Collection of Stories

Объем: 130 бумажных стр.

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I am deeply indebted to the following people for encouraging and helping me in various ways during the preparation of this book — Robin Bithrey and Elaine Bithrey.

Copyright © 2019 Igor Yevtishenkov

Cover photo licence #124845550 by depositphotos on behalf of creatista (Scott Griessel)


There is a collection of stories created during ten years of teaching English. The texts contain a lot of phrasal verbs, which makes some stories useful for learning spoken language. Also, everyone may enjoy reading them for being in a good mood.



Jessie was Julie’s cousin. Every summer her mother left her in their house and the two girls spent time together. Julie shared everything with Jessie — shoes, jeans, blouses, T-shirts and other clothes. They fitted her well because they both wore the same size. Even shoes were OK. So, they did everything together. That year wasn’t exceptional — Jessie turned 14 and they had a nice birthday party in their house. However, next morning she asked if she could borrow Julie’s bike to ride with Alex to the river. Alex was Julie’s neighbour and they went to the same school, played on the lawns and were attracted to one another. As Julie heard that Alex and Jessie were going to ride together, she felt a sharp pang of jealousy and had a change of heart. “Ride his bike!” she answered. “Wear your own gear. Don’t touch mine anymore!” she rushed upstairs and threw herself on the bed, weeping.


Every morning I wake up and have to put my clothes on. My mother helps my younger brother and I am jealous of him. I wish I were him. I wish I could have a lie-in like him. I got used to getting dressed myself, but in winter it takes a lot of time. I have to do up the buttons of my school jacket, do up my shoelaces, then wrap up in my winter jacket, zip it up, muffle in a thick scarf and woolly hat and pick up a bag with my school shoes. At school things usually get even worse. I hate unzipping and taking off my bulky winter jacket and shoes, peeling off warm trousers, and hiding my scarf and woolly hat in the jacket sleeve.

But the worst time comes when I have to start going to school after the summer holidays. My mother takes me to a clothing store and I have to try on many new suits because the old one is quite small and does not fit me properly. My trousers are too short to let them down and quite narrow to let them out. My mother wants to dress me up and I have to put up with that. As I come back home after school she is always asking me to hang the suit up. I do and pull on a pair of blue jeans, throw on a T-shirt and go outside to ride a bike or play with my friends. There’s no use in wearing a uniform out there as we’d have no fun.


Next day mother took Julie to a clothing store. They had to buy some new clothes. Julie was annoyed and didn’t want to try on many of the things her mother wanted her to. She was saying T-shirts were too tight, or jeans didn’t suit her, or trainers had laces to do up. They were just excuses. Actually, she couldn’t help thinking of Jessie who might look great wearing those clothes. She imagined Alex smiling at Jessie and taking her to the river and all thoughts turned upside down in her head. She heard her mother telling a shop assistant that she was at an awkward age and had a chip on her shoulder. Julie understood but just couldn’t help it. She was missing Alex and very jealous of him.


A: Some of our girls, Jessica and Dolores, had really dolled themselves up. They were in such weird get-ups: masks, flickering tops, long gloves. It looked as if they thought it was a fancy-dress party!

B: Oh, really? Why did they dress like that? Well, and what did you wear?

A: Well, it wasn’t easy. I wanted to put on my little violet gown but I had trouble getting into it. Damn, I’ve put weight on. I’ll have to get my aunt to let it out, or else lose some weight! I didn’t give up and tried my best, so I eventually squeezed into it. I looked so terrible in the mirror, though, and I just took it off again, pulled on a boring old T-shirt and slipped on my old jeans.

B: Oh, it’s not so bad. I think you look OK in them.

A: Thanks! Well, some girls had their T-shirts all creased as if they didn’t have time to iron them. Julie told me she just smoothed hers down with her hands. She had the wrong shoes on too. To me she looked like a misfit, you know, as if she was wearing cast-offs! But no one really cared. When the music started, we all flung our shoes off to dance anyway.

B: No, you always look nice whatever you’re wearing.

A: Oh, you’re so sweet! How flattering!



Julie called Bill in the morning but failed to get through. His number was busy and she was transferred to the answering machine. “The person you are calling is unavailable right now. Please try again later or leave a message after the tone,” she couldn’t listen anymore and cut off. “Who are you calling?” asked her classmate, Kate. “Bill. He isn’t answering.” she said angrily. “Oh, I see’, the girl sympathized with her. “They are having football training now. Tomorrow they are playing against another school. He invited Claudia to watch them train. So he’s busy with other things. Don’t worry about it. It’s a losing battle to reach him now’.


An old Russian immigrant, feeling he didn’t have long for this world, decided to visit his homeland one last time and stay with a distant cousin living just outside Moscow. Together, they drank whiskey & vodka and joked about the good old days.

The old American boasted to his cousin that he could call anywhere he liked from America, even Hell if he so pleased. His cousin replied that this could even be done in Russia, so gave him a telephone. The old American looked the number up in his diary and dialed it. Soon, the call was answered:

Operator: ‘Hello….This is Hell….How can I help you?”

Old American: “Is that the operator? No? Cerberus? I can’t hear very well — there’s barking on the line. Can you speak up? What company is this? No matter — put me through to the chief, please. Tell him it’s Jimmy from the USA calling!”

Operator: “Please, hold on and I’ll put you through… (waiting) I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but I’m afraid, Mr. Satan is very busy at the moment. However, we can see that you’re going to visit us soon, so would you like to make a reservation? We can put you up directly on your way to purgatory…”

Old American: “No thanks, not this time — not quite ready yet. Tell Mr. Satan I’ll call him back later on. Goodbye!”

The old man hung up the phone and turned to his cousin: “You know, last time this call didn’t work from my house in Iowa. The line was breaking up and I seemed to be hanging on for ages, so I cut the call off. This time the connection was great with no delays — fantastic!”

Next morning, a postman delivered the phone bill. The old American opened it and was once again surprised.

Old American: “Is this right? The charges are ten times less than I had in the USA. This is way too cheap.”

His Cousin (grinning): “Yes, but in the USA it’s long-distance… from Russia it’s just a local call!”


