Topic (sic) of Cancer

Cancer.  The Big C.  A tumour… and it’s malignant.  And probably many other euphemisms.

Mrs Grasshopper was diagnosed  with stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer on 25 October last year.

Der Tod ist sicher.

Prognosis – how long before you die – twelve (12) months from diagnosis.  As at today, Mrs Grasshopper is still alive (but not alive and well).  Every day is a bonus.  Guesstimate now as to how long she has got is now 6-8 weeks, maybe a a few days later so she gets to see Christmas Day.  But who can tell?

Anyway this article is not about Mrs Grasshopper per se.  Death, sad to say, is certain.  That’s a brutal fact.  But what about Grasshopper, my classmate from the mid-70’s, hard-nosed riot squad policeman?

Ever since diagnosis, Grasshopper and I have kept the communication lines open.  He calls me “Padre Ginge.”  I send him and Mrs Grasshopper a pastoral card.

In the last two months, Mrs Grasshopper has been suffering new symptoms on a weekly basis.  Grasshopper has been dealing in a businesslike manner, being a trained medic, logging her symptoms and monitoring her slow downhill journey.

Mrs Grasshopper is in denial.  She truly believes she will be alive in two years to see her son’s graduation.  It’s unlikely that she’ll still be around in two months.  That’s a brutal fact.

To be honest, cold, callous and clinical, Mrs Grasshopper is not my main concern.  My main concern is to make sure that Grasshopper does not end up having a nervous breakdown while looking after his wife.  Today he admitted to me that he had had a meltdown this morning and had spent almost all day in bed.  That is out of character for Grasshopper, who is normally a very positive, matter-of-fact person.  We had a good long chat via Whatsapp while I was taking the tram into the city centre this afternoon.  He sound weary.  His voice was starting to crack a bit.  First time I’ve heard him like that.  Big boys do cry, or at least allow their voices to wobble a bit.

I mainly listened.  Grasshopper needed to let off steam.  I told him I was here 24/7 if he ever need a good rant.  I don’t want him having a nervous breakdown or “doing something stupid.”

Yesterday Grasshopper found this pastoral card from me landing on his doormat.

Card.jpg

Who cares for the carers?

Have a caring day, won’t you!

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It is right to give thanks and praise

It is meet and right so to do.  It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should.

Unless you’re a regular church-goer, the start of this article will probably go over your head…

What does a church need to function?  Think of a duck seemingly floating casually above the water.  The priest is the body of the duck.  The volunteers are the webbed feet, paddling frantically under the water.  The backroom boys and girls include:

  • Cleaners
  • Coffee, tea, cakes and refreshments makers
  • House group leaders
  • Pastoral people, sharing a cup of coffee and shoulder to support
  • Audio-visual/sound desk people
  • Treasurer
  • Handyman
  • etc etc etc

Our church has a shortage of cheerful givers (not so much of money-givers, but of time-givers).  On Monday this week “The Management” have a discussion about time-giving in church.  I say we, “The Management”, should thank everyone for their contributions.

But who will bell the cat?

At Tuesday lunchtime I arrive at church on my trusty bike and proceed to the church office.  I then open up our stationery cupboard and take out a big pile of cards and envelopes.

Back to the church office.  Fountain pen out.  Ink bottle out.  Bestest handwriting needed.  (Schatz says I have lovely handwriting.  She’s a doctor.)  Church address list out.

Three hours later, a pile of thank you cards written in neat handwriting is sitting on the office table.  (A few cards ripped up and thrown into the recycling bin.)  Three more cups of tea supped.  Back onto bike and off to local post office, where the cheerful Polish lady greets me.  I buy several sets of stamps.  Round to adjacent cafe.  Time for coffee.  All envelopes now stamped.  Coffee slurped.  Off to post box in time for the last post of the day.  Five minutes to spare.

Chaplain happy.  Ginge in Germany happy.  Job done.  (Thankfully the 70¢ stamps are self-adhesive.)

Have a thankful day, won’t you!

thanks.jpg

 

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!

America’s Remotest Phonebox

So, let’s wind back twenty years to the days of 56k modems and my first internet computer.  In those days I was still as much an anorak as I am these days.

  • Postboxes
  • Trains (especially DMU’s and EMU’s)
  • Obscure Slavonic languages
  • Fonts and typefaces: Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman…
  • All the above… Not only, but also…
  • Payphones

Payphones a real rarity in the UK these days.  I miss the old red ones that always smelt musty of phone directory and other things.

My favourite payphone even featured extensively on the news back in the late 1990’s.  Here’s a link to the story.  It was the USA’s remotest payphone in the Mojave Desert.  I even rang it myself.  (But nobody answered.)

Wikipedia wasn’t round two decades ago.  It is now.

Have a deserted day, won’t you!

Mojave_Phone_Booth

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

 

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

 

The Panache of Postboxes

Oz, a character in the hit 1980s comedy drama, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, once observed that:

These German bricks lack the panache of British bricks.

Maybe that is true.  Maybe not.

But the Bundesrepublik‘s postboxes do lack the panache of British postboxes.  They really do.

German postboxes are all very modern and tend to look like this “lamp box,” albeit mostly without shrubbery.

DEpost1

Or they are like this pillar box (minus the cheery-looking Blondine).

DEpost2

All very functional, but no panache, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, take a look at these beautiful, yet functional, counterparts from the United Kingdom.

First of all, a classic and most unusual piece of Victorian street jewelry from Yorkshire.

saltburnbox

Now this delightful wall box from the Dales.

theakstonbox

Now this functional lamp box from the hamlet of Rookwith.

rookwithbox

But my favourite is this one, the wall box to be found in the hamlet of High Ellington, also in the Dales.  Note it’s from the reign of George VI.  Also note how it is not fully built into the magnificent dry stone wall.  My question is, what do the residents of High Ellington do if they have a large letter or parcel to send?

HEbox

Whatever happened to all the Kaiser-era postboxes in Germany?  And what did they do in the East with all the old GDR postboxes, like these ones?

ddrboxes

Have a panache-filled day, won’t you!