Category Archives: weather

Let it snow, let it snow

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For readers who are knee high in snow at the moment, look away now. We in the Med see very little of the cold white stuff, in fact here in the coastal plain snow just doesn’t fall. Last weekend on hearing the news of a snow fall in the Jerusalem area and the Golan, our childers understandably wanted to make a snowman. Therein followed a long two and half hour journey to the foothills of Mount Hermon, an hour  of frolicking before the badly equipped munchkins became thoroughly wet, cold and slightly tearful before we bundled them back into the car and drove two and a half hours home.
At that point, I needed this IMG_4086

Luckily, hubby was well prepared and had not only stocked the car with kid friendly snacks he had also remembered a tot for me.

The last part of the journey North was slightly fraught as the childers failed to understand how we could have arrived in Ramat HaGolan and still there was no snow, until in the distance we spotted this,

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I should point out that apart from at 3 months old, our twins have never seen snow in the flesh and come to think of it on that particular Christmas visit to the UK the tiny tots actually didn’t see the snow as they didn’t leave the warmth of the living room.  No. 1 son, then aged two and a half did sledge, build snowmen and make snow angels, however, he has no recollection of it whatsoever (I am so glad I made a special photobook of that holiday to capture memories otherwise lost).  Therefore the excitement as we arrived to the white was steaming up the car windows and sending the noise levels to deafening levels.

Their excitement, their smiles and awe at stepping into the snow for the first time, at throwing snowballs at Daddy and finally the long anticipated building of a snowman was worth the noise, the seemingly never ending journey and did I mention that we did all this after school and nursery finished at midday on a Friday and I don’t like snow?

Sadly iphone batteries died before I could capture the snowman and the ‘body of snow’ (literal translation) that the childers insisted we put on the bonnet of the car (in front of the passenger windscreen) for the journey home – unfortunately it didn’t make it all the way back.  I will however leave you with a selfie, not something I have done before on the blog but I like my eskimo look.

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Here comes the rain again

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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.IMG_2261 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.

They’re Back

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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?

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Here are some snaps from the garden.

 

Coat of Many Colours

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At the side of the main coastal highway, wedged between the railway tracks and the noisy traffic there is a field.

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Israel has donned its Spring time coat of many, many colours.

The red stretches as far as the eye can see.  The poppies in this field have not been in bloom for 3 years ( I know, I check every year after being blown away by its beauty 3 years ago), and then the earth, the climate, the time was right and they made a re-appearance in their full glory.

Mother Nature, not satisfied with one colour added a dash of yellow,

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a smattering of white,

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and a surprise clump of purple just for the hell of it

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IMG_1829Fluttering in amongst the blooms and resting on the dry earth were hundreds of butterflies.  We tried and failed to capture them with the iphone camera (no.1 son was convinced he could catch one) but failed dismally.  This is the best we could do. You just have to trust me that there were a lot and they were beautiful.  I don’t know what’s happened this year but the sky is swarming with butterflies.  At a red traffic light the other day I counted 28 fly past my windscreen and I don’t like to think how many my windscreen killed once the lights turned to green.

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In  corners of the field we found nature’s hedgerows in the form of enormous thistles and the prickly pear cactus. Ah! Here’s another butterfly.

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The colour overload continued even in the dirt paths skirting the edge of the field,

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so the view back towards our neighbourhood provided welcome green relief for our irises. (The field is avocado trees which you may be able to see are also in blossom)

IMG_1833One day, when I grow up, I will own and know how to use a proper camera and not rely on the snaps from my trusty phone to capture such images.  I apologise to all photographers. I know that I cannot even try to do the field justice but I wanted to share.  In the words of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber;
It was red and yellow and green and brown
And scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And red and yellow and green and brown and
Scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And blue

 

Just another winter’s tale

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The sun is shining the temperature is 28 degrees Celsius and whilst Europe and the States is frozen in the grips of a polar vortex or 3 feet under water, the sun in Israel is shining as ever.  No sign of winter here.  In fact it would be fair to say that Spring has sprung and we hardly got a glimpse of anything we could even laughingly call winter.  My childers are so excited by a puddle (invariably caused by a sprinkler system) that full rain wear is donned complete with umbrellas and on occasion, gloves.  Yes, really, I kid you not.

