Amnesty International Letters

Shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre in the summer of 1989, I decided to join Amnesty International.  Once a month I’d receive their magazine.  I’d always open up at the centrefold.

The centrefold consisted of six cases (prisoners of conscience) that Amnesty International had adopted.  I used to write to the governments and embassies of every single one of  the cases without exception, month in, month out.

I never received a reply.

Actually that’s not quite true.

The Israeli Embassy in London did reply.  It was a very courteous letter, in an A4 envelope with several pages of detail.  (I wish I had kept a copy for me scrapbook, I really do.)

I wrote back to the author of the letter, a Boaz Modai.  I invited him up to Redcar, where I was living at the time, recommended he visit the Redcar Rock Shop, treat himself to a lemon top ice cream and informed him that there was a synagogue in Middlesbrough, just up the road.

Boaz Modai did not reply.

Last week I google Boaz Modai.  (t’s a name that you don’t forget.)  Blimey, he has a pedigree, and he’s had a good career.  He ended up as Israeli Ambassador to Ireland later in his career.

I still wonder if he ever planned to visit Redcar on his days off, though.

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Have a diplomatic day, won’t you!

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The Journey is the Destination

The Esk Valley Line: Middlesbrough to Whitby railway line.  What made me think of it?  Probably my recent article on Edale, with a train chugging through the place.  And also a train ticket that I found in my scrapbook when I was flicking through this morning.

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The aforementioned ticket – bargain!

Whitby is a delightful, picturesque place.  The fish and chips, the sticky seaside rock, the stroll along the promenade, the Goth weekend, and much, much more.  Like Kaiserswerth near Düsseldorf, it’s a place you can visit any day of the year.  And people do.

But don’t forget.  It’s not just Whitby that is the destination.  The railway line itself is a good destination.  Breathtaking views of the North York Moors, rolling hills, Battersby (Junction) train station, Grosmont station with its steam trains.

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Sticky Whitby seaside rock!

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Grab a few sticks!

A picture describes a thousand words…

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Whitby Abbey

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The train arriving at Danby, one of the Esk Valley stations

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What a view!

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Why not bring your bike for a spot of cycling round one of the villages?

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Rush hour among the cows

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Or you could just stroll round a local village…

Have an Esk-citing day, won’t you!

I love radio – part 94

I’ve always loved radio, which is good in Germany, because German TV is mostly pretty dire.

As a pads brat in Wolfenbüttel, I used to love listening to BFBS and its evening yes/no game, your chance to win a beer mat courtesy of…  (I believe half of the GDR and Poland used to join me in listening to BFBS.)

When I was ten years old, my parents gave me a little transistor radio for my birthday.  I used to listen to BBC World Service on medium wave via a cheap earphone, with the radio under my pillow.

As a sixth-former, I used to listen to Nightowls, a phone-in show on Metro FM, from 10pm till 2am.  It was the station’s most listened-to show.  99% of the time, the breakfast show is the flagship show on radio.

On my year abroad in Russia, I used to tune into BBC World Service, this time on… hissssssssssssssss… shhhhhhhhhhhhhh… hisssssssssssss… short wave, generally in the wee small hours.

Nowadays life is easier.  I listen via TuneIn.  Mainly to BBC Tees, Radio 4 and Blue Planet Prank Radio.  Occasionally to Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3.  Radio 1 I haven’t listened to since 1994.  Nicht mein Fall…

As for Radio 2, I haven’t listened to that for years.  But previously I listened to it all the time in the early 80’s, in the days of Terry Wogan and his breakfast show.  Not only, but also…  I remembered this comedy and music group, The Grumbleweeds.  I like bawdy humour, but I also like their corny humour with bad puns, etc.  Enjoy this clip.

Have a weedy day, won’t you!

 

 

 

The Importance of Punctuality

Sunray was ex-Army.  22 years long.  He was never a civilian.  He was always ex-Army.  Soldiers always arrive on time.  Always.

