Monthly Archives: January 2013

Thank goodness, only a couple of days to wait

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Stormy Weather

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On receipt of an email of doom from a family member (yes it was my Dad), about the catastrophes and natural disasters that will befall planet Earth in my children’s life time my thoughts naturally turned to Rihanna.  Perhaps it was fear displacement or perhaps the true catastrophe that is Rihanna and those like her to our children is, like global warming just accepted, not acted on and quite terrifying . Oh I know, I know, you can’t compare an annoying pop star with a husky voice to earthquakes, landslides, floods and hurricanes but I had nightmares for weeks after watching The Day After Tomorrow and I find annoyance and anger easier emotions than fear.

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So Rihanna, she of the abusive boyfriend, the tendency to dress in underwear alone and the 25 million record sales.  According to my usual taste in catchy music I should by rights actually like Rihanna and her many peers who sing ridiculously melodic and rhythmic tunes, but I just can’t stand her.  It’s a sign of age probably, but to me, her lyrics are just plain offensive.  Just as my generation’s parents were mortified when we requested Frankie Says Relax t-shirt, ‘but why is it rude Mummy?’, now the parents of today are horrified as their 8 years olds sing along to Rihanna, ‘Come here rude boy, boy, Can you get it up, come here rude boy, boy, is you big enough’, just wrong, and not just grammatically.  Don’t even get me started on, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me’. Really?  You really think that is an acceptable lyric for a mainstream pop star?    Well let me tell you Miss Rihanna, it is not.

Rihanna is not alone, just the other day I found myself humming along to Britney, ‘Mama I’m in love with a criminal’ (what?!!), and I am not sure I can even mention Flo Rider with his lessons on how to ‘whistle’, ‘you just put your lips together and you come real close’ without shuddering.  What is all this doing to our children’s heads, their morals, their self respect?  More importantly why is nothing being done about it?  I am all for freedom of speech but vulgarity for the sake of it when your audience is mostly under 16, please.  This is nothing to do with music and art and expression.  It is just plain wrong.

And breathe.

I recently took the test that appeared on Facebook to see how many of the 100 most influential albums I owned.  I figured zero but actually I own 7, 5 of which were bought in one bulk purchase britannia_musicfrom music mail order Britannia Music, (remember them?), back in my university days when I was probably trying to impress someone rather than actually knowing what I was purchasing.  Cool, I am not and my taste in music underlines this fact.  Not surprisingly then, on moving to Israel and listening to Israeli music on the radio I discovered that the only Israeli artist I can genuinely say I like turns out to be the favourite of the middle aged and reiterates my inability to be cool.  Luckily it’s not something I need hide anymore.

The irony of my bad music taste is that I have amassed a huge number of friends who really are music aficionados and therefore by my definition, cool.  I have friends who are DJs, friends who collect vinyl, friends who spent their childhood summers and their first jobs in record shops, friends who can talk music for hours and hours on end (DULL).  I seem to be drawn to people who like music – a lot.  Even my husband has a record collection that, although may not be everyone’s taste, is gigantic and varied.  So why then am I just not interested?  Why do I favour cheesy pop over just about everything else and why if I were left on a desert island would I request satellite TV rather than an ipod?  If the world is collapsing around us and I am alone on island (albeit a flooded, windswept one) an ipod would certainly be more use than a TV, right?  And no, Rihanna, I’d rather get wet than stand under your um-be-rella rella rella.

PS My 2 year old has just seen this and asked who’s the girl with the bottom…nuff said

In Search of A Good Pub Story 2

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Childhood Memories

Once upon a time I had a friend.  A very, very best, best, bestest friend in the whole wide world.  She lived at the end of the road and she lived in a fantastical, magical world.  She was an only child and her Dad owned a fairground.

Parked in their driveway along with a couple of old cars and a caravan was a merry-go-round, a Carnival_swingboats_yate_arp_750pixtrailer carrying a bouncy castle, swingboats and parts of a helter skelter. At times there were vans storing bumper cars, a candy floss machine and kid’s slot machines.  The big lorry, always referred to as the ‘wagon’ was a big brown smelly Aladdin’s cave of everything that isn’t magical about the fairground – old raffle tickets rotting in spilt cherryade, plastic bags Buzbyfull of cuddly Buzby toys (remember Buzby? – he was the mascot of British Telecom back in the day), bits of machinery and old fairy lights.  The magic happened when we arrived at the showground.  Grey and muddy fields in the shadow of industrial North Manchester were transformed into wonderlands.  The lights lit, the music blaring you forgot to notice the giant cooling towers and chimneys in the background or the mess and dirt in the back of the wagon.

