IYFEG’s sind hier unerwünscht?

Vocab point: IYFEG – Insert Your Favourite Ethnic Group.  (I think I got that from alt.humor 25 years ago, when there were no websites, just bulletin boards.  Believe it or not, I was  great fan of alt.tasteless.

I digress.

My headline was deliberately provocative.  From being seen as the bogeyman of Europe (Greece, two world wars and one World Cup etc), Germany is now being seen as the nice guys of Europe, opening the door to hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

I don’t want to get into a discussion about why Germany, whether they are illegal immigrants, economic migrants, etc.  Suffice it to, I think Merkel’s policy of hospitality is good PR for Germany, but has she thought it through logistically and in terms of infrastructure?  What about shortages of:

  • Housing
  • Teachers
  • Employment

I can’t help but thinking Merkel, uncharacterisitically for a scientist and physist, acted impulsively and with heart, not head.

Have an impulsive day, won’t you!


Redhead Festival – Ginger Power!

Wow!  What a great day!  The train from Düsseldorf to Breda in the Netherlands.  After check-in at the hotel (don’t ask!), off Schatz (a natural brunette) and I headed into Breda town centre.  Our taxi driver asked me in fluent English:

I presume you are here for the Redhead Festival?

A jolly clever chap.

The Grote Markt.  Scores of marquees.  Redheads – hundreds of ’em!  The first I see is Alan, an Irishman, standing outside O’Meara’s Irish bar.  We pose for a photo and shake hands.  We stroll round the Grote Markt.  Locals constantly smile to me and greet me.  I pick up an information pack, including timetable, event newspaper and adhesive England flag.

Further strolling.  Off to round the corner, where I find the merchandise marquee, as well as all the food concessions and stage.  I buy a hoodie and t-shirt.  It has to be done.  The hoodie is very warm and ideal for the cloudy, overcast weather.  Off to watch the singing on stage.  Maria from Moscow is singing.  She’s good.  Later on I chat to her in Russian.  This morning she recognised me at the train station when Schatz and I were heading off back to DUS.  I bought her CD, as it including Moscow Nights, one of my favourites.

More strolling round the park.  More marquees and events.  I decide I can spontaneously chat to anyone without needing a table to do that.  Yet more friendly people, including a blonde with “I AM NOT A REDHEAD” painted on her face.  Hey, some are called, few are chosen…

I never knew so many Germans and Dutch were redheads.  Schatz and I even met a redheaded woman from Hamburg, the blondest of German regions.  Wonders will never cease…

Have a ginger day, won’t you!

Book Review – Revolution 89: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

Revolution 1989

The daily commute from Reading into Paddington necessitated buying a few paperbacks to make the most of the journey.  There’s only so much time you can spend listening to music or browsing Facebook on the Kindle.

So, my first Saturday in Oxford involved a visit to Blackwells bookshop in Oxford.  Thirty minutes later, purchases completed, one of them Revolution 89: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.

Overall, a real page-turner, and very well-researched, judging by the personal anecdotes and insights revealed in every chapter, as well as the lengthy bibliography at the back, the size of several chapters.

An original way of writing about the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  A country by country examination.  The first chapter – a brief introduction by way of Ceauscescu’s execution.  (His fault.  He did tell his wife he needed a Christmas present like a hole in his head.)  Then a country by country examination, starting with Poland.

  • It seems the Soviets were satisfied with Poland as a member of the Warsaw Pact militarily, but tolerated a not purely socialist economy, and a certain amount of dissent.
  • The Soviets then realised the USSR was stagnating badly.
  • They decided to sort out their own problems, of which there were many.
  • Mother Russia also got fed-up of bankrolling her Comecon children with guarantees to loans from Western capitalist banks.
  • Mother Russia also got fed-up of selling cheap oil to the Comecon countries, who then sold the oil onwards to make plenty of dollars to pay into their leaders’ secret Swiss bank accounts.
  • “Sort your own problems out,” said Gorbachev to his comrades.
  • Solidarity in Poland.
  • Hungary opened her border with Austria.
  • And the Wall came tumbling down.
  • Then Bulgaria.
  • Then Romania.
  • Then Albania.

