Archive for the ‘books’ Category
I went on an unplanned stroll down memory lane. Yesterday I cleared out my paperwork! Big deal, you’ll think; well it is for me. I don’t open my post – only stuff that looks interesting – everything else waits in a quiet corner. So now I feel virtuous ‘cos four months of filing has been done, in real files as well as the wpb. Then I thought why not collate the notes and writings from my class – that shouldn’t take too long except I spent ages reading and admiring the rest of the group’s work – I was privileged to be with some serious talent. I also found reams of old poetry that brought back mixed memories – they need tidying and/or destroying.
As part of my crusade on paper, this morning I dug out from a deep old storage box, a pile of older battered crinkled notebooks. Between pages and pages of poetry and prose scribblings was so much else: Menus and recipes and related shopping lists. Plans for my children’s engagements and weddings, costs, guestlists, possible venues, flowers, music, more menus, music, etc. Recommended book lists and reviews. Doodles. Quotes from books and my own one-liners. Words I didn’t know their meanings, meaning to look them up. Numbers, lots of them – telephone numbers without names and what could the others be? Pictures of my babies… and Goren! Flight details, times, airports, costs, lists of hotels, itineraries. Home shopping lists and to-do lists and moving costs; not for this one but from spring 2004. (Yes this one is still gonna happen – the house will go on the market this week. Wish me luck)!
The next part of my journey shocked me (slightly). Those who have been around the block with me here will remember At Home With The Goren’s. That blog is long gone and the stories I first drafted in word – all deleted. In my hands I held chapters written, I think, in my lunchbreak, on a train or a plane or a cafe. What was I thinking then? Was I pleasing a particular audience? What was it with those two? I cringed as I read. Puerile and pathetic; the characters, the content and the quality of writing. I’m not sorry the blog is lost to posterity. However, thanks to dear Val she had the bright idea to invite anyone to contribute to her new blog After Major Case and in a moment of sentimentality I resurrected them. What was I thinking? Again! The couple have since matured (and the writer); they have a son Robert, Bobby is out of work and anything can happen.
As for all the notebooks – I kept the photos, pulled out the recipes, one-liners and a few poems – the rest, including mrsbg, are now languishing atop my recycling box awaiting an uncertain, but i’m sure a more useful future.
So wassup? My last post said I was going to Israel with mother and we did – it was a fabulous trip. Jamie joined us for a long weekend; he bunked at Jon and Bridgitte’s whilst ma and I stayed in an apartment in Herzliya two minutes from the Marina. There was a massive pool and the little ones had a lot of fun. It worked out brilliantly and friends were coincidentally staying in the same place and mother and I also met up with other friends who live there. Not sure when my next trip will be, the summer months are way too hot for this English rose, but hot off the press, they’re all coming to stay at the end of September for about ten days. Can’t wait to see my little ones again – I miss them so much – thank goodness for webcams and skype!
Rachel and I are still planning our trip to the big apple in October – flights are booked – wooo hooo. I am so excited. I’ve never been and it really is the only place on my wish list at the moment. I’ll never say no to other places, but right now I am fixated on going there. I’ve been researching accommodation – the choice is endless and I so want to get it right, but the prices are unbelievable. Coincidentally my boss is going in a few weeks and we were checking out the same hotels – they are half the price in August compared to the dates we’re going. I also checked to see if it was a public holiday or something, but no, and it’s not Chelsea’s wedding! Still searching – all recommendations welcome.
What else? Oh yes, Bon Jovi at the O2… cool. No, HOT!!!! He was fantastic, but boy I could hardly move the next day. It hurts to confess, this old hen is past being a rock chick. More on music… got blown away seeing (sadly only on tv) the awesome and talented Carole King and James Taylor at the Troubador’s 50th anniversary, although Jamie bought me the DVD & CD. They’ve been doing a sell-out tour in the States – it would be awesome if they brought it to London. Some music is timeless – Tapestry – 1971 – still listening.
I also got blown away by a television two-part drama written by Kay Mellor, based on her mother’s revelation that she’d had an affair when Kay was a baby. It’s called A Passionate Woman and received mixed reviews – I liked it. It also introduced us to a beautiful and talented young actor called Theo James. I shall be keeping an eye out for him and wish him a glittering career.
Trying to remember what books I’ve read since I last posted; I recall raving about Suite Francaise – since then I had the opportunity to hear her biographer, together with the Cambridge professor who translates Irene Nemirovsky’s writing, and Irene’s daughter (who is now 80). After the talk hoards of people queued for book signing; my friends and I had a coffee while we waited and then joined the end of the line – in my limited french we exchanged a few words and as I was the last one they signed the books to me personally, which was rather nice.
What have I been reading? I loved the first two of the Stieg Larssson Millenium books – the third sits teasingly on my bookshelf, but it is 700 pages long and I haven’t found time to dive in. They are such thumping good yarns; I’ve bought them for friends who also can’t put them down.
