I’m not eating here!

On a lighter note…

November 1998.  Northallerton, North Yorkshire.  I’m on a visit to Sunray.   It’s Wednesday, market day in Northallerton.  Sunray and I have walked the whole length of Northallerton High Street and have bought at the market:

  1. Ten cheap’n’cheerful thank you cards
  2. Four packs of AA batteries on special offer
  3. Ten pairs of socks

Bargains, all of them.

By now it’s gone 13:00.  I’m “Hank Marvin,” starving, wasting away…

Dad, shall we stop and eat somewhere?

Oh aye, yeah.  Let’s do that.

A few metres along from the greetings cards and watch batteries stall I spot a burger van, the fine aroma of friend onions wafting over to us.

As we walk past, I suggest:

Shall we eat here then?

It looks clean enough, not a salmonellaburger van.

Sunray, at about 100 decibels, takes one look and exclaims:

I’m not eating here!

Within a nanosecond, the owner leans out of the hatch in horror, swivels her head 180 degrees, left to right, looking very upset.

Sorryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

Spotting me crying with laughter, bent double as if punched in the stomach, and then recognising Sunray, she adds furiously:

Aye, I might have known it would be you, having a dig at my place!

Sunray and I continue walking on to the nearest fish and chip cafe.  Sunray has a spring in his step.  Who wanted a cheeseburger with fried onions, anyway?  For me, only a Big Kahuna Burger will do.

Have a fussy day, won’t you!

kahuna

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Scrapbook

I’m not high up enough in the food chain to have my memoirs published or to have my diaries forged.  I do, however, have many a quiet evening on my own.  Occasionally I’ll get the glue out and stick a few items in my scrapbook.

Where did I get this habit?  Sunray started it all back in 1978, when he was posted to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).  He was constantly cutting and pasting gluing into his Ministry of Defence A4 hard-backed book:

  • Article after article from the Camberley News
  • The occasional Northern Echo clipping about his elder brother, who was in the habit of arguing with North Yorkshire Police and ending up the loser in court
  • Ah yes… every now and again, local non-news articles that mother would post to him from the Darlington and Stockton Times, eg “TRUCK BREAKS DOWN ON A1 BY LEEMING BAR.  NO-ONE INJURED.”

Fast-forward to 1998, and I am visiting Sunray, having been estranged from him for nearly a decade.  There among his photo albums is his RMAS scrapbook.

Dad, can I have a look at your scrapbook, please?

Aye, feel free, son.  I’ve not had a look at it myself for years.

Flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick, flick…

  • Sovereign’s Parade 1979
  • Sovereign’s Parade 1980
  • Sovereign’s Parade, guess what, 1981
  • Bellerby Sub-Post Office without 2nd Class Stamps for over Two Weeks in summer of 1981 – local butcher fuming
  • Elder brother up before Thirsk Magistrates 1978: £75 fine
  • Brother up before Thirsk Magistrates 1979: £60 fine
  • Brother up before Northallerton Magistrates 1981: £80 fine
    • He must have moved house in 1980, I guess..
  • Most recent clipping – brother up before Richmond Magistrates 1991: £800 fine
    • Goodness – I’ll put that £800 down to inflation…

I resolve to go start myself a scrapbook the very next day…  Ahem…  Well, at least, the intent was there.

1 November 2003: I finally get round to buying a suitable scrapbook.   Masham post office (which also did have 2nd class stamps).  I also buy a small bottle of PVA glue, so beloved in British primary schools (where it normally comes poured out of huge gallon bottles).

pvaglue

Come on, you must have used gallons of this in your school days!

Within two years I had filled my scrapbook with, well, er scrap.  I took a leaf out of Sunray’s book.  I just had to collect local non-news articles from the local paper, such as the following two horror stories:

carcass

Oh, the sleepless nights…

rubbish

A very unhappy pub landlord, scowling for the camera…

Not only the local news items, but also the souvenirs of travels (address redacted).

postcard

Sunray was enjoying himself in Berlin.  His return air fare just £40 – bargain!

 

But if you can’t take the plane, let the train take the strain.  £6 there and back: another bargain.

ticket

 

And finally… no newspaper clippings of Sovereign’s Parade, but this headline mocking a Sandhurst graduate, Mr Ian Duncan Smith MP (ex-Guards), one-time “leader” of the Conservative Party, who was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

IDS

Who remembers Comical Ali from Gulf War II?

The people come and go, but thanks to the scrapbook, the memories remain.  Oh, the winter (and summer) evenings are going to just absolutely fly by, I’m sure.

Have a scrappy day, won’t you!

Don’t Do Your Business in…

Sunray served 22 years in the British Army’s Royal Armoured Corps.  But he was also a PARA.  Not Parachute Regiment.  PARA-noid.

His motto (which he repeated to me on a regular basis):

Don’t do your business in the place where you live.  (That’s what Captain Benn told me back in 1973.)

A pearl of wisdom no doubt.

I actually suspect it was my Grandmother who got Sunray into the habit, not Captain Benn.  Grandma lived in a tiny hamlet, Burrill, a good five kilometres from the nearest town.  Her nearest (sub-)Post Office?  Three ( yes – 3, drei) doors down from her, at Number 8.  Did she ever go there, even to buy a stamp?

