Sunray Still Alive

Wednesday morning.  I’m pairing socks on my sofa.  Glenn Miller American Patrol playing in the background.  Incoming call on my mobile.

Sunray’s number comes up.  He has not phoned me on my mobile number for nearly two years.  Is this the call where a stranger’s voice tells me:

“Hello.  Is that German Ginge?  Could you sit down, please?  I’m sorry to tell you…”

It was not to be.  It was Sunray himself.  At least he was sober.  Well, it was 0930 in the UK.  Give him time.  He was fine, thanks.  Actually, no he was very, very down.  Nobody cares about him.  Nobody comes to see him.  He does not very often leave his house.  No, he does not want to go to the library.  No, he does not want to go to coffee mornings to go out and meet people.

Clearly he is in a rut, and it is hard to kick-start someone when they are that deep in the mud.

But, but, but…

I can’t help but asking if some people are “only happy when they are unhappy,” when they can portray themselves as victim.

Nobody from the Royal British Legion (charity for ex-servicemen and women) has been to see him since they were contacted four months ago.  How shocking.  How inept.  How uncaring.

A blatant lie.

A liar has to have a good memory.  His is clearly very poor.  He himself told me two months ago about two lady caseworkers visiting him for coffee and chat.  I myself had a long phone call with one of his caseworkers two months ago, whotold me about his:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drink-caused accidents at home
  • Callouts to the ambulance
  • Discussions with the alcohol nurse as follow-through
  • Constant drunken calls to people in his address book at all times of the day and night, in once case, fifteen (sic) times in one day

Then he tells me the (expletives) from the Legion have not sent a single person to see him.

It’s my birthday in less than a week.  It’ll be forty years to the day since one morning I was asked to come to the headmaster’s office at Wolfenbüttel Primary School, Germany, and take a phone call from Sunray on duty at HMP Maze in Northern Ireland, wishing his first-born a happy birthday.  I think of where his now.  Choose the action, choose the consequences.  You cannot always rescue a drowning man, without you risking drowning.

Have a sober day, won’t you!


Sunray Heading Downhill

Sunray.  His children used to call him “Dad.”  His daughter nowadays calls him “the sperm-donor.”  He’s been a  “problem child” all his married life and in the years thereafter.  Serial borrower.  Serial non-payer-back.  Heavy drinker.  Alcoholic.  Serial nuisance caller, trawling his address book for people to phone up to fifteen times a day.  Serial texter.  “U R ME PAL”; “CUM N SEE ME”; “GET ME A BTL OF ROSE PLS”.

I used to write to him every week or two, either a proper type-written letter or a postcard to boost his morale.  I used to phone him once a month.  Has he ever written back?  Once this year.  He now has a professional caseworker from the Royal British Legion, the Armed Forces charity.  Her summary to me?  “Yes, he’s a very difficult case.”

So, what’s the future.?  It’s not bright.  It’s not orange.  When someone is that deep in the rut of late-stage alcoholism combined with borderline personality disorder or sociopathy, there’s little you can do.

  • Poor physical health
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Osteoarthritis of both knees
  • Estranged from most of his family
  • No real, flesh-and blood, friends in his locality
  • The kind of personality that means people give you a “wide berth” (his favourite expression)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Etc etc

Does he actually want to live any more?  What are the reasons to live any more?  To even get out of bed?  Would death be a relief for him?

Choose the action, choose the consequences.

Have a consequential day, won’t you!

A moral dilemma

So, for the past month or so, I have been back in DUS, worshipping at my local Anglican church again.  Now, a moral question…

Is it fair for me to avoid “babysitting service” for two member of the church?  I know it is better to give than to receive, but sometimes I feel the need for some “me time.”

It’s often said that single people, especially men, are the overlooked people in a church.  Maybe that is true.  Those with wives/girlfriends/husbands/significant others head home after the service for Sunday lunch and stroll and family time.  Some of the single people need fellowship.

Now, here’s the twist.  What should you do if you feel people expect you to babysit you every Sunday afternoon – on their terms?  In the last three years I have kept two single men company afte church, which trips to villages, coffee and chat, while they let off steam to me.  That’s fine.  Romans 12:12-15 and all that.  Lately one of them has literally breathed down my neck inviting me to head to the pub for a chat.  Last year I did that and ended up as his bereavement counsellor, sitting in a pub for hours, normally on bright sunny days.  In recent weeks I’ve declined his invitations, but suggested to him that he join a group of us for a stroll round the local woods.

Reply: “Oh, sorry I can’t, I have another appointment later in the day.”

Sorry, folks, everyone has a limit.  My time, my terms, I’m afraid.