Am in the middle of Andrea Levy’s Small Island which is brilliantly well written – more of that when I finish it.
A quick read by the pool was Alexander McCall Smith’s latest in his No.1 Lady Detective Agency series of books set in Botswana – they never disappoint, but don’t expect too much – just easy reading filled with wisdom and insight.
What else? A return to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I loved it first time round – loved it even more the second. The first outing I was totally raving about his surreal adventures at sea and the fact it was so original; the second time I found myself more absorbed by Pi’s fascination and search for religion. The ending is clever, very clever. There are some beautiful lines and descriptions. If you’ve not had the chance, this is one I heartily recommend.
Couldn’t put down Marcus Zusak’s Book Thief. Set in Munich during the war the story of a German family harbouring a young Jewish man – the story is narrated by Death yet it is not in the least morbid. It is written in an unusual format where the contents of each chapter are listed at the beginning so you know what to expect. Another one I recommend.
The Ghost by Robert Harris – a political genre loosely (or not so) based on Blair – it had some great reviews and I hear the film is good, but not seen it yet. I should ‘cos I believe it stars the cute Pierce Brosnan and cuter Ewan McGregor. The book is 400 pages long; I didn’t find much to excite me until p.300. The timing was good – I was on a flight. The last 100 pages were pageturners; at the very last line it dawned on me that we never knew the name of the ‘ghost’ – of course we were never meant to. Friends who enjoyed it more than I didn’t notice my observation – they all went “Oh yes!” – still worth giving it an airing.
I’ve tried to read other books by Marina Lewycka, but gave up not even halfway. I completed the task with A Short Story of Tractors in Ukranian. Not sure what to make of the book – think it may be a little like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. It has been labelled comedy, when in fact it isn’t at all and nor was that the author’s intention. There are a few smart one-liners and it was poignant in parts. It’s about two distant sisters (in more ways than one) whose recently widowed, 80+ year old father is about to marry a buxom blonde Ukrainian in her 30’s. The father is writing a book about, yes, tractors in the Ukraine; he is an intellectual man, when he’s not being stupid. Some skipped those sections, but I actually found them enlightening as you saw the progress (and not) of communism in Eastern Europe. You can imagine the rest about him and his trophy – or read the book.
Finally Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis I & II. She is a graphic novelist living in France and her cartoon book is autobiographical. The title is the old name for Tehran. It was different. I found the pages hard on my eyes. It has been made into a film and I caught it this week on the television. Having recently read the book, it was exactly the same but animated so I switched off. I think I was less enthusiastic than my friends – I did not like the format (think Maus) but she is a graphic novelist so obviously this would be the way she would tell her story. Her story encompasses her life from childhood in Tehran, to being a student in Austria, back to Tehran and more studies and marriage, then divorce all with the backdrop of the different regimes and rules and regulations and war. It left me cold – I forced myself to read it – the story is true and heartbreaking and I wanted so much to sympathise and empathise; I’m sure I would have done if it was conventionally told .
Sorry I’ve been gone so long – I may be back (don’t hold your breath) 🙂
I’m having a Nigella moment – so what’s on the menu to combat the freeze —
I’ve got a shissel of heart and soul warming barley soup on the simmer (takes about three/four hours and it’s so worth the wait eaten with great chunks of bread) and one of my favourite veg dishes, courgettes in a tomato and herb sauce. I’m gonna make a a massive potato kugel too – one that sticks like glue to your ribs. I’m not in the frame of mind to bake, but I may knock up a few biscuits – there’s nothing quite like the satisfying feeling of kneading pastry. All I can say is I’m glad, for once, I had a little foresight and did the supermarket and the garage after work last night – even at 6.00 the shelves were almost empty – hardly any fresh fruit and veg – actually now I wish I’d bought some frozen – ironic eh! LOL
Since everyone seems to be in the same boat, this is a great day to play catch up with calling friends and watching films I’ve recorded but not yet had the time or opportunity to watch. Just put on Twilight, but my sky is so unpredictable it didn’t record, in fact most of them didn’t record – now trying Sherlock Holmes… no, vixens not our ab fab fav man steamily playing the dastardly Moriarty, but one with the drop dead gorgeous, but unfortunate and sorry waste to womanhood, Rupert Everett.
I haven’t recommended any books here lately; my latest three good reads were:
The Joy Luck Club was Amy Tan’s debut novel – unlike many writers this was not a one-book/one-hit wonder and she has gone on to prove herself over and over again. It was turned into an excellent film which, coincidentally, was being aired on tv at the time I was reading the book. I watched it once I’d finished and on the whole it was well done and almost, not quite, true to the story.
