In peace – goodwill

In war – determination.

In defeat – defiance.

In victory – magnanimity.

In peace – goodwill.

Wise words from Winston Churchill.

During World War II and even up till 1948, many German prisoners of war (PW) were kept in the United Kingdom and proved to be most useful as a labour force, especially on farms, auf dem Lande.

All the PW’s would be dropped off at their place of work at 0700 every morning.  They would have head back to their PW camp, a converted manor house, in the evening.  Their rations for the day: a tin of corned beef, barely edible for a dog, let alone a man working in the fields.

One such PW worked on my great-grandad’s farm in the Yorkshire Dales.  I forget his name (It’s mentioned in a recent letter from my 80-year-old uncle A from Bedale.)  Let’s call him Ralph.

When his employer’s family found out that Ralph:

  1. Was not a Nazi, just another conscript, doing his job
  2. Was a motor mechanic
  3. He was a good “grafter,” full of Teutonic efficiency
  4. Had food rations thatwere not fit for purpose
  5. Was an all-round nice guy

the family pretty much adopted him.

They invited him to join them as honoured guest for lunchtime every day, including Sunday roast with gallons of gravy and Yorkshire pudding.

Finally, when Ralph was sent back to Germany in 1948, home addresses were exchanged.  Every Christmastime Christmas cards would be exchanged between t’Dales and Hamburg, Ralph’s home.

In 1964 my Uncle A was posted to the BAOR, British Army of the Rhine.  He then visited Ralph in Hamburg and had a few beers with him, also meeting his wife and children.

Uncle A and Ralph kept in contact for years even when Uncle A was posted to Northern Ireland.  Eventually the Christmas cards stopped.  Ralph had passed away.  The final correspondence was a condolence card sent to Ralph’s family some time in the 1960’s.

Aus Feind wird Freund.

Have a friendly day, won’t you!

hands people friends communication

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We got it licked…

We got it licked… but only partially.  Some of my stamps are self-adhesive.

In Germany, Deutsche Post postage rates increased on 1 July.  Were the new stamps for sale on that day?  After all, they had been telling everyone for months in advance about the new rates.  Teutonic efficiency, and all that…

No.  Nope.  Nein. Нет.

Not to worry.

British.  And less of your Johnny Foreigner nonsense!

I just took the Stückelung approach.  July 1st was also the day when new commemorative stamps came out.  Astronomy seems to be the current theme. My budget did not stretch to the 3.70€ Moon landing, however.

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I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

  1. Stock up on stamps at the new rate, eg international postage starting at 1.10€ instead of 0.90€.
  2. Use the old stamps, and add some smaller-value stamps to plug the gap.
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L-R: National postcard rate, international letter rate, national letter rate

If I’m going to have to pay more for postage, I may as well stick more stamps on my letters and postcards, especially as my Uncle A in Yorkshire is a born-again stamp collector.

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Stamps with Stückelung: 9 stamps on an international letter – result!

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A large letter: birthday card, albeit with “only” four stamps on – must try harder!

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Two large letters, with a nice array of postage stamps – es lebe die Stückelung!

Have a philatelic day, won’t you!

The Journey is the Destination

The Esk Valley Line: Middlesbrough to Whitby railway line.  What made me think of it?  Probably my recent article on Edale, with a train chugging through the place.  And also a train ticket that I found in my scrapbook when I was flicking through this morning.

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The aforementioned ticket – bargain!

Whitby is a delightful, picturesque place.  The fish and chips, the sticky seaside rock, the stroll along the promenade, the Goth weekend, and much, much more.  Like Kaiserswerth near Düsseldorf, it’s a place you can visit any day of the year.  And people do.

But don’t forget.  It’s not just Whitby that is the destination.  The railway line itself is a good destination.  Breathtaking views of the North York Moors, rolling hills, Battersby (Junction) train station, Grosmont station with its steam trains.

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Sticky Whitby seaside rock!

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Grab a few sticks!

A picture describes a thousand words…

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Whitby Abbey

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The train arriving at Danby, one of the Esk Valley stations

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What a view!

