Tag Archives: Friends

Youth Don’t Leave Me

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I may well have slipped onto the slide of middle-age and am currently flying past every marker Cliff-Richard_2225978bon 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.

RW poster_habI 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 article-2512569-1999C82100000578-667_634x867ultimately 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.

I was looking at all the life

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About 2 and a half hours south of Tel Aviv you will find yourself in the Arava.  The desert plains of Israel.  A thin strip of seeming nothingness but rocks and sand, jutting cliffs and mountains that appear to have been swept in on the last wind.

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Every Passover my family and friends go to the desert to make the most of the holiday, spend time with the childers and discover another little part of Israel. Spring is in full bloom in the desert, in fact in another week or so the evidence of the little rain we had in Israel this winter will dry up in the water holes and the plants and trees with the short roots will wither and dry until the desert is drenched again next year. If you look closely what on first glance appears to be miles and miles of rocks and sand actually reveals so much life.

The butterflies as ever did not aid my amateur photography skills, I did however find this little fella baking in the sun and he obliged by staying still.

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It made me wonder at how this little caterpillar and probably all his friends, found one of the few flowering plants, albeit a prickly home.  Nature is indeed a mystery.

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Deeper into the Arava heading towards a water hole the road ran alongside a riverbed.  Of course the water had long since gone but the evidence of its path was obvious.

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And what beauties I found here.  I drove the childers mad by stopping the car every few minutes as I spotted another colour, another shape, the chance of the elusive butterfly picture.

Perhaps my interest had been piqued by the book I am reading at the moment, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (which by the way is fantastic). The central character of the book is a botanist so my fascination with how things grow and where they grow was possibly slightly higher than usual. I am only sorry I have never learnt how to photograph my findings better – the yellow flowers are so terribly out of focus that I can only apologise but to get a full idea of the colours I have included it.

I have always had a slight fear of the desert.  On my first trip to the Negev in the days before I lived here my future husband decided to take us off roading, trekking and exploring and when night fell he pulled out a sleeping bag and we slept in a huge open valley with only the stars and the sand for company.  I say slept but I think I finally dropped off as the sun was rising and I could see where the scuttling noises were coming from.  The sheer enormity of open space, open air, nothingness was overwhelming and the thought of snakes, scorpions, spiders and other desert freak creepy crawlies added an edge of Indiana Jones.

Luckily on  this trip I didn’t see any snakes, although one of our friends almost ran his stroller over one as he pounded the dirt tracks to encourage his baby twins to sleep.  I did spot a grasshopper20140423-090935.jpg

and by a water hole, a frog (can you spot him?)

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Of course it being the desert we saw the camels – pregnant or feeding their young, the goats eating the scraps from the pepper farmers and I won’t shame myself with the dots in the sky photos of the massive preying birds.

So have I changed your view of a desert?  Not so barren after all. The desert in the spring is brimming with life, the sun burns but the heat not so intense, it’s dry but you can find water and where there is water there is movement and life and colour.  Try it, you might like it, I do.

Where ever I lay my hat?

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It’s a big year chez nous, 2014.  It’s the year that husband turns 40, it’s the year that no. 1 son starts school, it’s the year that we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and it is 10 years this year since I moved to this sometimes not-so holy Holy Land.  How did that happen?  Where did the time go and why after all this time have I still got one foot (and a half) pointing towards home?

Home, where is that?  After all I counted London as home but I lived there only 9 years. While we were travelling I called our tent ‘home’ and I was perfectly happy that we could pick that home up and take it where ever the whim took us.  If home is where the heart is, do I have 2 homes? And more importantly if you have 2 homes do you ever feel truly ‘at home’ in one of them.

This time last year I was 100% going home (to the UK that is).  I was tired of the difficulties of living in a different language, different culture, different religion  I was exhausted.  I was brow beaten and sick of being an outsider.  No longer at the top of my career but instead unable to find work that suited my skills, language or salary expectations.  Most of all I was tired of hearing people say, ‘make more of an effort to settle’, ‘maybe if your Hebrew was better, why don’t you speak it more’, sick of feeling like nothing I did was enough.  Was it all in my head?  Maybe, but I think that as an ex-pat, especially one who moves to a new language and a different culture you always ask yourself, ‘do I fit in?’ followed quickly in my case with ‘why should I have to?’.

