Welcome to Bonn

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Welcome to the Bonn English Network website.

Our aim is to provide an information base and offer a social network for English speaking people living and working in and around the Bonn and Cologne area of Germany.
Our site offers tips on living in Germany, as well as information on what’s happening in the area, reviews of events and ideas for where to go and what to do whilst you are here.
We hope you will enjoy visiting our pages and perhaps we will meet you personally at one of our get-togethers.

We look forward to reading your useful comments and your tips for newcomers.

A Host of Golden Daffodils!

This suggestion for an day out was first publised on the BEN website in 2005 – and still very popular –

The amazing sight of millions of daffodils in bloom in the Perlenbachtal and Oleftal valleys of the Eifel can be seen every year from around mid-April to mid-May.

Many many years ago the forest pines and fir trees were cut back to enable enough light to get through for the wild daffodils (Narcissuspseudonarcissus) to blossom and multiply.

A good place to see them is to drive on the B258 towards Monschau. Near Höfen, take the B399 towards Kalterherberg, past the church, keep straight on, at the end of the village when you see the sign post for Malmedy, you turn left towards Alzen and/or follow the signs to “Narzissen” and park at “Gut Heistert” car park. From here you can follow the yellow flower signs on a 2 km or 7 km round walk on fairly easy footpaths if you wish whatever you decide to do visitors must keep to the paths and refrain from picking any flowers or plants. The 2 km Rundwanderung is marked Orange and the 7 km Rundwanderung is marked Yellow. At weekends you may not be “wandering lonely as a cloud”, as it’s a popular area for hikers. Given a good map, you can walk all day in fairly wild countryside, mostly at over 550m altitude, so dress warmly. Any of the areas marked NSG (Naturschutzgebie) are likely to have wild daffodils or other protected species. In June and July you might see the Arnica plant in flower as it too grows wild here and there but be careful, not only is it a protected species it is only a natural aid to ailments if applied externally – it can be  poisonous if swallowed. With so many wild flowers the area is also a natural habitat and crunching ground firstly for caterpillars and when the weather gets warmer many different varieties of butterflies.

Hoefen and Monschau are also worth visiting; Hoefen for its very high hedges that give shelter from the chilly Eifel winds, and Monschau for its picturesque buildings that attract vast crowds at weekends.(best park outside the town).

If you contact the tourist board they will send you a map of how to get there as well as times of tours – though all information is in German. Although you can speak English if you phone.

www.monschau.de Email: touristik@monschau.de Tel. 02472/3300

Happy wandering!   (JK)

Rod Mason – 5 go to the Harmonie

Jazz people certainly look different.  You couldn’t mistake these concert goers for rock, blues or classical fans.  Maybe Country & Western at a pinch…  Certainly I feel younger this evening than at the previous visit of the new ‘Young Blues’ scene.  This time around my oldest tie would actually be younger than a lot of the musicians and a large part of the audience.  There are bistro tables and seats but hey, I’m young, I can stand all night, no problem here buddy.

Rod Masons Hot Five

Showtime isn’t pre-empted by dimming of lights or abrupt ends to loud background tapes.  This is jazz.  It’s pre-empted instead by the musicians stepping quietly onstage.  Not even a chance to ‘plug and play’ unless Fraser Gartshores piano is electric.  I begged beforehand to hear a few songs with the word ‘blues’ in them but first up is ‘Panama Rag’.   I advise jazz fans to check out YouTube for a great video of Rod, looking uncannily like a young Gunther Netzer,  doing this with Acker Bilk in 1973.  Chicago Jazz is not really my cup of tea.  It tends to rely too much on an ‘oompahing’ sort of beat for my liking.  Rod and his band though I can listen to easily because of the quality of musicianship that runs overtop the rhythm.  His own trumpet/clarinet abilities are beyond question but in John Mortimer, Andy Leggett and Sean Moyses he has three equally proficient men to back him up.  Andy Leggett even managed the odd little dance during numbers that showed his love for the music is as great as his ability to play his clarinet and saxophone.  John Mortimer on the other hand looks much more serious – no little dances from his side of the stage, just a serious grimace as he blasts air into his trombone. It’s all the more surprising then when he whips out a harmonica and blasts out a fiery blues solo that Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds would have been proud of.

