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.


Have a poignant day, won’t you!



The Fifth Commandment: Part 1

The Bible commands in Exodus 20:12:

Honour your father and your mother.

And truly I tell you, it’s a good commandment.

That’s the Biblical quotatation for you.  From theology to humour.  Now for an old East Germany joke…

A school teacher asks little Fritz:

“Fritzchen, why are you always speaking of our Soviet brothers? It’s Soviet friends.”

Fritz replies:

“Well, you can always choose your friends.  You can’t choose your family.”

Many a true word said in jest, Fritz.

This been a somewhat frustrating weekend for me.  Philip Larkin was spot-on when he wrote This Be Verse(I leave you to read the poem in your own time.  It does have a small typo.  I think the second word in the poem should begin with an “m,” not an “f.”)

My Dad, “Sunray,” is a “problem child.”  Lonely, with few friends, alienated from most of his family, with an alcohol dependency a “grumpy old man” personality.  Not exactly the most attractive thing to write in his online dating profile, but hey, ho, there you go.

Because Sunray has a low boredom threshold.  He tends to phone me every two or three times a day on Saturdays, sometimes even more than that, reaching double-figures.  The same again on Sundays, even though he knows I am out at church most of the day on Sunday.  This being even though I phone him from work three times a week and end up having long chats with him, so he can tell me his “When I was in [insert name of garrison town]…” war stories again and again.  And again.

And again.

And Again…

This Saturday I relented and called him back to keep him quiet.

Another anecdote about Fallingbostel 1965, which I’d heard only about…. ooooh… some fifteen times this year…

Three minutes into the call Sunray declares:

Anyway, I don’t want to chat any more.  Bye.

Two hours, three hours, four hours later, more phone calls from him.  That was the pattern on Friday.  This time, on Saturday, I ignore the calls, probably much to his chagrin.

As Schatz was here, I decide to pull out my landline cable to get some peace and quiet.  Later in the evening I re-connect the landline.  More phone calls from him, not leaving a message.  Then at about 20:00 the calls stop.  He’s probably drunk his quota of rose wine and climbed into bed for the night, muttering his mantra, “Every single f*cker’s been f*ckin’ me about.  Sick and tired of it.  People f*ckin’ me about…”

Enough about Sunray.

Have an honourable day, won’t you!

Today’s Earworm

It’s been for me a pressured week or two for me.

  • Office politics
  • Tour de France preparations for church
  • Dealing with “admin-intense” members of congregation
  • Heatwave in recent days
  • Fridge-freezer at home being broken

First world problems, I know.  But everyone reaches their limit.  This week I’ve been aware that I need to ease off a bit and give myself some “me-time.”  Who guards the guardians?  Who cares for carers?  Sometimes – nobody.  Sometimes the caring moves on an Einbahnstrasse: a one-way street.

This week I’ve been quite blessed to have two fellow members of congregation possessing pastoral skills, who have been taken a large amont of “payload” off me, dealing with a member of congregation, who has been ill in hospital the past fortnight.  This member of congregation has Ted Stryker tendencies.  He is very “admin-intense” to use a British Army expression.  (But Ted and his ways will form material for another blog article or three.)

All this week I’ve been feeling fatigued on coming home after work.  Hour-long long lie-down next to tower fan, my current best friend in the heatwave.  Earlyish into bed.  No energy to even give my bathroom and kitchen a good clean-up.  Many thanks, Schatz, for being Mrs Mopp this weekend. 🙂

After church service today I unloaded to two church confidantes to the effect that I was – for the first time in months – going to head home for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  V asked if I would like to join her on a pastoral visit to “Ted.”  I politely declined the invitation, explaining that “Ted” had been too “admin-intense” for me the past week and a half, with contacting hospital chaplains, as well as reading SMS messages that, in length, but not quality , rivalled Paul’s letters to:

  • The Romans
  • The Ephesian
  • The Corinthians
  • The Athenians
  • The Americans
  • The Albanians
  • The Sunday Times
  • The Daily Mail

I just needed time away from Ted.  To correctly quote Greta Garbo:

I just want to be left alone.

V then thanked me for everything I do in church, which left me with a lump in my throat.  I’m not a child.  I don’t expect a pat on the head, a gold star, or to be sent to show my nice, neat handwriting to the headteacher.  Nonetheless a sincerely expressed thank you is always well-received.