With the fairground came a motley crew of the ‘boys’.  It’s hard to put an age on them now, I was around 8 or 9 so everyone over 13 looked grownup to me.  What I do know is that they were intimidating; they spoke with strange accents – meaning they were likely from 10 miles up the road from us – they were fearless and noisy and strong.  My friend wanted to be like them, I wanted to hide from them.  I didn’t like her when she hung around with them because they could be mean and used rude words and I was a nice middle class girl from the suburbs.

Every Saturday in the summer we would take the bouncy castle and candy floss machine to a local town park.  What a feeling of power for a 9-year-old to be selling the tickets and sitting on the castle’s turrets as it was blown up.  All the kids wanted to be us – I mean, free goes whenever we wanted and as much candy floss as we could eat.  These were the best times, they felt safe and I was on familiar ground.  I didn’t like it when we went further afield and worse when we stayed overnight.

One time when I was around 10 we all went to Chester to the county show.  It was an enormous showground and we were staying in the caravan for a couple of nights.  It was a really big deal, even her Mum came and we took all the castles and roundabouts and stalls with us.  The excitement of going away with the fair, sleeping in a caravan, spending a whole weekend with my best friend, it was all just a bit too much, so much so that after one night I called my Mum from a payphone in tears and asked her to come and get me.  Too much noise, not enough cleanliness and order, too many strangers and strange people; the fairground people were rowdy and outspoken, they lived in their caravans year round. I was overwhelmed and out of my tiny depth, my friend fitted right in and wanted to run away with them.

My friend’s parents weren’t like the other parent’s I knew.  Her Mum was quiet and elegant but sickly and therefore seemed terribly old.  Her Dad ran the house, he cooked and did the washing, he organized everything and was the parent who picked us up or dropped us off.  Her Mum was often-times resting in her bedroom with just the poodle for company.  On her bad days my friend could go and visit in her room but we had to be silent in the house so that we didn’t disturb her.

They lived in their big kitchen, the rest of the house was out-of-bounds and  full of antiques; gloomy portraits of ladies in long dresses and oils of hunting scenes complete with bloody hares and foxes. If we were lucky we were allowed into the living room which had a big television in a huge wooden cabinet.  I loved that room – real fur rugs on the floor, red velvet cushions and wooden boxes filled with treasures on every surface.  My friend lived in a 3 bed det in suburbia.  Her house from the outside looked like everyone else’s and yet when you walked in you were in a different world.

Her lifestyle was a clash of two worlds.  With her Dad she was rough and ready; a noisy tomboy but when her Mum was well enough she would come downstairs and make us walk with books on our heads and recite poetry.  While I played with my Sindy dolls and went to Brownies my friend went to elocution lessons and played tennis and yet on the weekend she would be hauling machinery with the fairground boys and giving as good as she got.

At age 11 my friend left our village.  I was distraught and yet somehow relieved.  Her world was weird and wonderful at 8 but at 11 was beginning to seem too odd and, desperate to fit in, I was being pulled between my new ‘normal’ friends and my love for and history with this strange family.

10 years later I attended her Dad’s funeral.  We had stayed in touch sporadically and she had moved to the same seaside town my Granny lived in so I had seen her occasionally, but this was the first time we’d met in many years.  It was like someone had completely transformed her whole face.  Gone was the all year tan, the upturned freckly nose, the wide-eyed, cheeky girl I knew and in her place was a tiny erect porcelain faced doll.  Her white blonde hair was the only part unchanged.  Even her voice had changed, her accent, her pitch.  I was entranced by her.  Where had that girl gone?

That was the last time I saw her.  The house by the sea was sold after her mother also died and now helter_skelter_post_card-p239442276137477511en8ki_216I don’t know where she is.  I wish I did.  I wish I could talk to her and reminisce with her.  I want to shake the memory of the doll that would have fitted into her antique living room so perfectly.  I want to know that the tomboy from the fairground who filled my imagination with UFOs and ghosts, whose family treated me as one of their own and opened their strange and wonderful world to me, is still there.  Where are you now fairground girl?  Do you ever think about me?

