Back to the Eighties…

Gender benders an’ all that.  Men wearing make-up and dressing like girls.  All very cutting edge in the early eighties.  Here’s a Culture Club hit that I haven’t heard on t’wireless for years.

I guess the answer is… yes, because years later, lead singer Boy George was convicted of assault.  The irony was probably not lost on him at the time.

Have a cultured day, won’t you!


Who used to have the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home?  Who remembers when libraries had microfiches and index cards?

That is how we used to access information on the capital of Rwanda, history of the Sorbian language, crop rotation in the 14th century, etc.

Nowadays: we have people asking the hive mind on Facebook.

I’m on several Facebook pages:

  • Expat in Germany
  • Creative writing
  • History
  • Philately
    • Pitcairn Island
  • Travel
    • Pitcairn Island
  • Astronomy
    • Planet Pluto
  • Many, many more…

Most of the groups are good fun, eg learning about the postal history of Planet Pluto, or something like that…  I like to read the posts and contribute when others ask questions.

Today, while staring out of the window on the tram today, I coined a new acronym:

JFGI (Just Flipping Google It)

At least I thought it was new.  However, it did already exist, as mentioned in Urban Dictionary.

Years ago, I used to be a supply teacher.  The number of times I’d be asked,

Sir, what’s this word mean?

My reply would be:

Have you looked in the back of the book?  Have you looked in the dictionary?  No, then do it, and tell me what the answer is.  I am not here to spoonfeed you.

That was with 13 year olds from some of the rougher parts of Teesside.

Fast-forward to the year 2020.

FSQ’s (Flipping Stupid Questions) such as:

Where is the British Consulate in this city?

Umm…. JFGI.

I decide to relent.  I decide to send the enquirer the Consulate URL.

I then get supplementary FSQ’s…

What are the opening hours?  How do I get there by public transport?  How much is the train fare?  Can I reclaim my train fare?  Do I need to make an appointment?  Can you come with me to the Consulate tomorrow at 9am?  I need a helper with officialdom.

Umm, guess what…  JFGI.  And no, I am not at the beck and call of bone idle strangers.  I am not here to spoonfeed you…

Further questions from other groups come on an hourly basis.

Can you tell me about German history?

In a very polite English way, I reply:

German history is long, rich and complex.  What specifically do wish to know?

In hindsight I should have just replied…


Another question comes from would be Dostoyevskys.

How do I write a perfect novel?  I want to write my autobiography.  What should I write about?  How much should I charge for my book?

I decide not to reply.  I just think: JFGI.

These are questions from grown adults, not 13 year olds from the rough end of Teesside.

Then there are the ridiculously picky requests, not quite needing a JFGI response.  The enquirers tend to PM me, addressing me as “Sir”, or send me friend requests.  These are along the lines of:

Where in this city can I find an French-speaking dentist who speaks the language with an Albanian accent?  I need someone urgently to carry out root canal treatment on my Jack Russell puppy, who is scared of anyone who does not speak French to him.


Can anyone help me to find an apartment in this city?  My budget is 400€ per month.  I need a place from next week.  Who can come with me tomorrow at 11:00 to view an apartment?

You get the idea. Give me strength…

I feel like the help desk guy in this clip.

Have an self-starting day, won’t you!




“Yes sir,” when you are speaking to me!

In 1983 I was visiting Sunray, who was stationed as a sergeant in the British Army on sunny Cyprus.  I sat in his office while he was on the phone, requesting transport off the local Royal Corps of Transport unit.  It was a fairly mundane conversation.

“So, can you do that for me?  YES WHAT?  ‘Yes, SERGEANT!’ WHEN YOU ARE SPEAKING TO ME!”

Sunray then slammed the phone down so hard, I thought he was going to break it.  (He nearly did, I suspect.)  I enquired:

“Er, Dad, what did he say?”

Sunray, fuming, explained:

“That RCT driver just called me ‘mate.'”

For those of you who do not have an ex-military background, calling a sergeant “mate” when you are a private is like being caught in bed with the vicar’s wife.

You. Just.  Don’t.  Do. It.

Fast forward to 2006.  Ginge in Germany is working as a teacher in a rough comprehensive school in Inbredsville, where my niece was a student. I’m handing out textbooks at the start of the lesson.

Smirking at me and his mates, the class hero says:

“Thanks, mate.”

My head instantly beams me up from Inbredsville to the Sovereign Base Area, Cyprus.  I become my Dad.


The student flinched.  My teaching assistant flinched.

“Your niece said you were a very softly-spoken kind of guy.”

After work, I called in on Sunray.  I told him about how I reacted to being called  “mate.”  He grinned and patted me on the back, saying:

Well done, son.  I clearly taught you everything you know when it comes to insubordination.

Have a matey day, won’t you!

Image result for nco shouting

Am I too harsh?

