I remember some lessons extremely fondly, times when I happened to catch the mood and enthusiasm of my students – who can forget, for instance, the time I bought a job lot of Barbie dolls on ebay and took them – with their Kens – together with loads of fabric, rickrack, feathers, sequins, scissors, pins, needles, thread, sellotape and glue to class, and the students (in groups) dressed the dolls as members of the Royal Family attending Harry and Meghan’s wedding?
There were some stunning designs, I can tell you, and when the wedding actually took place we noticed that many of our creations had been spot-on. Happy days.
There were other times when lessons fell absolutely flat, such as the one where I asked each student “What would you save if your house were on fire?” and every single person looked at me as if I were totally bonkers and said, “My papers.”
How continental. Being British, ‘Papers’ never existed in my life. Unlike many of my students, my family never had to flee hundreds of miles, with the grandmother entrusted with a special box containing everybody’s ‘Papers’.
My careless Britishness came to the fore recently when we heard that we could register for the Covid-19 vaccine at our village doctor. All we need do is take along our Impfpass, vaccination record booklet. Real Germans keep this yellow, WHO-approved booklet most carefully. It contains a record of all the vaccinations they have ever had.
When my lovely husband got his out of the file specially designated for such things, he also found the pink certificate (header), stating that as a one-year old baby he had been successfully vaccinated against smallpox. This piece of paper has been carefully kept and filed not only for nearly 70 years but through countless moves and even divorce and re-marriage.
I am obviously the wrong type of German. I did have an Impfpass, when I got vaccinated to go to India in 2002, but even without any moves and no divorces since then, I have no idea where it is. I don’t know where my children’s Impfpass are either, although for several years I could locate the dog’s without too much trouble.
The words ‘vaccine’ and ‘vaccination’ come from Latin vaccinus, from vacca ‘cow’ (because of the early use of the cowpox virus against smallpox).
Here is the story of Edward Jenner and the smallpox vaccination:
Since Edward Jenner, vaccines have become part of our everyday life, with many diseases – measles, whooping cough and of course polio more or less banished.
The international race was on at the start of the Corona pandemic to find a vaccine, and in the worry and trouble of the last months it has not always been easy to realise what a tremendous achievement it is that we already have so many vaccines to choose from.
There has been impatience with governments and vaccine companies, and misunderstanding after misunderstanding, sometimes fostered by the same governments and companies, along with journalists who really should have known better.
I am so happy to have discovered the work of Kai Kupferschmidt, a scientific journalist who has become my voice of authority.
I follow him on twitter, and also read his contributions to Science Mag:
In Germany it began to feel hard to trust that we would really all be vaccinated. It was all so s l o w, vaccine trickling into the federal states. Anyway, this month things suddenly began to speed up, even in Germany. Visiting the Impfdashboard everyday was a cause for joy rather than groans:
And last Friday the phone rang and it was our village doctor, offering us appointments: BioNTech on Tuesday for my lovely husband, AstraZeneca on Thursday for me. I ran into the garden (where said husband was pouring more and more concrete into the greenhouse foundations, Chernobyl R Us) to tell him the wonderful news, so excited, so happy, so relieved.
At the same time, I thought of those still waiting, all over the world.
This week, TIME magazine produced a video about the massive new BioNtech plant in Marburg:
And just yesterday the Evoniks company announced their exceptionally fast ramp up of lipids production, a vital ingredient for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine:
Fortunately, I had bought myself a new Impfpass on Amazon, and so, with a feeling of being part of something really momentous, I drove to our doctor’s surgery yesterday and was one of the very many people in their masks, clutching their Impfpass, and got my vaccination.
When I got home, I put my Impfpass (which has special little metal loops for the purpose) into the big white file which also has my birth certificate and German Citizenship papers. And should our house catch fire, we all know what I will be rescuing.