PC 271 Friday 25th February 2022

On Tuesday we had one of those palindromic dates – 22/02/2022; it reads the same forwards as backwards and in a digital format upside down. The comedians also refer to it as Twosday, presumably a nod to the Winnie the Pooh stories and Owl’s inability to spell, although Pooh’s feathered friend would be the last to admit it!

(Thanks to Beth St Claire in Auckland for this)

Not sure what goes on with coincidental observations. Is it our minds that are unconsciously seeking connections that we subconsciously are eager to see? Let me explain. I have started painting again after many years of inaction and needed some paper to sketch out an idea. Sellotaping sheets of A4 together worked but I suddenly thought of those flipchart paper pads that I used frequently in past careers.

A visit to the nearest Rymans, a High Street stationery shop, saw me heading home, a rolled pad under my arm and £16 poorer! The next day we arrived at the Yoga Studio early, to find the lovely Armando Colucci waiting. Armi works for Schwarzkopf UK (Note 1) as their Academy Coordinator and under his arm …… was a roll of flipchart paper!! Actually his was a very superior type, magnetic and wipeable; he was off to London after class and the paper roll wouldn’t fit in his suitcase.

After last week’s postcard about phrases (PC 270), the very next day I find Robert Crampton’s column in the Saturday Times starting: “I reckon the worst phrase in the English language is: ‘I like you … as a friend.’” He went on to mention phrases that he liked or disliked. In the latter camp was his wife’s ‘It was the one thing I asked you to do.’, trotted out on her return from a few days away and necessary because he clearly hadn’t done the one thing she had asked of him!

The third coincidence was a mention of ‘ad infinitum’ in some television drama script. Having written it the day before was it simply lurking in the background of the subconscious? One of my regular readers asked what other phrases I use; I jotted down ‘A miss is as good as a mile’ and ‘inch by inch life’s a cinch, yard by yard life is hard’ (Note 2) and realised my engineering education may have given me a bias towards numerical phrases. Just a thought!

As I entered The Hope Café this week I thought I would do more than nod to the grey haired chap in his regular seat and say ‘hello’, for how else do you develop a ‘community spirit’? Having got my coffee from Susie I stopped by his table and introduced myself. He smiled in recognition, said his name was Sami Gupta and suggested I sit down. He put aside a hardback copy of ‘This Charming Man’ by Marian Keyes.

Such a great book!” I declared, having read it last year, and he smiled in agreement. Old habits, such as my initial need to understand someone’s back story, die hard and I found myself asking if his parents had come from India.

Do you know, my mother was English? She was working in the Colonial Civil Service in Gujarat when she met and married my father; 1946 I think. The following year the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan, and the majority of Anglo Indians decided to leave. My parents settled in Southall, which was rapidly developing into a ‘Little Punjab’. I was born in 1956 and after school worked for the Post Office. Eventually I became a sub-post office manager in the main one in Southall.”

Southall lies to the north east of London’s Heathrow Airport

Please don’t tell me, Sami, that you’re a victim of the Post Office scandal?” (See PC 235 June 2021)

Actually I am! Got charged six years ago with fraud, as £10,000 was missing. I was taken to court, fined, declared myself bankrupt and left the Post Office. Have been unable to find a job since so come in here, read books I get from the library and enjoy the warmth and atmosphere of this café.”

After the successful High Court action that has led to the Public Inquiry

I would love to know a little more of what’s happening with the Government Inquiry but this morning I need to complete my next post, so can we get together next week here?

“Of course! Good luck and chat next week.”

Back at ‘my’ table, I glance through my cuttings. Here in the United Kingdom a debate about one’s gender has been rumbling, in the background for most of us, in the front line if you are unsure of your gender or sexuality. I read that ‘trans people do not feel safe here’ but ‘for the average Briton allowing people to legally define their own gender presents no concern at all’. To be honest, I don’t think ‘public opinion’ has really considered the topic, as most of us are happy to think of him and her, mother and father and raise our eyes to heaven when we read that ‘birthing parent’ should replace ‘mother’!

Where the topic is interesting is on the sports field. Individuals who have changed gender should not be able to take part in competitions of the opposite sex. This is particularly true of those trans males competing against females; too much testosterone in their bodies that can’t be erased!!   

