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Going back….

Dear [FRIEND],

Thank you very much for your patience. Here is your reward: Alan’s new essay titled ‘Going back’……

Going back

There’s a little island off the south coast of the small island where I live, which is shaped rather like the diamond pattern you can see on playing cards. It’s about 23 miles wide and measures approximately 13 miles from north to south. Not the sort of place you can get lost in very easily. And it goes by the name of the Isle of Wight. I looked up the meaning of ‘wight’ and apparently it means ‘weight’ and the people who first lived there way back in the past used it to describe something rising above the sea, which I suppose is one way of describing an island. Oh and by the way you pronounce the word so it rhymes with words like ‘sight’ and ‘white’.

Now I first went there as a child and postcards of the island were designed to please people like me. There were the place names to start with. One was called Cowes and there were none, cows I mean. There were some pointed rocks just off the coast that were called ‘Needles’ but the postcard told you you couldn’t thread them. And there was an inlet in one place called Freshwater Bay but you couldn’t drink it, the water I mean. Such was the humour over simple things in those days. There was a war on at that time and some of the beaches were covered in barbed wire in case there was an invasion.

We children thought this fun because we hadn’t a clue (no idea) why it was there. There was also a distinct shortage of staff in the hotel and so the guests (mainly the fathers) had to do the washing up and at tea time it was the mothers who made the sandwiches. You can imagine therefore that I grew up thinking that was what you did in a hotel. The main attraction were the coloured sands. On one cliff face there was a wide selection of different colours. We would scramble(climb) down the side and scoop up(collect), usually with your hand, the different sands and put them in separate containers. Now i am going to introduce a word that I am sure you have never heard of before, not heard these days, but very common in those days – ‘spiv’. This individual (always a male) was able to make money out of any situation and usually at great profit to himself.

The situation here was that dozens of children wanted to help themselves to the sands but they didn’t have anything to put them in. This is where the spiv could ‘help’ you. He just happened to have every type of container you ever wanted and he could sell you one at a ridiculous price. If only, you thought to yourself, I had brought something with me before I came! For the more cultural interests on the island you could visit places connected with the Victorian poet, Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) who used to love walking on one particular down (grass area) which is named after him. This was where he would try out his poetry in a loud voice with only the sea gulls listening. And Queen Victoria had a house there (Osborne House) to which, thanks to the telephone inventor Marconi, she could keep in touch when she was on the Royal Yacht. Of course when I first went there as a child we went everywhere by bus and as there was a war on at the time, it was a very old bus. But that added to the charm of the holiday.

We now fast forward to when I decided I decided to take my own family to the Isle of Wight. My head, you understand, was full of those dreams of the past. That was the trouble. To start with we got to the hotel – well I call it a ‘hotel’ but that was a slight exaggeration since it was more of what you would call a guest house – too early. The owner was not too pleased and told us to come back later. My dreams were not too shattered (broken up) straightaway and we went for a drive in the car. To my surprise we went from one side of the island to the other in what I can only describe as minutes. Already I was thinking of the ‘very old bus’. On return Mrs Sourface ‘almost ‘ greeted us but warned that we were on no account to be late for supper, which was at 6pm sharp.

Later that week I remember an elderly couple arrived for supper out of breath and were reprimanded (told they were naughty) at 6.05! As the days passed, it became almost a relief (a pleasant change) to escape from the Guest House and enjoy the open spaces and the sea air. We visited the cliff with the coloured sands but The Health and Safety Act didn’t allow you to go near them because it was dangerous. And of course there wasn’t a single spiv to be seen.

It became clear during that week that I couldn’t do anything right. I parked far too near to the building one day, she said. My children managed accidentally to lock themselves in their bedroom and by waking her up to get a master key, I had put extra strain on her arthritic legs, she said. I should have brought my children up better when I asked for more milk for their cereal when they already had enough, she said. The food was horrible, too. On one occasion one of my sons put his fork into his ‘full English breakfast’ and the whole lot fell on the floor as one solid piece as the egg, sausages, bacon, chips and baked had all stuck together to make one unbreakable circle. At least that gave us all a good laugh.

