The grey clouds keep rolling in and the thunder is in the distance but there is always a chink of blue sky out there, somewhere. Isn’t there?
I may well have slipped onto the slide of middle-age and am currently flying past every marker on route. This week’s marker was, at first glance, something only the young do: waiting for concert tickets to go on sale to ensure purchase. Then I realised I was over 40 and my chosen concert was to see an old heart-throb (yes I used that word) Mr Robbie Williams, who by the way has also passed the 40 mark. As a teen I humoured my mother and her love of Cliff Richard, thinking not so secretly that he was passed it and my mum slightly embarrassing in her love for him. I have become my mother. So has Robbie Williams become Cliff Richard? I imagine he thinks not. When weighing up the evidence I concluded that 25 – 30 years ago Sir Cliff was in his 40s, an ageing heart-throb who was and to some, still is, a superstar. Check – Robbie too. My Ma was over 40 and although never his number 1 fan did have a very soft spot for him. Check – I have loved Robbie since he first appeared in his underwear with his Take That buddies back in the early 90s. In conclusion, Middle Age.
I started calling the ticket line 2 minutes before the tickets went on sale. When I stopped calling 45 minutes later it was still engaged. Luckily, old I may be but clued up in the ways of t’internet I am also. The website not so much crashed as got stuck, sent me back instead of forward, made me register with them 3 times (3 different email addresses) but eventually I stumbled through the Hebrew and ascertained that I had indeed bought the 6 tickets I had intended to. Yes, I have a number of other ‘we’re not middle-aged, we’re too young’ girls (and one boy(straight!?)) coming with me. Ah, but did I buy 6 or have I inadvertently bought 12? Due to the incredibly annoying website I had to wait another 3 hours to get the email confirming my purchase and as it stands 24 hours later I am now the proud owner of 6 tickets.
This year has been quite a year for this old dear. I have been to see Justin Timberlake (what a professional) and Lady Gaga or is that GaGa. The latter concert we left early due to our inability to see the stage and therefore the distracting dancers that would have entertained where the music failed. Sorry Gaga fans, just not my thing, but it was free. I have also finally downloaded music onto an ipod that has been sat in its box since last April. I won’t embarrass myself by ‘fessing up to what is on my playlist. Oh. Dear. No.
I have mentioned previously that I am no muso. I leave that to my incredibly knowledgeable and infinitely cooler friends. Problem is, they too are getting on and so therefore they must also be dropping in the cool stakes. I can rule out riding on the coat tails of knowledge from teenage kids as mine are still one foot in nursery rhymes and the other in Gangham Style. The radio stations in Israel have 30 records and after 2 long car rides I have heard them all and no “(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena” by Sandra (1985) does not count as cool, it never did.
I therefore must admit to myself that I am indeed middle-aged, my children will think me ultimately uncool and Robbie, I still love you, grey, married, over 40 and with kids and damn it I will love you when you get your knighthood and we are both in our dotage. I hope that relative peace stays intact until May and the Israel haters don’t put you off. There are a lot of us not middle-aged-middle-aged fans waiting for you.
Our recent Sukkot holiday found us in one of the most beautiful areas of Israel. In the foothills of the Golan a series of rivers snake through the cliffs and canyons providing welcome relief to the searing heat in the summer and dramatic deluges in the winter and spring. The Hermon is Israel’s highest mountain, bordering Syria and at the edge of Lebanon. It’s hard to believe that this beauty and majesty is the backdrop to wars and terror. The fields in this area are fenced and signs warn of unexploded mines from past conflicts. Disused buildings are peppered with bullet holes and the army presence is hard to ignore. But on a beautiful day, when the sky is blue the colours are alive and fish and crabs that live in the clear waters swim peacefully it is good to take a breath, drink in the scenery and try to forget man’s cruelty and the sadness it brings and let nature do the talking.
October in Israel brings Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur and my favourite of all the holidays, Sukkot. You may remember my ramblings about the Sukkah (Succah, Sukka?) that we build in the garden every year. Where we eat, where I spend my evenings quaffing vino and where the kids play. This year, true to form we decorated with what I can only refer to as Christmas decorations, the kids drew pictures and I, true to form, drank more than my fair share of grape juice.
This time of year in my opinion is when Israel is at its most beautiful. As the terrible heat and humidity of the summer months begins to lift, the skies become clearer and you can actually see the hills of the neighbouring West Bank as opposed to the heat haze which covers them for 60% of the year. Beautiful. The colours of the spring and summer are hard to beat, spring flowers followed by the garish borganvillia and the stunning purple of the jacaranda. But for me, Autumn tops them all as the trees begin to show their wares. Olives, oranges, lemons and carob laden the branches and the long awaited ability to get out and about without a) overheating b) seeking refuge under a shady tree or c) wishing we’d gone to the pool instead.