“Am I too harsh?”  I sometimes ask myself.  I’m a pads brat.  I’ve worn the Queen’s uniform myself.  I can do touchy-feely.  For a while.  And then I try to move on from moaning about the problem to resolving the problem.  I’m by no means a Marxist, but I do like his assertion:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.”

I suppose my slogan would be in German:

“Meckern, und dann machen.”

(“Moan, and then do [something about it].”)

Today’s poser is this.

Jasna is a friend of mine.  She’s nearly 50 and works in education.  Her son is 21 and in his final year at university, reading Business Studies.  Personally, I think he’s more a creative type, and would have perhaps been more suited to a course such as drama or music.  But that’s his choice.

This academic year, son, has been coming back home almost every single weekend and often not going back to university, two hours away by train, until the Tuesday.  Weekends at home seem to be spent in bed, sleeping, on the living room sofa, snoozing, in the same clothes, four days flat.  His bath towel remains clean and dry – because he doesn’t shower.  It would barely be an exaggeration to say you smell him before you see him.  He and personal hygiene seem to be estranged from one another.

How does mum, Jasna, feel about it?  Recently she let off steam to me.

  • She was fed-up of him being at home, getting under her feet.
  • He was grabbing all the good food at home, from fridge, freezer, cupboards, you name it.
  • He was making the whole house stink.
  • He was rattling on to her about his pretty problems at university.
  • She couldn’t have the house to herself while he was there. She was desperately needing her “me-time.”

He came back yet again “just for the weekend.”   (Just fancy that.)

On Monday evening (much as I had anticipated) he was still home.  (He “didn’t have any lectures till Tuesday afternoon.”)

On Tuesday evening he was still at home.  The Tuesday afternoon lecture “wasn’t that important.”

On Wednesday evening…

On Thursday evening…

Each evening Jasna was expressing her frustration that son had not gone back to university.

Uncle Ginge tried to analyse.

  • Does he actually have any friends at university? Most finalists prefer being at university with their mates, rather than with their parents, cramping their style.
  • Actually, no he doesn’t. He’s a constant cadger (borrower).  “Oh dear, I seem to have left my wallet at home” is his regular comment when it comes to his round down the student union bar.

On Saturday evening – guess what, son was still at home.  Jasna was still letting off steam to me.  But “he’s definitely going back tomorrow.”  Er, right…

Sunday evening Facebook check-in:

Watching film at Super Deluxe Fleapit cinema in Ridsville – with (son).

Pardon?  My jaw drops.  What?  Ah, hang on, this is typical of Jasna.  She sends out mixed signals to her son.  I knew on Monday that he would still be at home a week after coming home.

Jasna changes her story from “He’s getting under my feet, he’s driving me up the wall.”

  • He’s been depressed.
  • He’s been an emotional support to me.
  • He cooked dinner for his sister on Wednesday.
  • He paid for the trip to the cinema tonight.

Jasna sends me a dissertation via WhatsApp.

Message after message after message after message…

He’s definitely going back tomorrow – tomorrow evening – if hubby will drive him back.

The Whatsapp messages keep coming through.

I resolve to: go for a shower, put the rubbish out, make a couple of phone calls, alphabetise my CD collection, clip my toenails, clear a paper jam from my printer…

  • Beep, another WhatsApp message.
  • Beep, another one…
  • Beep, you guessed it, yet another…

In the end – I respond.

“Is it your son’s job to be your emotional support worker?   You said he was depressed.  Oh, his GP said he isn’t depressed?  Shouldn’t he be back at university in the academic environment, in his ‘office’, studying in the library, meeting his mates (if he has any) down the union bar, working out down the gym, keeping himself doing purposeful activity (such as showering)?”

Then we get to the “money shot.”

“But, Ginge in Germany, you don’t understand, because you are not a parent.”

Of course.  I should have realised.  What a fool I am!  All my time as a teacher, uncle, etc, has proven useless.  I am just being too harsh on Jasna’s son.  When will I ever learn?

Have a lenient day, won’t you!


Premium Bonds

Premium Bonds are a particularly British thing.  Ireland has something similar.  They called them “Prize Bonds.”  In short, they are a form of lottery, started decades before the UK National Lottery.  Premium Bonds used to be a popular gift for babies on getting baptised, when you could buy them in multiples of £10, when £10 was a lot of money.  (Back in 1977, a first class stamp cost 7p.  Now it costs 70p.)

Back in 2003 I sold my flat in Bracknell for a tidy profit.  Before buying my next property, I decided to invest some of the money in Premium Bonds.  I maxed out: £30 000.  Every month I would go online and see if I had won anything.

£50 several times

£100 once

No £1 000 000 jackpot, though.  (We can but hope and dream.)

Yesterday, while having a coffee break at home, I had a flick through my first scrapbook.  Among the postcards, till receipts and newspaper stories, I found these.

