How to confuse a 5-year-old

A few weeks ago I attended a Roman Catholic first communion, namely that of a young relative of Schatz.  Me, I’m a Prod and proud, to quote from the song, but I’m more than happy to attend such things, stick some cash in the lad’s Erste Kommunion card and join the family for post-mass buffet lunch (which was delicious).

Before the mass started, I chatted to Schatz’s relative-in-law, her five-year-old daughter, seated between us.  R-in-L and I chatted in German.  Daughter sat quietly all during the mass.

Eventually we reached the Lord’s Prayer.  Everyone else said it in German: Vater unser, etc.  I said it in English, my beloved mother tongue, thus:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven:
Give us this day our daily  bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
When before the Collect the priest alone recites the prayer, the people here respond: Amen.
When after all have communicated the people repeat each petition after the priest, the prayer ends:
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Within a few syllables, five-year-old is staring at me, her jaw nearly reaching the ground.  Daughter tells Mutti words to the effect:

I can’t understand a word he is saying.

Mutti tells daughter:

He comes from another country. 

(Daughter still looks mystified as I flick back into German.)

Have a confusing day, won’t you!

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We Are Not A Babysitter Service…

I reiterate once more.  I admit it once more.  I am a care bear.

But even I have my limits.

Rewind to a few weeks ago.  We have a member of congregation, who is is a de facto single mother  (DFSM).  Husband works away a lot.  She’s lonely, possibly a bit burdened with bringing up a two-year-old child on her own.  Probably her German is limited.  Ditto (I suspect) her English.  I have noticed her several times in the past few months.  I have often wondered: is she possibly on Mogadon?  She often seems in a bit of a daze.

After there service one day, I hear a conversation a few metres away:

House group member:

Oh yes, we have a house group on Wednesday evenings.  You really should come.  We are looking at the Book of Acts.  We also enjoy fellowship, tea and cookies.

DFSM:

Oh, I will come.

Fast-forward to the following Wednesday.  It’s 19:45.  Most of the house group members are there.

Let me just interject here.  House group is also known as:

  • Home group
  • Hauskreis (literally: house circle in German)
  • Life group
  • Bible study

We get settled in for a good meaty session to look at the Book of Acts.

My mobile rings. It is DFSM.

An abrupt:

Hey, when is the service?

I tell her it starts in 10 minutes.  DFSM cuts the call.

We carry on, ploughing through the passage.

20:20, and it’s DFSM again.

Hey, where is the service?  I am at Blahblahstrasse.

We talk her through how to get house group.  It is now 20:24.  I have had a strenuous week month.  My patience is starting to grow as thin as my hair…

20:30 DFSM arrives.

Her 2-year-old child in tow.

Nobody says a thing.  Maybe they have other thoughts, but they keep it zipped.  Nobody wants to make a fuss.  I bite my lip.  I bite my tongue.

Group leader hands DFSM a bible.  DFSM seems puzzled.  Maybe, kann es sein, she thought she was coming to a service, where should could dump the reason for her Kindergeld onto others.  It’s house group, bible study, ma’am.  The study of the bible is the MoSCoW must-have part of house group.

Offspring screams.

Offspring shouts.

Offspring wanders round the flat, picking bric a brac up from our host’s bookcase.

We all politely smile and say how active offspring is.  I sit thinking about my day at work and how I was needing to share concerns and prayers.  It was not my intention to share babysitting duties.

20:45 Offspring is still screaming, shouting, wandering, climbing, touching and grabbing things.

20:46 Just like the tabloid investigative reporter, I make my excuses and leave, incisor teeth almost digging into tongue.

Bible study disrupted.  Offspring’s sleep pattern disturbed.  My blood pressure sky-high.  DFSM was content just to sit on the sofa and stare into space.  House group/bible study is meant to be participatory, not passive.  Not dump-your-kid on-“volunteers”-time.

Am I being too harsh?  Too un-Christian?  I checked with two friends of mine.  Even Billy agreed it was not appropriate to bring a 2-year-old to bible study at that time of evening.  Normally he will disagree with me on everything.  B in Oz, a mother of a 2-year-old, also agreed with me.  She said a child of that age should be in bed very latest at 8pm.

If you can’t achieve your aims at bible study (namely to, er study the bible), is there any point in coming?  The evening becomes not fit for purpose.  A Rolls-Royce is a nice luxury car, but it’s not suitable for ploughing a field, like a tractor would be.

