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.

DSC03123

Have a poignant day, won’t you!

 

 

Cemetery Visit

I was born on dd/mm/yyyy in a British military hospital in Germany.  I am a pads brat, and proud of the fact.

The army wife giving birth before my mother died during childbirth.  I did not know that fact until ten years ago, when I was living near Oxford and planning a visit to Germany.  My dad asked me to do him a big favour and visit the grave of the mother in question, which, some months later I did.  It was a gloriously sunny day.  The Rheindahlen Military Cemetery, where she was buried, was billiard-table green and very peacefully quiet.

Two thoughts occurred to me as I stood at the lady’s grave.  Her name is Margaret.

  1. When had anyone last been to see her grave?
  2. The Angel of Death could have taken me, but chose to take Margaret instead.  Even on my darkest days, I have reminded myself of that fact.  There has to be a reason why I was allowed to live.

On Facebook among the anti-Trump, “what I am having for lunch” and cute animal photos, I recently saw some posts from two army wives regarding the Rheindahlen Military Cemetery.  Tragically, these two ladies had lost babies in the same hospital where I was born.  After making enquiries of various contacts that I know, I am intending to visit the cemetery in the next few days to visit the graves of the babies buried there, as well as to take photos and video footage to share with the mothers of these babies.  As a single man with no offspring, I can only imagine the pain these mothers will have gone through, when the Army and society in general were much more “stiff upper lip” than nowadays.  Since those first two army wives messaged me, I have received two or three other requests to visit other babies’ graves.

It is my humble duty and privilege to be living close enough to the cemetery for me to pay a visit.  Door to door: about 90 minutes.  I feel it is the least I can do for my fellow pads brats and families, to pay my respects and say a prayer by their babies’ graves.

Finally…  Some years ago, I remember a story about an army wife wanting to have her daughter’s remains repatriated some years after her burial back to England, where her parents were now living.  In preparation for the planned move, the mother came over to the grave at Rheindahlen Military Cemetery.  Standing by her daughter’s grave situated among the dozens of other babies’ graves, she told her husband:

No.  Let’s leave her here, so she can carry on playing with all her friends here.  They’d miss her terribly.

 

cemetery

Have a peaceful day, won’t you!

Sauna, So What?

Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.  Germany.

What do you think of when when you think of Germany?

  • Wurst
  • Beer
  • A pretty successful national football team
  • That bloke with a funny-looking moustache and haircut… cough, cough
  • Come on now, admit it… Nudity

Germany is famous/notorious for “everyone getting their kit off at the first opportunity.”  Actually, that’s not quite the truth.  Walk down any German high street, and everyone is fully clothed.  Sit on any German train, and they are all fully clothed, even during a heatwave like we have today, temperatures of 30+ degrees c.

Whereas Germany does have the FKK (Freikörperkultur – “free body culture”) beaches and sections of the park, it’s still the minority of Germans who do go there.  (Well, as far as I am aware.  I admit, I have not done a scientific survey of my colleagues and neighbours.)  Most Germans will still wear their swimming costume, bikini or trunks on when they go sunbathing.

There is, however, one exception.  Woe betide you if you break this rule.  Germans go au naturel when they sit in the sauna.  Now it’s time for me to answer all the FAQ’s that I get from Brits.

  1. Phew phoar!  No, I have never got, cough, cough, “excited” in the sauna.
  2. No, it is not at all erotic.
  3. No, after my first visit to a German sauna, I did not rush out to buy a season ticket.
  4. Sex gods and goddesses do not visit the sauna.  Most German sauna-goers are not by any means salad-dodgers.  However, they tend to eat those salads on top of their cheeseburger, large Pommis mit weiss, bratwurst, and washed down with a few gallons of beer, followed by a large piece of Black Forest gateau.  Most of them make me look slightly anorexic.
  5. No, I have never met my bank manager/next-door neighbour/that lady who works down the local cafe, while sitting minding my own business down the sauna.
  6. No, I do not make sure I have a good look, phoar…

What impressese me is how businesslike, practical and logical Germans are about the whole business of sitting in the sauna:

  • in the buff
  • in your birthday suit
  • in the nip (Irish English expression)
  • au naturel
  • starkers
  • insert your favourite euphemism

My favourite sauna is the infra-red sauna at mine and Schatz’ favourite health farm.  45 degrees warmth and the infrared warms those sore joints.  Next to it is the Tecaldarium, with tiles rather than wooden slats.  Ideal if you have back or joint pains.

So what happens if you do enter the sauna in clothes, eg bikini or swim shorts?

Answer: One of the workers will rush into the sauna at the speed of a thousand leaping gazelles, shout at you, double you out of the sauna and tell you that you are to:

  • Undress immediately
  • Shower
  • Re-enter the sauna

…which has to be much more embarrassing than being seen naked in the sauna would have been.

Oh yes, once you do enter the sauna, you must-  by tradition – call out a mighty, cheery “Halloooooooooo!” to all the gathered textilfreie people on the slats (or tiles).

I have to say I find the German attitude to be a lot more mature than the British, rather giggly-girl, attitude towards people taking all their clothes off.  And believe me, after the first three nanoseconds, you really, really don’t bat an eyelid.  You just end up sitting in silence if everyone else is silent, or you join in the conversation about the weather, Brexit, Helmut Kohl, etc.

Have a textilfreier day, won’t you!

sauna-sign

Blood sugar diet: day 39 of 56

Today’s statistics:

  • Starting weight: 122.4kg
  • One week ago: 120.2kg
  • Today: 118.3kg

That’s 4.1kg off in four weeks.  I am happy.

