Who used to have the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home?  Who remembers when libraries had microfiches and index cards?

That is how we used to access information on the capital of Rwanda, history of the Sorbian language, crop rotation in the 14th century, etc.

Nowadays: we have people asking the hive mind on Facebook.

I’m on several Facebook pages:

  • Expat in Germany
  • Creative writing
  • History
  • Philately
    • Pitcairn Island
  • Travel
    • Pitcairn Island
  • Astronomy
    • Planet Pluto
  • Many, many more…

Most of the groups are good fun, eg learning about the postal history of Planet Pluto, or something like that…  I like to read the posts and contribute when others ask questions.

Today, while staring out of the window on the tram today, I coined a new acronym:

JFGI (Just Flipping Google It)

At least I thought it was new.  However, it did already exist, as mentioned in Urban Dictionary.

Years ago, I used to be a supply teacher.  The number of times I’d be asked,

Sir, what’s this word mean?

My reply would be:

Have you looked in the back of the book?  Have you looked in the dictionary?  No, then do it, and tell me what the answer is.  I am not here to spoonfeed you.

That was with 13 year olds from some of the rougher parts of Teesside.

Fast-forward to the year 2020.

FSQ’s (Flipping Stupid Questions) such as:

Where is the British Consulate in this city?

Umm…. JFGI.

I decide to relent.  I decide to send the enquirer the Consulate URL.

I then get supplementary FSQ’s…

What are the opening hours?  How do I get there by public transport?  How much is the train fare?  Can I reclaim my train fare?  Do I need to make an appointment?  Can you come with me to the Consulate tomorrow at 9am?  I need a helper with officialdom.

Umm, guess what…  JFGI.  And no, I am not at the beck and call of bone idle strangers.  I am not here to spoonfeed you…

Further questions from other groups come on an hourly basis.

Can you tell me about German history?

In a very polite English way, I reply:

German history is long, rich and complex.  What specifically do wish to know?

In hindsight I should have just replied…


Another question comes from would be Dostoyevskys.

How do I write a perfect novel?  I want to write my autobiography.  What should I write about?  How much should I charge for my book?

I decide not to reply.  I just think: JFGI.

These are questions from grown adults, not 13 year olds from the rough end of Teesside.

Then there are the ridiculously picky requests, not quite needing a JFGI response.  The enquirers tend to PM me, addressing me as “Sir”, or send me friend requests.  These are along the lines of:

Where in this city can I find an French-speaking dentist who speaks the language with an Albanian accent?  I need someone urgently to carry out root canal treatment on my Jack Russell puppy, who is scared of anyone who does not speak French to him.


Can anyone help me to find an apartment in this city?  My budget is 400€ per month.  I need a place from next week.  Who can come with me tomorrow at 11:00 to view an apartment?

You get the idea. Give me strength…

I feel like the help desk guy in this clip.

Have an self-starting day, won’t you!





Foula: it’s pronounced “Fool-er.”

Here’s the Wikipedia article about the island.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foula

I’ve always had a thing about islands.  When I used to collect stamps as a 12-year-old, I was pleased as punch to have in my collection a mint stamp from Nauru and another mint stamp from Pitcairn Island, both places being as remote as it gets.

Fast forward to July 2003.  I had booked a hiking holiday on Shetland with a friend (Dan), including four nights on Foula.  For an island of just 4 by 6 kilometres, there were plenty of routes to walk, north, south, east and west, along the roads, uphill, around the island, etc.

Day one we walked to the highest point on the island, and then down to the air strip and lighthouse at the southern end, and spent a bit of time watching the puffins nesting near the lighthouse.  My friend was a born and bred Londoner.  He found the real live sheep fascinating.  (As my Dad, born and bred in the Yorkshire Dales, would say, “Townie.”)

Day two we headed northwards.  It was a pretty hot summer’s day.  Thankfully, being a redhead, I had slapped on the factor 50 sun cream and plonked a hat on my head.  After a couple of hours strolling, my friend and I had built up a bit of a sweat, slightly sore feet and backs needing time off without rucksacks on them.

By now we had reached the top of the island, with a kind of beach.

Dan suggested:

Right, shall we take a break here, and go take a dip in the sea?

I replied:

Good plan, mate.  My feet are absolutely throbbing.


Skinny dip, unless you’ve packed your swimming trunks?

Ginge in Germany:

Yeah, may as well.  Nobody else is going to be around, anyway.

Rucksacks get dropped off gently onto the rocks on the “beach.”  Then walking boots and socks off.  Then everything else.  Except my glasses.  Blind as a bat without them.  We both tiptoed into the water.  The sea was cooling.  It was freezing.  Testicle-crushingly freezing.  But, boy, it was nice to cool down after walking in the mid-day sun.  And there was nobody else for miles around.

I was wrong.

By now the water was at chest height.  I had kept my glasses on.  Only my glasses.  200 metres away from us, I spotted a group of five or six walkers.  They had not spotted us (I think).

“Dan, whatever you do, stay in the sea!  PLEASE!”

“Why?  It’s blinking freezing.  I can’t stay here much longer.”

“Because there’s a bunch of hikers over there, and they are heading in this direction.”

Dan and I stayed exactly where we were.  The water was at chest level.  The group stopped and looked in our direction.  We waved back.  They waved back to us.

(Please don’t come any closer.)

They paused for another minute or two, pointing at the geographical features to our east.  They then continued their hike eastwards, away from us.  My fingernails were probably turning a nice shade of blue.

