Close your curtains

The Dutch are said to be very Calvinistic.  At least, I guess, the Protestant Dutch are.   One sign of their Calvinistic nature is the fact that, allegedly, the Dutch don’t have curtains.  Yes, they even indulge in, cough cough, hum, hum, with the curtains open.  Personally, notwithstanding my Protestant faith in this 750th year of the Reformation, I prefer curtains.

Let me take you back to 1979.  Margaret Thatcher had been Prime Minister for a few months.  In those days TV often finished most evenings at just before midnight.  Saturday late evening TV consisted of:

  • Match of the Day (for the football)
  • Parkinson chat show
  • The Rockford Files (with Jim Garner)
  • Finally: the national anthem and a long “booooooooooooooooooooooooop”

Saturday evening, approximately 23:20 BST.  Victor and his two sons, aged 9 and 10, had hitch-hiked all the way from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, all up the motorway, courtesy of several truck drivers, needing to rant to somebody about their divorces, the price of petrol, etc, etc, and a football sales rep.  The final stretch from Leeming Bar Motel on the A1, to the Yorkshire hamlet of Burrill, was, however, done by taxi.

Father and sons arrived in the hamlet.  A short O-group (Army-speak for planning meeting).  Time for Army black warped sense of humour to show its face.  From the OP (observation post), near the hamlet church, Sergeant Victor (veteran of Northern Ireland) and sons notice that the living room curtains are open.   Grandma and aunt are watching The Rockford Files.

Three males tiptoe forward, using Victor’s military skills, to see without being seen, to hear without being heard.

Three males crouch down below the window sill.

On three…  one… two… three!

Three heads slowly rise above the window sill.

Two backsides leap out of their armchairs.

Three males roar with laughter.

Two female relatives feel their heart rates jumping.

Seconds later, three male relatives enter via the front door, ready for a nice pot of tea, pork pie each, sliced in two, with a dollop of Branston chutney on a small plate.

Have a Calvinistic day, won’t you!

Birthday Nostalgia

So, last week was my birthday: 21 again, and more.

Where was I on that day of the year…?

  • 10 years ago: Doing pgce teacher training in Middlesbrough.  Not my cup of tea.  Ler’s just leave it at that.
  • 20 years ago: Started my first ever permanent job, working in the International Programme Liaison team at Mercury Communications Ltd.  I did a lot of telecoms courses in that year.
  • 30 years ago: At sixth form college in Middesbrough, re-sitting my O-levels.  That was where I started studying Russian.
  • 40 years ago: At Wolfenbüttel Primary School, near the East-West German border, being sent to the headmaster’s office to take a phone call from my Dad, then stationed at HMP Maze, Northern Ireland, to wish me happy birthday.

Have a nostalgic day, won’t you!

Sunray Still Alive

Wednesday morning.  I’m pairing socks on my sofa.  Glenn Miller American Patrol playing in the background.  Incoming call on my mobile.

Sunray’s number comes up.  He has not phoned me on my mobile number for nearly two years.  Is this the call where a stranger’s voice tells me:

“Hello.  Is that German Ginge?  Could you sit down, please?  I’m sorry to tell you…”

It was not to be.  It was Sunray himself.  At least he was sober.  Well, it was 0930 in the UK.  Give him time.  He was fine, thanks.  Actually, no he was very, very down.  Nobody cares about him.  Nobody comes to see him.  He does not very often leave his house.  No, he does not want to go to the library.  No, he does not want to go to coffee mornings to go out and meet people.

Clearly he is in a rut, and it is hard to kick-start someone when they are that deep in the mud.

But, but, but…

I can’t help but asking if some people are “only happy when they are unhappy,” when they can portray themselves as victim.

Nobody from the Royal British Legion (charity for ex-servicemen and women) has been to see him since they were contacted four months ago.  How shocking.  How inept.  How uncaring.

A blatant lie.

A liar has to have a good memory.  His is clearly very poor.  He himself told me two months ago about two lady caseworkers visiting him for coffee and chat.  I myself had a long phone call with one of his caseworkers two months ago, whotold me about his:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drink-caused accidents at home
  • Callouts to the ambulance
  • Discussions with the alcohol nurse as follow-through
  • Constant drunken calls to people in his address book at all times of the day and night, in once case, fifteen (sic) times in one day

Then he tells me the (expletives) from the Legion have not sent a single person to see him.

