Remembrance Day

The poppy.  The two-minute silence.  The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month.  These are words and images familiar to anyone from, or living in, the UK.

I, however, live in Germany.  Yesterday, with less than a week’s notice, as church warden, I had to step in and lead our church’s Remembrance Day service.

Here we also call it Peace Sunday, because we in our church need to emphasise the service is not about celebrating victory, but about remembering those who gave their lives in conflict, and also about praying for peace between nations.

As warden, my usual task in this service is just to:

  • Lay a wreath
  • Find a German/young person/woman to lay the other

For yesterday I had to:

  • Look through the service sheet
  • Liaise with the preacher
  • Do a dry run
  • Check timings
  • Explain to the wreath layer the context of the service and wreath laying
  • Find a replacement for me to sit in Sunday school
  • Much, much more

In the days before the service, I practise my lines.

Sunday turns up.  I stand at the lectern.  I have been to the loo three times with pre-lectern nerves.

10:45 on the dot.  We start.  I read verbatim from my notes.  I want to get it right.

10:54 We reach the point where we lay the wreaths.  We are meant to start the silence at 11:00.  No way can I pad out the service till 11:00.  I make a decision on the ground.  I signal that we start tne 2-minute silence.

The silence seems to last two hours.  Everyone keeps the silence immaculately.  My blood pressure is lowered.

I thank my wreath layer and return to the lectern to continue the service.

More hymns.  More prayers.  I introduce the preacher, a USAF veteran.  He preaches.  And preaches.  It’s a hum-dinger, forty minutes long, but engaging and thought-provoking.  I then look for our intercessions person.  He is AWOL: “absent without leave.”  I had anticipated that eventuality.  Time for ACTS.

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanks
  • Supplication

I pray.  We all pray. As I pray for peace, I hesitate for a second or two as I look at members of congregation who come from war zone countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.  I lick my lips and take a sharp intake of breath, thinking of what these people must have gone through.

Fast forward.  Just before 13:00 the service ends with the Grace and notices.

I give thanks to God for a another dignified Remembrance/Peace Sunday service.  The congregation files out to refreshments in the church hall.  I even get compliments on my suit and on how I led the service.  I am truly flattered.  It was a team effort:

  • Leader
  • Chaplain briefing
  • Musicians
  • Sidespersons
  • A patient congregation

After shaking lots of hands and being asked in the absence of “the priest” if I can provide a visitor with some “holy water.”  Answer: er, no, I can’t, and anyway, as far as I am concerned, all water is holy.  That would be an ecumenical question.

13:00 Everyone has been fed and watered.  I breathe a sigh of relief that all went well.

Have a dignified day, won’t you!

Image result for remembrance

Mach mal lauter!

A lot of people forget that Elton John, notwithstanding his array of hits, did not have a solo number 1 until relatively late in his career, namely Sacrifice.

This following song was his first number 1, a duet with Kiki Dee from 1976.  BFBS Germany was constantly playing it.  That’s why it’s embedded in my memory.  (Oh, and the dungarees…)

Have a heart-breaking day, won’t you!

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

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

Photo by Flavio Ardito on Pexels.com

 

I love radio – part 94

I’ve always loved radio, which is good in Germany, because German TV is mostly pretty dire.

As a pads brat in Wolfenbüttel, I used to love listening to BFBS and its evening yes/no game, your chance to win a beer mat courtesy of…  (I believe half of the GDR and Poland used to join me in listening to BFBS.)

When I was ten years old, my parents gave me a little transistor radio for my birthday.  I used to listen to BBC World Service on medium wave via a cheap earphone, with the radio under my pillow.

As a sixth-former, I used to listen to Nightowls, a phone-in show on Metro FM, from 10pm till 2am.  It was the station’s most listened-to show.  99% of the time, the breakfast show is the flagship show on radio.

On my year abroad in Russia, I used to tune into BBC World Service, this time on… hissssssssssssssss… shhhhhhhhhhhhhh… hisssssssssssss… short wave, generally in the wee small hours.

Nowadays life is easier.  I listen via TuneIn.  Mainly to BBC Tees, Radio 4 and Blue Planet Prank Radio.  Occasionally to Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3.  Radio 1 I haven’t listened to since 1994.  Nicht mein Fall…

As for Radio 2, I haven’t listened to that for years.  But previously I listened to it all the time in the early 80’s, in the days of Terry Wogan and his breakfast show.  Not only, but also…  I remembered this comedy and music group, The Grumbleweeds.  I like bawdy humour, but I also like their corny humour with bad puns, etc.  Enjoy this clip.

Have a weedy day, won’t you!