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.

EPSON MFP image

Mother: Jack Russell, Father: German shepherd.

Temperament:

  • 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

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!

titch2

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Stalin and his pipe

They come, they talk to Stalin, and then they go, heading off down the Kremlin’s corridors.  Stalin starts looking for his pipe.  He can’t find it.  He calls in Beria, the dreaded head of his secret police.

“Go after the delegation, and find out which one took my pipe,” he says.

Beria scuttles off down the corridor.

Five minutes later Stalin finds his pipe under a pile of papers. He calls Beria:
“Look, I’ve found my pipe.”


“It’s too late,” Beria says, “half the delegation admitted they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning.”

***

Have a questionable day, won’t you!

stalinPipe

Let’s lighten things up…

I’ve recently been writing about death and dying an’ all that.  Today I’m going to lighten up the mood with a joke or two, albeit with a Soviet/DDR flavour.

Here comes number one.

***

Stalin reads his report to the Party Congress.

Suddenly someone sneezes. “Who sneezed?”

Silence.

“First row! On your feet! Shoot them!”

They are shot, and he asks again, “Who sneezed, Comrades?”

No answer.

“Second row! On your feet! Shoot them!”

They are shot too. “Well, who sneezed?”

At last a sobbing cry resounds in the Congress Hall, “It was me! Me!”

Stalin says, “Bless you, Comrade!”

***

Have a blessed day, won’t you!

Conrad Schumann

Do you like quizzes?

Q: What happened on 13 August 1961?

A: The Berlin Wall went up.  (Pretty much overnight.  German efficiency.)

Next question.

Q: Who was Conrad Schumann?

A: A picture describes a thousands words.

ConradSchuhmann

So, he managed to escape from East Berlin into the West.  Was it a happy ending?  No.  Yes, it was good news at first.  He had escaped to freedom.  But 37 years later, after difficulties with his family still living in Saxony, Eastern Germany, the iconic freedom icon committed suicide.  A very unhappy, tragic, ending.

Have an iconic day, won’t you!

 

The shock of capture

In January 2000, as Lance-Corporal GermanGinge I did a military interrogator’s course.  Three expressions are still embedded in my head:

  1. ICATQ (“I cannot answer that question.”)
  2. The shock of capture

The shock of capture is the “Oh dear, oh dear, oh f*ck!” moment when a prisoner of war realises the game is up: he has been attacking you, has lost the fight, and he is now hoping his enemy will not kill him.

Today Mrs Grasshopper went through the shock of capture.  Since her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the end of October 2017, Grasshopper (my old Klassenkamerad) and I have been in daily contact, swapping jokes, URL’s for corny 70’s songs and then interspersing with businesslike “sitreps” (“situation reports”) on Mrs Grasshopper’s progress.

Yesterday was another major milestone: another appointment with the oncologist.  The oncologist agreed with Grasshopper’s suspicions that Mrs Grasshopper’s increased self-dosage of oramorph, the increase in her tumour marker to 6000 units and several other symptoms were indicative that her cancer was spreading – despite ten sessions of heavy-duty chemotherapy.

This afternoon I phoned Grasshopper.  He was stoic.  He has been ever since diagnosis.

Pads brat banter. I pull his leg about being a policeman.  He pulls my leg about being a “ginga.”  We laugh.  The Germans in the Düsseldorf sit and try – as ever – to eavesdrop on our Anglophone conversation

Then the $64 million question.  Deep breath.

Grasshopper, now, tell me to f… off and mind my own business if you like.  How did Mr Grasshopper react to the oncologist’s prognosis yesterday?

Grasshopper told me she had had a major meltdown down the local cafe this morning.  The realisation that she does not have long will probably die soon.  The realisation that she cannot ask her enemy, the cancer, not to kill her.  The shock of capture.  The thoughts.  All the what-ifs.  Every single “why?” question.

Next time you are moaning about:

  • Your bus being late
  • There being no milk in the fridge
  • Your team losing their World Cup match

Please think of Mrs Grasshopper.

