Machmallauter: Boney M

I was always a fan of of Boney M.  I had no choice really.  When I was pads brat living in Wolfenbüttel, Germany 1975-78, their music was on BFBS all the time.  Every hour.  Every day.

This was my favourite Boney M number: 137, to be exact.  Psalm 137, otherwise known as…

By the Rivers of Babylon

Have a psalmodic day, won’t you!

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Scope Creep

What is scope creep?  Click here, or see the following extract:

Scope creep refers to a project that has seen its original goals expand while it’s in progress. As the term suggests, scope creep is a subtle process that starts with small adjustments and ends up resulting in projects that take far longer to complete or even fail before they are finished. Even if the project is completed, scope creep can result in final deliverables that look nothing like what was originally envisioned.

Scope creep may also be called creep of scope.

Think:

  • Death by a thousand cuts
  • Boiling a frog

Then you probably have a good idea about what this article is about.

Those of us who work in projects know what scope creep is.

Build me a car.  Here are the specifications.

Then five hours before planned delivery date:

Oh, and can the car also have a kettle built in?  And it should be blue.

Scope creep also happens in our daily lives.

At church:

G in G, can you organise the annual cricket match in a fortnight.  Our team captain is on a business trip and can’t organise it.

Sharp intake of breath.

Yes, I will.

(Passive aggressive British “tut” and shrug of shoulders.)

Then two days before said match…

And can you pop over to church to load the cricket kit into the church car?

(Strange, I thought I was organising, not doing…)

Then one day before the match…

Can we [= you] put the TV on in the church so that the cricket players can watch the England games straight after the football match?  Can you also let the cricketers know that they need to start one hour earlier?  Also, can you come to church on Saturday to mow the church lawn so that the visitors get a good impression of church?  [And fourteen other requests.]

So from organising to being literally hands-on.

Voom!  Pup!  Pup!  Pup!  Lawnmower starts on a scorching hot, redhead-unfriendly morning.  Schatz, patient as ever, is sitting in the shade.  Mrs Busybody is standing over me.

Why have I set the blades at this level?

Why don’t I empty the lawnmower bin more often, like I do?

Why haven’t I mown the grass behind the church?

I bite my tongue.  I grit my teeth.

I finish the mowing.  I come back to Schatz.  I turn into stereotypical fiery redhead.

A dictionary’s worth of expletives leave my mouth.

I tell Mrs Busybody:

I have done everything you asked.

I add:

I am sorry.  I cannot help you any further.

This is a British euphemism for:

Now get lost and leave me alone!!!!!

I head off to cricket and drink a pint of Pimms in the shade.

Howzat!

Have an un-creepy day, won’t you!

howzat

 

 

Spud-u-Like

Gorbachev visits a collective farm to check on the potato harvest.

The comrade tells Mikhail Sergeyevich, “We have harvested so many potatoes this year, that if we stacked them up one above another, they would rech the feet of God.”

Gorbachev replies, “But, comrade, there is no God.” Our farm worker replies,

“Ha, well, there are no potatoes, either.”

***

Have a collective day, won’t you!

spuds

The shock of capture

In January 2000, as Lance-Corporal GermanGinge I did a military interrogator’s course.  Three expressions are still embedded in my head:

  1. ICATQ (“I cannot answer that question.”)
  2. The shock of capture

The shock of capture is the “Oh dear, oh dear, oh f*ck!” moment when a prisoner of war realises the game is up: he has been attacking you, has lost the fight, and he is now hoping his enemy will not kill him.

Today Mrs Grasshopper went through the shock of capture.  Since her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the end of October 2017, Grasshopper (my old Klassenkamerad) and I have been in daily contact, swapping jokes, URL’s for corny 70’s songs and then interspersing with businesslike “sitreps” (“situation reports”) on Mrs Grasshopper’s progress.

Yesterday was another major milestone: another appointment with the oncologist.  The oncologist agreed with Grasshopper’s suspicions that Mrs Grasshopper’s increased self-dosage of oramorph, the increase in her tumour marker to 6000 units and several other symptoms were indicative that her cancer was spreading – despite ten sessions of heavy-duty chemotherapy.

This afternoon I phoned Grasshopper.  He was stoic.  He has been ever since diagnosis.

Pads brat banter. I pull his leg about being a policeman.  He pulls my leg about being a “ginga.”  We laugh.  The Germans in the Düsseldorf sit and try – as ever – to eavesdrop on our Anglophone conversation

Then the $64 million question.  Deep breath.

