I am currently steeped in German Romantic poetry – in particular Schiller, Schulze, Mayrhofer, Hölty, Heine, Müller and the Schlegel brothers ‒ preparing for concerts in Oxford filled with Schubert’s settings of their work.
This brought to mind one of those forks in the road that confront us from time to time. I was working very happily for Garland-Compton in its pre-Saatchi days, running our biggest client, Rowntree.
They had recently taken over a leading competitor, Mackintosh’s, and the brilliant, glamorous young Tony Mackintosh had become leader of their merged European division.
Tony would sweep into our offices in Charlotte Street, brought there in his black-chauffeur-driven white limo, a vision, all blue jeans and fur coat. The latter he would hand immediately to our receptionist, she on the verge of meltdown, and ask for me.
It was all very 1969.
In due course, Tony summoned me to his offices – not in Halifax or Norwich or York, where the major factories and offices were (and are), but in a fine Georgian house in Park Lane, Mayfair. There he invited me to leave the agency and join his team in a senior marketing role. I was flattered, of course, but turned him down ‒ graciously, I hope.
At one point in the meeting, we discussed European languages. The plain fact is that, although I have some words and phrases in most of them, I am reasonably fluent only in English.
“How's your German?” he asked.
“Well, I’m familiar with a good deal of Romantic poetry,” I said, “but I’m not sure that the vocabulary would be very useful in marketing meetings.”
Here’s a sample, useful in recent days in Oxford: Abendstern (evening star); Einsamkeit (solitude); Abschied (farewell); Klage (lament); Weinen (tears); Heimweh (homesickness); Sehnsucht (longing); Erwartung (anticipation)…