Feiertag

Feiertag: a German public holiday.  The streets looked until 10am like a curfew had been imposed.  All the shops shut.  (A bit like England used to look on Sundays till about 30 years ago, when the Sunday trading laws were liberalised.)  A few cafes open.  Maybe also a few kiosks.

My routine was as follows.

05:41: Wake up as per any “school day.”  I lie in bed and listen to BBC Radio 5 and then change stations to BBC Radio Tees.

08:20: I climb out of my bed.  Time to make use of the day.

08:30: Time to sort out my flat.  Tidying first.  Then cleaning.  Living  room half-sorted.  Bathroom cleaned, except for the toilet and floor.  Bath and sink now shining.  I take a few breaks to forward a few cartoons via WhatsApp.  Back to cleaning and tidying.  And laundry.  And more laundry.

09:59: I head out to my local cafe for brunch and to get some fresh air on this cloudy, overcast day.

11:00: Feeling “matschig” (fidgety), I call a friend.  We arrange to meet at 13:00 in his part of the city for coffee and chat.

12:00: I sit in the cafe, reading my copy of Creative Writing for Dummies and writing in my diary.  Nice not to have to use my brain too much.  Nice to be away from a screen.

13:00: My friend arrives.  We chat.  We have a good catch-up.  He does not talk about his ailments.  Bonus!

14:00: I head back home via the main train station, the Hbf.  En route to the Hbf, I start day-dreaming about cleaning materials.  Should I get the apple-scented wipes, or the lemon-scented wipes?  I decide to get both.  I go to DM (sort-of-ish the German equivalent of Boots or Superdrug).  I stock up on apple-scented wipes, lemon-scented wipes, a nail brush, toilet cleaner, washing-up liquid, and much, much more.  €20 later, I feel a spring in my step.  All these cleaning products to make my flat look spotless.

Then it hits me.  I have become middle-aged.  The highlight of my day was not brunch, or meeting up with a mate, or going for a walk or cycle ride.  It was the trip to DM.  Retail therapy!

Have a spotless day, won’t you!

person wearing pair of yellow rubber gloves

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Things *not* to say at the…

Summer is nearly here in Germany.  It was sunny and 24 degrees cee today.  Out thoughts turn in this part of the world to soaking in the sun, absorbing the vitamin D and hoping to get the freckles on the Celtic skin to join together to form some kind of a tan.  One of our favourite beauty spots is open again.  It also has an FKK section.  That, in plain English, is the nudist/naturist section, for those of you who don’t know about that part of German culture.  (Well, you do now.)

The classic question:

But what if you happen to see your bank manager at the nudist camp?  What should you do?  What should you say to them?

Well, in these internet days, who really knows their bank manager, anyway?  Most of us just do online banking.  It’s much more likely for you to have a chance encounter with your local supermarket manager or your local librarian.

So here’s a list of things for you and your local librarian not to say if you happen to see each other au naturel/in the nuddy/the nip/the nod/the raw/in the buff/, in their birthday suit/wearing nothing but a smile etc.

  • Ooh I say, now there’s a bookworm!
  • I see you’re trying to check me out.  I’m afraid that’s reference only.
  • What a lovely buff cover!
  • Shhhh!  Careful when you slam that book shut!
  • What a lovely hardback.  It must be a limited edition.
  • My, my, what a weighty tome!
  • Oh, you’ve noticed I’m re(a)d all over!  I’ve only my shelf to blame, though.
  • You keep giving me wordy looks…
  • Oops, that looks impossible to put down.
  • You look cold.  Is that due to the draft?
  • How novel seeing you here, not wearing even a book jacket.
  • There’s the librarian.  Dewey think thesaurus just now?
  • Nice manuscript you got there…
  • I’ve noticed your wandering eyes. I guess you must be a fan of Pepys.
  • Don’t get all a-browsed.
  • You seem a bit shy.  Are you perhaps reserved?

Or imagine these conversations:

  • That item is long overdue.  You have an outstanding fine…
  • Oh, thank you very much.  An outstanding, fine what, though?  [Follow that with a Sid James cackle.]

And…

  • Fancy seeing you here!  Do you come here with anyone else from the library?
  • Well, it was bound to happen.  ISBN here a few times.  And yes, I quite often hang out here with a few other members.

Have a specially reserved, day won’t you!

women s yellow long sleeve shirt

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How to confuse a 5-year-old

A few weeks ago I attended a Roman Catholic first communion, namely that of a young relative of Schatz.  Me, I’m a Prod and proud, to quote from the song, but I’m more than happy to attend such things, stick some cash in the lad’s Erste Kommunion card and join the family for post-mass buffet lunch (which was delicious).

Before the mass started, I chatted to Schatz’s relative-in-law, her five-year-old daughter, seated between us.  R-in-L and I chatted in German.  Daughter sat quietly all during the mass.