It’s my birthday in less than a week.  It’ll be forty years to the day since one morning I was asked to come to the headmaster’s office at Wolfenbüttel Primary School, Germany, and take a phone call from Sunray on duty at HMP Maze in Northern Ireland, wishing his first-born a happy birthday.  I think of where his now.  Choose the action, choose the consequences.  You cannot always rescue a drowning man, without you risking drowning.

Have a sober day, won’t you!

Sunray Heading Downhill

Sunray.  His children used to call him “Dad.”  His daughter nowadays calls him “the sperm-donor.”  He’s been a  “problem child” all his married life and in the years thereafter.  Serial borrower.  Serial non-payer-back.  Heavy drinker.  Alcoholic.  Serial nuisance caller, trawling his address book for people to phone up to fifteen times a day.  Serial texter.  “U R ME PAL”; “CUM N SEE ME”; “GET ME A BTL OF ROSE PLS”.

I used to write to him every week or two, either a proper type-written letter or a postcard to boost his morale.  I used to phone him once a month.  Has he ever written back?  Once this year.  He now has a professional caseworker from the Royal British Legion, the Armed Forces charity.  Her summary to me?  “Yes, he’s a very difficult case.”

So, what’s the future.?  It’s not bright.  It’s not orange.  When someone is that deep in the rut of late-stage alcoholism combined with borderline personality disorder or sociopathy, there’s little you can do.

  • Poor physical health
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Osteoarthritis of both knees
  • Estranged from most of his family
  • No real, flesh-and blood, friends in his locality
  • The kind of personality that means people give you a “wide berth” (his favourite expression)
  • Poor hygiene
  • Etc etc

Does he actually want to live any more?  What are the reasons to live any more?  To even get out of bed?  Would death be a relief for him?

Choose the action, choose the consequences.

Have a consequential day, won’t you!

Texting in the Wee Small Hours

Victor has always been a news and current affairs buff.  He’s also more of an early bird than a nightowl.  As he’s grown older, he’s become ever fonder of his undisturbed sleep.  Hence his bedtime routine consisting of:

  • Clean teeth
  • Empty bladder
  • Stick Radio 4 on for the late night news
  • Turn mobile phone off

His son, on the other hand, has always been a nightowl, with a bladder the size of a pea.  Hence at every nocturnal loo break, he’d text Victor with a snippet, eg:

 

  • Family in-jokes
  • Words to song Victor used to like singing
  • News headlines

etc etc…

At 05:00 one morning, son got up, went to loo, climbed back into bed and listened to the Radio Five news.

Big headline was that Kim Jong-il of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had died.

Time to send a text to Sunray.  He can read it on regaining consciousness.

KIM JONG IL NOW DEAD

Message sent.  Now to catch another hour or two of sleep.

Peep-peep.  Incoming text message.

WHO THE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] IS HE

Reply from son:

President of North Korea

Sunray:

NOT [EXPLETIVE DELETED] INTERESTED MY FRIEND

Oh well, no pleasing some people, I guess.

Days later…  a constant stream of updates by text from Sunray to son, giving details of the deceased President’s funeral cortege and wailing crowds.  Suddenly he was interested, after all.

Have an interesting day, won’t you!

Do you ever miss home?

I’m sometimes asked if I miss England. Well, let me tell you about an incident I saw the last time I was back in England.

It was absolutely disgusting behaviour. I was down Redcar seafront that day.

I was sitting on the bench, eating fish and chips, and saw a man and a woman having an almighty argument in front of loads of kids.  Suddenly the woman smacked the guy in the head, and it all kicked off. There was a massive brawl and someone called the police.

The poor copper turned up on his own and took his truncheon to the man.  The guy managed to snatch it off him and began assaulting the policeman AND his wife!

Then out of nowhere a crocodile crept up and stole all the sausages.

 

Have a humorous day, won’t you!

Thoughts on being back in the UK

So, tonight, back from two weeks’ stint in the UK, Bracknell, to be exact.

Thoughts?  Hmm, let me think, while I slouch on the couch, feet throbbing from dashing round Heathrow.

Well, I’m glad to be back in Germany, in a well-ordered society, where there are plenty of cycle paths, trains run on time and do not cost the earth, where there is not the huge gap between the haves and the have nots, where even the immigration officer from the Bundespolizei wishes you in English, “Merry Christmas.”

UK:

  • Chavs
  • Low aspirations and educational achievement
  • A “problem child” father constantly texting and phoning, eg 05:15, 06:11, “R U UP?” etc.

Mensch…

Nice to be earning again, but there’s no place like home in Germany.

Have a patriotic day, won’t you!