Richard 25th February 2022

www.postcardscribbles.co.uk

PS Today we wish our friend Sandie a Happy 50th Birthday!

PPS I am trying to persuade Rahmi to quit smoking. Yesterday I told him he would have saved £715 if he had stopped his packet-a-day habit on 1st January 2022. He probably thinks I’m a plonker!

Note 1 Always amuses me that an international company dealing with hair colouring products and shampoos is called Schwarzkopf. For ‘schwarzer kopf’  translates as ‘Black Head’!

Note 2 This does not work well in the metric system: “Two point five four centimetres by two point five four …….” You get the problem!

PC 270 Phrases

I feel comfortable in the Hope Café so I am back in my usual spot. Naturally I nod my head in acknowledgment to those who are similarly habitual; the grey haired chap in the corner, always with a hardback book, a couple of twenty somethings for whom this is their office and of course to whoever is behind the counter. I have brought something sweet from the new Brazilian cake shop next door and look forward to sampling it with a double espresso.

Great horned owl mama with two owlets

Getting up in the morning, with or without a dog to walk or exercise class to go to, is not an issue for me! Being a Lark and not an owl I identify with the phrase ‘The early bird catches the worm’ and truly believe that ‘early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise’, although the last two adjectives are for me simply aspirational!

On India’s Independence Day and my nephew’s birthday this year, twenty-sixth of January in case you were wondering, The Times covered news that here in Britain a great many sayings that would have been familiar to our grandparents are no longer understood, never used, or considered completely inappropriate in the C21st. You may remember the pamphlet series ‘Bluffer’s Guide to …..’ where you could learn key facts about Etiquette, Cycling, Entertaining, Wine, Golf, Tennis, Football or Opera for example. Careful study of these light-hearted guides would help those who need help, those who need a leg up, those who need to make friends, those who need to influence, by sounding like you know everything there is about the particularly subject. Truly bluffing your way through life.

The use of Latin phrases dropped liberally in one’s conversation or writing, is a sine qua non for some poor people, poor as in sad and not financially poor, anxious to show their educational or intellectual prowess. The affectation is dying out but maybe still found in the dusty corners of our Civil Service, or indeed from the mouth of our current Prime Minister. I readily admit to using inter alia and maybe ad hoc, and recognise but rarely use carpe diem (seize the day), ad infinitium (on and on) or ‘cognito, ergo sum’!! (I think therefore I am).

Long gone are the days when cables sent back to HM Government contained Latin words. You may know the lovely one from General James Napier, fighting Queen Victoria’s wars in India in 1842? Ordered to subdue a particular part of the large independent state of Sind, to the North West of British India, Napier, flushed with success at the Battle of Miani, ignored his brief and occupied the rest of Sind State, much to the anger of his boss Lord Ellenborough. Napier’s dispatch to London contained one Latin word, ‘Peccavi’ (note 1)

The Times’ article listed a number of sayings which are in danger of dying out, although 73% of the survey sample, 2000 people aged 18-50, believed it was a shame if they did! In Britain it’s inevitable that the weather features in our sayings, but I don’t recall ever using ‘cold as a witch’s tit’. While not listed in Nigel Rees’ ‘Phrases & Sayings’, it refers to the imagined icy blood and wrinkly skin of a witch – why were witches female I wonder? Personally I use ‘cold as a brass monkey’ or in full ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’. 

But hey, Je ne sais quoi! I certainly use ‘under the weather’ to describe being slightly ill, and when it’s ‘raining cats and dogs’ I am aware that the saying originates from a time when towns and cities had poor drainage and, after torrential rain, it wasn’t unusual to see drowned cats and dogs. Of the 10 most endangered sayings, I probably only use one, then only when the moon’s blue – ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, particularly dealing with our landlord’s lack of urgency in getting things done. And in the same vein use ‘measure twice, cut once’ a great deal and always try to ‘hit the nail on the head’!!  Others on the list of sayings dying out are ‘pearls before swine’ (don’t waste time trying to persuade someone who’s thick to do something), ‘nail your colours to the mast’ (dropping out because you can’t nail the White Ensign to a metal mast!), ‘I’ve dropped a clanger’, ‘ready for the knackers yard’(the destination of horses not cars – never quite translated across!), ‘a fly in the ointment’ and ‘know your onions’.

