Scrapbook

I’m not high up enough in the food chain to have my memoirs published or to have my diaries forged.  I do, however, have many a quiet evening on my own.  Occasionally I’ll get the glue out and stick a few items in my scrapbook.

Where did I get this habit?  Sunray started it all back in 1978, when he was posted to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).  He was constantly cutting and pasting gluing into his Ministry of Defence A4 hard-backed book:

  • Article after article from the Camberley News
  • The occasional Northern Echo clipping about his elder brother, who was in the habit of arguing with North Yorkshire Police and ending up the loser in court
  • Ah yes… every now and again, local non-news articles that mother would post to him from the Darlington and Stockton Times, eg “TRUCK BREAKS DOWN ON A1 BY LEEMING BAR.  NO-ONE INJURED.”

Fast-forward to 1998, and I am visiting Sunray, having been estranged from him for nearly a decade.  There among his photo albums is his RMAS scrapbook.

Dad, can I have a look at your scrapbook, please?

Aye, feel free, son.  I’ve not had a look at it myself for years.

Flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick…

  • Sovereign’s Parade 1979
  • Sovereign’s Parade 1980
  • Sovereign’s Parade, guess what, 1981
  • Bellerby Sub-Post Office without 2nd Class Stamps for over Two Weeks in summer of 1981 – local butcher fuming
  • Elder brother up before Thirsk Magistrates 1978: £75 fine
  • Brother up before Thirsk Magistrates 1979: £60 fine
  • Brother up before Northallerton Magistrates 1981: £80 fine
    • He must have moved house in 1980, I guess..
  • Most recent clipping – brother up before Richmond Magistrates 1991: £800 fine
    • Goodness – I’ll put that £800 down to inflation…

I resolve to go start myself a scrapbook the very next day…  Ahem…  Well, at least, the intent was there.

1 November 2003: I finally get round to buying a suitable scrapbook.   Masham post office (which also did have 2nd class stamps).  I also buy a small bottle of PVA glue, so beloved in British primary schools (where it normally comes poured out of huge gallon bottles).

pvaglue

Come on, you must have used gallons of this in your school days!

Within two years I had filled my scrapbook with, well, er scrap.  I took a leaf out of Sunray’s book.  I just had to collect local non-news articles from the local paper, such as the following two horror stories:

carcass

Oh, the sleepless nights…

rubbish

A very unhappy pub landlord, scowling for the camera…

Not only the local news items, but also the souvenirs of travels (address redacted).

postcard

Sunray was enjoying himself in Berlin.  His return air fare just £40 – bargain!

 

But if you can’t take the plane, let the train take the strain.  £6 there and back: another bargain.

ticket

 

And finally… no newspaper clippings of Sovereign’s Parade, but this headline mocking a Sandhurst graduate, Mr Ian Duncan Smith MP (ex-Guards), one-time “leader” of the Conservative Party, who was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

IDS

Who remembers Comical Ali from Gulf War II?

The people come and go, but thanks to the scrapbook, the memories remain.  Oh, the winter (and summer) evenings are going to just absolutely fly by, I’m sure.

Have a scrappy day, won’t you!

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Don’t Do Your Business in…

Sunray served 22 years in the British Army’s Royal Armoured Corps.  But he was also a PARA.  Not Parachute Regiment.  PARA-noid.

His motto (which he repeated to me on a regular basis):

Don’t do your business in the place where you live.  (That’s what Captain Benn told me back in 1973.)

A pearl of wisdom no doubt.

I actually suspect it was my Grandmother who got Sunray into the habit, not Captain Benn.  Grandma lived in a tiny hamlet, Burrill, a good five kilometres from the nearest town.  Her nearest (sub-)Post Office?  Three ( yes – 3, drei) doors down from her, at Number 8.  Did she ever go there, even to buy a stamp?

Nope.

I’m not having Margaret H knowing I’ve just bought a 2nd-class stamp and gossiping that I’m too bl00dy poor or tight-fisted to buy a 1st-class stamp.

I’m not taking my letters to my son to her sub-post office .  She’ll know where he’s stationed and she’ll end up gossiping about it.

I’m not cashing my pension at Burrill post office.  She’ll then know how much old age pension I get each week.  I’m not bl00dy having that!

So every week, in all weathers, Grandma would waddle to the end of the hamlet, board the bus to Bedale, and do her post office business there, buying stamps, paying her bills and swapping gossip with all the other OAP’s.  As for actually posting letters, she’d send them from the hamlet post box, conveniently located in the bustling heart of the hamlet, next to the phone box, which Sunray would occasionally daily ring while guarding enemies of the British state twiddling his thumbs at the Maze Prison.  (You can see a picture of the bustling heart of the hamlet at the end of this article.)