The band are playing to the converted.  Everyone in the audience seems to know everybody else like it’s a street party.  When Rod sings ‘Happy Birthday’ for someone at the front table I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t know who he’s talking about.  By the evenings end we’ve had a lively version of ‘Blueberry Hill’ (which almost has the word ‘Blues’ in it) and Sean has sung “A talking picture of you’ with such a timepiece feel to it that I swear the stage turned a washed out shade of sepia complete with torn edges.

Rod Mason

Still ‘blowing’ strong – Rod Mason

An enjoyable evening then, even for a less ‘Jazzified’ person like myself.  I ask the musicians afterwards things that have been on my mind all evening.  “Yes it does a bit” is Clive’s answer to my “Doesn’t it get heavy, that Sousaphone on your shoulder for hours on end?”  Then he points to his picture behind the bar and says “but that one is even older, and even HEAVIER!”  Clive must be mad then?  But actually, as Sean points out later, there is method to the madness of these sousaphone/banjo wielding men.  “Guitar players are ten a penny – but banjo and sousaphone players will always find a gig” On the subject of Sean Moyses and pennies, I am shown the love of Seans life – she is shiny, sexy, made from mother of pearl and shimmers cheekily from the back of his custom banjo.  Her full name is ‘Pietsch Master Vox 7 Art Deco’, but I think ‘Pearl’ would be friendlier?  Since my visit to the International Banjo
Festival a few years ago though I know she is in very good hands.  I wonder aloud if the long term future of New
Orleans/Chicago jazz has any young hands to hold it safely in the future?  For now though Rod Mason and his band play with all the enthusiasm of young men and hopefully that will rub off on the youngsters who sit with their mums and dads on the KAH roof for Jazz this Summer.

Sean Moyses

Sean Moyses and ‘Pearl’


World Press photo 11

As in previous years the Deutsche Bahn is exhibiting the winning entries from the years World Press  Photo Competition (World Press Photo 11).  The ‘best of the best’ is currently on show at Cologne Main Railway Station until 29 August, and is, as always, a breathtaking experience.

This years exhibition features 177 images  chosen from over 100.000 entries from more than 5000 top photo journalists.

This year it must be said is a particularly ‘dark’  exhibition.   A sign at the entrance warns that these images are not for children, and indeed, there are probably a good few adults who will have sleepless nights after these snapshots of war and disater have been inwardly digested.The photos are always something of a barometer to the year past and if these are anything to go by it was a dark year indeed.  Harrowing scenes of the disaster in Haiti or of volcanic eruptions and numerous Civil Wars.

Parental Guidance is rightly suggested

Ultimately though these images have been winners because they do what the very best press images are meant to do – they convey not just the scene, but the emotion that made the events newsworthy in the first place.

In this world of instant imaging and reporting, is there still a place for the still photograph?  After taking a walk round the exhibition you will I am sure be convinced that the still images are as relevant now as they ever were.

A harrowing but compulsive exhibition that I urge everyone passing through the following stations to take time over:

Cologne until 29 August

Halle Hbf 2 – 12 Sept

Braunschweig Hbf 19-26 Sept

Berlin Friedrichstrasse 14-24 October

BB King still Reigns

Ana Popovic - Captivating

Ana Popovic and BB King. Another evening in this seasons excellent Open-Air calendar at Bonn Museumsplatz that delivered music and emotion. Another evening to saviour before the lights go out forever at this exceptional venue? On Mondays evidence Bonn would be very much the poorer without its ‘Big Tent’ atmosphere amongst the Museums.

„Wish I could still run like that!…“ BB King muses, as a roadie jogs across the stage to sort a technical problem behind the amplifiers. BB doesn’t need to run for things anymore, there are plenty of people to run for him. He doesn’t need to play or sing much anymore either. For most of the audience just seeing this living legend is worth the entrance fee alone. He knows it and uses the goodwill appropriately, playing and singing just enough to keep people happy without burning his 85 year old body out on the never ending Tour that has been his life for practically ALL his life. It’s almost unsettling after so many ‘Last Tours’ that no one speaks of this one as his last and I’d say they were perhaps anxious at tempting fate except that physically King looks slimmer and, dare I say it fitter, than for a good long while.

Maybe it helps to have a stunning young lady like Ana Popovic along for some of the shows.