Clearly, we do want to help struggling members of congregation, but not at all costs.  Would it therefore be more appropriate for members of congregation to invite DFSM out for a Kaffee und Kuchen one-to-one or to a women’s prayer group that meets daytime?  Can we create a win-win situation for all concerned?  Rant over.

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

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Have a care-bearing day, won’t you!

 

Glory to Stalin!

Stalin’s reign.

An old lady gets on a bus in Moscow. She has waited a long time, and sits down with a sigh of relief. “Oh, glory to God!” she exclaims.

The bus driver turns around with a grave look. “Comrade, there is no God. You must say, ‘Glory to Comrade Stalin.'”

The old lady apologizes and pledges to remember this. After a minute, she pipes up, “Comrade, what shall I say, if, heaven forbid, Comrade Stalin should die?”

The bus driver pauses, and answers, “Oh! Then you shall say, ‘Glory to God!'”

Have a glorious day, won’t you!

Glory-to-Stalin

“No School Tomorrow” 2

Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, coined the expression, “Alarm clock Britain,” the people who have to get up in the morning and go to work.  I’m part of Alarm Clock Germany.

It’s 20:00 on Monday evening.  It’s monthly church council meeting.  Budget time.  Our treasurer is taking us through the list of repairs planned for this financial year.  I sit back and listen.  I day dream.  I munch a biscuit.  I munch another biscuit…. and another.  In fact, nearly a pack gone.  I sip my tea.

The repairs list should really be nodded through.  It all has to be done.  The sooner, the better.

Billy butts in and asks about repairs to the vestry window.  Can we get a lower quote?

Billy butts in and asks about repairs to the church boiler.  Can that be delayed?

Billy butts in and asks about replacements to the chairs in church.  How old are the chairs?

I lose interest.  I check my mobile to see if there are any Whatsapp messages from Grasshopper.  I pick up my Lamy fountain pen and start to jot down my shopping list for my next visit to Aldi.  Others round the table seem to be doing similar.  The vicar sitting next to me takes the tea pot and pours himself another cup of tea.  He needs caffeine to keep him awake while Billy drones on about each individual item.

Finally we take a vote on repairs.  A nearly unanimous vote for the programme of repairs.  Billy is opposed.

The next agenda items are discussed at length, and rightly so.

Finally, at 22:05 we reach AOB: Any Other Business.  (Please, please, Mr Chairman, hopefully none, so we can all go home.)

Billy:

Yes, I want to ask why we are installing poles in the church car park?  Are they necessary?

Ginge in Germany:

With the greatest respect, do we really need to discuss this topic here and now, at 22:07 on a Monday evening.

Billy (hackles starting to rise):

Yes, we do.  This is an important health and safety issue.

All around the meeting room, eyes roll.  We have run out of biscuits.  The tea has all been drunk.  We all want to go home.

[Tedious dull technical discussion about trip hazards.  Billy utters his must-say expression: “At my last church in England, we…”]

I doodle a stick man, a pine tree and a cat face in my notebook.  I day dream of the last meal I had down my local curry house.

Billy stops speaking.  It’s now 22:20.

I interject:

Is that the end?  Some of us have school tomorrow.

Vicar:

Yes, I think so.  Shall we say The Grace?

We say The Grace and the meeting concludes.

Billy looks like he wants to carry on having a windbag, probably about the colour of the tea towels in the church hall kitchen.  Not at 22:23, thanks, mate…

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23:00 I climb into bed, tune in to BBC Radio 4 and set my alarm clock for 07:00 tomorrow.  Billy sends me a Whatsapp message about the trip hazards of small holes in the ground.  Zzzzzzzzzzzz…

Have a stimulating day, won’t you!

Do Your Homework First…

Evenin’ all! A slightly rhetorical question for you all.  What is “research” these days?  Let’s head to our local pub and meet our Kneipenprofessor.

person holding glass filled with liqour

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Pub Expert:

I’ve been researching this topic.

Other person:

Oh, you mean you wrote a paper on the subject citing at least 10-15 reputable sources, summarising all the current thinking, stating your own hypothesis and then introducing the original work you did in the attempt to confirm or disprove this hypothesis before reaching a conclusion and giving further possible directions for study, after which you got it published in a reputable journal in the field and peer-reviewed?

Pub Expert:

Er, no, I looked at some websites that I agree with.

smartphone outside hiking technology

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This afternoon I was drinking coffee with fellow members of church, when Holocaust Memorial Day was mentioned.