IMG_1472On my return from snowy Switzerland I kept my 3 little ones wholly entertained with picture after picture of snow.  Snow on a tree, snow on a house, snow on a hill, snow on a road. I informed number 1 son that we would again be heading back to the UK for our annual August retreat and he complained bitterly.  I was so upset thinking he didn’t want to go to visit Granny and Grampy but in fact all he was upset about was that we weren’t going in the winter so he could see the snow.  I pointed out that anything is possible and a bit of sleet is not unknown in the Peak District in August.

So there we were enjoying the unseasonably warm weather when January’s lurghy hits us full throttle, in the jugular, so that in the space of one week all 5 members of the family come down with flu or a version thereof.  Other ex-pat Brits here agree with me that it’s the lack of cold that means the germs are never fully killed off, coupled with the use of those germ spreading forms of heating; the air conditioning unit, that results in half empty classrooms, queues at the doctor’s surgery and an uptake in sales of paracetamol.

Not that I am one to complain (uhum), I was ill enough to take to my bed for nearly 2 weeks and visit the doctor twice.  Unfortunately husband and all 3 childers were also ill at some point during this two weeks which led to what I can only describe as one of Dante’s layers of hell.  On one particularly awful Saturday, husband shivering in bed, all 3 children spluttering and whining, I drove them to the beach to let the wind blow some of the germs away.  The sun was bright and the wind strong, just what the Doctor (from 1933) prescribed to blow the cobwebs away.  45 minutes later as I struggled to drag  2 of the 3 back to the car, 2 in tears (me and 1 child), sweating from fever and exertion I decided that yet another kid’s animation movie would not be so bad for them after all.

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Finally we are all recovered and hopeful that we have seen our fair share of sickness for a while at least.  So its back to the grind, goodbye to way too much nonsense TV and able once again to think ourselves very lucky to be living in such an agreeable climate.

Red Sky at Night

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There are certain times of year when I am very happy that my home is in the Middle East.  November is one, February the other.  To me these were always the most depressing of months in the UK.  November with only a bonfire and fireworks to brighten the dull grey skies and chilly long nights.  The clocks are on winter time and the coats are out.

In Israel I finally pulled the duvets from their summer residence (the back of the cupboard) a week ago and to be fair we don’t really need them yet.  I have been sporting jeans rather than shorts but again, through want, not necessity (everyone else is in Autumn clothes so me too).  This morning is the first morning the childers requested a sweatshirt to go to nursery in.  It is in fact 24 degrees and sunny and tomorrow’s forecast is 29 degrees.  Am I gloating?  Yes, a little.  I think that it is small recompense for all the other crap I deal with from ‘choosing’ to live here.

We have spent the last three Saturdays at a beautiful beach just south of Haifa with assorted friends, buckets and spades, picnics and swimming costumes (the childers anyway, end of September signals the end of my desire to wear a bikini) and I am glad that I am not looking forward to the next ‘100 days of Arctic conditions’ in the UK.  I am happy that I am not leaning against a radiator that’s covered in drying socks, getting chilblains when returning home from work.  I do slightly miss the need for a winter coat and boots but hell, I can get over that and wear them anyway come January when (if) the thermometer dips below 16.

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Next month when I am mourning the loss of Christmas and fairy lights I would do well to remind myself of the joy of being able to pick strawberries in November, wearing flip flops and sunning my shoulders.  If any one ever needs a time to come to visit, now is it, leave the cold and grey behind and feel the warm again.

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How does your garden grow?

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How does my garden grow?  Well it doesn’t.  No scratch that, there are a couple of things that grow in my garden, the gigantic date palms and the Ficus trees and therein lies the problem.

I grew up in an area where the garden was more likely to be waterlogged or too cold to grow anything so imagine my excitement when moving to a house with a  garden in Israel that had sunshine, warmth, little rain and ready planted fruit trees.  Three years on I want a balcony.