Nope.

I’m not having Margaret H knowing I’ve just bought a 2nd-class stamp and gossiping that I’m too bl00dy poor or tight-fisted to buy a 1st-class stamp.

I’m not taking my letters to my son to her sub-post office .  She’ll know where he’s stationed and she’ll end up gossiping about it.

I’m not cashing my pension at Burrill post office.  She’ll then know how much old age pension I get each week.  I’m not bl00dy having that!

So every week, in all weathers, Grandma would waddle to the end of the hamlet, board the bus to Bedale, and do her post office business there, buying stamps, paying her bills and swapping gossip with all the other OAP’s.  As for actually posting letters, she’d send them from the hamlet post box, conveniently located in the bustling heart of the hamlet, next to the phone box, which Sunray would occasionally daily ring while guarding enemies of the British state twiddling his thumbs at the Maze Prison.  (You can see a picture of the bustling heart of the hamlet at the end of this article.)

As for Sunray himself, most of his post-Army life he spent living in villages in the Yorkshire Dales.  He would drive for miles and miles around to obscure village post offices – in rotation – to prevent over-familiarity and postmasters knowing his business.  He even had a laminated A4 sheet to tell him the opening times and locations of about twenty village post offices.

You can’t be too careful, son!

Have a paranoid day, won’t you!

burrillPBox

The bustling centre of Burrill

 

The Panache of Postboxes

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

These German bricks lack the panache of British bricks.

Maybe that is true.  Maybe not.

But the Bundesrepublik‘s postboxes do lack the panache of British postboxes.  They really do.

German postboxes are all very modern and tend to look like this “lamp box,” albeit mostly without shrubbery.

DEpost1

Or they are like this pillar box (minus the cheery-looking Blondine).

DEpost2

All very functional, but no panache, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, take a look at these beautiful, yet functional, counterparts from the United Kingdom.

First of all, a classic and most unusual piece of Victorian street jewelry from Yorkshire.

saltburnbox

Now this delightful wall box from the Dales.

theakstonbox

Now this functional lamp box from the hamlet of Rookwith.

rookwithbox

But my favourite is this one, the wall box to be found in the hamlet of High Ellington, also in the Dales.  Note it’s from the reign of George VI.  Also note how it is not fully built into the magnificent dry stone wall.  My question is, what do the residents of High Ellington do if they have a large letter or parcel to send?

HEbox

Whatever happened to all the Kaiser-era postboxes in Germany?  And what did they do in the East with all the old GDR postboxes, like these ones?

ddrboxes

Have a panache-filled day, won’t you!

 

Rest in Peace

Last Friday Schatz and I flew to England for a long weekend, coming back to DUS yesterday.  The “main event” was to visit my Dad’s grave, as I was in hospital here in Germany when he was buried.  In truth, I probably would not have attended his funeral, sad to admit.

In the days before our visit, for Schatz came with me, I had printed out:

  • The Lord’s Prayer in English
  • The Lord’s Prayer in Germany
  • The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • A plan of the cemetery

We turned up in ideal cemetery visiting weather: dull and overcast, with drizzle.  I brought my printouts.  I had forgotten to call at the florist en route to pick up a bunch of flowers for the grave.

 

To paraphrase Julius Caeser, I came, I saw, I… felt nothing much.   By referencing to other graves that had stones on, I found my Dad’s grave within five minutes of arrival.  It was non-descript.  No gravestone.  (There never, ever will be one for him.)  No wreath, no bouquet – either removed after so many days, or maybe, sad to say, stolen by local chavs.  Just broken earth.  It didn’t really look like a grave to trigger the “time to let British stiff upper lip wobble.”

Schatz went and grabbed three daffodils quietly from a corner of the cemetery.  She placed them on the grave.

I had kept my promise to my Dad last autumn that we would definitely come to visit him in April this year.  I just hadn’t anticipated under these circumstances.

We prayed at the foot of his anonymous grave.  I discreetly photographed his grave.  He has a picturesque view of the Yorkshire Moors.

20180407_105946

IMG-20180407-WA0021

It started to drizzle more.  I looked Schatz in the eye.  We nodded.  It was time.  We left the cemetery and headed back to the main road to get ready to head to Whitby for the fun part of the weekend.

No tears.  No emotion.  No numbness.

I came, I saw, I departed.

Have a closure-filled day, won’t you!

 

Wild Goose Chase

Sunray loved practical jokes.

One Sunday in 1986 he was reading the newspaper.  On seeing an advert for M***n Kitchens, he tore out the coupon, filled it in and awaited the results.

Four days later a sales rep turned up at his friend, R’s, house in Bradford.

R:

Yes, love?

Sales rep:

Mornin’, love.  Phil from M***n Kitchens.  I’ve come to sort you out a quote for your kitchen.

R:

Eh?  What are you on about?  I don’t want me kitchen sortin’.

Sales re:

But you filled in the form for me to come and give you a quote.

R:

Eh, I’ve filled nowt out. 

Sales rep, by now very frustrated and fed-up and realising this was going nowhere:

I’ve been sent on a bloody wild goose chase!