For now, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for this Friday’s Eurolotto…

Have a premium day, won’t you!

Remembrance Day

The poppy.  The two-minute silence.  The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month.  These are words and images familiar to anyone from, or living in, the UK.

I, however, live in Germany.  Yesterday, with less than a week’s notice, as church warden, I had to step in and lead our church’s Remembrance Day service.

Here we also call it Peace Sunday, because we in our church need to emphasise the service is not about celebrating victory, but about remembering those who gave their lives in conflict, and also about praying for peace between nations.

As warden, my usual task in this service is just to:

  • Lay a wreath
  • Find a German/young person/woman to lay the other

For yesterday I had to:

  • Look through the service sheet
  • Liaise with the preacher
  • Do a dry run
  • Check timings
  • Explain to the wreath layer the context of the service and wreath laying
  • Find a replacement for me to sit in Sunday school
  • Much, much more

In the days before the service, I practise my lines.

Sunday turns up.  I stand at the lectern.  I have been to the loo three times with pre-lectern nerves.

10:45 on the dot.  We start.  I read verbatim from my notes.  I want to get it right.

10:54 We reach the point where we lay the wreaths.  We are meant to start the silence at 11:00.  No way can I pad out the service till 11:00.  I make a decision on the ground.  I signal that we start tne 2-minute silence.

The silence seems to last two hours.  Everyone keeps the silence immaculately.  My blood pressure is lowered.

I thank my wreath layer and return to the lectern to continue the service.

More hymns.  More prayers.  I introduce the preacher, a USAF veteran.  He preaches.  And preaches.  It’s a hum-dinger, forty minutes long, but engaging and thought-provoking.  I then look for our intercessions person.  He is AWOL: “absent without leave.”  I had anticipated that eventuality.  Time for ACTS.

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanks
  • Supplication

I pray.  We all pray. As I pray for peace, I hesitate for a second or two as I look at members of congregation who come from war zone countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.  I lick my lips and take a sharp intake of breath, thinking of what these people must have gone through.

Fast forward.  Just before 13:00 the service ends with the Grace and notices.

I give thanks to God for a another dignified Remembrance/Peace Sunday service.  The congregation files out to refreshments in the church hall.  I even get compliments on my suit and on how I led the service.  I am truly flattered.  It was a team effort:

  • Leader
  • Chaplain briefing
  • Musicians
  • Sidespersons
  • A patient congregation

After shaking lots of hands and being asked in the absence of “the priest” if I can provide a visitor with some “holy water.”  Answer: er, no, I can’t, and anyway, as far as I am concerned, all water is holy.  That would be an ecumenical question.

13:00 Everyone has been fed and watered.  I breathe a sigh of relief that all went well.

Have a dignified day, won’t you!

Image result for remembrance

Book Review and Sisterly Solidarity

Emma Barnett.  I’ve not heard of her before September, probably due to my living abroad for several years.  She’s a journalist, often on Newsnight and BBC Radio 5.  Barnett has recently published a book.  I heard her being interviewed about it in September.  I was impressed.

This is the book: Period.

Image result for emma barnett period

Full of various euphemisms…

It’s not normally the kind of book I would read.  Normally I am interested in books on history, humour, languages, but not “wimmin’s things.”

Why did I buy the book?  Well, several reasons:

  1. I was listening, lying in bed, and sat up to listen to the interview.   Barnett was engaging and entertaining in her interview.
  2. I’m a man.  I think it is good to know how 50% of the population is affected.
  3. I’m a bit Berlin Wall-ed out.

My copy arrived on Tuesday.  I’m now so far halfway through the book.  It’s good.  It’s informative, educational, entertaining.  Ten percent of British women have endometriosis.  Compare that with the number of British people who have type 2 diabetes (10%).  Spending on research into the latter is 35 times more than on endometriosis.

I sit at my desk, laughing at some parts, sucking in air at other parts.

I then text a female friend of mine (FFM) about the book, saying how I never realised what women have to go through:

  • Menstruation
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause

FFM writes back:

Yeah, we all to get used to it between the ages of 12-14.  Too bad if you don’t feel too good during that week.

The empathy…

It then occurred to me, do some women have an attitude of:

I have periods, too.  Suck it up, buttercup.

I’ve known women who have intimated to me that they prefer to see a male doctor because he will be more sympathetic than his female colleague who has the aforementioned attitude.

Tell a man, “it’s that time of the month,” and he’ll:

  • Offer you a hot water bottle
  • Offer you a pack of Ibuprofen
  • Let you lie on his sofa and bring you a duvet
  • Tell you he is so glad he is a man
  • Crack a joke about PMT and lightbulbs to lighten the mood

Women – show some sisterly solidarity!

Have an empathetic day, won’t you!