We had a banana plant (which has since be chopped down following that night), a lemon tree, olive tree, date palms and yuccas, it all seems on first view to be so exotic and wonderful.  But we have Ficus trees.  Ficus is more commonly known as fig but do not be mistaken into thinking that our garden sports an impressive fruit bearing tree.  Oh no, our garden sports 3 overgrown, root-tastic, uncontrollable Thai Ficus trees.  And no, they are not the bonsai variety.  The gardener who recently came over to give me a price for salvaging my garden reliably informed me they are Thai Ficus and no-one should ever be allowed to plant them near houses (I have since googled Thai Ficus and I am not convinced he’s right on the name).  Think the story of the magic porridge pot but with roots and leaves and I don’t know the magic word to make it stop, except perhaps axe or poison.

Said gardener regaled me with stories of Ficus roots lifting houses from their foundations, the trees killing everything around them in their quest to survive and I know from experience that these darned roots can work their way into your pipes.  Our bathroom has been flooding on and off for 2 years until a plumber comes and cuts the roots underground, down the pipe.  Yes really – who knew such a machine existed?  This new gardener, whose name is Shimmy and therefore became my favourite person even before I met him, gave me some hope to my gardening skills when he pointed out that the grass doesn’t grow because of the Ficus roots under the lawn, the plants don’t grow in the borders because the Ficus blocks the sun and takes the nutrients out of the soil and in short anything that needs water doesn’t stand a chance, yes you guessed it, the ficking Ficus takes the lot.  So they’ve gotta go.  The uplifted tiles on the patio, the blocked pipes and the bumps under the bedroom floorboards is warning enough I think that this is just the start of one hell of a horror story.

IMG_3017Now what about those beautiful date palms?  Rustling in the wind, casting long shadows across the garden, dropping dates that rot all over the (parched and hungry) grass, providing birth centres for cockroaches and attracting bats that relieve themselves all over my drying washing.  I think chopping the palms down maybe a little excessive so I will just have to fork out an inordinate sum of money to get a specialist to come and clean them up.  Although there are a couple that have just given up on their own.

 

My plan for this week is to try to breathe some life back into the garden, not that I can plant anything because the f word will kill it in a week.  I can however water it a bit more (plenty of water available as there’s not much long shower/full bath action going on at the moment due to the roots in the pipes problem) and I have taken the shears to the overgrown leaves this morning as I am unable to wait another week for Shimmy to come in order to see the sky.  Where is Alan Titchmarsh when you need him, if ever a garden needed a makeover it’s mine.  Roll on next week when hopefully Shimmy will shimmy in with heavy machinery and cut these blighters down and give me back my garden.

Wake me up when September ends

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IMG_0985After almost 2 weeks in the UK, husband arrived to spend the last week with us.  He kept asking, ‘how does England look to you’.  My answer was always the same, ‘green’.  Israel is now shrouded in heat haze with dusty roads and fields, sandy and burnt, so England was like a lush paradise in comparison.  I was told by just about everyone that they’d had fantastic weather but as it was raining when we landed and the gardens and fields were the green that only regular rainfall produces I figured ‘fantastic’ was sunshine and showers.  On leaving the airport no. 1 son shouted, ‘I told you it would be raining’.  Having not seen rain for many many months the kids thought it was great and revelled in donning wellie boots and coats to splash in muddy puddles.  To be fair we were lucky in that no one day was wall to wall grey skies and constant downpours.  We were never housebound as a result of the wet and that to me is indeed ‘fantastic’ weather.

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I have since considered hubby’s question about how I saw England on this trip and I realised that after almost 10 years in Israel I now see England through the eyes of an outsider.

Here are my top ten things to appreciate in the UK as a visitor or as a visiting ex pat:

1. The sound of church bells – nothing to do with religion but to me quintessentially English.

conway2. Fish and chips – as a resident Brit I never ate them, now I can’t think of anything tastier, especially when sitting on a quayside enjoying the sun.

3. Supermarkets – what choice, what prices, be still my beating heart and fight to keep the wallet in the bag.  Israel is so much more expensive in terms of consumer goods and the choice is limited so a trip to Tesco was heaven (especially when converting from shekel to pound)

4. Friendly service – shops, cafes, bars, National Trust staff (we met a lot of them),all so chatty and friendly.

5. People letting you pull out when indicating in the car and waving thank you when you do the same.  A–M-A-Z-I-N-G.

6. Booze.  Every social occasion involves booze.  This is not a complaint, a 5pm G & T with my old pops and a few glasses of vino with friends and family is always a winner in my view.  However what I didn’t bank on was my lack of resilience and the feeling of being more than a little under par first thing the next morning.

