On this day…

Well, actually on this day yesterday… wind back 57 years… the Berlin Wall went up.  And the rest is history until the next milestone in 1989.

As a pads brat living in Wolfenbüttel 1975-1978, I never got to see the Wall itself.  Our family did make regular weekend trips down to the village of Mattierzoll to see the Inner-Deutsche Grenze (the “Inner-German Border”) and to be photographed by the Grenztruppen border guards… watching us… watching them… watching us.

Image result for grenzaufklärer ddr

These visits left their mark on me. On reaching the border, I used to feel nauseous, as if approaching a person that I knew had murdered hundreds of people in cold blood.

  • How can any regime imprison its own people?
  • How can it claim to be democratic?

Have a democratic day, won’t you!

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Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The place: Bordar House Cafe, Masham, North Yorkshire.

The year: 2003.

The time: 11:00.

Sunray and I are both enjoying a 10 000 calories belly-buster.  If you want to eat well in England, eat cooked breakfast three times a day.

brekkie

A random stranger walks in, decides he is God’s gift to comedy.

Looks like you two are enjoying that!  Is that your third one of today?

I look at Sunray.  Sunray looks back at me.  He nods and winks to me.  Mr Comedian wants to have some fun at us.  We’ll have some fun with him.

I am wearing my DDR (German Democratic Republic t-shirt).

DDRtop

I speak:

Wie bitte?  Ich hab’ überhaupt keine Ahnung was Sie sagen.  Tut mir leid.

Mr Comedian:

Oh, you don’t speak English.  Foreigner, yeah?

I point to my DDR logo:

Ja ja ja!  Bear-leen, Cher-mun-ee, ja.  Sorry, my English ist not gut.

Mr Comedian:

Oh right, bloody krauts, yeah?

G in G:

Ja, ja, crowd of chermans here, ja.  Big crowd at ze market place, ja!

Our man finally leaves us to our maple-cured bacon, baked beans and black pudding and sup our tea in peace.

Two minutes later…

Mornin’, Sunray!  Mornin’, Ginge in Germany!  How are you doin’, fellas?

Ron, one of the locals, had just walked in to order his Saturday bacon sandwich and had decided to greet us.

Sunray replies:

Morning, Ron!  Good to see you.  Come and sit down with us.

Mr Comedian hears Sunray, me and Ron chatting away (in English).  He realises the laugh is on him.  He scowls.  He purses his lips so tightly, that they look a cat’s anus.  He curses us as he leaves the cafe.

You two tw*ts think you’re so clever, don’t you!

Sunray and I laugh uncontrollably.  Ron asks:

Er, what’s the joke, fellas?

Have a Teutonic day, won’t you!

 

 

Conrad Schumann

Do you like quizzes?

Q: What happened on 13 August 1961?

A: The Berlin Wall went up.  (Pretty much overnight.  German efficiency.)

Next question.

Q: Who was Conrad Schumann?

A: A picture describes a thousands words.

ConradSchuhmann

So, he managed to escape from East Berlin into the West.  Was it a happy ending?  No.  Yes, it was good news at first.  He had escaped to freedom.  But 37 years later, after difficulties with his family still living in Saxony, Eastern Germany, the iconic freedom icon committed suicide.  A very unhappy, tragic, ending.

Have an iconic day, won’t you!

 

Scrapbook

I’m not high up enough in the food chain to have my memoirs published or to have my diaries forged.  I do, however, have many a quiet evening on my own.  Occasionally I’ll get the glue out and stick a few items in my scrapbook.

Where did I get this habit?  Sunray started it all back in 1978, when he was posted to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).  He was constantly cutting and pasting gluing into his Ministry of Defence A4 hard-backed book:

  • Article after article from the Camberley News
  • The occasional Northern Echo clipping about his elder brother, who was in the habit of arguing with North Yorkshire Police and ending up the loser in court
  • Ah yes… every now and again, local non-news articles that mother would post to him from the Darlington and Stockton Times, eg “TRUCK BREAKS DOWN ON A1 BY LEEMING BAR.  NO-ONE INJURED.”