Julie couldn’t get through to Bill all day and was very upset. She didn’t want to talk to her classmates and went home alone. Her mother was cooking an apple pie in the kitchen and was chatting with a friend of hers on the phone. When she hung up, she smiled at Julie and said, “A penny for your thoughts, honey. You look sad. What’s happened?” Julie didn’t say anything and just went upstairs to her room. She had no thoughts, nothing but disappointment and bitter resentment.


Jim (listening to long beeps in the receiver): — Hey, Tom, pick up the phone! Where are you, goddamn it?!

Tom (cheerily): — Hello! Hello?.. Who’s calling?

Jim: — Tom, it’s me, Jim! Can you hear me?

Tom: — Who? Jane? Sorry, you are breaking up.

Jim: — No, not Jane! Tom, it’s me, Jim! I’ve been calling you for the whole morning. You aren’t picking up the phone. You mother said this was your number.

Tom: — Ah, Jimmy. It’s you! I’m in the shopping center with Mary now. It’s crowded. Speak up, please!

Jim: — Hey, I couldn’t get through to you yesterday. A girl picked up the phone, wrong number and I pissed her off dialing ten times or so. She eventually cut me off and switched off the phone.

Tom: — What number did you dial?

Jim: — It’s 8852476391. It’s in my diary. Is it wrong?

Tom: — Yes, it is. Mine is 8852176394. Mother mixed up 4 and 1.

Jim: — Lucky me, Julie had Mary’s number.

Tom: — Great! Sorry, hold on, please! Mary is calling me asking to have a look at her. She’s trying on a new dress. I’ll be back in a flash!

Jim: — Don’t hang up on me! I’m waiting…

Tom: — OK, I’m back. Sorry to have kept you waiting. OK, what’s up?

Jim: — There is a problem with our holiday. I can’t get through to Jane. She had to phone around to find a cheap hotel. I left a message on her answering machine but she didn’t get back to me.

Tom: — Did you call her office?

Jim: — The operator in the office put me through to her but I got cut off. Can you believe it? We are leaving early tomorrow morning and I don’t know whether she’s booked a hotel or not. The operator later said Jane had called in to say she was taking a day off.

Tom: — OK, calm down! Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something. I have a friend in Luton. I’ll call him and ask to put us up for a day until we find out what’s going on. Keep in touch! See you and Julie tomorrow at the railway station! Don’t be late.



Ben tried his best to meet his parents’ expectations — he studied well and never slacked off. They paid for his college and helped him enter one of the Ivy League universities. To do that they had to borrow money. Ben graduated and soon realised he had no wish to trade stocks and shares. So he suffered a change of heart and left for Nepal to become a Buddhist monk. Their second son, Tom, was not as devoted to education as his elder brother, he often skived off at school and loved to show off. He used to tell his parents he wouldn’t like to follow his brother’s footsteps and asked them to let him make his own choice. By the age of 16 he hadn’t any plans, unfortunately and his parents realised that things started disappearing from their house. When they found out it was Tom who had been stealing them to sell them on, it was too late. Their younger son turned out to be a drug-addict and he could not live without them. They wasted a lot of money to take him into a drug rehabilitation center. It didn’t help. He ran away, broke into their house and stole his parents’ credit cards. The next morning they didn’t have a penny in their accounts. It was time to pay up the next instalment of the loan they had taken out long ago to help their elder son. So they were forced to sell their cars and some furniture for a song to pay it off. Eventually, their good intentions cost an arm and a leg.


Hi Rob,

How are you coping financially this term? Could you lend me some money to bail me out, please? I failed to pay my fees last week; I’d gone through a huge amount of money for games. I couldn’t imagine I’d run out of it so quickly. Last year my parents coughed up 1k without a problem. But this time no chance. I didn’t goof off for the whole term, I had A grades and now I am just lacking the money to go on. If you could help me, I guess I’d work off the debt during the holidays. A friend of mine helped me get a job in her parents’ café. But it’ll take some time to earn money. So I hope you’ll help me to get by for a while until I get a more stable income.




Hi Jill,

I can’t believe it’s my mobile phone bill. I enabled a stream video subscription last week and it gobbled up almost all the money I had earned in the café. Besides, I ran up so many other bills that I had to break into my account, which I had been saving for the holidays for the whole year.



Hi Dave,

The trip to South Africa was fabulous! I’m just back and I found out it set me back $5,000US and cleaned me out completely. To tell you the truth, I found myself in a pretty awkward predicament. So I was just wondering if you could lend me a couple of hundred dollars just to get along until my next pay cheque? It’ll be next week and I’ll settle up with you then.



Hi Bill,

came into some money recently. Thank God, I got rid of commuting to work every day! My great granny died in Paris and left me a tidy sum in Euros. Also I got my annual bonus last month, so the money’s been rolling in. I’m seriously considering buying a flat and renting it out. I don’t want to put money aside like the old fossils were doing their whole life, going to the bank and paying regular sums into their account each month — no, nothing like that! If you have any idea how to reinvest that easy money into profitable shares, let me know! I promise, you won’t need to cash up in your store every week and penny pinch then.




Really sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to send me $100 as soon as possible. I studied hard for my exams and so have had no chance to take a job to make any money. I can barely scrape by on what my friends sometimes chip in. This time though, it’s even worse — I was in the library, reading and my leg felt paralyzed. I was taken to hospital, but the doctors couldn’t save it and this is now the second leg I’ve lost. Fortunately, the university carried the payment over until next month, but I’m now stuck in hospital without any means of making money for a long time. I can’t move, I can’t pay, it’s a “catch-22” situation.

Dear son,

You won’t believe it, but I tried to see you in the hospital, because your mother and I thought you were too timid to tell us the truth about your health. As you know we are barely scraping by on our low income and are not raking in huge profits from my business. I didn’t manage to talk to your doctor, unfortunately, but I was lucky to meet a pretty nurse you had been out with the previous day. I have to admit she is worth losing not only another leg but your mind for too. As this is the third leg you have lost according to your letters, I’m sure you ought to be used to this by now. If my memory serves me correctly, you lost the first one in a terrible accident when a tram ran you over and cut it off. The second one was bitten by a horse near the betting shop window, when you were staking your last penny on a horse at the hippodrome. Now, luckily, the third one has grown back but, tough luck, it’s paralyzed. So try to hobble along on any other one you may have left. When your mother and I met, we started renting a part of a house and had to solely rely on our existing hands and legs.


