Topic (sic) of Cancer

Cancer.  The Big C.  A tumour… and it’s malignant.  And probably many other euphemisms.

Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed  with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.

Der Tod ist sicher.

Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis.  As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well).  Every day is a bonus.  Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day.  But who can tell?

Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se.  Death, sad to say, is certain.  That’s a brutal fact.  But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?

Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open.  He calls me “Padre Ginge.”  I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.

In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis.  Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.

Mrs Grasshopper is in denial.  She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation.  It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months.  That’s a brutal fact.

To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern.  My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife.  Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed.  That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person.  We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon.  He sound weary.  His voice was starting to crack a bit.  First time I’ve heard him like that.  Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.

I mainly listened.  Grasshopper needed to let off steam.  I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant.  I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”

Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.


Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!


Today’s Puzzle

Just a decade ago, I was a schoolteacher working in some of the rougher comprehensives on Teesside, North-East of England.

In those days I had two catchphrases:

I don’t like spoon-feeding people.


I prefer to treat adults as adults.

So, should I now break these two golden rules?  Actually, I’m referring to the later, rather than the former.  I’ve known Green Leader and VW since I moved to this city in January 2012.

Both are very nice people, devout Christians. VW told me today that she and Green Leader have got engaged.

VW, in particular, is salt of the earth: Sunday school teacher, house group leader, very good on the pastoral side.  In my opinion, she would be an excellent, all-rounder vicar.

Green Leader is also a generally likeable guy.  We often joke about Zimbabwe, Rhodesia, Ian Smith, Uncle Bob, Clem Tholet and Jon Edmonds.  That may mean nothing to you, but… hey, what’s Google for?  Now, here’s the rub, the central problem or difficulty in a situation.  Green Leader is a nice guy.  But he’s also neurotic with a capital N (italicised and bold).  He can never give a straight answer to a straight question.

Q. Green Leader, do you prefer tea or coffee?

A. Let me explain the reality of the situation like this.  I like coffee.  I like tea, too.  But the actualite of the situation is, I like both.  I really thirst for coffee and indeed any hot beverage. 

[Add another five minutes of explanation, including an exhortation that Northern Europe should increase its birthrate.]

So: in a summary.

  1. I like both people.
  2. They are both nice people.
  3. I don’t think they are going to be a well-suited married couple.
  4. While VW, is very stable, Green Leader has mental health issues, namely tension and anxiety, and won’t take medication to combat the symptoms.
  5. Should I express my opinion to VW, who is in her 40’s, very approachable and rational?

After all, as I said before, I like to treat adults as adults.  But should I, on the other hand, be like Sergeant Wilson off Dad’s Army and ask:

Do you really think that’s wise?

I have no intention of policing my friends’ personal lives, but on the other hand, would I be failing in my duty as friend if I did not say, like The Housemartins?

I find my next-door neighbour likeable.  But…. it doesn’t mean I’d want to marry her.  If I don’t talk to VW, would it be a case of sin of omission, by not wanting to interfere?

Have a puzzling day, won’t you!

A Quarter of A Century

“A quarter of a century” sounds (to my ear) like a longer time than “twenty-five years.”  It’s a quarter of a century since I last had cause to speak Slovene, a South Slavonic language, spoken, funnily enough, in Slovenia, ex-Yugoslavia.

How did I end up studying Slovene?  Lots of reasons.

  • It was a final-year option on my degree course (BA Russian Studies, University of Nottingham).
  • It saved me having to take a literature option.
  • I thought it would be easy to learn, having done Russian and Serbo-Croat
    • It was not to be.  I kept on using words from Russian and “naš jezik”, much to the annoyance of our Slovene lectrice…

Then today I read a very thought-provoking article on the BBC News website, all about graduates coping after they finished university.  It drew for me comparisons with service personnel leaving HM Forces.  My Dad’s words after he left the employment of the Queen after 22 years were:

I felt like a fish out of water.

That’s how I felt in the summer of 1993.  After nearly two decades in education, including kindergarten, here I was at the Job Centre.

  • What career did I want?
    • No idea.  I just wanted a job, just to pay the bills.
  • Where did I want to be?
    • No idea.  Ideally back at university, studying, but I needed to get a job and like the ex-HMF people, get used to Civvy Street.
  • What next?
    • There was no daddy to speak to one his mates to get me an internship or job in his firm.  There were no graduates in my family to help guide me.  Just armchair experts.

Twenty-five years later, here I am in Germany.  In life the journey is the destination.

Have a careerist day, won’t you!



What is Love?

I cannot say what love is.  I can say what love is not.  It’s not about violently assaulting the woman you claim to love.  You may remember me blogging some months ago about my ex-room-mate from university days.  He was convicted of murder in 1991, and was released in 2003, having served a life sentence in various English prisons.

I even appeared on local TV news in 1991 and a documentary in 2004 to provide a character reference along the lines of:

He seemed a likeable bloke, quite charming and charismatic.

