JF*G*I…

Who used to have the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home?  Who remembers when libraries had microfiches and index cards?

That is how we used to access information on the capital of Rwanda, history of the Sorbian language, crop rotation in the 14th century, etc.

Nowadays: we have people asking the hive mind on Facebook.

I’m on several Facebook pages:

  • Expat in Germany
  • Creative writing
  • History
  • Philately
    • Pitcairn Island
  • Travel
    • Pitcairn Island
  • Astronomy
    • Planet Pluto
  • Many, many more…

Most of the groups are good fun, eg learning about the postal history of Planet Pluto, or something like that…  I like to read the posts and contribute when others ask questions.

Today, while staring out of the window on the tram today, I coined a new acronym:

JFGI (Just Flipping Google It)

At least I thought it was new.  However, it did already exist, as mentioned in Urban Dictionary.

Years ago, I used to be a supply teacher.  The number of times I’d be asked,

Sir, what’s this word mean?

My reply would be:

Have you looked in the back of the book?  Have you looked in the dictionary?  No, then do it, and tell me what the answer is.  I am not here to spoonfeed you.

That was with 13 year olds from some of the rougher parts of Teesside.

Fast-forward to the year 2020.

FSQ’s (Flipping Stupid Questions) such as:

Where is the British Consulate in this city?

Umm…. JFGI.

I decide to relent.  I decide to send the enquirer the Consulate URL.

I then get supplementary FSQ’s…

What are the opening hours?  How do I get there by public transport?  How much is the train fare?  Can I reclaim my train fare?  Do I need to make an appointment?  Can you come with me to the Consulate tomorrow at 9am?  I need a helper with officialdom.

Umm, guess what…  JFGI.  And no, I am not at the beck and call of bone idle strangers.  I am not here to spoonfeed you…

Further questions from other groups come on an hourly basis.

Can you tell me about German history?

In a very polite English way, I reply:

German history is long, rich and complex.  What specifically do wish to know?

In hindsight I should have just replied…

JFGI.

Another question comes from would be Dostoyevskys.

How do I write a perfect novel?  I want to write my autobiography.  What should I write about?  How much should I charge for my book?

I decide not to reply.  I just think: JFGI.

These are questions from grown adults, not 13 year olds from the rough end of Teesside.

Then there are the ridiculously picky requests, not quite needing a JFGI response.  The enquirers tend to PM me, addressing me as “Sir”, or send me friend requests.  These are along the lines of:

Where in this city can I find an French-speaking dentist who speaks the language with an Albanian accent?  I need someone urgently to carry out root canal treatment on my Jack Russell puppy, who is scared of anyone who does not speak French to him.

Or…

Can anyone help me to find an apartment in this city?  My budget is 400€ per month.  I need a place from next week.  Who can come with me tomorrow at 11:00 to view an apartment?

You get the idea. Give me strength…

I feel like the help desk guy in this clip.

Have an self-starting day, won’t you!

 

 

 

Aye! I love t’Dales!

Burma!  Egypt!  Malaya!

Hang on, wrong song.  That was from Sweet Banana.  Let me start again.

Masham!  Bedale!  Leyburn!

That’s where Schatz and I were at the end of August.

It had been over a year since Schatz and I had been in England (Redcar, Saltburn and Whitby – the North York Moors area).  Now it was time to show Schatz the Yorkshire Dales.

A smooth flight from DUS to Leeds Bradford Airport, preceded by a McDonalds breakfast at DUS.  (I must admit, I do like their muffins and their coffee.  Their branch at DUS does make a useful “office” for doing paperwork.)

Our taxi picks us up on time.  We head through the country roads to our hotel in Masham.  (A point on pronunciation.  It’s “Mass ’em,” not “Mash ’em.”)  We arrive at reception.  For the first time in years, I do not have to spell my surname.  The receptionist says, “I live in that village.”

Our room: nice and cosy.  Lovely double duvet, lots of biscuit by the kettle.  By now it is 4pm.  Schatz and I have not eaten since our mid-morning McAttack.

Wir haben Hunger.

We stroll off to the market square via the local supermarket.  I stock up on Ibuprofen: 90% of the price in Germany.  (I repeat this procedure several times over the weekend.  Why pay a fiver, when you can pay 46 pence?)

The fish’n’chip restaurant is not open for another 30 minutes.  It’s a hot, rather humid day.  Schatz has been dieting successfully this year.  Nonetheless I ask if she would like an ice cream from Bah Humbugs.  Brymor ice cream.  Made from Guernsey cow’s milk.  She says yes.  I bring her a cone with two big scoops of:

  • Black cherry whim-wham
  • Rhubarb and custard

I get myself black cherry whim-wham and chocomint.  Delicious.

icecream

Normally we would eat pudding after a meal.  But needs must.