So what now?  It’s 2014, a New Year.  Has anything changed?  Honestly I don’t know.  As in the previous 9 years I have good weeks and bad weeks, good days and bad days although the bad is less in occurrence and in intensity. I feel at home here although it is not, nor do I think it will ever be, ‘home’.  I hope to go back some day, whether it’s in 2014 or in a box in the hold of an aeroplane.  If someone would wave a magic wand or give me a winning lottery ticket to set us up in the UK for a couple of years to see how we would like it, I’d go in a shot.  But it’s not just about me.  It’s about my lovely husband who would go where ever I wished if it made me happy (even though he would not really want to go).  It’s about my children, my Israeli children who, like it or not only know this as home and speak to me and each other in a language that I often don’t understand.  As they get older the move gets more difficult, and the looming start of school underlines that fact.

Over on a blog I follow, Expatriate Life,  Judy has often talked about repatriation, about the challenges of repatriating after time away and I think it is this repatriation fear that stopped me from packing our bags and running this time last year.  Really, what do I know about the UK now.  Have I perhaps become too Israeli for England but too English for Israel?  Only time will tell as yet again we write our pros and cons list, we look for options were we to move back.  The key, I think, is no regrets, no looking back in anger, no what ifs or maybe.  When all is said and done as long as our family is together we are home.

Smoke gets in your eyes

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image: Haaretz.com

We are just days away from the barbecue bonanza which is Independence Day in Israel.  When every spare piece of ground has a group of family and friends gathered, barbecuing the b’geesus out of their kebabs.  When I say every spare piece of ground I mean parks, beaches, roundabouts, grass verges, bus stops.  You think of a space and you will find a metal tray of burning charcoal  set up and a group of people talking loudly aka arguing close by.

It’s a site to behold if you drive anywhere on Israel’s Independence Day, the lines to get into the national parks and the jostling for prime spots on the beaches, the parties being held in the parking lots of blocks of flats and the gatherings set up on the side of the road.  This is a day when the air by 1pm is thick with smoke and the smell of roasting meat – not great if you’re a vegetarian.

Israelis like to bbq.  No city park is complete without designated bbq areas complete with permanent bbq stands and picnic tables.  Independence Day is just the day when EVERYBODY does it but in general every Saturday the secular masses take to the countryside and get cooking or at least eating. One of the things I would miss if I were to live anywhere else is the Saturday outings; when we go for walks or picnics or build bonfires or barbecues or all of that, out in one of the many beautiful national parks.

Why Saturday, why food, why the outings? Well:

1. A large proportion of people in Israel live in apartments. This is a tiny country, over half of which is desert, with many, many people living here, so every Saturday people make for the parks and outdoor spaces in their droves as the majority do not have gardens or even balconies to hang out in.

2.  Saturday is the only full weekend day here.  The weekend is Friday Saturday and on Friday children go to school in the morning and some people also work.  (For the people who keep Shabbat this means that they really only have the non religious holidays to go out and about. Saturday is the day of rest where they don’t drive, cook, even turn on the electricity.  It also means that all household chores, food shopping etc has to be done during the week – no mean feat if you are a working parent.)  Just so you are clear this also means Sunday is a work day which takes a bit of getting used to when you’re from the West and as your friends and family are tucking into their Sunday roast you are at the office.

3. There is so much nature to see here.  Nothing is that far away if you live in the centre of the country.  2 hours could get you to desert, the Dead Sea, the Galilee and in less than an hour you can be on the coast, in the Jerusalem mountains in the Carmel region.