As soon as I mentioned the day, Billy butted in:

Oh, that’s only about the Jews 1933-1945.

My blood pressure immediately doubled.  Billy has once again engaged mouth before brain.  Yet again…

Sharp intake of breath.

G in G:

No, it’s not.  It’s also about holocausts and genocides in ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Tibet, Burma and many other conflicts.

Billy:

It is only about the Jews.  I’ve been researching this topic for twenty years.

G in G:

With respect [A British expression meaning, “I consider you to be a complete and total idiot”] I visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1978.  I also listened to a radio interview with the chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust this morning.

Billy:

Oh.

I am then reminded of the English barrister, F E Smith, and his famous exchange with a judge.

Judge: I’ve listened to you for an hour and I’m none the wiser.

Smith: None the wiser, perhaps, My Lord, but certainly better informed.

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This evening I decided to send out an email to the three people who were in that discussion.

****

Good evening all

Following on from this afternoon’s discussion in the Meeting Room concerning the purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day, I thought it prudent to share some important facts.

  1. The day is by no means only about the murder of German and European Jews under Nazism.  Please refer to the Memorial Day Trust’s link: https://www.hmd.org.uk/what-is-holocaust-memorial-day/
  2. As you can see, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust states explicitly: “Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide. We promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) – the international day on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.”  (My emphasis in italics.)
  3. The key point to note here is that history repeats itself, with human beings being murdered for being the “wrong” ethnic background, not just for being Jewish, but also for being Roma, Hutu, Tutsi, Croat/Bosniak/Serb (in the former Yugoslavia conflicts of the early 1990s), Rohinga, Tibetan, Uighur, etc.
  4. On a very personal note, I myself visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1978.  Ever since then, I have studied genocide in conflicts.  Further, in the first half of the 90’s, my father worked for British Direct Aid in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda (during and in the aftemath of both conflicts, albeit not at the peak of the former conflict).
  5. Former comrades of mine from the British Army’s Intelligence Corps have told me about carrying out war crime investigations and finding mass graves that contained multiple layers from more than one conflict: 1990’s civil war, Second World War, possibly more.
  6. In conclusion, this is why Holocaust Memorial Day exists: namely, to echo the sentiments of Remembrance Day – Lest we forget.  Sadly, and to our eternal shame before God, we humans forget history time and time again.

I’m sorry I feel it necessary to write a serious email this evening, but I do consider it essential to explain what this day is all about, and also why I feel so strongly about the subject.

Finally, let us all please pray for peace on God’s earth this week.

Yours in Christ,

Ginge in Germany

****

Have a well-informed day, won’t you!

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One Year On

My Dad, Sunray, passed away died exactly one year ago today, suddenly at 14:00 GMT, while walking back from his local shop.

How time flies.

How was my grieving process?  Actually, IMHO, there wasn’t really one.  I was very matter-of-fact the moment I found out via a Facebook Messenger message from my younger brother.  I was in the office, collating an Excel spreadsheet.  I told my colleague, “My Dad has just died,” in the same way and tone that we would tell a colleague, “Our boss popped in, looking for you.”  I then carried on with my spreadsheet to meet a deadline for our rather unfriendly product owner.

I did pause to send out a Whatsapp round-robin message to Schatz and to church friends to ask for their prayers for Sunray’s soul.  Replies came in from single “prayer” emojis to long, warm messages from members of my house group.  I wasn’t in shock, but I think I was stunned.

I did not cry until I got home.  By then the posts and kinds words and funny stories about him flooded in on his regimental old comrades Facebook page.  Tears of grief ran out of my left eye, and of laughter from the right eye.  It’s what Sunray would have wanted.

That was then.  This is now.

I still feel relieved.  I still do not regret deciding to stay away from his funeral.  In any case I was still not well enough to travel at that time.  Even walking to my local shops and back was a major physical exertion.  I am glad that I visited his grave two months later, said a prayer or two over his grave and placed three daffodils on the broken earth, marking his relatively fresh grave.

I have prayed daily that his is indeed resting in peace and that God will let his infinite mercy shine on Sunray’s face.  Since he died one year ago, several more of his regimental brothers have died.  I pray that they will join him in the Senior Squadron bar to exchange “Do you remember when…?” stories.

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Sunray in November 1998

Have a poignant day, won’t you!

 

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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