In the nearby Judean Hills is Park Britannia, a history or nature buffs dream. As a wedding present some of my old friends bought us some trees in this park and ever since my first visit (to see(!) our trees) it has held a special place in my heart. A favourite pastime of ours is to head up there on a Saturday, find a quiet spot with friends, explore with the childers and picnic with the ants.
With Sukkot comes the rain, light at first followed by a couple of blustery storms. The mosquitoes go crazy as the puddles turn into frantic spawning grounds for the little blighters, the childers insist on donning wellies despite it being 30 degrees outside (little blighters) and finally my lawn (the scrappy grass in my garden) becomes green again.
On a shallow note I should add that the joy of being able to wear more clothes and pull a pair of jeans on again also has its benefits, no more podgy white thighs or burnt shoulders on show. But maybe that’s just me. Welcome Autumn you have been missed.
When I left Israel at the end of July, I left sirens and explosions, booms and rattling windows. Now I am back. The sirens have stopped, normal life resumes.
I lived in a bubble for 5 weeks, little or no news, only sporadic social media use, a promise to myself not to read the hate or get involved in the arguments about right and wrong in this age old, never ending fight.
Luckily my bubble was full of parental love, family support, old great friends, gin & tonic at 5.30pm and a bedtime of 11pm. Scattered liberally with picnics, chocolate biscuits, fish and chips, roast dinners and ice cream for the kids every single day. Yes it was a bubble but it was a great big happy bubble (with only a few meltdowns on everyone’s behalf – myself included).
I re-discovered a friendship, watched as my kid’s started to converse with one another in English and kept busy, really really busy. As I look back I am amazed by the many incredible experiences my childers had. I could write a guide book to keeping small children amused in Cheshire. Bruntwood Park, Lyme Park, Tatton Park, Torkington Park, Bramhall Park. Styal Mill, Walk Mill, not one but two country shows complete with fairground rides and a pony ride. One trip to North Wales to visit relatives and crab off the jetty, a trout fishing expedition resulting in fresh trout for dinner and a ride on a steam train. A hideous trip to Legoland Discovery (the kids loved it), a walk around Salford Quays, a visit to Jodrell Bank and the Manchester Science Museum and number one son went on a night time bat walk (there are more bats in our garden than he saw). Phew. Where did we find the time? And that’s before we mention the camping trip where they pedalloed and kayaked and slept under stormy canvas, over excitement with the cousins, treasure hunts in the garden after tea, building woodland dens and damning streams.
All this under the shadow of the situation back home that only the adults were aware of.
This wasn’t real life. It was a holiday, an extra long, extra fun holiday – perhaps I was over compensating for my perceived notion of their fear back home. In reality they had no fear, they don’t understand and even when number 1 son saw a rocket being exploded above his head a day before we flew it was my hands that were shaking, not his. His words, ‘why is it a real rocket?’
The coming back is hard. Coming back is always hard from any holiday – who doesn’t want to escape reality for a prolonged period? The goodbyes are getting harder and harder. For a moment at the airport I almost said to my mum, ‘I don’t want to go, don’t make me go’, but the truth is that she wasn’t making me go and I am not a child anymore. My children and my husband need me to act like an adult and accept real life. If I want to stay in the UK then not getting on a plane after an extended holiday is not the best way to go about it. But what a great holiday, thanks Mum and Pops x
I am rarely lost for words. Ask anyone, I can talk…a lot. I can also write reams and reams. But I am lost for words. I am just so angry and frightened, horrified and sorry, terrified and just plain sad that for the last week or so I just haven’t known what to say.
Three days ago I was dropping my twins at nursery when the alarm sounded. I ran back to the classroom and accompanied 30 4-year-olds to a shelter. The boom came seconds later. We waited and then we all trooped out again. Normality resumed. Or our reality at least. This experience affected me more than any of the other sirens, any of the earlier experiences of this messed up situation. I saw the faces of the children who just carry on as this is normal.
I have read a lot, a lot about the situation. I have listened to Israelis, Palestinians, British, American, European points of view but it just makes me more angry and more sad, it doesn’t make any more sense. Because that’s just it, the situation doesn’t make sense. The suffering, the deaths, the injuries, the terror, it just doesn’t make sense.
All I ask is that everyone does as I do. To listen to all sides. To try to understand that this is not a black and white, goodies versus baddies, David versus Goliath situation. In today’s warfare there is nothing simple. And who pays the price? The citizens, the innocents who are unable to control their own destinies, who often don’t know what is being done in their names’, right under their noses. Haven’t the people of this region suffered enough?
