The Fifth Commandment: Part 1

The Bible commands in Exodus 20:12:

Honour your father and your mother.

And truly I tell you, it’s a good commandment.

That’s the Biblical quotatation for you.  From theology to humour.  Now for an old East Germany joke…

A school teacher asks little Fritz:

“Fritzchen, why are you always speaking of our Soviet brothers? It’s Soviet friends.”

Fritz replies:

“Well, you can always choose your friends.  You can’t choose your family.”

Many a true word said in jest, Fritz.

This been a somewhat frustrating weekend for me.  Philip Larkin was spot-on when he wrote This Be Verse(I leave you to read the poem in your own time.  It does have a small typo.  I think the second word in the poem should begin with an “m,” not an “f.”)

My Dad, “Sunray,” is a “problem child.”  Lonely, with few friends, alienated from most of his family, with an alcohol dependency a “grumpy old man” personality.  Not exactly the most attractive thing to write in his online dating profile, but hey, ho, there you go.

Because Sunray has a low boredom threshold.  He tends to phone me every two or three times a day on Saturdays, sometimes even more than that, reaching double-figures.  The same again on Sundays, even though he knows I am out at church most of the day on Sunday.  This being even though I phone him from work three times a week and end up having long chats with him, so he can tell me his “When I was in [insert name of garrison town]…” war stories again and again.  And again.

And again.

And Again…

This Saturday I relented and called him back to keep him quiet.

Another anecdote about Fallingbostel 1965, which I’d heard only about…. ooooh… some fifteen times this year…

Three minutes into the call Sunray declares:

Anyway, I don’t want to chat any more.  Bye.

Two hours, three hours, four hours later, more phone calls from him.  That was the pattern on Friday.  This time, on Saturday, I ignore the calls, probably much to his chagrin.

As Schatz was here, I decide to pull out my landline cable to get some peace and quiet.  Later in the evening I re-connect the landline.  More phone calls from him, not leaving a message.  Then at about 20:00 the calls stop.  He’s probably drunk his quota of rose wine and climbed into bed for the night, muttering his mantra, “Every single f*cker’s been f*ckin’ me about.  Sick and tired of it.  People f*ckin’ me about…”

Enough about Sunray.

Have an honourable day, won’t you!

Today’s Earworm

It’s been for me a pressured week or two for me.

  • Office politics
  • Tour de France preparations for church
  • Dealing with “admin-intense” members of congregation
  • Heatwave in recent days
  • Fridge-freezer at home being broken

First world problems, I know.  But everyone reaches their limit.  This week I’ve been aware that I need to ease off a bit and give myself some “me-time.”  Who guards the guardians?  Who cares for carers?  Sometimes – nobody.  Sometimes the caring moves on an Einbahnstrasse: a one-way street.

This week I’ve been quite blessed to have two fellow members of congregation possessing pastoral skills, who have been taken a large amont of “payload” off me, dealing with a member of congregation, who has been ill in hospital the past fortnight.  This member of congregation has Ted Stryker tendencies.  He is very “admin-intense” to use a British Army expression.  (But Ted and his ways will form material for another blog article or three.)

All this week I’ve been feeling fatigued on coming home after work.  Hour-long long lie-down next to tower fan, my current best friend in the heatwave.  Earlyish into bed.  No energy to even give my bathroom and kitchen a good clean-up.  Many thanks, Schatz, for being Mrs Mopp this weekend. 🙂

After church service today I unloaded to two church confidantes to the effect that I was – for the first time in months – going to head home for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  V asked if I would like to join her on a pastoral visit to “Ted.”  I politely declined the invitation, explaining that “Ted” had been too “admin-intense” for me the past week and a half, with contacting hospital chaplains, as well as reading SMS messages that, in length, but not quality , rivalled Paul’s letters to:

  • The Romans
  • The Ephesian
  • The Corinthians
  • The Athenians
  • The Americans
  • The Albanians
  • The Sunday Times
  • The Daily Mail

I just needed time away from Ted.  To correctly quote Greta Garbo:

I just want to be left alone.