Bill has finished a brokerage course at a bank and decided to make his first investment as an independent broker. He was assisted by a friend who has worked in the other bank for ten years and was said to be an experienced broker. One day he called Bill and said that his boss, a senior broker who was considered almost a god in NYSE, invited them to invest in shale gas development. At that time there was a boom in the industry. The senior broker hinted that he had been advised to do that by his friends from Federal Reserve Bank. “We’ll get on to the gravy train”, he promised. It was the kind of proposal, which Bill could not turn down. He shared this information with his wife Julie who reminded him that money didn’t grow on trees. A month later Bill’s investment paid off and even the chairman praised him. The friends were on cloud nine. But another month passed, gas prices suddenly fell and the development of shale gas was halted across the country. Bill, his friend and the senior manager of the bank lost all they had earned and invested in this operation. Only the chairman, who had real friends in FRB and never told anyone about them, had made a stake on copper and put all his money in it just a few days before the gas prices dropped. So now he was rubbing his hands and kept muttering under his breath: money goes to money.


“Excuse me, could you tell me where I could take money out, please?”

“No problem! It’s just around the corner. Go down the street till the traffic lights and turn left. The ATM is over there. But there is a limit as far as I know. You are not allowed to withdraw more than 300 pounds a day.”

“Thanks a lot! It’s surprising but there is not much choice, I’m afraid.”

Good luck, guys! See ya!”

“Thanks a lot!.. (a few minutes later) Look, the ATM is out of order. We shall have to cut back our expenditure on entertainment.”

“Stop it! You sound like Prime Minister. Call Jill, she might lend us a hundred for tonight and we’ll pay her back tomorrow.”

“Highly unlikely. She paid our bill yesterday. It came to one hundred dollars and we still owe her our share.”

What a bummer! You are right.”


“What are you going to do after school? Going to university or taking a year off?”

“The former, I hope. I’m going to work and pay the bills. My parents will be paying off the mortgage on our flat for another ten years. So I’ll have no support from them.”

“I see. Mine have no mortgage but I’ll have to earn some money too. I don’t want to take a year off either. How much do you need to pay?”

“Last week I got the first term bill. It’s six hundred and I’ll have to pay up by the end of the month. I have to cut down some expenses. Last month I ran up my telephone and Internet bills for a hundred bucks. Games, streaming video, sharing files on social media, listening to music, online games, you know… So stupid of me! I’ve just found a job in a mall but I’ll only get paid next week.”

“I see. Mate, I’ve saved two grand. My payment is due on November 30, I could lend you a few hundred for a week or two.”

“Really?! Oh, great! Thanks, man! I’ll settle up with you when I get paid.”

“It’s OK. We’re brother-in-arms. Don’t worry, take your time.”


“I heard that higher education in Germany was free. Is this true?”

“Yes, it is. But it’s a little bit tricky. You have to speak German to enter a university.”

“It’s quite fair. My parents studied free of charge but now things have changed completely. We have to pay it annually.”

“So do we. My parents and I started saving up already. We try to set aside a fixed amount each month so that we have enough by next year.”

“I see. I bought so many expensive gadgets last year. I tried hard to sell them this summer to add some funds to my account but to no avail. It looks like I have to just write the money off.”

“I agree. It’s not worth trying, I’ve got the same problem. The gadgets are not worth a dime, believe me.” “You won’t get this money back. I’m ashamed to tell you but my parents and I are now looking for sales and discounts everywhere and yesterday they were giving away free tickets to a stand-up show and I got one. My mother was lucky to pick up a cookery book last week at a knockdown price. You can’t imagine how happy she was!”

“I can. I always feel the same when I snap up a bargain.”


Hi Denise,

I’ve got great news. At last I’ve got my first pay and started setting aside some money! I hope I’ll save up enough to visit you next year. I managed to flog all my old smartphones and tablet PCs to my roommates. My parents have already said “good-bye’ to that money. They didn’t think I’d get it back one day. So they allowed me to use it the way I wished. Now I can start searching for a knockdown price for air tickets on the Internet. It won’t cost me a fortune, I hope.

Looking forward so much to seeing you soon,



Hi Jack,

I have some financial problems at the moment. I can’t understand how I have been tangled up in this situation. I owe my landlady a hundred dollars. I have to pay up before the end of the month. What’s worse, I’ve run up many other bills. I haven’t the slightest idea how I’m going to pay back my debts. I could try to sell my old rotten car but it’s highly unlikely. I can’t even give it away. Our boss said they’d have to cut back our pay from next month. That’s terrible! I really counted on that money. So I don’t know what I am going to do to get along and be solvent.



“It’s way too expensive. Can I have it cheaper?”

“He is driving a hard bargain. He says twenty dollars and he’ll break even.”

“Try to beat him down to fifteen. Tell him that guy over there is selling cheaper.”

“It won’t work. He is very stubborn. But who dares wins.”

“So any success?”

“Sort of. He knocked three dollars off for cash.”

“Great! That’s a real bargain. Let’s go and pick up something else!”

“I think we could club together and buy a gift for Kate. It’s her birthday in a week.”

“No problem! But we’d be better off going to another market. They seem to rip us off here, if they see we are really interested in anything.”

“All gift shops for tourists are a rip-off. They overinflate prices and try to throw in some rubbish!”

“Yeah, I know. They swindle tourists all over the world. Let’s take our time and shop around. Do you mind?”

“No, I don’t. You are right. Last time I snapped up a Diesel bag in a store, a few minutes later I found the same one at half price around the corner.”

“Bad luck! Things happen. Last year we were in an Aqua park in Egypt and had to fork out five bucks for a can of cola. That beats everything! Can you believe it?”


