What is Love?

I cannot say what love is.  I can say what love is not.  It’s not about violently assaulting the woman you claim to love.  You may remember me blogging some months ago about my ex-room-mate from university days.  He was convicted of murder in 1991, and was released in 2003, having served a life sentence in various English prisons.

I even appeared on local TV news in 1991 and a documentary in 2004 to provide a character reference along the lines of:

He seemed a likeable bloke, quite charming and charismatic.

After his sentence he moved back to New Zealand, working as a personal trainer and then as a baker.  (He had been studying Classics at university.)

Last night I found out he had this month been convicted of violently assaulting his current girlfriend, expressing little or no remorse.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/sunday-feature-kiwi-murdered-girlfriend-in-uk-now-nz-jail-after-new-assaults

Newspaper report

My feelings?  Stunned.  I was expecting him after all these years to have calmed down, having learnt his lesson in prison and after fifteen years’ life back in normal society.

But no.

He can’t control his anger.

Horse feathers.  He won’t control his anger.

Murderers in English prisons attend courses to address their underlying issues such as anger management.  They aren’t released until the psychologist consider them no longer to be a threat to society.  It looks to me like he managed to hoodwink the psychologists.

Maybe this prison sentence will make him stop and think.  There again.  Maybe not.

nick.jpg

Have a loving day, won’t you!

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Treat like a Pagan?

I’m not Catholic, but today I don’t know if I should have a bad conscience or not.  I therefore request everyone’s honest opinion.  Billy No-Mates is the cause of concern.  Yes, him of all the problems in particular last year.

Wind back to Remembrance Day, November 2017.  A very pious and reflective day for us Brits and also for members of the Commonwealth, especially those of us who have connections with Her Majesty’s armed forces.  We remember the people, not the cause.  It’s also a suitable day for thinking of those of our loved who are dead or dying.

I turned up early to church on Remembrance Day to prepare for that day’s service.  Billy and K had arrived to do their jobs in church.  I said to K:

Have you heard about F?  She’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Billy, standing just a few feet away, overheard my comment, and flew into a violent rage.

I’ve got friends who are f***ing suffering and dying!  I’ve had a f***ing sh*t life since the summer!

I wanted to tell Billy:

  1. We’re not in competition when it comes to suffering.
  2. I wasn’t speaking to him, but to K.
  3. He needs to control his temper and show respect for the church and other people on this very day in the church calendar.

Instead, I bit my tongue and said nothing.

A week ago, F died.  Probably a relief to her, as she had been suffering for months.

Her funeral is this Friday.  I found out that Billy is intending to come to F’s funeral.

Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?

  • He never knew F.
  • He may have known of her after I had mentioned her name on Remembrance Day.
  • He never asked anyone how F was.
  • He never expressed an interest in her progress.
  • He was always more interesting in telling everyone about how his new-found mate had found him a flat here, and that the JobCenter was paying for a new kitchen, me, me, me, etc.

I feel a bit harsh saying this, but I feel Billy wants to go to the funeral in the same way that Westerners go on “banana visits” to see prisoners in Thai prisons.  Partly to do a bit of good, show his face and offer sympathy, but mainly to “have a good gawp.”

As my policeman friend would say, “He’s got previous.”  At a funeral in October, he was meant to be helping me tidy up the church.  However, when he got chatting to the widow straight after the service, she mentioned there was a buffet for friends.  Billy immediately took up the offer, even though he knew the deceased or the widow, and off he went to stuff his face with Kaffee und Kuchen, sausage rolls, prawn cocktails, frikadellas or whatever he fancied.  In the meantime I was left to tidy up the church on my own – for clearly I had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, than to straighten chairs, pick up service sheets and lock up.  “Not a team player” is the British understatement I would use.

So… Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  And what?  What should I say to Billy? Matthew 18:15-17 encourages us to take a miscreant to one side.  Should I ask him:

Why are you coming to F’s funeral?

Or:

Was your outburst in November respectful towards F?

Or should I just treat him like a pagan or a tax collector?