V then thanked me for everything I do in church, which left me with a lump in my throat.  I’m not a child.  I don’t expect a pat on the head, a gold star, or to be sent to show my nice, neat handwriting to the headteacher.  Nonetheless a sincerely expressed thank you is always well-received.

This afternoon I have spent precious hours flopped out on the sofa, writing my diary, listening to the radio and also planning further blog articles based on:

  • Puns
  • Untranslatable expressions
  • Vogon poetry (just kidding – I would not inflict that on anyone)

All things that I can really only do when I have proper “me-time.”

Then, while I was scribbling away in my diary, I remembered this beautiful hymn that I first heard a year or so ago.  It has become my ear worm du jour.  Here it is.

It Is Well With My Soul

soul

Have a well day, won’t you!

The Church-Shopper

I’ve been remiss, I know.  No blog articles from me for a while.  I apologise.

Let’s recap a few facts about me.

  • I am a British expat, living in Germany.
  • I try to integrate: I speak German.  I have a German Schatz.  I respect the Ruhestunde.  I prefix insults with, “Es ist nicht böse gemeint, aber…”
  • I am a practising Christian (Anglican/Episcopalian).  Practising, because I can never get it right.  As part of my faith, I attend church (Anglican => Anglophone) most Sundays and go to weekly (Anglophone) bible study/house group (“Hauskreis” in German for theo).

So, what is this article about?  Well, I’m not Catholic, but I do have a bit of a bad conscience, “ein Schlechtes Gewissen”.

The house group I go to is very multinational: Americans, Africans, Brits, Germans, Malaysians, Chinese, you name it.  ABC… G, M and much more.  Please don’t get the wrong impression.  It’s not a theology seminar, with everyone sitting round piously studying Ezekiel 25:17.  We drink tea, we sing worship songs, we pray together, we laugh and joke.  All in my beloved mother tongue, English.  (Remember Samuel L Jackson when he was reciting from that passage?)

As part of the study we read a chosen text from the bible and chew it over.  Hence: bible study.   Each of us takes it in turn to read aloud a paragraph.  Roger so far?

Now, here is why my bad conscience has crept it.  One of our house group members is a nice guy, (Deckname: “Hermann”).  But…  But…  But… his command of the English language is somewhat lacking.  (That’s British understatement, by the way.)  I frankly also think he is a bit of a “church-shopper,” the kind of person that you don’t see for months because they’ve been going to…

  • A Chinese church, because they do such wonderful refreshments after the service
  • An African church, because the preacher is so entertaining
  • A local German church, because they needed an extra singer etc

You get the idea.  Harumph…

So back to house group/bible study.  “Es ist nicht böse gemeint…” but here are my points of frustration.

  1. Hermann’s tendency to church-shop.  Why does he never, ever come to our church on any Sunday?  Is house group a social activity, in the same way that some people nip to the pub, evening classes, chess club, etc?
  2. Does he have “English-groupie” tendencies?  This seems to happen among some people.  Wow!  The chance to mix with exotic foreigners and practise my English and be sophisticated.
  3. A purely practical point.  Is Hermann’s English good enough?  To give a wider context, we have a policy in our church that children at Sunday school most be sufficiently proficient in English to be able to understand the course material.  Further, they must speak only in English during the lessons.  “Es ist nicht böse gemeint…” but it’s to provide a lingua franca in the lessons.

I can’t help thinking, what would happen if we applied that English proficiency policy to our house group?  Notwithstanding Hermann’s being a nice guy, in terms of MoSCoW priorities (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have yet), house group’s must-have is to study the bible.  Here I have serious concern.  When Hermann’s turn comes to read from the text, he makes me feel like I’m back at infant school again.  He speaks so slowly and haltingly in English.  (Think of when you were at infant school and your classmate would read out like a Dalek on mogadon.)