It’s about four immigrant Chinese/American women living in Chinatown, San Francisco (thanks jojo) who set up a club called ‘The Joy Luck Club’ where they meet in each other’s homes; they talk, worry, cook, eat together and play Mahjong. Just as the game is structured with four parts divided into another four parts, so is the book. Three of the mothers and their daughters share stories about their lives (one of the mothers has already passed). The stories are moving and mystical. The mothers worry about their daughters lives in America, and the daughters cannot understand their mothers and know little of their history. As the book unfolds and their stories unravel, the daughters begin to understand the mystery of their mother’s dramatic and traumatic lives. The fragile bonds between mother and daughter tighten and they learn what it is to change and to hope. The discovery of family legacy and individual identity, clashes and reconciliation, love and loss is no stranger to most of us, particularly for those of us whose ancestors were immigrants.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel and in many ways reflects her own life. It took her years and determination to get this novel published and I hope it won’t be a one hit wonder. The story is set in early sixties Jackson Mississippi at the onset of the civil rights movement. The narrator is Aibileen, a black maid whose remit was not only chief cook and bottlewasher, but also to raise the white woman’s children. The other main protagonist is Miss Skeeter, a young white woman with ambitions to be a writer and Minnie, Aibileen’s neighbour and a maid with a loud mouth that lands her in all sorts of trouble. I found it a true page turner, stomach churning and emotionally gripping. Here’s the synopsis from Kathryn Stockett’s website:
“Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.”
It was over sixty years from its original conception before Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Française came to be published. The story cannot be read in isolation – the appendices have to be read to give the book full meaning and emotion for it’s the facts that surround the discovery of this book that make it all the more remarkable. For all that it’s a bestseller, the finished writing of the book is not polished or edited.
The book is in two parts, although her intention was to write five modelled on the rhythm and tone of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. She wrote meticulous notes on the work in progress and on every character. Storm in June, the first part, were her observations of the Parisians as they fled their city and the second section, Dolce, is about the residents of a rural community during the occupation. Her writing concentrated on the raw nature of the French people; she denounced them for fear, cowardice, acceptance of humiliation, persecution and massacre. If anyone has romantic notions of France and the French people, this book would surely make you think twice.
Ironically she didn’t focus on the fate of the Jews. She was a Ukrainian Jew who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in France and, despite positively disliking the Jews and converting herself and her two young daughters to Catholicism, was murdered in Auschwitz for being Jewish.
Not sure what to read next — I have a pile of unread books by my bedside and on my bookshelves; a couple of Michael Chabon, more Amy Tan, some from the Kellerman family, but not sure what I’m in the mood for – does anyone here have any recommendations?
It has stopped snowing for a while – my road is like an ice rink, but I shall be getting to work tomorrow. I am actually more concerned about getting home at the end of the day! Wish me luck and good luck to everyone else who has to brave these Siberian weather conditions – we are just so not geared up to it – oy vay!
Yesterday I was at a beautiful wedding – not large by Jewish standards – around 170 guests. I used to live across the road from these friends and knew the bride 32 of her 33 years. I didn’t know at the time who lived in the house opposite because I used to work in the City, leave home early, get home then collapse in a heap. However, my neighbour obviously knew my movements, because as soon as I stopped working to have my first baby, there was a knock on the door and that was the start of a new friendship and the start of becoming part of a community and an amazing circle of friends. Being so close in every possible way, we obviously got to know each other’s extended families, so I knew all the Hull side that came down to London and the American branch too — it was lovely to reunite and catch up with so many people on such a joyous occasion. Sadly I had to go up to Hull a couple of times recently as my friend lost first her brother and then a few weeks later her father also died – so to be celebrating a simcha together was especially beautiful, one that the Rabbi said in shul on Shabbat was long time coming – and no one took offense. Good for the bride – she waited until it felt right and her new husband is a truly wonderful guy – long may they be blessed .
The chupah took place in a beautiful West End synagogue; the ladies and men seated separately. Everyone is aware of my single status so a good friend jokingly remarked, “Look at that lot over there,” referring of course to the men, “which one would you take home?” The truth is that the men across the aisle while most certainly losing their youthful glow (and their hair) and most now in retirement mode were great guys. I knew them as good and honest and respectable, decent people, all I’m delighted to add still happily married to their long term spouses. I just smiled, but the thought did cross my mind that I didn’t think any one of them would actually want to take me home.
I did have a wonderful time; the bride was s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g… she is very very tall and very very slim and she wore a gown I had never seen the likes of before and I don’t think I could do it justice trying to describe it, but when I told her that I thought it was very Carrie, of SATC fame, she said that was the best possible compliment. As I said, I did have a wonderful time, but!!!! I don’t brood on it, but something was definitely missing. The bride and groom were not so young, in fact someone told me the groom was about 38 and it made me think back because at that age we were celebrating No.1 son’s Bar Mitzvah. And then it really hit me; this was my old crowd, my good friends. We’d shared simachot and sad times and children and grandchildren and the ups and downs of life together for over thirty years, yet one was missing and he should have been there; we should have been there together, dancing like we all had done together twenty years earlier, still the same, but now just a little worn in the joints.