I said to myself, “It’s enough!” I have to stock up on fruit and vegetables and forget about junk food. I am not going to be on a diet but I have to avoid rich and fatty products. I won’t skimp on healthy foods. I know I splashed out on some new clothes for my children last month and ran up a huge bill. They were selling them off at half price and I couldn’t help buying. I snapped up a bargain. I know the next day all the clothes were sold out! So I think a lack of money is now a good chance for me to think how to stay in shape and keep fit. I do want to be slim and slender.



Julie’s birthday was coming and Bill offered to throw a party at a small hotel. He knew what to do as he’d organized one the year before.

“Ladies and Gentlemen — instead of buying unwanted gifts, would you mind chipping in? We won’t trouble your parents,” he asked. Julie liked the idea but she was worried about the money.

“Are you sure they will all club together? Renting a hotel hall is not cheap. How much was it for your birthday last year?” she asked. Bill had barely answered when the door opened and little Reece turned up. There was silence in the room.

“Don’t be a chicken! I won’t give you away to our parents. But I want a piece of the action, as mother says’, demanded Reece and held out his piggybank.

“Oh, it’s very you, Reece’, sighed Julie but Bill was more optimistic:

“Well done, boy! You are in!” he said and patted the little one’s head.


Pupil, “Sir, I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

Teacher, “Fine. No problem. Fire away!”

Girl, “I am afraid of failing Maths tomorrow and feel so awful at the moment.

Her roommate, “Oh, lighten up, will you! You’ll just bring everyone down!”

She, “Joanna wants you to talk to her on the phone.”

He, “Joanna? On the phone? Hang on/Hold on! Who’s Joanna? Is she someone I know?”

Boy, “I feel like killing Jim! He set me up!”

His father, “Steady on! I know he acted stupidly, but he was annoyed and in reality, he’s not a bad person.”

Son, “I’ve got a problem at school. Will you promise to take it easy on me?”

His father, “Come on! Spit it out! What awful things have you done again?”

Student, “I tried my best to find the book but failed. It was not available in our e-library either.”

Teacher (smiling), “Come off it! If you’d tried, you could have just opened your lecture notes and looked at the links I referred you to.”


When he started up the engine, she nervously said:

Step on it! We’re late’. Just a few meters walk away, an elderly couple were crossing the road at the traffic lights.

Watch out!” he answered pointing ahead through the windshield. “The traffic lights are against us. All I need is to lose my license now’.

As the green light showed, she demanded again:

Damn it! Go on! Hurry up! We’ve not got all day! If we are late, I’ll die. I can’t wait’.

“Just belt up, will you!” he shouted and revved up the engine. When the well-known huge logotype showed up at the end of the street, she bit her lip trembling with impatience:

Come on! Come on!” and jumped out of the car as it drew up to the kerb in front of the luxury glass doors.

Take your time! Mind out! Watch your step! Oh, please, go easy on them!” he was begging, trying to keep up with her.

Come along!” she said over her shoulder while walking. “Excuse me, where is the make-up department?” she asked the first shop assistant she ran into. “I heard that there’s a Christmas sale.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am, there must be some mistake,” the girl replied. “We have no make-up department. This is a computer electronics store. We sell mobile phones, tablet PCs and other IT gadgets’.

“Oh my God! What a bummer!” Jennifer said… “Forget it! Let it go. Thank you for your help!” she turned round to her husband who shook his head and sighed.

Calm down! Take it easy! Better luck next time, I hope’, he said and wandered slowly past.


“I want to take part in the final heat. It’ll be a real challenge to me.”

Don’t worry! You’re at your best! Hang in there!”

“You’ve run the first half. You’re doing very well! Keep it up!”


“Hey! Look out! The steps are crumbling and rotten. You’d be better off not going upstairs!”

“Oh my god! It hurts! You were right! I seem to have twisted my ankle. I can barely walk on it!”

“You, dimwit! Bite the bullet! I’m not carrying you.”

“I saw a bike by the fence. Maybe I could take it and ride off?”

“Sure, go ahead!”


“All they concentrate on in the day-centre, is saying ‘Eat up!’ or ‘Drink up!’ or ‘What am I going to do with the leftovers?’ Nightmare. ‘Mustn’t grumble! Get it out of your head!’ The nanny is awful but the autumn is awesome. Lighten up!”

“I can’t. It’s terrible. When I sneeze, no one says “Bless you!” I heard her complaining yesterday “They pissed me off!” She called us “Old farts.”

“That’s what we are, old chap. Never mind! The worst is yet to come. So take your pills and a well-earned rest. Unlike me, at least you can walk out of here. Enjoy yourself!


Singer: “Take it away, maestro! One, two, three!”

A pianist starts playing. As the song comes to the chorus, the singer encourages the audience: “Come on everyone — sing together!


Mother: Sonny, where are my keys?

Her son: Search me! I’m going out now.

Mother: Wait! Have you done your homework for tomorrow?

He son: You’re like a broken record. Quit nagging me! I’ll do it later. Get over it!

Mother: You, stupid kid! I’ll sort you out when you get back!


Brian: It’s already April. Roll on July! Can’t wait for it to get here. We are going to spend our holiday on Bali.

Jennifer: Dream on! It costs a fortune. Where will you get that kind of money?

Brian: You’ve got to be joking? I work hard and save every month.

Jennifer: Really? That’s laugh! A dollar a month? Your paintings don’t pay the bills. Talent never pays the bills. It’s me who does! So grow up! Straighten up and fly right! You are not a student anymore. Find a better job and start earning some money.

Brian: Hold on! I could borrow it from the Stevensons…

Jennifer: Cut it out! You are talking crap. Who’ll pay it back then? My mother was right — you’re nothing but a lazy bastard and I shouldn’t have married you.

Brian: Cut it out, will you! You and your mother are always having a go at me and my patience is wearing thin.

Jennifer: Bollocks! Don’t tell me I’ve insulted you? Go on! Don’t tell me you’re insulted.

Brian: Shut up! I’m off to paint another picture. Leave me alone!

Jennifer: Thick as two short planks. Don’t worry, genius, I’ll leave you in peace. After all, someone’s got to do the shopping and cooking, haven’t they?