Have a moral day, won’t you!

Beyond worrying, beyond caring

Sunray. He’s proved his diabetologist wrong. A huge victory, albeit probably pyrrhic.  The diabetologist had warned Sunray in June:

Stop [note: not “cut down”] drinking if you want to see Christmas.

Needless to say Sunray was crying down the phone to me at this piece of medical advice.  (Well, his three-month blood sugar reading did stand at 22 units, a rather high figure.)

Did this yellow card make him address his excess drinking?

No.  On the contrary, his alcohol consumption has increased.  (See previous articles.)  And with it, the vicious circle of:

  • Feeling down (because chemically, alcohol is a depressant)
  • Ringing son number 2, pleading with him to come round
    • “Please, son, I’m lonely.  Please come and see me.”
  • Texting son number 1, son number 2 and son number 2’s 15-year-old daughter at 05:13, 06:16 and 06:23, together with a voicemail, “R U UP YET”
  • Drinking 75cl to 1 litre of supermarket whisky a day, usually starting at 15:00
  • Leaving aggressive voicemails for son number 2, when Sunray feels he’s being ignored
    • Actually Son number 2 isn’t ignoring him for the sake of spite; rather he has a major exam at university to revise for.  Besides, who wants to hear a boozed-up ex-soldier telling you his “when I…” war stories for the 27th that year?

The sad thing is, all his family, bar perhaps one half-sister of Sunray, has pretty much given up on Sunray.

Not out of hatred, spite, malice or anger.  But out of exasperation.

This might seem cruel and heartless, but those of you had done a first aid course will remember the following principle:

Don’t become a casualty yourself.

I’ve given up worrying.  I’m beginning to wonder if Sunray is fed-up of living.  Would death be almost a relief to him?  If so, I pray that God will have mercy on Sunray’s troubled soul.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Thoughts on being back in the UK

So, tonight, back from two weeks’ stint in the UK, Bracknell, to be exact.

Thoughts?  Hmm, let me think, while I slouch on the couch, feet throbbing from dashing round Heathrow.

Well, I’m glad to be back in Germany, in a well-ordered society, where there are plenty of cycle paths, trains run on time and do not cost the earth, where there is not the huge gap between the haves and the have nots, where even the immigration officer from the Bundespolizei wishes you in English, “Merry Christmas.”


  • Chavs
  • Low aspirations and educational achievement
  • A “problem child” father constantly texting and phoning, eg 05:15, 06:11, “R U UP?” etc.


Nice to be earning again, but there’s no place like home in Germany.

Have a patriotic day, won’t you!

Open mouths let in flies

Open mouths let in flies.

I’m told that this is a Spanish expression.  That’s what it literally means.  What would it mean in good, idiomatic English?  A good question.  Let me take you through a case study by way of illustration before I come to the answer.

The year 1980.  One late afternoon in an Army married quarter in the grounds of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  Sunray walks into his living room “after a hard day at work.”  (No, please don’t laugh!)  He’s obviously in a mood about something.  Anger management was never his forte.  Surveying his wife and three children, he tells his wife, oh so lovingly and tenderly:

There’s you with you f…ing bad eyesight and buck teeth, Ginge in Germany also needing glasses, Bruv and his f…ing asthma and hay fever, Sis with her epilepsy.  I’m the only healthy one here.

Ah, shucks, Sunray, you say the sweetest things.  BTW, Sunray, you commented on physical health, but omitted to comment on mental health.  What about that time you spent in the psychiatric ward in the military hospital in 1974 because you got so boozed up in Cyprus, that you ended punching someone so hard, you nearly killed them.  Oh… that incident, you mean.

Fast forward to the year 2014.  Sunray is now in his living room.

  • No wife
  • No regular contact from his offspring
    • No 1 son lives abroad and sends Sunray a postcard once a fortnight, more out of pity than anything else
    • No 2 son lives 5 minutes up the road and is sick and tired of Sunray bombarding him with 10-20 SMS’s per day, pleading for a visit: “I’m lonely”
    • Only daughter has been estranged from Sunray for 10 years
  • No self-respect
  • No friends
  • Plenty of regimental photos on the walls
  • Plenty of empty whisky bottles on the floor
  • Plenty of empty fag packets to accompany the whisky bottles on the floor
  • The stench of stale urine
  • A dirty, unwashed and unkempt ex-squaddie

Sunray, do you regret proclaiming:

I’m the only healthy one here.

To quote the song by The Stylistics, I betcha by golly, wow.

So, how best to translate the expression into decent English?

Engage brain before mouth.

Have a healthy day, won’t you!