If anyone ever visits this island, I am sure they will enjoy it but my second visit is a lesson I shall never forget – It’s not really a good idea to go back to a place where you once had an enjoyable time because it may sadly not be the same again.

This newsletter was brought to you by: English For Winners

English For Winners?

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Interview with Lukas Pfeiffer, co-founder of Swabr GmbH

Swabr.com is a German start-up company that provides a micro blogging platform. It”s a combination of a shared work space and a social network. Today English-Team starts an interview with Swabr”s co-founder, Lukas Pfeiffer who is

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also head of marketing. English-Team: Dear Lukas, thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. Can you please start by telling us how you came up with the name “Swabr”? What does it stand for?


Interview with Akwakat

Akwakat is an innovative product that allows you to turn your

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bicycle or mountain bike into a human powered speed-boat within minutes. Today we are talking to Greg Gibb, Akwakat’s CEO about the history of his invention, Akwakat’s current market situation and his plans for the future. English-Team: Greg, I take it ‘Akwakat’ is a word that resembles the pronunciation of ‘aqua’ and ‘cat’? Greg Gibb:

Afloat? by Alan Townend

Dear [FRIEND],

To travel the world nowadays you have to fly everywhere, go by air, sit in a plane and look down (if the weather allows you) on all the countries you are swooping over, eventually finding yourself dropping down through the clouds and at the same time leaving your stomach above the clouds and then landing with a bump on the runway.www.gogoexam.com
Funny isn”t it? – you always land with a bump and a bounce. You’d think that at least in the 21st century someone would have devised a method by which you didn”t have to bump and bounce when you landed. Well, as you may imagine from these remarks, I don’t like flying. In fact I hate it and do all I can to avoid challenging and testing the rules of gravity. So, how else can you travel? There’s going by car. At least that way you are in charge, you are the boss. You decide where to go, when to stop. Of course it is hard work. If you really want to relax, have what they call a ringside seat and watch or even not watch and fall asleep as the country unfolds itself outside your window, you choose the train. Covering three quarters of the surface of our planet are the oceans. That takes me to travelling by sea and to my choice of title – afloat. And that’s the way I chose last month when we went on holiday.
I don’t want you to think I took a little boat out and started rowing. Oh, no. This was on a liner and I have to admit it carries the title of the second largest passenger ship in the world. It was fairly recently the largest but now takes second place but only by a few inches.

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And of course as you can imagine, a monster like that carries an awful lot of passengers. That amounted to about 4,000 of us and a complement of 1,500 crew. The chances therefore of meeting the same people more than once in the course of the two weeks are remote. Mind you, this could be an advantage. I’m reminded of the occasion when we found ourselves sitting next to a couple at lunch one day and the husband sneezing at roughly one minute intervals. There are times when you want to but never actually do it and that is to comment on something like this but there was no need. The wife peeped up quite cheerfully: ‘Oh, you’re probably thinking he’s got a cold (the thought had crossed my mind) but it’s must be something in his genes – it’s just something he does but it’s not a cold. Our daughter is exactly the same.’ I made a mental note never to go round to their house for tea.
So it was that in late September we set out for the port of Southampton allowing what we thought was plenty of time but it was only just in the nick of time as we discovered later because it was one of those days when all the world and his dog had decided that morning to go on the same motorways as we did. Instructions posted a few weeks before had made it clear that the boat or should I call it ‘ship’? (all 339 meters of it) would leave without you if you didn”t reach the port by 3.30 pm on the day of departure. Well, we didn”t. I mean reach the port by that time. There we were stuck in a traffic jam. It reached 3.30 and then went past it. Mentally I was going through my mind what sort of insurance I had taken out and also whether it covered missing the boat. You may recall that ‘miss the boat’ is best-data-recovery.com Collection services include:Utilizing forensically sound best practices, DriveSavers quickly and efficiently processes ESI for attorney review. an expression meaning that you have lost the opportunity to do something. And the way things were going. It looked as if we were about to do just that, both literally and idiomatically. At the car park we were totally reassured by an old, suntanned face (belonging to an old, suntanned man) that we were all right and had, he said: ‘Bags of time.’ As we were last to go on board, the formalities and paperwork were quickly dealt with.