Food often works its way into our sayings: ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’, ‘the best thing since sliced bread’, ‘like two peas in a pod’, ‘can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs’ and ‘it’s a piece of cake’. Others I sense I use quite often are ‘killing two birds with one stone’, ‘better late than never’, ‘bite the bullet’, ‘it’s not rocket science’, ‘no pain no gain’ and ‘time flies when you’re having fun!’

One of my favourite T Shirts

Countries have their own collection of sayings, like the famous ‘No Worries’ originating in Australia. In Brazilian Portuguese you hear people shout ‘va tomar banho’ (give me a break!) and then there’s ‘em boca fechada não entra mosca’ (better to keep your mouth shut and don’t offer an opinion – but literally keep your mouth shut to prevent the flies getting in) or ‘meter o bedelho’ (getting involved in someone else’s business)!!

It’s possible that these scribbles about sayings prompt ‘a penny for your (own) thoughts’? Maybe you can picture something as a ‘picture paints a thousand words’; but it was the group Bread in 1971 who questioned ‘then why can’t I paint you?’

I am pleased to see that, after my last postcard entitled ‘Hope’, the owners of The Hope Café have stencilled the proverb “Hope well and have well” above the counter. Good choice for an enterprise focused on giving sustenance to people.

In closing these scribbles I hope you remain ‘as fit as a fiddle’ in its C21st meaning and not its C17th one, when it meant fit for purpose or well suited.

Richard 18th February 2022

www.postcardscribbles.co.uk

Note 1 Translated to mean: ‘I have sinned’!

PC 269 Hope

Hope – noun: ‘Expectation and desire combined; feeling of trust”. Also a verb: ‘To Hope.’ So; without desire, no hope?

After my last somewhat bleak postcard, I thought something entitled ‘Hope’ might lift any spirits that had have been wallowing in the mire. You may not believe it but some of my postcards require me to engage my brain to write something interesting, informative and illustrated. I have a ‘dump’ file where I put some thoughts and sometimes some of these coalesce into a suitable one-thousand-word piece. Then you have the origin of my last post, a documentary advertised as too shocking to watch, which interjected and I wanted to remind my readers that we must not forget that particularly horrific period of the last century. Those caught up in it lost all hope for survival. This morning I needed the warmth and companionship of the familiar so I’m sitting at a table in The Hope Café.

I look up as Susie comes over, bringing a double espresso. Both she and Josh (note 1) are in today and she’s got some news.

Next door a new cake and delicatessen shop has opened, run by Teresa, a Brazilian from São Paulo. She’s one of many Brazilian’s living in this city; most seem to have come to study at one of our two universities and then stayed, charmed by someone of the opposite or of the same sex! We’ve done a deal with her. Her customers can have a 5% discount on what they may buy here and our customers have the same. Only been running since the beginning of January so it’s early days but already there’s been an increase in the footfall. By the way, the Brigadeiros are to die for!”

Brigadeiros

I ask Susie why the owners named this place The Hope Café. She shakes her head and mumbling ‘no idea’ goes across to Josh who’s operating the commercial coffee machine.

Josh raises his voice over the noise of the machine; I can just hear him tell Susie that his father was a great fan of the British-American comedian Bob Hope (1903-2003). By the time Susie relays this to me I have got the connection, as Bob Hope’s wonderful one-liners and entertainment career spanned many decades in Hollywood. He made 45 films; one was a series entitled ‘Road to ….’, for instance ‘Bali’ or ‘Morocco’. I remember being in my parent’s car, a Riley Pathfinder, driving into Central London through the endless confusing suburbs. At one T junction my step-father was not sure whether to turn left or right. Ahead of us was a billboard advertising the latest Bob Hope film ‘Road to Hong Kong’ (1962). Unusually for me, as I don’t think I am good at the quick bon mot, I said: “Well, if you could go straight on you’ll end up in Hong Kong.”

With the contents of my last postcard still rumbling around in the grey matter, I looked at Josh and imagined he had been named Joshua. That’s a very Jewish name and I wondered whether his grandparents had been incarcerated in one of the many concentration camps, or escaped to England on some Kinder Transport (1938-1940).