The White White Snow of Home

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If you’re an ex pat or if you just like a bit of self-pity every now and then, I have a brilliant way to really wallow in your homesickness/sadness.  It involves downloading Google Earth and re-visiting your previous homes, schools, work places.  In fact anywhere that brings back happy memories.  If you really want to feel sad look up the old addresses of your long dead grandparents.  Preferably the houses that you spent lazy hazy summer days as children.  Just a glimpse at that rose garden or the rusty swing set should have you welling up. You can’t beat a bit of misery and self-absorption every now and then.  Go on, try it, you’re tempted as you roll your eyes.

Expats by definition live in limbo; always wondering if it’s better back where you came from.  Memories weed out reality and real life is all reality and no dreamy memories.

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snowCase in point: As my old home is blanketed in snow I am looking out at blue sky and palm trees and yet I am longing for home.  Everyone in the UK is dreaming of blue skies and I fancy some shivering, wet white stuff.  I must be mad, or living in Israel, or both.

Kings of the Road

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angry+car+driverDespite Israel’s driving laws being almost identical to the UK’s, apart from on a different side of the road, there are a few alternative rules you should be aware of to keep yourself safe and sane whilst driving here.

Indicators are optional – called blinkers in Hebrew, these little orange lights that let other drivers know your intentions only need be used if you can be bothered.  There is nothing wrong in pulling out in front of people, turning off roads onto others without using them, on motorways do not concern yourself with making the extra effort to flick the switch that could possibly SAVE YOUR LIFE .  Do not use them if you are pulling over onto the side of the road, slamming your brakes on is sufficient, even if someone is right behind you.

Roundaboutsor kikar in Hebrew, or free-for-all in direct translation, are these circular raised areas in the middle of a junction.  In Israel it is acceptable to drive over them, occasionally ignore their existence altogether and if you do use them correctly, indication (see above) is optional.  In fact, a work colleague actually argued with me that it was wrong to use indication.  She categorically believed that you stay off the roundabout until it was clear therefore the use of indication is unnecessary.  Rather than giving her the shove I wanted to (not acceptable to shove colleagues) and screaming that’s THE POINT OF A ROUNDABOUT, TO KEEP TRAFFIC MOVING I changed the subject and hoped I was never stuck behind her trying to get onto a roundabout.

Speed limits do exist and in the main are adhered to, plus 10%.  Beware grey boxes on the side of roads, they are speed cameras and beware the drivers approaching them at 120km and slamming their brakes on to take it down to 90km before they are caught.

Headlights flashing does not mean – I see you, feel free to pull out – in Israel it means – I see you and I’m coming through so stay out of my way. This is a very important unwritten rule you need to know.  Early days of driving here had me very confused, especially on motorways eg. Indicate to move lanes, flash flash from car behind, pull out as the kind driver had let me, whereon kind driver almost drives into me, leans on car horn and yells obscenities (that I didn’t understand).  I soon understood.

While we’re on headlights, a pedestrian doing jazz hands at you is not a sign of aggression, it in fact means you need to put your headlights on.  A very helpful hand signal.

Pedestrians and other randoms on the road.  As a driver, seeing pedestrians waiting at a crossing does not mean stop and let them cross.  In fact if they are pensioners or children it is acceptable to speed up.  Don’t worry, no self-respecting pedestrian will expect you to stop.  You may come across other people standing in the middle of roads, especially at traffic lights at large intersections.  They could be doing a number of things; selling you bagaley (pretzel bread), wanting to bless you, wanting to sell you a book to bless you,  wanting a ride and at election time wanting to argue with you for 5 minutes about who you vote for whilst the cars behind lean on their horns.

If you are a pedestrian just be careful, be brave.  On one occasion a driver leant on his horn and yelled at me (!!!) when I got stuck in the road trying to get my baby’s pram wheel up the curb on a pedestrian crossing.  You need to be able to yell back.

Drivers.  I lived here for 3 years before driving, not because I didn’t know how, but because I was

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too scared.  No lie.  I wasn’t scared of being in an accident, I was scared of being yelled at by the other drivers.  I was right to worry.  Drivers in the main keep themselves to themselves ie I am in a world of my own where I am king of the road and there are no other cars present.  When they are brought into the real world and are made aware of their fellow road users, it is often accompanied by a lot of horn blowing, angry yelling and on rare occasions leaving their car world and coming to yours to shout IN YOUR FACE, even if they were in the wrong.