Now one of the things you have to consider before going on a cruise – and I should have mentioned that it was indeed a cruise that we were now about to begin – is where you will sit for your evening meal or if you want to sound posh, your dinner. Breakfast, lunch you take your pick where you want to eat. Oh, there is also tea. That’s the trouble with cruises, you could spend the whole day eating because one meal merges into another. You can even get a free pizza at 1 in the morning if you really want to ‘pig it’. But dinner is different. You’re even told what style of dress you should wear – casual or smart casual or semi formal or of course formal. But that’s not the end of it, you also choose whether you want a table for two, four, six or even eight. We decided on six because that way there is a chance you might find someone interesting to talk to. Unfortunately you can’t say: No sneezers, please. On the first night we wondered who would join us. No-one did that night, the second night or the third night. It was at a time like that you imagine you have got some sort of personality disorder and are tempted to put up a notice reading: No, we don’t have the bubonic plague! Eventually we joined another table that had two spare seats. The couple from London, no problem. The other couple (a charming pair I have to add) from Glasgow, a big problem. They both spoke with very strong Glasgow accents – she was understandable but he (and I was the one sitting next to him) was virtually incomprehensible. I found myself in a situation where he would ask a question requiring a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and I based my answer on how I interpreted the expression on his face. If he smiled, I tried a ‘yes’ and if he scowle, hazarded a ‘no’. I think it worked.

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Our first port of call was off the coast of Ireland. The Irish and the English have never really been bosom pals (close friends) throughout history but the guide and driver on that first excursion could not have been more charming or relaxed. Many guides are very fussy about time and almost take it as a personal insult if you dare come back to the coach a minute or two later than you were told to. But not our man. ‘Shall we say, back in 20 minutes or maybe 30?’ Needless to say we were all back in 25. There then followed a few days of straightforward ploughing through the North Sea up past Scotland and then turning right, to stop at different ports along the Norwegian coast. I have to say that after visiting one fjord and seeing yet another waterfall and yet another glacier you do get rather weary of the similarities but the Norwegians are very proud of and enthusiastic about their country, which is the right way to regard your homeland. And despite the rain and the clouds and the mists you feel obliged to smile along with them. Most of the excursions allowed for a stop at a tea room or hotel for a cup of coffee and a waffle. I got to know waffles rather well on this cruise – round ones, square ones, triangular ones and even diamond shaped ones, all of which you have to daub liberally with jam. My only complaint was that they were floppy, wobbly, bendy waffles and the jam tended to make them flop, wobble and bend even more so on the way to your mouth.
As the days passed I mastered the art of giving the impression of understanding the Glaswegian accent, became adept at lifting unstable waffles without spilling a drop of jam and got used to marching up and down the long corridors inside that ship of some 339 meters. The last stop before returning to Southampton was the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges. As I sat in one of the magnificent squares eating lunch at a table, this time for two, there was sadly a fly in the ointment (one thing that spoils the atmosphere). This particular fly consisted of raucous shouting and chanting and several coloured smoke bombs being let off. Yes, it came from a visiting crowd of football supporters. And yes, they were English. I felt obliged to apologise to the waiter but he merely shrugged his shoulders and said: No worries, Monsieur, they are good for business.
Two days later we were back on the motorways of home and ironically this time they were deserted. Sat at the wheel again I thought to myself next time we go on holiday, I’ll be driving my own vehicle and maybe stop now and again for a bite to eat somewhere nice making sure that there is no mention of any waffle on the menu.642-427

Alan Townend

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