work.Wiesensalbei_(Salvia_pratensis)_02

Maybe if we have hives we’ll find out what weather to expect… read this I’ve been asking everybody when the Eisheiligen (Ice Saints) will be over and they are not yet… the Saints’ Days are, but because of Pope Gregory XIII’s calendar reform in 1482 (eventually adopted as civil calendar by most of the world) the weather associated with “cold Sophie” will be 10 days later than May 15th.

This weekend was certainly one for wrapping up warmly and the English proverb “Ne’er cast a clout till May is out” applied. In the UK I used to hear the debate as whether “May” or “may” (the hawthorn) was meant. The month, I’ve decided! But nonetheless we had an outing. Water birds for Rainer, flowers for me. Just listen to these beautiful English names: Meadow Clary, Sainfoin, Salad Burnet, Ragged Robin. As I would have very little chance of seeing Meadow Clary (Wiesen-Salbei) in the UK, here is a commons picture and it shows the Oxeye Daisy (Margerite), too, so omnipresent I forgot to list it with my delights of yesterday. And with a less romantic name, the Bladder Campion was also there. All of great importance to the bees I began with.                                        Apis_mellifera_flying

My German flower book says you can test with a sharp pencil the Meadow Clary’s clever lever action – it closes its stamens down onto the bee’s pollen sacs to make quite sure the pollination job gets done properly.

While I’ve been looking things up to make sure of the facts and names, I have found this… am not yet among the photographing public, but my few readers are, so have a go!

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A Tuesday with no torture?

Today is the day in the year 2014 when people are asked, especially by Amnesty International, to help get rid of this:

stop torture




If you would be kind enough to read more, here are two addresses (in English): and . Readers of German, please go here:
If you want to know why I care so much that the work of Amnesty be supported, there is a short story here: .

A fellow-citizen of Ilmenau asked me the other day why I bothered taking part in local politics. “They all decide over our heads”…

Well, we can as individuals make a difference. Rainer and I managed to raise three children together of whom we can be proud, but we had to overcome a state apparatus to do it. Currently we are going through files that reveal that apparatus and if you don’t believe that the ideas Amnesty promotes are necessary, you should look over our shoulders as we read things like “He still answers monosyllabically when interviewed on political questions. He has clearly not learnt his lesson. There can be no question of early release.”

Cheers, my dears, I’ll bring you more news of my birds… and perhaps even bees – next time. But meanwhile please DO something:

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Monday morning again

…and I’ve been checking I knew the right words for what I used to know as the microprocessors on which most of our cars’ safe functioning relies.  Here, for instance: where it says that the MEMS I’m currently interested in are one type… was wondering if they’d taken over entirely, but apparently as yet only as “enabling technology for acceleration and pressure sensors”. However, when you consider that “MEMSbased (sic) sensor products provide an interface that can sense, process and/or control the surrounding environment” the time will doubtless come when I need some implanted in my brain.

Talking of the environment and my quirky brain… I’ve also done my chicken-check. The ospreys are still quietly keeping their eggs warm, of course. Just now, here, Mrs Goshawk seems to be telling her husband it’s high time for breakfast. And wow, as I write, he has obliged. It’s some other fellow-feathered creature as far as I can see, bigger than sparrow-sized. Do hope it’s not a song thrush… cuckoo? (They were to be heard yesterday!) Vegetarianism not yet on the goshawk evolutionary agenda! There are three fluffy white bloodthirsty carnivores and the egg that didn’t hatch in the nest.

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Birds of the world, unite!

Though translation and teaching give me much delight, life these days would be unimaginable without my glimpses of feathered visitors to our balcony, and, through all the wonderful technology that is enriching our lives, into the human-avian interface.
In the Lausitz, we can soon go to see what is going on there that will be like this (description in German at

When storks are not here in Europe with us… and hurray, they are including Britain in Europe this year (, the map on the left shows where they go:

and the ospreys have second homes in places like these:








(There are instructions here on following them to Africa and back if I’ve got you interested in migration – )

Did you understand my extra cheer above for the storks in Norfolk? As we are getting near to elections for the European parliament, I hope everybody will reflect on the implications of these wonderful maps in political terms. I don’t think the crow near Bassenthwaite Lake has been greatly inconvenienced… and he, like the ospreys, has to take his chance in a world that’s free for all (birds, at least!). The bird world doesn’t pay for TV advertising to propagate “lies, damned lies and statistics”… birds just seem to live and let live and perhaps die in the attempt. In my opinion, humans should be prepared to do the same. Simplistic, I know, but the osprey sagas I’ve been reading on holiday have brought me back to basics.


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Squishy toadstools and hard tests just shows how few people in my home country have shown an interest over the years in this best of forms of food for free.

I had to go on line to check the pronunciation of the “species” part of the name birch bolete (stress is on the second syllable, first syllable pronounced with a schwa [ ə], rhymes with replete.

German name Birkenpilz and it is in association with birch trees that you will find it. At present in considerable numbers. No need to take the squishy ones – leave them to shed their spores and perpetuate nature’s harvest. If Keats had known of toadstool bounty he would have included it in his Ode to Autumn.

 Who hath not seen thee stooping low to scoop
Out of the clinging stalks of sedgy grass
The rounded bolete with its speckled stem,
Firm standing near the birchtree bole, then seen
The sacrifice in miniature,small trunk vicarious felled,
Oft hast thou harvested – not that, but rather hunted
– such rounded brown things, this thy bounty,
Racing the slow slug to save the feast intact,
And cried, “ich hab’ dich!- Hab dich auch gebracht“

Oh, how much easier it is to plagiarise than to compose! But the rhythms of the English language are a grand framework— even that last sentence has the five basic stresses of iambic pentameter, I realise. If anybody is reading this and would like me to organise a “lit crit” workshop, how happily I would respond! If we’re quick about it we can go on a mushroom hunt before or after as inspiration or bonus.