Nobody wants their children to grow up in fear with terror a part of their everyday world with bombs and rockets and hate as part of their everyday language. My 4-year-old son told me that we go to the shelter because ‘people want to kill us’, he told me he dreamt of something long that came from the sky and gave him a bump on the head. My 6-year-old can explain how the iron dome system works, my 4-year-old daughter doesn’t like being trapped in the shelter, as we go in and close the door she wants to get out. I don’t want to try to compare what we are experiencing with others. I know there are people on both sides of the fight who are suffering far, far more. I also don’t see why I have to apologise for my fear for the future and the days ahead for me and my family. It may not be as bad but is this a normal way to live?
And so it is and it looks like it will be for the near future and who’s to say that if peace comes it will last for more than another couple of years. I look to those who hate, to those who make the decisions to make the right ones, for once. To end this. To stop the killing and the bombs and the rockets, before there is no going back.
I watched an episode of the fantastic series Mad Men the other day in which the character Roger told his shrink that life was a series of firsts and once you realised the firsts were few and far between you realised your life was almost over. Well I am certainly feeling very alive right now. This week was the first time I readied my bomb shelter and the first time I heard a siren telling us to get into that shelter. I thought I had it covered after the last time. Nope.
I try to take the news in bite size chunks, it’s easy to work yourself into a panic if you are wired like me and watch too much. I have read a little bit on the internet and then shut it down. I don’t want to get into a political debate. I know what I think and that is enough for me.
I imagine the days to come will continue to hold some firsts for me and that thought chills me. So many innocent people are suffering in this never ending conflict. My thoughts are with all those affected both in Gaza and in Israel and hope, once again, that a speedy, diplomatic resolution brings us all some peace and perhaps plant some seeds of hope for the future.
It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s the end of the school year. Schools are out for summer and the summer playschemes/school camps or as we know them here, kaytanot, are in full swing for the smaller kids. This can only mean one thing for a mother of three younglings; arguing, short tempers, over excitement followed by extreme boredom, in short, stress. So what better way to spend a Saturday but to drive up to the slightly less humid climes of Jerusalem (aka J’lo) to visit the zoo.
The Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem is an oasis of calm on a Saturday afternoon and due to the tensions in J’lo at the moment it appeared that last Saturday people preferred to stay at home and the zoo was all but empty.
Kids love zoos. They love the idea of a zoo often more than the reality of schleping around sleeping animals in cages, so the excitement when Daddy announced we were going was at fever pitch on Saturday morning.
I am not a fan of zoos as a rule but because of the setting, the gardens, the enormous enclosures and the general well-being of the animals (so it appears) Jerusalem zoo gets my vote. The chimps live on an island in the middle of the lake, not a cage in sight, the kangaroos live in an open enclosure, the lemurs walk on a path in front of you and you can pop your head out right next to the meerkats (albeit under the cover of a plastic dome).
Number 1 son said he liked the penguins best, Princess Daughter liked the crocodile and the fish and no.2 son was scared of the snakes, the crocodile, the tiger, I could go on, but liked the monkeys best (takes one to know one?). I liked the fact that the kids were happy, we were in no rush, there was wind (unlike where we live), low humidity (unlike where we live) and apart from no.2 son having a small incident when he fell into the disabled loo, bottom first, we managed to get through the day accident free.
Earlier in the year we went to the Safari near Tel Aviv and I came away feeling that zoos were cruel, people were rude and my shoulders ached because I’d had a small child perched on them for most of the trip. It was fun…up to a point. If you ever need to decide between the two, go to Jerusalem.
Due to the amount of time we were there and the age of our kids we probably only saw a third of the animals. We’ll save the rest for another trip.
With only a few weeks to go before we escape to the UK in August it is trips like this that keep both myself and the children from heat induced hysteria. No. 1 son cried when he realised the day that nursery broke up for the summer that we weren’t going to the UK the following day. If we can fill the next few weeks with special trips and family time hopefully we’ll make it through the July heat and the general exhaustion before we are cooled by Cheshire’s weather and warmed by Granny and Grandpa’s welcome.
I have always had a bad memory for names and it’s even worse now I live somewhere where the names are not familiar and have no point of reference for me. Following a visit to Israel I telephoned the house that my Husband-To-Be was staying at and spoke to one of my now very good friends, I had met her and spent time with her only a week earlier but I called her Hagar, her name is Gali. No they are not similar in any way but the week I had been visiting Israel I had met a lot of H-T-B’s friend’s girlfriends and there was Hadas, Hagar, Gali, Tali, Michal and Michal. It was very confusing for someone who knew a host of Clares, Rachels, Sarahs and Helens. You would have thought 10 years on I would have got better. Not so. Of course I no longer call my friends by the wrong name but a couple of weeks I made what the French would call a faux pas, the Israelis call a fedeekha and what us Brits would call a balls up.
