In an idle moment at the computer – I wonder how often that ever happens? – I came across a site selling newly invented Fidget Spinners, and I ordered two.

Before they arrived I found myself in Paddy’s Market in Sydney, together with my friend Richard. Cheap versions of such items were for sale there (spinners, that is, not friends) and we bought one each. We then spent many joyful hours spinning them, photographing them, making web posts about them, etc. Well what would you rather we were doing instead? If you spin one while on a train, the AC lighting causes dark rays to appear and slowly rotate on the spinning surface, and with a bit of measurement you could deduce the spinning rate as a multiple of the AC frequency of the train’s electrical system.

I also found a new way to stir coffee. But I digress.

Soon after I returned to Melbourne, my two high-quality spinners arrived, by courier from the USA, neatly packaged and sealed in round tins. The spinners, that is, although it would be a good idea to … And this was the very day that my son and his fiancee were due to fly off to Munich to visit her friends and her parents, Sepp & Carolin!

In a rare moment of generosity I gave my son one of the spinners, as a gift to his fiancee’s parents in Munich. 24 hours later I saw a video of my delighted future father-in-law, wasting time with his new spinner. As Sepp and myself Skyped we both felt a bond between ourselves and our two cultures and nations, spanning (or, maybe, spinning) the planet. Not the first time for me – because I married a foreigner, 40 years ago.

There was to be revenge. Weeks later my son & his fiancee returned to Melbourne. Bearing a gift. From Sepp. Who did his national service in the German Army. Circa 1980. This is Sepp’s gift – a gift that will last forever. And can break through concrete.

Behold me, with my German Army Spade! A marvellous piece of enginering, in 1/8″ thick steel, with a fitted wooden handle. A mighty beast, an instrument of construction and destruction, the weapon maybe of some great warrior. Note the elegant curved edge, the subtly dished bowl, and the natty wooden handle. This is a work of art and a wonder of technology, as well as a humble shovel.

For is not the Spade of great use, both in war and peace? See below, how the basically-equipped soldier easily pushes his enemy’s rifle away, and is about to wallop him with his E-tool (“entrenchment tool”, the Army term for a spade). Not shown, but after killing his adversary, the E-tool can then also be used to bury him.

That is a Russian army picture – and the weather seems to have improved in Russia since I was a lad. But going back in time, note also, below, this Soviet Army poster which I photographed in Magadan in 2012. Behold the grim determination of the Marxist warrior as he digs his way across hostile terrain to confront and defeat his capitalist enemies, or perhaps to dig a hole into which they will hopefully fall. “The Shovel – Friend of the Soldier”.

Postscript – later I thought I saw my new spade in another room in the house. Curious, I went back and checked and yes, my son has flown TWO of these back from Munich. In his checked-in aeroplane baggage. Imagine how they must have glistened in the airport’s security X-ray scan! So, regrettably, mine is not the only German Army Spade in town.

But, what a gift! Who else would give a thing like that, well I probably would actually … Sepp, I spun my way into your world, but you have shovelled your way into my heart. Sepp, I love you.


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