I hope his heart is up to seeing Ana in her show clothes, I know my own heart skipped a good few beats when her long legs paced across the stage at 7pm in a stunning glitter-dress with red Stratocaster slung across her shapely hip.

I’ve seen Ana live many times now but never did she look or sound better than on Monday. Pinned down by the solid rhythm section of Frenchman Stephane Avellaneda on Drums and Ronald Jonker on bass her band had the perfect punch for the venue and hit hard with rockers ‘Nothing Personal’ and ‘Hold On’. American James Pace on keyboard added colour too but for Ana the best colour is still Blue. ‘Unconditional’ was a tasty promise of the return to raw Blues promised to come from her next CD of that name; and the slow Blues of ‘Song for M’ was a moving tribute to husband Mark. Her tribute to the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan was highlight of not just the set but in my opinion, the whole evening. Anyone who thinks this girl is just ‘eye candy’ should shut up, shut their eyes, and listen. They will be pre-ordering the next CD from Miss Popovic afterwards I’m sure. This girl is special. I’ve said it for years and just maybe the new CD will put her where she belongs – headlining places like this.

When BB King makes his entrance the photographers pit resembles a schoolroom. We’re all crouched in front of the Big Mans chair, looking expectantly up at him as if waiting for a good lesson on life from a grown up who has seen so much more than we have. BB is gracious to us too. He takes the time to look each camera firmly in the eye I notice. We’re there to do a job and BB is a man who has worked all his life and knows that, so he gives us what we want, the smile to camera that with other, lesser musicians, would need a whole concert to get – or not at all. As he sits and talks I have to remind myself to press the shutter. BB has all evening to work, I have just two songs.

What is there left to says about Riley B. King? The shows now are almost theatrical pieces rather than concerts. BB’s arrival and exit in Hat and coat and a lot of the ‘spontaneous’ banter between songs I remember from the last show here in Bonn. The band cutting in on an early song certainly is a ‘set piece’. Most of the Band is almost as old as BB now. Faces I recognize from seeing him in Portsmouth some 30 years ago now. James Bolden on trumpet, nephew Walter King on Saxophone. Men for whom the term ‘seasoned veterans’ could have been invented. At times the Man seems about to say something profound as he leans forward in his chair: “If you’re here today with someone you love…” but then someone in the audience will catch his attention and we never get to hear what BB’s secret recipes for love and life are. Which is a pity, because BB King himself instills so much love in his audience that his secrets would be worth knowing for certain.

Mesmerizing - BB King

The music is almost secondary. Classics like ‘The thrill is gone’ and ‘Keep my grave swept clean’ are moving as much for the memories they evoke as for their actual quality this evening. Every year it seems the runs on guitar get shorter, along with the lyrics. ‘Key to the Highway’ comes and goes equally quickly (or maybe it’s just because we want BB to stay and play forever that it seems short?). There’s a sheet of paper taped to the stagefloor in front saying ‘Must finish by 9.50pm’. I doubt the police would cart this giant of music away to the cells, but all too soon the notes of ‘When the Saints go Marching In’ signal it’s time for BB to go Marching Out. He digs into his pockets and ladles out handfuls of plectrums for the crowd, sits graciously as they cheer him, and just as graciously, slips on his hat and coat before saying goodnight. No mention of a farewell Tour this time. Perhaps because we don’t need to be told that the shows won’t be going forever. I’m reminded of a BB King lyric ‘There is always one more time’. It’s not true of course – but I’m already looking forward to seeing the man next time. Who would ever want to believe in a world without BB King reminding us what Blues Music really was, is and can be?

Read John Harrisons review of the concert on:


The Pogues at Museumsplatz

In 2002 Q Magazine listed The Pogues as “One of the fifty bands to see before you die”

A little late maybe; but last Thursday at Bonns Museumsplatz I got around to the task, and, whilst it would perhaps be optimistic to hope that Punk-Folk was well,  was it still alive?

It’s 8pm and I’ve been standing in the Photo-pit with a monitor blasting music directly into my ear for half an hour. There’s a plastic duck sitting on top of a backstage speaker that I’ve now ‘shot’ three times with my camera just to pass the time. Roadies shuffle back and forth onstage; we’re half an hour late and no band. Fans I’d spoken to on the train from Cologne were enthusiastically talking about the Band but I had the impression that a show stood or fell on the physical condition of singer and renowned drinker Shane MacGowan. Now, as MacGowan finally took the stage I feared his appearance didn’t bode well for the evening.