‘Hope’ features in the song ‘Land of Hope and Glory (Mother of the Free, how shall we extol thee, who are born of thee …..), which is based on a trio theme from Edward Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance March No 1, first performed in 1901. Queen Victoria died in the same year and for King Edward’s coronation Elgar worked this trio into his Coronation Ode. Writing about hearty singing, we all love singing “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,” the hymn written in 1719 by Isaac Watts.

Some of you will know I started researching my family history in 2007. It culminated in a get-together in Auckland, New Zealand, in March 2011 of 43 out of some 236 living relatives. One of those attending was Debs Nation, who lives in Lyttleton just south east of Christchurch on South Island. Her mother was a Frances Hope (1925-2006)

‘Hope’ came second equal in the Christian Bible’s Old Testament’s Corinthians 13, which compared faith, hope and love ….. ‘but the greatest of these is love’.

There is a town in Arkansas in the USA called Little Hope. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher visited a fictional town called Despair where all the bad guys lived; the good ones lived in nearby Hope! 

Hope

Here in England the pretty village of Hope in Derbyshire is situated where the River Noe and Peakshole Water meet. The Doomsday book records the village had a church and priest in the C13th.

Most of us probably think the Cape of Good Hope marks the most southerly tip of the African Continent.  In fact that’s Cape Aqulhas, about 150kms away to the south east, whereas the Cape of Good Hope marks the tip of the Cape Peninsula and is some 50kms south of Cape Town. For those sailing down the western coast of Africa, it’s the first place south of the Equator where you can make some easterly offing.

Some years ago I needed to find a particular light fitting and was recommended to go to Edwards & Hope, a family-run light bulb and lighting shop in the centre of Brighton. I recounted my experience in Postcard number 72 (June 2016). Last week I needed some coloured flex and dropped in after yoga, as the studio is quite close. Saddened to hear it’s going to close at the end of March after 87 years.

Such a good name for a café, ‘Hope’, as it raises all sorts of thoughts in our minds. As Michelle Obama said: “…. because history has shown us courage can be contagious and hope can take in a life of its own.”

          Alexander Pope wrote: “Hope springs eternal.”

So without hope we have nothing, no future, not even a present! Hope gives our existence meaning and purpose. Let hope wrap itself around you … and change your life.

Richard 11th February 2022

www.postscribbles.co.uk

PS Today’s Codeword 4509 in The Times had, as one of its answers, ‘Hope’! Love these coincidences.

Note 1 On Wednesday I attended the Graduation Ceremony of the University of Brighton’s Sports & Health Science students. As it closed the names of the 650 new graduates scrolled on an overhead screen. There were many ‘Josh’s ….. but not one ‘Richard’! A sign of our society’s changing favourite first names. 

PC 268 Least We Forget

The Twenty Seventh of January is International Day in Memory of the victims of the Holocaust, commemorating the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, between 1933 and 1945 by Nazi Germany. This date was chosen as it was the day the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland in 1945. Six million European Jews, together with countless others, perished in camps like Auschwitz that were doted across Eastern Europe. Forever will we associate Dachau, Buchenwald, Ravensbrűck, Belsen and Auschwitz, to name some of the 23 main concentration camps, with unspeakable horror.

On the day following Holocaust Memorial Day, a British television station, Channel 4, broadcast a documentary film which hitherto had been deemed too awful to be screened; it was entitled “The Holocaust film too shocking to show – ‘Night Will Fall’.” (Note 1)  Alfred Hitchcock was its main editor. I suspect it is still ‘too awful to show’ but the producers believe it needs to be shown, as the knowledge of the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany in pursuit of their ‘Final Solution’ fade from our collective consciousness.

I recorded the programme and watched it the following day; too depressing to be watched at night! The film is the result of the editing of hundreds of hours of footage shot by the military press as the Allied Forces liberated the various concentration camps.

I have read ‘Auschwitz: The Nazis & the Final Solution’ by Laurence Rees and more recently books written by Holocaust survivors like Edith Eger (‘The Choice’) and Primo Levi (‘If This is a Man’). Jack Fairweather wrote an interesting book (The Volunteer) about a Polish underground operative Witold Pilecki who volunteered to become a prisoner of Auschwitz so he could tell the outside world what was happening in the camp. The situations millions found themselves in has been portrayed by films such as Sophie’s Choice (1982 Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline), Schindler’s List (1992 Liam Neeson) or The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008). I thought I had some idea of what had gone on in these camps.

