Pads Brat Life

42 signs you were a Pads Brat … fellow Brats leave the number of the one which made you smile the most. 😃

1. People ask you where you’re from and you don’t even try to explain as your not entirely sure!
2. Your Doctor, Dentist and Chaplain wore combat boots.
3. You’ve taken a few flights that involved sitting in jump seats, wearing your winter jacket the entire flight and taken off and landing at military airports.
4. You’ve eaten more than one really posh Christmas meal in the “mess” and been told to be on your best behaviour to then watch the adults get hopelessly drunk and misbehave.
5. You always have emergency ration packs around the house and can make a meal out of anything tinned.
6. You’ve never had to explain to your Military friends that you just found out you’re moving … again!
7. You’re the most efficient packer you know and actually enjoy it.
8. You’ve known from a young age Life is not always easy or fair but your job is to make the most of it and smile regardless.
9. You are tough, adaptable and good at making friends.
10. You wouldn’t trade your childhood and upbringing for anything in the world.
11. You know you shouldn’t but you judge people who don’t know the phonetic alphabet.
12. Turning up 10 minutes early for an appointment means you’re late.
13. You were soooo proud you had a British military ID.
14. Anyone older than you is Sir or Ma’am, “No exceptions.”
15. Your chores were mandatory and were always inspected military style.
16. You are born with a immediate respect for anyone in uniform.
17. Santa always turned up in a military helicopter to the Mess and wore combat boots and DPM trousers underneath his red jacket.
18. You were never alone, and even when you were, you were always pretty content and happy.
19. You’ve stood for the National Anthem in a cinema.
20. You have an instant connection with other brats no matter what sex or age.
21. You have friends all over the world.
22. You can “go with the flow” better than your civilian counterpart, even if you’re not comfy, you always fit in and hold yourself well in any group.
23. No one or nothing was more scary than your father’s commanding officer.
24. You’ve not got the toys you grew up with and can’t remember where they went.
25. You never ever questioned your lifestyle, things were just as they were and it was accepted, now you look back in affectionate amazement.
26. You know it’s really 17:00 not 5pm.
27. You get excited when you meet someone who has been to the same base or country as you and have an instant bond and shed loads to talk about.
28. Going back to your own country was a complete cultural shock.
29. You never thought it was weird that you grew up inside a armed guarded cage, you just knew you were safe.
30. Your only source of communication with your Dad when he was away were “blueys”.
31. In school, you had fire drills but you also had nuclear war drill and prepared for terrorist attacks.
32. You put German curry sauce on everything and love trying new foods and flavours.
33. You feel somewhat sorry for civilian children and feel like they have missed out.
34. Having the amount of different schools attended as you did is a kind of badge of honour but you cant remember more than two teachers names, what school they taught you in or what year!
35. You’ve worn military green thermal socks that doubled up every Christmas as your Christmas stocking.
36. You’ve looked under your car for bombs or devices, also had your school bus searched twice a day by armed soldiers considered normal.
37. You never bothered to memorize your home telephone number, it changed too frequently.
38. You refer to non-school clothes as “civvies.”
39. It wasn’t alarming or nothing new to see guys jump out of airplanes or dangle from speeding helicopters.
40. You can’t keep track of how many houses you’ve lived in but can remember the view from your bedroom windows.
41. You are probably one of a few people that have actually fully read this whole post and liked and shared it.
42. You can’t stop finding reasons why being a Military brat is great.

Have a padded day, won’t you!

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Michael, they have taken you away

Michael K was buried yesterday morning.  He was 50 years old.  Three of his children attended his funeral, together with about fifteen other people who knew him, including his first wife.  I’m not sure if he had other children, but that was all that turned up to a spartan chapel in a local cemetery.

I would like to be glib and say, “It was a nice funeral.”

