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!

Make the punishment fit the crime

Lindsay Sandiford.  You may have heard of her.  Maybe not.  Presently she is on death row in an Indonesian prison for drug smuggling.

Quite an interesting case.  Even the prosecution did not ask for the death penalty, “just” (ISTR) fifteen (15) years’ prison sentence.  She says she did the smuggling because she had received threats against members of her family.  She was also at one time a nuisance neighbour when living in Cheltenham some years ago.  Thus, notwithstanding the Evening Gazette newspaper description of  her as a grandmother (and therefore cute and cuddly?), she has not endeared her to the British public.

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/foreign-office-visit-lindsay-sandiford-8759919

Personally, I don’t know if she had received threats against her family.  I wasn’t there to see if it happened or not.  I just believe that the death penalty should never be applied, regardless of how heinous the crime committed.  Killing her will not bring anyone back who’s been killed by the evils of drug addiction, or their victims in turn.  I don’t believe it will have a deterrent effect on potential smugglers.

The death penalty is barbaric.

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Reasons to be cheerful

Yes, I was a fan of Ian Dury, in case you have that earworm ringing in your head.

Reasons to be cheerful today:

  1. While sitting in the Johanniskirche in DUS this evening, I lit a votive candle and asked God to give me hope on the job front.  Twenty minutes later, I switched my mobile on.  Missed call.  Rang the number back.  “Herr GermanGinge, we’d like to invite you to an interview next Tuesday.  Is that ok?”  Oh yes!
  2. I found out that my Facebook friend, TeesPride, is making a good recovery from cancer, receiving very positive news from her specialist today.  Result!

Have a cheerful day, won’t you!

Sunray down – not long now

So, the latest sitrep on Sunray (from A1 source, for those of you familar with G2 terminology) does not make pleasant reading.

His house:

  • Stinks of stale urine
  • Has empty bottles of whisky everywhere
  • Has empty packets of Benson & Hedges lying everwhere

Sunray:

  • Is dirty, unkempt and unwashed
    • Hard to believe that we are talking about an ex-22-year SNCO of the British Army
  • Has been banned from three pharmacies in his area due to his “anger management issues”
    • Losing his temper like a two-year-old not getting his favourite sweets in the supermarket because the shop assistant took ten minutes to process his prescription:
      • Find his tablets
      • Count them
      • Get them checked out by the dispenser and pharmacist
      • Hand them over to him

Am I beyond caring?  No.

Am I beyond worrying?  Yes.  I can do no more to help him.  Yes, I could:

  • Fly over on the next available flight from Düsseldorf to Teesside
  • Sit with him 24/7 (“I’m a lonely old man.”)
  • Keep him company, listen to “all his war stories” (insert barracks name, rank and unit to create a Sunray war story, eg:

    At Osnabrück in 1964 this WO2 in the Green Jackets…

and still achieve nothing.  Instead, I’d be employed as his gopher (“go for this, go for that”) all hours of the day to nip down to the shop and get his daily fix of intoxicating liquor.

His catchphrase the morning after the night before is:

I am NEVER, EVER drinking again.

One day, probably within weeks, not months, he’ll stick to that promise.  When he dies.

Meanwhile, life goes on for the rest of planet Earth, including his offspring.

Have a sober day, won’t you!

“May I apologise for the conduct of previous generations…”

So, my 45th birthday today. Nothng much to write home (oops – 21st century, nothing much to blog about).  Instead some reflection on a few interconnected, inter-related, international, inter-communal threads and “fings.”

Last week was a week of two halves, a mixed bag including what Germans call “negative Highlights,” unstiffening the British lip and having a bit of a cry on Saturday afternoon, albeit followed by a most enjoyable evening down Düsseldorf Altstadt with convivial company, mainly educating Schatz on the less desirables parts of Teesside.

Also, du kennst diese Reklame?  Wo sind wir?  ‘Am Arsch der Welt.’  Na, das ist Teesside.

I digress (as ever).

That was the weekend.  Whizz back to Thursday evening and meeting up with Nadezhda and her boyfriend, she an ex-colleague from my most recent job.  While waiting at Düsseldorf Hbf to meet Nadezhda, I think of two things:

  • Nadezhda from A Short History of the Tractor in Ukrainian
  • Thank God for the person who invented the mp3 player for all the times that someone arrives late for an RV

So, off to a Greek cafe for Kaffee und Kuchen.  It occurs to me how very international this all is:

  1. An Englishman/Brit
  2. A Russian woman
  3. German Kaffee und Kuchen
  4. Greek cafe
  5. Russian Jewish (Sephardim, be exact) boyfriend

Nadezhda tells me in Russian rather shyly, almost apologetically, that her boyfriend is Jewish.  My reaction, er, big deal.  The Jewish community is long-established and well-integrated in British life.  I tell her, the former Chief Rabbi said the UK is the most un-anti-Semitic country in Europe.

Ganz spontan I am invited to their Russian-Jewish friends in the Altstadt.  A great evening, sitting with very gastfreundlich people.  I could tell they were originally from Russia.  How?  We were speaking in Russian and talking about Red Square, Voronezh, etc, etc.  They also laughed at my repetoire of Russian-language Soviet Jew jokes.

I knew they were Russian-Jewish and not Russian-Russian.  When the host and hostess offered me a glass of Laphroig whisky, I declined.  I was immediately offered either pineapple juice or orange juice.  Had they been Russian, I’d have been harangued with:

  • I beg you, drink
  • I beg you from my heart, please drink
  • I beg you, my brother, please celebrate our new friendship and brotherhood over a drink

(“Which part of ‘no’ do you not understand?”)

Just before midnight, we head home, our host and hostess wishing us well and preparing for bedtime.  Had that been ethnic Russians, we’d have left at about 5 in the morning after “just one last toast.”

Interesting conversation during that visit.  Two of the people were looking to move to England to live and work because life as a Jew is easier there than in Düsseldorf.

This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.  If anything, they seemed to find it rather tedious and self-righteous when post-war Germans come and do the standard apology:

I must apologise for the conduct of our nation during the war.

(Yeah, yeah, sure, very nice,very sincere, good that you have signed the online petition against Judenhass, but I am not my brother’s keeper (or my (great-)grandather’s, either.)

In fact, the desire to move to England is for more far more prosaic reasons:

  • Bigger “critical mass of Jews” in London
    • Therefore far bigger choice of which synagogue to attend
    • Much easier to go kosher shopping, maybe even online
    • In Golders Green you’ll always be able to find a decent bagel bar
    • The chance to have an Anglophone way of life, English being a trendier language than German

All the chat about anti-Semitism then reminds me of an incident a month or so ago, and not very palatable.

Sitting on the bus in Essen, off to see Schatz for the weekend, I’ve got my mp3 player on, full-blast.  A group of schoolkids board the bus, all very loud, all aged about 11 or 12, tweenagers (sic) as we call them in English, not quite teenagers.  Five of them sit opposite and around me.  I have Hava Nagila playing.  Seconds after sitting down, the youngsters start hurling verbal abuse at me, calling me (in German), “Dirty Jew,” etc, etc.  I can still lip-read even with the earphones in.

Let me reiterate.  With a name like Ginge in Germany, I am a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant), with some Celtic  background.

Now, German readers of this blog. please do not offer your standard apology:

I must apologise that anti-Semitism among our people is not dead.  I am truly ashamed, etc…

These were youngers of one specific ethnic Mediterranean origin.

Violence ends where love begins.

Have a Judenhass-free day, won’t you!