Scrapbook: Memory

My scrapbook had been pretty dormant the past two or three years, new content being mainly service sheets for funerals of members of the congregation where I’ve attended as church warden/verger/dogsbody.

One item that I will always appreciate is the regimental condolence card that the SLOB’s (Scarlet Lancers Old Boys) sent me after my Dad, Sunray, died on 16 January this year.  A British Army cavalry regiment is truly a band of brothers.

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The words on the inside of the card come from the regimental song, Old Stable Jacket. Sing mit!

Have a brotherly day, won’t you!

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Not a Coincidence – a God-incidence

We often talk about coincidences when it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Let’s wind back to Saturday just gone.

I was feeling tired and almost decided to head directly back home for a power nap, not go shopping, but order pizza for evening meal. Instead, I forced myself to go to the local supermarket en route, mainly because I had a craving for their banana split ice cream.

I went and did my shopping.

I was then proceeding in an easterly direction out of my local Aldi, when I noticed two elderly men near the entrance, one of whom was spitting onto the ground. It turned out he was spitting blood, having had quite a nasty fall.

It turned out that our man spoke hardly a word of German. His mother tongue was, however, Russian, so I was asked to help out while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I then acted as interpreter between him and the medics, including taking down his medical history. I had forgotten the Russian word for “diabetes”, so I asked him, “Do you have the illness where you have sugar in your blood?”

I explained to him that the paramedics would now take him to the hospital, where they would do a more substantial assessment and get a dentist to stitch up his lip which he had bitten quite badly as he fell.

Job done.  I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

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Have an incidental day, won’t you!

Topic (sic) of Cancer

Cancer.  The Big C.  A tumour… and it’s malignant.  And probably many other euphemisms.

Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed  with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.

Der Tod ist sicher.

Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis.  As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well).  Every day is a bonus.  Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day.  But who can tell?

Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se.  Death, sad to say, is certain.  That’s a brutal fact.  But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?

Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open.  He calls me “Padre Ginge.”  I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.

In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis.  Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.

Mrs Grasshopper is in denial.  She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation.  It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months.  That’s a brutal fact.

To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern.  My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife.  Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed.  That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person.  We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon.  He sound weary.  His voice was starting to crack a bit.  First time I’ve heard him like that.  Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.

I mainly listened.  Grasshopper needed to let off steam.  I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant.  I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”

Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.

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Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!

Today’s Puzzle

Just a decade ago, I was a schoolteacher working in some of the rougher comprehensives on Teesside, North-East of England.

In those days I had two catchphrases:

I don’t like spoon-feeding people.

and:

I prefer to treat adults as adults.

So, should I now break these two golden rules?  Actually, I’m referring to the later, rather than the former.  I’ve known Green Leader and VW since I moved to this city in January 2012.

Both are very nice people, devout Christians. VW told me today that she and Green Leader have got engaged.

VW, in particular, is salt of the earth: Sunday school teacher, house group leader, very good on the pastoral side.  In my opinion, she would be an excellent, all-rounder vicar.

Green Leader is also a generally likeable guy.  We often joke about Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, Ian Smith, Uncle Bob, Clem Tholet and Jon Edmonds.  That may mean nothing to you, but… hey, what’s Google for?  Now, here’s the rub, the central problem or difficulty in a situation.  Green Leader is a nice guy.  But he’s also neurotic with a capital N (italicised and bold).  He can never give a straight answer to a straight question.

Q. Green Leader, do you prefer tea or coffee?

A. Let me explain the reality of the situation like this.  I like coffee.  I like tea, too.  But the actualite of the situation is, I like both.  I really thirst for coffee and indeed any hot beverage. 

[Add another five minutes of explanation, including an exhortation that Northern Europe should increase its birthrate.]

So: in a summary.

  1. I like both people.
  2. They are both nice people.
  3. I don’t think they are going to be a well-suited married couple.
  4. While VW, is very stable, Green Leader has mental health issues, namely tension and anxiety, and won’t take medication to combat the symptoms.
  5. Should I express my opinion to VW, who is in her 40’s, very approachable and rational?

After all, as I said before, I like to treat adults as adults.  But should I, on the other hand, be like Sergeant Wilson off Dad’s Army and ask:

Do you really think that’s wise?