Have a respectful day, won’t you!

Ladykiller

“Avid” (ahem) readers of this blog will know from previous articles that I have a few claims to fame.  I also have a link to notoriety, namely: my room-mate in my first year at university went on to murder his girlfriend.  The number 1 question I am asked is:

What was he like?

It is the aim of this article to offer you a insight into the character of a convicted murder.  I’ll start with a look at the stereotype of a murder, the reality, then I’ll move onto two key aspects of his personality.

The Stereotype

The stereotype of a murderer can be summed up thus:

Well, he was a bit of a loner.

That was never the case with John.  He was, to use his words from his press conferences, “…outgoing, a lover of life, with everything to live for…”  He was:

  • Very extrovert
  • Jovial
  • A charmer
  • A keen cricketer
  • A keen footballer
  • A keen drinker
  • A keen electric guitarist and rock musician
  • A bit of a “jock” (to use an American expression)
  • The “life and soul of the party”

Again, contrary to the stereotype, he had a wide circle of friends and a never-ending string of girlfriends.  (By heck, was I – as a slightly nerdy lad, a ginger Adrian Mole, from the council estates of Redcar – jealous of his success with women!)

The reality was, however, not so attractive.  John had two aspects of his personality lurking below the surface. Let’s be blunt about it.  They were not likeable aspects.

Aspect 1: Passive Aggression

Quite ironic, now I think about it.  The last article I shared was a humorous one on passive aggression.  The irony has not been lost on me.  In psychology, passive-aggressive behavior is characterized by a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, sullenness, stubbornness, and negative attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.  In John passive aggression manifested itself in many ways.

  • Days before his birthday, in my presence, his friends went to his part of our room, took his prized poster of a scantily-clad model (reclining atop a sports car) off the wall, then repositioned the poster on the wall, with the back showing.  When I came back to our room that evening, I found that he was in bed, not even pretending to be asleep, and had placed a key in the door lock to prevent me from getting our room.  After nearly an hour of desperately knocking on the door, pleading with him, together together with neighbours, for him to open the door, ending with me being on the verge of tears and needing to sleep, he finally let me in.  The following day no more was said – from either side.  From my side – don’t provoke him any further.  From his side – he knew he had done wrong, but did not have the round objects to talk about it.
  • The stories of the laundry room key.  Each room was given a key to the hall laundry room.  The catch was, the resident had to sign for the key and had to pay a five pounds deposit, returnable on safe return of the key at the end of the year.  So far, so good.  One laundry key per room.  I signed for it.  I got it.  I paid the deposit on it.  So far, so good.  I used to keep the laundry room key on my desk.  John would take it when he needed to go to the laundry.  So far, so good. Then one day, I decided to place the key on my book shelf to keep the desk a bit tidy.  Seeing the key on my book shelf, John marched up to me, grabbed me with both hands by the front of my shirt and snarled, “You’re not having the monopoly on that.”  Rather than explain that I had paid the deposit and that he could still use the key, I took it on the chin (nearly literally).
  • And there’s more!  Days before the end of the year, I was looking to do a batch of laundry.  John had been to the laundry hours beforehand.  Now he was sitting by his desk, playing his guitar.  I asked him for the key.
    • I haven’t got it.

    • But you had it this morning when you went to the laundry.

    • I haven’t got it.

    • Well, could you just have a quick look, please?

John just carried on humming, strumming and singing to himself, clearly not interested, not a “team-player.” Not even the common courtesy of pausing even for a second. Doubtless I’ve slighted him earlier in the day, and this was his passive aggressive way of “punishing” me.  Kiss goodbye to five pounds deposit, I was by now thinking.  Then the following morning an announcement: He had found the laundry key. Followed by a profuse apology for the hassle last night.  Ha, you gotta be joking!  It had fallen into his bag of condoms.  (Yes, I’m such a lady’s man, I need a bag of them.)

Now, getting fret up about a laundry key might seem petty on my part.  Lke the chocolate bar you stole from the communal fridge, it’s “only a key,” but maybe you saw the bigger picture of the (passive) aggression when dealing with peers.  These are just a small sample of his actions, others relating to his attitude towards women.  Perhaps for a later article.