When Sunray received a report on the unsuccessful visit – he laughed.  He roared!

Fast-forward a year.  After going through his second divorce, Sunray joined a dating agency while living in the Yorkshire Dales.  This being pre-internet days, a few days after joining, he got a letter from a potential “candidate.”

  • It was lavender-colour paper.
  • It was scented.  Lavender-scented.
  • The handwriting was beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful and feminine.

Dear Sunray

I’m a 43-year-old beautician.  Times have been quite hard since my husband passed away three years ago, but I feel it is now time to look for love again.  It would be a pleasure to hear from you and chat by phone.

Yours sincerely

Maureen Barleycorn

Wow!  Sounds good!  We’re on starter’s orders.  Sunray rang the beautician’s number.  It turned out to be Ripon police station.  Oh well, maybe she’d written down the number in by mistake.  These things happen.  Smart casual clothes on.  Time to jump in the car.

Half an hour later Sunray arrives in the beautiful city of Ripon.  After a short drive, he finds the street.  He finds the house.  Strangely enough the beautician lives in a street of old folks’ bungalows.  Oh well…

A spring in step.  Hopes are high.

Door bell.  Bing-bong.

An old lady walks to the door?

Sunray:

Hello dear.  My name is Sunray.  I was passing through the area and thought I’d come and see Maureen Barleycorn?

Old lady:

Who?  Nobody of that name here, pet.  Ee, you like just like the fella who repaired my washing machine last week.  Is he your brother?

Sunray, realising he’s been on the other end of a prank, and who the perpetrator was (repair man brother):

OK, sorry to have bothered you.  I think I’ve been giving the wrong address. 

Sunray then heads back to his car, uttering the words:

I’ve been sent on a bloody wild goose chase.

And he didn’t laugh.  (Or roar!)

Have a roaring day, won’t you!

Logo 'Verstehen Sie Spaß

When the debt collector just will not leave you in peace…

Vocab point for native German-speakers: debt collector = der Inkassobeauftragte or der Schuldeneintreiber.  They are people whose job it is to knock on your door and get the debtor to pay their debts.  I think you get the idea, especially if one these people hass ever paid you a visit.

What I wonder is this:

  • Train driver
  • Army officer
  • Policeman
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Bricklayer

I can understand why youngsters will tell the careers adviser that they would like to, would love to, would dream of becoming one.  But has any careers adviser ever had a year 11 student ever say:

Please, Sir, my career ambition is to become a debt collector.

My first experience of dealing with a debt collector hammering on the door was back in 2003.

The place: a village in North Yorkshire, England.

The time: tea-time on a Friday evening.

Boom, boom, boom, tap, tap, tap, thump, thump, rattle, rattle on letter box.

I leave the sofa and the ITV news to head to the door, while my Dad enjoys his tea, for I was visiting him for the weekend  NB: Chain is on door.  Old HM Forces habits of being security-conscious.

At the door – a man looking like a stereotypical night club doorman.

Good evening, sir.  Are you John Barleycorn?

Who?

John Barleycorn.

An unfriendly scowl from the visitor, holding his clipboard.

Never heard of him, I’m afraid.

Yeah, yeah, everyone tells me that.  Are you Mr John Barleycorn?

Nope.

Well, who are you?

Well, who are you, first of all.  Can I see some form of ID, please?

Tut and humph and sigh, and ID badge with name, Nick H***, on it.  Acme Recovery Services.  “Recovery” being a euphemism for “debt collectors.”

Can you produce some form of ID then?

No.  I don’t have to.

Well, do you know where John Barleycorn has moved to? 

Time for a bit of fun (for me, at least)…

Actually, I do know where he lives.  John Barleycorn, you say?  Now, hang on a minute.  He did leave a note, giving a forwarding address.  Now, I had a tidy-up yesterday.  I can’t find the piece of paper right now, but it’ll be somewhere in my study.  Tell you what, I don’t want to have people knocking on my door again, wasting my time and their time.  If you could give me your mobile number, I can give you a bell and give you his new address.  I think it’s somewhere in Northallerton.

Would you?  That would be much appreciated, mate.  Here’s my calling card, with my mobile on.

Conversation ends.  Our man walks off back to his 4WD.

Two minutes later a quick phone call to my old boss.

Mike, you’re not exactly interested in the opposite sex.  Can you give me an address of a good gay dating website, please,?  Oh, and some good buzzwords to use.  I’ll explain later.

Er, yeah, whatever.  Try www….

Thanks!

Within ten minutes I have registered a profile for our visitor on the website, including his mobile number.

25 year old bi-curious guy in London seeks new adventures, etc etc.

Fast forward two weeks.  A payphone in a Yorkshire village.  Insert coins of the realm.  Dial 07… etc, the debt collector’s mobile.

I get voicemail.  A gem.  Ein Knaller.

A grumpy, annoyed and altogether unhappy-sounding voice announces:

This is Nick H.  Unfortunately I have had to change my mobile number.  Please leave me your number, and I will ring you back from my new number.

(I wonder why he changed his mobile number…)

anger-management1

Have a mischievious day, won’t you!