4.  People in Israel like to hike.  In my experience in the UK some people like to hike.  In Israel a large majority like to hike.  They also like to jog, do triathlons, mountain bike, road bike, climb, pothole, windsurf, kitesurf, surf surf, play basketball, football, handball (yes this is a game where you use your hand as a bat and whack a ball around a pitch – its true I have seen it in action).  Israel is the home of the fitness buff.  I’ll have to think hard on why that is… Anyway it stands to reason that come the weekend, when the whole family is together, the obvious choice is to merge the 2 favourite pastimes of an Israeli, exercise and eating.  Ah that’s the reason maybe, you can eat even more if you exercise first and in lieu of a back garden to go home to, you can bbq in the outdoor kitchen you set up in a park. Or if you are in my family, just skip the hike and go straight to the eating.

5.  Food is key here.  I have yet to meet someone here who does not cook, or go to friends or parents that cook. Food is a regular topic of conversation for all ages. Gathering over a meal is just about the single most important part of any holiday, weekend or just for the hell of it.  The restaurants are amazing (in the main), even stopping at a service station will be a culinary experience.  As everyone originates from a different part of the globe the choice is vast and each nationality has huge pride in their national food – don’t ever suggest to a Romanian that Turkish kebabs are better.

So back to Independence Day.  Keeping in mind that it’s a bonus day off for just about everyone (secular and religious alike), what better way to spend the day doing these favourite activities, except that as it’s also a day of celebration and parties, you can handily ditch the exercise bit, gather as many people as possible and just get eating.  Like most, we have a traditional gathering of the same group of people every year.  Before everyone’s childers the bbq was held on a tiny balcony or a city roof but these days we are all ‘of the age’ of suburban living so the families gather (what was 20 people is now at least 40 including the rug rats) at our friend’s garden to bbq prawns and kebabs, steak and sausages and drink beer and put the world to rights.  The kids run riot and I usually go home early evening with a hangover and an over inflated stomach.  Marvellous.

Ode to Jesse

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Dear Jesse

Thank you for coming to stay with us this week.

Thank you for remembering me and not holding a grudge that we gave you to another loving member of the family when so many children arrived in such a short time.

Thank you for being the same furry, cuddly bundle you always were

Thank you for letting a little boy rest his head on your back even though it’s probably really annoying.

Thanks for not snapping when 3 miniature people circle around you and corner you under the table.

Thank you for being so patient when the scrap for who holds the lead starts.

Please refrain from rolling in crap, dead animals or stinking rubbish while you are staying with us.

Also, if you could not bark at shadows in the dead of night waking our ever wakeful household that would also be appreciated.

Thank you for coming on really long walks in really hot weather all those years ago when you first came to live with us.  I needed those walks to give me purpose when I was finding my way in a new country, when I spent hours and hours alone and was doubting my decision.

Thank you for making me stay when I was determined to leave.  If it hadn’t been for rabies rules in the UK I could well have thrown in the towel years ago.

Thank you for listening to my moans and for letting me cry in your fur.

Thanks for making me get out and walk when it would be much easier to crawl under a blanket.

Thank you for being an unknowing fluffy saviour.

I promise this week you will be spoilt rotten; walked, fed, groomed, stroked ’til you can take no more.

Thank you for being my pooch, no matter that you are now a pooch-in-law.  

You will always be my Jesse.

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Dedicated to Doggie and for my lovely friend and her family who had to say goodbye this weekend.

 

Good Day Sunshine

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The strangest thing happened this morning.  Everyone I met on the early morning drop off was happy.  What’s the secret?  Mother’s loading 3 or more children into cars with smiles on their faces, men chatting happily with small children in carseats behind them, the lollipop man was smiling, someone let me out and smiled at me.  It was all very peculiar.

I spent the short drive back wondering what I was missing. Do I just usually not notice people’s exuberance at starting the day? Was I earlier than usual and my fellow grumpies had not set out yet?  Was  I missing the declaration of peace between Israel and all their Arab neighbours?  (I don’t listen to the radio news because a) I hardly understand it and b) Wheels on the Bus always takes precedence in my car)  Was it just because it was warm, unseasonably so, and the sun was shining?  It was clocking 26 degrees at 7.45am so we are in for a scorcher, by 11am everyone will be too hot and yelling again.