Aspect 2: The “Great ‘I am'”

John’s other character trait was the “great ‘I am'” attitude.  How to explain it?    Let’s have two examples.

  1. John came back in a foul mood one day, complaining to me, hardly able to contain his anger, that his then girlfriend was f***ing useless in bed, in the same way that you might complain that the babysitter had sneaked into your bedroom and sneakily looked through all your private diaries.  Hey, folks, I was still very much inexperienced with woman.  Any bed action with a woman would have made me happy!  How dare she not enjoy sex with him?  She should have realised he was a real ladykiller.
  2. Again at evening meal in the canteen, I greeted him with a cheery, “How are you doing?”  He “greeted” me with an arrogant jut of the chin in my direction and, “Whatcha rapping on about?”  How dare this f’ing ginger speak to me when I want to have my dinner?

Before university, he had, in fact, been a tutor at a cathedral school.  Just as an ex-military man has left the Army, he is still a soldier, maybe John still considered himself senior and superior to those around and under him.  “Do as you’re told.  I’m in charge here.”

Conclusion

It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.  Wrong.  It’s the life and soul of the party types you have to watch out for.  Great fun, as long as things are fun and you dance to their tune.  But cross them, and see what happens.

  • Don’t help out with a good-natured prank on him.
  • Don’t even think of having the monpoly on that key.
  • Don’t be a timid, inexperienced lover.
  • Don’t have the audicity to reject his obsessive, browbeating behaviour.

Have an insightful day, won’t you!

Do you ever miss home?

I’m sometimes asked if I miss England. Well, let me tell you about an incident I saw the last time I was back in England.

It was absolutely disgusting behaviour. I was down Redcar seafront that day.

I was sitting on the bench, eating fish and chips, and saw a man and a woman having an almighty argument in front of loads of kids.  Suddenly the woman smacked the guy in the head, and it all kicked off. There was a massive brawl and someone called the police.

The poor copper turned up on his own and took his truncheon to the man.  The guy managed to snatch it off him and began assaulting the policeman AND his wife!

Then out of nowhere a crocodile crept up and stole all the sausages.

 

Have a humorous day, won’t you!

There but for the grace of God (2)

Ruined Life

 

John T***** – what’s he doing?
“Fifteen, twenty years,”
Some joke.
But not for him,
Or those who loved him,
His Christmas card list
Of ruined lives.

Christmas –
Just
Away
To
Separate
One
Year
From
The
Next.
Commas in his sentence,
One with no full stop.
Doing time,
And himself inside.

Not for him –
Mortarboard and gown,
Only lock and key.
Free snaps thrown in.
And Rachel?
Killed by the pressure of his finals.

A long time till
The Happy Return.
Buttery bars are sadly lacking
In jail.

So what then?
Prison gate graduation.
The time for walking
Beaming proudly
Towards loving parents –
A joke.
A ruined life.
Add it to the list.

Sunray at 70

At long last after an excessive period of silence, I come back to blog.  Two months ago Sunray turned 70, somewhat to some people’s surprise and chargrin.  I have to confess, I waited till a week before his birthday before buying him a birthday card and sticking a tenner in it.

At the end of May I came up to see Sunray and also pick up several items I’d left in storage und her stairs when I did one of my several nomadic moves.

I’d been briefed Sunray had gone downhill.  Nonetheless, quite a shock to see how a “bullsh1t” soldier, who used to be into boots looking like black glass, razor-sharp creases in trousers and shirt sleeves, had “let his personal administration go downhill.”

  • His living room stank of a mix of stale body odour and old tobacco.
  • There was a thick layer of dust everywhere throughout the house.
  • I struggled to find a clean work surface in the kitchen, eventually taking a glass chopping board and scrubbing it under piping hot water.

