In peace – goodwill

In war – determination.

In defeat – defiance.

In victory – magnanimity.

In peace – goodwill.

Wise words from Winston Churchill.

During World War II and even up till 1948, many German prisoners of war (PW) were kept in the United Kingdom and proved to be most useful as a labour force, especially on farms, auf dem Lande.

All the PW’s would be dropped off at their place of work at 0700 every morning.  They would have head back to their PW camp, a converted manor house, in the evening.  Their rations for the day: a tin of corned beef, barely edible for a dog, let alone a man working in the fields.

One such PW worked on my great-grandad’s farm in the Yorkshire Dales.  I forget his name (It’s mentioned in a recent letter from my 80-year-old uncle A from Bedale.)  Let’s call him Ralph.

When his employer’s family found out that Ralph:

  1. Was not a Nazi, just another conscript, doing his job
  2. Was a motor mechanic
  3. He was a good “grafter,” full of Teutonic efficiency
  4. Had food rations thatwere not fit for purpose
  5. Was an all-round nice guy

the family pretty much adopted him.

They invited him to join them as honoured guest for lunchtime every day, including Sunday roast with gallons of gravy and Yorkshire pudding.

Finally, when Ralph was sent back to Germany in 1948, home addresses were exchanged.  Every Christmastime Christmas cards would be exchanged between t’Dales and Hamburg, Ralph’s home.

In 1964 my Uncle A was posted to the BAOR, British Army of the Rhine.  He then visited Ralph in Hamburg and had a few beers with him, also meeting his wife and children.

Uncle A and Ralph kept in contact for years even when Uncle A was posted to Northern Ireland.  Eventually the Christmas cards stopped.  Ralph had passed away.  The final correspondence was a condolence card sent to Ralph’s family some time in the 1960’s.

Aus Feind wird Freund.

Have a friendly day, won’t you!

hands people friends communication

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GDR Ha Ha Ha…

The Grenztruppen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, the East German border guards, took their job seriously.  So did the British soldiers when they used to come to do border patrol.

Except… the Brits being Brits used to like being professional, but also having a laugh.  At the expense of the Genossen on the other side of the fence.

Many a female members of the Royal Air Force, when traversing the DDR checkpoint in Berlin, was known to lift off her bra and blouse and show off her ample chest to the Grenztruppen, chanting the following one-liner:

If you’re British, get your t1tties out!

The DDR authorities would then raise a formal protest about another Grenzprovokation via the Soviets, concerning:

…severe indiscipline and courtesy to the military personnel of the German Democratic Republic, especially from female troops, who lacked any form of ladylike behaviour…

And this from a country famous for FKK.  How strange.

Troops stationed on the main border used to have their own fun.  Here’s one Grenzprovoktation incident.

One bright, sunny Thursday morning, Sunray arrives at the border village of Mattierzoll on his Landrover.  Fun time begins.

He places a piece of equipment onto the roof of his Landrover.  It has an aerial.  He starts pointing the aerial in the direction of the guard tower on the other side.   He stands by the vehicle for a several minutes, slowling pointing the aerial in various directions.

A pair of border guards come closer.  They scratch their heads.  They take photos.

Sunray turns the “scanner” again.  He sits in his Landrover, smiling, eating a cheese sandwich.

More border guards come, this time with technical officers, flicking through their British Army reference guidebooks.  What is this device on the roof of this Landrover?

Five minutes later, Sunray puts them out of their misery.

He takes the Ministry of Defence issue office bin off the roof.  He removes the green-painted coat-hanger and the masking tape holding it to the base of the bin.  He holds the bin up to the Genossen to show what it is. He pulls off the old phone cable that had been glued to the bin.

The Genossen, realising that been pranked, shake their heads and march off, muttering under the breath.

Sunray chuckles and jumps back in his vehicle.  He has a great story to tell back at the barracks this afternoon.

Have a provocative day, won’t you!

mattier.jpg

Call the social workers!

