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!

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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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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.

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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!

 

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!

Radio – My Best Friend

Desert Island Discs: what items would I bring?  I can’t give you a comprehensive list, but I do know which luxury item I would bring: a radio.

I’ve always loved the radio.  My relationship with the radio goes back to the mid-70’s as a pads brat in Germany, listening to BFBS radio.  (As an  aside, besides the target audience of British service personnel and their dependents, millions of West Germans, East Germans, Poles and Dutch used to tune in.)  As for German TV, I never watched much, just Biene Maja cartoon series, Pippi Longstocking and The Muppet Show dubbed in German.  Instead, I used to listen to Dad’s Army. the yes-no game and Badger Bill.

If you haven’t heard of Biene Maja, Pippi Longstocking, or Badger Bill, you were never a pads brat in Germany.  Punkt.

When I was ten, my birthday present from parents was a transistor radio, not much bigger than my ten-year-old fist, with FM and MW.  I used to listen to the evening football and fall asleep, my radio on quiet, crackling as MW does, under my pillow.  Even at the age of ten, I was into news and current affairs, so I often used to listen to BBC World Service on crackly MW.  Even now, just thinking of it, I have that “Ohrwurm”, Liliburlero, running through my head.

Fast forward to sixteen and sixth-form days.  More late-night radio.  Nightowls phone-in show on Metro FM from Newcastle.  Scores of Geordies ringing up to say,

“I’m a first-time caller, so I’m a little bit nervous.”

All addictive stuff when you’re at sixth form, listening to Geordies:

  • moaning about their dole money being stopped because they’ve been working
  • calling for national service, capital punishment and the birch to be brought back
  • screaming for all immigration to be stopped forthwith with and for “them” to be sent back “to their own country”, etc

Listening to the show years later, I just thought “pub bores’R’us.”  Tastes change as we grow older.

Fast forward to my year abroad in the USSR/Russia, 1991-1992.  A ghetto-blaster, with tape recorder and:

  • FM
  • MW
  • LW
  • SW

I tried all the frequencies.  Local radio was sleep-inducing in Voronezh.  My fellow year-abroaders in Moscow had a far bigger choice of stations.  I gravitated to SW.  I discovered:

  • All-India radio (yawn…)
  • Radio Pyongyang (fascinating hearing about all the achievements under Kim-il Sung)
  • BBC World Service (decent signal was only there from 11pm till 4am)

A few mornings with bags under the eyes after listening to BBC during the weee small hours, when the reception was crystal-clear, without crackle and hiss trampling the news.

I remember writing in my diary during my year abroad:

Things I miss. from the UK

  1. Radio 4
  2. The newspapers

Fast forward to 1993-1994 and bedsit (WG) days in Saltburn, living on the breadline.  My fortnight treat: a copy of Private Eye magazine.  Entertainment: the radio, especially BBC North, where the late-night show presenter would finish off by wishing listeners:

“A very good night to you, especially if you are alone tonight.”

Fast-forward to today.  Praise be to internet radio.  I can pick up so many stations on my Kindle.

  • BBC World Service
  • BBC Radio 4
  • BBC Radio 5
  • Falkland Islands Radio Service (come on, you know you want to!)
  • BBC Radio Tees

Since moving to Germany I’ve made a point of listening to Radio Tees, especially the Sunday morning God-slot show, emailing the presenter and having my mails read out.  (I am one of The International Contingent, together with Kim in Arizona and Bill in Seattle.)

Do I want a pet dog as companion?  No, I think it has to be a radio – even after all these years.

Having a radiant day, won’t you!

Friday Punfest

Continuing the theme of Ali’s headline challenge, I thought the following thread on Facebook was too good NOT to share.

Take a look at this picture.

Carpet

This was taken on the hills, near Eston Nab, a local beauty spot in North-East England.  Who in their tiny mind goes around nailing ripped carpet to trees in a beauty spot?