Harry’s fish and chip restaurant.  Schatz  and I chat in German while looking through the menu.  (We know already what we are going to order, anyway.)

This is what we ordered.  British food p0rn…

chips

I also ordered curry sauce and onion rings to accompany.  Our plates were clean by the time we finished.

A waddle around the Market Square and then back to our hotel via the local fruit shop to buy postcards (and to buy postage stamps – the post office had closed months before, much to the locals’ chagrin).

Back to our hotel room.  We flop out on the bed for “a quick lie-down before we go down to the bar.”

Twenty minutes later, Schatz is in her night clothes under the duvet.  I am watching The Sweeney, 1970’s cops’n’robbers show on TV.  Schatz is now comatose.  I watch another episode of The Sweeney.

  • You’re nicked!
  • Guv’nor!

etc…

I get a second wind.  (I blame the onion rings.)  Lamy fountain pen out.  Postcard to Schatz’ parents.  Another to our church organist, caring for her dad in Surrey.  Another to Grasshopper.  I get dressed.  Off to the postbox in town.  Via the supermarket for more Ibuprofen.  Leg stretch time.  I bring back Nachos and dip for Schatz, who is now awake.

We munch our Nachos.  It’s been a very pleasant day in Masham.

Have a black cherry whim-wham day, won’t you!

 

Street Jewelry

Oz, a character in the hit 1980s comedy drama, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, once observed:

These German bricks lack the panache of British bricks.

I’ve thought the same on a number of occasions, when looking at Gewrman postboxes.  One of the distinguishing features of German postboxes seems to be grafitti, something I have rarely seen on Royal Mail postboxes.

Therefore, I was most impressed some days ago, when strolling through the scenic village of Kaiserswerth, to see two posboxes that were grafitti-free.  Praise be to the people and visitors to Kaiserswerth.

20190819_162910

Klemensplatz

20190819_163137

Kaiserswerth post office

Have a presentable day, won’t you!

“I never get any post”

Back in 2004 I used to send, Marco, my friend in Düsseldorf, a postcard every time I’d go to the Saturday market at Masham, in the Yorkshire Dales.

It’s the only post I get these days, apart from bank statements.

I paid attention to Marco’s comment.  I resolved the following week to change this situation for him.

The United Kingdom has a lot of universities, from Aberdeen and Aberystwyth to York.  I googled “List of all British universities.”  I went through that list methodically.  It took a day or so.  I ordered Marco a prospectus from pretty much every UK university.  Every single one.

A fortnight later I rang Marco.

Marco thanked me profusely for his collection of reading material.  He had to go to his local post office to collect half of the items.  He had piled them up in his living room next to the TV.  One university had a translation and interpreting course that interested him.

He never complained about receiving very little “proper post” after this avalanche of prospectuses.  I don’t know why.

Have a voluminous day, won’t you!

brown envelopes in mail box

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Classmates Reunion Part 3

Saturday morning.  After Grasshopper has gone for his run, Schatz and I meet him in the hotel for breakfast.  I had a slightly sore head.  I’m not sure if Grasshopper did, too.  I’m sure a run and shower will have got rid of that for him.  For me, my sore head disappeared after five coffees and a cooked breakfast.

Off to the Altstadt.  Coffee and spaghetti ice.  Grasshopper and I upload to Facebook yet more German “food porn” photos.  It has to be done.  A trip along the Rhine on a boat.  More pics, and not just of food porn.  Schatz is shattered.  She heads home to the hotel for a well-earned siesta.  Grasshopper and I head to Kaiswerswerth for that German classic, the currywurst.  A short stroll to the river bank for more pics and to walk our currywurst off.

Back to hotel.  Power nap or lie-down for an hour or so.

Freshened up, we had to a nearby Bavarian pub.  Grasshopper has his Jägerschnitzel.  I choose Schlemmerpfanne.  Schatz chooses salmon, the healthy option.  More food porn photos are uploaded to Facebook.  Grasshopper and I enjoy our Apfelstrudel.  More food porn photos are uploaded to Facebook.  A few more glasses of Pils are enjoyed.  All three of us are merry.  Schatz treats us.  Star!  For Grasshopper is our honoured guest.

foodporn

Schatz heads to bed.  Grasshopper and I chat in the hotel bar.  41 years of “remember when…?” to catch up on.

The following morning it is time to say goodbye to Grasshopper.  Before he gets into his taxi, we hug shake hands.  It’s been an excellent weekend.  Rarely have I met such a good bloke, an interesting guy and very likeable, as Grasshopper.  It was a privilege and pleasure to meet him after 41 years.  And yes, so, we did get on face to face as we did online.

