What a Guy!

Have you ever been invited to an interview and found elements a bit unusual and unexpected, eg questions such as:

If you were a piece of fruit, what fruit would you be?

What would you do if you unexpectedly appeared on TV as part of that interview?

Heed the words of Harold MacMillan, British Prime Minister during the Berlin Wall crisis.

When in a crisis, act as if you were not a crisis.

KeepCalm.jpg

Have an unruffled day, won’t you!

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German Anglophiles

The Germans are big Anglophiles – despite Brexit.  They love British pop, and also pomp… and ceremony.  German TV broadcasts Trooping the Colour quasi-live.

The Germans also love Last Night of the Proms, especially the singing of Rule Britannia!  You don’t have to be:

  • A bigot
  • A little Englander
  • Xenophobic or racist
  • A Brexiteer (sorry about the bad language)

You just have to join in with the Brits in a bit of tongue-in-cheek, slightly self-effacing, musical fun.

In recent years, the soloist leading the singing has been:

  • Swedish
  • Maltese
  • Peruvian
  • And this will shock you – even a Welshman!

The Night has also become ever more inclusive.  Last year I was heartened to see people happily waving the Irish tricolour at the public broadcast in Belfast, as well as Union Flags and “red hand” flags.  This is a sign of true peace and progress in Ulster.

So, open your lungs.  Open your mouth wide.  Please be upstanding.  Join in with this marvellous rendition.

Have a Britannic 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

 

Machmallauter!

I have catholic (little C – take note) musical tastes – everything from classical like Mozart to AC/DC to ZZ Top.  This morning I heard an old, recycled joke.

Q. What’s the difference between 1990s USA and today’s USA?

A. 1990’s USA had Bill Clinton, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder.  Now it has Donald Trump, no cash, no hope, and no flippin’ wonder!

Then I looked up Johnny Cash’s biggest hits, one of which is below.  Stick your big headphones on and listen to this ‘un!

Have a Cash-rich day, won’t you!

“Hör auf zu meckern!”

Hello, everybody.

For those who don’t speak German, the title translates loosely into colloquial English as:

Stop your bl00dy moaning!

In the past month I’ve been doing pastoral work for the local church.  Anyone can wear the label.  Anyone can talk the talk.  Can they walk the walk?  For sure it’s rewarding, helping people to sort their problems, whether that be depression, loneliness, falling out with friends, etc.

But…………

Fast-forward to the last 24 hours.

Last night I went to the local ELCN (English Language Comedy Night) in DUS Altstadt.  It was excellent as ever, including seeing the world’s shortest comedian.  (But some other time, please.)

I get home just after 01:30, pretty much still on a high after enjoying two hours’ live stand-up comedy including the world’s shortest comedian bantering with a bald man who was a hair brush salesman.  (But some other time, please.)

A quick check on my emails and Facebook.  I’m still a bit “hyper” from the ELCN.

G, my old classmate from pads brat days nearly 40 years ago, is online.  Night owl.

Then comes the bombshell.

G, a policeman, tells me matter-of-factly,  his wife had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which had spread to the lungs.  (British understatement: Not very good news at all.)

I immediately submit a prayer to York Minster Prayer Box.  I say kind words to G… which probably all his friends had told him earlier on in the day.

It’s now 02:00.  Bedtime and BBC Radio Five.

Fast forward about 10 hours.  I’m at church, using one of the meeting rooms as a study to read one of my IT text books.

A member of congregation happens to walk in.

MoC:

Hello German Ginge.  How are you?  Bleat bleat bleat moan moan moan grumble grumble grumble…  The local kiosk had run out of bread rolls, or some similar catastrophe.

G in G:

MoC, let me tell you something.  I really enjoyed the comedy evening last night.  But something spoilt it, I’m afraid.  You see, in the wee small hours this morning, I found out that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Now, do you still want to tell me about what a morning you have just had?

MoC – exit stage left.  Bis später.

Have a grateful day, won’t you!

 

 

P45-Gate

Poor old Theresa May.  Here’s one assessment of her speech today, from Reaction, which is right-of-centre.   Worth sharing this article.

Reaction

Oh dear. That went well. After three months of painstakingly trying to shake off the “weak and wobbly” label, poor Theresa May had an absolute nightmare of a conference speech today. More or less everything that could go wrong did – coughing, protest, the set falling apart, aides walking onto the stage with glasses of water, the Chancellor popping up with a throat lozenge, a voice giving way – it was all there. What was intended to be a personal, powerful speech proving that she has what it takes to be Prime Minister became an excruciating display of fragility. 

Interestingly though, the public reception has so far been mixed. Although many will think that this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back, others may feel that she showed humanity, grit and determination in difficult circumstances. The jury is out, but Tory MPs and ministers are already talking about how she might be replaced rapidly. There seems to be a full-blown leadership crisis underway. For more on this, read Iain Martin’s article below. 

The row somewhat rescued Boris, who was having his own very Boris-esque crisis. At a fringe event yesterday, the gaffe-prone foreign secretary said that the Libyan city Sirte could be the new Dubai, adding, “all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away”.  

The comments sparked anger, with Labour (ironic, considering Corbyn’s IRA sympathies) calling them “crass, callous and cruel” and Conservative MPs Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen saying he should be sacked. Mr Johnson claimed his critics had “no knowledge or understanding of Libya” and accused them of playing politics. That’ll go down well with Soubry. 

In Trump-land, Rex Tillerson, United States Secretary of State, has quashed rumours that he is planning to resign. In a North Korea style press conference today, Tillerson said that he “has no plans to resign” and will stay in his position “as long as the president thinks I can be useful to achieving his objectives”. The row kicked off last weekend when the President publicly humiliated the Secretary of State on Twitter, saying that he was “wasting time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”. When asked today whether Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” for his comments (as reported by NBC) the Secretary of State declined to answer, saying that he wouldn’t “get drawn in to that sort of pettiness”.

So that’s a yes then. 

Olivia Utley
News Editor
Reaction

 

Ex-Pat Life

As a pad’s brat, I’ve been around the world, and also as an adult.  My first ever “proper” graduate job brought me to Bangkok, Thailand, for three months training back in 1995.

BKK is notorious for many things.  The bars.  Their “live entertainment” is somewhat more interesting than bingo, karoake and stand-up comics.  Watch Spalding Grey’s monologue, Swimming to Cambodia if you want to enjoy an analysis of Thailand, filled with dry, dark humour.

I spent my first Saturday in BKK with Brij, a new Indian colleague.  We were down one of the go-go bars of Soi Cowboy (“Soi” being Thai for “alley”).  Brij was by now getting rather “friendly” with one of the staff.

Ginge in Germany:

Er, Brij, I think that’s a lady boy.  They have a rather large Adam’s apple.

Brij, hand over “barmaid’s” chest:

No, don’t be silly.  She’s got a great pair here.

Ginge in Germany:

Yeah, but I think he’s also got a great pair down below…

Brij, hand sliding down somewhat lower:

Rubbish… she’s definitely a… ermmmm… er…

Now, to Brij I dedicate this fine Bee Gees hit.

Have a ladylike day, won’t you!