As for Sunray himself, most of his post-Army life he spent living in villages in the Yorkshire Dales.  He would drive for miles and miles around to obscure village post offices – in rotation – to prevent over-familiarity and postmasters knowing his business.  He even had a laminated A4 sheet to tell him the opening times and locations of about twenty village post offices.

You can’t be too careful, son!

Have a paranoid day, won’t you!

burrillPBox

The bustling centre of Burrill

 

In the days before Photoshop

What did people do to edit pictures in the days before Photoshop?  Let me enlighten you, if I may.

Sunray was always a creative type.  He always loved his black marker pen (Deutsch: Edding).  Not just to flick through his photo albums, stick a big black ring round deceased people’s heads, connect it to an arrow, and write:

Now dead

He also used to love defacing decorating pictures in the daily newspaper “horror comics” such as, The Sun, The Daily Mirror, or Daily Star.

Page Three models would find glacé cherries painted on their nipples, thanks to his special occasions red marker pen.  Or if his mood was particularly puritanical, they would suddenly have their modesty (and their chest) covered by a black marker pen bra.

Other less photogenic people would have their appearance amended – mostly with a Hitler moustache and haircut.  Even Mrs Thatcher…

One day, the Führer himself featured in a story in the paper.  Sunray couldn’t draw a Hitler ‘tache and haircut on the Führer.

A challenge.

GingeInGermany, can you go to the bathroom, son, and get me the nail scissors?

Yes, Dad.

I double away.  I double back with nail scissors.

Snip, snip snip.

The Führer‘s ‘tache has been removed.  Sunray now hugely satisfied.

Have an artistic day, won’t you!

hitlertache2.jpg

Rest in Peace

Last Friday Schatz and I flew to England for a long weekend, coming back to DUS yesterday.  The “main event” was to visit my Dad’s grave, as I was in hospital here in Germany when he was buried.  In truth, I probably would not have attended his funeral, sad to admit.

In the days before our visit, for Schatz came with me, I had printed out:

  • The Lord’s Prayer in English
  • The Lord’s Prayer in Germany
  • The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • A plan of the cemetery

We turned up in ideal cemetery visiting weather: dull and overcast, with drizzle.  I brought my printouts.  I had forgotten to call at the florist en route to pick up a bunch of flowers for the grave.

 

To paraphrase Julius Caeser, I came, I saw, I… felt nothing much.   By referencing to other graves that had stones on, I found my Dad’s grave within five minutes of arrival.  It was non-descript.  No gravestone.  (There never, ever will be one for him.)  No wreath, no bouquet – either removed after so many days, or maybe, sad to say, stolen by local chavs.  Just broken earth.  It didn’t really look like a grave to trigger the “time to let British stiff upper lip wobble.”

Schatz went and grabbed three daffodils quietly from a corner of the cemetery.  She placed them on the grave.

I had kept my promise to my Dad last autumn that we would definitely come to visit him in April this year.  I just hadn’t anticipated under these circumstances.

We prayed at the foot of his anonymous grave.  I discreetly photographed his grave.  He has a picturesque view of the Yorkshire Moors.

20180407_105946

IMG-20180407-WA0021

It started to drizzle more.  I looked Schatz in the eye.  We nodded.  It was time.  We left the cemetery and headed back to the main road to get ready to head to Whitby for the fun part of the weekend.

No tears.  No emotion.  No numbness.

I came, I saw, I departed.

Have a closure-filled day, won’t you!

 

The Modern Parents

First of all, a few facts about me.

  1. I’m a redhead.
  2. I live in Germany.
  3. I’ve a mum.
  4. I’ve no dad (since 16 January).
  5. I have my Schatz.
  6. I have no children (unless there’s some Boris Ginge-in-Germany that I’m not aware of from my year abroad in Russia).
  7. I believe in the saying, “None of us has been to the North Pole, but we all know it’s pretty freezing there.”

I haven’t read Viz comic for about fifteen years.   One of their best comic strips was The Modern Parents.  This is the topic of my rant du jour.  First of all, have a read of the following snippet.

mod

Before anyone says, “Ah, but you’re not a parent yourself, so how can you have a dig at parents?” please scroll back up to fact 7.

I’m not a parent, but I bump into them and their offspring at church, in cafes, on the tram, in the library and of, course, on Facebook.  So, in a way, I see myself as an outside observer.  Let me give you a quote.

I aim to be not just their [my sons’] father, but also their best friend.

Those were the exact words of B, an acquaintance of mine, in early 2017, whose sons Whatsapp him about once a month.

And some other quotes, this time from CEB, a former classmate of mine.

Number 1:

So [daughter’s name] and I have just tried out [son’s name]’s pesto crusted salmon as he got all the ingredients a week early. The Asparagus was very tasty, hope he manages as well in his master chef competition. Had to wait till 7 as we had to watch the golden compass for [daughter’s name]’s homework!

