Machmallauter: Boney M

I was always a fan of of Boney M.  I had no choice really.  When I was pads brat living in Wolfenbüttel, Germany 1975-78, their music was on BFBS all the time.  Every hour.  Every day.

This was my favourite Boney M number: 137, to be exact.  Psalm 137, otherwise known as…

By the Rivers of Babylon

Have a psalmodic day, won’t you!


So you think you know about Islam?

I have a pet hate, namely people who rant on about subjects where they have “received knowledge” (DE: erhaltene Weisheit) or pure prejudice.  I like the German term: Kneipenprofessor (“pub professor”).  I don’t mind you disagreeing with me – as long as you have done your homework, and not just read some Facebook post/internet meme that fits with your prejudices.

So you think you know about Muslims and Islam?  In that case, have a go at this exam paper.  I sat it in January 1993 and got 61% for it, which is a good 2:1 grade.


To quote the famous barrister, F E Smith, on explaining a point of law to a judge:

You may be none the wiser, but you are most certainly now much better-informed.

You have one and half hours starting… now!

Have an academic day, won’t you!

pen writing notes studying

Photo by Tookapic on


The Pareto principle: in a nutshell, 80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your people.  Or 80% of your work is done by 20% of your people.

Our church always needs volunteers for:

  • Sunday school
  • Reading the lesson
  • Leading the prayers of intercession

That’s the front line tasks.  We also need volunteers for the “back room boys (and girls)”:

  • Refreshments: making teas and coffee after each service
  • Preparing our monthly shared lunch
  • Flowers
  • Mowing the church lawn
  • Etc etc etc

One set of statistics I have noticed in relation to church tasks:

  • 100% of the people that complain that church lawn is looking a little bit long and in need of mowing, do 0% of the mowing.
  • 100% of the people that complain that shared lunch has been cancelled, do 0% of the preparation for shared lunch.
  • 100% of the serial complainers, do – guess what – yeah, you got it – 0% of the work at church.

Maybe one day we’ll have people queuing up to donate some time to their church.

long queue of people, back view

Have a generous day, won’t you!

Treat like a Pagan?

I’m not Catholic, but today I don’t know if I should have a bad conscience or not.  I therefore request everyone’s honest opinion.  Billy No-Mates is the cause of concern.  Yes, him of all the problems in particular last year.

Wind back to Remembrance Day, November 2017.  A very pious and reflective day for us Brits and also for members of the Commonwealth, especially those of us who have connections with Her Majesty’s armed forces.  We remember the people, not the cause.  It’s also a suitable day for thinking of those of our loved who are dead or dying.

I turned up early to church on Remembrance Day to prepare for that day’s service.  Billy and K had arrived to do their jobs in church.  I said to K:

Have you heard about F?  She’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Billy, standing just a few feet away, overheard my comment, and flew into a violent rage.

I’ve got friends who are f***ing suffering and dying!  I’ve had a f***ing sh*t life since the summer!

I wanted to tell Billy:

  1. We’re not in competition when it comes to suffering.
  2. I wasn’t speaking to him, but to K.
  3. He needs to control his temper and show respect for the church and other people on this very day in the church calendar.

Instead, I bit my tongue and said nothing.

A week ago, F died.  Probably a relief to her, as she had been suffering for months.

Her funeral is this Friday.  I found out that Billy is intending to come to F’s funeral.

Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?

  • He never knew F.
  • He may have known of her after I had mentioned her name on Remembrance Day.
  • He never asked anyone how F was.
  • He never expressed an interest in her progress.
  • He was always more interesting in telling everyone about how his new-found mate had found him a flat here, and that the JobCenter was paying for a new kitchen, me, me, me, etc.

I feel a bit harsh saying this, but I feel Billy wants to go to the funeral in the same way that Westerners go on “banana visits” to see prisoners in Thai prisons.  Partly to do a bit of good, show his face and offer sympathy, but mainly to “have a good gawp.”

As my policeman friend would say, “He’s got previous.”  At a funeral in October, he was meant to be helping me tidy up the church.  However, when he got chatting to the widow straight after the service, she mentioned there was a buffet for friends.  Billy immediately took up the offer, even though he knew the deceased or the widow, and off he went to stuff his face with Kaffee und Kuchen, sausage rolls, prawn cocktails, frikadellas or whatever he fancied.  In the meantime I was left to tidy up the church on my own – for clearly I had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, than to straighten chairs, pick up service sheets and lock up.  “Not a team player” is the British understatement I would use.

So… Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  And what?  What should I say to Billy? Matthew 18:15-17 encourages us to take a miscreant to one side.  Should I ask him:

Why are you coming to F’s funeral?


Was your outburst in November respectful towards F?

Or should I just treat him like a pagan or a tax collector?

Have a respectful day, won’t you!

“We need to talk…”

First of all, your Bible quote du jour.

Matthew 18:15-17

Dealing With Sin in the Church

15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Since coming out of hospital a month or so ago, I had bitten the bullet and asked Billy to give me some space.  In other words, please stay away from me.  Like in the Jewish momma joke:

  • Don’t phone
  • Don’t visit
  • Don’t talk to me
  • Don’t Whatsapp me
  • Don’t email me
  • Don’t SMS

I had become fed-up of his:

  • Unsolicited hospital visit
  • Late-night starting arguments in his self-created Whatsapp groups
  • Interfering in everything from the colour of the toilet paper in the church toilets to how German funerals should be conducted
  • Etc etc etc
  • Ad nauseum

Last Sunday Billy asked to meet up with me for a coffee “to bury the hatchet” (sic).  I acquiesced.  I had a feeling the meet-up would be a bit pointless but we can but hope and pray, I guess.  And besides, I thought this could be my chance to tell him to his face what others had been saying behind his back.

We meet at the appointed hour, at the appointed place, a public place with plenty of people around.  I had prepared bullet points notes to refer to in case needed.

First ten minutes: stilted conversation.  My mind is thinking on every so slightly weightier matters than Billy’s new flat being near the big shopping arcade.  I am thinking of D, dying of pancreatic cancer.

After 40 minutes, 60 minutes, Billy is still talking about his new flat, like a ten-year-old telling parents what he had done at school today.  I am starting to day-dream.  The washing-up, the laundry, etc.

Finally – after an hour Billy remembers.

Oh yes, you said you wanted to talk to me about a few things to do with why you wanted space from me.

I tell him in a matter-of-fact way, very calmly without raising my voice (for I do not wish to encourage the stereotype of the fiery redhead) that I have serious concerns about his anger management.  I then give him a few examples of when he has exploded with rage.  He says he accepts he has anger management issues.  Good.  That’s a start.  But then at that incident and at this incident, if X hadn’t done this, he wouldn’t have had to scream and shout at them.  Someone else’s fault.  No personal responsibility.  Worrying.

I then ask calmly, like I was on my interrogator’s course again, is it possible that the reason why people have lost their temper with you is that you have provoked them time after time until they can take no more?

By now Billy has started cooking.  He has started hyperventilating, scowling at me, shouting over me:

No!  You listen to me!

All of a sudden, Billy grabs his coat and his daysack and storms out.

Oh, well, Billy has thus proved he has anger management issues.  Next time he sees me, he will probably move to the next step in his cycle of anger management, namely, look at me, puppy eyes and try to latch onto me and others heading off to Sunday fellowship lunch.  He’ll be wasting his time, I’m afraid.  High hedges make good neighbours.

Wer schreit, hat unrecht.

Have an anger-free day, won’t you!


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


Have a well day, won’t you!