A couple of incidents are brought to mind; one about the driver who took the keys of another driver and drove off.  Another about the traffic policewoman who waved me onto a large junction I couldn’t get out of (jams in all directions) and then when I was clearly holding up the whole junction called me ‘mentally handicapped’ (I kid you not) for following her instructions.

That should do it.  I should add that, not wanting to jinx myself, I have not had an accident here in 5 years so I have obviously learnt the alternative rules and the Israeli bark is far worse than their bite.  In the 23 years (aaagggghhh) I have been driving I have been in 3 road rage incidents; someone deliberately trying to run me off the road, once in Israel, once in the UK and only once has a knife been pulled on me and that, of course, was in London.  So maybe it’s not so bad in Israel – ignoring the fact that my Israeli friend carries a baseball bat in her car just in case…

(Don’t be) Mean Girls

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When  first becoming a parent your life shrinks, it contracts into a small world about small people, where you are doing really big important things (raising children) but in a teensy world.  The living room, the local park, the clinic, the Doctor’s waiting room, the nursery, now that’s where it’s at.  In essence through both need  (that move to suburbia) and choice (I want to see if little Johnny starts walking today), life tends to happen closer to home with less variation than before, at least in my experience.

If a city centre has a nightlife but I can’t see it does it really have a nightlife?

Hey look I think I’ve spotted some rarely seen 22 year olds.internet

Luckily in the corner of the room, the internet is beckoning, winking its little light on the side of the laptop or smart phone, taking you to places that you used to go, keeping you in touch with friends you never have time to see, playing music to you and making you laugh, informing you and filling your brain with useless information about the Kardashians and dragging you into debates and self-doubt and petty arguments and bitch scraps…Breathe, ah yes, you made it to the mother’s forums.

Don’t get me wrong I love a forum, I have learnt a lot from them, I meet some extremely nice people through them, I’ve experienced random acts of kindness because of them, expanded my professional network, found work and workers on them and on the parenting sites I have been given the support and advice that I needed in the early and not so early days of pre, during and post pregnancy and into motherhood. In lieu of ‘real friends’ and communities when you are an ex-pat it’s invaluable. However, beware the dark side.

When a forum goes bad.

smiley faceWhen 100s of hormonal, sleep deprived, over-sensitive-about-their-parenting-skills women pile onto some poor unsuspecting person’s thread and rip the living daylights out of her – no offence smiley face, this is just my opinion smiley face, when you have more than one you’ll understand smiley face.  STOP WITH THE SMILEY FACE it doesn’t make what you’re saying any less presumptuous, judgmental or patronizing.

In the anonymity of our offices and homes we have the tendency to type without thinking, to click send before re-reading, to think about the audience before answering or before posting the initial thread for that matter – I am guilty of the latter for sure. Engage brain before operating keyboard. Engage brain before operating keyboard. That’s what my mother would say, as she also says, ‘if you haven’t got anything nice to say don’t say it’.

Passive aggression never did anyone any good.  If all else fails and you can’t manage to be nice just click the leave forum button and let the nice people get on with expanding our teensy worlds.  Smiley face.

I’m an alien

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Next week there is an election here in Israel.  It will be my first election here as a fully fledged voter.Legal-Alien1

It took me 7 years to become a citizen of Israel;

at least 10 interviews at the Interior Office,

3 interviews held separately from my husband – less we compare notes,

5 episodes of crying in the Interior Office toilet,

10 photographs of my husband and I whilst ‘dating’,

6 letters from friends and family in Israel to certify we were kosher (our relationship not our dietary requirements),

1 no holds barred public temper tantrum (Of course my marriage is real why would I have left a perfectly good country like Britain left my family, friends, livelihood  if my marriage was not real)

1000 bits of paper stapled together and held together by

25 staples in

1 folder with my name on it kept in the Interior Office’s cupboard

0 computer database with all my details so we didn’t have to go through the same thing every 3 months in my first year and then once a year every year for 7 years after that

100000s of people less fortunate than myself who don’t come from the UK who are desperate to live in Israel or anywhere else in the modern world for that matter but remain illegal and impoverished as a result.

Was it all worth it to get my Israeli passport and permanent status?  I’ll get back to you on that one. I do feel that I have earned the right to vote.  Now I need another 7 years to figure out who to vote for; the politics here make the confusion of the Interior Office seem like order.

