Wunderbar!

I’m a fan of Germany.  I tell Brits, Germany is like Britain… just better-run.  Germany is a wonderful land.  And so is this instrumental by The Shadows.  (Hank Marvin is like Ricky King – but better.)

Have a wonderful day, won’t you!

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Am Dreizehnten August…

The Thirteenth of August is a significant date.

  1. International Left-Handers Day.
  2. The Berlin Wall was built on this date in 1961.

Here’s a joke to take you through this date.

Günter Schabowski has passed away today. On arriving at the gates of heaven, St Peter tells him,

“You will be getting into heaven.”

Schabowski asks St Peter,

“When?”

St Peter shuffles his papers and says,

“Das tritt nach meiner Kenntnis… ist das sofort, unverzüglich.”

 

Have an august day, won’t you!

yellow plush toy

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In peace – goodwill

In war – determination.

In defeat – defiance.

In victory – magnanimity.

In peace – goodwill.

Wise words from Winston Churchill.

During World War II and even up till 1948, many German prisoners of war (PW) were kept in the United Kingdom and proved to be most useful as a labour force, especially on farms, auf dem Lande.

All the PW’s would be dropped off at their place of work at 0700 every morning.  They would have head back to their PW camp, a converted manor house, in the evening.  Their rations for the day: a tin of corned beef, barely edible for a dog, let alone a man working in the fields.

One such PW worked on my great-grandad’s farm in the Yorkshire Dales.  I forget his name (It’s mentioned in a recent letter from my 80-year-old uncle A from Bedale.)  Let’s call him Ralph.

When his employer’s family found out that Ralph:

  1. Was not a Nazi, just another conscript, doing his job
  2. Was a motor mechanic
  3. He was a good “grafter,” full of Teutonic efficiency
  4. Had food rations thatwere not fit for purpose
  5. Was an all-round nice guy

the family pretty much adopted him.

They invited him to join them as honoured guest for lunchtime every day, including Sunday roast with gallons of gravy and Yorkshire pudding.

Finally, when Ralph was sent back to Germany in 1948, home addresses were exchanged.  Every Christmastime Christmas cards would be exchanged between t’Dales and Hamburg, Ralph’s home.

In 1964 my Uncle A was posted to the BAOR, British Army of the Rhine.  He then visited Ralph in Hamburg and had a few beers with him, also meeting his wife and children.

Uncle A and Ralph kept in contact for years even when Uncle A was posted to Northern Ireland.  Eventually the Christmas cards stopped.  Ralph had passed away.  The final correspondence was a condolence card sent to Ralph’s family some time in the 1960’s.

Aus Feind wird Freund.

Have a friendly day, won’t you!

hands people friends communication

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Please call the church warden on…

The vicar is away for several weeks’ holidays.  That means anyone phoning the vicarage with queries is asked to phone me as church warden.  I don’t mind.  Happy to help.  Variety is the spice of life, and I get a wide variety of calls.

First call of the hols – yesterday

Unknown mobile, a lady’s voice:

Hallo.  Do you spik Englisch or Cherman?

G in G:

Würden Sie lieber auf Deutsch reden?

WE speak in German.  The caller is one of the local undertakers.  An English lady has recently died.  As she’s not Catholic, the local Catholic priest won’t bury her.  Can the Anglican priest come to … Cemetery this Friday and bury her ashes in an urn?

G in G:

No.  He’s on holiday abroad this month.  How urgent is it?

Untertaker:

It’s not urgent.  Her ashes are in an urn.

A very practical, German answer.

I email the vicar and cc: the undertaker to assess next steps.

Today the untertaker writes back to advise the local Catholic priest will, after all, bury the English lady’s ashes.  Very kind of him.

floral design steel container

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This afternoon I decide to sit in the library in the city centre in order to:

  1. Read the Torygraph
  2. Write my diary
  3. Think of some blog writing to plan for my avid readers thereof

Another phone call from an unknown mobile number.  It’s a semi-regular member of congregation.

Can the vicar countersign some passport and birth certificate documentation, please?

G in G:

No.  He’s on holiday this month.  What’s the situation?  Maybe I can help?

It turns out:

  • The fiance is a national of country X
  • but was born in country Y
  • and also has a passport of country Z

Fiancee is a German national, but has decided that she and fiance will get married in Caribbean country XX, which requires about 300 copies of doxs (countersigned by a doctor, teacher, priest or person of similar standing) in order for a marriage to take place there.  But if all else fails, they will marry in a German registry office to make it all legal.

G in G:

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrright, I think I understand.  Where are you right now?