Apparently March 20th is the UN’s official Happiness Day, so we only have a week to go before we can all smile for no reason save for the fact someone told us it’s Happiness Day.  I was reliably informed through a FB  status update that it was the UK’s Happiness Day a couple of days ago although I must confess I can find no evidence of this on Google – Elly that radio station had you fooled.  I am taking all of these clues and today’s smiley school run as a sign of something, what, I don’t know, but it has got me thinking about what is it that makes people happy?  Or more specifically why can’t we be happy more often?

So what is it that brings happiness? Health, love, family, friends, wealth (enough that money is not an issue – is that possible?) and the one that I believe can make you happiest in a moment is hope.  The times in my life when I have been the saddest the thought that I haven’t got anything to look forward to was the one thought that I couldn’t shake, even though in reality it probably wasn’t true. The promise of something good coming, the promise of a change or an improvement be it a fresh coat of paint or a new haircut,  a holiday, a visitor, a new job, a pay rise, something simple.  Without hope, we have nothing, someone famously said so I am thinking that perhaps everyone’s smiles this morning were not due to their all-encompassing self contentment, more that the sunshine and warmth was germinating hope.

I am feeling pretty happy today, I have hope for a change for my family and my daughter has a temperature.  Ha ha I am not happy she is sick, I am happy we get to have a day off together without the rowdy boys and my head spinning in 3 directions.  What one might term ‘quality time’ (and to be fair she really doesn’t seem that poorly at all).  So we’re off to do our chores together and she is happily loading the washing machine as I type.  Happy days indeed.

Si Si San Miguel

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When I think of expats I think white vests strained over burnt bellies sipping San Miguel in an English caff in the Costa Del Sol. Definitely not the reality of the millions living away from their birth country for most expats.
Flag_of_Israel These days so many Brits seem to be intent on leaving Britain with its rain and recession or have already made the leap to a new life; I have as many British friends scattered around the globe as I have left in Britain.  But why?  Is Britain today so bad? I watch A Place in the Sun Home or Away and yell at the TV “Don’t do it”; don’t think because it’s sunny and you can buy cheap run down property that your life is going to magically become a Disney movie. Or maybe that’s just me, or the place I chose to live. No nuclear threat in Disney, right?
Soon my neighbourhood is closing down for an evening to do a missile attack training exercise. Oh yes we will be going through the motions of what to do if/when we have a 2 minute warning to get somewhere safe. (If I remember my reading of Z for Zacariah in High School, no safe room is going to save us). Armed with pamphlets, gas masks and jolly faces for the childers we will be doing a dummy run for the unimaginably possible. Although one half of me is considering doing a runner to a friend’s house out of my area, the other half is thinking we should really be prepared. But how do you explain it to a 4-year-old and 2 x 2 year olds? Hmmm. Must try to refit the bomb proof door back on our in-house bomb shelter.
Since day 1 I have had a love/hate relationship with Israel. It’s got so many benefits; the weather, the outdoor living, the beach, desert and mountains, the child friendly family oriented culture, the can-do attitude and the fresh, dynamic perspective to life. Of course if you’re Jewish it comes with a billion other benefits.  However the downsides to living in Israel are in a class of their own:
Always being the bad guy no matter what the truth
Living under threat
Being surrounded by difficult neighbours
Not an island but no way out except by plane (or a really long booze cruise to Cyprus)
New language (to me at least) – new alphabet and back to front (to me).
Its not just the books but even some of the doors to fridges, washing machines, rooms, open back to front (to me)
The lack of savlanoot
Having said all that Israel has been my home for the past 8 years. My children were born here, many of my friends are here, our home and life, not to mention the mundane bank accounts, insurance policies, health care etc is here. So when I am reminded with a bang of all the bad stuff in the form of a leaflet handed to me in the park by a soldier, outlining our missile training, it makes me wonder if I am up to the challenges of living here. It ain’t easy. Maybe a bit (OK a lot) of rain is better.
Recently in a store at 9.30 on a Friday night I met a 19-year-old buying a packet of Turkish coffee (or botz as it’s called here), he asked for a spoon and some cups because him and his mate were heading down to the beach to hang out for the evening where they would cook their coffee on their camping gas and pass the time. That in a nutshell is what I love about Israel; no 20 pints and a kebab, no hair gel and pant revealing skinny jeans, just  knowing at 19 how to enjoy the simple life. Pas me a  San Miguel, I’ll get my gas mask.