Finally they were out of sight.  It seemed like two hours, not two minutes.

We breathed a sigh of relief.  Gingerly (no pun intended) we tiptoed out of the water back to our rucksacks and clothes.  We dressed rapidly – just in case any more hikers strolled by.  Luckily the sun dried us off and warmed us up, as did our brisk stroll back to our digs.  On our way back we encountered the same group of hikers.  We exchanged greetings.

“Good swim?”

“Yes, excellent, thanks.  Surprisingly warm, actually.  Did us the world of good.”

A close escape.  The rest of our stay on the island, we resolved to stay on dry land.

May your day go swimmingly well!

backlit beach clouds dusk

Photo by Jacub Gomez on Pexels.com

Two Years to the Day

Today is two years to the day since my Dad, Sunray, died suddenly.  May he rest in peace.  That’s all I have to say about his death.

Today I’m going to write about his birth.  Specifically, about his birth certificate.

In 1983 I applied for my first UK passport.  Because I was not born in the UK itself, I had to send the Passport Office a copy of Sunray’s birth certificate to prove that he was a British Citizen.

A few days after ordering from the Register Office in North Yorkshire, the certificate arrived.  Beautiful handwriting in nice fountain pen.  Just one problem.  One line in the certificate:

Sex: Girl

Amazingly enough, my mum, not famed for her sense of humour, saw the funny side.  She wrote back to the Registrar:

Please find enclosed your copy of the birth certificate of [Sunray].  Please note, I can assure you that [Sunray] was definitely born a Boy, not a Girl, as I was married to him for thirteen years, and he is the father of my three children.

One week later, a corrected birth certificate landed on our doormat, together with an apology to Sunray (and his ex-wife).

woman wearing black wrist bands holding nose

Photo by malcolm garret on Pexels.com

Have an accurate day, won’t you!

Street Jewelry

Oz, a character in the hit 1980s comedy drama, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, once observed:

These German bricks lack the panache of British bricks.

I’ve thought the same on a number of occasions, when looking at Gewrman postboxes.  One of the distinguishing features of German postboxes seems to be grafitti, something I have rarely seen on Royal Mail postboxes.

Therefore, I was most impressed some days ago, when strolling through the scenic village of Kaiserswerth, to see two posboxes that were grafitti-free.  Praise be to the people and visitors to Kaiserswerth.




Kaiserswerth post office

Have a presentable day, won’t you!

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans

Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans was the title of a Noel Coward song.  I fully agree.  Let’s be beastly to the Dutch instead.

Last week I sent the following cartoon out to my British and German friends, many of whom then forwarded it in turn to their friends via Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.


Have a guttural day, won’t you!

Please call the church warden on…

The vicar is away for several weeks’ holidays.  That means anyone phoning the vicarage with queries is asked to phone me as church warden.  I don’t mind.  Happy to help.  Variety is the spice of life, and I get a wide variety of calls.

First call of the hols – yesterday

Unknown mobile, a lady’s voice:

Hallo.  Do you spik Englisch or Cherman?

G in G:

Würden Sie lieber auf Deutsch reden?

WE speak in German.  The caller is one of the local undertakers.  An English lady has recently died.  As she’s not Catholic, the local Catholic priest won’t bury her.  Can the Anglican priest come to … Cemetery this Friday and bury her ashes in an urn?

G in G:

No.  He’s on holiday abroad this month.  How urgent is it?


It’s not urgent.  Her ashes are in an urn.

A very practical, German answer.

I email the vicar and cc: the undertaker to assess next steps.

Today the untertaker writes back to advise the local Catholic priest will, after all, bury the English lady’s ashes.  Very kind of him.

floral design steel container

Photo by Othmar Vigl on Pexels.com

This afternoon I decide to sit in the library in the city centre in order to:

  1. Read the Torygraph
  2. Write my diary
  3. Think of some blog writing to plan for my avid readers thereof

Another phone call from an unknown mobile number.  It’s a semi-regular member of congregation.

Can the vicar countersign some passport and birth certificate documentation, please?

G in G:

No.  He’s on holiday this month.  What’s the situation?  Maybe I can help?

It turns out:

  • The fiance is a national of country X
  • but was born in country Y
  • and also has a passport of country Z

Fiancee is a German national, but has decided that she and fiance will get married in Caribbean country XX, which requires about 300 copies of doxs (countersigned by a doctor, teacher, priest or person of similar standing) in order for a marriage to take place there.  But if all else fails, they will marry in a German registry office to make it all legal.

G in G:

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrright, I think I understand.  Where are you right now?

Semi-regular member of congregation (SMOC):

We’re at the airport.

G in G:

If you’d like to come to the library in the city centre, I can take a look and countersign.

SMOC’s fiance turns up thirty minutes later.  We sit in the library.  I have a brainwave.

Let’s jump in your car and head to the church.  We have a selection of rubber stamps there.  That’ll make everything look more official .

Twenty minutes later we reach the church office.  I grab the official rubber stamps and the ink pad.  I take a sheet of A4 paper from the photocopier.

Thump, thump!   Thump, thump!

For a moment, I felt like I was an immigration official at passport control.

I show the sample rubber stamps to SMOC and fiance.  They are happy.

I take the copies of passport and driving licence.  Fountain pen out, I write:

I certify…

I open the ink pad again.

Thump, thump!

Church rubber stamp next to my signature and at the bottom of the page.  Off you go!

person holding brown stamp

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Have a rubbery day, won’t you!