Then… the cat… and… the… dog… went… in… to… the… house…  and the… maaaaaaa-gicccccccccccccccccc-ian-… cast… a… spell… on… the… dog… and… the… cat…

(Ten minutes later your classmate has finished reading out the sentence, during which time classmates have started rocking back and forth.)

So imagine the double-whammy of a church-shopper who reads in English like a Dalek that has just swallowed a large dose of mogodan, combined with no-show for months on end because he happened to disagree with the text we were studying.

Then add the mispronunciation of Biblical names:

  • Abraham/Ahhhh-braaa-haaaam
  • Sarah/Sarrrrrraaaaa
  • Canaan/Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah-naaaaaaaaaaahn
  • Noah/No-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh

This being after he had heard everyone else reading the same names out in the correct, Anglophone way…  Pay attention at the back of the class, puh-lease!

Then there is the “Umschreiben.”  This is ironically a difficult word to translate into English.  Let me explain by way of worked example.  I don’t know the word for “dog” in a given language.  I therefore say in your language, “The animal that barks and has four legs and chases cats.”  That is Umschreiben.  Hermann does a lot of that, a fact which again makes me think, “He’s not quite going to get the discussion if he hasn’t got the vocabulary.”

Am I being too harsh?  No?  Oh, thank you!  You see, I’m thinking of joining a local Albanian-language house group.  My Albanian is a bit limited, but they do do a nice cup of tea there, and I like their preacher, and…

Have an Anglophone day, won’t you!

I love to travel (1)

Hello.  I apologise for the radio silence.

Fact 1: I love to travel, even when a bit hard-up. 

Back in November 2008, I had been out of work for several months, but was now working in Oxfordshire.  I wanted to visit Düsseldorf for the Chrsitmas markets.  To keep the trip low-cost, I decided to take the Eurolines coach there and back and stay in the youth hostel.

Fact 2: I used to snore – until my nasal polypectomy back in 2012.

Late November 2008.  A Eurolines coach from DUS to London.  £58 return.  Bargain.  Overnight coach.  The place: somewhere on the Belgian motorway.  Coach doing about 60mph.  The coach is half-full or half-empty.  Most passengers are wearing mp3 players or iPods with earphones or headphones.  A wise choice.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  Roooooooooooooooar!!!!!!!!

Ginge in Germany is snoring like a pneumatic drill.  Most passengers can’t hear a thing.  They have ear/headphones.

One passenger doesn’t.  A Ghanaian man who was on his way to visit relatives in Nottingham.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  Roooooooooooooooar!!!!!!!!

Ever few minutes, thump!  Mr Ghana thumps the back of my seat, annoyed at my snoring.

Thump!

 

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  Roooooooooooooooar!!!!!!!!

 

Thump!

 

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  Roooooooooooooooar!!!!!!!!

 

Thump!

 

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Finally, at 03:30, no thump.  Just a furious cry from Mr Ghana, at 100 decibels:

In the name of Our Lord and Saviour – I command you!  STOP SNORING, YOU WICKED, WICKED, EVIL MAN!

Even though half-asleep, I offer the most British of replies:

Oh, I’m terribly sorry.  I do apologise.

What more can I say or do?  Tell our religiously-inspired man, “Hey, you should have brought earplugs.”

Have a sleepy night, won’t you!

Our Mother Tongue (3)

To you they might seem like mild expletives.  To people in Elizabethan times, they were a lot stronger?

Which words?

 

  • Blimey – “God blind me!”
  • Crickey – 19th century euphemism for Christ.
  • Zounds – nowadays rhymes with “bounds”, but was originally “God’s wounds” (ie from the nails driven into his body on the cross).
  • Bloody – nothing to do with red (or blue if a royal) liquid: it’s a corruption of “by Our Lady” (ie, the Virgin Mary).

Back in those days of Elizabeth I, religious oaths were considered much stronger and profane than sexual “rude words.”

Have a rude day, won’t you!