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!

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I love live entertainment!

Live entertainment.  Nothing much can beat it.  I love watching live stand-up comedy.  But last night I tried something different: live choral music, sung by the choir of Hatfield College, Durham University, England.

What an evening!  Short but sweet: only forty-five minutes, but very enjoyable.  A mix of choral music from the centuries, as well as a couple of novelty songs, eg The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.  Afterwards there was the chance to come and chat with the members of the choir and thank them for their amazing, professional singing.

One regret: they did not have any CD’s to sell, but they are planning to go busking in the Altstadt, before heading off to Krakow in Poland for more performances.  Very entrepreneurial!

Many thanks to the British Women’s Club for organising!

Further reading: Hatfield College Choir

Have a musical evening, won’t you!

Doing it English-style

The British and the Germans are cousins.  Yet, we do things very differently…  Let me give you a prime example.

A Sunday evening in April.  Anglican (therefore, English-language) evening service in a city in Nordrheinwestfalien, Germany.  The trouble is, on turning up to the venue, none of the electronic cards will open up the storeroom where our bibles, service sheets and (English-language) hymn books are kept.

Had that been Germans, you could have anticpated expressions like:

Es ist eine absolute Unverschämtheit!

Das geht nicht!

Das kann nicht sein.

etc etc…

However we are the Brits, old bean…

The chaplain arrives.

Ginge in Germany:

Padre, we have a situation here.  We cannot get access to the bibles, service sheets or Mission Praise books.

Chaplain:

Well, no worries.  I have a my book of prayer.  I can take on off-the-peg service out of that.  Do we have any German-language hymn books in the room?  If so, let’s sing in German.

A quick scan.  Yes, we do have German-language hymn books.

Problem solved.  Chaplain welcomes the congregation of ten, a mix of Germans and Anglophone expats.  He then explains that due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be singing in German.   The reaction: very British.  Shrug of shoulders and “fair enough.”

The singing was good, pretty good, I have to say.   The first hymn was Lob den Herren.  English-speakers may recognise the tune.

Have an adaptable day, wont you.

Through mud and through blood to the green fields beyond

Those of you who are familiar with the Bible will possibly recognise this text, Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.[b]

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.[c]
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

It’s a long, but very rich text.  It happens to be one of my favourites psalms, besides numbers 23, 130 and 137.  Yes, I’ve been a Boney M fan for decades.

What was psalm 22 about?  Clearly we see the pain of the man crying out in the first two verses.  These were the words Jesus called out while nailed to the cross in excrutiating (literally – from the cross) pain.  Yet, was he really calling out in pain, or was He, as a rabbi, reciting a psalm, the same way that many people will recite psalm 23 in the hour of pain and worry?

Certainly, the psalm starts out full of the desperate, despairing cry of someone who feels totally abandoned and literally God-foresaken.  Yet, as we read ever further on, we see a tunnel with the light turning ever brighter, culminating on a happy eding.

I find a full read of this psalm lifts me up when I feel totally fed-up and like I’ve had enough.

I’m also a fan of the motto of the British Army’s Royal Tank Regiment:

Through mud and through blood to the green fields beyond.

Most British Army regimental/corps mottos are pretty samey, eg:

Ubique (Everywhere) (yeah, but so’s chickenpox, and ebola, if you believe the Daily Mail)

Manui dat cognitio vires (Forewarned is forearmed, look before you leap, etc)

You get the picture, hopefully.  Personally I find the RTR motto the most heartening of the mottos, and one I can truly relate to, given the less glamorous side to pads brat lifestyle, namely:

  • The domestic violence
  • Relatives being used as verbal and physical punchbag by those who have sociopathic tendencies
  • Too much time spent in the Cpls/Sgts Mess – there again, what’s the alternative, stay home and beat the wife, taunt the kids?

Despite, maybe even because of, these things, to quote Johnny Cash in A Boy Called Sue,  I grew up quick (but not mean, and my fists did not grow keen), and got a good education, became a nice guy with a GSOH, arriving in the “green fields beyond.”  The trouble is, the green fields beyond sometimes become a quagmire, and then I end up feeling like I’m back in trench warfare against issues again.  Sometimes, I’ll admit, I wonder if the green fields beyond will be my resting place.

Not without a fight, however!  And on day 3 of Year Zero, I can feel a fightback coming along.

Have a tenacious day, won’t you!