The Importance of Punctuality

Sunray was ex-Army.  22 years long.  He was never a civilian.  He was always ex-Army.  Soldiers always arrive on time.  Always.

One Sunday Sunray came to visit us.  To save money he decided to hitch-hike from Brompton in North Yorkshire to Redcar.  He was due to arrive at 11am.  We looked out of our living room window. 10:58.  He still wasn’t there.

10:59 Sunray appeared.  He was walking out of the front door of the house opposite ours.

Ginge in Germany:

Ummm, do you know the people opposite?

Sunray:

No.

G in G:

So, er, what were you doing in their house?

Sunray:

Oh, them.  I was running late, so I took a short cut through their house.

G in G:

Sorry, you did what?

Sunray:

Oh aye, I saved myself a couple of minutes by walking through their house to yours. 

G in G:

Did anybody see you?

Sunray:

Oh aye.  I walked into their back garden, straight through their kitchen, past their dining room, when this couple were having their Sunday dinner, with sprouts, joint of beef and and Yorkshire puds…

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G in G:

Well, what did they do when they saw you?

Sunray:

This bloke spat his dinner out and told me to get the f*** out of his house.  So I told him cheers, mate, and headed out of the front door.  Like I say, I was running late.

I just shook my head.

Have a punctual day, won’t you!

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Do Your Homework First…

Evenin’ all! A slightly rhetorical question for you all.  What is “research” these days?  Let’s head to our local pub and meet our Kneipenprofessor.

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Pub Expert:

I’ve been researching this topic.

Other person:

Oh, you mean you wrote a paper on the subject citing at least 10-15 reputable sources, summarising all the current thinking, stating your own hypothesis and then introducing the original work you did in the attempt to confirm or disprove this hypothesis before reaching a conclusion and giving further possible directions for study, after which you got it published in a reputable journal in the field and peer-reviewed?

Pub Expert:

Er, no, I looked at some websites that I agree with.

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This afternoon I was drinking coffee with fellow members of church, when Holocaust Memorial Day was mentioned.

As soon as I mentioned the day, Billy butted in:

Oh, that’s only about the Jews 1933-1945.

My blood pressure immediately doubled.  Billy has once again engaged mouth before brain.  Yet again…

Sharp intake of breath.

G in G:

No, it’s not.  It’s also about holocausts and genocides in ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Tibet, Burma and many other conflicts.

Billy:

It is only about the Jews.  I’ve been researching this topic for twenty years.

G in G:

With respect [A British expression meaning, “I consider you to be a complete and total idiot”] I visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1978.  I also listened to a radio interview with the chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust this morning.

Billy:

Oh.

I am then reminded of the English barrister, F E Smith, and his famous exchange with a judge.

Judge: I’ve listened to you for an hour and I’m none the wiser.

Smith: None the wiser, perhaps, My Lord, but certainly better informed.

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This evening I decided to send out an email to the three people who were in that discussion.

****

Good evening all

Following on from this afternoon’s discussion in the Meeting Room concerning the purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day, I thought it prudent to share some important facts.

  1. The day is by no means only about the murder of German and European Jews under Nazism.  Please refer to the Memorial Day Trust’s link: https://www.hmd.org.uk/what-is-holocaust-memorial-day/
  2. As you can see, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust states explicitly: “Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide. We promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) – the international day on 27 January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.”  (My emphasis in italics.)
  3. The key point to note here is that history repeats itself, with human beings being murdered for being the “wrong” ethnic background, not just for being Jewish, but also for being Roma, Hutu, Tutsi, Croat/Bosniak/Serb (in the former Yugoslavia conflicts of the early 1990s), Rohinga, Tibetan, Uighur, etc.
  4. On a very personal note, I myself visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1978.  Ever since then, I have studied genocide in conflicts.  Further, in the first half of the 90’s, my father worked for British Direct Aid in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda (during and in the aftemath of both conflicts, albeit not at the peak of the former conflict).
  5. Former comrades of mine from the British Army’s Intelligence Corps have told me about carrying out war crime investigations and finding mass graves that contained multiple layers from more than one conflict: 1990’s civil war, Second World War, possibly more.
  6. In conclusion, this is why Holocaust Memorial Day exists: namely, to echo the sentiments of Remembrance Day – Lest we forget.  Sadly, and to our eternal shame before God, we humans forget history time and time again.

I’m sorry I feel it necessary to write a serious email this evening, but I do consider it essential to explain what this day is all about, and also why I feel so strongly about the subject.

Finally, let us all please pray for peace on God’s earth this week.

Yours in Christ,

Ginge in Germany

****

Have a well-informed day, won’t you!

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One Year On

My Dad, Sunray, passed away died exactly one year ago today, suddenly at 14:00 GMT, while walking back from his local shop.

How time flies.

How was my grieving process?  Actually, IMHO, there wasn’t really one.  I was very matter-of-fact the moment I found out via a Facebook Messenger message from my younger brother.  I was in the office, collating an Excel spreadsheet.  I told my colleague, “My Dad has just died,” in the same way and tone that we would tell a colleague, “Our boss popped in, looking for you.”  I then carried on with my spreadsheet to meet a deadline for our rather unfriendly product owner.

