Not a Coincidence – a God-incidence

We often talk about coincidences when it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time.

Let’s wind back to Saturday just gone.

I was feeling tired and almost decided to head directly back home for a power nap, not go shopping, but order pizza for evening meal. Instead, I forced myself to go to the local supermarket en route, mainly because I had a craving for their banana split ice cream.

I went and did my shopping.

I was then proceeding in an easterly direction out of my local Aldi, when I noticed two elderly men near the entrance, one of whom was spitting onto the ground. It turned out he was spitting blood, having had quite a nasty fall.

It turned out that our man spoke hardly a word of German. His mother tongue was, however, Russian, so I was asked to help out while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I then acted as interpreter between him and the medics, including taking down his medical history. I had forgotten the Russian word for “diabetes”, so I asked him, “Do you have the illness where you have sugar in your blood?”

I explained to him that the paramedics would now take him to the hospital, where they would do a more substantial assessment and get a dentist to stitch up his lip which he had bitten quite badly as he fell.

Job done.  I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

Image result for god-incidence

Have an incidental day, won’t you!

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Wait a Minute, it’s the Telephone Man

Those of you who are over 45 may just about remember this cheery little number from Meri Wilson.

In the previous year, Sunray was nicknamed Telephone Man for his part in ensuring that the overall phone bill for the British Army in Northern Ireland was £1 million.  (Regimental legend has it that Sunray was responsible for £900 000 of it.)  Most of the calls were part of the Night Shift Numbers Game, a version of “pin the tail on the donkey”, when bored squaddies on night shift at HMP Maze would get out the phone book, look up random numbers abroad and phone them to ask such innocent questions as:

Is it snowing in Alabama?

It’s a nice clear line, isn’t it?

etc.  (Men are just boys in long trousers. )

Fast-forward to 2018.  It was my birthday three days ago.  That took me back to October 1976, when, as a wee schoolboy at Wolfenbüttel Primary School, I was told to go to the headmaster’s office.

“Oh dear, what have I done wrong?” I thought.  “Was it for shouting at my teacher last week?”

No.  It was Sunray phoning me up from HMP Maze, wishing my happy birthday.  He was obviously taking time out from:

  • Calling his mate, Bryan B, in Australia, to ask how hot it was in Cairns
  • Phoning his sister-in-law in Canada to talk to her about boxing bouts
  • Prank-calling several taxi firms in Birmingham to order two dozen taxis to one pub on the outskirts of the city
  • And much, much more…

Bless his cotton socks, bless his soul.  Quite poignant to think this was the first year when I did not receive a birthday card from him.  This weekend I did think of him as Schatz and I raised our glasses of Sekt to celebrate my birthday.

Have an a-Maze-ing day, won’t you!

My Perfect Cousin

This is not quite a Mach Mal Lauter article.  Nonetheless, those fans of 1970’s Northern Ireland music may remember this number by the The Untertones.

Here’s the chorus:

Oh my perfect cousin
What I like to do he doesn’t
He’s his family’s private joy
His mothers little golden boy

I’ve got a cousin (called Kelly).  She was always My Perfect Cousin, well, at least in the eyes of my own mother.  She’s three years younger than me, one year older than my own sister.

All during my teenage years – when I did not get my teenage kicks – Kelly was the Perfect Cousin.  No need for Facebook in the mid-80’s.  Her mum would tell my mum, who would tell me and my two siblings.

Weekly status reports on Kelly during the first half of the 80’s were as follows.  Drum roll and trumpet fanfare, please…

Kelly:

  • Has won bronze and silver tap dance medals
  • Has won 300, 500 and 700 metre swimming medals
  • Is a member of the town swimming club U-15 first team
  • Is learning piano
  • Has already learnt recorder (fine – then she can play Una Paloma Blanca incessantly)

My mum was always impressed by these achievements and was always mentioning these to me and my brother.

Girls are, of course, better than boys, especially boys who are not testosterone-packed alpha males.

It’s my fault really.  I shouldn’t have been born male, with that horrible set of “working parts” hanging between my legs.  I guess I might have been able to do social activities, whether that be tap dancing, swimming club, boy scouts or music lessons, but Mummy had set aside all the personnel development fund for that on her youngest child.  Quite rightly so.  She was the youngest by several years, cute and, most of all, female.  Her two also-ran children, unfortunate possessors of a penis each, well, too bad, eh.  You can have the scraps from under the table.

On my latest visit to England, I mentioned to my mum that I had un-friended Kelly months ago for constant sharing of pictures of herself hold tubs of whey powder and posting ad nauseum about Day x of the New Me, New Body, New Life diet.

Typical Kelly post:

Deeply disappointed.  Only managed 574 of my target of of 700 press-ups today.  Will have another try this evening.”

puke

My words:

I am not in the slightest bit interested in Kelly, her New Me, New Body, New Life diet regime, her latest love or her tubs of protein powder, her argument with her neighbours.

My mum:

Ah well, she’s moving to Northumberland with her partner in a week’s time.

(Followed by lengthy story about argument with the removals firm and where their pet dog is to be kennelled during the move. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)

Which part of “I am not in the slightest bit interested…” does she not understand?

Off to the guillotine, where the spectators are waiting for heads to roll.

knitting

Have a perfect day, won’t you!

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!

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