The song ‘Streams of Whiskey’ seemed appropriate as he rocked hesitantly from foot to foot, hands gripping the mike stand which seemed as much a means of support as a means of amplification. Ostensibly about Brendan Behan, but the slur in MacGowans voice gave the lyrics an ironic twist.

“Is that really the lead singer?” I was asked by a non-plussed photographer. “Has he had a stroke?”* Asked another later. His face seems odd. The only comfort I could give was the words another spectator had given me to the. same vexed questions – “I’m sure he will get better”, and, amazingly, he was right. Following a promising version of his own ‘Pair of Brown Eyes’ MacGowan left the stage. The band played a lively jig and it should have been better without MacGowan’s faltering participation – but it wasn’t.   You see, The Pogues without MacGowan are just another Irish Pub Band. A good one to be sure, but good doesn’t sell millions of discs or get you a Tour Stage playing to thousands of people. It’s a lesson that was learned as far back as 1999 when The Band tried to make a go of it without their main man. Drunken defiance is an integral part of the Pogues charisma. The plastic beer glasses that regularly fly across the audience in front of stage are a testimony to that. The fans understand. Plenty of bemused faces that say “Well, that’s Shane, bless him. He’ll come right in the end”.

By the time MacGowan has been back and sung ‘Kitty’ and ‘Sunny Side of the Street’ it starts to seem that all those positive thinkers are going to be right. Ultimately the fans know the Man and I hope he appreciates the trust they put in him to get it together onstage.

Certainly, by the time he gets to Eric Bogle’s ‘Waltzing Matilda’ the voice is loud, if not always clear. Stories of MacGowan having new teeth prove to be a little confusing since whilst he certainly doesn’t have the set that frightened small children from his past (seemingly an accident with a brick wall from many years ago). Indeed he doesn’t seem to have any upper teeth for the show that I can see. Maybe that accounts for the slur in his voice? His participation in events has improved though and, whilst this is by no means the angry sounding young man from the eighties his vocal chords can still pack an almighty punch. The crowd are more than willing to help out as they chant “and mother wakes me early in the morning” and clap enthusiastically along. ‘Thousands are Sailing’ goes down well without MacGowan but truth to tell it’s only when the Man himself is onstage that the fission of expectancy/threat/tension is present. With Ewan Macoll’s ‘Dirty Old Town’ he would be hard pressed to disappoint of course. It’s a number that has become almost synonymous with the Band through MacGowans sneering vocal. “I’ll cut you down, like an old dead tree” he threatens, and one can almost see the axe in his hands.

‘Bottle of Smoke’ with its breathtaking tempo was a number where I thought he would falter, but the man was by now in his stride and so was the song, glorious as ever. ‘The Deathbed of Cuchulainn’ was further proof that MacGowan was back on form. Who could resist a line like ‘When you’ve pi**ed yourself in Frankfurt and got sick down in Cologne’ sung in Bonn? Not something you would hear from a Bläck Föös concert for sure.

After barely an hour MacGowan was announcing the last number and thanking everyone for coming. Usually I would assume this was a short break before encores, but tonight, who could be sure? The fans could of course. They know their Man. Encores, including a favourite of mine from an all time favourite disc (yes, I bought it many years ago on plastic!) ‘Sally MacLennane’ off of ‘Rum, Sodomy & The Lash’ and of course ‘Irish Rover’. Spider Stacy had by this time put down his tin whistle in favour of hitting himself over the head with a tin plate (can you get these in specialist instrument shops, along with washboard waistcoats I wonder?

So there we have it. The Band made it to the end of the show and rather than run out of gas it’s main man actually seemed to step on the gas pedal. The many wearers of green T_shirts went away with smiling faces. They believed Shane MacGowan would deliver on the night and the enthusiasm of the lady I spoke to on the train down to Bonn was well founded. I think it’ll be a great show, you’ll enjoy it” she had said. They have faith in their band these Pogues fans. It’s an optimism that seems to almost radiate onto the stage, and could prove a life saver for The Pogues and especially their main man – someone with a style you don’t meet everyday.