In a way it was.  The flowers on and around his coffin were beautiful.  The mourners, especially the British – for he had many British friends – were warm and supportive towards the members of his family, saying kind words and offering sympathy and hugs.  We sang one of his favourite hymns well: There Is A Hope.

But it wasn’t a nice “he had a good innings” funeral.  He died too early, alone and lonely and lacking love and hope.  His partner had died slowly and painfully three years ago.  He had been in and out of jobs since then.  When he was working, he was doing shift work and could not get to church to be with his church family.  As for his “blood family” to quote the Prince of Wales’ brother, I think his relationship with them over the years had been strained.

Michael was what we Brits call “a bit Marmite.”  You either loved him or hated him.  I myself enjoyed his company, as long it did not involve endless hours spent on a summer afternoon in an Altstadt Irish pub.  Michael, a German, knew the words to a vast array of Irish rebel songs.  Sometimes he’d tweak the lyrics.  Sean South of Garryowen became Sean South of Gerresheim.  He and I used to sing these songs every now and again together…  All his years working in IT in Scotland and Eire had not gone to waste.  I guess his local pub in Scotland must have been full of Celtic fans, judging by his repertoire.  Oh yes, he also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of East Germany jokes.

We got on well.

We often used to sing Fields of Athenry while strolling through the local park.

Michael, they have taken you away.  May you rest in peace.

Have a peaceful day, wont you!

“Meet me halfway…”

Let me prepare you with a bit of context for this article.

A friend of mine told me this joke the other day.

A man prays:

Heavenly Father, I am always skint.  Please please please, let me win at least a tenner on the National Lottery.  Amen.

A week later our man is lying in bed, when a voice calls out to him:

Hey, at least meet me halfway.  Please please please, go and buy yourself a ticket!

Now and again, I do a bit of pastoral work for my local church.  (Think of Matthew 7:16.  Anyone can talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?)  It’s rewarding, but also frustrating, especially when you are dealing with someone who perceives God as a “magician.”  Pray for a bike for Christmas and God waves his magic wand to ensure the desired bike appears at the foot of the Christmas tree on the morning of 25th December.  Ach nein, das geht nicht…

Prayer alone is not enough.  Prayer is good, but not enough.  I have a headache.  I will pray about it.  Fine, but better if you also take an Ibuprofen or lie in a darkened room. By the same token, liebe Leute, if Uncle Ginge in Germany gets you a social security form for you, please pray about the paperwork, but…

  1. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE fill the blessed form in.
  2. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take the form to the office.
  3. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE just allow the nice, kind, friendly civil servant to process your claim in due course, even if it does take 3-4 weeks.  That’s just the way it is.

Have a prayerful day, won’t you!

My Ex-Pat Grump

I think I’m going to sound like one of those Torygraph readers, bashing out a fuming letter and calling for the return of:

  • The birch
  • Capital punishment
  • National service
  • The 11-plus exam

I’m not.  But I feel the need to rant about modern society, at least, in the city of Düsseldorf.

Why do so many passengers on the S-Bahn (local stopping trains), U-Bahn (the Tube/subway) and trams insist on doing one of two things during rush hour.

  1. Sit on the window seat, bag on aisle seat.
  2. Sit on aisle seat, with window seat unoccupied.

Oh, and youngsters, using half-price child tickets, never, ever give up their seats to adults, even to Oma who’s about to join Hugh Hefner, or Frau Schwanger who’s 8.5 months pregnant and hours away from contractions.

Am I being too harsh?  As a pads brat, I come from a disciplined environment, where you do without moaning, and defer to your seniors.  For me it was a pleasure to stand up and offer my seat to an adult, without having to be prompted.

(Pardon me while I get some Brasso to polish my halo.)

Earlier this week I boarded the team home after a session down the English Library.  Lots of people standing.  Lots of schoolkids sitting, bags on the adjacent seat.

I’d like to sit here, please.

(Tut and sigh.  Bag gradually lifted by owner onto his 13-year-old lap.  A face like thunder.)