Number 2:

Mother’s Day over for me. Well done to [daughter’s name] who cooked smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagels with orange juice and coffee for me, my sister and niece.  Soooo impressed at the beautiful prayer she wrote for me for Sunday’s church service.  Nine years old, and writing like a theologian.

Etc ad nauseum.

Now clearly, to quote the liturgy, “it is right to give thanks and praise,” but I would question whether putting your children on a pedestal for everything they do, and in such a gushing manner, is really necessary.  Imagine if your line manager at work acted in a similar manner…

So proud of Fred for the way he cleaned the toilets at the bus station this morning.  Those endless hours of showing him how to mop floors have most definitely not been wasted!  Go, Team Toilet!

How about:

Astounded at how Julia has made such delicious slices of toast today, using our secret method.  Three customers have all taken photos of their toast this morning.  Catering Assistant of the Year!

All of these quotes just remind me of Mr “Which Was Nice,” a comedy character from The Fast Show, a hit comedy series from the 1990s.

Is the aim of all these posts to be “two-sheds”: Anything You Can Do, I Con Do Better, as per the song?  Is it projection?  “Because my offspring are so clever, that is proof that I am clever.”

As for being your sons’/daughters’ best friend, may I, as a mere non-parent, humbly suggest that you leave it to them to decide who will be their best friend, as a refusal can often offend.

(Am I being too harsh?)

Have a praiseworthy day, won’t you!

Sunray – Dead and (not yet) buried

Sunray – Dad – died suddenly, albeit not unanticipated, on 16 January.

  • Am I mourning?  No.
  • Has it sunk in?  Not sure?
  • Am I still relieved that he died and did so quickly, rather than painfully and unsteadily like people dying prematurely of cancer, etc?  Yes.

Sunray was a man who made a lot of mistakes in his life.  (Admittedly, who hasn’t?)  In his twilight years on particular, he had fallen out with pretty much all his siblings and two of his three children, something he had done for years and decades.

Since his death: what has happened?  Everything I had expected.

None of his siblings would organise or pay for his funeral.  Nor would his offspring.  It’s your funeral, as they say.  I could have, but I am more concerned with his soul than his body. I can only pray for God to show huge mercy on his soul.

Instead he gets a public health (pauper’s) funeral next Tuesday morning.  Not even a proper funeral.  Not even a service.  Nobody in the end would turn up.  (Maybe his former Squadron Sergeant-Major out of a sense of duty and loyalty to his men.)  Nobody would meet the local vicar to prepare a eulogy.  Instead the hearse will pull up at the grave.  The pall bearers will lower his coffin into the grave.  They may their heads to him.  They may even say a short prayer.  The wreaths from his old comrades will be placed on his grave.  That’ll be it.

I will mark his life and death with friends here in Germany with an informal, structured, mini-service.

  1. To thank God for his life.
  2. To thank God for his death.
  3. To beg God for mercy for Dad.
  4. To beg God for love and forgiveness of all our sins.

When I next head home, I will stand by his grave and say a prayer for him and his soul.  That’ll be more meaningful for me than a funeral service where kind words are said but not really meant.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Sunray Down

Sunray is down.  Sunray passed away died one week ago.  Sunray is was my Dad.

How do I feel about his passing away death?

  • 80% relieved
  • 10% “It hasn’t really sunk in yet”
  • 10%… well, I’m not sure

Thankfully when death came, it came quickly.  Heart attack on the way back from the shops.  I had feared bluebottles at the window, police having to smash down his front door and find his lifeless body on the sofa.  I am grateful that when the end came, it came relatively swiftly.

For the last three to four years Sunray had not been enjoying life.

  • Riddled with arthritis
  • Out of control diabetes
  • Personality disorder
  • Depression
  • A sad, lonely, unwashed, embittered old man, his only company – a bottle of whisky and twenty Benson & Hedges cigarettes
  • Estranged from almost all his family
  • At best, tolerated by the rest of his family

A very pitiable end of life.

Will I go to his funeral?  No.  Will there even be a funeral service?  No.  Sunray had fallen out with his family so badly over the years, that nobody was prepared to organise or pay for his funeral.  Maybe his ex-Squadron Sergeant-Major from Army days would have come.  But nobody else.

Despite his faults I did love and care for him.   Agape love.  My last contact with him had been a phone call four days before his death, a very jovial call.  Was he on the way up?

I will visit his grave later in the year, say a prayer over his grave.  That is more meaningful to me and to him than a Theaterstück of a funeral service, where kind words and cliches are said to an almost empty room.  I’m not bothered about seeing his body one last time.  I am more concerned about his soul.

Heavenly Father, I beg You, have mercy on Dad’s soul.  Amen.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!