Eventually we reached the Lord’s Prayer.  Everyone else said it in German: Vater unser, etc.  I said it in English, my beloved mother tongue, thus:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven:
Give us this day our daily  bread;
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
When before the Collect the priest alone recites the prayer, the people here respond: Amen.
When after all have communicated the people repeat each petition after the priest, the prayer ends:
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Within a few syllables, five-year-old is staring at me, her jaw nearly reaching the ground.  Daughter tells Mutti words to the effect:

I can’t understand a word he is saying.

Mutti tells daughter:

He comes from another country. 

(Daughter still looks mystified as I flick back into German.)

Have a confusing day, won’t you!

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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.]

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We Are Not A Babysitter Service…

I reiterate once more.  I admit it once more.  I am a care bear.

But even I have my limits.

Rewind to a few weeks ago.  We have a member of congregation, who is is a de facto single mother  (DFSM).  Husband works away a lot.  She’s lonely, possibly a bit burdened with bringing up a two-year-old child on her own.  Probably her German is limited.  Ditto (I suspect) her English.  I have noticed her several times in the past few months.  I have often wondered: is she possibly on Mogadon?  She often seems in a bit of a daze.

After there service one day, I hear a conversation a few metres away:

House group member:

Oh yes, we have a house group on Wednesday evenings.  You really should come.  We are looking at the Book of Acts.  We also enjoy fellowship, tea and cookies.

DFSM:

Oh, I will come.

Fast-forward to the following Wednesday.  It’s 19:45.  Most of the house group members are there.

Let me just interject here.  House group is also known as:

  • Home group
  • Hauskreis (literally: house circle in German)
  • Life group
  • Bible study

We get settled in for a good meaty session to look at the Book of Acts.

My mobile rings. It is DFSM.

An abrupt:

Hey, when is the service?

I tell her it starts in 10 minutes.  DFSM cuts the call.

We carry on, ploughing through the passage.

20:20, and it’s DFSM again.

Hey, where is the service?  I am at Blahblahstrasse.

We talk her through how to get house group.  It is now 20:24.  I have had a strenuous week month.  My patience is starting to grow as thin as my hair…

20:30 DFSM arrives.

Her 2-year-old child in tow.

Nobody says a thing.  Maybe they have other thoughts, but they keep it zipped.  Nobody wants to make a fuss.  I bite my lip.  I bite my tongue.

Group leader hands DFSM a bible.  DFSM seems puzzled.  Maybe, kann es sein, she thought she was coming to a service, where should could dump the reason for her Kindergeld onto others.  It’s house group, bible study, ma’am.  The study of the bible is the MoSCoW must-have part of house group.

Offspring screams.

Offspring shouts.

Offspring wanders round the flat, picking bric a brac up from our host’s bookcase.

We all politely smile and say how active offspring is.  I sit thinking about my day at work and how I was needing to share concerns and prayers.  It was not my intention to share babysitting duties.

20:45 Offspring is still screaming, shouting, wandering, climbing, touching and grabbing things.

20:46 Just like the tabloid investigative reporter, I make my excuses and leave, incisor teeth almost digging into tongue.

Bible study disrupted.  Offspring’s sleep pattern disturbed.  My blood pressure sky-high.  DFSM was content just to sit on the sofa and stare into space.  House group/bible study is meant to be participatory, not passive.  Not dump-your-kid on-“volunteers”-time.

Am I being too harsh?  Too un-Christian?  I checked with two friends of mine.  Even Billy agreed it was not appropriate to bring a 2-year-old to bible study at that time of evening.  Normally he will disagree with me on everything.  B in Oz, a mother of a 2-year-old, also agreed with me.  She said a child of that age should be in bed very latest at 8pm.

If you can’t achieve your aims at bible study (namely to, er study the bible), is there any point in coming?  The evening becomes not fit for purpose.  A Rolls-Royce is a nice luxury car, but it’s not suitable for ploughing a field, like a tractor would be.

Clearly, we do want to help struggling members of congregation, but not at all costs.  Would it therefore be more appropriate for members of congregation to invite DFSM out for a Kaffee und Kuchen one-to-one or to a women’s prayer group that meets daytime?  Can we create a win-win situation for all concerned?  Rant over.

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

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Have a care-bearing day, won’t you!

 

Glory to Stalin!

Stalin’s reign.

An old lady gets on a bus in Moscow. She has waited a long time, and sits down with a sigh of relief. “Oh, glory to God!” she exclaims.

The bus driver turns around with a grave look. “Comrade, there is no God. You must say, ‘Glory to Comrade Stalin.'”

The old lady apologizes and pledges to remember this. After a minute, she pipes up, “Comrade, what shall I say, if, heaven forbid, Comrade Stalin should die?”

The bus driver pauses, and answers, “Oh! Then you shall say, ‘Glory to God!'”

Have a glorious day, won’t you!

Glory-to-Stalin