This afternoon I have spent precious hours flopped out on the sofa, writing my diary, listening to the radio and also planning further blog articles based on:

  • Puns
  • Untranslatable expressions
  • Vogon poetry (just kidding – I would not inflict that on anyone)

All things that I can really only do when I have proper “me-time.”

Then, while I was scribbling away in my diary, I remembered this beautiful hymn that I first heard a year or so ago.  It has become my ear worm du jour.  Here it is.

It Is Well With My Soul


Have a well day, won’t you!

Blood sugar diet: day 62

Note: I have omitted the “of 56.”  This is a way of eating, not a time-limited diet.  This is a healthy eating regime.

  • Starting weight: 122.4kg
  • One week ago: 120.3kg
  • Today: 119.5kg

So, progress.  A bit of a “ratchet effect,” but again heading in the right direction.

My aims this week:

  1. Reduce the ice cream after lunch to every other day.
  2. Keep on bringing chewing gum to work.  It reduces my desire to eat.
  3. Avoid the vending machine.  The peanuts are tasty, but it’s just habit.  Three or four days of avoiding them, and I’ll have broken the habit.
  4. Go for two or three bike rides this week.  Tonight I need to go to the local Lidl supermarket. I will integrate the cycle ride into my normal daily routine.

A few observations…

  1. I had some wine gums this afternoon.  I felt sleepy afterwards, and I wanted more and more.  Like with smoking, the best way to give up, is don’t even start them in the first place.
  2. I need to avoid my local cafe.  Not only is it full of ex-Yugloslavs rattling on about how great the war in the early 90’s (don’t get me started, please), their bread rolls, while tasty, are full of white carbs that make me sluggish and want to lie down and snooze when I get home from work.  Tomorrow onwards I shall head straight home and have the Mediterranean food I bought this evening.  Prawns and mushrooms and delicious items.  Dee-lish.

My aim next week is to be 118.nkg.  The lower the n, the better. 🙂


Have a WoEful day, won’t you!

Blood sugar diet: day 55 of 56

  • Starting weight: 122.4kg
  • One week ago: 119.5kg
  • Today: 120.3kg

No, there is no need to hard sharp objects.  I am not feeling gutted.  Admittedly, very slightly disappointed.  However… I still see this increase in weight as a blip, albeit a slightly longer one.

So what has happened this week?

The answer: the weekend.  On Friday I had the munchies at work and visited the vending machine.  On the weekend I had two lovely, tasty meals: Schnitzel with chips, followed by a nice big strawberry cake, and then later in the day, mixed grill, followed by several drinks down the cocktail bar in the Altstadt.   Calories galore.

So what now?  BAU: business as usual.  After the weekend I have gone back to the normal diet (way of eating).  Here’s why I am optimistic.  On Sunday morning I weighed 122.5kg.  This morning, two days later, I weighed over 2kg less.  I know that it takes me 3, maybe 4, days to lose the weight I had gained.   I’ve noticed the pattern. Now, tonight, having just had my evening meal, and (sorry to be scatalogical) not having been for a “number 2,” I weigh 120.3kg.  (Bearing in mind that I tend to lose over 0.5kg overnight with exhalation and toilet trip, I anticipate weighing  119.xkg in the morning, and then continue the downward trend over the week.

Moreover, I know that I will be burning the calories this week, as I need to cycle to three meetings at church this week, and then do humping and dumping of supplies for our Saturday Tour de France garden party.  (The key thing to do this week is to be fairly strict on the weekend, as well, to make sure the weight loss gets back into full swing.)  Church is half an hour away by bike, one way.

So, another blip.  That’s all it is.  A blip.


Have a calm day, won’t you!


Blood sugar diet: day 48 of 56

  • Starting weight: 122.4kg
  • One week ago: 118.3kg
  • Today: 119.5kg

Despondent? Nope.  It’s a blip.  Schatz and I went away for a weekend, staying in a lovely spa hotel.  Lots of nice meals.  Am I worried?  No?  Am I being complacent?  No.  I know that as soon as I’ve got back on track on the Monday, the weight comes off.  See my previous posts.  One positive side-effect of the heatwave is: my appetite gets suppressed, and that helps a lot.

So a short, sweet post.  As far as I’m concerned, the blips are part of BAU: business as usual.  So is the downward slope in weight over the weeks.


Have a BAU day, won’t you!