Then the puns started…

Ginge in Germany: Whoever did that needs a good telling-off, a good carpeting.

Heather: Those rugs would better suit Donald trump than a tree.

David A: Are they Wilton ?

Craig Pancrack: Quality wit on the board tonight !

Ginge in Germany: I thought you’d think it was a “pile” of rubbish…

Ray: imbeciles from Franks Factory Flooring?

Ginge in Germany: Well, the culprits certainly do want flooring.

Kieron: I guess they just ‘felt’ like doing it

Craig Pancrack ‘Tacky’…

Paul B: Weres speedy gonzalas ?

Ginge in Germany: Underlay in this being reported is shocking. Let’s hope we nail the folks who did it.

Paul B: Tacked

Ginge in Germany: Have the Gazette been contacted about this, or will they just want to sweep it under the carpet?

Andrea: Will you lot get a grip!

Ginge in Germany: There must have been witnesses. The perpetrators would have received lots of “stairs” off people.

Ginge in Germany: Are the police underlay to the scene?

Kieron: Crime investigators are going up there tomorrow, so expect this area to be ( double-sided) taped off.

Ginge in Germany: Blame the outsiders, carpet-baggers.

Russ: Maybe there’s an underlaying problem here.

Seán: Tree Ruggers no doubt

Craig Pancrack: Carpet burns next time the hills are set on fire…

Ginge in Germany: I’ve heard the culprits headed off in a vehicle, in their car, pet.

Ginge in Germany: No point in skirting around this issue. Something must be done.

Ginge in Germany: Maybe drink played a roll in it.

Ginge in Germany: I know some people like to go up Eston Nab for a good shag, but that’s taking it a bit far.

Ginge in Germany: Well, this has been an entertaining yarn.

Kieron Moore The dyed in the wool members would snap them up

Ginge in Germany: This would have pleased Ali Brownlee on his BBC Tees headline challenge.

Ginge in Germany: We should walk over the people who did this. Do I have everyone’s backing on this?

Paul: All woven together

Ginge in Germany: Send a cable to the Gazette.

Paul B: Just looking there there might just be enough for me tortoise box!!

Ginge in Germany: That’s tortoise another use for the carpet.

Ginge in Germany: I see no snags in re-using that carpet.

Ginge in Germany: Well, yarn know, I enjoyed it. There could be worsted things to do. Were the carpets made of polyEston?

Julie: I’m guessing ‘swatches’ ??

Kieron Moore MAM, I need some carpet in me bedroom, the floorboards are cold! ..’Shut up Tyson.. carpets don’t grow on trees’

Ginge in Germany: Too tuft to be sure. Best to tread carefully.

Ginge in Germany: I’ve found out who did it. What’s your mobile number? I’ll need to texture.

Craig Pancrack: no end to the thread ! (pun intended!)

Ginge in Germany: This has got me in stitches.

Ginge in Germany: Well, I think weave had a good bit of fun tonight. Let’s keep everyone grinning. Now I’ll double back to bed.

Paul B: The trees are piling up.

Vinny C: Come on get a GRIP

Ginge in Germany: I think any plan to catch whoever did this is fundamentally floored.

Paul Bradley Rolling rolling rolling keep those carpets rolling shag piiiillllle!!!!

Tracey: They have no imagination, I could’ve made a cat scratch pole with that carpet.

Paul B: Give the fitters a break they where trying to give the tree some cover from the frost

Paul B: I think it was of a roll end….the cuts were a bit rough

Andrea: Think this Storey’s been done to death.

Ginge in Germany: Allied about that. Alack and Dallas, the puns are still rolling.

Neil S: This thread is getting thread bare ……

Ginge in Germany: Maybe someone wanted the hills to look rugged?

Barbara B: All this as left me a bit frayed

Ginge in Germany: Barbara B, I think we’ve got everything covered now. Those going to bed can lino-ing all is good.

Have a pun-packed day, won’t you!