Boy: Give me the lollypop! I want it!

Girl: It’s mine! Don’t touch it! Get off!

Boy: Easy, easy! You might rip my t-shirt.

Girl: Hands off!

Teacher: Hey, kids! Keep it down!

I can’t hear what the bus driver’s saying.

Boy: Did you hear her? Shut up!

Girl: You, loony, belt up and push off! It’s my candy!

Teacher: Calm down, kids! We are getting on the bus. Come along!



My granny used to tell me she had to go to the market every day to buy fresh meat and vegetables for dinner. It was before the refrigerator was invented. Traditionally, eating was something that all family members did together because there was no chance to grab a bite or have a snack on the go like nowadays. In the past, most parents insisted that the whole family sat around the dining table at a certain time. They prayed and tried to act politely while eating. Even my mother used to tell me, “When my lunch is at its peak, I’m deaf and mute, so please don’t speak.” I can’t hear it today among my friends and it is most unlikely that I will say it to my kids.

Technical inventions have dramatically changed our habits and behavior. Usually we watch TV, smartphones or tablet PCs while we eat; we don’t share breakfast and lunch with our family and eat at different times. Microwaves have changed the way we cook and today it’s easy to do it in seconds without having to wait until your parents come back home from work. I know that it’s very rare for a lot of my friends’ families to sit at the table together and share their news over a good meal. Moreover, the thought of cooking for someone at home makes them nervous and anxious, for guests in particular. If it happens, the day turns into a nightmare and the hosts don’t feel happy at all. So, most prefer having snacks and lunch outside and ordering pizza or other convenience food has become quite natural. That’s why, times change, but not necessarily for the better.


I like throwing a dinner party for my friends. Yesterday I prepared a chicken casserole and put it in the freezer to make sure it did not go off. I took it out of the freezer in the morning and defrosted it. Then I put the chicken on and made a salad of lettuce, cheese, pickled carrot and ham. I heated up the casserole, making sure that it did not boil over and asked my boyfriend to pop out for some drinks.


The birthday was great, my mother helped me set the table and handed round plates with snacks and salad. My brother poured out drinks. As anyone needed a refill, he immediately came up and topped up their glasses. I served the main dish and all my friends dug in to pork and mashed potatoes. It was Daisy who didn’t touch her food.

“Why are you picking at the salad?” my brother asked her.

“Now she’s gonna say she pigged out on pizza this morning’, her boyfriend said gleefully and winked at him. “She thinks she needs to lose weight. So she has to cut down on fatty food’.

Soon he polished off both plates and happily smiled. He said it went well with the salad and everyone agreed. I started passing biscuits and gateau round while everyone else went outside to chat and let their dinner digest.


As we had nothing to eat the next day, I decided to get a takeaway. I ordered a sea-food pizza, my favourite. My brother says that I live on pizza because I adore it and eat it so often. I don’t argue because we have no leftovers. He will have to put up with my choice. I can’t be bothered cutting up onion, taking off tomato skins, chopping, boiling and frying all that in the morning. No way! I’m not cut out for it!


When you’re in a hurry, you don’t chew and instead you gobble your food down. If you want to enjoy it, you have to take time. I don’t remember the taste of what we were eating while serving in the Navy, we just wolfed it down and that’s it. Now I can afford to eat out every day but my wife likes to eat in and I have to admit she has a knack for cooking! On Saturday mornings, we usually send out for fish sandwiches and a nice tiramisu cake. Sometimes our friends call us and we have them round and serve up something special. While I’m barbecuing, my wife slices pizza up and lets everyone help themselves to what they want.

I know that Mike and Jenny, our neighbours, cut meat out entirely from their diet. They both have gastric ulcers and meat causes stabbing pains in their stomachs. It does not agree with them, so my wife usually cooks steamed vegetables and chicken for them. That goes well with olives and lettuce. I think we have to follow them if we want to feel healthier. They say a lot of raw vegetables can fill me up even though I suspect it’s not true, but my wife thinks vegetables can help her stay slim and she won’t put on weight. She says I can put away three steaks, a pizza and some beer in one meal and it’s unhealthy. Of course, it’s much better be off picking at a salad for half an hour pretending it’s so delicious. Oh, those women!


You know pizza is a kind of meal that takes some drink to wash it down. It might be either spicy or quite dry and water helps me swallow it. My friends usually drink beer and they say “let’s drink to the teetotaler’ bantering with me. Today I woke up late and had some chocolate biscuits with milk and cereal. I didn’t really want it and just was dipping a biscuit in milk. It soaked up the milk and I was enjoying it very much. I felt great that morning after being out the night before at a party with my mates. Even dark stains on the tablecloth didn’t make me feel sick. I was smiling, recalling Jane trying to water down neat whiskey with sweet cola. Her hands were shaking and cola spilled over the edge of the glass. She’d never drunk whiskey before and it made her feel nervous because she wanted to look cool. So it was enough for her to drink it up and flake out, out cold, as if she were an alcoholic, drinking like a fish every night. She’s been sleeping upstairs in my bedroom since then.


A hungry man goes into a restaurant at a railway station and orders a whole chicken. He asks a waiter to bring it to him to examine it before cooking. The waiter brings one at once. The hungry man puts his point finger into the chicken’s rump and says:

‘It’s from Brazil, defrosted and 6 months old. Ugh, how disgusting! Bring me a fresh one.’ Stunned, the waiter goes away. The manager sends him across the street to the butcher’s. The waiter, breathing heavily, takes a fresh chicken to the strange man. The hungry man again puts his point finger into the chicken’s rump and says:

‘Hm-m, it’s from a local village, killed two days ago. But it’s ok. Cook it!’

A visitor at another table, drunk and barely able to move, comes up to the stranger, turns his back on him, lowers his trousers, underpants to his knees and asks in a stammering voice:

‘Excuse me, I’ve been here for a few days and can’t remember where I am from. Could you help me, please?’