So, I look around at all my friends and wonder. Can I leave you now? Is it time to up sticks and move away from them? I am blessed to be part of a lovely community, to walk into synagogue and not feel a stranger, to know I have such a wide circle of friends locally. Yet — I don’t live near a single member of my family. I moved to this area where my husband and his family lived when we got married 34 years ago. My mother, my brother, my aunts, uncles, cousins and now my son and daughter all live in North London.
The days of spending afternoons with friends and children are long gone; the days of entertaining each other, making dates ahead of time so we could get babysitters are long gone. Some are retired and globetrot, many owning second homes abroad. Some are grandparents and Saturday night is likely spent babysitting. On days off, ‘ladies who lunched’ has now become ‘retired couples who lunch’ – which is all lovely, but where does that leave me? Oh, I’m not moaning, just noting that the whole dynamic has changed. I hardly see them any more. Sure we still talk, but you can chat to anyone, anywhere at the end of a phone.
Apparently Jamie who, bless ‘im, is an open book, told a friend of mine he had seen a house he liked. She told me this across the dinner table last night. Jamie sees all my friends. He commutes back to Chigwell to work and near his office are hairdressers and beauty salons that they frequent, so he sees ’em all and they all love him —- he’s such a shmoozer. When I mentioned that maybe I’d buy his apartment there was a stunned silence around the table. Another friend asked me to repeat myself and then the first friend said, “What about book club?” Well that was exactly why I had formed it – for selfish reasons. As I just commented, I wasn’t seeing anyone, but I wasn’t losing friendships, everyone’s lives are so full and different now. This way I was seeing around 12 girlfriends every month, every one of them avid readers. I would never give up my baby, my book club – I’d still come back every month and see the girls, which is moreorless as much as I see them now… and at engagements and weddings and funerals.
So now I’m off to Jamie’s neck of the woods to take a look at the run-down house he wants to buy and renovate and take a closer look at his place which is literally down the same road. Maybe it really is time to move on, as they say! But don’t tell mother – I haven’t told her yet – much easier for her health and mine to wait until it is a fait accompli.
It’s odd the moral dilemma I find myself in when driving to work. I know it’s just a silly little thing and hardly requires deep meaning or philosophy, but still it bothers me. Obviously it’s the rush hour, the roads are horrendously busy, traffic jams, road works, broken lights, accidents, sirens, the usual. I don’t mind letting people out ‘cos I would like someone to do the same for me – and I try not to block sideroads when stuck in a line that ain’t moving. The thing is doing this the whole journey means it takes longer and then I could be late for work and I do have an obligation to my boss – he does pay me to be there. So, if I don’t let someone out and I’m given the evil eye I feel terrible, and even if I’m not given the eye, I feel terrible – they don’t know I’ve already been “gentleman jim” umpteen times and the clock is nearly clocking on time. Strangely it makes no difference what time I leave the house, traffic is traffic. I don’t have this problem going home – I let ’em all out! Funny, the silly thoughts that go round my head!
Here’s some exciting news – the Israeli branch of my tribe have moved home. They’ve left the big house in Neve Daniel (where the wind whipped round the hillside, it was cold cold cold, but the views were breathtakingly stunning – and I shall miss all their neighbours who over the years have hosted me many a Shabbat lunch). They’re now in a much smaller apartment in Raanana, an area I have only passed through once and that was for a quick falafel and hummus; hopefully I shall visit them real soon, although not sure there’s enough room at the inn for mother. It’s funny how things work out. Jon was made redundant almost a year ago, his old boss got him an interview for another job that he did not get. That company then recommended him to another company and he got that job then – they poached him back. Well the new job’s in Herzliya which meant a commute of 2 hrs morn and night, hence the move. Yeah, think I’ll definitely go online and check those flights for Chanukah and I need some new pics 🙂
I rarely check this bog’s blog’s stats, I don’t need to go there to know I don’t get many visitors – aaaaaah! Well, the point is I did see my stats and the one post that consistently attracts a steady stream of interest is Privileged to Walk with Angels, the one I wrote after my trip to Israel earlier this year. The good news is, I’ll be repeating the experience and I’m really excited – it was such an honour to meet such amazing people, heroes and heroines, the victims of terror and the people who help them – and baby No.3 is due around the same time. Kill two birds with one stone – what a ghastly expression when you think about it – better not think about it!
I haven’t posted any poetry here in a while; I’m now putting it directly on My Poetry Page. If anyone’s even remotely interested, there’s some new stuff and some old that I’ve played around with and tweaked here and there. I’m in the process of putting it here too.
Currently re-reading Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Michael Chabon’s Final Solution and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Also treated myself to some poetry by real poets which is a joy to dip into when I can’t sleep. Have now happily got my copy of The Narrows – just need to find time to sit and watch it in peace and quiet – not because anyone else lives here, but because of the darn phone and don’t suggest I unplug it or switch off my mobile, they’ll then worry and it’s so not worth the aggravation – still it’s nice to know they care.
