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!

Year Zero, Day Zero

Actually, Year Zero is not a particularly nice expression.  I’m old enough, at 45 years and one day old, to remember the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero_(political_notion)

Nonetheless, why should the Devil have the best tunes?  Why should a bunch of murderous dictators have the best sound-bites?

My plan for Year Zero: essentially start afresh.  We are where we are.

I like travelling by train.  For one thing I like to sit and listen to my favourite earworms and plot out my things to do list in my head.

So, the plan for the next 24 hours is:

  1. Start on the next translation text for the ex-chaplain.  It’s the only way forward to get closure.  It also gives me some purposeful activity during the day and will help to stop the mental “tap on the shoulder” every time I think of this unfinished work.
  2. Contact the Hausmeister and get him to sort out my leaking toilet.  It’s a mundane, five minute job and will make me – and my Schatz – much happier.
  3. Restart on diet and fitness regime.
    1. Stand on the scales as soon as I emerge from my pit tomorrow morning.  Whatever the weight, we are where we are.  Success is about where you’re going to, not where you’re coming from.
    2. Head off to the shops and buy only healthy food.
    3. Stroll into the Altstadt for an hour or two’s brisk walking.  Like my Grandma used to say, “Get out into the bloody fresh air.  It’ll do you good.”
    4. Daily food diary to my ever-patient personal trainer.
  4. Plan out extra job hunting task.  I think this week may call for time to get suited and booted and call in to a couple of job  agencies on Königsallee.

OK, that’s enough plans for the next 24 hours.  Time to tidy up the living room coffee table, pour a big mug of tea and get the remaining three chaplain translations out and ready to start on in the morning.

In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful piece, sung by Joan Baez.

We Shall Overcome

Have a purposeful day, won’t you!

 

“May I apologise for the conduct of previous generations…”

So, my 45th birthday today. Nothng much to write home (oops – 21st century, nothing much to blog about).  Instead some reflection on a few interconnected, inter-related, international, inter-communal threads and “fings.”

Last week was a week of two halves, a mixed bag including what Germans call “negative Highlights,” unstiffening the British lip and having a bit of a cry on Saturday afternoon, albeit followed by a most enjoyable evening down Düsseldorf Altstadt with convivial company, mainly educating Schatz on the less desirables parts of Teesside.

Also, du kennst diese Reklame?  Wo sind wir?  ‘Am Arsch der Welt.’  Na, das ist Teesside.

I digress (as ever).

That was the weekend.  Whizz back to Thursday evening and meeting up with Nadezhda and her boyfriend, she an ex-colleague from my most recent job.  While waiting at Düsseldorf Hbf to meet Nadezhda, I think of two things:

  • Nadezhda from A Short History of the Tractor in Ukrainian
  • Thank God for the person who invented the mp3 player for all the times that someone arrives late for an RV

So, off to a Greek cafe for Kaffee und Kuchen.  It occurs to me how very international this all is:

  1. An Englishman/Brit
  2. A Russian woman
  3. German Kaffee und Kuchen
  4. Greek cafe
  5. Russian Jewish (Sephardim, be exact) boyfriend

Nadezhda tells me in Russian rather shyly, almost apologetically, that her boyfriend is Jewish.  My reaction, er, big deal.  The Jewish community is long-established and well-integrated in British life.  I tell her, the former Chief Rabbi said the UK is the most un-anti-Semitic country in Europe.

Ganz spontan I am invited to their Russian-Jewish friends in the Altstadt.  A great evening, sitting with very gastfreundlich people.  I could tell they were originally from Russia.  How?  We were speaking in Russian and talking about Red Square, Voronezh, etc, etc.  They also laughed at my repetoire of Russian-language Soviet Jew jokes.

I knew they were Russian-Jewish and not Russian-Russian.  When the host and hostess offered me a glass of Laphroig whisky, I declined.  I was immediately offered either pineapple juice or orange juice.  Had they been Russian, I’d have been harangued with:

  • I beg you, drink
  • I beg you from my heart, please drink
  • I beg you, my brother, please celebrate our new friendship and brotherhood over a drink

(“Which part of ‘no’ do you not understand?”)

Just before midnight, we head home, our host and hostess wishing us well and preparing for bedtime.  Had that been ethnic Russians, we’d have left at about 5 in the morning after “just one last toast.”

Interesting conversation during that visit.  Two of the people were looking to move to England to live and work because life as a Jew is easier there than in Düsseldorf.

This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.  If anything, they seemed to find it rather tedious and self-righteous when post-war Germans come and do the standard apology:

I must apologise for the conduct of our nation during the war.

(Yeah, yeah, sure, very nice,very sincere, good that you have signed the online petition against Judenhass, but I am not my brother’s keeper (or my (great-)grandather’s, either.)

In fact, the desire to move to England is for more far more prosaic reasons:

  • Bigger “critical mass of Jews” in London
    • Therefore far bigger choice of which synagogue to attend
    • Much easier to go kosher shopping, maybe even online
    • In Golders Green you’ll always be able to find a decent bagel bar
    • The chance to have an Anglophone way of life, English being a trendier language than German

All the chat about anti-Semitism then reminds me of an incident a month or so ago, and not very palatable.

Sitting on the bus in Essen, off to see Schatz for the weekend, I’ve got my mp3 player on, full-blast.  A group of schoolkids board the bus, all very loud, all aged about 11 or 12, tweenagers (sic) as we call them in English, not quite teenagers.  Five of them sit opposite and around me.  I have Hava Nagila playing.  Seconds after sitting down, the youngsters start hurling verbal abuse at me, calling me (in German), “Dirty Jew,” etc, etc.  I can still lip-read even with the earphones in.

Let me reiterate.  With a name like Ginge in Germany, I am a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant), with some Celtic  background.

Now, German readers of this blog. please do not offer your standard apology:

I must apologise that anti-Semitism among our people is not dead.  I am truly ashamed, etc…

These were youngers of one specific ethnic Mediterranean origin.

Violence ends where love begins.

Have a Judenhass-free day, won’t you!