A whole weekend spent with Sunray.  It was more a chore than a pleasure.  A definite lack of social skills on display.  Imagine a mix of:

  • Petulant teenager
  • Hormonal woman suffering from PMS
  • Two-year-old having a temper tantrum

All that for several hours in Whitby, while Sunray held court on a bench in Whitby town centre on a glorious sunny.

Look at that (expletive deleted) walking around, hands in his pockets.

Look at the state of her, with her hair dyed.

Why are so many (expletives deleted) bringing their dogs down to Whitby?  Why can’t the (expletive deleted) walk their dogs elsewhere.

Etc etc ad nauseum.

No wonder Sunray has so few friends.  Galatians 6:7-9 is spot-on.

Sad to say, a very sad, lonely, almost pitiable man.

Will I be seeing him again?

No.

Looking on the bright side, I did manage to get some delicious, crunchy sticks of Whitby rock for my Schatz back home in Germany.  My trip was therefore not entirely in vain.

Have a crunchy day, won’t you!

Honour your father and you mother

In the Ten Commandments, God commands the Israelites:

Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12

Yet, does that mean,

Thou shalt slavishly, unquestioningly, do everything your parents tell you to do.

I doubt it.  I leave that to the theologians to discuss.

I had intended to write about saving: piggy banks, savings books, rainy day funds, etc, but then I remember back to the not so good days of being a pads brat, besides the day trips into the Harz Mountains, Saturday matinee down the barracks cinema, the Army helicopter landing on the school field, etc.

Until the mid-80s my paternal grandad used to work abroad, earning decent money.  Generous to a fault, ever time he used to see his grandchildren, he’d give each of us a crisp, brand new £5 note in the days when £5 was a lot of money, especially to a 10-year-old.  Within a few weeks of coming back to the UK in 1978, my late Granny had taken me down to the local post office and helped me to open a savings account, with just £1.

Sooner or later, with birthday money, pocket money, etc, I had saved £25, not a huge amount, but not bad for an Army NCO’s child, and enough for a particular toy I was saving up for.  I had my heart set on it in a way that only an 11-year-old can.   Bruv, too, had saved a similar amount.  I think he was after a train set.  (£25 in 1979 is equivalent to £100 in 2015.)

So, back to Exodus 20:12.  Sunray had shortly after arriving at his latest posting in the UK somehow decided to get a cute, cuddly family pet, namely one ex-police dog, a German Shepherd.  The idea addition to a family, when you have a small yard, the size of two or three garden sheds, in the back of your married quarter.  Sunray was never very good at budgeting.  His priorities were:

  • me, me, me
  • mess (sergeants’, to be exact)
  • drink, drink, drink
  • getting nice clothes (for himself) with his new storecard.  Offspring… hmm, probably a bit of a nuisance, especially the two boys.

British Army NCO’s are very good at giving orders, and they expect them to be obeyed without question.  Sometimes, like lots of people, they take their work home.

Sgt Sunray to his JNCO’s sons:

Let me look in your savings books.

GingeInGermany and bruv:

Yes, Dad.

We both knew where this was leading to, and we knew it wasn’t going to be for Sunray to say:

My word, well done, you two, for having saved all that pocket money for a rainy day.

Next order was:

We’ve just bought a bulk amount of dog food.  Go to the post office, both of you, and give us what you have in your savings accounts.

Even at the tender age of 11,I knew that was an order, not a point for discussion.  Bruv and I duly marched off to the local post office, took out the full contents of our savings accounts, closing the accounts, and handed back Sunray his sons’ rainy day funds.  Not even a thank you.  Dog food duly paid for.  “A pleasure doing business with you,” I’m sure.

Did we ever get our money back?  Nope.  (Come, on did you really expect there to be a happy ending?)

Sunray is now a lonely old man, surprise, surprise.  He hasn’t saved enough money for his own funeral.  That means he’ll almost certainly get a pauper’s funeral (called these days “public health funeral”).  Sorry, Sunray, I didn’t put my money into a savings account for your dog’s meat to be placed in a freezer, and I’m not saving money for your flesh to placed in an oven, when you get taken to the crematorium.

Have an honourable day, won’t you!