I did pause to send out a Whatsapp round-robin message to Schatz and to church friends to ask for their prayers for Sunray’s soul.  Replies came in from single “prayer” emojis to long, warm messages from members of my house group.  I wasn’t in shock, but I think I was stunned.

I did not cry until I got home.  By then the posts and kinds words and funny stories about him flooded in on his regimental old comrades Facebook page.  Tears of grief ran out of my left eye, and of laughter from the right eye.  It’s what Sunray would have wanted.

That was then.  This is now.

I still feel relieved.  I still do not regret deciding to stay away from his funeral.  In any case I was still not well enough to travel at that time.  Even walking to my local shops and back was a major physical exertion.  I am glad that I visited his grave two months later, said a prayer or two over his grave and placed three daffodils on the broken earth, marking his relatively fresh grave.

I have prayed daily that his is indeed resting in peace and that God will let his infinite mercy shine on Sunray’s face.  Since he died one year ago, several more of his regimental brothers have died.  I pray that they will join him in the Senior Squadron bar to exchange “Do you remember when…?” stories.

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Sunray in November 1998

Have a poignant day, won’t you!

 

The Back-Seat Driver: Part 94

The back-seat driver.  In German: der Co-Trainer. The armchair expert, Kneipenprofessor, who knows your job better than you do (because they saw this done in a movie or on YouTube).  The bane of my life, and quite possibly of yours, my dear reader.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we’ll begin.  Time to write through gritted teeth.  I shall wear a smile.  Here it is for you.

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Let me outline the background of this article for you.  Our church treasurer is of Welsh origin, but quite Germanic in his view that:

Ordnung muss sein.

The treasurer noticed a week ago that we had two large boxes at the back of church.

  • One for used stamps to donate to charity.  In the UK, pretty much every small business had an A4 envelope full of such stamps, which the secretary or office junior would then take once in a while to the local charity shop.  (You get the idea.)
  • The other contained a whole load of spectacles, also to give to a Third World charity.

Both boxes have never been emptied in the near seven years that I have been attending this church.

Never, never, never, never.  In seven (7) years.  Never, never, never, never. 

Let’s cut to the chase.  Last week after seeing the two un-loved boxes one time too many, I undertook to take both boxes with me to the local charity shop.  After I had taken the box of spectacles to the shop this morning, I sent out a round-robin to church members via Whatsapp.

We have taken our collection of spectacles for the Third World to charity shop.  They are very happy.

Within minutes, messages of unbridled adulation flood into my inbox.

You are the finest human being I have ever met.

Truly you are a blessing in my life.

I am filled with endless gratitude to you for your sterling efforts and endless, selfless devotion to the work of the church, and indeed, to the human race.

And much, much more.

I tell a lie.  I get one message from the treasurer:

Cheers, mate.

Other than that one, I then receive a bombardment of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells messages from Billy, our “in-house” back-seat driver and giver of unsolicited advice.  He was challenging my decision to discontinue the collecting of stamps and spectacles.  I explain that, members of the congregation are grown-up enough to take their donations directly to the charity.  (Well, actually, Billy probably isn’t.)  He then combines his Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells comments with passive aggressive comments concluding in, “But of course, you’re in charge, and you you know best, and you probably have your reasons for your decision.”  (Think of when a woman answers you with “Fine.”)

(Yes, Billy, I do have good reasons, and I’ve just spent ten minutes of my life explaining the rationale, context, whys and wherefores thereof.)

Message after message, after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message… after message…

“Billy must be bored today,” I sigh to myself.

In the end, Billy has the last word and informs me he is “far too busy to discuss this matter until tomorrow.”  A reprieve. I anticipate the next chapter at about 02:20 when he gets up for a night-time loo break.  I say the words that every ex-HM Forces person, every pads brat utters at least once a month.

Bl00dy civvies.

I then get on with my jobs at church:

  • Shiftin’ and liftin’ fifty stacking chairs back into the church hall
  • Writing a thank you card to Grasshopper for some highly amusing videos about protein powder
  • Nibbling a couple of small mince pies left for me by our catering team
  • Advising the catering team how to bake mince pies because that’s how my last church used to make them  (Er no thanx, I’ll leave that to Billy to butt in)

Have an advisory day, won’t you!

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Scrapbook: Memory

My scrapbook had been pretty dormant the past two or three years, new content being mainly service sheets for funerals of members of the congregation where I’ve attended as church warden/verger/dogsbody.

One item that I will always appreciate is the regimental condolence card that the SLOB’s (Scarlet Lancers Old Boys) sent me after my Dad, Sunray, died on 16 January this year.  A British Army cavalry regiment is truly a band of brothers.

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The words on the inside of the card come from the regimental song, Old Stable Jacket. Sing mit!

Have a brotherly day, won’t you!

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.

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Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!