While on holiday in Malta there was this sign opposite a restaurant in Valetta´s mainstreet.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge .
I heard the name before in connection with the blog .
Back home started googling .....Coleridge and Vlieland and came up with this .............
Looking back, looking forward: confessions of a spin-doctor, 38 years in the press department
By Peter Vlieland
Former public relations adviser to the Embassy,1964-2002
Relations between Britain and Germany are like a garden, a big one with a tremendous and indeed impressive variety of trees, shrubs and flowers, growing at all sorts of levels and in many different stages of development. And as any gardener will tell you, each and every one needs to be nurtured and tended, needs to be watered, pruned or reshaped.
After all, our two countries are in comparable stages of post-industrial development. And as British-German relations grow closer there is less and less to be fussed over and what is left, dear me, too often gets treatment enough to kill any plant.............
Let me stop preaching. I have certainly seen a great change in attitudes towards Germany in Britain since I first came into the field of British-German public relations in 1964. There is little need to analyse what is past. The resentments of nearly 40 years ago have receded, been boiled down to a nasty irreducible sludge that can be left to dry out and decay like manure.
What there is now is a real interest in Germany. Still not wide enough but growing all the time, particularly among the under-40s. There is demand for knowledge about Germany and Germans that is regrettably still not at the levels of interest that young Germans show in Britain but year after year, ground gained is ground held. You can see it even in the media.
To go back to the gardening metaphor just once more, I do not want to go over ground already over-tilled elsewhere, but to mention a flourishing growth here and there.
The British are now among the leaders in the number of foreign visitors to Germany, not exactly running into millions, but even so, no-one ever pretended that Germany was Costa country. But more visits, more youth exchanges and school visits, universities blending "German years" into British courses and vice versa, and of course even more business contacts at the billions level.
And at the daily-life level, perhaps the most important of all, there is a growing market for seminars, conferences, lectures. The German Embassy does its bit, and so notably does the Goethe Institute, whose Kensington foyer on some weeknights is as busy as a railway terminal because of all the "happenings." And in Germany the British Council flies the flag for Shakespeare, Shelley and Jane Austen.
German government cuts on spending in this field are shortsighted and unwise as, on the British side for instant, the constant salami treatment meeted out to the BBC World Service. On both sides, the amounts of money involved are small, the effects incalculable, the decisions indefensible.
I mentioned the media. Here the sea change has become remarkable. It is no longer just the Financial Times that gives robust and incisive coverage of German affairs. It now comes from papers where such developments would have seemed impossible even 10 years ago. Given the impetus given to coverage in the popular press by British importation of professional footballers, I dub it the Jürgen Klinsmann Effect. But some wise choices of Federal President have played an important, often underestimated, role in winning over sceptical newsmen.
It goes further than that. In the autumn of 1998 there appeared a remarkable article recalling that poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge not only steeped himself in German language and culture just 200 years ago but influenced English writers from Matthew Arnold to Thomas Hardy through his awareness of German thinking that indeed continued, as the writer put it, until 1914 "slammed the door that Coleridge has opened." The writer pleads that "now Kohl, last of the wartime generation of Germans, has left the stage it is time we inherited the riches that Coleridge bequeathed us." Remarkable indeed, not just for the views expressed but the platform used. They come from the columnist Daniel Johnson and the vehicle he used was, yes, indeed, "The Times" (Oct 2 1998).
So what I have seen is change that has been gradual – and gradually to the good. Not a bad thing in itself. Violent fluctuation gives rise to the danger of a rebound. And in the framework of this trend of "easy easement," it is instructive to look at the traditional British approach to other countries on the far side of the Channel and beyond. The tendency for Brits to indulge delightfully superior feelings that run so deep they can be traced in folklore and literature is directed more at other nations, some regarded as centuries-old enemies, other as centuries-old figures of fun.
In that category Germans have actually got off rather lightly, the more as those with any sense of history know all to well that Germany was a centuries-old ally and the best we had on the Continent or anywhere else.
And anyway, our 21st century, our Information Society and our TV-led culture will shape an outlook already making these attitudes obsolescent. And we shall certainly be closer together than before, -- and just as intent on both sides on retaining our own identity, heritage and culture within a framework that is politically, economically and socially in tune with requirements and realities of the day.
Ambassadors I have known? A distinguished tally, and I particularly recall dapper Blankenhorn, witty von Hase, jovially aristocratic Wechmar, urbane Hartmann, the imperturbably avuncular Richthofen, the superbly polished von Moltke, and the nothing-can-stop-me ("Here I Come!") von Ploetz.
Von Richthofen left London with two very particular flowers in his buttonhole. The Evening Standard once dubbed him the Cindy Crawford of the Diplomatic Corps. And when in the course of his multifarious duties he visited the offices of our best-selling tabloid he inspired the immortal headline "The Hun meets the Sun."
And of the Press Counsellors? I have known eleven in all, going back all the way to dear pyjama-shirted Hans Scherer (who was at the Embassy in the mid-sixties at the same time as legendary Brigitte Lohmeyer, truly a Juno among cultural counsellors).
Over the years those Press Counsellors were a hard working bunch, dedicated diplomats, except for one by dramatic contrast who was, as we say in this country, a bit of a rough diamond, and who achieved the odd feat of antagonising much of London's German Press Corps.
And in the outer office of the Embassy Press Department there was, to paraphrase the Lord Chancellor in „Iolanthe" a devoted and capable stream of "agreeable girls" throughout the years who make the Diplomatic Service what it is, and without which it could not function. A special word for Inge Schmidt, last heard of in well-deserved retirement in Wimbledon, who was such a dab hand with Glühwein that I still use her wonderful recipe at Christmas.
Drawing some threads together after 34 years' connection with the Embassy, I can see bright sunlit uphills. So much is good and on the up and up, and that which is negative is receding. Yet, as I know well, there is still work to be done. There always will be. We just have to keep working at it within a realistic framework.
And as the negative loses ground, we shall face a new challenge, to keep the British-German relationship not just positive but interesting.
Peter Vlieland was a public relations adviser to the Embassy from 1964 to 2002 and in 1998 was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his services. He retired in 2002.
Now back to Samuel Coleridge
text of the rime of the ancient mariner
The flying Dutchman or de vliegende Hollander
The rime of the ancient mariner