Other news – I thought I was gonna move. I walked into my house the other day, looked around and decided it needed a makeover of some sort. It was redecorated and recarpeted not so long ago, but the curtains and light fittings were already here when I bought the place and they’re pleasant enough but they and my furniture are all looking a tad tired. It hit me that I’m now ready to move on and out and start over. Coincidentally Jamie said he’d found a house near him he thought I would like, and I hadn’t even told him my idea. I said I’d rather move to a flat (apartment) so he said he’d buy the house and I could buy his place, which I love love love, and I was so excited except the house he was gonna buy has fallen through… and there was I wading my way through the John Lewis catalogue. Guess it wasn’t meant to be, but watch this space.
“Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.”
I allowed myself the luxury of spending the morning in bed; the sun was pouring through my bedroom window and I felt like a cat on a hot spot, every pore of my skin soaking up the warmth… purr! Also the purrfect spot to finish my book. It was last month’s book club choice, but this was not a book to rush, it was one to savour every well written page. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I had to agree with some that the connection of characters is somewhat contrived and the women predictably the strong characters, the men put in their place… but that didn’t matter. The whole package took my breath away. I was making notes, taking pleasure in the language, her style, her creative use of metaphor and I learnt so much. It could have been preachy, but I found it a font of beautifully presented knowledge. I don’t think I can give it justice in my limited use of words… it’s one I would recommend you try for yourself.
I rationed myself. Everyone loves a page-turner and I could easily have read it in a couple of days, but for me it was something special like an expensive treat from Hotel Chocolat; a little piece to nibble every day and I didn’t want it to finish. Her prose was like pure poetry to my eyes and my senses.
The story is set one humid summer in the lushness of Southern Appalachia, the true star of the book. The book is redolent with sex: ”Here and now spring heaved in its randy moment. Everywhere you looked, something was fighting for time, for light, the kiss of pollen, a connection of sperm and egg and another chance.” Barbara Kingsolver is a biologist, she knows her subject and she cleverly weaves her knowledge between her characters in chapters headed Predator, Moth Love and Old Chestnuts.
Predator centres on Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive 40-something divorced wildlife biologist who works out of a solitary log cabin maintaining the trails and observing and protecting the wildlife, her particular interest being the preservation of coyotes. Her solitude and peace is disturbed when she encounters Eddie Bondo, a guy many years her junior, a hunter who does not share her view of coyotes; they fight, they make love. Further down the mountain we meet the subject of Moth Love, Lusa Maluf Landowski daughter of a Jewish/Polish father and a Palestinian mother, an entomologist, a young farmer’s wife soon to become a young farmer’s widow who inherits the family farm and problems with her many in-laws. Old Chestnuts wonderfully describes elderly feuding neighbours, widower Garnett Walker and his obsession with the American chestnut tree and Nannie Rawley and her organic orchards. Both knowledgeable and both fiercely defending their views. By far the most entertaining and endearing characters.
I learnt so much about the natural world; relevant debate about coyotes and predator/prey relationships, as well as insects and a whole host of other living creatures; arguments about the use of pesticides and the harm that they do; the whole eco-system. The story is not purely about coyotes and moths and trees, it’s about human interaction. Prodigal Summer is a beautifully written testament to nature and human nature. Unlike most books, I found the ending did not disappoint – it was surprising though. I would love Barbara Kingsolver to write a sequel… there is a lot more to tell. I want to know what happened next and like nature and the environment, it is a never ending story.
I will read it again, but next time in the summer, in the sunshine, in the park, within the sound of chirruping birds, buzzing bees, butterflies and breezes… and Val, I think you may like it.
… which means the traffic to work will be horrendous – getting to work in 10-15 minutes the past six weeks has been a joy – now it’ll be back to the 30-45 minutes stop start stop start… yawn yawn yawn
Jonathan just sent me the pics and, of course, proud booba had to share. The exciting news is that they’re all coming to London in a few weeks for the whole of Sukkot. Originally I was going out there with my mother after the chagim (the jewish holidays) but when they suggested coming here I was over the moon. I shall be there again in January anyway for the birth of number three. Sorry, I blog so infrequently that I don’t think I got round to mentioning that exciting piece of news. In February there’ll be another special trip, like the one I took earlier this year, and PG I’ll do it again. We’ll likely visit different sites, but no doubt we’ll meet with the same angels and certainly the same victims of terror and their families to see how they’re getting on.
I feel a bit strange doing this rambling post, as it’s been so long. I’m stuck at home carless, since it’s gone in for a service and altho’ they offered me a courtesy car I couldn’t be bothered and thought I’d make the most of a day at home to make my honey cakes and kugels. As usual my home will be turned into Hotel Raven over all the festivals, but I wouldn’t have it any other way; I love it when they all come to stay.
