Am I too harsh?

“Am I too harsh?”  I sometimes ask myself.  I’m a pads brat.  I’ve worn the Queen’s uniform myself.  I can do touchy-feely.  For a while.  And then I try to move on from moaning about the problem to resolving the problem.  I’m by no means a Marxist, but I do like his assertion:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.”

I suppose my slogan would be in German:

“Meckern, und dann machen.”

(“Moan, and then do [something about it].”)

Today’s poser is this.

Jasna is a friend of mine.  She’s nearly 50 and works in education.  Her son is 21 and in his final year at university, reading Business Studies.  Personally, I think he’s more a creative type, and would have perhaps been more suited to a course such as drama or music.  But that’s his choice.

This academic year, son, has been coming back home almost every single weekend and often not going back to university, two hours away by train, until the Tuesday.  Weekends at home seem to be spent in bed, sleeping, on the living room sofa, snoozing, in the same clothes, four days flat.  His bath towel remains clean and dry – because he doesn’t shower.  It would barely be an exaggeration to say you smell him before you see him.  He and personal hygiene seem to be estranged from one another.

How does mum, Jasna, feel about it?  Recently she let off steam to me.

  • She was fed-up of him being at home, getting under her feet.
  • He was grabbing all the good food at home, from fridge, freezer, cupboards, you name it.
  • He was making the whole house stink.
  • He was rattling on to her about his pretty problems at university.
  • She couldn’t have the house to herself while he was there. She was desperately needing her “me-time.”

He came back yet again “just for the weekend.”   (Just fancy that.)

On Monday evening (much as I had anticipated) he was still home.  (He “didn’t have any lectures till Tuesday afternoon.”)

On Tuesday evening he was still at home.  The Tuesday afternoon lecture “wasn’t that important.”

On Wednesday evening…

On Thursday evening…

Each evening Jasna was expressing her frustration that son had not gone back to university.

Uncle Ginge tried to analyse.

  • Does he actually have any friends at university? Most finalists prefer being at university with their mates, rather than with their parents, cramping their style.
  • Actually, no he doesn’t. He’s a constant cadger (borrower).  “Oh dear, I seem to have left my wallet at home” is his regular comment when it comes to his round down the student union bar.

On Saturday evening – guess what, son was still at home.  Jasna was still letting off steam to me.  But “he’s definitely going back tomorrow.”  Er, right…

Sunday evening Facebook check-in:

Watching film at Super Deluxe Fleapit cinema in Ridsville – with (son).

Pardon?  My jaw drops.  What?  Ah, hang on, this is typical of Jasna.  She sends out mixed signals to her son.  I knew on Monday that he would still be at home a week after coming home.

Jasna changes her story from “He’s getting under my feet, he’s driving me up the wall.”

  • He’s been depressed.
  • He’s been an emotional support to me.
  • He cooked dinner for his sister on Wednesday.
  • He paid for the trip to the cinema tonight.

Jasna sends me a dissertation via WhatsApp.

Message after message after message after message…

He’s definitely going back tomorrow – tomorrow evening – if hubby will drive him back.

The Whatsapp messages keep coming through.

I resolve to: go for a shower, put the rubbish out, make a couple of phone calls, alphabetise my CD collection, clip my toenails, clear a paper jam from my printer…

  • Beep, another WhatsApp message.
  • Beep, another one…
  • Beep, you guessed it, yet another…

In the end – I respond.

“Is it your son’s job to be your emotional support worker?   You said he was depressed.  Oh, his GP said he isn’t depressed?  Shouldn’t he be back at university in the academic environment, in his ‘office’, studying in the library, meeting his mates (if he has any) down the union bar, working out down the gym, keeping himself doing purposeful activity (such as showering)?”

Then we get to the “money shot.”

“But, Ginge in Germany, you don’t understand, because you are not a parent.”

Of course.  I should have realised.  What a fool I am!  All my time as a teacher, uncle, etc, has proven useless.  I am just being too harsh on Jasna’s son.  When will I ever learn?

Have a lenient day, won’t you!

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Long live Erich!

Honecker will sich bei den Bürgern erkunden, wie beliebt er denn nun ist. Er besucht also eine Hochhaussiedlung und klingelt an einer Tür.

Ein kleines Mädchen öffnet und fragt: “Wer bist du denn, Onkel?”