I was on my daily power walk (yes I am old and I don’t jog) and my phone rang. The name Noa came up. Noa is a very popular girls name here – not to be confused with Noah with a kh sound at the end which is a boy’s name. I don’t know anyone called Noa but she was saved in my phone and when I spoke to her it turned out she was one of the Mothers from the twins’ nursery inviting us all over for dinner. How lovely. I said great, made a note of the date and kept walking. A few day’s before the date I asked her to pick the twins from the nursery and I would get there as soon as poss with no. 1 son because I had double booked something. All good so far, she was sweet enough to deal with my two 3 year olds plus hers and a baby alone for half an hour. One hour in to our date I received a text message ‘are you on your way?’. I was so confused. I am here. What on earth. Oh bugger. I am at the wrong house with all my children and now how do I explain inviting ourselves over, asking for the favour and who on earth really invited us? Uh oh. I wondered why there was no sign of dinner.
To cut a very confusing story short Noa is the name of the girl whose house we had all invaded and the mother who had invited us was also Noa. Oops. I eventually explained the predicament and went to dinner at the other Noa’s house (whose daughter has the same name as my daughter) and all was well. Must remember people’s names, must remember people’s names.
Luckily my name also causes problems for Israelis. There is no ay sound in the Hebrew language so Katie is often pronounced Ketie or Kitty. As I am sure I have mentioned before, the Israelis love coffee shops. The local coffee shop is to an Israeli what the local pub is to a Brit. Many of the coffee shop chains have a name system whereby they call your name over the microphone when your order is ready. I have been called Hattie, Kaley, Kitty, Ettie and my personal favourite Titty. Yes someone called me Titty once. Go figure. Thank goodness for Katy Perry, I now say Katie, as in Perry.
At a meeting in the early days here a receptionist asked me (in English) who she should say was here and I said, its Katie. She promptly picked up the phone and said Skatie is here. My Brit friends still call me Skatie to this day. So you see it’s not just me mispronouncing, messing up, not remembering names but if everyone had pronounceable Anglo name I am sure I would fare a lot better – Chen is an old school friend of my husbands, pronounced Khhhhhhkhhhen. I really don’t stand a chance.
Is this just me or do any of you have the same problem?
As the days heat up, the sun begins to really burn and the nights become stuffy we once again welcome the critters that dwell in these parts. I say welcome but actually what I really mean is dread.
Since this time last year and my post When the Night Comes Falling there have been some changes in my garden, namely the chopping down of too many ficking ficus bushes and a very short haircut for the banana plant. All in the name of keeping them roaches away. Duh. Nothing keeps them away. Although we haven’t had a repeat performance of the infestation we have previously experienced (yet) there is a certain amount of unmistakable rustling in the leaves come nightfall and we have had some visitors to the house. 7 to be exact. I think someone may have been feeding them kriptonite as they are getting bigger.
In the months of quiet we have had a couple of hedgehogs hanging out in the back garden, a few preying mantis and a lot of bats. These I can handle. Even welcome. The roaches, no, just no. When they manage to squeeze under the screen door and make a dash across the floor in front of where I am sitting, when they jump out of the kids towel at bath time and scuttle behind the toilet and worst of all when they run across the bedroom floor I am not ashamed to admit that my deep throated yelp of shock is as forthcoming as ever.
From the early days of my roach encounters I have figured out a way to stun them or at least slow them before they run and hide (and I ain’t going to bed with a known roach monster lurking in my boudoir). My trick? Hairspray. In fact it is the same hairspray can that I have had for around 10 years, because lets face it who uses hairspray? (except my mum). This handy tin gets sprayed at the offending critter who either a) falls on its back and therefore is easy to bat with a flip flop (flip flops are the method of choice because they are malleable and make a good crack as you whack) b) the smell/stickiness slows the high speed hiding and once again make them easier prey for the flip flop. So far this year I have killed 3. Husband wins the tally with 4, he also has to clean up the bodies. I do wish he’d stop flushing them down the toilet though because they don’t always flush away, think about it….ugh.
I think we have to get the roach killer back to spray the house to ensure a less stressful summer but the idea of poisoning us in order to poison them isn’t ideal. Someone told me recently that the answer is a cat. They like to play with them, paw at them and ultimately crunch on them. Sounds ideal. There are plenty of cats to take our pick from, Israel like many Mediterranean countries is inundated with street cats. The problem is that I hate cats only a little less than I hate roaches. Sorry cat lovers but the moggies just don’t like me and as a result I don’t like them. Even the most gentle, friendliest cat will attack me. Once a cat pounced on me as I walked down the street (unprovoked I might add) and clung to my leg with its very sharp claws as I tried to run away (yes people were pointing and laughing but I didn’t find it very funny). Cats now know I am scared of them and in their spooky, intelligent, sly way they pretend to be mates by purring and nudging my hand with their heads only to out the claws or go for a quick bite. I now have to decide which is worse, the odd cockroach or a permanent house cat.
Hmmm, which makes a better housemate?
Here are some snaps from the garden.