So what had happened?  A week ago I had blipped upwards due to a slack weekend.  I had had food porn – Irish English breakfast – down the Irish pub in the city centre, bread rolls and a few cocktails.  No regrets.  It’s a way of eating, not a diet.  I now know after several weeks on this diet/WoE, that as soon as I get back on track without making anny big fuss, the weight comes off, generally within 3-5 days.

On a positive point, friends have started noticing my weight loss, asking what diet I am trying.  Two of them have ordered the book and have started within the last fortnight.

“If Ginge in Germany can manage it, so can I.”

And my new Marmite cycling top fits me just nicely.  It even has a nice jar-like shape.  Not long now till the Tour de France starts in Düsseldorf.  Los!

marmite

Have a love it-or-hate-it day, won’t you!

 

Blood sugar diet: day 29 of 56

Today’s statistics:

  • Starting weight: 122.4kg
  • One week ago: 120.7kg
  • Today: 118.8kg

That’s 3.6kg off in four weeks.  I am happy.

A few observations.

  1. Last week I spent a long weekend at Schatz’, celebrating her birthday.  Over two or three days I ate a big pack of crisps (paprika flavour, yum) as well as eating lots of pizza and drinking several cocktail.  A blip on Sunday evening: 121.4kg.  I delayed weekly weigh-in by one day till today.  I know from past experience that if I over-eat, it takes 48 hours to lose the excess weight.  Hey presto!  Today it was my lowest weight since I started the diet, and indeed my lowest weight for several years.
  2. While walking past a shop window yesterday evening, I noticed my belly had definitely shrunk.  Still big, but not kettle drum shape now.  Obviously still a long way to go.  But the longest journey consists of but single steps.

Everyone keeps telling me:

Keep it up!

Au contraire!  I say:

Keep it down!

Finally, by no means am I a communist.  Only my hair is red, but just once let me leave you with this thought.

zitat-vorwarts-immer-ruckwarts-nimmer-erich-honecker-220507

Have a comradely day, won’t you!

Blood sugar diet: day 22 of 56

What have I learnt so far?

  1. Don’t panic if you have a blip.  Stay focussed.  Start afresh.  One week’s weight gain or loss is, in any event, but a small step when you remember it took years to put the weight on.
  2. The 72-hour rule of thumb.  If I have had a blip, it takes about me about 3 days for the “blip weight” to pass out of my body.  (I won’t get too scatalogical here…)
  3. If you do have a blip one week, don’t starve yourself.  Just go back to what you were doing that was helping you to lose weight.  Last week I had a few too many Haribos and Balisto snacks, probably about 3000 calories worth, equalling about 0.5kg, which is what I put on last week.  This week so far I have had literally three, maybe four, Haribo pieces.
  4. If you are tempted to have sweet things, have an ice cream, rather than sweets.  A Magnum ice cream bar has “only” 259 calories and is more filling than a pack of wine gums.  The ice cream is also quite a nice dessert after a salad lunch.
  5. Do some exercise in the evening.  The last two evenings Düsseldorf has enjoyed glorious sunshine.  I have made the most of it.  I’ve already caught the sun after only 20 minutes at lunchtime today.  (Well, what do you expect from a redhead?)  Two 50-minute cycle rides to explore and recce new routes.  I’ve also found a new “salmonellaburger van”, where I can stop off for a coffee.  Another advantage of cycling is this: you can’t comfort-eat while you are cycling – especially if you don’t bring any money with you.  (“Lead us not into temptation.”)  The Union Flag cycling top still turns heads.

Finally, here is a pic of me in my favourite cycling top, back in 1998 in God’s Country, the Yorkshire Dales.  Dennis the Menace from The Beano comic.

Dennis

Have an un-menacing day, won’t you!

Praise in public, rebuke in private…

So, a break from articles about the diet.

Church matters.  Specifically house group.

Once a week I attend house group with other members of church.  Yesterday we started looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Yesterday evening Deckname Markus sat next to me, as he did the previous house group session.  Deckname Markushas, at the last two sessions, spoken really loudly all the way through the last sessions.

The effects:

  1. I had to put my hands my ears whenever he was speaking.
  2. I whispered in his ear, “Could you speak more quietly please.”  (Just once.  He then spoke quieter for a sentence, then WENT BACK TO FULL VOLUME a few seconds later.)
  3. Rather than stop for a cuppa and small talk, in the great tradition of the Sunday newspaper reporters, I “made my excuses and left,” shoes on, heading down the stairs from the 3rd floor and to the nearest taxi for home, solitude and the sound of silence.

Another house group member also “had to dash.”  (British euphemism: “I don’t have to dash, but I don’t want to stay here any longer tonight.”)

I asked that person:

Does Deckname Markus work with old people, or is he hard of hearing?

Reply:

Phew, yes, he was talking really loudly today!

Today I bit the bullet.   I sent our man an SMS, as low-key as possible:

 Could you talk a bit quieter at house group please?  The last two times you were so loud, I had to cover my ears when I was sitting next to you.  Danke Dir!

Polite, friendly and zum Punkt.

This afternoon a reply came back.  I’ll translate from the German.

I hate SMS.  It’s a terrible form of communication.

I phoned Schatz to seek her opinion, as she understands the German Weltanschauung better than I do.  She has a good expression.  “We must talk about the blue elephant in the room.”  I rang Deckname Markus to try placate him and explain there was no malice intended.

He admitted that is one of his weaknesses, but still took umbrage at my texting him.

So, folks, straight question.  What should I have done?

Have a low-decibel day, won’t you!

Ears