I'm Paul, that's all.
* 30.12.1953 + 7.12.2006
In memoriamIn September 1989 I was asked to take over an English conversation group of the
Volkshochschule Pfaffenhofen. This was called “Monday Night is Conversation Night”.
I am still running this group and some of the people who were there in the group when
I took it over are still with me today. Paul Elfert was one of those.
I soon became aware of Paul and his talents because of his great interest in all things
English. He was especially interested in pop culture. He had grown up with the Beatles
and knew all their songs, and he had a great liking for the manic humour of Monty
Python and could even understand it, which I can’t say of all Germans! His other great
talent was for language. He could listen to and pick up regional accents and imitate
them, to the great amusement of everyone else. I think that one of the reasons why
this group has stayed together for so long,and has attracted other like-minded
individuals over the years is the character of Paul Elfert. Somehow he was the centre
of the group, but never in a dominant, overbearing manner. His jokes and often ironic
but never hurtful comments and his gentle manner set the tone for each evening. He
was immediately missed if, for any reason he was absent, and this was on very rare
occasions, as when his lung illness confined him to hospital some years ago.
A comment on the title of this appreciation. Usually at the beginning of the semester,
if there are any people new to the group, I ask people to introduce themselves: name,
where they live, family, hobbies, why they want to come to the course etc. Paul would
invariably introduce himself thus: I’m Paul, that’s all (pronouncing his name in the
English way). Of course that was by no means “all”; there was a whole lot more to Paul,
more than he himself ever realised, but he let people find out about him gradually,
week by week.
In November 1992 I organised a weekend visit to London. This was the start of the
highly successful and popular Fishburn Tours and Paul was one of that group, of
course. He then accompanied me on all the tours up to and including Bournemouth,
2000. After that, unfortunately because of his unemployment, he did not feel able to
join us any more. Paul was always the life and soul of those tours, and he was
especially skilled in finding the right pub for the evening and the right beer. He would
go along with my sometimes rather unusual ideas, even , in the Lake District, hiking
several miles in the rain to please me! What he said behind my back I don’t know! I
have looked out some photos which I hope Arno will scan and put onto this home page
so that you can all see how much he enjoyed those trips. We also always enjoyed
reading his travel reports afterwards because, apart from their amusing style, we
also found out all sorts of things which he’d noticed/experienced which we didn’t
know about at the time! Not only were his written reports good. His videos were
great. His masterpiece, in our opinion, is the interview with the young Irish
schoolgirls at Howth, but there were also other interviews, in Birmingham, for
Sadly, despite all these talents, Paul was a person who was not able to exploit them to
the full. He was too modest and self-effacing, too lacking in confidence to make the
most of these skills. Those of us who were privileged to know him, however,
appreciated these gifts. We have lost a great friend, and, as I wrote in the paper,
Monday evenings will never be the same again.