The year 1977.  For me, that was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year.  Street parties, Union Flag bowler hats, bunting across the streets, a massive military parade staged by the BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) at Sennelager.  Things were different then.  The price of a 1st class stamp was 9p.

jubilee

(Above is a first day cover to mark that jubilee.)

How much does a first class stamp cost nowadays?  Having lived aboard for several years now, I had to google it.  Ulp!  Drum roll…

70p.

But what else has changed since then?  Let’s take this case study.

1977: the school secretary at Wolfenbüttel Primary School phones the Guardroom at the barracks, 5 minutes walk away.

Hello, Cpl Sunray.  School secretary here.  Can one of the Regimental Police pop over to the school?  One of the youngsters has got his head stuck in the back of a chair while messing about with his mates.

Cpl Sunray arrives in the classroom.  Little Charlie, aged 5, is standing near teacher’s desk, looking all sheepish.  His classmates are watching him.

Gentle tugging and twisting does not help.  Cpl Sunray decides the only way is to saw the plastic back off the chair.  But he has to have a bit of fun.  At Charlie’s expense.

Cpl Sunray takes his hacksaw.  He holds it in front of Charlie’s eyes.  He winks to teacher.  Very deadpan he sighs:

It’s no good, Charlie.  We’ll just have to cut your head off.

Charlie screams.  Loudly.

No, no, no, please, no!

His classmates, teacher, and Cpl Sunray laugh.  Also loudly.  And for a good minute.

Cpl Sunray then manages to saw the back of the chair off.  Much to Charlie’s relief.

Now, fast forward 40+ years.  What would happen?

  • Cpl Sunray would be severely reprimanded, perhaps dismissed.
  • Charlie would be diagnosed with PTSD and offered counselling.
  • Maybe his classmates, too.
  • And teacher…
man cutting tress using chainsaw

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Have a sawn-off day, won’t you!

Classmates Reunion Part 3

Saturday morning.  After Grasshopper has gone for his run, Schatz and I meet him in the hotel for breakfast.  I had a slightly sore head.  I’m not sure if Grasshopper did, too.  I’m sure a run and shower will have got rid of that for him.  For me, my sore head disappeared after five coffees and a cooked breakfast.

Off to the Altstadt.  Coffee and spaghetti ice.  Grasshopper and I upload to Facebook yet more German “food porn” photos.  It has to be done.  A trip along the Rhine on a boat.  More pics, and not just of food porn.  Schatz is shattered.  She heads home to the hotel for a well-earned siesta.  Grasshopper and I head to Kaiswerswerth for that German classic, the currywurst.  A short stroll to the river bank for more pics and to walk our currywurst off.

Back to hotel.  Power nap or lie-down for an hour or so.

Freshened up, we had to a nearby Bavarian pub.  Grasshopper has his Jägerschnitzel.  I choose Schlemmerpfanne.  Schatz chooses salmon, the healthy option.  More food porn photos are uploaded to Facebook.  Grasshopper and I enjoy our Apfelstrudel.  More food porn photos are uploaded to Facebook.  A few more glasses of Pils are enjoyed.  All three of us are merry.  Schatz treats us.  Star!  For Grasshopper is our honoured guest.

foodporn

Schatz heads to bed.  Grasshopper and I chat in the hotel bar.  41 years of “remember when…?” to catch up on.

The following morning it is time to say goodbye to Grasshopper.  Before he gets into his taxi, we hug shake hands.  It’s been an excellent weekend.  Rarely have I met such a good bloke, an interesting guy and very likeable, as Grasshopper.  It was a privilege and pleasure to meet him after 41 years.  And yes, so, we did get on face to face as we did online.

Grasshopper, let’s not leave it another 41 years, eh!

Have a friendly day, won’t you!

Classmates Reunion Part 2

Like the song goes, Train and Boats and Planes.  Actually, Trains and Blokes and Planes.  I hadn’t planned a great deal for Grasshopper’s weekend.  He’s easy, he says.  No point in timetabling every minute.  We head to the Altstadt.  We decide a coffee at an Irish pub is the obvious choice.  Coffee, craic and more chat.  We decide not to sing any of our dads’ politically incorrect songs from their days in Northern Ireland.