Semi-regular member of congregation (SMOC):

We’re at the airport.

G in G:

If you’d like to come to the library in the city centre, I can take a look and countersign.

SMOC’s fiance turns up thirty minutes later.  We sit in the library.  I have a brainwave.

Let’s jump in your car and head to the church.  We have a selection of rubber stamps there.  That’ll make everything look more official .

Twenty minutes later we reach the church office.  I grab the official rubber stamps and the ink pad.  I take a sheet of A4 paper from the photocopier.

Thump, thump!   Thump, thump!

For a moment, I felt like I was an immigration official at passport control.

I show the sample rubber stamps to SMOC and fiance.  They are happy.

I take the copies of passport and driving licence.  Fountain pen out, I write:

I certify…

I open the ink pad again.

Thump, thump!

Church rubber stamp next to my signature and at the bottom of the page.  Off you go!

person holding brown stamp

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Have a rubbery day, won’t you!

We got it licked…

We got it licked… but only partially.  Some of my stamps are self-adhesive.

In Germany, Deutsche Post postage rates increased on 1 July.  Were the new stamps for sale on that day?  After all, they had been telling everyone for months in advance about the new rates.  Teutonic efficiency, and all that…

No.  Nope.  Nein. Нет.

Not to worry.

British.  And less of your Johnny Foreigner nonsense!

I just took the Stückelung approach.  July 1st was also the day when new commemorative stamps came out.  Astronomy seems to be the current theme. My budget did not stretch to the 3.70€ Moon landing, however.

astro2

I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

  1. Stock up on stamps at the new rate, eg international postage starting at 1.10€ instead of 0.90€.
  2. Use the old stamps, and add some smaller-value stamps to plug the gap.
astro1

L-R: National postcard rate, international letter rate, national letter rate

If I’m going to have to pay more for postage, I may as well stick more stamps on my letters and postcards, especially as my Uncle A in Yorkshire is a born-again stamp collector.

stk1

Stamps with Stückelung: 9 stamps on an international letter – result!

stk2

A large letter: birthday card, albeit with “only” four stamps on – must try harder!

stk

Two large letters, with a nice array of postage stamps – es lebe die Stückelung!

Have a philatelic day, won’t you!

GDR Ha Ha Ha…

The Grenztruppen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, the East German border guards, took their job seriously.  So did the British soldiers when they used to come to do border patrol.

Except… the Brits being Brits used to like being professional, but also having a laugh.  At the expense of the Genossen on the other side of the fence.

Many a female members of the Royal Air Force, when traversing the DDR checkpoint in Berlin, was known to lift off her bra and blouse and show off her ample chest to the Grenztruppen, chanting the following one-liner:

If you’re British, get your t1tties out!

The DDR authorities would then raise a formal protest about another Grenzprovokation via the Soviets, concerning:

…severe indiscipline and courtesy to the military personnel of the German Democratic Republic, especially from female troops, who lacked any form of ladylike behaviour…

And this from a country famous for FKK.  How strange.

Troops stationed on the main border used to have their own fun.  Here’s one Grenzprovoktation incident.

One bright, sunny Thursday morning, Sunray arrives at the border village of Mattierzoll on his Landrover.  Fun time begins.

He places a piece of equipment onto the roof of his Landrover.  It has an aerial.  He starts pointing the aerial in the direction of the guard tower on the other side.   He stands by the vehicle for a several minutes, slowling pointing the aerial in various directions.

A pair of border guards come closer.  They scratch their heads.  They take photos.

Sunray turns the “scanner” again.  He sits in his Landrover, smiling, eating a cheese sandwich.

More border guards come, this time with technical officers, flicking through their British Army reference guidebooks.  What is this device on the roof of this Landrover?

Five minutes later, Sunray puts them out of their misery.

He takes the Ministry of Defence issue office bin off the roof.  He removes the green-painted coat-hanger and the masking tape holding it to the base of the bin.  He holds the bin up to the Genossen to show what it is. He pulls off the old phone cable that had been glued to the bin.

The Genossen, realising that been pranked, shake their heads and march off, muttering under the breath.

Sunray chuckles and jumps back in his vehicle.  He has a great story to tell back at the barracks this afternoon.

Have a provocative day, won’t you!

mattier.jpg

Mach mal lauter – Genosse!

I stumbled upon this rather catchy and somewhat haunting tune when watching Das Leben der Anderen back in 2007.  This song was playing in the background in a cafe scene.  A quick bit of Google research, and I found it.  I think it was the best thing to come out of East Germany apart from the Trabant.  (Maybe not.)

Have a frank day, won’t you!