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Homeward Bound

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Youth is a state of mind.  I know you know that but it’s taken me a while to see it.  It doesn’t matter how you look (although it helps), it doesn’t matter if you are married, single, divorced, have kids, not have kids.  Its all in your head, or maybe just mine.

You may not want to be 16 or 26 again but wouldn’t it be nice to have that feeling of youth?  That ‘I want to dance and even if I look stupid it doesn’t matter’ feeling.  Maybe you have it.  I categorically don’t.  Recently I was at a gig – I even feel old saying that word.  It was a small affair in a small venue and the age group was predominantly under 30.  I spotted a number of ‘I am young and I don’t care’ outfits; the patchwork flowery waistcoat (on a male) gave it away, the smell coming from some energetic dancers was also a telling sign, the fact that they were dancing at all was evidence enough;  I shuffle, if I’m pushed (literally) or sense I look more conspicuous if I keep still.

I am trying to pinpoint the time when I lost the ability to  throw shapes on a dance floor just for the madonnasheer enjoyment of it.  Once in an outdoor nightclub in Turkey I remember dancing to Beyonce with a feeling of utter joy – I was certainly crazy right then – I didn’t give a hoot who saw me or how terrible my dancing was.  I was young, I was on holiday and I simply didn’t care.  I wonder if that’s how Madonna feels all the time.  What other reason could she have for flashing her bits on stage or wearing high cut leotards at 54?  oh yes she’s Madonna.

The question therefore has to be how do I get it back – not that I am planning on wearing a leotard any time soon.  I know people older than me who act and feel young.  I know younger people than me who act and feel old.   Perhaps the responsibility that comes with age is the reason and waistcoat wearing stinky dancers at gigs just haven’t got to the stage of  responsibility yet.  

ozricI will soon be away from my usual responsibilities of life, alone in my old home town with old friends.  Will I catch a glimpse of the young me and be able to harness it and bring it back to real life? We’ll see.  Lets hope I don’t stop washing and buy some suspect Ozric Tentacles waistcoat in Camden Market whilst I am away in a flush of re(un)discovered youth.

This will be the first time in 5 years I have been back and I am getting nervous – can you tell?  I’m not sure why, apart from the obvious fear of not knowing my way around the tube or getting lost in Soho.  Possibly the real fear is that everything will have changed and I am subconsciously expecting it all to feel the same.  The UK is not the country it was 8 years ago when I left, nor is London the same city I knew and loved.  However some of the people I love are there and changed or not I can’t wait to see them.  I may feel older but I am also wiser and some reminiscing over a glass of wine (no pints of Stella for me these days) could well be just the ticket to rediscovering the feeling of youth.  London here I come.

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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?

Do they know its Christmas?

Standard

christmas party

Ingredients for a successful Christmas party:

 
Daylight, all the best Christmas parties take place during the day (no hangover the following day)

Too much food; turkey, stuffing, sprouts and roasties a must.

Too much drink, of the alcoholic variety. Bubbles or heated or both preferable

Slightly tipsy dancing in living rooms using small children as a ruse to cover the ridiculousness of dancing in living rooms.

Comedy clothing – what’s cute on 3 year olds does not necessarily work on over 18s but it is Christmas. Pets should also be dressed appropriately.

General joie de vivre. If in doubt go to a friend’s house so not to be involved in squabbles.

Band Aid and/or Shaky, Mariah Carey and Cliff Richard. The more warm wine you imbibe the better they sound.

Outpourings of love – hugging at random.

Inability to leave AKA out staying your welcome

 
A fine set of Jewish friends and their families provided all the above at the weekend and as the only Christian in da house I have to say it was one of the best Christmas bashes I’ve been to. And there was me thinking Christmas would be a non event this year.
Do they know its Christmas in Israel? In the main no, why would they care? But the message of glad tidings, the sharing of a bit of joy and any excuse for a party certainly made a lot of people happy this weekend. Whatever the religion.

Merry Christmas everyone!