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!

Ladykiller

“Avid” (ahem) readers of this blog will know from previous articles that I have a few claims to fame.  I also have a link to notoriety, namely: my room-mate in my first year at university went on to murder his girlfriend.  The number 1 question I am asked is:

What was he like?

It is the aim of this article to offer you a insight into the character of a convicted murder.  I’ll start with a look at the stereotype of a murder, the reality, then I’ll move onto two key aspects of his personality.

The Stereotype

The stereotype of a murderer can be summed up thus:

Well, he was a bit of a loner.

That was never the case with John.  He was, to use his words from his press conferences, “…outgoing, a lover of life, with everything to live for…”  He was:

  • Very extrovert
  • Jovial
  • A charmer
  • A keen cricketer
  • A keen footballer
  • A keen drinker
  • A keen electric guitarist and rock musician
  • A bit of a “jock” (to use an American expression)
  • The “life and soul of the party”

Again, contrary to the stereotype, he had a wide circle of friends and a never-ending string of girlfriends.  (By heck, was I – as a slightly nerdy lad, a ginger Adrian Mole, from the council estates of Redcar – jealous of his success with women!)

The reality was, however, not so attractive.  John had two aspects of his personality lurking below the surface. Let’s be blunt about it.  They were not likeable aspects.

Aspect 1: Passive Aggression

Quite ironic, now I think about it.  The last article I shared was a humorous one on passive aggression.  The irony has not been lost on me.  In psychology, passive-aggressive behavior is characterized by a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, sullenness, stubbornness, and negative attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.  In John passive aggression manifested itself in many ways.

  • Days before his birthday, in my presence, his friends went to his part of our room, took his prized poster of a scantily-clad model (reclining atop a sports car) off the wall, then repositioned the poster on the wall, with the back showing.  When I came back to our room that evening, I found that he was in bed, not even pretending to be asleep, and had placed a key in the door lock to prevent me from getting our room.  After nearly an hour of desperately knocking on the door, pleading with him, together together with neighbours, for him to open the door, ending with me being on the verge of tears and needing to sleep, he finally let me in.  The following day no more was said – from either side.  From my side – don’t provoke him any further.  From his side – he knew he had done wrong, but did not have the round objects to talk about it.
  • The stories of the laundry room key.  Each room was given a key to the hall laundry room.  The catch was, the resident had to sign for the key and had to pay a five pounds deposit, returnable on safe return of the key at the end of the year.  So far, so good.  One laundry key per room.  I signed for it.  I got it.  I paid the deposit on it.  So far, so good.  I used to keep the laundry room key on my desk.  John would take it when he needed to go to the laundry.  So far, so good. Then one day, I decided to place the key on my book shelf to keep the desk a bit tidy.  Seeing the key on my book shelf, John marched up to me, grabbed me with both hands by the front of my shirt and snarled, “You’re not having the monopoly on that.”  Rather than explain that I had paid the deposit and that he could still use the key, I took it on the chin (nearly literally).
  • And there’s more!  Days before the end of the year, I was looking to do a batch of laundry.  John had been to the laundry hours beforehand.  Now he was sitting by his desk, playing his guitar.  I asked him for the key.
    • I haven’t got it.

    • But you had it this morning when you went to the laundry.

    • I haven’t got it.

    • Well, could you just have a quick look, please?

John just carried on humming, strumming and singing to himself, clearly not interested, not a “team-player.” Not even the common courtesy of pausing even for a second. Doubtless I’ve slighted him earlier in the day, and this was his passive aggressive way of “punishing” me.  Kiss goodbye to five pounds deposit, I was by now thinking.  Then the following morning an announcement: He had found the laundry key. Followed by a profuse apology for the hassle last night.  Ha, you gotta be joking!  It had fallen into his bag of condoms.  (Yes, I’m such a lady’s man, I need a bag of them.)

Now, getting fret up about a laundry key might seem petty on my part.  Lke the chocolate bar you stole from the communal fridge, it’s “only a key,” but maybe you saw the bigger picture of the (passive) aggression when dealing with peers.  These are just a small sample of his actions, others relating to his attitude towards women.  Perhaps for a later article.