Herzlichen Dank!

13-year-old face like thunder.

A minute later I spot a harrassed mum with her 5-year-old son.

I stand up.

13-year-old with face like thunder moves bag from lap to my seat.

I offer my seat to mum with son.

Harrassed mum with son accepts offer.

Pick your bag up, please!

Mum sits down and sighs with relief.

13-year-old with face like thunder just humphs and rolls his eyes, his sense of entitlement severely breached.  Pech!

Humph once again.  I dare you.  I double-dare you…

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Have a considerate day, won’t you!

 

 

 

F-RAN-KK SIDEBOTTOM

Question: Frank Sidebottom: who was he?

Answer: a uniquely British character, in particular, a Northern character.

A man with:

  • a large head papier-mache fibre-glass head
  • a nasal voice
  • a Mancunian (Manchester accent)
  • a love of Altrincham FC football club (whose shirt he is wearing in this pic)
  • a love of singing about “Alty”

He also loved the words “fantastic” and “blimey.”

Here’s a clip from a typical evening’s entertainment with Frankie.

Recognise him now?

I’ve been a fan of his for over thirty years.  Yes, me with my postgraduate education, laughing at daft things like that.  Blimey!

Here are the fantastic lyrics to his Alty fan song, which I think is as good as You’ll Never Walk Alone…

“On Saturday at five to three
There’s only one place to be –
Down at the Moss Lane football ground
The team come out, the crowd all roar
We come, win, lose, or draw
The only team for me is Altrincham FC
Oh the Robins aren’t Bobbins, says me
The Alty!”

So, why the title, F-RAN-KK?  Well, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon today.  I was chatting to my old classmate, “The Roz,” about my recent visit to the naturist section at Unterbacher See.  The Roz is also a Frank Sidebottom fan, being from up the road from Frank’s home town.

Blimey, Ginge!  Well done, but I couldn’t bl00dy well do that.

Then we got talking about what would happen if Frank Sidebottom had come with me to  the naturist section, the FKK-Bereich.  The comedic elements just write themselves…

Imagine the scene…

Frank arrives in his Altrincham FC kit.  To quote the late, great man himself:

The shorts are black,

The shirts are red,

An ace combination, as I’ve said…

Our Frank strips out of his Alty strip.

He exclaims:

Blimey!  They’re all in the nip!

An overzealous parks official comes and tells Frankie S to remove his papier-mache fibre-glass head in order to be fully stripped off.

FranKK explains:

But this is my head.  It is part of me.

Little Frank joins in with protesting.

The official walks off.

Blöder Ausländer…

Frank turns to camera and says:

Oh no!  They’d better not tell me mum!

Frank decides a bit of music is needed to lighten the mood and entertain the hundreds of Germans in their birthday suits.  He gets his organ out.  (Phoar!)  That is, his Hammond electronic organ.  He starts to sing:

“On a Monday at five to three
There is only one place to be –
Down at the Unterbacher See
The clothes come off, we’re in the raw
We come here, and it isn’t a chore
The only place for me is Unterbacher See!
Oh, the Germans aren’t Bobbins, says me…
Altbier!”

Thank you!

Then cut away to Frank Sidebottom interviewing some very confused Germans in English.

Is it nice lying in the sun oh natural?  Back home in Timperley we never have enough sun to go sunbathing.

sidebottom

Have a frank day, won’t you!

FKK’ing Eck!

Nudity.

There!  That’s got your attention, especially if you are a stereotypically repressed, prudish Brit…

And for those who are into puns, let me explain the title of this post.

  • FKK: German word, Freikörperkultur – literally, “free body culture”, or naturist.
  • Eck: shortened form of “Ecke”, German word for “corner”.
    • My Dad was a regular customer of a German pub called “Danziger Eck”.
    • There is a flower shop in Düsseldorf called “Blumen Eck”, which must belong to an Anglophile, “Blumen” the German word for “flowers,” and the shop name being a pun on “Blooming heck” (much beloved of Coronation Street characters).