Grasshopper, let’s not leave it another 41 years, eh!

Have a friendly day, won’t you!

Classmates Reunion Part 2

Like the song goes, Train and Boats and Planes.  Actually, Trains and Blokes and Planes.  I hadn’t planned a great deal for Grasshopper’s weekend.  He’s easy, he says.  No point in timetabling every minute.  We head to the Altstadt.  We decide a coffee at an Irish pub is the obvious choice.  Coffee, craic and more chat.  We decide not to sing any of our dads’ politically incorrect songs from their days in Northern Ireland.

We have about three hours to kill before Schatz is due to arrive.  We walk and talk  along to the Rheinufer to get the typical touristy panorama pics.  Then I see the Rheinturm TV tower in the distance.

Taxi.

Grasshopper uses his German skills to buy our tickets at the Rheinturm.

Zwei, bitte.

(He’s fluent.)

Views, tea and apple cake with whipped cream.  It’s got to be done, hasn’t it.

Energy levels starting to sap after a while.  Grasshopper has been up since 04:00 UK time.  Back to our hotel.  Grasshopper checks in.  I nip to the local post office to pick up a package.

Schatz arrives.  We check in.  We then meet up with Grasshopper at the appointed hour on the nail.

Taxi to Altstadt again.  Cocktail bar.  Planters punch, mai thai, Tom’n’cherry.  A few more rounds.  All three of us chat.  We reminisce.  We get merry.  Schatz speaks in English.  More in one evening down the cocktail bar than in years of us being together.  Result!

Grasshopper is as WYSIWYG in real life as he is over the internet.  Diamond geezer.

We make our way back to our hotel.  Schatz heads to bed.  Grasshopper and I continue chatting in the hotel bar till near midnight.

Shortly before midnight, my head hits my pillow after a quick glug of water to rehydrate.

It’s been a great day.  I hope I don’t have a sore head in the morning…

photograph of men having conversation seating on chair

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Have a reminiscing day, won’t you!

Classmates Reunion Part 1

Is the answer 42?  No.  In this case it is 41: 41 year since Grasshopper and I last saw each other, when we were cute little pads brats classmates at a British primary school near the East German border.

Praise be to Facebook!  Nearly ten years ago, Grasshopper and I got in touch after I had shared a 1977 class photo on our dads’ old comrades Facebook page.  Then there was the Big C Diagnosis on the last Wednesday of October 2017, since when Grasshopper and I have often chewed the cud, and bombarded each other with jokes and internet memes via Whatsapp.

Fast-forward to last Friday.  Too idle to take the bus from my flat to DUS airport, I take a taxi.  Having a bit of time to kill, I set up “office” at the ultra-modern McDonalds.  The day gets off to a good start.  Plenty of empty tables.  I take my breakfast with one large coffee (much needed to kick-start my day).  I sit down at a table on the edge of the restaurant.  Munch, munch, slurp.  Diary time.  Samuel Pepys/Adrian Mole/Konrad Kujau mode.  I check my smartphone.  Grasshopper’s plane has not taken off yet, according to the messages from LCY (London City Airport).  It’s delayed 45 minutes.  Time for another coffee and a quick lookaround to see where the toilet is… ah, there it is.  Just round the corner.

I’m looking forward to seeing Grasshopper in the flesh.  We’ve had some really good laughs over the years via the internet.  We’ve had some really good, deep conversations.  He’s a net contributor.  He’s a switched-on bloke, who does a lot of good work in his spare time for a youth organisation.  He has a similar warped sense of humour to mine.  He is also a big fan of Not the The Nine O’Clock News.

But will we get on when we meet?  “Captain Paranoia” keeps whispering in my ear.  People are different when you meet them in person, or if you mention Danny Jones, etc,  who you couldn’t stand, and then it turns that Danny Jones is in fact, best mates with Grasshopper.

I go order another coffee and make a few phone calls.  I surf on my smartphone and find a few cute animals videos to smile at and to forward to friends.  My bladder tells me it is time to stand up and move.  Toilet.  Off to gate to meet’n’greet Grasshopper.  Out he comes.

No hugs.  No embraces.  We pads brats don’t do that.  A good firm handshake and pleasantries.  Without further delay we head to our train, and then chat for England during the short hop to DUS Hauptbahnhof.

Twenty minutes later we two are sending Schatz a selfie from the Hbf, getting ready to explore my adopted home town.

Have a welcoming day won’t you!

[To be continued.]

grayscale photography of man walking on stairs

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