I love Masham

I love the Yorkshire Dales.  One of my favourite places is Masham.  (Note: pronounced “Mass ‘em,” not “Mash ‘em.”)  Here’s where it is in North Yorkshire.

So what’s there to see at Masham?

  • September sheep fair, where you can actually stroke a sheep on its head, when it’s in a sheep pen and wants to be stroked like a dog.
  • Bi-weekly market, to be found on the Market Square (funny, that). That’s Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Bargains and banter always guaranteed.  Masham market was where I first ate a delicious, crunchy Pink Lady apple.
  • Bordar House Café on the market square. I can heartily recommend their all-day breakfasts and omelettes.  Food p0rn par excellence!
  • St Mary’s church, a most impressive and fascinating building which has been there for years.
  • Two breweries (yes – two), namely Theakstons and Black Sheep breweries. Depending on wind direction, you can smell the malt up to seven (7) miles away, a treat for the olfactory nerves.

(For more information, click on www.visitmasham.com .)

Masham was regarded as The Bustling Metropolis in the mid-70’s, when our family used to fly over from our German garrison town and spend the summer in our Grandma’s Yorkshire Dales hamlet.  Wednesday mornings saw the once-weekly bus arrive at the village to take you to Masham market, the premier shopping experience.  Life was very quiet in the mid-70’s compared to nowadays.  In fact, the highlight of the day for us three pads brats was to sit by the village postbox and watch the postman open said object and throw the contents thereof into his sack.  This was pre-smartphone days.

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As for the postboxes in Masham, there are, I regret to say, no exciting ones there – just normal E II R ones.  Finally, Masham post office is where I bought my first scrapbook (hardback A4 writing book, back in November 2013.) How time flies, eh?

Have a “massive” day, won’t you!

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The Back-Seat Driver: Part 94

The back-seat driver.  In German: der Co-Trainer. The armchair expert, Kneipenprofessor, who knows your job better than you do (because they saw this done in a movie or on YouTube).  The bane of my life, and quite possibly of yours, my dear reader.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we’ll begin.  Time to write through gritted teeth.  I shall wear a smile.  Here it is for you.

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Let me outline the background of this article for you.  Our church treasurer is of Welsh origin, but quite Germanic in his view that:

Ordnung muss sein.

The treasurer noticed a week ago that we had two large boxes at the back of church.

  • One for used stamps to donate to charity.  In the UK, pretty much every small business had an A4 envelope full of such stamps, which the secretary or office junior would then take once in a while to the local charity shop.  (You get the idea.)
  • The other contained a whole load of spectacles, also to give to a Third World charity.

Both boxes have never been emptied in the near seven years that I have been attending this church.

Never, never, never, never.  In seven (7) years.  Never, never, never, never. 

Let’s cut to the chase.  Last week after seeing the two un-loved boxes one time too many, I undertook to take both boxes with me to the local charity shop.  After I had taken the box of spectacles to the shop this morning, I sent out a round-robin to church members via Whatsapp.

We have taken our collection of spectacles for the Third World to charity shop.  They are very happy.

Within minutes, messages of unbridled adulation flood into my inbox.

You are the finest human being I have ever met.

Truly you are a blessing in my life.

I am filled with endless gratitude to you for your sterling efforts and endless, selfless devotion to the work of the church, and indeed, to the human race.

And much, much more.

I tell a lie.  I get one message from the treasurer:

Cheers, mate.

Other than that one, I then receive a bombardment of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells messages from Billy, our “in-house” back-seat driver and giver of unsolicited advice.  He was challenging my decision to discontinue the collecting of stamps and spectacles.  I explain that, members of the congregation are grown-up enough to take their donations directly to the charity.  (Well, actually, Billy probably isn’t.)  He then combines his Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells comments with passive aggressive comments concluding in, “But of course, you’re in charge, and you you know best, and you probably have your reasons for your decision.”  (Think of when a woman answers you with “Fine.”)

(Yes, Billy, I do have good reasons, and I’ve just spent ten minutes of my life explaining the rationale, context, whys and wherefores thereof.)

Message after message, after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message…

“Billy must be bored today,” I sigh to myself.

In the end, Billy has the last word and informs me he is “far too busy to discuss this matter until tomorrow.”  A reprieve. I anticipate the next chapter at about 02:20 when he gets up for a night-time loo break.  I say the words that every ex-HM Forces person, every pads brat utters at least once a month.

Bl00dy civvies.

I then get on with my jobs at church:

  • Shiftin’ and liftin’ fifty stacking chairs back into the church hall
  • Writing a thank you card to Grasshopper for some highly amusing videos about protein powder
  • Nibbling a couple of small mince pies left for me by our catering team
  • Advising the catering team how to bake mince pies because that’s how my last church used to make them  (Er no thanx, I’ll leave that to Billy to butt in)

Have an advisory day, won’t you!

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I Wouldn’t Give Tuppence for All of the Rest…

We English are a strange bunch.  We love understatement.

It’s not really my cup of tea.

(“I can’t stand it at all.”)

I’m not full of joy.

(“I need a ton of Prozac right now.”)

I got a little bit sunburnt today.

(“I have third-degree burns over 80% of my body.”)

Do you want to know if an English person likes you or not?  Try this very useful flowchart.

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Have you ever experienced a mishap?  For example, do you ever want sympathy when your pizza order has been delivered to the wrong address, and Pizzas’R’Us refuse to refund you?  Then don’t post the news on Facebook.  Your German neighbours will share their sympathy and outrage:

Das ist eine absolute Unverschämtheit!  Das geht gar nicht!  Was für eine Frechheit!

Your English friends and neighbours will just mock you and troll you for hours and hours. They will:

  • Tell you how they really enjoyed eating the pizza Hawaiian and Classico that arrived unexpectedly some thirty minutes ago
  • Post sarcastic comments about part-eaten pizzas
  • Post photos of part-eaten pizzas
  • Crack even more jokes at your expense when you react with anger

Cue joke:

Well, it’s Advent now, so here’s a seasonal joke for y’all.  Good King Wenceslas walks into Pizzas’R’Us and orders a pizza. 

“And how would you like your pizza?”

“Same as ever, please.  Deep pan, crisp and even.”

  • You will get no sympathy of your English neighbours.  None.  Zilch.  Not a drop.

You will have to either get angry, or just admit defeat and join in with the mocking.  The English are best!

Have an English day, won’t you!

Going for an Indian

I’ve been living in Germany for nearly seven years.  What do I miss from the UK?  A good curry house.  Let me qualify that.  Düsseldorf has a few curry houses.  But DUS is a big city, with about as many curry houses as a small town in England.  Indian cuisine is as exotic in Germany as Vietnamese is in England.

My favourite curry house in DUS?  Rajarbaar, literally the Court of the King.  Always great for Sunday buffet.  Always does a good lamb saag, and always does a delicious mango chicken (Schatz’ favourite).  The owner, Sahibji, is always hospitable and willing to put up with banter such as:

Congress zindabad!

(He’s a BJP supporter.)

DUS may not have the quantity, but it certainly has the quantity.

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Have curried day, won’t you!

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!

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!