No picture this time, just a song.

Have a shockless day, won’t you!

Charlie don’t surf – Glasshopper doesn’t hug trees

Glasshopper and I go back to over 40 years to the days when he and I were pads brats “Klassenkameraden” at Wolfenbüttel, Germany.  He is nowadays a police officer, and spent several years as a riot policeman (Bereitschaftspolizist).  On the nerd/jock spectrum he and I would probably find ourselves at opposite ends.

In fact, here we are in this photo from 1977, HM Queen’s silver jubilee year.  Glasshopper is rear rank, furthest left.  I am next to him, with my finger in mouth.  Cute, eh?

classpic

On the last Wednesday in October 2017 Glasshopper’s wife was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

How is it that I remember that date?  Photographic memory?  No.  Did I just check in my Moleskine diary?  No.  It was the night that I had just come home from an excellent comedy evening down the Altstadt.  In fact, when I got home, I had been laughing so much, it was as if I had been doing sit-ups all night.  (Most unlikely.)

But once I had arrived home and had logged onto Facebook, I wasn’t laughing much any longer.

I saw Glasshopper’s posts on Facebook.  I saw his wife’s posts on Facebook.  I had arrived  home at 02:12.  Glasshopper was still up and on Facebook.  Glasshopper told me the devastating news.

My reply did not consist of Bible passages or words from hymns:

F*ck f*ck f*ck.

And then:

Sh1t, sh1t, sh1t!

Today was Mrs Glasshopper’s last of ten chemotherapy sessions.  This week they have several appointments to review progress (or lack thereof) and options.  Frankly, there are few options left.  When I asked Schatz (who knows a thing or two about medicine) a week after diagnosis, I summarised her answer as:

Also, der Tod ist sicher.

(“So, death is certain.”)

Over the last month I’ve chatted to Glasshopper a lot, forming a rapport with him, trying to work him out.  He seemed cheery, but was that alpha-male, riot policeman, bravado?  No, he is genuinely businesslike (perhaps as his coping strategy) and realistic.  He even uses the D-word: death. No euphemisms.  No:

  • The inevitable
  • When she passes away
  • When she moves on
  • When the end happens
  • Etc

Instead: death and dying.  He’s calling a spade a spade.  (DE: die Ding beim Namen nennen.)

Mrs Glasshopper, on the other hand, is in denial.  She’s not saying her goodbyes, because she denies shes going yet.  She is convinced that she will still be alive – despite doctors’s predictions – for her son’s graduation in two years and probably many more family events.  Death is the last taboo in our western society.  Nobody wants to die, at least, not early.

By analogy, I once joked to a female friend of mine:

Women have PMT.  Men suffer from PMT.

Maybe it’s similar here.  The patient has the terminal cancer.  The family suffer from the cancer.  Am I being too cold?  Too clinical here?  Is Glasshopper?

He even ‘fessed up last week:

Sometimes I just want her to go so she is no longer in pain, and so I don’t have to deal with this any more.  And I feel an absolute a$$hole for saying that.

Since then he has called me “Padre Ginge.”

This is not Hollywood cliché.  No:

  • Miraculous recovery
  • Constant hugs
  • Reiterations of “I love you”
  • Final hours in hospital bed, surrounded by loved ones and devoted medics
  • Final beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep on the electronic monitor

Woody Allen is famous/notorious for his quotation:

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

What can I do?  What can Glasshopper do?  Probably not much.  I told him this morning:

Padre Ginge is here if you need to let off steam, swap silly jokes, send internet memes or links to YouTube videos of cheesy 1970’s hits.

We pads brats don’t hug trees.  We don’t even hug humans.  We don’t do group therapy.  We do, however, look after each other in our own unique way, which “bl00dy civvies” never quite understand.

Please, folks, pray for and think of Glasshopper and his wife next time your train is running late or there is too much milk in your tea.

Have a grateful day, won’t you!

tree