I started painting about two years ago, after my divorce. I wanted to forget about my previous life. There was no rush, so I did about two or three hours every evening, just to relax and pass some time — I used to come home from work, tired, but after painting for a few hours, I felt totally refreshed. Last week, some colleagues dropped in on me and saw my paintings. Some of them complimented me on them, so I gave them away without thinking any more of it. Yesterday, one of my colleagues introduced me to an art agent, who offered me the opportunity to display my paintings in his gallery. I was so thrilled, I hadn’t been able to calm down until now. I think that “every cloud has a silver lining’.


My boyfriend works as a programmer in a global software company. I envy him since he doesn’t have to clock on and clock off when he leaves work, unlike me in the hospital. He can stay at home and work in bed for weeks without seeing his colleagues and management at all! They have no machine that shows he has worked an extra long shift like me and that allows me to take time off at a later date. He has no shifts at all. I was planning to take a holiday in July this year but had to bring it forward as I was told July was going to be a very busy time for our hospital. I love my work but my hospital is understaffed and I hate to always be pressed for time. I find it almost impossible to find the time to pay more attention to the patients and talk to them a little bit longer than I do now, even though I feel that is an essential part of my job. Of course, I can chat for a few minutes but then I have to press on with my other duties. Our hospital hires many nurses from overseas. However, when their work permits run out after three years, they have to leave and the management has to fill staff vacancies again. Many nurses like me who are permanent staff for five or ten years burn themselves out and can’t stand it anymore. The strenuous work quickly wears them out and they quit, completely exhausted and devastated after five or seven years.


I’m a teenager and still have a lot of spare time unlike my parents. So after school I usually hang out with my friends in the streets or in the park. My mum and dad say they used to knock around together for years and it was OK in their days. If they have free time today, they say they love whiling away their days going round the shops or just chatting to one of their old friends. Sometimes our family goes away for a weekend and mucks about at our old cottage in the countryside, enjoying nice weather or riding bikes together. Mum adores it because it’s out of the city and there is no one who can reach us. The few neighbours are very friendly and welcoming and we always get together for barbecue or a cup of tea in the evenings.


We were informed the sales conference would be coming around soon. So we had to hurry our sales reports along. To tell the truth, I couldn’t believe that the conference was coming up again already. Before I knew it, the last year had slipped away! There’s an awful lot of paper work to do leading up to the conference, given that it’s going to be held in our foreign branch. I hope it’ll break things up and make life a bit more interesting there. The excessive hype about our new products and the new marketing campaign completely passed me by. I was busy working out a new distribution channel in Brazil from scratch.


I’m happy we hit it off, folks, so I’m not going to drag out my speech. Only two weeks left before the exams start and we’re going to have to pull our socks up, if we want to pass. We’re going to set aside the next fortnight just for revision and have a cramming session on the eve of the exam. In other words, we’re going to free up some time by cancelling all non-exam lessons like PE and Arts. Are you up for it? All school sports matches will be held over until the exams are finished. We think it would be better than trying to fit revision in around sport commitments. The sports staff agreed that putting back those matches wouldn’t cause any serious problems. We won’t set schedules back too much so that we won’t be able to fit in all the matches before the end of the term. So now, put everything else out of your mind and concentrate on your revision. No more frittering time away — get down to some serious work.


Sports staff said they had to bring the game forward to this Tuesday as school would be closed the next week. We started discussing how to prepare for the exams and Jim was dragging his speech out for an hour as if he were a headteacher. I thought I had ages to prepare for my exams but they have crept up on me in no time at all. We got together for a cramming session at Paul’s house and used his printer. Soon he asked us to try to eke out the paper since he had no more at home and it was late to pop out to buy some more.


I wish I could go on a journey into the past long before I was born. There is no time machine that could take me back to my childhood. I can only try to think back to what everyday life was like 50, 60, 100 years ago, before TV, before computers, before fridges and washing machines. It turns out that many of our devices date back to the early 20th century. I couldn’t imagine that old vacuum cleaner in our attic is just a leftover from a bygone era.


I’m sorry to hold you up but you must sign these forms before you go in tomorrow. I’m happy the meeting is over. It dragged on and I got irritable too. It took me back to the times I worked as a secretary in the court. OK, thanks a lot! See you tomorrow!

Now I have to go home. I’ll have to drive ten miles at rush hour. Yesterday there was an accident and a pile-up of ten cars caused a long tailback. If there are no hold-ups today, I won’t get stuck in a traffic jam. So I must arrive by about seven o’clock. I have to call my kids and hurry them up. Their French lesson ran on longer than expected, so they won’t leave school till 4.30 p.m. and I’ll have to wait for them in the car. Then they’ll be complaining they can’t keep up with me on the way to the gym.

OK, I am having some time to sort out the post now… Three weeks passed by before I got a reply to my letter of complaint. Here it is. They got around to sending the reply. How can I plan anything with such hold-ups? Nobody knows what lies ahead. All I can do is just take it one day at a time.



When I first appeared in Cherry GmbH’s office I thought I might be promoted to the position of Senior Regional Sales Manager but I was a long way out thinking that. Sales Director Mr. Suesmilch, in all innocence, sincerely told me there were enough taxi drivers in Germany and they didn’t need one more. The best offer was to come back to Russia and try to succeed in climbing the ladder over there. I spent ten years in vain. So when I was offered another position in a successful multinational corporation, I jumped at the chance. One of the main reasons for my immediate acceptance was the opportunity for a large amount of foreign travel. One day I was sitting relaxing in a cafe by the Seine after a hard day’s business, before jetting off to an important meeting the next morning in Rome. How romantic it all was. It took me five years to start recognizing that my emotions changed. I can’t say I understood that a life spent on planes and in hotels is lonely, dull and exhausting — not at all. I didn’t long to be back at home and didn’t dream of the simple pleasures of having someone to watch television with, of being asked how my day was. I had a nice family and three kids.

However, one day, my mindset changed. As I lay on the bed in my luxurious hotel room, I could see no benefit other than a high salary. “What’s the point being a hunting dog in an expensive suit with an indulging, patronizing smile, doing the same job day after day, year after year?” I asked myself. “I talk to the same people, I tell them the same things and every company in every city in the world is the same.”