One Sunday Sunray came to visit us.  To save money he decided to hitch-hike from Brompton in North Yorkshire to Redcar.  He was due to arrive at 11am.  We looked out of our living room window. 10:58.  He still wasn’t there.

10:59 Sunray appeared.  He was walking out of the front door of the house opposite ours.

Ginge in Germany:

Ummm, do you know the people opposite?

Sunray:

No.

G in G:

So, er, what were you doing in their house?

Sunray:

Oh, them.  I was running late, so I took a short cut through their house.

G in G:

Sorry, you did what?

Sunray:

Oh aye, I saved myself a couple of minutes by walking through their house to yours. 

G in G:

Did anybody see you?

Sunray:

Oh aye.  I walked into their back garden, straight through their kitchen, past their dining room, when this couple were having their Sunday dinner, with sprouts, joint of beef and and Yorkshire puds…

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G in G:

Well, what did they do when they saw you?

Sunray:

This bloke spat his dinner out and told me to get the f*** out of his house.  So I told him cheers, mate, and headed out of the front door.  Like I say, I was running late.

I just shook my head.

Have a punctual day, won’t you!

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.

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Have an incidental day, won’t you!

The Monkey-Hangers

(Why do I sometimes feel like I am reading out Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America?  Instead you get Blog from Germany.)

Just over a decade a go I worked as a supply teacher, usually in rough comprehensives on Teesside, including Hartlepool, home of the monkey-hangers.  (In a battle against the French, the locals thought a monkey on board a French warship was a Frenchman.  They hanged the poor animal when he “refused to talk.”)

Most of the classes were rough rough rough rough rough.  The headteacher at one Hartlepool comprehensive give me a useful tip.

If the kids get too rowdy, just ask them about Lawrence, the transvestite Hartlepool football fan.

I did.  That worked.  I’d get non-stop anecdotes about Lawrence and his:

  • Drink problem
  • New dress
  • Season ticket problems
  • Tendency to re-apply make-up on during the last five minutes of every game

Ever since working at that school, I have got into Hartlepool, following the club and its trials and tribulations.  Now, after the club nearly went bankrupt last season, they seem to be on the up.  Undefeated so far in the National League, the fifth tier of English football.

Howay the lads!

Have a hearty day, won’t you!

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Rule, Britannia!

So, main event completed: visit to my Dad’s grave.  Dead and buried, as he would himself doubtless say have said.  What did Schatz and I do on our four days in England?

Quite a lot in a short amount of time.  Fortunately the weather was remarkably on all four days.  Only when visiting the cemetery did we experience any precipitation – the right weather for such a visit.

Our base was Saltburn-by-the-Sea.  This time a 4-star hotel, a bit of a step up from when I lived in the town in the early 90’s: a bedsit.  The views!  Huntcliff.  The pier!  Redcar steelworks.  The beach, full of dog walkers and their dogs, happy as anything, tails wagging away for England.  I think I even caught the sun… (Not too difficult for a redhead…)

Saturday morning meeting with my ex-maths teacher and fellow church warden, Mr N.  “Call me Rob, not sir.”  Yes, sir.

Saturday dinner in the Thai restaurant, where the Thai waitress spoke surprisingly good German, having overheard me and Schatz speaking in Schatz’ native language.

Sunday morning stroll through the town down the cliff path, along the beach, taking hundreds of photos on the pier, then the hike back up the cliff path (someone maybe needed an oxygen cylinder in their rucksack).  Then our sore feet took us back to Emmanuel Church and the chip shop opposite, just as it opened.  Small cod and chips for Schatz; jumbo battered sausage, chips and curry sauce for me.  All consumed while seated on the church wall.

Finally, fed and watered, thanks to England’s liberal Sunday trading laws, back to our hotel room for a shower, followed by a lie down to let our feet cool off.  Not so much strength through joy, as sweat, through joy…

Have a joyful day, won’t you!

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