Aspect 2: The “Great ‘I am'”

John’s other character trait was the “great ‘I am'” attitude.  How to explain it?    Let’s have two examples.

  1. John came back in a foul mood one day, complaining to me, hardly able to contain his anger, that his then girlfriend was f***ing useless in bed, in the same way that you might complain that the babysitter had sneaked into your bedroom and sneakily looked through all your private diaries.  Hey, folks, I was still very much inexperienced with woman.  Any bed action with a woman would have made me happy!  How dare she not enjoy sex with him?  She should have realised he was a real ladykiller.
  2. Again at evening meal in the canteen, I greeted him with a cheery, “How are you doing?”  He “greeted” me with an arrogant jut of the chin in my direction and, “Whatcha rapping on about?”  How dare this f’ing ginger speak to me when I want to have my dinner?

Before university, he had, in fact, been a tutor at a cathedral school.  Just as an ex-military man has left the Army, he is still a soldier, maybe John still considered himself senior and superior to those around and under him.  “Do as you’re told.  I’m in charge here.”

Conclusion

It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.  Wrong.  It’s the life and soul of the party types you have to watch out for.  Great fun, as long as things are fun and you dance to their tune.  But cross them, and see what happens.

  • Don’t help out with a good-natured prank on him.
  • Don’t even think of having the monpoly on that key.
  • Don’t be a timid, inexperienced lover.
  • Don’t have the audicity to reject his obsessive, browbeating behaviour.

Have an insightful day, won’t you!

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!

There but for the grace of God (2)

Ruined Life

 

John T***** – what’s he doing?
“Fifteen, twenty years,”
Some joke.
But not for him,
Or those who loved him,
His Christmas card list
Of ruined lives.

Christmas –
Just
Away
To
Separate
One
Year
From
The
Next.
Commas in his sentence,
One with no full stop.
Doing time,
And himself inside.

Not for him –
Mortarboard and gown,
Only lock and key.
Free snaps thrown in.
And Rachel?
Killed by the pressure of his finals.

A long time till
The Happy Return.
Buttery bars are sadly lacking
In jail.

So what then?
Prison gate graduation.
The time for walking
Beaming proudly
Towards loving parents –
A joke.
A ruined life.
Add it to the list.

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!

What is your Black Beauty moment?

So, a cup of coffee in one hand, my latest book order from Amazon in the other hand.  The book?  No, not Harry Potter, not Fifty Shades of Grey, not even a for Dummies book.

The Empathy Trap

I always like a bit of light reading…

I received the book on Thursday and got to the final page on Sunday.  A very accessible book, written by academics, but written in very down to earth language.  Quite a lot of sucking in of air while reading it, especially when reading the case studies of people who’ve had relationships with sociopaths, whether as family or colleagues.

Towards the end comes the section on triggers.  What’s a trigger?  Essentially it’s something that reminds us of the sociopath.  Think of Pavlov’s dogs and their mouths watering whenever they hear a bell ringing.  Their mouths water when they experience the trigger associated with din-dins.  For people that have had close contact with a sociopath, the reaction is somewhat different: hair standing on back of neck, and increased blood pressure and heart rate, waiting for their next move.

I myself have called such triggers a “Black Beauty moment.”  Why?  Black Beauty was a series in the 1970’s with quite a haunting theme tune.

Black Beauty

In the late 70’s, early 70’s it was broadcast on Sundays at about lunchtime in the UK.  I still even now associate the tune with:

  • The sewage-like stench of boiling cabbage
  • The aggressive hissing of a pressure cooker
  • The pressure cooker countdown to a blazing row between Sunray and his first wife because of his hangover caused by overindulgence down the Serjeants Mess the night before
  • The impending attempts by Sunray to force me to eat cooked vegetables, including the sewerage cabbage
  • Stress and emotional abuse (although it was never called that in those days.  We pads brats were just expected to get on with it and get over it.  The spouses were expected to take the abuse on the chin… and in the face… and in the stomach… and in the rib cage.)

Have a trigger-free day, won’t you?