We have about three hours to kill before Schatz is due to arrive.  We walk and talk  along to the Rheinufer to get the typical touristy panorama pics.  Then I see the Rheinturm TV tower in the distance.

Taxi.

Grasshopper uses his German skills to buy our tickets at the Rheinturm.

Zwei, bitte.

(He’s fluent.)

Views, tea and apple cake with whipped cream.  It’s got to be done, hasn’t it.

Energy levels starting to sap after a while.  Grasshopper has been up since 04:00 UK time.  Back to our hotel.  Grasshopper checks in.  I nip to the local post office to pick up a package.

Schatz arrives.  We check in.  We then meet up with Grasshopper at the appointed hour on the nail.

Taxi to Altstadt again.  Cocktail bar.  Planters punch, mai thai, Tom’n’cherry.  A few more rounds.  All three of us chat.  We reminisce.  We get merry.  Schatz speaks in English.  More in one evening down the cocktail bar than in years of us being together.  Result!

Grasshopper is as WYSIWYG in real life as he is over the internet.  Diamond geezer.

We make our way back to our hotel.  Schatz heads to bed.  Grasshopper and I continue chatting in the hotel bar till near midnight.

Shortly before midnight, my head hits my pillow after a quick glug of water to rehydrate.

It’s been a great day.  I hope I don’t have a sore head in the morning…

photograph of men having conversation seating on chair

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Have a reminiscing day, won’t you!

Classmates Reunion Part 1

Is the answer 42?  No.  In this case it is 41: 41 year since Grasshopper and I last saw each other, when we were cute little pads brats classmates at a British primary school near the East German border.

Praise be to Facebook!  Nearly ten years ago, Grasshopper and I got in touch after I had shared a 1977 class photo on our dads’ old comrades Facebook page.  Then there was the Big C Diagnosis on the last Wednesday of October 2017, since when Grasshopper and I have often chewed the cud, and bombarded each other with jokes and internet memes via Whatsapp.

Fast-forward to last Friday.  Too idle to take the bus from my flat to DUS airport, I take a taxi.  Having a bit of time to kill, I set up “office” at the ultra-modern McDonalds.  The day gets off to a good start.  Plenty of empty tables.  I take my breakfast with one large coffee (much needed to kick-start my day).  I sit down at a table on the edge of the restaurant.  Munch, munch, slurp.  Diary time.  Samuel Pepys/Adrian Mole/Konrad Kujau mode.  I check my smartphone.  Grasshopper’s plane has not taken off yet, according to the messages from LCY (London City Airport).  It’s delayed 45 minutes.  Time for another coffee and a quick lookaround to see where the toilet is… ah, there it is.  Just round the corner.

I’m looking forward to seeing Grasshopper in the flesh.  We’ve had some really good laughs over the years via the internet.  We’ve had some really good, deep conversations.  He’s a net contributor.  He’s a switched-on bloke, who does a lot of good work in his spare time for a youth organisation.  He has a similar warped sense of humour to mine.  He is also a big fan of Not the The Nine O’Clock News.

But will we get on when we meet?  “Captain Paranoia” keeps whispering in my ear.  People are different when you meet them in person, or if you mention Danny Jones, etc,  who you couldn’t stand, and then it turns that Danny Jones is in fact, best mates with Grasshopper.

I go order another coffee and make a few phone calls.  I surf on my smartphone and find a few cute animals videos to smile at and to forward to friends.  My bladder tells me it is time to stand up and move.  Toilet.  Off to gate to meet’n’greet Grasshopper.  Out he comes.

No hugs.  No embraces.  We pads brats don’t do that.  A good firm handshake and pleasantries.  Without further delay we head to our train, and then chat for England during the short hop to DUS Hauptbahnhof.

Twenty minutes later we two are sending Schatz a selfie from the Hbf, getting ready to explore my adopted home town.

Have a welcoming day won’t you!

[To be continued.]

grayscale photography of man walking on stairs

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