Soooo, back to the topic…

Today I finally went to Unterbacher See, a local open-air swimming area, typical of Germany: an artificial lake with a park, artificial beaches, changing rooms, toilets, play park, etc, etc.  I’d been meaning to go for the past five summers.  Today I got my swimming kit and a couple of books and headed off there.

It turns  out the Unterbacher See also has an FKK area, also known as a “textilfrei” area at the southern end of the area.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and my clothes to the ground.  I headed off to that section, five minutes stroll from the entrance.  My observations:

  • There were hundreds of people there, of all shapes and sizes.  Most people made me feel anorexic, and the average age was 40+.  I’m guessing that once you’ve hit 40, most people’s pride and vanity have already gone.
  • There were couples there, there were families there, there were single people there.
  • Pretty much everyone was reading a book.  Many were reading newspapers.  I guess the newspapers provided better cover against the intense sun.
  • Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid as the sunbathers strolled around in their birthday suits, heading into the lake for a dip.  Likewise, nobody seemed be looking anyone else up and down.  And even if they had, well, a 46-year-old naked big-bellied German (or Brit) is not exactly erotic.
  • Even the staff at at the nearby kiosk did not react at all to the queue of Germans in the buff.  Let me just state here and now: I ordered a Cornetto ice cream.  I could not bring myself to order a bratwurst.

Two hours and two chapters of Blogging for Creatives later, I showered, dressed and headed back to the city centre, a slightly redder shade of pink, including parts of my “whitey from Blighty” body that do not normally see sunshine.

Would I go again?  Well, put it this way, I won’t be booking two weeks in a naturist resort.  On the other hand, sunbathing among a bunch of salad-dodging middle-aged Germans is actually a pretty mundane experience.  Mostly I would stick to clothing-on areas, rather than head for the FKK area.  At least now I can say, “Been there, done it, not worn the t-shirt.”

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Have a textilfrei day, won’t you!

 

Rheindahlen Military Cemetery Visit

A very poignant day today.

I did it.  I visited Rheindahlen Military Cemetery.

It’s nowadays not easy to get to, now that JHQ is closed.  My advice is to drive there, or take the number 26 bus and bring a pair of hiking boots for the final leg from the nearest bus stop.

Today was a bright, sunny, warm day, not enough to give a redhead sunburn.  I kept my promise to visit the babies’ section of the cemetery, which I had made to the mothers of three stillborn babies.

The cemetery was beautifully maintained.  Row upon row of gravestones, most with corps and regimental cap badges chiselled in.  Some, however, had no regimental badges engraved, but perhaps an angel or a simple cross.  These were the babies’ graves in an L-shaped section of the cemetery.

Did I feel emotional?  Not until I saw one gravestone that read:

Aged 10 minutes.

And then another:

Aged 6 hours.

And yet another:

Aged five days.

When I saw those graves, it all became so, so real: the Kopfkino images of the struggle to stay alive, of pride and ecstacy of becoming a parent and then the anguish of seeing life extinguished so soon after it had come into the world.  And then not being able to visit the grave at the drop of a hat.  Does that make the grieving process easier, or does that make the process much harder?

And then the stillborn babies.  Society has changed in its attitudes towards them.  Until the mid-70’s or 80’s, stillborn babies were buried in the cemetery without even a headstone, as if, because they had not even taken one mortal breath, even for ten minutes, they were maybe not even “proper” babies.  I took photos of their section and explained to their mothers that I was not able to find their babies’ exact resting places.  Nonetheless, I received messages of thanks for sharing photos of their resting places, and that made the visit all worithwhile.  The following is going to sound very cliched.  As a single man with no children, I can – literally – only imagine what the mothers must have gone through.

Rest in peace, little ones.  Rest in peace.

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Have a poignant day, won’t you!