Book Club is still going strong. I wasn’t enthralled with George Eliot’s pontificating in Daniel Deronda. If I had managed to get that far I’m sure the Jewish element of the book would have fascinated me as it was quite something for a sympathetic viewpoint to have been written in Victorian times – however after 300 pages and nothing happening, I confess to giving up. I don’t need the book for the knowledge it imparted, since that is marked in the archives of history and I know it well. Last night’s offering was Anita & Me by Meera Syal. This received mixed reviews mostly by those who criticised the writing style, which I had to agree was over-anecdotal and the description in parts was over-laboured. However I could forgive that because the book was semi-autobiographical and offered a good insight into the life of a young, bright, mouthy Asian girl brought up by well-educated and aspiring parents, the only coloured family in a small 60’s Midland’s mining village. Many regard the book as filled with humour, but it’s a bittersweet story and I think the humour used is a defence mechanism against a backdrop of desperately wanting to grow up and be like, and be liked by, her peers (“What do yow wanna be when you grow up chuck?” “Blonde!”) and her introduction to racism, both when she learnt about her parent’s struggles with partition and the dawning of racism in her village during the Enoch Powell years of “Paki-bashing”. The ending sadly was a big disappointment. It was like a fairytale, which I will not give away, miles away from the substance and depth of the book, and there is a depth to it. I know it’s a bugbear of mine, but why oh why, when I’ve enjoyed a book so much, do they always end so poorly? Next month’s read should be a hoot – Bill Bryson’s Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, so watch this space! I won’t go into everything I’ve read recently – enough’s enough!
Next week I start a new writing course and I am absolutely terrified! Although I love poetry, and I do need all the help I can get, the first part of the lesson is fiction – I used to think I had a book in me – in fact I think everyone probably does – but I lack discipline and motivation and am easily tempted away when someone says do you wanna do lunch or go shopping and my penchant for certain cop shows is a major distraction. A hobby is a hobby; my blog is as brave and as far as I’m prepared to go at sharing.
Did anyone see the latest adaptation of Wuthering Heights over the weekend? Sorry, did any Brits? It makes me want to revisit the novel, because I don’t remember hating Heathcliff as much as I did this time and how could Cathy not want the charming and handsome Edgar… and and and what about that scene in the coffin… ach! I didn’t know that the ‘wuthering’ of the title is a Yorkshire word for turbulent weather. This version was not true to the story but for all that it was a pleasant diversion for a bank holiday weekend.
Right back to the Kenwood – I’ve just taken one cake out the oven and it’s burnt – I was on the phone and I could smell it, but still waited for the oven to beep – duh!
– Baal Shem Tov
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted… I guess I should call it a semi-sabbatical, but I haven’t exactly been resting on my laurels and I have done a little lurking and a little commenting here and there, although on many occasion I really haven’t had anything to say for myself that was any different or any more original than what had already been said.
More or less as soon as we were back from Israel I was preparing for all the Jewish Festivals, lots and lots of them, four weeks in a row. As usual, good ol’ Ann had assorted houseguests and dinner guests. Then, because I was off work for all of them (actually the office was closed) I’m now working more days and longer hours to play catchup. I am also undergoing a course of weekly medical treatments (nothing sinister) which I hope will do me a lot of good healthwise, but I have to schlep to Notting Hill for them. Sadly the reason I am free this afternoon to post is because some poor soul caused the Central Line to be suspended and I couldn’t get there today. When I heard this news, my initial thought went to the people at Rachel’s work; seems today is redundancy day and I had horrendous thoughts of someone losing their job and hurling themselves under a train… echoes of the Great Depression.
I am reading voraciously. Amongst other good reads, someone recommended Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale… well it was different and compelling and evoked much discussion, which I would love to share with anyone who has read it. I seem to have been suffering from movie-mania lately too and chilling out in front of the box. I saw an ab brill film called The Illusionist; loved it loved it loved it. Also got to see the latest James Bond offering… boring boring boring.
Are you my friends across the Pond still debating the Presidency? I’m knackered… I found it all so fascinating I was up till 2.30 a.m. until exhaustion and a little common sense (yes I do have some sometimes) forced me to my bed. I’m wondering if the words on Obama’s lips is: “That’s another fine mess you got me into Stanley George!” Excuse me if I am being somewhat naive and okay, so he’s the first black American president, but have I lost the plot? Surely his colour is not an issue. Did he not win because he was 1) the better man for the job and 2) after 8 years of Bush/Republican rule… say no more! Good luck Obama… you will need tons of it and tons of support and I hope the honeymoon lasts for ever.
The wedding, and planning it, took on a life of its own and overtook mine. It was worth it; the whole trip was amazing, awesome, wicked, wonderful and many many more words I cannot begin to think of to describe it all. From the moment we arrived, not counting various meetings with the wedding planner, the venue, the band, the designer, etc, the rest was fun fun fun. Lots of cocktails and dinners out and parties as everyone arrived, then the Friday night saw 46 of us together for Shabbat dinner. The next morning was Daniel’s aufruf held at his late grandfather’s synagogue (near the British Embassy) followed by a beautiful meal in a hotel nearby. After Shabbat a girlfriend of Rachel’s took us to the mikveh; it was like a spa and enhanced this particular mitzvah. Sunday we were meant to chill out… yeah, some hope because the next day… drum roll, was THE DAY!