Grasshopper, now, tell me to f… off and mind my own business if you like.  How did Mr Grasshopper react to the oncologist’s prognosis yesterday?

Grasshopper told me she had had a major meltdown down the local cafe this morning.  The realisation that she does not have long will probably die soon.  The realisation that she cannot ask her enemy, the cancer, not to kill her.  The shock of capture.  The thoughts.  All the what-ifs.  Every single “why?” question.

Next time you are moaning about:

  • Your bus being late
  • There being no milk in the fridge
  • Your team losing their World Cup match

Please think of Mrs Grasshopper.

No picture this time, just a song.

Have a shockless day, won’t you!

Charlie don’t surf – Glasshopper doesn’t hug trees

Glasshopper and I go back to over 40 years to the days when he and I were pads brats “Klassenkameraden” at Wolfenbüttel, Germany.  He is nowadays a police officer, and spent several years as a riot policeman (Bereitschaftspolizist).  On the nerd/jock spectrum he and I would probably find ourselves at opposite ends.

In fact, here we are in this photo from 1977, HM Queen’s silver jubilee year.  Glasshopper is rear rank, furthest left.  I am next to him, with my finger in mouth.  Cute, eh?

classpic

On the last Wednesday in October 2017 Glasshopper’s wife was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

How is it that I remember that date?  Photographic memory?  No.  Did I just check in my Moleskine diary?  No.  It was the night that I had just come home from an excellent comedy evening down the Altstadt.  In fact, when I got home, I had been laughing so much, it was as if I had been doing sit-ups all night.  (Most unlikely.)

But once I had arrived home and had logged onto Facebook, I wasn’t laughing much any longer.

I saw Glasshopper’s posts on Facebook.  I saw his wife’s posts on Facebook.  I had arrived  home at 02:12.  Glasshopper was still up and on Facebook.  Glasshopper told me the devastating news.

My reply did not consist of Bible passages or words from hymns:

F*ck f*ck f*ck.

And then:

Sh1t, sh1t, sh1t!

Today was Mrs Glasshopper’s last of ten chemotherapy sessions.  This week they have several appointments to review progress (or lack thereof) and options.  Frankly, there are few options left.  When I asked Schatz (who knows a thing or two about medicine) a week after diagnosis, I summarised her answer as:

Also, der Tod ist sicher.

(“So, death is certain.”)

Over the last month I’ve chatted to Glasshopper a lot, forming a rapport with him, trying to work him out.  He seemed cheery, but was that alpha-male, riot policeman, bravado?  No, he is genuinely businesslike (perhaps as his coping strategy) and realistic.  He even uses the D-word: death. No euphemisms.  No:

  • The inevitable
  • When she passes away
  • When she moves on
  • When the end happens
  • Etc

Instead: death and dying.  He’s calling a spade a spade.  (DE: die Ding beim Namen nennen.)

Mrs Glasshopper, on the other hand, is in denial.  She’s not saying her goodbyes, because she denies shes going yet.  She is convinced that she will still be alive – despite doctors’s predictions – for her son’s graduation in two years and probably many more family events.  Death is the last taboo in our western society.  Nobody wants to die, at least, not early.

By analogy, I once joked to a female friend of mine:

Women have PMT.  Men suffer from PMT.

Maybe it’s similar here.  The patient has the terminal cancer.  The family suffer from the cancer.  Am I being too cold?  Too clinical here?  Is Glasshopper?

He even ‘fessed up last week:

Sometimes I just want her to go so she is no longer in pain, and so I don’t have to deal with this any more.  And I feel an absolute a$$hole for saying that.

Since then he has called me “Padre Ginge.”

This is not Hollywood cliché.  No:

  • Miraculous recovery
  • Constant hugs
  • Reiterations of “I love you”
  • Final hours in hospital bed, surrounded by loved ones and devoted medics
  • Final beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep on the electronic monitor

Woody Allen is famous/notorious for his quotation:

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

What can I do?  What can Glasshopper do?  Probably not much.  I told him this morning:

Padre Ginge is here if you need to let off steam, swap silly jokes, send internet memes or links to YouTube videos of cheesy 1970’s hits.

We pads brats don’t hug trees.  We don’t even hug humans.  We don’t do group therapy.  We do, however, look after each other in our own unique way, which “bl00dy civvies” never quite understand.

Please, folks, pray for and think of Glasshopper and his wife next time your train is running late or there is too much milk in your tea.