After his sentence he moved back to New Zealand, working as a personal trainer and then as a baker.  (He had been studying Classics at university.)

Last night I found out he had this month been convicted of violently assaulting his current girlfriend, expressing little or no remorse.

Newspaper report

My feelings?  Stunned.  I was expecting him after all these years to have calmed down, having learnt his lesson in prison and after fifteen years’ life back in normal society.

But no.

He can’t control his anger.

Horse feathers.  He won’t control his anger.

Murderers in English prisons attend courses to address their underlying issues such as anger management.  They aren’t released until the psychologist consider them no longer to be a threat to society.  It looks to me like he managed to hoodwink the psychologists.

Maybe this prison sentence will make him stop and think.  There again.  Maybe not.


Have a loving day, won’t you!

My Perfect Cousin

This is not quite a Mach Mal Lauter article.  Nonetheless, those fans of 1970’s Northern Ireland music may remember this number by the The Untertones.

Here’s the chorus:

Oh my perfect cousin
What I like to do he doesn’t
He’s his family’s private joy
His mothers little golden boy

I’ve got a cousin (called Kelly).  She was always My Perfect Cousin, well, at least in the eyes of my own mother.  She’s three years younger than me, one year older than my own sister.

All during my teenage years – when I did not get my teenage kicks – Kelly was the Perfect Cousin.  No need for Facebook in the mid-80’s.  Her mum would tell my mum, who would tell me and my two siblings.

Weekly status reports on Kelly during the first half of the 80’s were as follows.  Drum roll and trumpet fanfare, please…


  • Has won bronze and silver tap dance medals
  • Has won 300, 500 and 700 metre swimming medals
  • Is a member of the town swimming club U-15 first team
  • Is learning piano
  • Has already learnt recorder (fine – then she can play Una Paloma Blanca incessantly)

My mum was always impressed by these achievements and was always mentioning these to me and my brother.

Girls are, of course, better than boys, especially boys who are not testosterone-packed alpha males.

It’s my fault really.  I shouldn’t have been born male, with that horrible set of “working parts” hanging between my legs.  I guess I might have been able to do social activities, whether that be tap dancing, swimming club, boy scouts or music lessons, but Mummy had set aside all the personnel development fund for that on her youngest child.  Quite rightly so.  She was the youngest by several years, cute and, most of all, female.  Her two also-ran children, unfortunate possessors of a penis each, well, too bad, eh.  You can have the scraps from under the table.

On my latest visit to England, I mentioned to my mum that I had un-friended Kelly months ago for constant sharing of pictures of herself hold tubs of whey powder and posting ad nauseum about Day x of the New Me, New Body, New Life diet.

Typical Kelly post:

Deeply disappointed.  Only managed 574 of my target of of 700 press-ups today.  Will have another try this evening.”


My words:

I am not in the slightest bit interested in Kelly, her New Me, New Body, New Life diet regime, her latest love or her tubs of protein powder, her argument with her neighbours.

My mum:

Ah well, she’s moving to Northumberland with her partner in a week’s time.

(Followed by lengthy story about argument with the removals firm and where their pet dog is to be kennelled during the move. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)

Which part of “I am not in the slightest bit interested…” does she not understand?

Off to the guillotine, where the spectators are waiting for heads to roll.


Have a perfect day, won’t you!

It’s a dog’s life

It’s beyond me why people say:

It’s a dog’s life.

Most of the pet dogs I see are spoilt rotten and pampered by their owners and everyone who sees the dog, wanting to stroke it, cuddle it, tickle it, etc, etc.

Let me introduce you to Titch, born August 1983, “crossed Rainbow Bridge” August 1997.  Here he is, aged 8 or 9.


Mother: Jack Russell, Father: German shepherd.


  • Much more Jack Russell than German Shepherd.
  • Very affectionate, especially if you had sweets, or indeed any food on you.
  • Very sweet-toothed: even if you were talking about buying a three-piece suite, he would come running to you from wherever he was, in the hope of having a chomp of a boiled sweet or jelly baby.
  • He would often come up to you, place his chin on your lap, paw at you and beg for a good fuss.
  • Very playful, always after a belly rub, tummy tickle or stroke, or even the mention of those words.
  • He loved being tickled under his “armpits.”  Stop suddenly, and you’d get a growl of reproval from the dog.
  • He loved play-fighting.  The rougher the better, especially wrestling on the sand of Redcar beach.
  • He loved being bounced up and down on your knee.
  • He loved his walk in the local hills, especially chasing after the pheasants hiding in the ferns.  “Come on, chaps, I only want to play with you, not eat you.”


Titch caught parvovirus at the end of August 1997.  Till then, he had been fit and healthy all his life.  Within a day he was crossing Rainbow Bridge.

The sad thing is, I cried more on the day he went than the day Sunray passed away.  I guess it’s all to do with untimely death.  Sunray had had enough.  He was fed-up.  Titch was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, would jump out of his basket every morning, wanting to go for a walk and a wee-wee.

Have a canine day, won’t you!