Okay, now the pics above are not the official ones and I’m sorry they are out of sequence; it’s the way I downloaded them. These were taken by my ex, Rachel’s daddy, so of course there’s none of yours truly 🙂 shame!!!
The first three pictures of Rachel are in the yichud room where she is waiting for Daniel to come and perform the bedeken ceremony following the tish (all explained in blue print below if you’re at all interested). The room was beautiful and these photos don’t do it justice. The official photos, when I do get hold of the disk from the young couple and download them on to this decrepit machine (or a new one if I ever get my act together) – has anyone got any suggestions for a good lightweight efficient effective laptop – not an apple? Where was I, oh yes, those pics will be much better but I’d better not hold my breath waiting for them.
Bedeken and Tish
The bedeken, which translates as “veiling,” is the groom’s veiling of his bride immediately before the ceremony. The custom is said to be based upon the Biblical story in which Jacob, intending to marry Rachel, accidentally marries her older sister Leah, who wore a veil. In addition to having the groom verify that he is marrying the right woman, the bedeken is often preceded by singing and dancing around the bride, who sits on a thronelike chair. Traditionally, the men gather around the groom for the tish, or groom’s “table.” At the tish, the nervous groom traditionally attempts to deliver some words about the Torah portion while his friends and family take the pressure off by constantly interrupting him with jokes, toasts, singing, and dancing. At the end of the tish, family and friends carry the groom into the bedeken for veiling and continue singing and dancing around the bride. Even if there are aspects of these customs that seem to be based on anachronistic values, such as the separation of men and women and the contrast of the bride sitting to be admired for her beauty, while the groom tries to teach, it is recommend that thinking about ways to incorporate the traditions that are comfortable and consistent with their values. They offer a way to start the celebration early and to get everyone in the right, festive frame of mind. If the gender separation is not something one feels comfortable with, the two ceremonies can be combined in one place. Some brides also try to teach something, an update that is quite popular. Finally, even if one doesn’t want a public bedeken, some couples do the veiling in a more private location, such as the rabbi’s study at the synagogue or in the yichud room.
The next photo is one of the first of the couple officially married after the chuppah… as I said when I get the official ones… blah blah blah, yeah yeah yeah
UNDER THE CHUPPAH
The “chuppah” is the most universally recognized symbol of a Jewish wedding, the structure under which the ceremony takes place, generally consisting of a cloth canopy, sometimes a tallit, beneath which the bride and groom stand. The wedding ceremony itself is sometimes referred to as the “chuppah,” often on invitations announcing the time for the ceremony. The ceremony itself is a conglomeration of legal recitations and customs. The wedding ceremony consists of two parts, erusin (also called kiddushin), which is the legal agreement by which the bride and groom are betrothed to each other, and nissuin, the nuptials and the active beginning of the new union between the bride and groom.
Circling is a great example of a custom with multiple variations that is attributed to different sources. The numbers of circuits is usually either seven or three. According to one variation, the bride circles the groom alone, while in another, she is escorted on either side by a bridesmaid with a candle. Sometimes, the bride is accompanied by the singing of a traditional hymn or with nigun, a wordless melody. The custom of circling is attributed to multiple sources and given multiple explanations. One source cited for the custom is a verse from Jeremiah: “for the Lord hath created a new thing in the Earth, a woman shall compass a man.” (Jeremiah 31: 21). One source for three circles is a verse from Hosea with three descriptions of God’s betrothal to Israel: “Thus says the Lord, I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you with righteousness, with justice, with love, and with compassion. I will betroth you to Me with faithfulness, and you shall love the Lord.” (Hosea 2:21-22) The number seven is generally considered a number of good fortune in Judaism, and is attributed to various sources. One Kabbalistic explanation for the number seven is that it symbolizes the removal of seven shells of solitude encrusting the groom’s soul, so that it can be encompassed by the luminescence of his bride. As we mention above, many couples opt to update the custom by having the bride and groom walk around each other, or by having both walk around the chuppah together. No matter what variation feels most comfortable to the couple, they are encouraged to think about incorporating the custom of circling. It has endured as a custom for good reason; it can have a powerful effect on the bride and groom and everyone present.
The ceremony traditionally begins with greetings, customarily taken from Psalms (118:26), both to all present and to the bride and groom. The erusin ceremony then begins with the kiddush, the blessing over wine, followed by the birkat erusin, the betrothal blessings, after which the couple drinks the wine.
The Ring Ceremony
According to tradition, the central act of erusin is the groom’s giving and the bride’s acceptance of the ring, coupled with the recitation of the Hebrew formula known as haray aht, which translates as, “By this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.” The groom then completes the erusin ceremony by placing the ring on the bride’s hand, traditionally on her right index finger, which stems from the ancient belief that the index finger was directly connected to the heart. Today, many couples make the ring ceremony reciprocal by including the bride’s placement of a ring on the groom’s finger, accompanied by the bride’s recitation of either the same formula as the groom (haray atah) or with the recitation of another verse, such as the Hebrew verse that translates as, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Some Orthodox couples prefer to separate the bride’s placement of a ring on her groom’s finger by doing it later in the day, such as during yichud. Traditionally, in order to separate the erusin ceremony from the nissuin that follows, the ketubah (the written marriage contract) is read aloud and then handed by the groom to the bride. At some weddings, the groom hands the ketubah to the bride at the time of the bedeken.