It was at a Chinese exhibition when I first thought the unthinkable. I warmed to my computer-related topic with a Chinese colleague and we found a lot in common. He offered me the chance to set up a common business and I thought to myself, “Why the hell do I have to go on like this?” To tell the truth, I was scared, but for the first time in my life I was truly content. It took us two years and a number of false starts with the wrong products, but finally we succeeded in getting it right. Who dares wins!


My Grandma loves looking at her old photographs. She says memories come flooding back and relives them. She says they are “good’ and “bad’. The former ones make her happy taking her back to the times when she was young and beautiful. The latter stir up sad memories and remind her of the things she would like to change but can’t. My mum often sympathises with our Grandma and tells me we shouldn’t let bad memories eat away at us, we should put bad experiences behind us. We have to always try to live in the present and live for the future. But I think it’s easier said than done.


Our grandparents and parents store up so many memories over the years, good ones and bad ones, that it’s worth trying to write them down or record them. My mother keeps an old photo of me and associates it with my early childhood before she divorced my father. Looking at the photos she always smiles and sighs. It suddenly came back to me how fragile and unstable the happiness might be. So when I saw my Grandma looking through the album, I took my notebook and asked her to tell me something about those photos. Of course, they stirred up lots of happy memories and some sad ones too. For example, when she and her husband lost their jobs, my mum was very little and they tried to get along on just their Social Security checks. She added that happy ones stuck with her forever, though. People try to block out their sad memories, but there is no use in doing that because you might forget the good ones. It’s true that you can get an unexpected flashback to your unpleasant experience, but it can help you learn a lesson or teach others how to avoid it.


For me this picture conjured up a series of crazy events. I was the only girl in the group and when I got my diploma I was on cloud nine and wanted everyone to see how happy I was. So when going out in the corridor after the graduation I couldn’t hold-back my feelings any longer and started jumping like a child. Little wonder I didn’t notice the steps on my way and fell down. As I fell, I grabbed another boy’s gown and he came down on top of me. Then we both were taken to hospital with a broken wrist and foot. Guess what happened next! We got to know one another and eventually married. It’s amazing how one picture can call up an event in such detail. When I look at it, my thoughts always flash back immediately to that moment. Sometimes I ask him “Does it ring a bell?”

“Not just one — a thousand bells!” he usually replies, smiling.



Eric was a reliable colleague and excellent employee. He was not greedy and never had money to burn, but he managed to get by. However he always said he felt uneasy in our corporation and wanted to try something else. He was content, and never worried about promotion or a great career. To me he was the odd man out because he even didn’t have a girlfriend. So I wasn’t surprised when he said he was going to get a new lease on life. As the big day arrived, all folks were incredulous saying, “How can you throw all you’ve worked for down the drain?” However, Eric was ready for adventure. He left the office and never looked back. I’ve never met him since then but I’m sure he’s happy, if not wealthy.


It was the first time I had a week off and we set off for a lovely hotel which was tucked away in a deep forest. Our room on the first floor opened onto a balcony with lovely view of a charming lake. Woods stretched away to the horizon. Early morning I could see a few fishermen who were spread out over the lakeshore. My wife and I went out onto the balcony wrapping ourselves up in tweed blankets, drank frothy coffee and felt we were completely cut off from the crazy modern world!


“Come in, mate. Do you like it?”

“What a great room!”

“Well, I like it too. I rented it at a knockdown price. The landlady was kind. The room was a bit dim and dull when we moved in, but my girlfriend bought these nice curtains, which helped to brighten it up. In fact, I like it so much here that I’d rather stay in than go out most evenings while she’s working in the cafe.”

“You’re a lucky, man! The cave I rent is so miserable. I hate it. I stay out as long as I can! I even stayed on at college tonight until it closed!”

“You may need to find a girlfriend too.”

“No, thanks! They all are ‘high maintenance’, you know. Too expensive for me by far. Well, I’ve come to bring you your powerbank with the cable — you left it behind at the lecture this morning.”

“Oh, thanks! How stupid of me! I owe you big time.”

“Never mind, I stayed behind to ask the girls about a revision and then saw the powerbank lying there.”

“I see. Thank you very much. So, interested in girls, are you? Well, take it easy and remain calm!

“I’m OK. Just hate talking about it.”

“No problem, understand. Would you like a coffee now you’re here?”

“I am in a hurry. Gotta be off. But I’d love to call back another time, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure. Let me know when you’re free. It’d be great to get together with the others tomorrow evening. Feel free to drop in.”



Now I’m sitting and dreading Luisa coming back. I am wondering if it’s really her flat and I am the one staying here as a guest. It all started so easily and innocently and looked like a favour to a friend. Luisa called and asked to just put her up for a couple of nights… Now, more than three months on, Luisa is still here, in my flat and shows no sign of keeping her word to leave.

The thing is, I can’t bring myself to tell her. She’s taken advantage and treats the place as her own, even borrowing my clothes to go out or for interviews. Of course, she always asks me first, saying her clothes seem really boring and when she sees mine, they all look great. She even wants to look like me at interviews. “People judge you by what you wear, you know!” that kind of thing. So if I said “no’, it would sound like I didn’t want to help her in a friendly way. Of course, she always washes all the clothes before giving them back, but my blood is starting to boil. The truth is, I’m scared Luisa will take offence, accuse me of being selfish and not caring about her situation because she is in trouble. I vividly imagined her crying and saying I’m throwing her out while she has no job, no money and no other place to stay.

I tried to think up some excuses in order to get Luisa to leave, but it was unfair. So I decided to make my feelings clear to her and bring the subject up this evening. I realise I will sound selfish, saying that I value my own privacy and don’t want to live with her on a permanent basis and that our arrangement was meant to be temporary but it has gone on far too long and has taken advantage of my good nature.

It will be hard to say that but I know I’ll be honest. Sometimes friends are OK when they don’t get in the way.


The factory closed, we were laid off and the number of problems started to increase. I asked my friends to get together in a café. I was afraid no-one would come but it was filling up gradually. Things got worse last week, we got no reply from the city council and the situation is obviously now not looking good. After the owners started moving production to the Far East at the beginning of the year, all business in our area was down, but the mayor says it is picking up now. I think our discontent is heating up and we can no longer stay calm. The city authorities have been ignoring us for ten months and even the most patient and long-suffering agreed to sue them. So the governor and the district attorney eventually woke up to what’s happening.


