Gerhard Schröder admitted often during his seven-year tenure as German chancellor that his English was pretty weak. He was heard to say it was a pity he didn't have a better command on the language. While he could make small talk with international guests, when it came to affairs of state, he had to call in the interpreters.
Now he's trying to change all that. According to several news reports, Schröder is taking intensive English at an elegant 18th century country house in the bucolic Welsh countryside. The school, which is located in the town Montgomery, near the border with England, offers courses for top business professionals and promises quick results.
But it's not all grammar drills and reading comprehension for the 61-year-old jovial Social Democrat. All work and no play, after all, makes Gerd a dull boy. He and his German body guards have been spotted making several visits to the local pub, the Dragon Hotel, enjoying a pint after school is out.
It could be, however, that residents of the peaceful town of Montgomery are not anxious to have the international media descending on them to watch the former world leader have a tipple or two. Although the pub's owner Robert Williams confirmed the story for the dpa news agency, when Deutsche Welle called, a female staff member gave a quick denial that Schröder had ever showed his face in the establishment.
The former chancellor is pepping up his English in preparation for a post-politics career as an executive and high-powered lobbyist for Ringier, a Swiss-based media group with holdings in Switzerland and several eastern European countries.While he'll be pulling in a pretty salary with that firm, Schröder is also preparing to write his memoirs. They are supposed to come out in the fall and bring the former chancellor a cool million or two. Life after the chancellery is looking very lucrative indeed.