Nissuin begins with a second kiddush, followed by the sheva berachot (the seven blessings) and yichud. The sheva berachot begin with the blessing over wine, then praise God for creation, for human life, for the bride and groom separately, for fertility and children, and finally in the sixth and seventh blessings, for the companionship and joy of the bride and groom together. The ceremony concluded, the groom then breaks a glass, and the bride and groom traditionally retreat to yichud, a moment of seclusion in which the bride and groom can share their first meal as newlyweds.
Breaking the Glass
Few Jewish wedding traditions are as well known as the groom’s smashing of the glass at the conclusion of the ceremony. Different explanations for the act of breaking the glass abound: that it reminds us of the fragility of personal relationships so that the bride and groom take care to their intact; that it ushers in the outbreak of celebration that should immediately follow, that the breaking recalls the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, so that we remember sadness at the height of personal joy. Two older explanations are that the shattering scares off any demons attracted by the event; or that it symbolizes the consummation of the marriage.
Yichud is a time for the bride and groom to be alone together immediately after the ceremony. It is actually the final legal requirement of the wedding. (According to Jewish law, the requirements for a wedding are the birkat erusin, the recitation of the haray aht formula coupled with the groom’s placement of a ring on the bride’s finger, the sheva berachot, and yichud.)
AFTER THE WEDDING
With the ceremony completed, it is a mitzvah — a religious obligation — of the guests present to bring joy to the heart of a new bride and her new husband. You have to love that , a religious commandment to party. Sheva Berachot Dinners Sheva Berachot dinners are a way to keep the wedding celebration going even after the wedding day. In the Orthodox world, these dinners are held for seven nights after the wedding, after which blessings for the bride and groom are recited by someone present who was not at the wedding.
The next two pics are Daniel’s after dinner speech and Rachel lovingly lapping up every loving flattering word… aaaaaaaaaah! Then there’s a line up of my lot with their spouses and my two ab fab fav little people. The next five shots are of the venue, which was absolutely breathtaking and dazzling in the sunshine, but even more spectacular lit up at night… official photos will paint a truer picture, when I get them etc etc etc.
Totally out of order are Boaz and Moriah enjoying the pool and then there they are scrubbed up for the big event. They had an absolute ball. Following on are pics of the night after the day before. The first of the sheva brachot (see above in blue if you like). This particular one was hosted by Daniel’s parents and siblings and was lotsa fun and yummy. The next evening we were invited to another given by Daniel’s uncle and aunt and his many cousins. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and hospitable. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much… all absolutely scrumptious and delish. Well that was until the chagim (festivals) and I’m still struggling to lose weight; the story of my life. I had fewer trick or treaters this year and bought so much stuff just in case, so have been dipping into that naughty bag of goodies… too too many treats… all chocolate! I should’ve bought things I don’t like, but there’s not much; I’m not that discerning.
Talking of Halloween, I learnt something interesting recently. Here trick or treat means if you don’t give whoever comes-a-calling a treat, they can give you a nasty mean trick, e.g. throwing eggs at your door or windows or car, or putting something ghastly thru’ the letter box, which makes Halloween here pretty scary and threatening. However it seems that in America, trick or treat is much more family and friends orientated and a jolly affair and trick or treat means whoever comes-a-calling can be given either a treat (i.e. confectionary) or a trick (i.e. magic). Why does this country get it all so wrong?
Okay, back to the rogues gallery. The last two shots are Rachel’s bridesmaids and bestest friends since they were babies.
Believe it or not, I am actually here for the whole of November, but it’s gonna be a busy one. I’m on another learning course again this month (gotta use the grey cells) and I’m also learning Israeli dancing every week this month to raise money for a particular cause in memory of a dear late friend of mine. Then… I’m away in December… twice. In four weeks I’m going for a long weekend to Israel to see the little ones and then I’m going back to Florida to chill out and have some fun with Brian and Diane over Christmas and the New Year. I have another trip to Israel booked for February – something slightly different, more of which nearer the time – but after that, the way the economy, and my economy, is going I think I shall have to review my wanderlust. I got a tax rebate. I should be happy. I’m not. It was my money. It also meant a drop in income, a big drop. Before this awful business, I was doing my sums and thinking about an early retirement, now I hope the boss wants me even more days in the new year.
I shall finish with a few words that came to me one night after I returned from Israel and walked into my house alone and realised that was it, they were all gone and building their own homes and families
each one takes
that little piece
of you they need
then they’re gone
no more to you
now they belong
to someone new
no more whole
a hollow soul
of an empty nest