7. Following on with the booze theme – pubs and pub gardens: child friendly, day light throughout the evening and who doesn’t love bitter shandy?

0608. Fish fingers – kids loved them, I love them, why oh why don’t they have Birds Eye here?

9. CBeebies closing at 7pm.  Does that mean the childers go to bed at 7.30pm?  YES THEY DO – not that mine did (it was holiday time) but as I am slightly out of sync with most Israeli parents who put their kids to bed around 9pm I was happy to discover my 7.30pm rule is not mine alone.

10. Calm, a feeling of safety.  Partly because in my little corner of Cheshire I feel safe and the UK in general does not have the frenetic energy of the stressed and worried that often becomes the norm here, and partly because one can never feel 100% safe in Israel – especially at the moment.

So why do I want to sleep through September?  I am back and surprisingly not sinking into homesickness but Israel is still hot and as humid as the seventh circle, there is an ‘outbreak’ or not (depending on who you listen to) of polio, oh and Assad is threatening to bomb us if the US bomb them.  Back to normal then.  The heart racing, lump in the throat fear that pops up most unexpectedly when the words ‘gas masks’ are banded about.  Finally and perhaps weirdly, September is holiday season – Rosh Hashanah is firing us off this week into a month long holiday bonanza. Having survived happily with the childers being with me 24/7 in the cool UK for the past 3 weeks they went back to nursery and pre-school at the end of last week only to break up again on Tuesday.  Oh purlease – less than a week and it’s time for another holiday? In this weather!! I am hoping for a 10 degree temperature drop, peace in the region and a Shana Tova (Happy New Year) for everyone.

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The Heat is On

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IMG_0914With the temperature gauge hitting 28 degrees at 8am it is fair to say that summer is upon us in the tiny strip of land I call home.  The heat however is not the problem, summer in the coastal plain of Israel means humidity and therefore sweat, lots of it, even 3 minutes after you have dried yourself from the shower.
The novelty of the hot humid summers are wearing thin, 9 years on. My first few summers here were revelations to me, having a totally summer and winter set of clothes (and never the twain shall meet) was something I had never come across. Putting shoes on for the first time in November after months of flip-flops felt strange and I loved going to the beach at night. Now, without the air-conditioned office to sit in for 8 hours and with others needs and desires more important than my own, summer has become a little more trying. These days July and August to me in Israel means;
1. Boiling hot car seats and steering wheels. The backs of the childer’s legs being burnt by car seat buckles and fights for the one bit of shade in the parking lot.
2. Tense, hot, impatient people.
3. Sweat.
4. Electricity bills as big as Greece’s national debt, the air conditioning units gobble up your hard-earned cash but provide relief until your nose gets stuffy.
5. Drying from the shower in front of a fan rather than with a towel.
6. Vermin
7. Even more washing than usual (surely we wear less so there should be less to wash?). Luckily the scorchio sun dries a load in 40 minutes.
8. Half emptied bags from beach trips and pool trips discovered with moldering swimsuits/apple cores/bread rolls hidden beneath the deflated inflatables
9. 1 lost arm band
10. Thirsty cats bursting the paddling pool
11. Sweat
12. Shlukeem – or for those outside of Israel, ice pops/popsicles
13. Shorts, flip-flops and deodorant, lots of deodorant.
14. Sun cream, freckles and dubious moles. What my Mum called kisses of the sun when I was a child my husband calls skin cancer. The sun is to be feared and hats, factor 50 and beach visits only before 11am or after 5pm (we are a very white family).
15. Did I say sweat?
16. Jelly fish. Fancy a refreshing swim in the warm Med? Forget it, July is jelly fish season. Stick to the local pool or deal with the pain.
IMG_087717. Iced Coffee.  The most delicious drink ever, caffeinated, sweet and cold. When it’s not boiling hot outside it just doesn’t taste quite so good
18. Chofesh Hagadol The Big Holiday. Anticipated by children, feared by parents the long summer hols mean everywhere is crowded except the roads in rush hour (well not as much).
19. Mass exodus to cooler climes. Scandinavia is increasingly popular as a holiday destination.
20. Home. For the second year running I will be taking my brood to chilly Cheshire to give my sweat glands a break.