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Why not bring your bike for a spot of cycling round one of the villages?

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Rush hour among the cows

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Or you could just stroll round a local village…

Have an Esk-citing day, won’t you!

“I never get any post”

Back in 2004 I used to send, Marco, my friend in Düsseldorf, a postcard every time I’d go to the Saturday market at Masham, in the Yorkshire Dales.

It’s the only post I get these days, apart from bank statements.

I paid attention to Marco’s comment.  I resolved the following week to change this situation for him.

The United Kingdom has a lot of universities, from Aberdeen and Aberystwyth to York.  I googled “List of all British universities.”  I went through that list methodically.  It took a day or so.  I ordered Marco a prospectus from pretty much every UK university.  Every single one.

A fortnight later I rang Marco.

Marco thanked me profusely for his collection of reading material.  He had to go to his local post office to collect half of the items.  He had piled them up in his living room next to the TV.  One university had a translation and interpreting course that interested him.

He never complained about receiving very little “proper post” after this avalanche of prospectuses.  I don’t know why.

Have a voluminous day, won’t you!

brown envelopes in mail box

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The Importance of Punctuality

Sunray was ex-Army.  22 years long.  He was never a civilian.  He was always ex-Army.  Soldiers always arrive on time.  Always.

One Sunday Sunray came to visit us.  To save money he decided to hitch-hike from Brompton in North Yorkshire to Redcar.  He was due to arrive at 11am.  We looked out of our living room window. 10:58.  He still wasn’t there.

10:59 Sunray appeared.  He was walking out of the front door of the house opposite ours.

Ginge in Germany:

Ummm, do you know the people opposite?

Sunray:

No.

G in G:

So, er, what were you doing in their house?

Sunray:

Oh, them.  I was running late, so I took a short cut through their house.

G in G:

Sorry, you did what?

Sunray:

Oh aye, I saved myself a couple of minutes by walking through their house to yours. 

G in G:

Did anybody see you?

Sunray:

Oh aye.  I walked into their back garden, straight through their kitchen, past their dining room, when this couple were having their Sunday dinner, with sprouts, joint of beef and and Yorkshire puds…

sundayroast

G in G:

Well, what did they do when they saw you?

Sunray:

This bloke spat his dinner out and told me to get the f*** out of his house.  So I told him cheers, mate, and headed out of the front door.  Like I say, I was running late.

I just shook my head.

Have a punctual day, won’t you!

One Year On

My Dad, Sunray, passed away died exactly one year ago today, suddenly at 14:00 GMT, while walking back from his local shop.

How time flies.

How was my grieving process?  Actually, IMHO, there wasn’t really one.  I was very matter-of-fact the moment I found out via a Facebook Messenger message from my younger brother.  I was in the office, collating an Excel spreadsheet.  I told my colleague, “My Dad has just died,” in the same way and tone that we would tell a colleague, “Our boss popped in, looking for you.”  I then carried on with my spreadsheet to meet a deadline for our rather unfriendly product owner.

I did pause to send out a Whatsapp round-robin message to Schatz and to church friends to ask for their prayers for Sunray’s soul.  Replies came in from single “prayer” emojis to long, warm messages from members of my house group.  I wasn’t in shock, but I think I was stunned.

I did not cry until I got home.  By then the posts and kinds words and funny stories about him flooded in on his regimental old comrades Facebook page.  Tears of grief ran out of my left eye, and of laughter from the right eye.  It’s what Sunray would have wanted.

That was then.  This is now.

I still feel relieved.  I still do not regret deciding to stay away from his funeral.  In any case I was still not well enough to travel at that time.  Even walking to my local shops and back was a major physical exertion.  I am glad that I visited his grave two months later, said a prayer or two over his grave and placed three daffodils on the broken earth, marking his relatively fresh grave.

I have prayed daily that his is indeed resting in peace and that God will let his infinite mercy shine on Sunray’s face.  Since he died one year ago, several more of his regimental brothers have died.  I pray that they will join him in the Senior Squadron bar to exchange “Do you remember when…?” stories.

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Sunray in November 1998

Have a poignant day, won’t you!