“Ich, meine Kleine, bin der Mann, der dafür sorgt, dass es euch gut geht. Ich sorge für Essen und Wohnung …”

“Mami, Mami, komm’ mal ganz schnell, Onkel Peter aus München ist da!”

 

Have a socialist day, won’t you!

Two Years to the Day

Today is two years to the day since my Dad, Sunray, died suddenly.  May he rest in peace.  That’s all I have to say about his death.

Today I’m going to write about his birth.  Specifically, about his birth certificate.

In 1983 I applied for my first UK passport.  Because I was not born in the UK itself, I had to send the Passport Office a copy of Sunray’s birth certificate to prove that he was a British Citizen.

A few days after ordering from the Register Office in North Yorkshire, the certificate arrived.  Beautiful handwriting in nice fountain pen.  Just one problem.  One line in the certificate:

Sex: Girl

Amazingly enough, my mum, not famed for her sense of humour, saw the funny side.  She wrote back to the Registrar:

Please find enclosed your copy of the birth certificate of [Sunray].  Please note, I can assure you that [Sunray] was definitely born a Boy, not a Girl, as I was married to him for thirteen years, and he is the father of my three children.

One week later, a corrected birth certificate landed on our doormat, together with an apology to Sunray (and his ex-wife).

woman wearing black wrist bands holding nose

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Have an accurate day, won’t you!

IYFEG

IYFEG: Insert Your Favourite Ethnic Group.  Used when you don’t want to be accused of being racist.  In this article, I will not be identifying the ethnic group or nationality.

New Year’s Eve Eve (sic).  I’m sitting in the Chinese cafe at Essen Hbf railway station, resting my weary feet while enjoying a nice duck dish.

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly…

I see Mother IYFEG strolling in with her three children.  I know they are IYFEG-ian.  They have walked in to the establishment, as if they own the place (the Hbf, not just the eatery).  Mother IYFEG’s eldest, aged about 14 or 15, scans the eatery, looking at the diners with a mix of contempt and curiosity.

Mother IYFEG speaks to the assistant in German.  I will translate the exchange.

Mother IYFEG:

Hey, I want number 19.

Assistant:

Sure.  That’ll be 8.50€, please.

Mother IYFEG:

And can I have three or four prawns with it?

Assistant:

No, you can’t.

Mother IYFEG:

But it’s just three or four prawns.

Assistant:

This is a chicken dish, not a prawn dish.

Mother IYFEG:

But I will eat the chicken, as well.  And can I have three or four prawns with it?

Assistant (again, replying politely):

No, you can’t.  I’m sorry.

Mother IYFEG, now begining to plead, while her son continues to scan the eatery and its customers:

But, just three or prawns, please.

Assistant (again, replying politely):

So, would you like number 21, the prawn dish?

Mother IYFEG:

No.  I would the number 19.  So, can you give me three or four prawns with it?

And so on and so on.  Five times Mother IYFEG asks for the freebie prawns.

I sit, observing.  I want to eat my duck dish.  Instead I end up biting my tongue.

After the fifth iteration, Mother IYFEG gets the message.  She is not getting her freebie three or four prawns.  A pretty poor impression of asking for breakfast in the film, Falling Down.  She reminds me of a certain relative of mine, a rather immature 49 13 year old.

If I keep pestering you for pocket money, again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again again and again and again and again and again… will you then cave in to my demand for the sake of a quiet life?

Mother IYFEG finally admits defeat.  She pays for her number 19 (chicken dish, not a single prawn), takens her dish to the table behind me.  Her two younger offspring flank her.  Food porn (minus three or four prawns) plus selfie time.  Her eldest stands behind me, no sense of personal space, pressing his back against my back, all the time shouting animatedly in IYFEG-ian.  (I really regret not having taken my lisinopril blood pressure tablet that morning, or a cattle prod, for that matter.)

In truly British passive aggresssive manner, I tut and humph and sigh and slowly shake my head.  I then suddenly lean to the right, causing IYFEG son to lose his balance and slip back onto the table.  He gets the message (but not the prawns).

I feel sure there are nice, likeable IYFEG-ians out there.  I just haven’t met any while living in Germany.

Later on I resolve to buy a book of 80 cent stamps at the post office and then repeatedly ask for three or four 30 cent stamps for some airmail letters that I need to send…  There again, maybe not…

Have a prawn-free day, won’t you!

Image result for michael douglas breakfast

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!

man driving vehicle near tree

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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!