Cemetery Visit

I was born on dd/mm/yyyy in a British military hospital in Germany.  I am a pads brat, and proud of the fact.

The army wife giving birth before my mother died during childbirth.  I did not know that fact until ten years ago, when I was living near Oxford and planning a visit to Germany.  My dad asked me to do him a big favour and visit the grave of the mother in question, which, some months later I did.  It was a gloriously sunny day.  The Rheindahlen Military Cemetery, where she was buried, was billiard-table green and very peacefully quiet.

Two thoughts occurred to me as I stood at the lady’s grave.  Her name is Margaret.

  1. When had anyone last been to see her grave?
  2. The Angel of Death could have taken me, but chose to take Margaret instead.  Even on my darkest days, I have reminded myself of that fact.  There has to be a reason why I was allowed to live.

On Facebook among the anti-Trump, “what I am having for lunch” and cute animal photos, I recently saw some posts from two army wives regarding the Rheindahlen Military Cemetery.  Tragically, these two ladies had lost babies in the same hospital where I was born.  After making enquiries of various contacts that I know, I am intending to visit the cemetery in the next few days to visit the graves of the babies buried there, as well as to take photos and video footage to share with the mothers of these babies.  As a single man with no offspring, I can only imagine the pain these mothers will have gone through, when the Army and society in general were much more “stiff upper lip” than nowadays.  Since those first two army wives messaged me, I have received two or three other requests to visit other babies’ graves.

It is my humble duty and privilege to be living close enough to the cemetery for me to pay a visit.  Door to door: about 90 minutes.  I feel it is the least I can do for my fellow pads brats and families, to pay my respects and say a prayer by their babies’ graves.

Finally…  Some years ago, I remember a story about an army wife wanting to have her daughter’s remains repatriated some years after her burial back to England, where her parents were now living.  In preparation for the planned move, the mother came over to the grave at Rheindahlen Military Cemetery.  Standing by her daughter’s grave situated among the dozens of other babies’ graves, she told her husband:

No.  Let’s leave her here, so she can carry on playing with all her friends here.  They’d miss her terribly.

 

cemetery

Have a peaceful day, won’t you!

Blood sugar diet: day 10 of 56

Today was a checkpoint day.  Nothing to do with the diet per se.  On day 1 of the diet I had my quarterly blood sugar sample taken.  Today I came back to see my GP to get the results.

  • Last reading: 7.1 units.
  • Today’s reading: 7.8 units.

An increase of 0.7 units, or 10, something I had anticipated as over the past few months, I had been overeating and less active than previous.  I won’t bore you with the reason.  (I should ideally be at 6.5 units.)

However, my GP had been briefed by his “civilian” staff (the army-speak never leaves you) that I had started the Low Blood Sugar Diet.  So, instead of slapping my wrist, our man was most positive about the diet, my efforts and results.  (He complimented me on my Redhead Days t-shirt which I was wearing.  Normally he wears a top with a witty slogan in English, eg “Cool story, bro.”  Today he did not, but I did.)

I digress.

Next steps…

  • No need to see him at the four-week point in the diet, unless I was constantly going hypoglaecemic and had lost a lot of weight.
  • Carry on, and don’t worry about all carbs, but do avoid the bad carbs, eg white bread, rice etc.

Fifteen minutes later, I left his surgery, and we shook hands.

Next weigh-in is in two days time.  Watch this space.

Have a healthy day, won’t you!

Close your curtains

The Dutch are said to be very Calvinistic.  At least, I guess, the Protestant Dutch are.   One sign of their Calvinistic nature is the fact that, allegedly, the Dutch don’t have curtains.  Yes, they even indulge in, cough cough, hum, hum, with the curtains open.  Personally, notwithstanding my Protestant faith in this 750th year of the Reformation, I prefer curtains.

Let me take you back to 1979.  Margaret Thatcher had been Prime Minister for a few months.  In those days TV often finished most evenings at just before midnight.  Saturday late evening TV consisted of:

  • Match of the Day (for the football)
  • Parkinson chat show
  • The Rockford Files (with Jim Garner)
  • Finally: the national anthem and a long “booooooooooooooooooooooooop”

Saturday evening, approximately 23:20 BST.  Victor and his two sons, aged 9 and 10, had hitch-hiked all the way from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, all up the motorway, courtesy of several truck drivers, needing to rant to somebody about their divorces, the price of petrol, etc, etc, and a football sales rep.  The final stretch from Leeming Bar Motel on the A1, to the Yorkshire hamlet of Burrill, was, however, done by taxi.