Fast-forward to 1998, and I am visiting Sunray, having been estranged from him for nearly a decade.  There among his photo albums is his RMAS scrapbook.

Dad, can I have a look at your scrapbook, please?

Aye, feel free, son.  I’ve not had a look at it myself for years.

Flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick…

  • Sovereign’s Parade 1979
  • Sovereign’s Parade 1980
  • Sovereign’s Parade, guess what, 1981
  • Bellerby Sub-Post Office without 2nd Class Stamps for over Two Weeks in summer of 1981 – local butcher fuming
  • Elder brother up before Thirsk Magistrates 1978: £75 fine
  • Brother up before Thirsk Magistrates 1979: £60 fine
  • Brother up before Northallerton Magistrates 1981: £80 fine
    • He must have moved house in 1980, I guess..
  • Most recent clipping – brother up before Richmond Magistrates 1991: £800 fine
    • Goodness – I’ll put that £800 down to inflation…

I resolve to go start myself a scrapbook the very next day…  Ahem…  Well, at least, the intent was there.

1 November 2003: I finally get round to buying a suitable scrapbook.   Masham post office (which also did have 2nd class stamps).  I also buy a small bottle of PVA glue, so beloved in British primary schools (where it normally comes poured out of huge gallon bottles).

pvaglue

Come on, you must have used gallons of this in your school days!

Within two years I had filled my scrapbook with, well, er scrap.  I took a leaf out of Sunray’s book.  I just had to collect local non-news articles from the local paper, such as the following two horror stories:

carcass

Oh, the sleepless nights…

rubbish

A very unhappy pub landlord, scowling for the camera…

Not only the local news items, but also the souvenirs of travels (address redacted).

postcard

Sunray was enjoying himself in Berlin.  His return air fare just £40 – bargain!

 

But if you can’t take the plane, let the train take the strain.  £6 there and back: another bargain.

ticket

 

And finally… no newspaper clippings of Sovereign’s Parade, but this headline mocking a Sandhurst graduate, Mr Ian Duncan Smith MP (ex-Guards), one-time “leader” of the Conservative Party, who was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

IDS

Who remembers Comical Ali from Gulf War II?

The people come and go, but thanks to the scrapbook, the memories remain.  Oh, the winter (and summer) evenings are going to just absolutely fly by, I’m sure.

Have a scrappy day, won’t you!

The Panache of Postboxes

Oz, a character in the hit 1980s comedy drama, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, once observed that:

These German bricks lack the panache of British bricks.

Maybe that is true.  Maybe not.

But the Bundesrepublik‘s postboxes do lack the panache of British postboxes.  They really do.

German postboxes are all very modern and tend to look like this “lamp box,” albeit mostly without shrubbery.

DEpost1

Or they are like this pillar box (minus the cheery-looking Blondine).

DEpost2

All very functional, but no panache, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, take a look at these beautiful, yet functional, counterparts from the United Kingdom.

First of all, a classic and most unusual piece of Victorian street jewelry from Yorkshire.

saltburnbox

Now this delightful wall box from the Dales.

theakstonbox

Now this functional lamp box from the hamlet of Rookwith.

rookwithbox

But my favourite is this one, the wall box to be found in the hamlet of High Ellington, also in the Dales.  Note it’s from the reign of George VI.  Also note how it is not fully built into the magnificent dry stone wall.  My question is, what do the residents of High Ellington do if they have a large letter or parcel to send?

HEbox

Whatever happened to all the Kaiser-era postboxes in Germany?  And what did they do in the East with all the old GDR postboxes, like these ones?

ddrboxes

Have a panache-filled day, won’t you!

 

Your Irregular Soviet Joke du Jour

A mummy was found in Egypt. The archaeologists could not determine its origin. Then a Soviet advisor offered his help. The mummy was delivered to the Soviet embassy. In two hours the Soviet advisor appeared and said, “His name was Amenkhotep VIII.”

“How did you find out?”

“He confessed,” the advisor said.

Have a confessional day, won’t you!

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