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In Search of a Good Pub Story 1

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Spooky Tales

We were staying in a down market (cheap) B & B in the Lakes for a mini break.  Having arrived late in the day after a long drive we quickly realised that our last minute booking was definitely not well researched and intended to find somewhere else the next morning.  In all honesty it was a dump; chilly house, chilly reception, chilly water in the shower and what with the rain rattling at the windows and the wind howling we weren’t putting too much faith in a successful long weekend.

The rain finally died down just after midnight – it was literally shaking the windows so we were wide awake.  That’s when we first heard the weird noise.  It sounded a bit like the roof was leaking – above our heads – and enormous drops were falling onto the floor of the room above, plop,  kerplunk, After a few minutes I started to worry; the place wasn’t well kept and I had visions of the roof caving in on us while we slept.  Eventually we decided to take a look.  The house was silent and we had no idea where the owners were so we just went up the stairs to see what was directly above us.

It was a bit spooky, no lights and we couldn’t find the switches, just the green of the emergency exit lights. Still there were two of us – I wouldn’t have gone alone.  As we reached the top of the stairs we saw a slither of light from the doorway above our room and peered around.  To our surprise there was a little boy sitting on the bare wooden boards, playing with tin soldiers; plop, kerplunk.

When he saw us he looked straight at us and said, ‘hello’, not surprised by our arrival at all.  He then pointed to the corner of the room where we could just see the rockers of a wooden chair. ‘That’s my Grandma’ he said, ‘she’s got no HEAD’

 

 

 

Ha ha ha ha ha

 

I love ghost stories and was one of our favourite pub topics in our London days.  The one about the Guide’s midnight hike through the grounds of a stately home when bright lights and the sound of wheels went past but there were no cars or any other people around – we later discovered there were regular sightings of a ghost carriage around Lyme Park.  The one about the one woman’s footprint found next to the dead body of a man on a snowy night in the Peak District.  One of  my personal favourites is my friend’s sighting of the brown shadow passing the door of the office at the HMV shop in Guidford after closing.  She was alone in the building which was in Guildford’s shopping arcade – The Friary.

You just need a group of friends, a warm corner of your local and a pint of Guinness right?!  Pub culture, love it.

Cheer Up, it’s not all bad

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The sun gives you skin cancer and causes early aging of the skin

Vegetables are poisoned with pesticides/genetically modified and any goodness left is destroyed by cooking anyway

Meat is amongst other things full of hormones/antibiotics/fatpoison_sign

Fish is over fished or farmed – see previous 2 points

Wheat is what makes us all tired and bloated and fed up (apparently)

Bread has wheat in it

Pasta has wheat in it

Breakfast cereals – wheat, sugar, salt – just plain bad

Sugar – poison and therefore any tasty treat whether it’s organic, homemade, even if it has fruit in it, it also probably has sugar in it – poison.

Milk – lactose is bad for you and anyway regular milk is full of hormones, antibiotics and can be sold re-pasteurised more than a month after it left the cow (again apparently)

Wi-fi fries your brain

Cell phones fry your brain

Computers, TV and games you can play on these mediums make you violent, exacerbate ADD and ADHD in children and are generally anti-social

All forms of social media are anti-social

Do I need to say cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drug use?

All forms of transport apart from a bike is poison for the world

A bike is a death trap in a world full of poisoning vehicles

I have to stop before my head explodes. Surely we don’t have to live on a commune, in a cave, sucking organic veggies?  I don’t want to.

Sod it, its January, its raining (even in Israel), pass the chocolate. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

Resolute

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Having spent, sorry, wasted the last few months pondering self-improvement I have come up with just one resolution for 2013, independent wealth.  It’s about as achievable as most of the other resolutions people have made although I won’t have to go through that first month or six weeks of trying it out (unfortunately).  I won’t have to convince myself that this time I will really succeed, that this time its a lifestyle choice not a whim, that once I get into the habit it will seem like the norm. Independent wealth is reliant on everyone else rather than myself, in fact if I have to make any effort at all it is not independent, right?  I basically need a wealthy benefactor, myself, my parents or my husband to win a lottery or my childhood diaries to sell for an enormous sum.  So easily enough all I have to do is to buy a lottery ticket every now and then.  I’ll keep you posted with my success.  Happy New Year everyone.