Father and sons arrived in the hamlet.  A short O-group (Army-speak for planning meeting).  Time for Army black warped sense of humour to show its face.  From the OP (observation post), near the hamlet church, Sergeant Victor (veteran of Northern Ireland) and sons notice that the living room curtains are open.   Grandma and aunt are watching The Rockford Files.

Three males tiptoe forward, using Victor’s military skills, to see without being seen, to hear without being heard.

Three males crouch down below the window sill.

On three…  one… two… three!

Three heads slowly rise above the window sill.

Two backsides leap out of their armchairs.

Three males roar with laughter.

Two female relatives feel their heart rates jumping.

Seconds later, three male relatives enter via the front door, ready for a nice pot of tea, pork pie each, sliced in two, with a dollop of Branston chutney on a small plate.

Have a Calvinistic day, won’t you!

A Christmas Tale

So, another year since the last carol service.  Time flies by… and other cliches.

Yesterday evening we staged our Carols by Candlelight service.

  • About 10 zillion candelas of tealights around the church.
  • Extra seats humped and lumped from church hall into church.
  • Crucifix and candlesticks Brasso’ed to oblivion
  • Four brand new lighters tested and then used in order to light all the candles.

(It takes four people twenty minutes to light all the candles.  Doubtless by having all the candles and standing room only, we are in breach of German fire regulations.)  Last year we had 150 people turn up.  Yesterday… 232.  Result!  Where two (hundred and thirty-two) or more are gathered…

This year Schatz came along, together with her parents.  To use a British Army expression, rank has its privilege.  I had placed handwritten “Reserved” signs on the seats in the first two rows, including three for Schatz and her parents.  Being German, they arrived rechtzeitig . I showed them to their seats an hour before the service was due to start.  They sit and listen to the choir rehearsing, while various church members whizz around, lighting candles, folding service sheets, setting up PowerPoint slides, checking the lectern light and much, mouch more.

(Think of the webbed feet under a duck floating across a pond, and you have the right idea.)  Or the Seven P’s…

  • Proper
  • Preparation
  • and Planning
  • Prevent
  • Piss-Poor
  • Performance

Nine carols, nine readings, one of which of each is in German.  I look over my shoulder.  The first verse in English, the rest in German.  Schatz, Mamalein and Papi are all singing in German.  They look reasonably happy.

Phew!  Praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaise yeeeeeeeeeeee the Lord!  (It is right to give thanks and praise.)

The pre-service briefing for Germans not used to the Anglican tradition had worked.

Points to note for first-timers to an Anglican service.

  • Anglicans stand to sing.  It’s better for projection.  The German sit to sing.
  • Anglicans sit or kneel to pray.  The Germans stand to pray.
  • As a rule of thumb, most Anglicans don’t genuflect, although some do.
  • No, the crucifix is not back to front.  Generally, Protestant crucifixes tend not to have the body of Christ on it.  Protestantism tends to emphasise the resurrection over the death on the cross.

In fact, come to think of it, I think all Brits, regardless of denomication stand and sit/kneel like Anglicans.  (But British Catholics genuflect quite a lot.)

One interesting observation came from Schatz’ mum, was how impressed she was that the congregation in Anglicanism takes a much more active part in a service than would be the case in Roman Catholicism. (Now, why did my voice automatically put on a Belfast accent?)  All the nine lessons were read by members of the congregation.  The chaplain preached and blessed and the “vicary” things.

Afterwards abundant relief that Schatz and her parents enjoyed the service.

Come to church.  The food is delicious, the service is even better!

Have festive day, won’t you!

Birthday Nostalgia

So, last week was my birthday: 21 again, and more.

Where was I on that day of the year…?

  • 10 years ago: Doing pgce teacher training in Middlesbrough.  Not my cup of tea.  Ler’s just leave it at that.
  • 20 years ago: Started my first ever permanent job, working in the International Programme Liaison team at Mercury Communications Ltd.  I did a lot of telecoms courses in that year.
  • 30 years ago: At sixth form college in Middesbrough, re-sitting my O-levels.  That was where I started studying Russian.
  • 40 years ago: At Wolfenbüttel Primary School, near the East-West German border, being sent to the headmaster’s office to take a phone call from my Dad, then stationed at HMP Maze, Northern Ireland, to wish me happy birthday.

Have a nostalgic 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!