Have a grateful day, won’t you!

tree

 

A first time for everything

This week I visited K in hospice.  It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a hospice, although at my age (late 40’s) I have visited dying people at home.  I’ve known K (a Scots British Army veteran) since 2001, when he was a case worker for an armed forces charity, when my dad was being a “problem child.”  K was a godsend to me, as he listened to me rant and rave about chaos that my Dad had been creating for me.  Now it was my turn to return the kindness to him.

A, a mutual friend, had briefed me last week that K was due to move from palliative care into hospice this week.  K knew what this meant.  He was moving into the departures lounge.  He’d been through check-in, security, and now it was time to sit in the departures lounge and just wait for the final call.  A had briefed me that K had 2 to 6 weeks left.

The night before I had Kopfkino playing non-stop.  Would K want to talk about death and dying?  Would he use euphemisms, or would he actually use the word, “death”?  Would he prefer to talk about anything but death?  (Was he Celtic or Rangers?)

I turned up on a beautiful sunny day, too nice, frankly for a hospice visit.  I didn’t ask him, “How are you?”  That would be crass.  He’s dying of cancer!

K, great to see you.

Ginge in Germany, you too!

A firm handshake from K.  Bated breath.  Will he cry?  No.  Almost, though.

A sigh from K, sitting in his wheelchair.

I arrived here yesterday from palliative care.  I know what it means.  I really have not got much time left here.  Oh aye!  I got a letter last week demanding €14000 compensation off me for a car crash I caused five years ago.  I had great pleasure in replying that I’m going to die in a few weeks, and they won’t be able to get a single cent out of me, ha ha ha.

Then silence.  K starts to blink, swallows hard, and squeezes his wife’s hand.  Five seconds later the dark British squaddie humour returns.

And the amount of money the undertakers charge for a f***ing funeral!  At my mother’s cremation, just before they slid my mother’s box into the oven, the cheeky bastard undertaker asked if anyone had a match!

Right, he’s back “in the zone.”  If a soldier is not complaining or cracking bad-taste jokes, then there is something to worry about.

The rest of the ‘guests’ here are terrible.  I joined them for dinner yesterday evening, and all they did was rattle on about their illness, asking me, “What are you dying from?  How many weeks have you got left?  I’ve got…”  It’s so f***ing depressing, the morbid buggers!

K offers me a beer.  I decline.  I drink mineral water instead.  Beer at 11am would make me too drowsy.  K tells me his son is about to turn up tomorrow with G, his latest grand-daughter, only two days old.  He’s looking forward to that, he says with fatherly and grandfatherly pride, a smile showing under his grey moustache.  (When I first knew K, his hair was black as Whitby jet.  What a difference 17 years (and metastasised prostate cancer) make.

K and I spend the rest of the visit, another hour, swapping stories and cracking jokes about death and funeral, standard ex-HM Forces chat, really.  He tells me his bagpipes are arriving this afternoon.  He tells me he intends to play the bagpipes tonight to the fellow guests – “to drown out all their f***ing incessant talk about death and coffins.”

Yes, the body may be going downhill rapidly.  But the soldier with his effing and blinding, and his macabre sense of humour is still alive and kicking.

I conclude my 90 minutes visit with thanks and a firm handshake.  No hug.  We’re both British.  We don’t do huggy-huggy, kissy-kissy.  K sees me off with the following words:

“Lunch today looks good.  Fresh strawberries, too.  The condemned man ate a hearty meal, eh!”

I actually leave the hospice with a spring in my step.  Iron sharpens iron.

Have a sharpened day, won’t you!

tartan

 

 

 

Pareto

The Pareto principle: in a nutshell, 80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your people.  Or 80% of your work is done by 20% of your people.

Our church always needs volunteers for:

  • Sunday school
  • Reading the lesson
  • Leading the prayers of intercession

That’s the front line tasks.  We also need volunteers for the “back room boys (and girls)”:

  • Refreshments: making teas and coffee after each service
  • Preparing our monthly shared lunch
  • Flowers
  • Mowing the church lawn
  • Etc etc etc

One set of statistics I have noticed in relation to church tasks:

  • 100% of the people that complain that church lawn is looking a little bit long and in need of mowing, do 0% of the mowing.
  • 100% of the people that complain that shared lunch has been cancelled, do 0% of the preparation for shared lunch.
  • 100% of the serial complainers, do – guess what – yeah, you got it – 0% of the work at church.

Maybe one day we’ll have people queuing up to donate some time to their church.

long queue of people, back view

Have a generous day, won’t you!