I’d been working in the IT department for 7 years until a total changeover happened. A new CEO was appointed and he decided to make most staff as mobile as possible. I could not make my mind up what to start with but he said I would be in charge of moving all data and applications to some cloud platforms as well as developing and supporting the new infrastructure. So I was promoted. It was not so bad.

On the other hand, it didn’t make my life easier, though. I had to commute to the office and an avalanche of problems didn’t make me and my colleagues in the IT department mobile and flexible either. “The bodies were out but the minds were in’. We had a year from hell — we have phased out all the old computers and phased in completely new ones — mostly servers. We didn’t have to work it out from scratch and to come up with a new idea. We implemented the existing mobile network solution. My colleagues weren’t sure how things would pan out at first and we faced a few problems with securing data and online traffic. However, the arguments about the new system blew over quite quickly. Our management, sales and marketing staff started appearing in the office once a week and now I may not see some of them for months. Yet I can watch them emailing, chatting and meeting online around the clock. They have a chance to plan their life and work according to the result they have to achieve, but sometimes I wonder where the border between their private lives and office responsibilities lie. My wife says it is “a power button’ problem — as you switch your mobile or laptop off, the border is crossed.


Last year my girlfriend and I broke up. It took me a while to get over that. I fell into depression and suffered for a long time. I knew I had to get over my depression, but decided to give up smoking first. I felt awful and sick for the first few weeks but that’s all worn off now. I also quit hanging out with my friends in the evenings and started poring over books trying to catch up with my classmates. Morning jogging helped a lot too. Six months had passed before I got used to it all and stuck with my new regime. So now I feel much better than before.


Surgical indication is an intervention aimed at benefitting a patient when no other kind of treatment can help. It is established based on validated criteria. In business it is profit. Last year I was brought in to turn around SSMicro when the company had been in the red for three years. The quality of their products was going down and so did the profit. The main problem was that they saw the result but could not see what caused it. So they needed surgery. I soon realised that SSMicro had been sticking to the only supplier who was no longer able to meet new market requirements. The management thought it was enough to just tinker with the design and product range, as well as the channel support without getting bogged down into the minutiae of the whole company structure, as they said. The shareholders, though, supported my plan to shake things up completely.

I suggested to both change suppliers and make some drastic changes to the company’s processes simultaneously. The obsolete procedures had to be turned into new effective ones. I started to change things around slowly. At first staff were not happy with those changes and it took a lot of time and effort to explain to them that it would pay off. We had to restructure a few departments and change employees over but no one was laid off. The idea was to “fine-tune’ the whole structure so that it could work smoothly and efficiently, plus, prevent it from going back to the previous inefficient procedures. It was hard for all of us. Only now, some staff are beginning to perk up. Of course, I was putting a lot of pressure on them but it was the only way to ensure an effective turnaround. Now that we’ve achieved the targets I planned, I can ease up a bit. I knew staff wouldn’t be keen on me messing around with their routines, but the company had to catch up with its competitors. Without breaking obsolete schemes, they were unable to achieve a new way of working and prevent profit from declining. This led to improved efficiency and enabled us to keep up with the latest changes to meet customers’ requirements.”



I crochet dolls for toddlers and adults and I’ve been making them for about six years. Now my technique has improved and they’re getting better all the time. You have to make a lot of very bad dolls before you make a good one. You learn from your mistakes though and it’s useful. I’m sure it’s important never to give up and always just keep on trying until you get it right. Practice makes perfect, that’s very true in my case.


It didn’t start yesterday but what you can see today really looked completely different just half a century ago. Now I’m falling apart like an old dilapidated book and a light gust of wind can easily knock me off my feet. I’m not crying watching the big crowd attempting to pull down that ramshackle house. It used to be called “a school’. This word stands for nothing today, but it was the whole Universe for us then. Your mother and I met in there.

She was standing by the window and tears were rolling down her cheeks. I saw her tearing a piece of paper apart and screwing it up. It was her maths test. She was beautiful in her fury with her cheeks blushing and lips pursed tight. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and knocked over a bucket and spilt water over the floor. She looked at me and said “sorry’. Those barbarians in the Government don’t need schools anymore and tear them down all over the world. They think they are mindreaders. How naïve they are! It won’t work, believe me. They kindle the fire they won’t be able to put out. I taught you to speak and you started thinking after you were able to speak and read fluently. There is no other way to make a human think. They can root out education and schools and they’ll end up dying out because they can’t stamp out the way humans have become humans — through speech.


The local authorities are planning to knock down our village to make way for a new road. We disagree and are determined to fight back. They understand they can’t get rid of us easily and are bending over backwards to persuade each house owner to move out at their own expense. We won’t, even though it seems there is no help to see us through our difficult time. Yesterday I turned on two neighbours who tried to get me to change my mind. They said we would eventually end up suffering a setback because the authorities would think out a way to pull down our houses. I don’t know who else could see to it and maybe we will have to sue them, if we want to win the battle.



I had never felt so nervous in my life. I’d had many interviews but this one was quite different. I even felt my hands and knees shaking. “This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself. “They won’t eat me alive. I have to pull myself together, if I want to “join their club’.

This was easier said than done, since the longer I was waiting, the more nervous I felt. I obviously had a feeling something would go wrong and tried to keep my eye on the ball as I was the last in the queue of applicants. So when a beautiful, middle-aged woman in a smart business suit opened the door and called my name with a deep mellow voice, I was sure it would be a challenge to talk to her. I tried to answer without trace of tremor or fear and weakness in my voice, looking into her eyes quietly and without blinking.

“Hello, I’m Susanne Dortwill. Come in and relax.”

The office was spacious and looked luxurious. But I was thinking of the questions that she may ask. As the interview progressed, I started realising Susanne was asking standard questions, which I had been asked before, as if she wanted to put me at ease. I was 100% right because later came a question which I expected and even rehearsed.


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