During my Army service I spend six years in Germany, part of the British Army of The Rhine (BAOR). At that time Germany was divided into West and East (Note 2); East Germany was a member of the communist Warsaw Pact, which was considered to be a real threat to western democracies. BAOR was part of NATO, which covered most democratic European countries. We trained and trained for something we hoped would never happen! It didn’t ….. so we were successful in providing some deterrence. Parts of each year were spent on the NATO training area of Bergen-Hohne, an area some 284 square kilometres in the state of Lower Saxony, north of the City of Hannover

It wasn’t all work and no play and during one three week exercise on a Sunday I went with a chum to the site of the Belsen Concentration camp. Our knowledge of the Nazi’s attempt at the extermination of the Jewish Race was quite board so we were aware what the camp had been and knew there was an exhibition centre. I can only describe our visit as extremely moving and educational. As we left, we drove across a bridge that spanned the railway line by Bergen-Hohne Station. It was by now dark, windy and with a steady relentless drizzle falling. The station overhead lights moved in the wind, rusted metal joints setting up a weird banshee. It didn’t take long for one to imagine, thirty years before, a train of cattle trucks arriving in the station, discharging their human cargo. Soldiers with barking dogs, everyone shouting, the sullen tide of humanity being formed up for their final walk, the two kilometres to Belsen Camp. We knew from our visit that over 50,000 humans had died in Belsen,

Belsen was liberated on 15 April 1945 by soldiers from the British 11th Armoured Division. The soldiers discovered approximately 60,000 prisoners, half-starved and seriously ill and another 13,000 corpses lying around the camp unburied.

Typhus was rampant. The horrors of this camp were recorded on film and formed the major part of ‘Night Will Fall’. Most footage was of the burial of these corpses, with the German guards and SS Troopers carrying them from piles and throwing them into a pit. There was no solemnity, no care, no tenderness normally associated with the disposal of a corpse and I find it difficult to find the words to describe what the film portrayed. The skeletons had become like mannequins, a frame with jointed pieces attached by tendons, moving independently every which way. I had a fleeting recollection of the disposal of dead cows during the last BSE epidemic in the UK, but sensed the animals were treated with more respect. But it prompted me to write this postcard – least we forget.

The world has witnessed similar atrocities, most recently the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the Tutsi and moderate Hutus were attacked by Hutu activists. It is estimated over 1.1 million Rwandans were killed; this included some 800,000 Tutsi. Read ‘Shake Hands with The Devil’, an account by Canadian Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire of the failure of the world community to stop it.

Skulls and bones in Rwanda

During World War One over three quarters of the Armenian population of two million were systematically killed by Young Turks of the Ottoman Empire.

In Russia during Stalin’s reign (1946-1953) it’s estimated that 20 million perished in his Gulags, while in China Mao’s pursuit of his Communist ideological aims resulted in the deaths of ‘tens of millions’. In Argentina those who fell foul of the Military Junta (1976-1983) became known as The Disappeared and numbered some 30,000. In the white settlement of Australia, the indigenous Aboriginal People were considered sub-human and treated as such. In Tasmania they were rounded up and exiled to Flinders Island, where they gradually died out. During the 1992 Bosnian War images of prisoners looking half-starved revived memories of the Nazi concentration camps.

Dutch Jews being rounded up in 1941

But the film reminded me that the Nazi’s Final Solution was so developed, so systematic, so unique, so enormous in its goal, the complete extermination of a race of people,  that it stands on its own in the history of human depravity. 

Least we forget.

Richard 4th February 2022

http://www.postcardscribbles.co.uk

PS Whoopi Goldberg got herself into hot water this week by saying The Holocaust was not about race but about two groups of white people, despite the well-known Nazi view that the Jewish people were an inferior race.

Note 1 The film was made in 1945 but only found by researchers in 2014.

Note 2 Unification followed the fall of the Berlin Wall which came down on 9 November 1989. Britain’s permanent deployment of troops ended in 2020, although a small detachment remains in Bielefeld.