And now to the hard tests.

I organise a fair amount of teaching in preparation for LCCIEB English exams.

Interestingly, there seems to be a similar trend in these exams to the one noted here, though over the years I have found the well-staged LLCIEB system to be a good construct on which I could plan pupil training.

I suspect that there is a “career development” movement within what has become the “examinations industry” – noticed some time back that the overall body is listed on the stock market! Now we have the ultimate irony that private schools are unhappy with what seem to be the sort of idiosyncratic modifications that bespeak a person who wants an individual “achievement” to cite in his or her CV… for we now live in a world where “public service” as a career has been eroded by privatisation.

Thankfully, all the last batch of “our” examinees could be more than pleased with their results. And someone I coached for IELTS is overjoyed that she fulfilled the requirements set by the British university where she wants to do her MSc.

That’s work I love doing, too – but back to Keats’ Ode… do contact me if you’d like to meet for play-readings or the like, either at my house in Naumannstraße or where I share premises with .

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As simply as Defoe did

beinecke.library.yale.edupierre-marteau.comAm reading, thanks to the Gutenberg Project, “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”, which was in actual fact written by Gertrude Stein.

This is indicative of the Miscellany that is my “life of the mind”.

Gertrude Stein was well outside it, until I happened upon a quote from her on the website of someone who wants a book translating. No idea whether it’s a project I’ll be or wish to be involved in, but off my  mind went, reading and reflecting and sympathising with the fact that GS’s transcription of her stream of consciousness was enticing as a style to her at earlier stages of her writing (shall I ever tackle her “Making of Americans”?). But I have to stop this non-sentence here – “Alice B.” was only the book that brought commercial success. It was written “as simply as Defoe did”.

The reflections that arise are not simple, however. With Amnesty last month I wrote to the Bulgarian Prime Minister to ask for better judicial attention in the case of a medical student beaten to death in 2008 in Sofia murdered for his homosexual appearance. Gertrude Stein had lost both her parents by the age of 17 and seems to have felt freer as a result, at least not to marry. The young man in Bulgaria had a mother (Hristina Stoyanova) who mourns him and loved him as he was – listen to what she says: “What is really needed is for children in schools to be taught about difference and that difference is okay – that it does not matter whether someone is gay or not gay.”

To go back to Defoe… there is a current BBC report on Robinson Crusoe Island which reveals that it is off the coast of Chile, 24 hours away by boat from there. Defoe situates the shipwreck in the Caribbean and reveals much of the colonial mind. The man who spent four years alone on Robinson Crusoe Island seems to have done so after an act of moral courage interpreted by his ship’s captain as mutiny. My modern mind likes this story better, of a man who pleaded for the lives of himself and his fellow-sailors to be spared in their sickness and exhaustion.

de.wikipedia.orgLinks I followed on this trail:

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Pregnant camels





Maybe you think that they have little to do with panning for gold in Katzhütte, the place we again took the grandchildren to on Saturday, 22.09.2012.  As with a lot of my life, there’s method in the madness, however.

If I recite
“Pregnant camels ordinarily sit down carefully, perhaps their joints creak”
I can manage    

Precambrian            Cambrian             Ordovician                 Silurian                Devonian
Präkambrium          Kambrium             Ordovizium               Silur                      Devon         

Carboniferous          Permian                Triassic                      Jurassic                 Cretaceous
Carbon                      Perm                       Trias                          Jura                       Kreide

The earliest crushing and pushing and boiling and twisting processes that have gone on in the rocks of the area have been dated to about 570 million years ago, as pregnant (sorry, Precambrian) was nearing camel (i.e. Cambrian). And humps are not a bad description of the amazing geological processes which then went on, for these wooded hills seem once to have been the fringes of Gondwana. Plate tectonics explains that this was a huge landmass parting from the original great single continent of Pangea. The land that now underlies Katzhütte was a subduction zone, it is thought. It seems to have been in the southern tropics at the time and in the Cambrian period to have had long spells of being upthrust so that when another ten or so million years have passed and the basement was heaved under the water level again the layers of rock deposit we now find to be missing (particularly in drillings) are described as an unconformity.  But near the goldwashing site there are places where the very oldest rocks are actually at the surface, there to touch and walk on.

Above them, fringing the path, is the Frauenbach series, ancient enough… thin friable slate, metamorphosed from shale deposited once as muddy sediment season by season… “ordinarily” in the Ordovician… they are now,however,  either steeply angled or exactly vertical. We walked by them with the sense of the unalterable that a hilly, moss-lined, bracken-fringed path conveys on a September afternoon in mid-Germany. But what must have been the earthquakes that turned them on their edge.

Such forces raise the temperature in rock and in the cracks there can be crystallization of minerals from the hot steamy suspensions as things cool down. So on Saturday we walked over a cross-bar of quartz in the path we took.  Quartz that when it was crystallizing out might well have had particles of gold or other minerals mixed in it.

The gentler forces of wind and rain, frost and sun, and the ever downward flow of water have worked away, getting the gold into the gravel bed of the streams now flowing over the ancient rocks where enthusiasts last Saturday panned for the tiny specks, the Kubitz family walked and its youngest member would have stayed for ever like a sprite under the bridge.

I do hope there are people out there reading this. To get my mind round the geological ages took me – well, ages! Many thanks to Dr Donau, who will, I hope, hear from me personally one day as it was his website, that helped me on my trail. All sorts of exciting facts presented themselves – like the fact that the Cadomian unconformity is named after Caen in Northern France and that Cadomia and Florida must have been connected as one series of strata in the “pregnant” Precambrian period.

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