This book discusses a lot of the psychology and biographies of the key players, eg the devout Catholic Lech Walesa, the aristocratic Jaruzelski, the incorruptible Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, themes that have previously not been so deeply explored in one single book.

If you are a history buff, or if you have time to fill on a commute, go out an buy a copy.

Have a literary day, won’t you!

Pour Encourager Les Autres?

Drug smuggler executions

I was once a member of Amnesty International.  I joined shortly after the Tianenmen Square slaughter of the summer of 1989.  Why?

  • I’ve believed, ever since I was a pads brat living on the East German border, that the world is a healthier place when everyone lives in a democracy with the freedoms that I enjoy
  • Ever since I was about 12 years old, I have been opposed to the death penalty
    • Too many miscarriages of justice
      • The Birmingham Six
      • The Guildford Four
      • The Cardiff Three
      • etc, etc
    • Life imprisonment is a far harsher punishment
    • It’s just barbaric
    • Almost everyone has the right to serving their time and coming out afresh

I am amazed at the number of people who say:

I’m opposed to the death penalty, but they knew what they were risking when they smuggled the drugs into the country.

Maybe they did, but they still deserve a second chance in life.  I can’t help but thinking, if these countries are so desperate to be rid of the scourge of drugs, how many of their government officials have accepted bribes to turn a blind eye to the smuggling.  Perhaps before starting on the foreign smugglers, a nice easy target, the Indonesian government should get its own house in order.

As for Lindsay Sandiford, I would not want her as my next-door neighbour, and maybe she knew what she was letting herself in for, even though the prosecution ask for a jail sentence, not execution, what will it achieve if the state machine guns her till she dies?  Will it save a single life?  People of faith, keep her in your prayers.  It is never too late for a reprieve, even for a President determined to be

tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime

(quite ironic, considering that was a slogan from a war criminal, Mr Tony Bliar)

Have a merciful day, won’t you!

Well, I did buy that book on creative writing a few years ago…

So, ladies and gentlemen, Ginge here.  OK, so for those of you who have worked in G2, here are the Big Six:

Number: Mobile or landline?

Rank: LCpl (well, I served Queen and Country on weekends and a fortnight a year a few years ago and reached those dizzy heights.)

Name: Ginge (Hey, I need a bit of anonymity about me, else I’d just be writing status updates on Facebook.)

Blood group: A+ ( I think)

Religion: Practising Anglican (one day I’ll get it right)

Date of birth: 6 October, and I’m not saying which year.

Oh, and I’m male and a redhead.

So, what are my interests?  Quite diverse:

Comedy (the darker, the better)

Long live Henning Wehn, long live the BBC Radio Tees headline challenge, long live Soviet and DDR jokes, long live those who make prank calls to TV and radio stations.

Ostalgie, borders, tripoints.  All due to my years as a pads’ brat.  Geographically I’m into islands, being from one.  One day I’d like to visit Heligoland (Why?  Because it’s there.)  As a linguist (Russian to degree level, fluent German, rusty Serbian and Croatian and night school Italian), I’m into foreign lands and travel.  One day I will go back to Russia.  One day I will travel the Trans-Siberian.  One day…

I have my opinions, I am opinionated, on education theory, having benefited from the worst and the best of the English education system.  I won’t tolerate people who open their mouths without having checked their facts.  Argue anything you like, as like as you’ve checked your facts, eg check the Hoax-Slayer website.  I also avoid narrow-minded prejudiced individuals, so if you rant on about how IYFEGians are scum, keep away from me.

I love cycling, but I am not a fitness fanatic.  I love the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors.  One day I’d love to do a spot of stand-up comedy or maybe some comedy writing.  Like Henning Wehn, I find the difference between the Brits and the Germans great comedy material.

“Sorry, excuse me, please!” translates into German as, “Fahr doch, du Penner!”

I love my radio, my Kindle and my mp3 player.  You cannot beat Radio 4, Radio 5, The World Tonight, The Shipping Forecast and Farming Today.  Oh yes, there’s BBC Radio Tees, who like to read out emails from my Kindle while I’m lying in bed enjoying their weekend programmes.

Ramblings over.  Mach’s gut!