I have no intention of policing my friends’ personal lives, but on the other hand, would I be failing in my duty as friend if I did not say, like The Housemartins?

I find my next-door neighbour likeable.  But…. it doesn’t mean I’d want to marry her.  If I don’t talk to VW, would it be a case of sin of omission, by not wanting to interfere?

Have a puzzling day, won’t you!

Wait a Minute, it’s the Telephone Man

Those of you who are over 45 may just about remember this cheery little number from Meri Wilson.

In the previous year, Sunray was nicknamed Telephone Man for his part in ensuring that the overall phone bill for the British Army in Northern Ireland was £1 million.  (Regimental legend has it that Sunray was responsible for £900 000 of it.)  Most of the calls were part of the Night Shift Numbers Game, a version of “pin the tail on the donkey”, when bored squaddies on night shift at HMP Maze would get out the phone book, look up random numbers abroad and phone them to ask such innocent questions as:

Is it snowing in Alabama?

It’s a nice clear line, isn’t it?

etc.  (Men are just boys in long trousers. )

Fast-forward to 2018.  It was my birthday three days ago.  That took me back to October 1976, when, as a wee schoolboy at Wolfenbüttel Primary School, I was told to go to the headmaster’s office.

“Oh dear, what have I done wrong?” I thought.  “Was it for shouting at my teacher last week?”

No.  It was Sunray phoning me up from HMP Maze, wishing my happy birthday.  He was obviously taking time out from:

  • Calling his mate, Bryan B, in Australia, to ask how hot it was in Cairns
  • Phoning his sister-in-law in Canada to talk to her about boxing bouts
  • Prank-calling several taxi firms in Birmingham to order two dozen taxis to one pub on the outskirts of the city
  • And much, much more…

Bless his cotton socks, bless his soul.  Quite poignant to think this was the first year when I did not receive a birthday card from him.  This weekend I did think of him as Schatz and I raised our glasses of Sekt to celebrate my birthday.

Have an a-Maze-ing day, won’t you!

Stalin is *not* Dead

This clip from TV Turkmenistan really does show a fine example of mass sycophancy, not seen since the day of Stalin in the USSR or Ceasescu in Romania.  Not so much HROSL (Huge Roar of Sycophantic Laughter) as HROSA (Huge Roar of Sycophantic Applause).

Here’s the clip.

https://www.rferl.org/a/our-hero-lavish-praise-for-turkmen-president-s-cutbacks/29521371.html

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Even Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t afforded this much obsequious applause and adulation at the Labour Party conference.  (And that is setting quite a standard, comrades, Genossen and tovarishchi…)

Have a sycophantic day, won’t you!

A Quarter of A Century

“A quarter of a century” sounds (to my ear) like a longer time than “twenty-five years.”  It’s a quarter of a century since I last had cause to speak Slovene, a South Slavonic language, spoken, funnily enough, in Slovenia, ex-Yugoslavia.

How did I end up studying Slovene?  Lots of reasons.

  • It was a final-year option on my degree course (BA Russian Studies, University of Nottingham).
  • It saved me having to take a literature option.
  • I thought it would be easy to learn, having done Russian and Serbo-Croat
    • It was not to be.  I kept on using words from Russian and “naš jezik”, much to the annoyance of our Slovene lectrice…

Then today I read a very thought-provoking article on the BBC News website, all about graduates coping after they finished university.  It drew for me comparisons with service personnel leaving HM Forces.  My Dad’s words after he left the employment of the Queen after 22 years were:

I felt like a fish out of water.

That’s how I felt in the summer of 1993.  After nearly two decades in education, including kindergarten, here I was at the Job Centre.

  • What career did I want?
    • No idea.  I just wanted a job, just to pay the bills.
  • Where did I want to be?
    • No idea.  Ideally back at university, studying, but I needed to get a job and like the ex-HMF people, get used to Civvy Street.
  • What next?
    • There was no daddy to speak to one his mates to get me an internship or job in his firm.  There were no graduates in my family to help guide me.  Just armchair experts.

Twenty-five years later, here I am in Germany.  In life the journey is the destination.

Have a careerist day, won’t you!