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  • Thanks for a great story Stephen. Though my experience is by comparison only miniscule, your piece evoked memories of spending time in cold war East Berlin and going into a ‘fast food’ restaurant in which there was a long wait and just one meal type despite a long list of menu options.

    I too have a string bag btw – so will now feel optimistic every time I use it!

  • Thanks, Kerry. Sounds like East Berlin and Leningrad were twinned. Canteens there also served the same grey slab of something, regardless of whether you asked for the cutlet, the beefsteak, or the schnitzel. And as for “fast food”, I once saw a customer in a restaurant have the temerity to ask the waiter where his main course was as he’d ordered it over half an hour ago. “If you want to eat fast, you should have gone to a self-service place” spat the waiter. “This is a restaurant!”

  • Oh boy, such memories… We also sat in a cafe and had equal temerity to pick up a menu from a nearby table. The waitress marched over and snapped ‘Wo kommt das denn her?!’, snatched it out of my friend’s hand, marched off, and then returned 5 minutes later brandishing the same menu …

  • Lovely story, Stephen. I wonder if there is a name for those free bags made of cotton or some other environmentally friendly fabric that you get given at conferences, trade fairs and the like. In Liverpool recently for IATEFL I found my way to the conference centre simply by following other delegates who were carrying a bag blazoned with the name of a publisher I won’t name as it is a competitor. And I’m very happy to be seen with my free cotton bag from the Chelsea Flower Show. Not to mention my Avoska which is bright pink and will allegedly help to save the turtles. All so much nicer than a plastic carrier bag.

  • Thanks, Liz. The only thing I can think of for those conference bags is goody bag, which macmillandictionary.com defines as “a bag containing small presents given by a company to help advertise a product or service”. But the focus there seems to be on the contents rather than the bag itself.

  • Stephen, Kerry: this indeed brings back sweet memories of ‘banana’ queues and reading menus several pages long (they were books in fact) only to be told by the grumpy waiter that they had one dish available (vegetarians never had much luck)!

  • A different world Kati for sure, I can’t even imagine… I do feel privileged to have a tiny idea of what it was like, although at the time I did feel guilty for being a spectator.

  • Dear Reader

    Covering one more aspect of this word…

    The Grand Russian Phraseology Explanation Dictionary by Maurice Michelssohnen (Большой толково-фразеологический словарь Михельсона): ‘На авось не надейся. Обманула меня надеюшка!’…

    That is ‘Don’t hope to chance. Hopefulness has deceived me’. ‘Надеяться на авоську’ (hope to chance) is the widely used spoken expression that describes the attitude towards life of a lot of people. ‘Надеюшка; авоська’ or diminutive forms of the word ‘надежда; авось’ (Hopefulness; very close to ‘maybe’) are lost in translation. In the case with ‘авоська’ such forms are music to ears for native speakers…

    Kind regards,
    H. Gh.

    P.S. Different ways… just to be on the safe side.

    The Quoting for poems:

    Love English.

    OR Other Quoting: ‘love English’.