* Fellow Pogue Phillip Chevron has since pointed out to me ‘Shane has not had a stroke’ – “But even if he was suffering from six life threatening illnesses, people would say he was drunk”

Jane Austen Conference in Bensberg

Eine Meisterin der Satire  (A Master of Satire) – Jane Austen

23. bis 24. Juli 2011 (Sa.-So.)

Location: Thomas-Morus-Akademie/Kardinal-Schulte-Haus, Bensberg

Open Academy Conference – in German language

“Emma,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice” – even after some 200 years, the novels of English writer Jane Austen (1775-1817) have lost none of their charm and remain classics of world literature.

In the midst of the small world of the rural bourgeoisie a broad spectrum of human and social interactions unfolds. Driven by social vanity, the struggle for status andwealth, Austen’s characters struggle through.  Their actions depicted with brilliant wit and ironic distance. Although a search for the right marriage partner is the focus, the narrative never slides into sentimentality, but rather shows unequivocally the force of economic pressures prevelent at the time.  A healthy understanding of humanity is Austen’s  foremost  concern.


Thomas-Morus-Akademie Bensberg
Overather Straße 51-53
51429 Bergisch Gladbach
Telefon +49 (0) 22 04/40 84 7

Museumsmile Festival on Memory Lane

I caught this lady drummer onstage at the Museumsmile Festival in Bonn this weekend, without the regulation drummers short sleeved ‘muscle shirt’ and sneakers.

‘Die Madämchen’ are a Ladies Chamber Orchestra that was founded in 1984 in Cologne by Dorota Lesch.  Their musical roots are in Chicago Ragtime so maybe I am slipping in a plug for something Bluesy in here again.  A little different though all the same.

Dorota Lesch (2nd left) and her Mädchen

Altogether much of the music on offer at this years Museumsmile Festival was a trip down memory lane for anyone from the 1930’s upwards. Robert Kreis with highlights from his travelling Chanson Show.  Witty songs from a time when innocence was a challenge for many a songwriter.  If you couldn’t write about Sex directly then you could write about the size of your cactus and your Beau’s poodle.   As Kreis, Javan born but living in Holland sadly concluded, 80% of the writers and performers were Jewish and the Nazi Regime all but destroyed the genre.

Robert Kreis

Down the road a little at the ‘Haus der Geschichte’ there was modern music.  Well, comparatively speaking anyway.  The Band ‘Fun’ were playing hits from the sixties (although I suspect Dell Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ even clips into the fifties).  The black suits and string ties were as much a fashion statement of the times as the feather boas on the heads of ‘Die Madämchen’ and the same love of the music was plain to see in the faces of the performers.

‘Fun’ going back to the Sixties – yeah, yeah, yeah!

So my weekend reminded me that good music never dies, and never will as long as people like these love it enough to keep it alive.

Long may that continue to be the case and thank you all. Ladies & Gentlemen for your abilities and your enthusiasm for our musical heritage!

Events on 9/10 July 2011 in Cologne

Concert  in Cologne performed by the King Edward VII & Queen Mary School Swing Band, Jazz Ensemble and Choir from Lytham St Annes, England

Sunday  10 July 2011 at 19.30 hrs

All Saints Anglican Church
Bonner Straße/Lindenallee, Köln-Marienburg


Soul Patrol: Henri Mancini: Peter Gunn
Billy Joel. Just the Way You Are
Swing Band: Eric Maschwitz & Manning Sherwin: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
Bart Howard: Fly Me to the Moon
Waller & Brooks: Ain’t Misbehavin’


Once Upon a Dream from the musical ‘Jekyll & Hyde’
23rd Psalm – The Lord is My Shepherd
Lead Me Lord

Summer Fete 9  July 2011

Everyone welcome to join us at our annual summer fete on the green in front of All Saints Church, Bonner Strasse, Cologne-Marienfeld with traditional English stands and entertainment.


Church Fete Cologne

Summer Fete 9  July 2011

Everyone welcome to join us at our annual summer fete on the green in front of All Saints Church, Bonner Strasse, Cologne-Marienfeld with traditional English stands and entertainment.

Cream Teas (coffee, tea, scones, strawberries and cake), BBQ, Refreshments -beer and soft drinks, English produce, Home made produce – jams, preserves, chutneys, English books, Tombola, Raffle